THE NEAL MORSE BAND INVITES FANS TO EXPERIENCE ‘THE GREAT ADVENTURE’ WITH NEW ALBUM SET FOR RELEASE JANUARY 25th, 2019 ON RADIANT RECORDS/METAL BLADE WORLDWIDE
THE NEAL MORSE BAND
INVITES FANS TO EXPERIENCE
‘THE GREAT ADVENTURE’
WITH NEW ALBUM SET FOR RELEASE JANUARY 25 2019
ON RADIANT RECORDS/METAL BLADE WORLDWIDE;
WORLDWIDE TOUR STARTS
FEBRUARY 3, 2019 IN NASHVILLE AT CITY WINERY
October 15, 2018 -- THE NEAL MORSE BAND—Neal Morse (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Randy George (bass), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals)—will take fans on THE GREAT ADVENTURE with their latest double concept album due out January 25, 2019 on Radiant Records via Metal Blade Worldwide. It will be available in three formats: a two CD package, two CD/DVD Special Edition featuring behind-the-scenes video clips of the making of the album, and three vinyl LPs. Pre-orders begin December 4 on Radiant Records’ website.
The follow-up to 2016’s critically acclaimed THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM, which critics hailed as “a masterpiece,” will be the ninth studio album with Morse, Portnoy and George, and the third as a true collaboration with this current lineup. Together, Morse and Portnoy have launched four bands, but the one that has endured the longest and thus with the most musical output has been THE NEAL MORSE BAND.
“Let the great adventure now begin…” The closing line of THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM, has proved to be strangely prophetic. The new album is exactly that: a perfect companion piece to TSOAD’s partial retelling of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. It has everything that fans would expect from an album by THE NEAL MORSE BAND, and more: rock, metal, classical and jazz elements appear throughout, as well as some killer melodies, all played faultlessly by some of the greatest rock musicians on the planet.
As Neal Morse explains, “This band continues to amaze me! I have to say it was a little daunting to follow up THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM as it was such a special album and it delivered every night at our concerts, but I believe that THE GREAT ADVENTURE will have a tremendous impact as well. This new double album is everything that I hoped it would be! I listened through last night and I was in tears at the end!“
Mike Portnoy emphatically agrees. He says, “How do you follow an epic double concept album??? Well, create another epic double concept album!! Hahaha. I always knew topping THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM was going to be difficult, if not impossible, as I held it in such high regard, but alas, I am absolutely blown away with what we achieved here! We’ve created what is the ultimate companion to TSOAD.”
“Sometimes there are things that you just can’t mess with,” Randy George continues. “On THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM we tapped into something special. I was sure that the follow up should be something quite different, but you have to follow your heart and follow the music where it wants to go. THE GREAT ADVENTURE is nothing short of a miracle. It’s similar to SIMILITUDE in concept and form, but yet it’s tougher and deeper in its tone! This is a powerful work and I look forward to playing it live!
True to the album’s title, the creative process was indeed a “great adventure.” Unlike many previous Morse albums, which have often been written and arranged within weeks, this time around these prolific and world-class musicians spent almost a year working on the end result, producing an abundance of top quality material. This meant some ruthless decision-making: some already completed songs and characters had to go, and-–with studio time running out–new links and ideas were being composed and recorded up to the eleventh hour. “A lot of work and re-work has gone into this,” says Morse, “but I know that some of the most successful and far-reaching albums I’ve been involved with have been just like that. SOLA SCRIPTURA and Spock’s Beard’s SNOW album come to mind.”
Another key question that had to be addressed in the studio was how to pull all the ideas together into a coherent whole. In the end, what unlocked this “adventure” for Morse was the realization that THE GREAT ADVENTURE needed a new voice and perspective. This time, it is that of the Pilgrim’s abandoned son, a younger, perhaps angrier, voice than was heard on THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM.
THE NEAL MORSE BAND will bring THE GREAT ADVENTURE to fans worldwide with a new round of headlining tour dates, which begin February 3, 2019 in Nashville at City Winery. For ticket information and VIP ticket sales go to www.radiantrecords.com. Check them out at any of the following stops, with more shows to be added in the coming months:
DATE CITY VENUE
Sat 2/2 Nashville, TN City Winery
Sun 2/3 Tampa, FL The Ritz (Cruise To The Edge Pre-Cruise Party)
Mon 2/4 Tampa, FL Cruise To The Edge 2019 (through February 9)
Sun 2/10 Atlanta, GA City Winery
Mon 2/11 Charlotte, NC Neighborhood Theatre
Tue 2/12 Baltimore, MD Soundstage
Wed 2/13 Jersey City, NJ White Eagle Hall
Fri 2/15 Boston, MA The Sinclair
Sat 2/16 Philadelphia, PA Keswick Theatre
Sun 2/17 Westbury NY The Space at Westbury
Mon 2/18 Montréal, QUE. Club Soda
Tue 2/19 Quebec City, QUE. Salle Sylvain Lelievre
Thu 2/21 Toronto, ONT. Opera House
Fri 2/22 Pittsburgh, PA Mr. Smalls Theatre
Sat 2/23 Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom
Sun 2/24 Detroit, MI The Crofoot Ballroom
Tue 2/26 St. Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
Wed 2/27 St. Louis, MO Delmar Hall
Thu 2/28 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Live
Fri 3/1 Lawrence, KS Granada Theatre
Sat 3/2 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall
Tue 3/5 Seattle, WA The Triple Door
Wed 3/6 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
Thu 3/7 San Francisco, CA Slim's
Fri 3/8 Whittier, CA The Whittier Center Theatre
Sat 3/9 Chandler, AZ Bogle Theatre (Chandler Center For The Arts)
Sun 3/24 London, United Kingdom Islington Assembly Hall
Mon 3/25 Paris, France The Alhambra
Tue 3/26 Tilburg, Netherlands O13
Wed 3/27 Esch /Alzette, Luxembourg Rockhal Esch Sur Alzette
Fri 3/29 Koln, Germany Kantine
Sat 3/30 Copenhagen, Denmark Viften
Sun 3/31 Goteborg, Sweden Stora Teatern
Mon 4/1 Stockholm, Sweden Skandiascenen
Wed 4/3 Berlin, Germany Heimathafen
Thu 4/4 Hamburg, Germany Markthalle
Fri 4/5 Leipzig, Germany Halle d / Werk 2
Sat 4/6 Warsaw, Poland Progresja
Sun 4/7 Brno, Czech Republic SONO Music Club
Tue 4/9 Munich, Germany Technikum
Wed 4/10 Pratteln, Switzerland Z7 Konzertfabrik
Thu 4/11 Lyon, France C.C.O.
Fri 4/12 Trezzo sull'Adda MI, Italy Live Club
Sat 4/13 Barcelona, Spain Salamandra 1
Sun 4/14 Madrid, Spain Sala Mon
The release of a new Haken album has become a big event in the progressive genre. While their
debut album Aquarius and its follow-up Visions have already saved the band a spot among their
colleagues, their last two masterpieces The Mountain and Affinity have proved that fans can count
on the band to release something that will cover new ground, yet is still unmistakably identifiable
as Haken. The band’s 2015 release Affinity offered a 1980s inspired theme and was the first
Haken album to feature major compositional contributions by every member, while the previous
albums were mainly efforts by guitarist Richard Henshall. This resulted not only in a massive
expansion of Haken’s sound palette, but also in a whole new rhythmical level. Haken are moving
forward in a very subtle way and effortlessly skip every Prog-cliché. But after a run of four and a
half fantastic albums one might wonder: Where are they going next? And how the hell are they
gonna top this?
While Haken have always incorporated Metal into their music, they decided to release something
heavier and more riff-oriented. Still, Vector seems like a logical step after Affinity.
The band starts off their new album with an intro named „Clear“, which sets the mood for the next
45 minutes. During the first few seconds one might think that Nomacs are descending, but some
of the following keyboard sounds manage to build a bridge to the 80s oriented Affinity, while still
sounding new and fresh. The harmonies remind of those by Russian masters of Romantic Music
by the likes of Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Suspense is built up and keyboardist Diego Tejeida
gets to show that he’s one of today’s masters of his craft. His apocalyptic sounding organs and
sound effects already give away the atmosphere of Vector: something dark, demonic and big is
coming our way.
The problem with intros (as opposed to overtures) for me is always the „waste“ of ideas that
would have had the potential to become so much more. „Clear’s“ motives will not appear again
during the rest of the album. Then again, Haken has been renouncing the Prog-typical style of
revisiting and reprising melodies present on Aquarius and Visions, and instead narrowed it down
to one or two motives reappearing throughout The Mountain and Affinity. Consequently, this was
completely erased on Vector. The album’s music is completely linear, doesn’t „end where it
began“ and doesn’t make the impression of a concept album. The last point is proven wrong by
Haken-guitarist Charlie Griffiths himself: „[…] lyrically it’s a bit more theatrical and about as „rock
opera“ as Haken has ever got“. Vector seems to be about a doctor and his sinister intentions for a
certain patient, combined with several psychologic and psychoanalytic themes and influences
from Stanley Kubrick movies. The Rohrschach inspired cover is presented with a classic Hakenunderstatement
vibe and fits well into the psychological themes of the album. Not having read the
lyrics completely, I can’t wait to check out the story Haken have come up with.
Opposed to the „theatrical“ concept, „Clear“ is followed by a series of songs that work perfectly
as standalone tracks. The first time the whole band kicks in, a soothing feeling is spreading. Two
and a half long years fans waited for this prescription of new Haken music. „The Good Doctor“
will see you now.
The first „real“ song and lead single bursts in with one of Haken’s signature riffs, guitar arpeggios
and a lot of crash cymbals. The riff-oriented focus of the music is already audible, but it feels like
a logical step from the more compact songs on Affinity. A bass imitating 8-string guitar and some
80s drum-sounds lead into the first verse. The band plays an unusually funky groove carried by a
slapped bass guitar. Conner Green is more present on Vector than he was on Affinity and it
benefits the album very much. „The Good Doctor“ continues with a big chorus based on the
opening motif and a completely different second verse with somewhat banjo-like strumming
guitars, before leading into the obligatory rollercoaster-middle section. Guitars and bass play an
unpredictable riff consisting of only three repeated notes, while drummer Ray Hearne makes the
whole thing even more difficult to understand by adding several polyrhythmic layers. A short cut
with hospital noises and a deep laugh, as well as a jazzy, calm vocal interlude strangely don’t
break the song’s flow and the whole section seems to build up for a reprise of the chorus.
However, the band knows how to surprise their listeners and slide in a reprise of the second
verse, before the chorus closes the circle and finishes the song at 100% energy.
Or so I thought. The following song has the ungrateful second and a half position that was
previously occupied by „1985“ and „Cockroach King“, which both have become fan favourites
and the equivalent of a „hit“ in the modern progressive genre. „Puzzle Box“ keeps the up energy of the album with a riff featuring Ray Hearne’s snare and portraying the fantastic drum mix that
Adam „Nolly“ Getgood has come up with. The intro riff is varied and reprised very cleverly
throughout the song and is consequently kept in 4/4, although at many points it doesn’t sound
like it. Reportedly, Ray Hearne is a big Meshuggah fan, so these polyrhythms over a 4/4 time
signature might be an influence coming from them. The verses once again benefit from Conner’s
deep, awesome bass sound and kicks played in perfect unison with the drums.
„Puzzle Box“ has a pretty interesting structure. The section that initially serves as a chorus is later
revealed to be more of a bridge, as the whole track leads up to one final chorus that has never
been heard before. I have noticed a similar approach in „The Architect“, except in that example, a
theme from a previous song was reprised in the final chorus. Of course, there is also a whacky
instrumental section which leaves you both laughing and impressed. A following spheric passage
with electronic beats, as well as the combination of hymnic melodies and deep guitar riffs in the
final chorus once again makes „Puzzle Box“ seem like a little brother to „The Architect“.
So, can „Puzzle Box“ live up to its predecessors „1985“ and „Cockroach King“? No need to.
Haken don’t need to prove they can continue running gags or traditions because they are creative
enough to create new ones every time they break new ground.
„Veil“ is the centerpiece of the album and a great follow up to songs of similar extend like „The
Architect“, „Pareidolia“ and „Falling Back To Earth“. It starts off with a fragile piano and vocals
presenting a chorus that would later reappear packed into a bombastic arrangement. Several
rhythmic motifs are introduced that are being reprised and varied during the next 12 minutes. In
fact, the whole song is masterfully built around very few rhythmic ideas that makes it come across
very concise. Despite all instrumental freak outs, most of „Veil“ once again stands in 4/4 or
alternating 4/4 and 5/4 time signatures.
The guys from Haken know how a song of these proportions is supposed to be composed. They
don’t introduce new motifs every 14 seconds, but rather let already heard ones reappear in a
different harmonic, dynamic or rhythmic context. The two parts that hold the whole tune together
are the catchy chorus and a post-chorus section underlined by the relentlessly pushing forward
16th-notes coming from Ray’s bass drum. I guess only time will tell if this monster of a song will
be able to take „The Architect’s“ place as my favourite Haken song.
One might wonder why the band didn’t include a 23 monster track on Vector. „Veil“ is the ultimate
answer. This composition is so round and finished that there can’t possibly be anything else to
So, what else is there to say? I guess, nothing for a while. That’s why „Nil By Mouth“ is seven
minutes of absolute brutal instrumental insanity. Some electronic sounds introduce the first riff.
And what a riff that is. No melody, no harmonies, just one and the same chord played by both
Richard’s and Charlie’s guitars. The second rhythmical idea lays the foundation for most of the
song’s following parts, before it’s interrupted by one of only two sections with an actual melody.
„Nil By Mouth“ once again reprises and varies motifs in a very clever way. There’s not too many
ideas worked into this song, but those ideas are very well worked out. „Nil By Mouth“ is one of
those instrumental tracks that have no need for a mindless shredding section over an extended
Blues vamp - nor does it have the need for any solos at all. Haken has become a unit, a well-oiled
machine. These guys know just how to compose arrangements for their lineup. I want to say that
every member is on the same level here - but I just have to give a special mention to their beast of
a drummer. Not only is Ray Hearne’s drumming incredibly well thought through, it’s also always
tasty, on spot, impeccable. The whole album is pervaded by his complex polyrhythms, pushing
grooves and at times brutal fills („Nil By Mouth“ at 5:09 - wow). I was already deeply impressed by
the complete new rhythmical dimension he added to Affinity, but in my opinion, he has improved
once again on Vector. The same, however, can be said about Conner Green. His thick bass lines
are more present on this album and his playing is in perfect sync with Ray’s drums.
A quick return to previous Haken songs with a similarly heavy approach („Endless Knot“,
„Drowning In The Flood“, „Darkest Light“) reveals the actual heaviness of the new songs. Vector’s
mix and production are huge and loud in every way and the two guitars have never been more
present. It seems like it’s time to take it down a notch.
„Host“ is not a ballad per se, but a mellow song with a very morbid atmosphere. Personally, I
wouldn’t have minded if Vector had turned out to be heavy and riff-oriented from start to finish,
without any exceptions. But then again, „Host“ is still a welcome change and an opportunity for
Ross Jennings to shine. As much as I love the battling guitar riffs in the other songs, they don’t
leave too much room for the vocals. This might be the only real point of criticism about this
album. Ross’ fantastic performance on „Host“ (especially towards the end) compensates for that
and confirms that at least one mellow song was needed on Vector. Still, while it gives you a short
break from heavy guitar riffs, it doesn’t give you a break from the sinister atmosphere of the
album. This benefits the flow. A more uplifting song in the vein of Earthrise or Bound By Gravity
would have completely fallen out of place here. Just when one might think the song is over, Ray’s
deep toms lead into the dark finale of the song, which Ross finishes with a dramatic, high note.
Vector’s seventh and final song „A Cell Divides“ takes over where „Nil By Mouth“ left off. Another
shattering riff is thrown towards the listener, before a clean guitar leads into the verse. Ray uses
unconventional sounds for his drums and the whole section plays cleverly with its 7/8 time
signature. In contrast with the flowing verse, there is a chorus based on a slow staccato rhythm.
„It’s the beauty in the flaw, the grace of imperfection“ - there’s something of this reflecting in the
music. Not that there’s anything wrong with this last song, but it doesn’t follow the bombastic,
vast finales of previous Haken albums. There’s no big reprise of the album’s opener, no huge
forgiving choral at the end. The chorus is melancholic, almost a little sad, and doesn’t give off the
satisfying „Visions“ overkill vibe. Instead, some sustained vocal lines reminiscent of Affinity
appear, while the opening riff evolves in the background (brilliant). The chorus returns and swells
up, before Ross leads us back into the song’s intro. The album ends without any closing chord
and leaves the listener on the edge of his chair. „The grace of imperfection“.
No matter if they develop into a more dark or complex direction; the melodies, hooks and
atmosphere are all unmistakable Haken. The band seems to be on a quest to become more
perfect with each effort. Their music has reached a stage of complexity which is almost
unreachable for a normal human being, yet it’s still mysteriously melodic and not at all hard to
listen to. Similar to Affinity, some parts on Vector bring up the question how in the world the band
will be able to perform this stuff on stage. But once again I’m sure that a visit to one of Haken’s
upcoming concerts will prove this thought redundant.
Haken managed to once again develop their trademark sound into a new direction. Album
number V and no sings of wear and tear on one of today’s greatest bands.
Haken’s “Vector” is set for release on October 26th 2018 via InsideOut, cover art and the tracklist can be seen below.
2.The Good Doctor (03:58)
3.Puzzle Box (07:45)
5.Nil By Mouth (07:11)
7.A Cell Divides (05:00)
Ross Jennings – Vocals
Charlie Griffiths – Guitar
Rich Henshall – guitar & keys
Diego Tejeida – keys
Conner Green – bass
Raymond Hearne – drums
Enter the 5th Dimension (2007 Demo)
The Mountain (2013)
Restoration (EP) (2014)
Comeback Kid is a Canadian hardcore punk band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Their name comes from a headline in a newspaper about hockey player Mario Lemieux coming back to the NHL. The band was formed in 2000 by Andrew Neufeld and Jeremy Hiebert who were both members of the band Figure Four, which is currently on hiatus. They were joined by their friends Scott Wade and Kyle Profeta.
Upon releasing Turn It Around on Facedown Records in 2003, Comeback Kid began touring full-time, covering most of North America as well as Europe. They also appeared on many high-profile hardcore punk festivals like Hellfest and Posi Numbers festival. Following the touring for Turn it Around, Comeback Kid entered the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado to begin recording their second album.
In February 2005 Comeback Kid released "Wake the Dead," their first for Victory Records. After some long tours, vocalist Scott Wade left the band. Neufeld became the band's vocalist, and they began recording their third album "Broadcasting". The release of Broadcasting was followed by more steady touring, culminating with a summer long tour supporting Rise Against in North America, and their first appearance on the "Never Say Die" tour in Europe with Parkway Drive. By the end of 2007 the band was to take a short hiatus. At this time bass player Kevin Call left the band on good terms, issuing a statement regarding leaving Comeback Kid.
Call was replaced by Matt Keil who had played in Minneapolis area bands with Hjelmberg. Two more years of touring followed, with the band visiting South East Asia and Latin America for the first times.
In 2008 a CD/DVD was released called "Through The Noise" which is a line from the song "Industry Standards" off of "Broadcasting..." . The DVD is a documentary of the first 6 years of Comeback Kid. The CD is a live recording of a show in Leipzig, Germany filmed in fall 2007. A release tour in Canada followed, named the "Through the Noise Tour." It featured Bane, Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, Grave Maker, and Outbreak. While on this tour Gravemaker suffered a van accident with Neufeld in the vehicle, which inspired the song "G.M. Vincent and I" off 2010's "Symptoms and Cures."
After two years of international touring, the band spent much of 2010 writing and recording their fourth studio album, "Symptoms and Cures" which was released in Canada by Distort Entertainment and internationally by Victory Records. Two more installments of the "Through the Noise" tour followed in North America and Europe.
In early 2012 guitarist Casey Hjelmberg announced he would be leaving the band. Stu Ross of Misery Signals/Living with Lions will assume guitar duties.
On May 13, 2014, drummer and founding member Kyle Profeta announced his departure from the band, to focus on his culinary skills in South Africa.
On September 8, 2017, Comeback Kid released their sixth studio album 'Outsider' on Nuclear Blast Records/New Damage Records in Canada.
The band is touring extensively across the world in 2018, and in their stopover in Toronto, Lotsofmuzik collaborator Rodrigo Altaf spent some time talking to singer Andrew Neufeld. Find the interview below:
Lotsofmuzik: Andrew, it’s great talking to you - welcome to Toronto! How is the tour going so far?
Andrew Neufeld: The tour is going great, we just played in Montreal, Oshawa, Ottawa and Quebec, and we’re gonna head west after Toronto. And actually live here in Toronto now, so it feels like a home show for me. I actually just handed in my 100 person guest list! [laughs]
Lotosfmuzik: Nice! And on this tour you have No Warning and Higher Power. How involved were you in picking those bands?
A.N.: We picked them personally. This is actually kind of a co-headlining tour with No Warning. They are also from Toronto, and they’re one of my favourite hardcore bands, so I was happy to finally get them to come on tour with us. And Higher Power is a band we’ve taken with us before in the UK and Europe, so it’s good to have them back as well.
Lotsofmuzik: I looked at the tour dates, and your schedule is BRUTAL - more often than not there are ZERO days off between shows – is that by choice, or would you have a more relaxed schedule if you could?
A.N.: We want to make so money in a short amount of time! [laugh] Our guitar player Jeremy has a young kid, so we can’t be out for more than three weeks, and we gotta make it work with that in mind.
Lotsofmuzik: What does a typical day when you’re on tour look like?
A.N.: Wake up at the hotel, start driving – most of the guys in the band are vegan, but I’m not, but either way, the next thing to do is to find a gas station and find some food [laughs]. We usually get to the venue by 4pm and do the soundcheck, we go for dinner and I usually have a couple of vodka sodas [laughs], then do the show, go back to the hotel and go out with some friends, go to bed and repeat everything the next day! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: What’s the main difference between playing club shows like this versus festivals, and which one do you prefer?
A.N.: I like variety – it sucks to play the same thing over and over. I love the small clubs, but I also like the huge festivals where you play to different people in other parts of the world, and it’s usually massive audiences too.
Lotsofmuzik: In terms of setlist, do you have a fixed one for the tour, or do you change things around every night?
A.N.: We have a fixed one, but we change things here and there. Tonight for example, I just told the guys that I don’t want to commit to the first song until I feel out the crowd. I’ll have a look from behid the curtains and get a feel for it, and that will dictate what I choose to open up with tonight.
Lotsofmuzik: I looked at the setlists of your recent shows, and it seems like a good balance between old and new material. Do you have a process to pick your setlists or not?
A.N.: We like to play the hits from every record, and honestly, if we were a band of a different style it wouldn’t matter so much, but with hardcore, you get so obsessed with how the crowd is vibing off the songs that we play, so we simply try to focus on the songs that get the best reaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, that’s what it is.
Lotsofmuzik: And would you say there’s ONE particular song that you can’t NOT play every night?
A.N.: “Wake the Dead”!
Lotsofmuzik: I noticed you start a few shows with a song called “G.M. Vincent & I” which was inspired by a car accident with a band that opened for Comeback Kid on tour – what other things do you look for as inspiration for your lyrics?
A.N.: Being depressed, being addicted to certain substances, and as I get into my head a little bit, there’s all kinds of self-deprecating lyrics – I noticed that about myself lately. I try to write things that make sense, and the songs find me before I find them.
Lotsofmuzik: I need to ask you about one of my favourite songs, which I hope will be in the setlist tonight, “Wasted Arrows” – what’s this one about?
A.N.: This one will be in tonight’s setlist for sure, and in short, it’s just about getting burned by someone.
Lotsofmuzik: On your last album, “Outsider”, you guys did a song with Devin Townsed – what was it like working with him?
A.N.: It was cool! I had a song with a part where I was kind of ripping him off, and Jeremy, our guitar player, suggested that we asked him to sing that part. He produced some material from my other band “Sights and Sounds”, so I texted him and said “hey, do you wanna sing a song on our album?”, and he said yes. He recorded it on his own and send it to us. I’m a big fan of Devin!
Lotsofmuzik: What kind of special care do you have to maintain your voice?
A.N.: I don’t! I’m not too big on warm ups or anything like that. But usually, when I’m on tour, I find that consistency helps – if I stick to a certain routine, I’m usually ok.
Lotsofmuzik: Punk is a challenging style to sing, and as you mentioned, you do have a side project called Sights and Sounds where you sing more melodic – which of the two singing styles do you find more challenging?
A.N.: Probably the more melodic stuff. And I play guitar in Sights and Sounds as well, which makes it a bit more challenging too. Actually, I pay to play in Sights and Sounds – we don’t make much money out of it, so it’s a passion project at this point! [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik: Speaking of money, what was the turning point for you, where you knew you could leave your day job and live off of music?
A.N.: I’ve been touring since I got out of high school, so I’ve never been a day job kind of guy. I’ve worked day jobs, but usually I tour so much that I’m only home for a month, so it’s not enough time to get a “proper” job. So I try to make my money stretch when I’m off. I do odd jobs here and there and I also produce bands, but that’s also “term” work – you’re very busy for a couple of weeks or months, and then you’re off for another moth or so. It’s not consistent, but it’s intense, just like touring.
Lotsofmuzik: Your most recent album Outsider is about one year old now – any plans for a follow up?
A.N.: We just released that record, man! [laughs]. And we just released a seven inch two months ago! At this point we’re planning on touring a bit more, and then we’ll see
Lotsofmuzik: Any plans for a 20 years anniversary tour in 2020?
A.N.: Oh yeah, we’ll have to do something special for sure, and capitalize on that.
Lotsofmuzik: Looking back those almost 20 years, is there something you would have done differently?
A.N.: Probably, but I try not to focus too much on that. I mean, I suppose you can learn from your mistakes, but there’s not much point in keep banging your head against the wall because of something you did years ago.
Lotsofmuzik: You just mentioned that you did a few European shows, now you’re touring North America, and there will be a couple of shows in South America soon, right?
A.N.: Yeah, we’re gonna do a few shows with H20 on the West Coast, then we have a few shows with Madball on the East Coast, a festival in Florida, and then we go to South America with Pennywise in December, so it’s shaping up to be a pretty busy year!
Lotsofmuzik: Have a great show tonight, and I hope everything goes well with the tour, man!
A.N.: Thanks, man, take care!
Cover art and traclist of their atest album can be seen below, and the official video for the song Surrender Control as well.
2. Surrender Control
4. Hell Of A Scene
5. Somewhere, Somehow
6. Consumed The Vision
7. I’ll Be That
8. Outrage (Fresh Face, Stale Cause)
10. Livid, I’m Prime
12. Throw That Stone
13. Moment In Time
You can order it through their label Nuclear Blast webpage here:
Talking about the new music video for Rockin' With The Best, Sonny comments: "Rockin' With The Best is direct, raw and in your face, unapologetic sound that has been pioneered by P.O.D. The only question is whether or not you know how to get down with it?"
On November 16th, 2018, Mascot Label Group will release 'Circles,' P.O.D.'s debut for the label. The album is the San Diego band's first since 2015's The Awakening, and comes at a time when the group is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. In the last few years, P.O.D. have performed at the Download Festival, Hellfest, Rock on the Range, River City Rockfest, Carolina Rebellion, and Aftershock Festival, as well as shared stages with In This Moment, Prophets of Rage, Shinedown, and Five Finger Death Punch.
On Circles, P.O.D. collaborated with an L.A.-based production duo called the Heavy, who ensured the album is contemporary-sounding without losing any of the band's core sonic signifiers. The rap-driven "Rockin' With The Best" has an old-school P.O.D. sound that nods to the Beastie Boys, while "Always Southern California" is a reggae-inflected rocker and the groove-heavy "Soundboy Killa" is a hip-hop/metal hybrid. The dynamic title track even boasts moody electronic flourishes, glassy piano, and laid-back rapping verses.
Taken from their upcoming album 'Circles'
Release date: 16 November 2018
Mascot Records / Mascot Label Group
Check out the brand new video for Rockin' With The Best:
The dreamy sounds and vast keyboard harmonies standing next to odd time signatures, heavy riffs and Mariusz Duda’s introverted, yet charismatic vocals provide for a sound that make Riverside unmistakable among modern progressive rock bands. The formation from Poland have appeared into the world of music with a bold move, in form of their big conceptual piece „Reality Dream Trilogy“, consisting of their first three albums. As if this wasn’t enough, bass player, singer and creative mind Duda made sure the band would never stand still, but develop their sound and try something new on each album. Riverside is one of Europe’s finest exports for intensive, melancholic progressive rock.
I remember the first time hearing the romantic piano chords of „Hyperactive“ turning into something dark and, well, hyperactive, and being completely amazed by the seemingly natural succession of different styles and atmospheres. Still, while they have drawn their influences from many great artists, and are admired by many great artists themselves, I have never really given Riverside the attention their music needs to be appreciated. „Anno Domini High Definition“ would remain my only contact with the band - until their performance at this year’s Night Of The Prog Festival, which left me deeply impressed.
After the rather unusual album „Eye Of The Soundscape“, „Wasteland“ is Riverside’s first album completely consisting of new material since the death of their guitarist and founding member Piotr Grudziński. The band decided not to find another guitarist. Instead, Duda replaced Grudziński’s part on upcoming studio albums, while Maciej Meller took on guitar duties on stage. „Wasteland“ is Riverside’s „And Then There Were Three“. While Duda is doing a good job on the guitar, Grudziński’s absence is noticeable. There are no flashy, epic guitar moments, nor are there heavy metal riffs. But then again, the whole album comes across as somewhat of an understatement and is completely free of huge or orchestral passages. At times though, the production of the album is a little too slim and a richer sound could have helped a few riffs to come across better. But that is not always a disadvantage. Instead, „Wasteland“ pursues an organic, retro-like hardrock sound, reminiscent of Opeth’s or Beardfish’s later efforts. The mood is melancholic and introverted, which is perfectly supported by Duda’s clean vocals.
Those vocals open up the album. „The Day Before“ is an almost-acapella track full of unanswerable questions that sets the mood perfectly for the album. It’s mellow, a little marching, and the repetitive character gives off a vibe of recurring thoughts in a man’s head he can’t stop thinking about. Mariusz Duda sings a melody I instantly recognised from the band’s performance at the Night Of The Prog Festival. That of course reflects the quality of the motif, since I had heard it one single time weeks ago and instantly remembered it when hearing it again. While the performed version at the festival was expanded into a full song, the album version is merely two minutes long and functions as an intro. This track would have had the potential for more, but it works perfectly as what it is and segues very well into the following song.
„Acid Rain“ is a classic rocker that stands at the beginning of a prog album. A dark but catchy riff opens up this two-parter, before Duda’s inconspicuous vocals kick in. The song has a great hymnic chorus that sounds a little like Muse. This is not the only time this comparison comes to mind. The synth arpeggios and hammond organ make for a slightly apocalyptic character and stand in perfect contrast with the calm way in which Mariusz Duda sings his lines. This hook is so good that I will dare to say „Acid Rain“ is my favourite track on the album. After around three minutes, the song evolves into a sing-along choral with another hook impossible to get out of your head, but still with a slightly mellow vibe. The combination of the keyboard sounds, the acoustic and electric guitars build up a very Floyd-esque atmosphere. The song doesn’t come back to the original chorus, nor does it end with a huge bang or orchestral reprise. Another evidence for the understatement this album is making.
„Vale Of Tears“ once again reminds me of Muse. It’s a straight rocker with some cool riffs, imaginative rhythmic irregularities and a quiet chorus. But during this song, the production issue becomes most evident. The guitar could have used a little more distortion, the snare could sound a little less like its wires and more like Dom Howard during „Panic Station“, the bass could be louder. This becomes very obvious during the instrumental middle section. The hymnic march and the dark, rocking riff are supposed to build up suspense and Mariusz Duda is providing a great guitar solo. A little more wall of sound would have helped that. But maybe that’s just me. The composition is still very good, and I’m sure that this song will work fantastically on stage.
The fourth song, „Guardian Angel“, is a beautiful little ballad, only instrumented with guitar and piano. The main motif is so catchy that it could actually work as a pop tune, but Duda just performs his vocals an octave deeper than expected, which almost results in a whisper and, in connection with some spacey electric guitar lines, builds up a very intimate atmosphere. „Guardian Angel“ is not a huge masterpiece, but it’s a touching tune with a personal vibe to it.
The slow „Lament“ is a little weak point on the album. It picks up some themes from the opener „The Day Before“ and is carried by the fragile voice of Mariusz Duda. The verses and bridges work very well, but they are followed by a chorus that is not strong enough for a floating song like this. By far the best parts of the track are the quiet middle section and the dreamy coda, which are both made perfect by a „lamenting“ violin.
But the listener is quickly reimbursed by the longest song of the album, a ten minute instrumental called „The Struggle For Survival“. The opening guitar once again lacks an appropriate guitar sound, but the arrangement constructed around the lick compensates for that. The two and a half minute long intro does a very good job building up suspense, before some slightly heavier riffs kick in and give the album a much needed push. Still, this song could also have used some richer sounding drums and a distorted guitar. But the composition and Duda’s bass lines are indisputable. Some wordless vocals close the song with a melancholic vibe and form a good transition into the second of three ballads on the album, „River Down Below“. This song begins with an Opeth-like intro by an acoustic guitar and once again great vocals. This song features a touching chorus and a very well crafted arrangement. The verses and choruses are instrumented with a beautifully played acoustic guitar, a fragile mellotron and a hammond organ that goes perfectly with the vocal harmonies. „Take me to the river down below“ - truly beautiful. The song finds its climax in a Gilmour-esque guitar solo accompanied by a distorted organ (not unlike the one in Steven Wilson’s „The Holy Drinker“), which stands in contrast to the floating, peaceful character the song had before. „River Down Below“ had me at first listen, and I still consider it to be one of the best songs of the album.
The following title track begins - similar to „The Struggle For Survival“ - with several acoustic guitars and a carefully built arrangement of piano and electric guitars. The intro features the only lyrics of the song and some wordless harmonised choral passages. „Wasteland“ takes almost three minutes until it bursts out into an instrumental breakdown. The following melody is reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s epic compositions for just about any Spaghetti Western you can think of and it’s built up for over two and a half minutes. This beautiful homage is even made complete with a tremolo guitar and a soprano voice supporting the motif. At the end of the song, almost every theme is reprised in a majestic, yet not too bombastic finale, which makes this composition seem like a circle. „Wasteland“ is the final big statement of the album and my personal favourite next to „Acid Rain“.
The album closes with the third ballad named „The Night Before“, contrasting the opening track’s title „The Day After“. This final song is a lullaby cleverly playing with 5/8 and 6/8 time signatures and featuring a beautifully played piano by Michał Łapaj. It’s a quiet way to close this album, and it functions perfectly as somewhat of a coda to the title track’s more opulent finale.
„Wasteland“ is a good statement for the introverted, melancholic side of Riverside. The lack of heavier guitars and a bigger sound was certainly intended, but they could have helped a lot of passages to come across better. At other times, the retro-hard rock sound suits the music very well. However, the compositions and arrangements are out of the question. The album is packed with sensitive, soulful passages, moderately heavy riffs, instrumental breakdowns and great vocals, as well as some fantastic songs. This will be my album for the upcoming autumn.
10/15 (11 with a richer production) Favourites: Acid Rain, Wasteland
The album it's out NOW under the label InsideOut
Riverside “Wasteland” tracklist (50:58):
1. The Day After (01:48)
2. Acid Rain (06:03)
Part I. Where Are We Now?
Part II. Dancing Ghosts
3. Vale Of Tears (04:49)
4. Guardian Angel (04:24)
5. Lament (06:09)
6. The Struggle For Survival (09:32)
Part I. Dystopia
Part II. Battle Royale
7. River Down Below (05:41)
8. Wasteland (08:25)
9. The Night Before (03:59)
Mariusz Duda - vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piccolo bass, banjo, guitar solo on 'Lament’ and 'Wasteland'
Michał Łapaj - keyboards and synthesizers, rhodes piano and Hammond organ, theremin on 'Wasteland’
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums
“Each album is its own fresh start, and you shouldn't compare it to what we've done before” – Charlie Griffiths of Haken talks about their new album, “Vector”
There are very few prog metal bands who can claim to be as innovative, creative and restively dynamic as Haken. Since their formation in 2007, they have shown over four previous studio albums, one EP and a live release that they never stand still, merely satisfied to rely on past triumphs. Rather, Haken always look for ways to challenge themselves as musicians and artists, and also to keep the listeners on their collective toes.
Their fifth studio record sees the band going in a heavier direction with the music. But if this album, titled 'Vector', is musically heavy, then there's an underlying theme running through the seven songs which is certainly esoteric and fascinating: it explores the relationship between a sadistic doctor and a confused patient. Producer Adam 'Nolly' Getgood did a fantastic job, and extracted perhaps the best drum sound on any Haken album. And the Shattered Fortress tour, where members of Haken helped Mike Portnoy relive the songs from his time in Dream Theater, has left an indelible mark on the band, which can be experienced on “Vector”.
Gearing up for the upcoming North American tour with Leprous and Bent Knee, Haken’s guitar player Charlie Griffith took some time to chat with Lotsofmuzik’s collaborator Rodrigo Altaf and discuss the writing process of “Vector”, the decision making process of the band, and several aspects of the new album.
Lotsofmuzik - Tell us about the writing and recording process of the new album Vector – it seems like yesterday that I saw you guys here in Toronto last year, and you’re back with a brand new album!
Charlie Griffiths - Yes! We’ve been pretty busy. We kind of haven't stopped since we did Affinity and did the tour supporting that album. Then we were also doing the Mike Portnoy Shattered Fortress tour at the same time last year. That was a pretty busy time and we had a lot of music in our heads. I remember at one point we had five hours’ worth of music memorized between the two different bands! [laughs] And during the Australian part of the Shattered Fortress tour in November we had some days off - we would do a show and then we'd have a day off and then we’d fly to the next city, and we actually started during those days off to sort of reconvene in a hotel room and start writing. And that was when we had the very first seeds of a couple of songs: “A Cell Divides”, which is the last song on the album, “Puzzle Box” and “The Good Doctor”. And we kind of had the demos with programmed parts. We just keep working on them more or less until Christmas, and it was really pretty quick after that, once we had an idea of what the album was going to be, we went through it in a somewhat logical way. Really, this was probably the most organized we've ever been about the final outcome of an album. We’re usually a bit more loose with the writing process and write loads of stuff, and put it together like a jigsaw at the end of it. But this time we had quite a good idea of what we wanted since the start, and we stuck to it. It took about six months from the initial ideas to actually getting the final master, so it was was a pretty good process.
Lotsofmuzik – The first thing that caught my attention when listening to the new album is how great the drums are sounding in this release. I understand that Raymond [Hearne, drums] worked with producer Adam 'Nolly' Getgood to achieve that drum sound, right?
CG - Yeah, exactly. He’s kind of renowned for his drum sounds, and he’s worked with a lot of bands we like: Sikth, his own band Periphery, Devin Townsend and we were impressed with the sounds of the albums he’s worked on. I've known him for years as a guitar player - on the scene in the UK, especially in the progressive genre, everyone knows everyone in a roundabout way kind of thing. So we met ten years ago or something like that and just kind of loosely stayed in touch and I'd always wanted to work with him. And once we started writing the songs, it became apparent that he would really be the man to produce this album. We were interested in hearing his vision applied to these songs, to put it that way. So he came down, he lives up in Bristol, which is a couple of hours out of London, not really that far. He came down to London where we recorded the drums and set up drums with Ray the way he likes to do it and brought some of his own drums and tuned them specifically how he does it. And that's really the reason why they sound like they do.
Lotsofmuzik – Another thing I noticed is the Muse influence on a few songs – the keyboard arpeggios on a few songs, and certain vocal melodies here and there – I never took you guys for Muse fans!
CG - Oh yeah man, we're big Muse fans! What I like about Muse that they’re kind of pop, with catchy choruses, but at the same time they have classical influences which are played through these analog synths. And that was actually one of Diego's mission statements for this album - he wanted to avoid any kind of orchestral sounds, string samples or brass and stuff like that, which we've done a lot of in the past to be given a kind of epic sound. But this time he kind of wanted to challenge himself and see if he could do an album by going outside of your comfort zone and only use analog synth sounds. So when you say you hear Muse influences, that’s probably because of that choice of arrangements for keyboards.
Lotsofmuzik – You toured with Mike Portnoy on the Shattered Fortress tour when he revisited his time with Dream Theater – has this affected the way that Vector turned out?
CG - I think so. I mean, I can only speak personally, but I certainly think so on the song “Veil” - just the kind of intensity and energy of that song. I think that we wanted to try and capture the feeling of playing those Dream Theater songs like “The Glass Prison” and “This Dying Soul”. Both of them have this intense thing of staying twenty minutes on a stage just nonstop laying heavy riffs, like intense music and that was always my favorite part of the show. I really enjoyed the intensity of it, and wanted to try and capture that feeling, so that when we get to play “Veil” live, it will be like reliving that moment and that emotion a little bit. So from that point of view, doing the Shattered Fortress Tour influenced “Vector”, definitely, and “Veil” is probably my favorite song on the album.
Lotsofmuzik – Whose idea was it to use the trumpet at the beginning of “Host”? I couldn't help but notice a “film noir” vibe at the beginning of that song.
CG - That's actually a flugelhorn, which sounds quite similar to a trumpet. That was actually Ray’s idea. On the demo, Diego had an analog sound which was kind of similar to a brass instrument and Ray was quite adamant that he could hear a flugelhorn at that point. Not many people know this, but he’s an orchestral player, and he has a lot of friends who are brass players, trumpet players etc. He had a friend that he had in mind that would be perfect for that and he actually came down for a day during the drum recordings and recorded ten different solos over that. It definitely has a kind of film noir feel to it. Actually, one of the working titles of “A Cell Divides” was “Tech Noir”, so we definitely had some sort of mix of film noirs with technology – Blade Runner, Terminator etc., that kind of vibe.
Lotsofmuzik – The first song to be revealed, “The Good Doctor”, is by far the catchiest song in the entire album, and was a no-brainer choice for first single, right?
CG – Actually we had a debate about it, and some of us wanted to put out “Puzzle Box” first, because it's a heavier song and it's a bit more representative of the sound of the album. But we had discussions with the label, and when they heard ‘The Good Doctor” they said, “yeah, that's definitely a lead single”. And at the end of the day I'm glad we put it out first, because people responded to it.
Lotsofmuzik: I found it very clever how this song talks about mental disease in the lyrics but it has a kind of happy feel to it, especially in the chorus.
CG - The idea of the song is that it describes an ECT [Electroconvulsive therapy]. It was inspired by the famous scene from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, where in the 50’s this technique was used to lobotomize people. Today it’s used with a different aim, and with a more humane technique, but, you know, back in the fifties it was, it was a bit more brutal. I think what I would like people to do is to actually get a physical copy of the album because we'll be putting a lot of stuff in the booklet, the CD booklet. We’re going to tell the story visually, and the booklet has doctor's notes and prescriptions, with a psychological wording. And it tells you when the story's taking place as well, which will help get a lot more context. But going back to “The Good Doctor”, much like “Nurse Ratchet” in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, he kind of enjoys tormenting the patients and the song plays with the idea that in this case, this doctor enjoys punishing this person, this subject on the album. So that's why it's got a happy feeling, because the doctor is happy about it, enjoying what he’s doing! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik – On “Puzzle Box” you go back to the electronic sounds that were used prominently on Affinity, and the middle section is insanely heavy too. Is it true that Haken’s original keyboard player Peter Jones did some work on that track as well?
CG - Yeah, that's right. He programmed all the electronic drums that you hear, particularly on the most chilled middle section of “Puzzle Box”. Those kind of glitchy drums that go on in that middle section, you know? And it was cool to have an original member back as a guest, we felt great about it.
Lotsofmuzik – The album is quite short compared to your other efforts – we’re used to having more than an hour of music from you guys – was that intentional, or a consequence of the busy schedule of the band?
CG – It kinda was intentional. We wanted to make more of a metal album than a prog album, and I looked at all of my favorite metal albums and they were all around forty minutes. Take Megadeth’s “Rust In Peace” for example. To me this is like the perfect metal album, and it lasts around forty minutes. It’s just perfect as it is, and I’ve never heard anyone complain that it’s too short! [laughs]. So that was the idea actually. We were aiming to make a forty minute album, and kind of expanded just a bit above that. But we definitely wanted to keep it short and concise and to the point.
Lotsofmuzik: The example I always use is Van Halen II, which clocks in at thirty six minutes, and it's just amazing from start to finish - not a note is wasted on that one!
CG – Yeah, we basically had our ideas laid out and it filled just around forty minutes, and just didn’t want to fill up time just for the sake of it, because that's what people are used to. Each album is its own fresh start, and you shouldn't compare it to what we've done before - it's simply its own thing. Nobody asked Stephen Spielberg when he made “The Color Purple” “why are there no sharks in it?” just because he had made “Jaws” [laughs]. For sure you don't go into it expecting there to be full of sharks or aliens. You should go in with a fresh blank mind and willing to accept it for what it is. And that’s how we’d like our fans to listen to our new album – with a fresh pair of ears and not expecting us to do the same as before.
Lotsofmuzik – Do you often reflect on how much you all have evolved as musicians? Because the change is palpable when you compare your first album to Vector, don’t you think?
CG - I guess we do. To me it's gone pretty quick. It really just seems like yesterday that we did Aquarius and Visions, and we haven't really stopped since then. We're not extremely focused on playing better or faster, we're just trying to stay inspired and make sure that what we're writing is true to what we're actually feeling at the time. And even planning some of the “Affinity” material now, it takes us back to a different mindset that we were in when we recorded it, you know, it brings back memories. I think we've really improved as songwriters and lyricists, but what do I know - some people still prefer Aquarius over anything else we’ve done. So on certain aspects, that’s really hard to say [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik – Tell us what the plans are for the upcoming Haken and Leprous tour.
CG - We've only just figured out the set list we're going to play, and we’re trying to keep it balanced between the “Vector” songs, which we’re of course excited about playing, and some familiar stuff in there as well because it's going to be quite close to the release of the album - the tour starts a few days after it's released, and we want people to know what they're listening to. So yeah, we were going to be playing some old stuff and some new stuff, and it’s going to be about half and half. As for Leprous, I've got no idea what they’ll play! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: I was thinking you would bring Einar Solberg, the Leprous singer, to sing the part he did in the studio for “The Architect” with you, but that part is only like ten seconds long, so I guess it won’t be practical, right?
CG - Actually, I can tell you now that “The Architect” won’t be in the setlist. We actually just played in Transylvania a few weeks ago at a festival, Leprous was going to play the following day, but they happened to be there earlier, so he sang that song with us. We've done it a few times with him, and it’s always great. It’s kinda funny, because off stage he’s reserved, quiet this tiny person, but he seems a lot bigger when he gets to the stage [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik - On the last tour you had the Haken coffee and the 80’s-themed sunglasses on the merch stand. What kind of things are you bringing this time?
CG – We might be bringing coffee again, but a different blend, some cool t-shirt designs…we work with this company called Blacklake Design, which has been working for us since “The Mountain”, and they always come up with the coolest t-shirts. Maybe hats and a few other things.
Lotsofmuzik – No “The Good Doctor” stethoscopes then?
CG – [laughs] that’s a cool idea, but no! [laughs]. Actually, if anyone’s interested in buying the VIP packages, there’s a bunch of cool merch exclusively available for those who buy it. Particularly the t-shirt is great – it will be a VIP package for both bands, so we came up with a t-shirt that combines one of the very few things we have in common: Leprous has a song about a fly, and we have “Cockroach King”, so the t-shirt has an insect in it! [laughs]. The only crossover between the bands is insects, and we decide to call this tour “The Entomology” [laughs]. That t-shirt will only be available for those who buy the VIP package.
Lotsofmuzik – I also noticed you guys will be touring South America next year with Intervals on a few shows, right?
CG - Yeah, we came over with Mike Portnoy last year, but collectively as Haken, this will be our first time in South America. Honestly, they were the best crowd ever! From the first down beat they’re already jumping on the air and screaming – it’s insane! I can’t wait for it!
Lotsofmuzik – With more albums under your belt it gets harder and harder to put together a setlist – what’s your process?
CG - When you release a new album, it's kind of obvious which songs are going to work better live. In this case it’s going to be the heavier, more high energy songs. Those are the ones that we're looking forward to playing. As I said before, we want to keep it kind of balanced, so as to not alienate people in the audience that haven't heard the new stuff, you know, and to have enough familiar stuff. We try to keep a balanced set, but it's kind of hard because of time constraints and a lot of our songs are very long. When we did the 10th anniversary tour we did a medley of Aquarius - we took all our favorite parts of the album and made a twenty minute version of it so that we could play that every night. It worked well, we enjoyed playing it, and at least people got to hear some of that album.
Lotsofmuzik – I also noticed you don’t all live in the same place – Diego lives in Mexico and Conner is in Indiana, and everyone else is in the UK - what kind of system do you have in place to make decisions in the band, to rehearse for tours and write new music?
CG - We use Whatsapp everyday. If you don't check your phone for like a couple of hours, you come back to it and there are like fifty messages on it, just on the Haken group! [laughs]. We're constantly in touch with each other every day, talking about whatever's coming up. We've just been discussing the setlist, the merch, and we're working with the label as well on the release schedule, what single's going to be released when etc. Everyone has an opinion, and we try to come to an agreement on the issues as a committee, so it doesn't really matter that those guys are across the Atlantic. Richard and I live minutes away from each other, but still we never see each other! I see him as much as I see Diego, who lives in Mexico City. Very often, it's just easier to communicate by email or what have you, you know, and we'll figure out when we're going to rehearse and then that's where we'll figure out the logistics of that, all the flights and everything and where are we going, where we're going to rehearse etc. And then we'll have a couple of days blocked out and then everyone will arrive at the rehearsal studio, and leading up to that, we’ve all done our homework, we've, we've learned in our parts and practiced a lot. When we get in the rehearsal room, we can pretty much just play through the set in, in one go. If you’ve done your homework, then it’s fine. You don't have to be together week after week refining it – if we prepare for it, we can take two days to do it, as opposed to weeks and weeks of rehearsals.
Lotsofmuzik: I’m looking forward to your show here in Toronto – it’ll be on Halloween, and I can’t wait for it!
CG – Oh, that will be a special night, we’ll dress up in costumes, so come see us there! [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik: I surely will! Thank you for your time, and all the best with “Vector” and the new tour!
CG – Thanks!
Haken’s “Vector” is set for release on October 26th 2018 via InsideOut, cover art and the tracklist can be seen below.
2.The Good Doctor (03:58)
3.Puzzle Box (07:45)
5.Nil By Mouth (07:11)
7.A Cell Divides (05:00)
Ross Jennings – Vocals
Charlie Griffiths – Guitar
Rich Henshall – guitar & keys
Diego Tejeida – keys
Conner Green – bass
Raymond Hearne – drums
Enter the 5th Dimension (2007 Demo)
The Mountain (2013)
Restoration (EP) (2014)
[Special thanks to Nick Andreas]
Losing a pivotal member can mean the death knell to many bands, but not Riverside. The tragedy that befell in February 2016 (co-founder and guitarist of the band, Piotr Grudziński, died suddenly just before his 41st birthday) called into question their very existence as a group. But they decided to carry on, and released “Eye of the Soundscape” later that year - a compilation of ambient and instrumental pieces, dedicated to Piotr’s memory.
The year of 2018 sees Riverside actually writing a proper successor to their last album with Piotr, “Love, Fear and the Time Machine”. The decision to carry on as a trio has deeply affected the dynamics of the band and the composition process of the new album, entitled “Wasteland”. Lotsofmuzik’s Rodrigo Altaf spoke with their main composer, bass player and singer Mariusz Duda about the new chapter in their history, as well as some of his other endeavours.
Lotsofmuzik: Hello Mariusz, nice speaking to you! First of all, congratulations on the new album Wasteland – I guess this is one that the fans will receive with both excitement and relief, right?
Mariusz Duda: Yeah, I’m pretty excited with the final result, and thrilled that we made it this year! We had a deadline and at some point we doubted that we could make it, but we did it, finally!
LOM: It seems you are tracing back a few steps and addresssing the loss of Piotr once again on Wasteland, in spite of having addressed that in your solo albums recently, right?
MD: Yeah, but this time I wanted to do this in a more symbolic way and not too literal as I did on the Lunatic Soul album. I wanted to focus more on “survivors” – not about the past, but about the people who were left. That’s why the post-apocalyptic story is focused on a new life in a new place. But of course there are some references to Piotr. His spirit is above the whole album. Riverside should deal with this too, and I thought it would be nice to have this influencing the album. It’s like the end of the world happened to the band, and that was the story behind the title.
LOM: You can confirm my interpretation or not, but I guess there’s a general feeling of “ok, THIS has happened. How do we survive, adapt and make things work from now on?” with a positive vibe on the album, right?
MD: I’m continuing what I started on “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” (2013) when we changed the style a bit into more of a songwriting process, different kinds of arrangements and more melodic pieces. There was always something at the end that symbolized the light at the end of the tunnel – for example, songs like “Coda” [from the album “Shrine of New Generation Slaves”] or the song “Found” [from the album "Love, Fear and the Time Machine"], and now we have a song called “The Day After”, which is at the beginning of the album, but symbolizeds the fact that we have survived once again. It’s about surviving and about standing on two feet in the future ahead. I didn’t want to write about depression and “we’re doomed, that’s the end”. That kind of approach is really childish, and not proper for a grown up man. I turned forty, so now I have to deal with this fact, and not cry about that.
LOM: I think there’s no disguise in the intention of the album when you start with such strong words on the first song “The Day After”: “what we’ve become there’s no turning back, maybe it’s time to say that out loud”.
MD: I believe so. I wanted to say “this is the new life and the new place, we survived the end of the world, and now it’s time for another life”!
LOM: you debuted “The Day After” already at the Night of the Prog festival in Lorelei, with a slight variation of the album version – are you planning on changing the arrangement on other songs too?
MD: I don’t know yet, we haven’t started the preparations for the tour yet, but we’ll do it next week [late August]. But something that I always adore when it comes to live arrangements, is changing – doing slight variations on the songs. I’m not a big fan of playing the songs exactly how they are on the album. So likely we’ll change the songs here and there. But the basic ground will stay the same – we don’t want to subvert everything and, I don’t know, do Wasteland acoustic, you know? [laughs]
LOM: Understood! And there’s quite a contrast between the first song and the follower “Acid Rain”, right? Was that intentional?
MD: The first track is like the intro of the album. I always write albums so that you listen to them from beginning to end – kind of like watching a movie. So the first track is like the beginning credits, the last track is like the end credits, and so on. I always have at least two turning points – like an “earthquake at the very beginning”, and the plot continues. On “Wasteland”, we have a nice introduction with “The Day After”, and “Acid Rain” and “Vale of Tears” are like the boom at the very beginning – you’re sort of wondering “what happened?”. I wanted to mock the politics and religion themes that you hear in the lyrics of “Vale of Tears” and “Acid Rain”. And the story continues with “Guardian Angel”. The title track, “Wasteland”, is almost like the final battle in an action movie, and “The Night Before” is like the closure and end credits.
LOM: On the song Lament I picked some Eastern European influences here and there – am I right in making that assumption?
MD: Yes, perfect! I really wanted to change something this time, and when we didn’t have a guitar player and I decided to take care of the guitar parts, I thought we could use our limitations and try something else, different solutions, and push the boundaries. I thought of experimenting with the guitar tones, having a bigger drum sound, lower singing, and change the approach for the melodic lines. I wanted to get rid of the British rock influences a bit, and include something from our heritage. And then I started to think what part of the Polish music I could incorporate in our sound, something that’s connected with patriotism and religion. So we used a “Slavic” approach, If that even exists. I wanted to sing a few things like a hymn, and add a few mellow melodic lines. On “The Day After”, “Lament” and “Fragments of Wasteland” you see that kind of approach too in the vocal lines. But talking specifically about “Lament”, you’re right, there’s a lot of Eastern European influence there.
LOM: And you mentioned that you’re singing in a lower register this time – what exactly prompted that change?
MD: I wanted to change something, and before our previous tour I took vocal lessons, mostly to prepare for the tour physically. And my teacher told me I had a really nice low voice, and that I should use it in Riverside. Up until then I had used my lower register primarily for backing vocals, so I though I could try it. And I started thinking “what could I do to sound more manly?” [laughs]. I didn’t want to be this crying boy from “Love, Fear And the Time Machine”. And I decided I didn’t have to scream, but rather sing in more of a Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen kind of way. As soon as I started using my lower voice I thought it was really original, so that was the main reason. I wanted to do something I hadn’t tried before, and thought we should have it in three songs, not just one, and decided that this is my new voice.
LOM: It seems that turning forty has left a mark on you in more ways than one, right?
MD: [laughs] For sure – I realized that the level of emotion is different once you reach this age. Maybe it’s because the approach changes. I also don’t feel inclined to take some intricated structures that lead to nowhere. Some of the modern prog music is really pretentious for me. I try to focus more on the message and in the feel, rather that intentionally writing something complicated.
LOM: And I noticed a few song titles make reference to the songs in the beginning and the end of the “Second Life Syndrome” album – The Day After and The Night before, right? Is there a relationship between those four songs, either lyrically or sonically?
MD: That was more of an Easter egg. I was considering what to do with the album’s title. The perfect title for this album would be “Second Life Syndrome”, but we used it on our second album. Then the logical thing would be to call it “Second Life Syndrome Part II”. But if we did that, it would mean more looking at the past than looking ahead, and I wanted the new album to be all about the future. So we thought of including those hidden references for the people who know us. Also, this is the first album since “Second Life Syndrome” with an instrumental track – we had done compilations, singles tec. With instrumental tracks, but since “Second Life Syndrome” we didn’t have one in a “proper” album.
LOM: I noticed also some Enio Morricone influences in the title track, and an overall soundtrack feel on the album. Have you ever considered writing scores for a movie?
MD: Yeah, but that’s really hard! You have to be really focused on that and send material to the movie director back and forth, and maybe hire an agency for the connections to be made – I was always too lazy for that! [laughs] . And although that’s definitely something interesting, you’ll always be limited by the fact that you have to write specifically for the scenes – I usually prefer to have no limitations. And it’s curious that you mentioned Enio Morricone, because the working title of Wasteland’s title track initially was “Morricone”! [laughs]
LOM: You recently released two solo albums, “Fractured” and “Under the Fragmented Sky”, under the moniker of Lunatic Soul. How do you allocate whatever you write to Riverside, your solo output or Lunatic Soul?
MD: I always try to start with a blank page. When I’m starting to write for a new album, I usually try not to reference anything from the past. Otherwise, I would always chose the best stuff for Riverside, because more people will listen to that! [laughs]. But seriously, I start each and every composition process with a blank page and allocate whatever songs I wrote in a writing session considering the album I’m writing at that point in time, so that there’s no overlap.
LOM: And have you ever thought about merging more of the electronic sounds you use on your solo projects in the Riverside style?
MD: I still hope that we’ll do that, but this album had to be an organic one, because we’re dealing with a post-apocalyptic story. So I tried to imagine myself alone in a desert somewhere at the end of the world without electricity. My main instrument here should be the acoustic guitar – something that you can play unplugged and without power. That’s why this album is so organic, and there are no electronic influences this time. And besides, after Lunatic Soul’s “Fractured” and “Under the Fragmented Sky”, which were full of electronics, I thought it would be kind of refreshing to keep these things away from Riverside. But in the future, we might return to a different theme that allows for the electronic stuff – we always used it in a gentle way, and probably we’ll return to that. Again, for this album, I wanted things to be organic, rusty and heavy, connected with the subject and the title.
LOM: You’ve had a lot of changes in your sound as you all evolved as musicians. Do you look back at your first albums and say “oh, this or that would have sounded so much better if I changed it here and there…”?
MD: Of course. For me the first four albums sound really underground…”Second Life Syndrome” sounds like a demo to me [laughs]! But I know that our fans love this album. Using different sounds and messing with the original recording would be like touching up a very famous painting, so it has to be approached very carefully. But maybe we will do that in the future – re-record some of our older material. With “Shrine of New Generation Slaves” we changed our production, we changed our approach to songwriting, and I think after that we started to sound more professional. Wasteland is sort of a bridge between the old and the new ways of composing. I never look back and feel the need to change something I already did, but maybe for anniversary releases, we might do that and rework some of the old material. Actually, when I finish an album I never really listen to it too much – I’m like Johnnny Depp, who never watches the movies he’s starred in [laughs].
LOM: Tell me about it! When I finish an article, it’s very often hard to look back, because you start thinking about things you could have improved here and there in what you wrote, so it’s not really the most pleasant experience!
MD: [laughs] I bet! And for me it’s also the fact that I do many things in parallel, and I work with deadlines. I always feel like I should take one year, one and a half years to write and record a whole album at the most, because later everything changes, you know? Lots of artists start writing a new album and decide to change things after a couple of years has passed. Then more time passes and they want to change It again because there’s this or that new recording and mixing technology. Maybe that’s why Peter Gabriel has been delaying his new album for so long – as soon as he thinks it’s ready, he probably feels it’s too late for a couple of arrangements, and he wants to make them more modern. That’s why for me it’s important to capture that moment – otherwise it would take us ten years to record something, with really shitty results [laughs].
LOM: Like Guns n Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” for example, right?
MD: [laughs] Yes! Well, let’s hope that the new Tool sounds good, because it’s been in the works for ages now! [laughs]
LOM: So far, “Vale of Tears” has been revealed to the fans – how has the response to it been so far?
MD: Kind of surprising, I was very happy when I heard that people started to compare us to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Muse – it’s a really nice compliment, although I don’t think we sound anything like those bands [laughs]. I’m happy that a lot of people like it. Of course there are voices that say “oh, this song is too shallow, where’s the deepness, where’s the space, where are the beautiful solos?”. But hey, this is not the full album, and the biggest surprises will show up later. I always like to trick the fan base a bit and not show the best song of the album first. But actually I think that “Vale of Tears” does a god job in showing the new Riverside. The band is full of contrasts and there’s a lot going on in the new album. With this song you see that you can have the hard stuff, the mellow stuff, something different at every turn, and I think it was a good choice [for a single].
LOM: In the future, would you consider releasing a DVD of a concert where Piotr appears?
MD: Maybe…if we find the right sources of material, why not? We still have the footage of the Woodstock festival in Poland, which was our biggest audience so far, waiting for a proper moment to be released. We are also going to release “Lost and Found” on vynil. I’m not a big fan of DVDs, but maybe we can find a good source of material and release it eventually. For now, our focus is on new music.
LOM: You have appearances scheduled for Cruise to the Edge and Rosfest. Do they have plans for touring in USA and Canada next year?
MD: Yes, in May. I can’t say anything else about that because we’re playing Rosfest and we’re focused on that, but yes, there are plans to play more shows.
LOM: Is there a particular market or country that you haven’t played yet that you feel you should go on this tour?
MD: I would love to play in Argentina for example, because we’ve never played there. In Brazil we played only in Sao Paulo, and it was a festival, so we didn’t have a chance to present our full set. That’s a challenge for the future, I would say.
LOM: Mariusz, it was a pleasure talking to you! Thank you for your time, and all the best with the new album and tour.
MD: Thank you so much! Bye!
Riverside “Wasteland” (50:58):
1. The Day After (01:48)
2. Acid Rain (06:03)
Part I. Where Are We Now?
Part II. Dancing Ghosts
3. Vale Of Tears (04:49)
4. Guardian Angel (04:24)
5. Lament (06:09)
6. The Struggle For Survival (09:32)
Part I. Dystopia
Part II. Battle Royale
7. River Down Below (05:41)
8. Wasteland (08:25)
9. The Night Before (03:59)
Mariusz Duda - vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piccolo bass, banjo, guitar solo on 'Lament’ and 'Wasteland'
Michał Łapaj - keyboards and synthesizers, rhodes piano and Hammond organ, theremin on 'Wasteland’
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums
One of the most important bands for the prog metal scene, Fates Warning has had an extensive career since the mid 80’s, and recently released an all-encompassing live album. “Live Over Europe” was reviewed by Lotsofmuzik’s collaborator Rodrigo Altaf here. In an exclusive interview to Lotsofmuzik, their singer Ray Alder reflects on the state of the band right now, the gap between studio albums and how his voice has changed over time, amongst other interesting topics. Find the interview below:
Lotsofmuzik - First of all, tell us all about the new live album, “Live Over Europe” – it’s your first live album since 1998’s “Still Life” – not counting “Awaken the Guardian Live”, which was a different beast, right?
Ray Alder: Yeah, “Live Over Europe” is totally different. And it's cool, man! It was fun, something we wanted to do which we hadn't done one in over 20 years and it was kind of an idea, you know, we were still out promoting the new album “Theories of Flight” and we figured while we're out maybe we can go ahead and record the shows and have some fun with it. We got to play some of our favorite places and make some new friends around the world. It was cool. It was a really great experience but very tough because it’s so long - the set was two hours long. We played five nights in a row and it was really, really rough. But in the end it was great. I think it sounds great. I think that Jens Bogren did a wonderful job mixing. The album has a really live feel to it.
Lotsofmuzik: I saw that tour here in Toronto, but before that my first Fates Warning experience was in 2011 when you played with Mike Portnoy in Sao Paulo – what kind of memories do you have of that show?
Ray Alder: Yeah, that was a while ago. I can totally remember that – it was a tour we did with Queensryche, and that night was when the arguing between them reached a peak. Yeah, we were just talking about that last night. So funny you mentioned it today! I remember everything that happened with Queensryche for sure - I'll never forget that. And then playing with Mike was great, but challenging - we had just one night to rehearse and everything got messed up with his flights. He ended up getting in really late and we ended up going to rehearsal at like 11:00 at night or something and we were there until three or four in the morning. That's what I remember. It was really tough, you know, and I was so used to playing with Bobby [Jarzombek, drums] all those years and then Mike comes in and everything's completely different. So it was, it was a little strange, you know, because Mike kind of does his own thing. So that was weird, but it was a pleasant experience. I got to see São Paulo first time. So it was cool.
Lotsofmuzik: Coming back to “Live Over Europe”, why did you include tracks recorded in different cities and not just one show?
Ray Alder: It was Jim's idea actually. It was an interesting idea because, you know, most bands just go do a live album somewhere, you know, maybe it's a festival or maybe it's one venue, their hometown or something, you know. But we figured it would just be cool if we could record in different cities and keep it live. We could pull different parts in different songs instead of having to overdub something. So in certain songs, instead of overdubs what you hear is actually a live part that was just pulled from another show in case I fucked up. I’m probably the one that messes up the most [laughs]. So it happens, but it was really cool to have different audiences represented in the album.
Lotsofmuzik: Was it demanding to listen to hours and hours and similar versions of the same song in order to choose what to use and what not to use?
Ray Alder: Jim [Matheos, guitarist] did all of that. I felt so bad for him, man. It's all of those shows, hours and hours of material, and you're going from one song to another pulling parts here and there. I'm sure it was a horrible experience for him, you know, and it took him weeks, weeks and weeks to do. But, you know, I guess it was a labor of love.
Lotsofmuzik: And the end result sounds incredibly cohesive and organic, even if you're mixing parts of songs here and there. Aside from you saying a different name of the cities you’re playing at in each track, it sounds very much a consistent effort, right?
Ray Alder: Yeah, that is a great thing because of our sound guy, Rene - wonderful guy, man, he’s just absolutely amazing. And when we play live, we, we stick to the script, you know, we don't really change things up that much, we try to stay as close to the original album as possible. And we played to a click, so every song is exactly in time. Every song is pretty much exactly the same. Maybe someone plays a little better than on another night or you know, or something like that. But, you know, it's, it's pretty much all the same thing. What you see is what you get!
Lotsofmuzik: Are there any particular songs you or other band members find challenging to play live? For me, Monument would be quite challenging for example.
Ray Alder: Monument, yeah! And it's funny, again, I had this conversation last night with a friend of mine and we were talking about the drums in that song, that Mark Zonder messed up the drums once, and I think Bobby's messed up the drums at one point. And before that, Mike Portnoy I think messed up the drums in São Paulo too!! [laughs]. There's a certain part in the song, we call it the reggae part, and for some reason drummers get thrown off there. The funniest thing, man, you know, happened in LA. Mark was playing with us in the Parallels tour and during that part it turned into, we call it the kick drum solo because he just kept hitting the kick drum, “boom, boom, boom”. And everyone was trying to catch their place, everyone's looking at each other going “one, two, three…NO, NO.NO!!!” [laughs]. I was on the side of the stage just going, “Holy shit…oh my God, I'm glad I'm not up there!!!” [laughs]. But I mean, it happens sometimes, and nobody's perfect. I think if you're a normal band playing at 4/4, then maybe you're not going to mess up as much, but I think with our music, if you lose concentration for a second, you could end up in another world, you know, you have to pay attention. You have to. No getting around it. But other than that, yeah, I mean difficult songs…the nuances on “The Light and Shade of Things” are really difficult for me. There's a lot of high parts and there's really no part to breathe, you know, it’s singing the whole time and it's hard to catch a breath but it's still fun. It's a challenge and I enjoy it.
Lotsofmuzik: You seem much happier now with your vocal output than you were in the mid-90’s, right? It kinda feels like the way you sing the old songs now is the way they were supposed to sound in the first place!
Ray Alder: Exactly, yeah. I mean, that was the thing back then, you know, as I got older, my voice started changing and I had a lot of problems with it and I was going to doctors and they were like, “oh, you need to quit smoking and quit drinking, and stop eating spicy foods” and all this. And I was like, “well, why don't I just shoot myself now then”? [laughs] Yeah, what else is there? You know, no kidding. But, you know, my voice was changing. I was a kid when I first started - early twenties, or nineteen. And then I found my voice. I like my voice much better now the way it is, you know, like I don't like the high screams. Yeah, I can't do them anymore, but it's,fine with me. I don't miss them at all.
Lotsofmuzik: and there are certain songs like “Nothing Left to Say” where you changed the arrangement to fit the way you sing now, and they sound so cool. It’s like the songs got a more “current” and modern sound as opposed to sounding dated, right?
Ray Alder: Yeah. And even “Silent Cries”, you know on the live album. I like this version better than the original. Yeah. When we listened to it, we were all like, “Holy shit, this is actually really cool! We should have done it like this the first time!” The original was just too “whoaaaaaa!!” [screams in the original song arrangement]
Lotsofmuzik: Wait a minute, you still got it!!!
Ray Alder: Yeah, I’ll throw a scream or two in every now and then…[laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: And there’s great blend of old material with the more recent output in the new live album – what kind of process do you guys have in place to choose a set list?
Ray Alder: A lot of emails back and forth…but mainly we wanted to do songs that we hadn't already included on the original live album. So we had to all move the set around and change songs, add songs here and there so that we were not redoing the same live album, you know, so that was it. And we've had a few albums since then, so we were able to choose from them. But to put 12 albums worth of music in one live album was kind of a pain in the ass to pick which ones we wanted to do. But in the end it worked out. We would switch the set slightly in different cities. Some cities we do more and some less, and in Athens we did everything that was like two hours – it almost killed me, man! [laughs] Two, two and a half hours or something, I think.
Lotsofmuzik: I think you have a lengthy following in Athens ways. Is that in particular?
Ray Alder: I don’t know! Probably because Jim's Greek, but I really don't know. It wasn't always that way - when we first started going there it was just kinda normal, like every other country, but over the years it just became a thing. It's amazing. Every European tour now we always end up playing there last, because it seems that from the fan’s reaction, every other show in Europe pales in comparison.
Lotsofmuzik: There was a lengthy period between “FWX” and “Darkness in a Different Light” where you didn't release studio albums. What generated such a lengthy hiatus?
Ray Alder: I don’t know! It's funny when we think about it. At some point everyone was doing their own thing - I was doing Redemption and Jim was doing solo albums and other things and time just got away from us. Everyone was involved with different projects, Joey [Vera, bassist] was doing things and finally, at one point we were on tour, and Jim and I were talking and said “let's all sit down, concentrate and write another album”. And that's what happened. And originally the first Arch/Matheos album was supposed to be a Fates Warning album, and it just, I don't know what it was about it, I just couldn't grasp it. It's the weirdest thing - I worked on a bunch of songs and in the end Jim was like, “you know, it just seems like you're just not into this”. And I was like, “It’s not that I’m not into this, it’s just that I’m not feeling it as much”. So he did the Arch/Matheos thing and then we did “Darkness in a Different Light” and we got back on track. It's nice to come out and actually play new material after all these years.
Lotsofmuzik: and I think that since “Darkness in a Different Light” there's a new focus in the band, right? “Theories of Flight” came out with a smaller gap between two albums. What changed for you guys to have more of a drive to carry on?
Ray Alder: I think it comes down to going out again on tour but playing new material. This brought a lot of new life into the band - it was so much fun to play something new! Something we hadn't played live before, but I think that feeling just carried over. “Let's just do another album, you know, continue down this road!”. And it was great. I was, I loved “Theories of Flight”, to me it’s one of my favorite albums we've ever done and I'm glad that we did it, you know, hopefully we can keep it up. Hopefully we can do another one. I can't tell you that right now! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: You’re at a point in your career where you can reflect on the past with some distance whilst still having a number of years ahead - would you have done anything different through the years?
Ray Alder: I think I would rather not have taken such a long break in between and kept going. I think unfortunately maybe we lost a few fans along the way. But then also coming out with the new stuff, I think we've gained a few, so it kinda evens it out. With any band, losing momentum is not a good thing - people forget about you easily. Especially nowadays, there's so much coming out, there's so many different bands and if anything I would rather we had just kept putting albums out at least every two or three years, instead of nine. But other than that, I like all the music we've ever done. We're very happy with the guys in the band - Bobby's great, Joey’s fun and we have a great time together.
Lotsofmuzik: When you guys started to create your early albums and forming the blend of what today is known as prog metal, was it a conscientious decision to blend the likes of Iron Maiden and Rush, or did it come naturally?
Ray Alder: No, that was always Jim. He always wrote the music, so I just kinda went with it. Of course, he would give us something and ask “what do you think of this?” and we'd offer our opinion, liked it or not, but it was always Jim's ideas and what he wanted to do. I didn't even know what the hell prog metal was when I first joined the band! [laughs] I had never heard the two words together, but it was cool, it's different. That's why I liked it so much and that’s why I’m still in the band after all these years!
Lotsofmuzik: Do you follow much of what prog metal has become today? Bands like Haken, Leprous, Between the Buried and Me etc?
Ray Alder: I know then, but I don’t really listen to that stuff – actually I don’t really listen to prog very much at all, to be honest with you. “Between the buried and Me”, that band is nuts, man! I saw them a couple of times with Slagel. I was hanging out with Brian Slagel [founder of Metal Blade records] at one point and we saw them. But man, holy crap, they’re just absolutely technical wizards, man! I thought what Fates Warning was doing was complicated, but it’s nowhere near what those guys are doing! But they’re cool guys, and super talented. Haken I don’t know very much about them. I know there’s a big buzz about them – they’re from England, right? I find myself listening to different stuff. My new thing now is Volbeat, I don’t know why, but I like Volbeat a lot!
I saw them at the Download Festival here in Madrid and they’re fucking awesome, man! One of my favorite bands to see live. The singer is amazing – his voice sounds exactly like it does on the album. It was really, really cool. So I like that band a lot. Other than that, you know, I put on Pink Floyd or things like that at home, and just relax.
Lotsofmuzik: What was it like working with Terry Brown on “Parallels” and “A Pleasant Shade of Grey” - Rush worked with him until “Signals”, and then decided to move on. He seems still hurt by that decision!
Ray Alder: It wasn’t like Rush didn’t like him anymore, It’s just that they needed something different. They’d been with him for so long…we had a conversation with Terry, we had late night talks forever and ever and he’s a wonderful guy. We had such a great time with him, and we’ll never forget that. I mean I was starstruck when I met him, like “Oh, shit, it’s Terry Brown hanging out with me, and he’s telling me, I’m doing it wrong!” [laughs]. I worked with him into the wee hours of the morning and it was great working with him, it really was. I remember him telling us he had all these stories and we would sit and listen for hours talking to the guy. But it was great. He would come to rehearsal when we were writing Parallels he would come to the rehearsal room and you know, and give us ideas like, “what about this”, “what if you changed that”? Like he actually produced, you know, it was really, really cool. And obviously it’s our biggest selling album ever, “Parallels”. So it was a lot of fun. I’ll never forget it, and that’s a cherished memory.
Lotsofmuzik: What is the situation with Frank Aresti - is there a chance of him coming back to the band as a touring member? He has a steady day job, right?
Ray Alder: Yeah. Who knows? You never know. You know, sometimes if we're playing San Francisco or something he'll come out and do a song or maybe one day he will come with us. Maybe he'll play on another album if we have one. I don't know. If someone's out of the band doesn't mean they're gone forever.
Lotsofmuzik: Michael Abdow does such an amazing job live - would you guys consider having him, Frank Aresti and Jim Matheos as a writing team in upcoming albums?
Ray Alder: I would like to. Mike's a great writer, man. He writes some really cool stuff. If he were ever to write some stuff for Fates Warning, I'd be happy with that too.
Lotsofmuzik: You moved to Spain not too long ago – has this affected the band’s routine in any way? You all live in different cities, right? Do you have a system to make this work?
Ray Alder: Everyone has a little recording studio in their house. Whatever we need to do is easier than the old days of sending cassettes back and forth. So now we just email mp3s or wav files to each other and that's much simpler. If I have to go to the States it's kind of a pain in the ass, I have to get there a day or two before to acclimate etc. But it's the same with the guys when they come to Europe, you have to get here the day before at least and relax, get your shit together. But everything's fine. I mean with touring and everything it's the same system. For me it's just a pain in the ass to travel alone to South America or somewhere else, because it takes forever. But it's all cool. Everything's the same. Nothing has changed.
Lotsofmuzik - Would you consider writing another concept album like A Pleasant Shade of Grey? And how about a tour playing it in its entirety?
Ray Alder: We talked about a tour playing A Pleasant Shade of Grey in full before. We would want to do it with Mark Zonder, but he's just not into touring. Maybe he'll do a show or something here and there but he's just not into the whole touring thing. If we were to play that album in full, the only way it would really do justice to the album is to have Mark there. We brought it up with Bobby and he wasn't very excited about the idea. And we kind of understand the idea of keeping it pure – Mark’s style is very distinctive, particularly on that album. But we enjoy doing the songs live, and it would be great to do the whole thing live again. And as far as recording something new like that, I'm not against it. Who knows, we'll see what Jim comes up with next time!
Lotsofmuzik: What’s the next step for the band, a new album/tour cycle soon?
Ray Alder: At the moment we really don’t know – there may be more shows announced soon, but we can’t discuss that just yet – maybe in a few weeks! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: Ok, man, great chatting as always!
Ray Alder: Cheers, man! Bye!
Michael Romeo’s War of the Worlds / Pt. 1 Exceeds Expectations
By: Bosk1 of www.dreamtheaterforums.org
Listening to Michael Romeo’s solo album, War of the Worlds / Pt. 1, I realized for perhaps the first time what a unique and distinctive guitar playing style Romeo has. The guitar tones, chord progressions, and solo runs felt familiar and instantly-recognizable. But do not misunderstand—this album is not a retread of Romeo’s prior work. And it does not at all sound like a collection of Symphony X leftovers. Although War of the Worlds often feels reminiscent of Symphony X, and it is impossible to avoid comparisons to that band, this album is its own unique animal.
It is obvious from listening to Romeo’s writing on Symphony X that he has a flair for the dramatic. His songs typically feature multiple layers of guitars and orchestration, with lots of classical influences. War of the Worlds follows in that vein. The ten songs on War of the Worlds are definitely heavy. But they are also complex, huge sounding, and cinematic. And while Symphony X’s albums have progressed more and more to the heavier side through the years, War of the Worlds is melodic and catchy. Some of the hooks are huge and infectious, and manage to stay with the listener long after the album is over.
The heavy guitar riffing, frantic double bass drumming, and classical sounding keyboards that Symphony X fans are familiar with are all here. From a guitar perspective, the album often feels somewhat predictable. The heavy riffing and classically-influenced guitar solos are here in abundance.
But Romeo also experiments with and incorporates some other diverse influences that often take these songs in different completely different directions. F*cking Robots is perhaps the most obvious example. The song is, by far, the most daring, experimental song on the album. In a recent interview, Romeo described the song as incorporating elements of dubstep. And it does. But in ways I found to be very unconventional and different from traditional dubstep. The song begins with keyboards and orchestration that would be the norm as a track intro on any Symphony X album. From there, we get some interesting machine effects over guitar riffs that make the song immediately stand out as something truly different and experimental. The vocals are also very unique and different, being drenched in effects to make them sound somewhat artificial and mechanical. This all adds to the unique atmosphere of the song to make it something truly different.
Speaking of vocals, the vocals on this album are performed by up-and-coming Long Islander, Rick Castellano. And Castellano absolutely nails it. He shows tremendous range and sense of melody, combining the almost-operatic range and power one would expect of the typical power metal vocalist with the cleanness and sweetness of a pop star. For heavy music, I generally prefer vocals with more grit and edge. But Castellano’s cleaner style just works with these songs. Castellano may not be well known yet. But he delivers his performance on this album with the conviction of a veteran.
Castellano really shows off his range in the Eastern-inspired Djinn. His vocals soar over Arabic scales and orchestration that conjures up images of far away lands. Romeo delivers a blazing guitar solo. But this should not be surprising.
At first listen, Believe is perhaps the most straightforward, mainstream-sounding song on the album. And yet, it clocks in as the longest at 8:22. The song starts softly and takes its time before getting to some of its main themes and, eventually, its vocal passages. The song then builds into a huge power-ballad section, and then some complex orchestration that is reminiscent of The Odyssey. Romeo does not wait long to remind us that this is, after all, a guitar-driven album by delivering a signature solo before the song returns to its big, soaring, multi-layered chorus. I would not expect a “ballad” of sorts to be one of the standouts on a Michael Romeo solo album. But this song absolutely grabs the listener and does not let go. At times, it sounds like something from a movie score. At other times, it sounds like 1980s AOR. And Romeo somehow brings it all together in a compelling and satisfying way.
Oblivion is perhaps the most “traditional” song on War of the Worlds. The song features one of Romeo’s signature nasty guitar riffs. The riffing is repetitive, but that is because the song calls for a solid, repeating backbone over which Castellano can deliver a catchy, but attitude-laden vocal performance. Oblivion is that song where you catch yourself midway through bobbing your head and having a great time. This song does not really bring anything new or unexpected to the table. But it is fun nonetheless. And with the amount of variety and diversity on this album, this song does not need to do anything new and different. Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with a song that just rocks and makes you smile.
The production on War of the Worlds also bears mentioning. The mix on this album is excellent. The guitars and heavy and percussive. The keyboards and orchestration are huge. The vocals are well-defined and up front. And the drums are crisp and clear. None of the instruments step on each other. This is the ideal type of mix for such a heavy but layered album.
Overall, War of the Worlds is a pleasant surprise. I went into this album with a lot of preconceptions about what I thought a Michael Romeo solo album should sound like. In some ways, War of the Worlds was consistent with those expectations. But the album also had more than its fair share of unexpected twists that make it a much more fun and fulfilling listening experience than I imagined.
War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1 is due out July 27th on Music Theories Recordings
Michael Romeo Online:
Melody, emotion, and heaviness. These are the three words that most come to mind when listening to Redemption’s seventh studio album, Long Night’s Journey Into Day. The new album has all three of these elements in spades. And they work together to provide a listening experience that keeps me wanting to come back for more.
Long Night’s Journey Into Day sounds like classic Redemption. And at the same time, it manages to sound like something completely new. I was nervous about whether I would like this album. I will just go ahead and be direct: I LOVE IT.
Perhaps the most jarring bit of “newness” is the addition of vocalist Tom Englund (Evergrey) in place of Ray Alder. I admit feeling a great deal of trepidation when I heard that Ray had been replaced. For as long as I had been a fan up to this point, he had been the voice of Redemption. When I heard the first promo single, Little Men, I was not sure what to think. There was certainly nothing wrong with Tom’s singing. But it was jarring hearing music that was so obviously Redemption and hearing someone other than Ray Alder singing.
After letting that song sink in, and now hearing the album in its entirety, I can confirm that Tom was the right man for the job. His voice suits the material perfectly. He not only sings the lyrics—he sells them and gives them a deep sincerity and emotional impact. And he strikes a very nice balance between familiar and new, which is a theme I cannot help repeating. His voice suits the music perfectly, and he sings the songs as someone who has been in the band for years. He also knows how to emote without over singing. And it is obvious from the level of emotion he conveys that he truly connects with the lyrics.
It is also worth noting that other changes in the band include contributions from Simone Mularoni and Chris Poland on guitar and Vikram Shankar on keyboards. All three make their presence felt and take the music to new levels.
The songs range in length from more traditional “radio friendly” track lengths (And Yet at 3:47 is the shortest) to long, progressive epics (Long Night’s Journey Into Day at 10:30 being the longest). It speaks to how well these songs are written that the short songs do not feel too short, and the long songs do not feel like they overstay their welcome. As is typical of Redemption’s music, each of the songs tells a story. Those stories are deep and often very introspective. They frequently present a bit of a story arc that involves a conflict and resolution of sorts. For that to work and not come across as too trite or pithy, songs often need time to breathe and let the lyrics fully play out. To put it another way, these songs take you on a lyrical journey that takes time to unfold. Unlike some modern progressive metal acts, the solos and instrumental passages enhance and add texture to the atmosphere created by the lyrics, rather than distracting or detracting from it.
The album starts with an eerie 15-second intro at the beginning of Eyes You Dare Not Meet in Dreams before launching into a blistering up-tempo guitar riff reminiscent of the opening tracks of Redemption’s past two albums, This Mortal Coil and The Art of Loss. From there, the song alternates between heavy and melodic. But the focus is on heavy, and this song sets the tone that this is beyond any doubt a metal album.
But the album is not all thick-as-a-brick riffs, blistering solos, and breakneck speed. And Yet is an example of the haunting and melancholy moods Redemption is known for. The song showcases some gut-wrenching piano and keyboard parts that are nothing short of beautiful. Tom’s softer vocals compliment the somber mood of this track perfectly.
Indulge In Color is a great example of the band at their most melodic and upbeat. The song feels very much like a successor to Snowfall On Judgment Day’s Black and White World, and Nick Van Dyke has acknowledged that the songs share much in common.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the cover of U2’s New Year’s Day. When I first saw the title in the track list, it did not immediately register, and I did not realize it was a cover. But once the song started, I recognized it immediately. The band does a phenomenal job of both being true to the original and bringing something new to the table. There is some very creative heavy riffing and double bass drumming that bring a heaviness that the original version of the song obviously did not have. And yet, it also has the signature keyboard parts and melodies from the original that make it instantly recognizable. I felt that the covers CD included with This Mortal Coil really showcased Redemption’s ability to take familiar songs in different genres and present them in fresh and exciting ways. They do that here and absolutely nail this U2 song. I might just prefer this version to the original.
The closing epic and title song spans a wide range of emotions. The clean guitars and soft, subdued vocals the beginning start the song on a mournful tone. But as a lot of Redemption’s songs tend to do, the track builds, and as it does, it constantly transforms and evolves, and takes the listener on a journey. It is fitting that it ends the album on an uplifting and hopeful note. It is reminiscent in many ways of Snowfall On Judgment Day’s Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day.
I hate to go this far after having the album for such a short period of time, but I will go out on a limb and say that Long Night’s Journey Into Day is going to be a contender for 2018’s album of the year. The album is just that good.
Release Date: July 27, 2018 - Metal Blade Recortds
01. Eyes You Dare Not Meet in Dreams
02. Someone Else's Problem
03. The Echo Chamber
05. Indulge in Color
06. Little Men
07. And Yet
08. The Last of Me
09. New Year's Day
10. Long Night's Journey into Day
Review by: Bosk1 of www.dreamtheaterforums.org
We are a bunch of Independent writers and reviewers.