Introducing The Sea Within:
The Sea Within is a new art-rock group/community. Pictured here ; from left : Marco Minnemann (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson, UK, Joe Satriani) - Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, The Tangent), - Tom Brislin (Yes Symphonic, Renaissance, Camel, Spiraling, Meat Loaf) - Roine Stolt (Anderson & Stolt, Transatlantic, The Flower Kings) - Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation)- With a few familiar high profile faces/guests/collaborators onboard - Casey McPherson, Jordan Rudess, Jon Anderson, Rob Townsend - they will release the powerful debut album on June 22nd - 2018 on InsideOutMusic/Century Media/Sony. Prepare to get excited.
The just released the first single Ashes of Dawn and you can listen to it here:
Interview with Orphaned Land’s Chen Balbus and Concert Review of Týr, Orphaned Land, Aeternum and Ghost Ship Octavius – Toronto, May 09th 2018
It’s no secret to our readers that we’re avid fans of Orphaned Land here at Lotsfmuzik. We interviewed their singer Kobi Farhi just before their new album “Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs” was released, and still think this is a strong candidate for album of the year. Therefore, when we heard they were coming to Toronto, home of one of our main collaborators Rodrigo Altaf, we just had to make sure we witnessed their live show. Even better, they came to town in support of Scandinavian metallers Týr, who brought the house down on a warm Wednesday night at the heart of the city.
Rodrigo was able to secure a face to face interview with their guitar player Chen Balbus – the interview and concert review are shown below.
Part I – Interview with Chen Balbus
I arrived at the Velvet Underground around 5pm for my interview with Orphaned Land just before they finished their soundcheck, and was able to listen to the fine tuning of the mix while they played a couple of songs. Until then there was no definition of who I’d be interviewing, but catching up with their guitar player was a great way to get more insight into the current state of things in the realms of Orphaned Land. Here’s the transcript of the interview:
Lotsofmuzik: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Is the reception to the new album “Unsung Prophets and Dead Messiahs” exactly as you expected?
Chen Balbus: It’s even more than we expected, actually! We worked five years on the album, it took us a lot longer than we thought it would, but we really took the time to make the best of it. We knew our fans would love it, but it would be hard to get used to the new members of the band – you can call it the “new generation of Orphaned Land” – but apparently the album exceeded its predecessors.
LOM: We’re already seeing comments here and there about it being the album of the year.
CB: I guess you could say we’re on a roll so far! (laughs)
LOM: You’re touring together with Týr, and it’s a somewhat odd pairing. How did that tour come to happen, and to what extent does a band have a say in picking tours, opening acts etc?
CB: In most cases, we try to pick bands which are somehow related to our kind of music. When it comes to opening acts, we receive hundreds of requests and tapes, but it’s important for us to choose bands that have an affinity with us but which are also different from what we do.
LOM: Very often people ask “hey, why don’t you play in my country”, not realizing how little influence you have on that, right?
CB: We almost have NO choice on that! We get offers from many countries, and sometimes the offers are simply ridiculous. We have to make sure that promoters accept our terms and conditions, our requests in terms of equipment, sound and accommodation. It takes a lot of effort and time to book a proper tour, and sometimes the fans and promoters tend to forget that or maybe they’re even not aware of that.
LOM: Is touring exhausting for you in particular, or is it something you look forward to?
CB: I’m 25 years old, so I’m still very enthusiastic about being on the road, but it does get tiring. We’re carrying equipment here and there, we’re in different conditions and different places everyday, so it’s almost like being in the army! (laughs). Everyday you’re expecting a new surprise – sometimes a good one, sometimes a bad one. I honestly love it, life isn’t always perfect.
LOM: What are the best and worst parts of being on the road?
CB: I would say the worst part, or the most unpredictable part is the food! You get to some places where you don’t get a good choice of food…sometimes you get to places where they don’t even give you water, we have to pay for it! The best part of course is being on stage.
LOM: What can you tell us about the setlist on this tour?
CB: Since we’re special guests with Týr, we’re doing an abbreviated set, focused mainly on the new album but with some of our “greatest hits” so to speak.
LOM: I don’t think you’re playing songs from the first two albums though, right?
CB: We play an extract of “Ornaments of Gold” from “Sahara” at the end of the show, but no songs from our second album “El Norra Alila” this time.
LOM: What’s the typical day to day routine while on tour?
CB: If there are no interviews, it’s a very basic kind of day. We arrive at the venue at around noon and have lunch, do the soundcheck and then you’re free until showtime.
LOM: Are there any particular bands you’d like to tour with that you haven’t yet?
CB: We want to have a tour with Ghost, which we love. Personally, I got into them not too long ago, probably around their second album. At first, because of the imagery, I thought they were a death metal band, but when I heard them, it blew my mind! They certainly don’t play what they look like (laughs). I love their show and their music, and I think this would make a great double bill – with our concept and their Satanism, it would be a fun show for the fans to see.
LOM: Orphaned Land’s big break was when the movie Global Metal (directed by Sam Dunn) was released – actually I don’t think you were in the band when it came out, but do you still get recognized by people who see the movie?
CB: Technically I’m in that movie, but as a fan! If you look very carefully, I’m in the crowd. There are still many people who come and talk to us and mention that movie, so thank you, Sam Dunn!
LOM: You’ve all been very vocal about how angry the new album is – was there an intention to convey that anger in the live setting as well – the lights, stage clothes, the live arrangements of the songs etc...
CB: Yeah, particularly in the way we dress these days. We were very plain in our previous tours when it comes to how we dressed, but now it’s a bit more aggressive, more “bad boys” (laughs). We want to provoke and we want people to open their eyes, so we try to show something that’s much stronger, not only musically but also visually for sure.
LOM: On the song “We Do Not Resist” off the new album, you talk about how brainwashed by media and stupid shows we are. How does it feel to be in North America, basically the TEMPLE of crappy TV, reality shows, junk food and junk entertainment?
CB: Personally for me, if you disregard that aspect of the entertainment, I love America! I always wanted to live in Los Angeles or New York…I understand that it’s a different lifestyle than what I’m used to, but as long as we have some fans here, it’s worth playing here, for sure.
LOM: Like Orpheus obviously has a different arrangement live because you don’t have Hansi Kusch with you tod o the vocals on tour – how did you guys solve that?
CB: We just told Kobi “you MUST sing that!” (laughs). He can’t avoid it, because there’s no chance of us bringing Hansi with us on tour to sing just one song. So he really pushed his limits and he’s trying to do his best version of Hansi.
LOM: What’s the song off the new album you like playing live the most?
CB: I love playing The Cave – it’s the opener of the album, and it opens the show as well. It’s my favourite of the new album too, because it has everything – it more or less summarizes all we wanted to say in the album in just one song.
LOM: Do you feel 100% comfortable interacting and singing in English on stage, or do you think you would convey your message in a different way if you spoke in your original language?
CB: I don’t really talk on stage, but in Israel most of us are fluent in English – I don’t think Kobi has an issue to convey our message anyway.
LOM: In 2012 there was an online petition for Orphaned Land to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Has there been any situation where your presence was not so well received, and generated protests or anger?
CB: I wouldn’t say there was a time or place where people were against our message, but there’s been times when they just didn’t get the hang of it. They’re in a different kind of dimension or headspace…not that they don’t understand it, they just don’t see it. Sometimes it seems they are brainwashed to hate and that’s all they know.
LOM: Orphaned Land is known for addressing some humanitary and political themes, and that is addressed of course in a very serious way. But do you think there’s room for lighter topics in your music? Maybe a ballad sometime?
CB: I wish there was…there are of course many happier topics to talk about, and we sometimes try to show that in our music here and there, but it’s kind of difficult to show a lighter side when our reality is what it is.
LOM: What else is planned for Orphaned Land on the second half of 2018 and onwards?
CB: We have a few European shows, one show in Puerto Rico, and we need to debut our live show in Israel – our last show there was delayed due to rain. It’s a busy year for sure.
LOM: Thanks again for your time Chen, and enjoy your break until showtime!
CB: Thanks, and I hope to see all of you on the road this year!
Part II – Concert review – Ghost Ship Octavius, Aeternam, Orphaned Land and Týr
While the crowd was still finding their way inside the venue and hitting the merch stands, Ghost Ship Octavius hit the stage. They had some technical issues, but presented a heavy and energetic set comprised of five songs that showcased their proggy roots with significant distortion and influences of doom and gothic metal. The best songs in their set were “Saturn and Skies” and “Alive”, and for relatively newcomers in the scene, it was reaffirming to see some fans in the crowd who knew the lyrics to many of their songs.
Coming from Quebec City and with three albums under their belts, Aeternam came next and certaintly raised the bar, from a sonic and energy level. I had no idea what to expect, and must say I was absolutely floored with the dedication those guys put in their performance. Vocalist and frontman Achraf Loudiy summoned the crowd, and it suddenly felt like I was witnessing an early Opeth show. Their unabashed death metal roots were clear on songs like “Esoteric Formulae” and “Hubal, Profaner of Light”. As they left the stage, audience members were looking at each other saying “what the fuck just happened?” – that’s all you can ask when you’re still not that well established. A few more years on the road and this band can surely aim higher.
Orphaned Land hit the stage, and singer Kobi Farhi intantly won applause by screaming “Shalom, Toronto!”. Their set started with “The Cave” from the new album, and followed with the title track of “All Is One”. Up next were the frantic “The Kiss of Babylon” and “Ocean Land”, both from “Mabool”. Kobi summons the crowd and commands clapping and screaming, in true messianic form. Before “We Do Not Resist” he explains that Orphaned Land is not just about “peace and holding hands”, and it’s palpable how the band’s message resonates with the fans. Their sound mix was clearly (and deservingly) a step ahead from the bands that came before, and Uri Zelcha’s tasteful bass notes were clearly heard, along with Matan Shmuely’s solid drumming.
The most challenging song on their show was “Like Orpheus”, where Kobi plays to his strengths and wisely does not try to emulate Hansi Kürsch’s performance, but delivered his own interpretation. Chen Balbus and Idan Amsalem provided razor-sharp guitar work throughout their set, and the newer songs truly gained a new dimension live. Screams of “album of the year!” from the crowd were heard more than once, and clearly they’re ready for bigger stages.
With a set that balanced old and new but tilted slightly towards the most recent album, they triumphantly closed the proceedings with “In Thy Never Ending Way” and the heavy and poignant “Norra el Norra”. Going against the norm seems to be finally paying off for these Israelis, and they managed to reach the mainstream in a way that doesn’t deny their roots or ideals.
I must admit that I wasn’t sure that pairing a Middle Eastern metal band with a Scandinavian one was such a good idea, but as soon as Týr hit the stage, I was sold. Their blend of power metal with viking mythology worked incredibly well in a live setting, and such a diverse musical pairing proved bigget than the sum of their parts. Kicking off with the new song The Gates of Hell was a rather bold move, and the Faroese band made it clear from the onset they’d hold no punches on the show.
After playing in Toronto recently as a supporting act, Týr made a triumphant return, and in the words of muscular singer Heri Joensen, “now we can play more than just 25 minutes for you”. And play they did, with the crowd of poutine enthusiasts being transformed into Scandinavian warriors, if only for one night.
By the time the one-two punch of “Mare of my Night”/”Grindavísan” was played, all one could see in the house was a sea of avid headbanging fans. The haunting and Celtic-tinged “Flames of the Free” was another fan favourite, as well as the quasi-thrash “Lady Of The Slain”, with a galloping pace and epic chorus.
Celebrating 20 years of career, Týr are clearly proud of their roots, as evidenced in song titles such as “Regin Smiður” and “Gandkvaedi Trondar. The latter has a long narration in Faroese and culminates in an intense and heavy instrumental march. At some point during their set I was expecting a horde of savages to invade the stage, but instead the audience was greeted with grinning smiles from mainman Heri Joensen and bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen. And with the Viking theme permeating their lyrics, it doesn’t come as a surprise that a couple of mentions of a hammer are made – both “Hail to the Hammer” and “Hold The Heathen Hammer High” had great live renditions, gathering a great response from the crowd.
Between shouts of skohl and singing as if he never stopped grinning his teeth, Heri commanded the show from beginning to end, but the contribution of Terji Skibenæs on guitar was just as pivotal to their set. Check out live versions of songs like “By The Light Of The Northern Star” and “Wings of Time” on YouTube and you’ll soon realize why my ears kept ringing even days after the concert. Týr’s encore consisted of “Shadow Of The Swastika” and “Ramund Hin Unge”, and it was time to bid those warriors farewell. Exhausted and with ears ringing, the fans made their way out of the venue with plenty of souvenirs from the intense night – most bands were kind enough to pose for photos at their merch stands, and weren’t shy to throw picks and drum sticks from the stage. Judging by their performances tonight, all four acts deserve better luck and bigger stages to play next time.
We Came From Space is a small collective of super hero types. We Came From Space is flesh and blood guys that do what they can to bring a little light, heat, and volume to a sometimes dark, chilly, and silent world.
Now, we here at WCFS are aware that the concept of a ‘regular’ super hero is novel and does not fit into most people’s conveniently standard way of thinking. Relax; there is no wearing of capes or leaping of tall buildings with us (but one of those underground lairs would really kick ass). We will leave that to the ‘Super’ super heroes (maybe that’s you!) that wear capes and leap tall buildings (and have totally cool underground lairs).
We Came From Space uses loud rock and roll to generate righteous vibes and good time grooves! We are free thinkers in life and stand shoulder to shoulder in the certainty that MUSIC STILL MATTERS. It’s true! Someone’s just written it.
We Came From Space doesn’t fly the flag of any particular musical genre (although the set list is REALLY light on country-opera) and are proud of the poppy, proggy, punky, rocky, songs we’ve written. Life has taught us that limitations are nothing if not ummm…. limiting. So, to that end, WCFS defies easy musical classification. If it rocks, it’s right. Nobody puts We Came From Space in a corner!! Each member contributes to the writing, arranging, and overall rocket sauce that keeps the heat on here at WCFS.
Available for digital download from these fine online retailers who pay us money for our hard work
For more info, lyrics etc go to:
Alive to breathe another day
It seems that, no matter what happens, there’s no stopping the Beard. This band has developed into what appears to be a force in the music business with no intention of resting or pausing whatsoever. The departure of their frontman, singer and main-Beard Neal Morse in 2002 left the band without the creative input that dominated the first six albums of the band. Morse’s distinctive style almost single-handedly revitalized the attention for a musical style first developed in the late 1960s by pioneers like King Crimson, Genesis and Yes and launched a new sub-genre of Progressive Rock in the 90s: a movement now known as Retro-Prog. Many artists followed this example and the Beard continued to release highly acclaimed albums. When Morse announced his departure from the band after the opulent double album Snow, fans feared that it would be the end of Spock’s Beard.
But as indicated earlier: there’s no stopping this band - and that was the first proof of that. Drummer Nick D’Virgilio pulled a classic „Phil Collins“ and took the big step to the microphone. What followed was not a series of single hits and sold out concerts at Wembley, but a series of moderately received, but experimental and - in my personal opinion - underrated albums. It wasn’t until their fourth album as a quartet, X, that they seemed to finally have found their niche; a proggy, yet hard-rocking fusion of old influences and recently (re-)acquired tendency for experiments.
It was just then that Spock’s Beard got hit by the next stroke of fate: Nick D’Virgilio pulled the next „Phil Collins“ and not only left the band without a fantastic drummer, but also without a very charismatic frontman that fans had learned to accept and love as such. But help was on the way. Ted Leonard, singer and guitarist for fellow Retro-Prog band Enchant, and Jimmy Keegan, the band’s fabulous tour drummer for the last eight years, came to the rescue and Spock’s Beard seamlessly followed their style with Brief Nocturnes & Dreamless Sleep and The Oblivion Particle. As if destiny intended it that way, Jimmy Keegan’s departure last year left the band no breather - and yet again incomplete. Well, every other band would have taken a time-out, or produced a 3- part soap opera in search for a new drummer, but who is a better replacement than the guy who was originally replaced? So, Spock’s Beard’s new album marks their reunion with the dearly missed Nick D’Virgilio, who kindly returned as a guest member for this album. Which brings us to Noise Floor.
Ted Leonard revealed that after Brief Nocturnes’ release, each of the members got very busy with their own lives and projects, which resulted in The Oblivion Particle being composed to a large extend by long-time collaborators Stan Ausmus and especially John Boegehold. The new album was supposed be largely written and composed by the band members again, if still in cooperation with Boegehold and Ausmus. After all, every member had proven with X that they are well capable of creating unique music on their own. Especially bass player Dave Meros had shown on that very album that his last name may not be an anagram to „Morse“ by accident.
Ted Leonard revealed that after Brief Nocturnes’ release, each of the members got very busy with their own lives and projects, which resulted in The Oblivion Particle being composed to a large extend by long-time collaborators Stan Ausmus and especially John Boegehold. The new album was supposed be largely written and composed by the band members again, if still in cooperation with Boegehold and Ausmus. After all, every member had proven with X that they are well capable of creating unique music on their own. Especially bass player Dave Meros had shown on that very album that his last name may not be an anagram to „Morse“ by accident.
Despite of that, the first song on Noise Floor is indeed a song written by Boegehold, but arranged as a classic Spock’s Beard uptempo rocker with contributions in the arrangement from all of the members. „To Breathe Another Day“ opens up the album optimistically, rocking and straight forward. Still, there are some rhythmical difficulties that the band now have learned to build into songs in a discreet way, as if it was totally normal to play most of a rock song in 7/4. The approach of connecting progressive influences with a very down-to-earth hard rock sound and multilayered vocals draws a line to the early Kansas albums, as well as the Drama-lineup of Yes. In fact, there’s probably only one bass player who can reproduce that insane bass sound found on Drama apart from Chris Squire himself, and it’s Dave Meros. „To Breathe Another Day“ follows a conventional structure, but reveals a lot of attention to detail after a few listens, such as the short instrumental freak out or Ryo’s mellotron-melody in the second chorus. Talking of Ryo, this song is not the only one he shines on. He really brought his a-game for this record. But then again, this can be said about all the band members. Even Nick D’Virgilio, who is „only“ a guest on Noise Floor, amazes me with the craziest breaks and the most tasteful grooves. He doesn’t get to shine on the opener that much, but don’t worry, he will. What am I saying? It’s Nick D’Virgilio!
Nick’s presence becomes evident in the second song already. „What Becomes Of Me“ starts off with a poignant melody from Alan Morse’s guitar that indicates the following of a huge, melancholic ballad - which is exactly what this song is not. The intro is the first showcase of Dave Meros’s unique bass lines. The combination of vast mellotron layers and catchy Rickenbacker riffs brings back memories from a similar part in „Heart Of The Sunrise“. It’s another Yes influence that is incorporated in such a subtile fashion that it still sounds a hundred percent like Spock’s Beard. The intro to „What Becomes Of Me“ could easily have fit into a packing blockbuster if instrumented differently, and it builds up a lot of expectations to where this might be going. Shortly after, the song seems to change its mind and the mood becomes more light hearted. The tune turns into an optimistic groover with perfectly integrated string arrangements, which is not exactly what it was built up to be by the intro. But the darker touch and the haunting mellotron harmonies come back later in a bridge where Alan Morse plays one of his unique guitar solos. This song is the first of many highlights on Noise Floor.
„Somebody’s Home“ is a strong 6/8 AOR-powerballad with a very memorable hooklines and imaginative instrumental arrangements. Its main theme is first presented by somewhat of a mixture of camp fire guitars and a baroque sounding oboe, before the whole band kicks in on a huge offbeat that hits the listener like a slap in the face. The verses are dominated by beautiful acoustic guitar licks, a commenting cello and mellotron flutes. The instrumental interlude convinces with multiple cleverly interplaying electric and acoustic instruments and yet another haunting solo by guitar master Alan Morse. „Somebody’s Home“ seemed kind of mediocre to me at first, but it gets better with each listen and suddenly you’ll find yourself not being able to get its main theme and chorus out of your head.
While the next song „Have We All Gone Crazy Yet“ is the longest song on the album, it still clocks in at „only“ a little over eight minutes. But Spock’s Beard seem to have realized that their real strengths lie within songs between six and nine minutes. Great achievements like „On A Perfect Day“ (self-titled album), „Ghosts Of Autumn“ (Feel Euphoria) and „A Better Way To Fly“ (The Oblivion Particle) have proven this. And this may be a simple coincidence, but Noise Floor’s longest song is actually one of my least favorite - which doesn’t mean too much. With its 5/4 rhythm, upbeat mood and grande finale, „Have We All Gone Crazy Yet“ could almost have been written by Neal Morse. And this is - as we all know - never a bad thing to say. The way in which the themes are variated and reprised, sent through different moods and harmonic contexts, brings up a lot of memories from the old Spock’s Beard days. But the jazzy, shuffling middle part explores new harmonic territories and sways between super cool keyboard melodies and hard rocking guitar riffs. Nick’s playing is also truly unique in this part. The only thing I can’t really connect with is the soft snare sound he is using during this song. It fits perfectly into its jazzy middle section, as well as mellow ballads, as become evident in „Shining Star“ (Feel Euphoria) and the following „So This Is Life“. But for the rich, bombastic parts I would have preferred his usual crisp snare. Still, this is just a minor flaw. „Have We All Gone Crazy Yet“ is a great song and saying that it is one of my least favorite songs on the album only means that the other ones are even better
The above mentioned „So This Is Life“ is a melancholic ballad hovering somewhere between The Beatles and Pink Floyd and a true gem hidden between two prog monsters. Spock’s Beard have shown that they are able to write even better ballads without Neal Morse than with him and this song underlines that statement. „So This Is Life“ is just a few philosophical thoughts about life and people around you, connected with music so inconspicuous and fragile that I fear it’s going to be overseen among fans. However, it’s a hauntingly beautiful little song with a majestic, yet moderate string crescendo near the end, multilayered vocal interplay and soaring guitar solos that could have been played by Gilmour, Hackett or Rothery. By the way, I think it’s about time I mentioned Alan’s overall fantastic guitar work on the whole album. Especially his lead sounds and solos have improved and gotten more present over the last albums and he has never been better than on Noise Floor.
As if Ryo was tapping on my shoulder just as I’m praising Alan’s work, the first real keyboard showcase comes with the next song. The sounds dominating here are just fantastic and way too many to count. A song that wouldn’t be out of place on Kansas’ Leftoverture, „One So Wise“ is so packed with ideas and moods, that it would be hard to keep track of all that’s happening, if it wasn’t for the main theme being reprised in all sorts of ways the whole time. It is so expertly composed that it overplays the fact that it doesn’t even have a real chorus. Somewhere in the middle, the song breaks down and arises anew with some very cool 80s keyboard sounds that indicate that something awesome is about to go down here. And what follows are some raging keyboard and guitar solos that leave the listener not one single second to catch a breath. While Ryo Okumoto is all over the place here, the other band members deliver stunning performances as well. Nick D’Virgilio and Dave Meros are as perfect as a rhythm section can get, Alan Morse fires up some wild guitar solos and Ted Leonard… man, Ted Leonard’s long, dramatic vocal acrobatics send shivers down my spine every time I listen to them.
And as if this wasn’t enough, Spock’s Beard send the wacky „Box Of Spiders“ along our way, an instrumental piece that at times really gives us the picture of a man in a box filled with spiders trying to get out. Indefinable time signatures, tricky unisono lines played by the whole band, disastrous mellotron harmonies and a furious rhythm section dominate this song. Ryo once again goes the whole nine yards and brings every keyboard sound to the table that he could find. Nick can finally show what he’s capable of and shows why he has been missed the last years. Jimmy Keegan is a fantastic drummer, but no one grooves like Nick D’Virgilio. I already feel bad for the drummer who has to learn this tour de force for the (hopefully) upcoming concerts. Maybe it’s my own weirdness, but in a strange way, „Box Of Spiders“ would have been an awesome opener for Noise Floor as well. But what could be a follow up to a song like this?
Well, the one actually following it. The abrupt ending of „Box Of Spiders“ makes it almost seem like an introduction to „Beginnings“, and the first vast chord feels like a redemption after this instrumental freak out. The first time-out of the last ten minutes. It takes some imagination to close an album with a song called „Beginnings“. But really, its bombastic, melancholic character and the lyrics drawing somewhat of a circle from beginnings to ends make it the perfect closer for this album. After „Have We All Gone Crazy Yet“, „Beginnings“ is the second song on here that comes close to what can be called an epic. And it does everything right. The majestic arpeggios and melodically-orientated instrumental sections remind of what Tony Banks was composing for Genesis around the Wind & Wuthering days. Alan, Ted and Nick provide some back and forth vocals and it’s good to hear Nick’s voice on a Spock’s Beard album again. As it should be, the tune is brought to an end by a big gesture during the finale. Truly majestic.
This marks the ending of the regular album, but Spock’s Beard threw in a little goodie for their fans: a four song EP named Cutting Room Floor, which consists of songs that didn’t make it on the album. I can see why those particular songs were chosen for the EP instead of the album. It’s definitely not because of a drop in quality, but rather a change in style. At least the first two songs have a slightly more pop-oriented singer-songwriter vibe. „Days We’ll Remember“ is yet another 6/8 power ballad in the vein of „Somebody’s Home“, but it stays in the pop/rock territory. It has a very sunny, uplifting chorus that I’ve found myself humming a couple of times already. That’s a big quality of the Beard. Not only are they capable of performing crazy instrumental sections, but they also have a sense for catchy, yet not silly melodies. „Bulletproof“ follows the Beatles-influenced style of „So This Is Life“, but is way more extroverted and opulently arranged. I love Ryo’s piano playing in this one, as well as the string ensemble, which is are yet again perfectly integrated into the arrangement. There’s a lot of great ideas concisely packed into less than five minutes here, but it doesn’t feel overloaded one bit. A great song for the spring season.
„Vault“ could easily have been on the main album. As hinted by Ted Leonard in an interview, it was initially supposed to be longer, but in the end remained unfinished somehow. The song leaves the pop/rock territory introduced by the former two and returns to the classic progressive rock sound of the main album. Another irresistible chorus can be found here, along with beautiful acoustic guitars and vocal arrangements. While I wonder what would have become of „Vault“ if it had been developed into an eight minute prog monster, it doesn’t give me the impression of an unfinished song and functions perfectly fine as a four and a half minute tune. „Armageddon Nervous“ is one last little wink by Ryo in the shape of another wacky instrumental tune that reminds me a bit of „Skeletons At The Feast“ (self-titled album). Songs like these are perfect vehicles for Dave Meros’ and Nick D’Virgilio’s grooving abilities. You can’t help but nod your head to the 13/16 and 7/8 time signature changes and it’s all thanks to this hell of a rhythm section. And of course, Ryo fires up all kinds of sounds again. I can see this song very well on the stage, as an opportunity for extended improvisations. It’s a very good one, but I can see why it lost its place on the regular album to „Box Of Spiders“.
But fans don’t really have to worry about that, because no matter which version you buy of this album, the EP is included in every one of them. Which is good, because you don’t want to miss those four songs.
In my opinion, Spock’s Beard have release their best album since X, maybe even since Snow. But this is yet to be proven by the test of time. Every member shines on their respective instrument and gets the chance to have an influence on the result. This makes Spock’s Beard come across as more of a unit than in the Neal Morse days and it fits the band well. Even if people had their doubts if the Beard would ever grow back out again after the departure of the mighty Neal Morse - I think by now it’s safe to say that they can finally relax. Because the Beard is definitely back.
Favorites: "So This Is Life“, "What Becomes Of Me“, "One So Wise“
REVIEWER: Friedrich Stenzel
Three years after “IV”, Madrid instrumentalists Toundra are back with a new and exciting effort. Breaking the trend of naming the albums with numbers, “Vortex” is set for release on April 27th via Inside Out Music
In their own words, Toundra´s sound blends powerful riffs, beautiful deep melodies and intricate atmospheres, all wrapped up in elongated electric songs. They are currently one of the most sought after instrumental bands in Europe, with their previous album “IV” reaching number 2 in the Spanish general charts. An extensive tour followed, reaching more than 150 shows in 18 countries, including the US. ‘IV’ was eventually chosen as 'Album Of 2015' in Spain's influential Mondosonoro magazine.
Lotsofmuzik´s Rodrigo Altaf interviewed Toundra´s bass and synth player Alberto Tocados, and the chat can be read below:
Lotsofmuzik - The cover art for all your albums is quite inspiring. The latest one in particular, is impressive. Who is the artist behind them, and what kind of input did he get input from the band to draw it?
Alberto Trocados - The artist is Fran lacabezaenlasnubes. We gave him total freedom, but the desert theme, geometry and surrealism were three concepts we wanted to have represented on it.
Lotsofmuzik - How do you choose the names of your songs, since they are all instrumental? Do you pick the names before or after writing the songs?
AT - Sometimes we have a bunch of names we like and we assign them to the songs when these are finished. But with Vortex song names came last, even after the artwork.
Lotsofmuzik - What other bands or artists have inspired you when you decided to become musicians?
AT - Fugazi, Cave In, At the drive-in, Refused... We have a strong hardcore/posthardcore background.
Lotsofmuzik - For the people who never heard the band, how would you describe your sound?
AT - Instrumental rock meets post-hardcore maybe...lots of energy mixed with expansive soundscapes.
Lotsofmuzik - How did you come up with the idea to mix the Latin rhythms to rock and ambient music?
AT - It's something we learned since we were kids from Spanish bands like Triana who mixed psychedelic music with Spanish traditional music.
Lotsofmuzik - You interrupted the “sequence naming” of you albums, and after I, II, III and IV, here comes album number five, entitled “Vortex”. What motivated that change, and why “Vortex”?
AT - This feels like an entire new era to us. We needed to break with the past somehow. The name Vortex is a tribute to the tour life, it's the name of one of the most important venues in Europe for us.
Lotsofmuzik - A lot of your songs have a cinematic aspect to them. Have you guys ever considered writing songs for a particular movie?
AT - We were told recently to make “Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari” music re-interpretation live recently. This movie really gives a lot of ideas and a new approach to making different music.
Lotsofmuzik - The album has one long piece called “Mojave” which has a hypnotic and syncopated beat, starting off gently and evolving into a dramatic and heavy song. Clocking in at 11 minutes and ten seconds, do you feel that this is one of the most ambitious song you´ve ever written so far?
AT - It is one of the most important songs we ever made, mainly because it has an entire new ingredient we didn't explored properly until now: electronic music. It's definitely ambitious and it will shape the way we create music from now on.
Lotsofmuzik - Five albums in, is it the time for a live album after this tour?
AT - It's a work in progress at the moment. It will be released someday, hopefully in vinyl.
Lotsofmuzik - Is it difficult for you to reproduce the albums live in a way that you´re satisfied with the end result?
AT - Not at all. We thought of Toundra as a live band from the very beginning. I'm not comfortable with overproduced music if you're a 4-piece band.
Lotsofmuzik - Instrumental music is quite broad and without boundaries. Is it tough to know when to stop expanding when writing a song?
AT - Not really. We usually record the songs before entering the studio to test the impact they have on us as listeners, and we rearrange them, make it shorter (or longer) depending on how it feels listening to them right after "finishing" them.
Lotsofmuzik - You hit number 2 in the Spanish charts with the album “IV”. Top what do you credit such an unexpected success?
AT - Hard work, nothing more. We have a great team behind us. We were in a great moment of popularity back in 2015.
Lotsofmuzik – Nowadays, bands can do their thing independently, and you did that for the first three albums, then got signed by Century Media. What difference do you think being signed to a huge label like that made in Toundra’s career?
AT- We're reaching new territories and we feel more pressure from ourselves to make a better work in each album. Besides that, everything feels pretty much the same. They look after us actively, like an independent label.
Lotsofmuzik - Is there any country you haven’t played yet that you would like to visit? And what are the current touring plans after “Vortex” is released?
AT - We want to go to both South America and Asia. Brasil would be great, since we always had a lot of support from people and labels there!!! The current plans are just Europe/Spain, but hopefully we will play a lot more later this year.
Toundra´s “Vortex” is set for release on April 28th via Inside Out Music. The tracklist, along with the band lineup and discography can be seen below:
TOUNDRA – Vortex (49:21)
1. Intro Vortex (01:30)
2. Cobra (06:30)
3. Tuareg (08:14)
4. Cartavio (02:16)
5. Kingston Falls (04:16)
6. Mojave (11:10)
7. Roay Neary (02:04)
8. Cruce Oeste (07:21)
Alberto Tocados: bass, synths
Álex Pérez: drums, drum machine
David López: guitars
Esteban Girón: guitars, piano
Thirteen years after their debut, neo prog band Kino is releasing their sophomore effort “Radio Voltaire” on March 23rd. Formed by Pete Trewavas (bass guitar, Marillion, Transatlantic), John Mitchell (guitar and vocals, It Bites, Frost*, Lonely Robot), and Craig Blundell (drums), the band counted also with a guest musician, John Beck (keyboards, It Bites) adding textures and melodies to their sound.
After the first few listens to “Radio Voltaire”, the first thing that caught my attention was how the band was able to establish their identity, even with thirteen years between two releases. The new album carries a perfect blend of influences from their core members´ main bands, while covering new ground. It´s also worth noticing the nods to other British pop/rock bands such as The Who, The Beatles and The Police, on a number of tracks.
The album kicks off with its title track, announced by a robotic voice and a keyboard melody which reminds the listener of some of Marillion´s early work – “Jigsaw” and “Punch and Judy” come to mind. A great opener and an uplifting song, setting the tone for the upcoming numbers.
“Welcome to the Dead Club” has a riff with an intricate time signature and dissonant keyboards, with heavy guitars in the background. The band chose this song as the first one to be shown to the public, and it can be listened to on Inside Out´s Youtube Channel:
“Idlewild” changes the pace slightly, and is a slow ballad which talks about airport goodbyes – the song title used to be the name of JFK Airport until 1963. Mitchell mentions loss and sadness with a beautiful and raspy voice, and also provides an emotional guitar solo.
“I Don´t Know Why” sounds as if The Beatles wrote a prog song, with its romantically silly chorus and an upbeat feel, even though the lyrics talk about a lost love. Once again, a great solo by Mitchell, and tasty drum fills by Craig Blundell.
“I Won't Break So Easily Any More” kicks in with bits and pieces that reminded me of The Who´s “Who Are You” and Marillion´s “Incommunicado”, with several tempo changes, a keyboard-driven chorus melody and inspired solos by Mitchell and John Beck.
“Temple Tudor” is another welcome change of pace, a short acoustic number. It is followed by “Out Of Time”, where Pete provides a bass solo that perfectly matches his personality: not a bombastic and flamboyant affair with a million notes per second, but a cool, enticing and jazzy sound complimented by Mitchell´s open chords and rim clicks from Blundell.
“Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields” is arguably the catchiest song in this release, and it is telling that they chose this song to be the first lyric video from the album – it can be seen here:
The album ends with a sad song, “The Silent Fighter Pilot”, which carries a lot of meaning for Mitchell on a personal level – more details on this later in the article. Overall, this is an engaging release, which goes by smoothly and quickly, never overwelcoming its stay. There are no official plans of a Kino tour as of now, but it will be a shame if those songs are not performed in front of an audience – most of them would gain new life in a live setting. And let´s hope they don´t take too long between releases again!
In promotion of the new record, guitarrist John Mitchell was quite gracious and gave us half an hour of his time to talk about this release, even though he was suffering from a cold. Our chat is transcribed below:
Lotsofmuzik – “Radio Voltaire” is Kino´s new album. Is it true that you wanted to use those songs for the third Lonely Robot album?
John Mitchell – No, that was never the intention. I finished the second Lonely Robot album and wanted to keep working, because I´ve spent so long in my life producing other bands and sitting in the studio with other artists, and in recent years I just enjoyed doing my own music. So, after two Lonely Robot albums, instead of spending three more months working on the studio with other bands, I decided to carry on writing. The label suggested another Kino record, and I said “why not!?”, and here we are! I´m going to be working on a third Lonely Robot album next and I´m looking forward to that, but I was on a roll in the writing process, and Pete Trewavas and I decided it was time for another Kino record. I always say never say never!
Lotsofmuzik – Kino´s first album was reissued last year, and now we have Radio Voltaire. It seems the perfect timing for a tour, and yet there are no plans to hit the road…would you consider touring if the opportunity presented itself though?
JM – The thing about touring is that it´s the easiest thing in the world for people to say “yeah, come on tour”, but the logistics of it is quite complicated. Pete is very busy with Marillion, and Craig Blundell is on tour with Steven Wilson at the moment. It´s not that we don´t want to tour, but the logistics of getting everyone together is quite complicated. That´s the downside of playing with very good musicians – they´re always busy! (laughs).
The other thing is that the album has to sell well enough to make a tour financially viable. We´re expecting it to sell well, but I don´t know if it will be enough to guarantee a tour through all places where people say “come to our country”. But the reality is that there´s gotta be an audience for the tour to be financially feasible.
Lotsofmuzik – You have two albums that were written and released 13 years apart, and yet you seemed to have established an identity to Kino´s sound. What do you think contributed to that?
JM – The things I write are quite different from Pete´s – I write more introspective stuff, while he brings the more joyous side of our songs. That combination, along with John Beck´s dramatic keyboard style, is the sound of Kino. It´s nice that people can identify our sound and say that there´s a musical theme running through both albums. It means we have a voice, and as a musician, that´s all you can ever really want. It´s like Brian May´s guitar playing – you can always tell it´s him playing those notes. So if Kino sounds like Kino, I´m happy!
Lotsofmuzik – The album cover was made by Paul Tippet – and it´s very cool by the way. How was the process of drafting that cover, did Paul get any input from the band, and is it related to a particular song off the album?
JM – Paul got input from me, and it´s worth pointing out that he´s done every album cover of all the bands I´ve been involved with. The first time he ever did a cover for a band was the first Kino record – he approached me and wanted to get involved in doing album covers. Since then he´s become one of the most in-demand graphic designers in the world of music. He´s done a book for the Rolling Stones, cover albums for Black Star Riders and Europe…I like to take credit for the fact that I gave him his first break (laughs). Regarding “Radio Voltaire”, I said to him that I wanted the cover to look like a cross between “Moulin Rouge” and “Live and Let Die” – whatever came to his mind when he heard that. I didn´t interfere too much, but thought it looked pretty cool. It would look really good on a scarf too!
Lotsofmuzik – You love your scarves, don´t you? You´re wearing one of them in almost every photo or video I´ve seen! (laughs)
JM – I do like a scarf yeah. And when I looked at the cover he presented I thought that was perfect!
Lotsofmuzik - Judging by the name RADIO VOLTAIRE, is there a connection with the band Cabaret Voltaire, who coincidently, have a song named Kino? What is that connection, since they don´t sound like ANYTHING a prog fan would go to in the first place?
JM – I didn´t know they had a song named that, and it´s interesting that you made that connection! I honestly didn´t know anything about Cabaret Voltaire. I just liked the word Voltaire, and after doing some research, I noticed what an interesting person Voltaire was – very controversial for his time, against slavery and anti-establishment in many ways. I thought about how interesting it would be if there was a radio station that spoke nothing but the truth – he was a man in search for truth. That´s what the title comes from and the lyrics to the title track come from. I´m fascinated with words, and “Radio Voltaire” sounded like quite a curious combination of two words.
Lotsofmuzik - The first song to be shown to the fans was “Welcome to the Dead Club”, one of the shortest ones, which features the work of John Beck and Craig Blundell quite prominently. Did they actively contribute to the compositions on the album, and to that song in particular?
JM – The way that song came about was quite unusual. Whenever I write an album we have to book John a few months in advance, because he has a very limited window. For that particular song, all I had was that main riff, which is in 7/8. I said to Craig “play 7/8 for five minutes and play 5/4 for another five minutes”, and I kinda wrote the song to match that beat. John added the atonal keyboards, and I wrote the lyrics and basic chords. The contribution of those guys was rather significant to arrange most of the songs, and cannot be understated! “Welcome to the Dead Club” was the one we chose to show the world first, and it´s quite an unusual number – I´m all for unusual!
Lotsofmuzik - The song “Idlewild” has a very cool part that talks about “shooting vapor trails at the sun”. Could you tell us what the lyrics are about?
JM – Funny enough, somebody was asking me about this the other day in an interview, and they thought it was about the Scottish rock band Idlewild, but no, it has nothing to do with it. What a lot of people don´t realize is that the airport that is now known as the John F. Kennedy Airport used to be called Idlewild. That song is about people saying goodbye to each other at airports, and how much importance is put on the emotion of the moment. “Shooting vapor trails at the sun” is then a reference to jet flights. It made me think about a time a couple of years ago when I was flying to Australia with a friend, we were saying goodbye to our partners at the time, and my friend´s wife was so deeply distraught, even though we were only going way for three weeks! It´s a strange fascination I have with the fact that when people say goodbye to each other at airports they tend to get a lot more emotional than when someone just walks out the door of the house. That´s what this song is about.
Lotsofmuzik – The song “Out of Time” has a bit of a surprise for long time Marillion fans – a jazzy solo from Pete Trewavas. How did hat come to be, since he´s always been primarily about keeping time so well, and adding the well placed note here and there to fill up spaces?
JM – We were writing that middle section of that song, and after we finished that “fanfare” middle section I didn´t know what we were going to do after that bit, and jokingly suggested to Pete “why don´t you do a bass solo, it would be quite Spinal Tap to add a bass solo there!” (laughs). He started laughing, and decided to go for it. I don´t know if Pete had ever done a bass solo on record before – to be honest, I can´t remember the last time I heard a bass solo. It´s got a jazzy thing to it too, doesn´t it, that bass solo? It´s quite tongue-in-cheek the way we did it – it´s cool, it´s unusual, so there you go, it´s a first! Pete´s a very melodic musician, so it fits perfectly.
Lotsofmuzik – “Grey Shapes on Concrete Fields” is my favourite song off the album, and it has a The Police vibe – I could easily see Sting singing that song. Can you tell us what that song is about?
JM – I grew up with The Police, and Pete grew up with the Beatles, so we both write songs you´re always going to recognize a bit of both. For that song, I remember walking in London and pretty much as far as I could see there was concrete. I started thinking that at some point in the future, literally everywhere you look, all you´ll see is concrete. I remember being quite depressed about it, but in a strange way it came out beautifully. I wanted this song to be cold sounding, and the vocal effects in the verses are the same ones used by Imogen Heap in one of her albums, and I was fascinated by how it sounds robotic. I write songs to a title, and “grey shapes on concrete fields” was a name that came to my mind which I thought was quite curious and the song kinda wrote itself.
Lotsofmuzik - You were vocal about “The Silent Fighter Pilot” being your favourite off the new album, and it has all the elements of a prog epic, clocking at less than five minutes! Tell us a bit about that one.
JM – When I start working on a new album, all I have is a list of song titles I want to develop – not a single note of music in my head. I was missing a title, and while talking to Paul in a pub – that´s Paul Tippet, the album cover artist anyway – he suggested the title “the silent fighter pilot”. I thought it was an interesting title for a song, but started to think about what would that even mean! Then I remember my mum telling the story about my great uncle Sydney who died in World War II because his plane ran out of petrol – you know, like in the film Dunkirk. Unlike the film though, my uncle unfortunately crashed and died in Northern France. I wanted to write about the last three minutes of his life, so it´s quite a personal song. Sadly, my mother is no longer alive, but she told me about this story, and Paul came up with that title so it all came together. So, that´s the song that means the most to me because it´s the most personal one.
Lotsofmuzik – You´re involved in It Bites, Frost*, Lonely Robot and Kino – when you find inspiration to write a song, how do you know in which band it´s going to fit in?
JM – Clive is the chief writer in Arena, so when I have an idea for a riff I send it to him and he incorporates it into his songwriting process. With It Bites, I grew up with them, so I have an idea in my head of what they should sound like – more like choppy guitars and less heavy. I don´t write songs unless I have to write songs, so I commit to a project as and when it happens. Lonely Robot is about the mood, the atmosphere and ambient soundscapes in the background, with detuned heavy metal riffs. Kino doesn´t really sound like that – on the Lonely Robot albums, all guitars are down a whole tone, so it sounds a bit heavier. Kino´s a bit more old school rock and roll, and you can write about anything, whereas in Lonely Robot the themes are focused on the human condition, so it´s quite serious. With Kino, you could write a song about the decline of the textile industry and you´d be fine! (laughs).
Lotsofmuzik – Thank you for your time, and hopefully we´ll see you guys on the road soon!
JM – Thank you very much, nice speaking to you!
Kino´s “Radio Voltaire” will be released on March 23 via Inside Out Music. The tracklist is as follows:
KINO – Radio Voltaire (56:10)
1. Radio Voltaire (7:06)
2. The Dead Club (4:12)
3. Idlewild (6:03)
4. I Don't Know Why (5:25)
5. I Won't Break So Easily Any More (5:30)
6. Temple Tudor (4:32)
7. Out Of Time (6:22)
8. Warmth Of The Sun (1:50)
9. Grey Shapes On Concrete Fields (4:42)
10. Keep The Faith (5:38)
11. The Silent Fighter Pilot (4:50)
- Bonus tracks -
12. Temple Tudor (Piano Mix) (4:29)
13. The Dead Club (Berlin Headquarter Mix) (4:02)
14. Keep The Faith (Orchestral Mix) (5:34)
15. The Kino Funfair (1:00)
Picture (Vinyl re-issue 2017)
Radio Voltaire (2018)
John Mitchell – vocals, guitars
Pete Trewavas – bass, synths
Craig Blundell – drums
John Beck – keyboards
Oceans of Slumber – New album “The Banished Heart” is a step forward in the band´s discography and profile
Formed in 2011 in Houston as a doom metal type of band, Oceans of Slumber radically changed their approach when vocalist Cammie Gilbert joined them. 2016 saw the band releasing “Winter”, one of the most surprising albums of this decade. They are now back with a new effort, “The Banished Heart”.
The album kicks off with “The Decay of Disregard”, with a haunting piano melody, and soon explodes on heavy riffing and blast beats, as the listener is slowly captured by Cammie´s smooth and strong voice. Most songs clock in above the six minute mark and include growling vocals from both guitar players, and while it is a challenging effort to take in one hit, the dedicated listener will find this a rewarding experience at the end. The delicate piano interludes provide breathing space between the heavy riffing and slow doom passages. Other stand out tracks here are “No Color, No Light”, which features Evergrey´s Tom S. Englund, “Etiolene” with a catchy chorus, and a beautiful cover of “Wayfaring Stranger”.
In the band´s own words, “The Banished Heart” was born amid troubled times. Drummer Dobber Beverly went through a divorce, and Cammie reached out to him. Out of the ashes and through the sharing of painful experiences, the album was born. The sound of a blossoming creative force rising from pain’s pitch-black fog to blaze and rage in hopeful, starlit skies.
Lotsofmuzik´s Rodrigo Altaf contacted Dobber, and he replied to our questions on the new album via email:
Lotsofmuzik – Seven years ago, Oceans of Slumber started up. Tell us a little bit about the history of the band, and how everything you guys have been through led us to the new album “The Banished Heart”. I understand the album was born out of very personal struggles for Cammie and Dobber.
Dobber Beverly -Sean [Gary, guitars and vocals] and I have been close friends for a while, long before the band started. My old death metal band, Infernal Dominion, had a rehearsal space in downtown Houston next door to Sean’s old band. So we would hang out and swap band stories and record talk. Normal musician stuff. Fast forward a few years and we were all sharing a rehearsal room with separate band. His band broke up and my band at the time had dissolved shortly after. We decided to give starting a new band a shot.
Originally shooting for a dark metal type of thing (Charon/Sentenced/Type O Negative, etc.) we kind of jumped the gun and went for Cynic meets atmosphere and doom. Thus the first record, Aetherial. Kind of a melting pot of ideas and no real direction. Fun but not concise or serious enough for me. Winter followed suit as an EP, originally only being Sunlight, Turpentine, and Suffer the Last Bridge. After the initial tracking of it Sean and I both had the idea of finishing it out as a record. Our original vocalist had his falling from grace and I asked Cammie to join as we finished the record. Complicated, somewhat. To hold us over during the tracking of Winter we constructed the “Blue EP”, and to have a release for the band in the meantime while we shopped the record around. With all of that said, up until now the band hasn’t fully focused on a record like we have with The Banished Heart.
When we were approached about a new record I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and why. The “why” is what drove every aspect of this album. I was going through a very hard separation from a lifelong relationship. My daughter was born 4 years ago and it exposed the cracks of what life as I knew truly was. That things had changed so much for me and between me and my ex. As heartbreaking as it was I needed change. To know something different or that things could be different. Cammie had a similar relationship and familiar pitfalls. As most of us do or have in our lives. She had given a lot of herself to someone with little to no return. Running the well dry as you would have it. The guys were into it. They understood for the most part and they backed us. Being in a band that writes dark music is a breeding ground for this kind of stuff and they’ve all experienced it in some degree.
Thus the conception of The Banished Heart. The withering exile of the heart and its triumphant return to form.
Lotsofmuzik – The cover of the new album is quite different from the other albums in your discography. Tell us a bit about the process to create that cover.
DB - I wanted to return to the classic look and feel of photography as an art medium. Creating the scene and capturing it. Cammie and I discussed the album cover as a representation of the band and our vision and we found the perfect artist photographer to capture the essence of it: Kavan the Kid. It has all of the great elements of metal. Dark atmosphere, beautiful subject, blood, and purpose.
Lotsofmuzik – It´s your third album, aside from one EP. Would you say the composition process was similar to your previous efforts, or did you use the same approach?
DB - We write very fast as a unit, so it was similar to the rest of the records. I sort through some material the guys write and then we construct songs based off of that. Sometimes Anthony [Contreras, guitars and vocals], Sean, or myself will bring full songs in and then we adjust from there. There will be a general direction or idea for the album as a whole. The things that add character. Things that link them. Everything is purposely laid out in a particular order and is determined from the beginning of the writing process. The Banished Heart was the center piece that we wrote the rest of the record around this time.
Lotsofmuzik – Your previous effort Winter represented quite a leap in your profile. What is your expectation with “The Banished Heart”?
DB - If Winter was a leap then we hope “…Banished...” propels us into the outer stratosphere. We feel very strongly and confident about this record and it is as honest of a representation of us at this moment as we could ever give. Love and loss and the plague that ensues.
Lotsofmuzik – The new single and video, “The Decay Of Disregard” is out now, and it kicks off the album in a powerful way – tells a bit about the choice of that song to be the first one on the album and the first single.
DB - It’s quite simple. It’s the first song and what better way to introduce or re-introduce ourselves than with our first foot forward? “The Decay of Disregard” is a good representation of everything within the confines of these walls I would say.
Lotsofmuzik – One of the songs in the new album, “No Color, No Light”, shows an incredible duet between Cammie and Evergrey´s Tom S. Englund. How did you guys reach out to him to collaborate on that track?
DB - Tom has been a good friend of mine and the band for a while. Hell of a guy and an otherworldly soul when it comes to music and performing. We had finished the track and had intentions of him singing on the record from the beginning. It was the perfect song for him of ours. The calling siren, the serenity of the woods, the longing…one of my favorite tracks I’ve ever been a part of.
Lotsofmuzik - The album closes with a modern take on a gospel song, “Wayfaring Stranger”, which was covered by Johnny Cash, Eddie Sheeran and Jack White, among others. Whose idea was it to cover this song, and congratulations on the end result by the way!
DB - Growing up in the south I had known this song my whole life. A particular version by a man named Eric Bibb is what inspired me to take the last steps of approach from my point of view musically. The point of view of the traveller and the return home. Though I am not a religious person, I get the woeful entry from a long absence feel of this song. Walking through the door where no one remembers or no one expects you there but you long to be there or see someone. Someone who has died, someone who is dead to you, or someone you’ll never see again due to whatever circumstances. It’s a tragically hopeful song where death seems to be the grand unifier. Mix all of that with Cammie’s southern soulful voice and it takes me somewhere else.
Lotsofmuzik - Cammie wasn´t the singer in the first album – what drove the band to consider this change from a male vocalist to a female, and how did Cammie adapt her style to sing his material live?
DB - Our original vocalist, Ronnie Gates, had a life of turmoil. He definitely came by his talent and curse honestly. And he was able to channel it creatively very well. Excellent musician. But it got the best of him and he had to part ways to work on life and himself. When Cammie had came in it was easy because their ranges weren’t too far off from each other. Though she couldn’t do the death/black/screaming stuff, she more than covered his clean parts. Giving everything an extra kick or two up for us. Though it was a huge change for us and a very surreptitious move in the beginning, it ultimately put us exactly where I had hoped from day one with the band. A diverse musical backdrop led by a strong female vocalist.
Lotsofmuzik – One thing that´s almost unanimous when I read about the band is “light and shade”. You guys seem to have found a perfect balance between heavy riffing and blast beats and beautiful piano interludes. How do you find that balance?
DB - The structure is oddly simple and funny. Most of us grew up in the 90’s and listened to the same old bands. Type O Negative always had a contrast and did a cover song. Pantera always had two clean/heavy songs on their records. I come from the same school and love the diversity and routine of it. Morbid Angel had interludes and keyboards. Simple creatures we are.
Lotsofmuzik – What are the plans for 2018? Any hints into the upcoming tour? I noticed you have a tour booked with Epica in April, but what else is in the cards, and what can fans expect of the new show?
DB - We’re working on a few things at the moment. Trying to make tours happen is very expensive and the music industry doesn’t really reward bands that well, so we’re fighting that uphill battle every day. Plans for a full US tour this year and a few unplugged/chamber music shows as well. We will just have to see how things pan out. As for the shows, expect a great performance and a hearts on our sleeve live representation of ourselves. Emotive, powerful, and intense…if everything goes to plan.
Oceans of Slumber´s “The Banished Heart” comes out on March 02nd 2018 via Century Media Records. The videos from three tracks off the new album can be seen below:
Artwork and the tracklist of “The Banished Heart”:
01. The Decay Of Disregard (08:59)
02. Fleeting Vigilance (05:25)
03. At Dawn (08:30)
04. The Banished Heart (09:05)
05. The Watcher (2:25)
06. Etiolation (06:01)
07. A Path To Broken Stars (06:31)
08. Howl Of The Rougarou (05:02)
09. Her In The Distance (02:03)
10. No Color, No Light (07:17)
11. Wayfaring Stranger (3:41)
Cammie Gilbert – Vocals
Anthony Contreras – Guitar
Sean Gary – Guitar
Keegan Kelly – Bass
Uaeb Yelsaeb – Synthesizers
Dobber Beverly – Drums
Oceans Of Slumber Online
“Life and Times” – an inspired Neal Morse discusses his new solo album and his other endeavours for 2018
More than twenty years after his first release with Spock´s Beard, Neal Morse is still covering
new ground. His new solo album, “Life and Times”, is due for release on February 16 via his
own label, Radiant Records, and will surprise the fans of his work with the Neal Morse Band,
Flying Colors or Transatlantic. Quite a departure from prog or from his worship albums, “Life
and Times” is a singer/songwriter release which shows the observational side of Neal. Most
lyrics show how he sees the world around him and situations which may seem ordinary at a
first glance, but assume a special meaning with Neal´s interesting takes.
Sonically, the album sounds NOTHING like you would expect from someone known as a prog
mastermind: short songs, with pop sensibilities and choruses that wouldn´t sound out of place
on a John Mayer or Jack Johnson album. A quick look at the song titles should give an overview
of the album feel and atmosphere: “Livin´ Lightly”, “You + Me + Everything” and “Good Love Is
On The Way”. The only time where things get dark is on the song selected to be in the first
video of this release, “He Died At Home”. A poignant song, it deals with the death of a soldier,
and it is also a personal story experienced by Neal. Check out the video below:
Neal is preparing for an intimate set of shows in North America and Europe, and took some
time talking to us and discussing this release.
Lotsofmuzik - Congratulations on the release of another solo album “LIFE AND TIMES”! It
seems your main inspiration for your solo albums are slice-of- life portraits and observations,
and judging by the main themes in the album, you´re in a happy place in your life right now!
Neal Morse – Literally so!
Lotsofmuzik - “Manchester”, “Selfie in the Square”, “Wave On the Ocean”…most songs on
the album are feel good kind of songs, and yet the song chosen for a video was the poignant
“He Died at Home”. Tell us a bit about the choice of that song to be the first “single”.
NM – We had shot three performance videos: “He Died At Home”, “Livin´ Lightly” and
“JoAnna”. We were really excited about “He Died At Home”, because the guy we wrote the
song about, William Busbee, his mother sent me video footage and photos of him when he
was a little kid, and this made the video so powerful! A friend of mine said that December
might be a good time to release that video, because people have time off to sit and reflect, so
that was why we released that one first. I didn´t know if I should perform or even record that
song – it´s just so gut-wrenching, and very different from the rest of the album. And then I
played it at the Inner Circle concert at Morsefest in September, and it really had a tremendous
impact – many people talked about it, and I did feel that impact. So I was encouraged about
that, and thinking that maybe this song would really make an impact and help people that
have post traumatic stress disorder to know that they´re not alone, and maybe it would help
them just to hear that story.
Lotsofmuzik - I noticed a couple of songs have a country flavour. Do you find that living in
Nashville, the mecca of country music, contributed to that?
NM – I don´t listen to country music all that much. The one song “Old Alabama” was written in
the early 90s´. I was dating a girl then that was a country singer, and I wrote a few songs for
her. That was actually one of the reasons why I moved to Nashville: I was floundering in L.A.
and I thought maybe I could get some songs cut in Nashville. That never happened of course,
but I found the whole rest of my life here [laughs]. So I have some old country songs, some of
which I still really like, and “Old Alabama” was one of them. I always wanted to do a proper
recording of it, and so I´m really thankful to be able to do that. Some of the other ones [on the
album] are honestly more influenced by Neil Young, John Mayer, Graham Nash…some of their
records that I like and sit back to listen to have some country-flavoured stuff. James Taylor,
Jackson Browne…and I really like some of John Mayer´s acoustic albums.
Lotsofmuzik - One information that´s missing from the press releases is what other musicians
played with you on this record?
NM – The drummer is Scott Williamson, and he also really helped me arrange and choose the
songs. I had about 19 songs originally, and I think we tracked 15, and then I had to choose the
best 12 out of those, and it was really hard. I wanted it to be a shorter album, I feel like
singer/songwriter albums should be shorter, but it was just hard for me to cut songs, because I
like them all so much. Richard Brimsfield is a local bass player, I played all the guitars and keys,
Chris Carmichael on strings, and I got some local students to play the horns – the same young
people that played at Morsefest, and they did a great job. My son Will is singing some back up
vocals, and Julie Harrison of course is singing lead on “Old Alabama”.
Lotsofmuzik - You´ve just done Cruise to the Edge, and are ready now to embark on a few
solo dates until June. How are the preparations for the tour going?
NM – I´m coming to Europe in June, and touring the US and Canada in a few days. I wanted to
make it easier this time – going out for the weekend and coming back, and not doing a crazy
eight months on the road kind of tour. I usually come back and rest on Mondays and Tuesdays,
fly out on Wednesdays and come back on Sunday for church. This is the first time I´m doing it
this way – with no crew, just me and a friend going out, and I´m really excited about it. I think
is going to be really fun, and each night it´s going to be different. I´ll have different guests in
different cities, and we´ll have more of a real non-theatrical production, but an intimate
sharing of who I am and what´s going on with me and telling the stories behind the songs.
Lotsofmuzik - With the preparations for a new tour, have you had time to rediscover songs
you had forgotten about on your other singer/songwriter albums?
NM – Some of them, yeah, but we´ll have mostly new songs, and some sprinkling of songs
from my catalogue. Not every night, but I´ll be doing a little bit of Transatlantic, a little bit of
Spock´s Beard, and maybe even a Flying Colors song here and there. I have a lot of stuff I
wanna share! Just like the album, it´s gonna be hard to keep it short, because I don´t think a
concert like that should be very long either. I want this to be what I call a “wife-friendly tour”
[laughs]. Bring your wife, bring your kids! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik - I certainly won´t miss your date here in Toronto. And since you mentioned
Flying Colors, what are the other plans for 2018? Could you give us an update on the
recording of the NMB album and Flying Colors 3?
NM – Flying Colors 3 is still waiting in the wings. We are working on the new Neal Morse Band
– that´s one of the things I´m doing this week while I´m home. But it´s kind of funny because
I´m juggling things in my mind. A lot of my mind is on “Life and Times” and the upcoming
concerts, so I have to shut that off and think about the Neal Morse Band and what would
sound good in it. I feel like God is really helping me!
Lotsofmuzik – Speaking of juggling multiple things, how do you know which one of your
projects a song is going to fit in when you find the inspiration to write a new one?
NM – It is a great challenge! And it´s very instinctive, it´s really just kind of feeling your way. A
lot of times I feel like a bloodhound in the woods, sort of sniffing my way trying to find God´s
perfect will in all of this music! [laughs] . Finding out what should be in and what should be out
[of a record] is a challenge, because sometimes there is so much good stuff...this is a good
problem to have, but the challenge is to try to refine it, and do only the great things. A lot of
the things that I write are good, but good just isn´t good enough. Everything has to be fully
inspired, really touching deep, and whatever the purpose of the piece is, it´s gotta really do
that. I need to feel like it´s not just good, but it´s the very best that you can do.
Lotsofmuzik - As a Christian, does it bother you that people who are not of the Christian
faith listen to your songs? I know you´re a devoted Christian, and that most of his solo
albums touch the Christian topic one way or the other, would you be open to writing an
album of a different subject?
NM – I love that non Christian people listen to my music and are blessed by it! I don´t have a
problem with that at all, I feel very blessed to be a part of that. Actually, “Life and Times” is an
album that is neither Christian nor prog. It´s kinda funny that I´m known as the Christian prog
guy, right? And this album is a complete departure from that! [laughs]. But judging by the
reviews so far, it seems like it´s really finding a home in people´s hearts, so I´m thrilled!
Lotsofmuzik - You´re with Mike Portnoy [drums, Sons of Apollo, The Winery Dogs] on a
couple of bands – Transatlantic, Neal Morse Band, Flying Colors…and at least from what is
shown in the media, you guys have completely opposite personalities. He´s had some
abrasive exchanges in social media in the past, but do you guys discuss that at all? And how
did he become one of your best friends, both of you being of completely different
NM – Most of the time we´re very simpatico, and we´re very in sync. Sometimes we butt
heads, like all artists do. It has never really affected our friendship though…I think I can safely
say for both of us that we really enjoy each other. We´re very different but we also have a lot
of common ground, our sense of humour is similar. I´m pretty aggressive also…we´re both
“let´s go for it, seize the day” kind of people at the end of the day. I think we really appreciate
that about each other. It´s hard to explain why you have feelings for the people that you do, I
just have this very special feeling for Mike, and he´s been such a good loyal friend as well as
collaborator over the years, and I´m very grateful for my friendship with him.
Lotsofmuzik - Any plans of ever doing a Morsefest out of USA? Let’s say Europe, South
NM – Not yet, it´s been challenging enough just to do one here! Not that we haven´t talked
about it, but so far we´re just trying to do one here every year and trying to figure that out.
Lotsofmuzik - Have you ever considered doing an album or a song in a foreign language?
Spanish for example?
NM – Sure, I´d be up for that if the opportunity presented itself. But singing in a different
language is quite tough when it´s not your mother tongue!
Lotsofmuzik - At this stage in your career you have so many albums to draw from in any
project or band you´ve been involved with – how do you put together your setlists?
NM – I lean on Mike a lot for that if he´s involved in it! He´s really got a gift in that. You kind of
learn over time about what people are gifted in, and it´s important to lean on other people´s
gifts when you recognize that they´re stronger in it. There´s been a lot of times [discussing
setlists] when I thought “Mike, that´s too long, or that´s too this, or too that!”. Then we´ll get
out there and play it, and we´ll come back in the dressing room, and I´ll say “dude, you called
it!”, and he´ll say “why do you ever doubt me!” [laughs]. And when I´m on my own [to choose
a setlist] I pray a lot. I´ll be praying a lot before each of these concerts, trying to find out what´s
really going to move the group of people in the venue on that particular night. Every group of
people is a little different, and every evening is a little different. I don´t want to get into a
program, I´d rather try to move spontaneously and in the spirit.
Lotsofmuzik - What were your main influences as a musician when you first started, and do
you find yourself influenced by more contemporary musicians these days?
NM – My primary influence when I was young was The Beatles, and then I moved th the hard
rock stuff, like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Then I saw Yes opening for Black Sabbath and it
totally changed my life! They had Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman, I was 12 years old. I was
influenced by a lot of different things. Even during that time I was influenced by Crosby Stills &
Nash, Steely Dan, Simon & Garfunkel…and more recently, as I mentioned, John Mayer has
been quite an influence. I really like his songwriting a lot. Of anybody in the last ten years, he´s
been influencing me more than anybody else.
Lotsofmuzik - Thank you for your time, and I hope I´ll catch you on the road in 2018!
NM – God bless you, and take care!
While Neal is still adding dates on this tour, the current tour schedule is as follows:
2/17: Nashville, TN
2/20: Cambridge, MA
2/22: Sellersville, PA
2/23 New York, NY
2/24: Asbury Park, NJ
3/17: Denver, CO
3/22: Decatur, GA
3/23: Charlotte, NC
3/28: Mesa, AZ
3/30: Whittier, CA
4/3: San Francisco, CA
4/5: Portland, OR
4/6: Seattle, WA
4/7: Salt Lake City, UT
4/11: Cleveland, OH
4/12: Evanston, IL
4/13: St. Louis, MO
4/14: Milwaukee, WI
4/18: Quebec City, QUE.
4/19: Montreal, QUE.
4/21: Toronto, ONT.
6/5: Stockholm, SE
6/6: Sandefjord, NO
6/8: Milan, IT
6/9: Pratteln, CH
6/11: Verviers, BE
6/12: Tilburg, NL
6/13: Utrecht, NL
6/14: Köln, DE
6/15: Bochum, DE
6/16: Aschaffenburg, DE
6/18: Sheffield, UK
6/19: York, UK
6/20: Glasgow, UK
6/21: Leicester, UK
6/22: London, UK
“Life and Times” is set for release on February 16 2018 via Radiant Records. The tracklist is shown below:
1. Livin’ Lightly
2. Good Love Is On The Way
4. Selfie In The Square
5. He Died At Home
6. She’s Changed Her Mind
7. Wave On The Ocean
8. You + Me + Everything
10. Lay Low
11. Old Alabama
12. If I Only Had a Day
Produced by Neal Morse.
All songs written by Neal Morse except Manchester written by Neal Morse and Geoff Bailie.
Having just played at Cruise to the Edge, Steve Hackett is embarking on an extensive tour in 2018. Currently touring in Canada and the U.S. and on his way to South America, Japan and Europe, he is promoting his live album, “Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham”. This release celebrates the 40th anniversary of Genesis album “Wind and Wuthering” and showcases songs from his most recent studio album “The Night Siren” and other career highlights. We had a chance to catch up with him in Toronto and see his show at the legendary Massey Hall on February 12th.
Having just arrived from Montreal, Steve and his wife Jo met me at the hotel lobby, tired and in quite a rush. We recorded the interview in their hotel room and Steve granted us half an hour of his time to discuss the tour plans, his view on the music business and to answer the perennial question about a potential Genesis reunion.
When discussing the way that the music business is set up today, Steve said that “You should really be doing what´s in your heart, and you´ll be the best at that”, and that “producing an album full of hit singles is quite limiting”. He also paid respect to his predecessor Tony Phillips and to the music output of Genesis, which is in his words, “interesting in all its incarnations”.
The quality of the video it's not the best due to the poor lighting and a malfunction in our equipment, but we thought it would still be interesting to post it. If you know a way to restore/improve the quality of this video, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
A few hours later, at 07:30 pm, Steve entered the stage at Massey Hall. The show kicked off with “Please Don´t Touch”, the title song of his first solo album after leaving Genesis. An emotional rendition of “Every Day” came afterwards, as well as the Eastern flavours of “Behind the Smoke”. From the onset, one could tell that Steve is a unique breed of guitar hero – one that doesn´t need to play a million notes per second to prove his point. And what better place to host his show than the Massey Hall – the legendary venue where Rush´s “All the World´s A Stage” was recorded!
“El Niño” brought a beat similar to The Surfaris´ “Wipeout”, which evolved into a hypnotical song. The recently re-recorded AOR “When the Heart Rules the Mind” was also played, and Steve commented on the unlikeliness of it being a hit and on him being approached by 14 year old girls in the 80´s when that song was first released.
“Icarus Ascending”, originally sung by Richie Havens, was flawlessly performed, and an excerpt of “Shadow Of The Hierophant” closed the first half of the set. Steve mentioned that the band would make an intermission and then come back to play only Genesis songs on the second half.
As Steve said in the interview, he takes the job of maintaining the Genesis legacy quite seriously, and judging by the choice of musicians in his support band, that´s definitely true. Joining Steve on this tour are Roger King (keyboards), Gary O'Toole (drums / percussion), Rob Townsend (saxes / flutes), Jonas Reingold (bass / twelve string) and Nad Sylvan on vocals. Nad sounds uncannily like Phil Collins, and his stage persona and choice of clothes bring in the theatrical element for which Peter Gabriel was famous. Fortunately Gary does not try to replicate Phil´s beats to perfection, and adds his own flavor to songs that are now forty years old, and yet sound as contemporary as ever. The other members of the band also seem to have found the secret to perform the older material: reverence and precision without trying to sound like a cover band.
Starting off the second set with “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” from “Selling England by the Pound” was a great move – noticeably, the crowd seemed much more excited that in the first half of the show. Another favourite of the night, “One for the Vine”, was also met with great applause.
“Inside Out”, a song left out of the album “Wind and Wuthering” which ended up on the EP “Spot the Pigeon” came in next, and Steve mentioned it was the first song that Phil Collins wrote all the lyrics for. After such a deep cut, classics like “Fountain of Salmacis”, “Firth of Fifth”, “Musical Box” and “Supper´s Ready” were dusted off and given a modernized version. If Steve´s mission statement is to showcase those songs for the new generation with a fresh look, then his mission is accomplished!
Surprisingly, the band brought a massive, guitar-shaped cake to the stage, in celebration of Steve´s 68th birthday. 2,700 voices joined the band members in singing happy birthday.
“Dance on a Volcano” closed the two and a half hour set. While it´s reasonable that some fans still expect a Genesis reunion – all members of the classic lineup are still alive and in reasonably good terms - it´s safe to say that Steve´s approach does more to the legacy of the band than any reunion attempt. As mentioned before, he is taking this tour to South America, Japan and Europe, and it´an unmissable opportunity to experience the past with a fresh pair of ears.
NOTE: Please contact us at email@example.com and/or comment below if you know a way to improve the quality of the video we posted in this article.
"Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham" is the new live release by STEVE HACKETT (ex Genesis) commemorating 2017's 'Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett' tour!
Includes a majority of Genesis tracks from 1976’s “Wind & Wuthering”, solo highlights and masterpieces like ‘Dance On A Volcano’, 'Inside And Out', ‘The Musical Box’, and ‘Firth Of Fifth’.
Extras: Dolby 5.1 surround sound, behind the scenes footage & promo videos
Special Edition 2CD + 2DVD Digipak / Blu-Ray / digital album
2CD + Blu-ray (North America only)
This title was release under InsideOut Music: Friday, January 26, 2018
“Into the Great Divide” – a new and exciting project featuring Zack Zalon and Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini
It´s still early in 2018, but there hasn´t been a shortage of good releases this year when it comes to metal and prog. One particular album that caught our attention this year is called “Into the Great Divide”. Set for release on January 26 via Wilshire Records, it was a project filled with secrecy, until the main man behind it was revealed to be called Zack Zalon. Zack played everything but drums on the album, and tapped producer Rickard Chyki and drummer Mike Mangini to help him conclude the project. Rodrigo Altaf from Lotsofmuzik had a chance to catch up with Zack to discuss this release and the idea behind it – a conceptual instrumental album.
Lotsofmuzik - The first question that came to my mind when I was offered a chance to interview you was “where has this guy been until now?”. So tell us a bit about your experience as a musician, and other works you were a part of.
Zack Zalon – Well, there weren´t other musical works before this one. I´m a storyteller, entrepreneur, businessman and musician, and I have been doing this for a long time. The vast majority of my career has been spent helping really large companies to bring high profile digital projects to life. I started my early career as a musician – I grew up on the East Coast of the United States and moved to Los Angeles and went to the Musician´s Institute. One of my first jobs was running a night club in Los Angeles called The Troubador, which has been around since 1956, and I had the benefit of being able to manage and book for it a few years. It was there that I really found the passion for digital products, and I have been really fortunate because I had the opportunity to run some really large projects and build a really large business as a part of that over the past twenty years. That never dissuaded me from doing something with respect to music. From my perspective though, the thing that was missing was the story I wanted to tell. I´m not interested in doing something just from the musical standpoint just to play music. I really wanted to share a story. There´s a narrative that I was looking for in some respects. When I found out what that narrative was, I ultimately decided to record an album.
Lotsofmuzik – The album has an interesting proposition, which is to tell a story through instrumentals and narration. How did you come up with this idea?
ZZ – I build innovative products for a living. That´s my greatest passion, what I wake up thinking about, and what I go to sleep dreaming about. That can take any form: a company, a product, and other forms. In this particular case, what struck me was that when it comes to instrumental music, there is no context when it comes down to it. When you listen to one track versus another track on an instrumental record, what you normally find is that the only difference between the tracks is maybe the different tonality or key. From the beginning, I set out to do a progressive metal instrumental guitar-oriented record, but I didn´t want to do it until I found a device which would help me communicate in a certain way. The vision that I had for this was to be able to take the listener through an entire story from end to end. So the concept started before I wrote the music – the concept of having a narrator who sets up that part of the story, and then the track itself, which we called “chapter”, would be composed from the beginning to match that part of the narrative. So when we hear the music of a particular chapter, it matches exactly the elements of the narrative at that moment, and it gives the listener a feeling of where we are in the story, and establishes a connection with what we´re trying to tell in the story.
Lotsofmuzik – Could you expand and explain the concept of the album?
ZZ – The concept is based on Joseh Campbell´s idea of the “hero´s journey”. He was a social scientist who deciphered that there´s a story that made its way into history´s most important narratives. It´s the story of common struggle, and the steps that are necessary to be taken to truly live a fulfilled and successful life. And you see this type of narrative in many different places – in religious figures, historical figures, in the stories of sports heroes, and even in movies like Star Wars. It´s basically the idea that we start out on a journey, make great stride, and ultimately find ourselves in battles that we lose. And the difference between those that succeed and those that don´t is that some people will pick themselves up, dust themselves off and find new strengths to be able to win those battles. And in that process, one changes. This is not just a historical narrative, it´s actually a factual thing. In other words, we see this all the time. Whenever we need to find that extra level that´s required to win the battles that we choose, it really does change people in the process. So that´s the story I wanted to tell – the common story of a goal, a struggle, a struggle overcome and ultimately a feeling of success at the end. So Joseph Campbell did a great job of creating a general narrative´s flow, and that´s the flow I wanted to capture in the album. Not just narratively but also musically, where each chapter´s music is written specifically in the manner that that chapter requires.
Lotsofmuzik – You played everything on the album but drums. How was the process to pick Mike Mangini, and was he the only drummer you had in mind?
ZZ – I think that when I started, the thought of having Mike Mangini playing on the album would have been more fantasy than a plan. I consider him to be the preeminent progressive metal drummer in the world today, so certainly when we started the project it would have been fantastic. But when I started recording it, I did one track and a half by myself at home, and reached out to [producer] Richard Chycki on a cold call. I sent him the music, we met for coffee, and the desire to bring this story to life turned into a really strong partnership. We had a real connection in terms of what we wanted to get across with music. When he took the project on board to produce, we started to build track after track, and at some point it made sense to invite Mike Mangini into the process. We sent him the music, started to collaborate with him and get some feedback. And ultimately we were able to find time inbetween his touring schedule where he was able to come down to California and lay down all of the tracks. It didn´t start out that way, it was built up over time, and people started to see and believe in what we were doing we built up the team, and ultimately Mike became a part of that.
Lotsofmuzik – Were you present at the Sound City Studios when he recorded his drums, and was he 100% free to create his drum parts, or did you give him directions to accent this or that part during the recording?
ZZ – I was there the entire time. But here´s a few things I could say about Mangini: the first thing is that he´s unbelievably prepared. He doesn´t walk in trying to figure things out, he comes in with five different ideas he could bring for each section. It´s kind of uncanny, he´s incredible! And it´s been one of the most fun experiences I´ve ever had because as we sat together and he was constructing the drum parts, he had all kinds of options to choose from that we could try. He had complete freedom to do anything he wanted, but we worked very collaboratively to find the right components to put together, so that it matched the vision of what the album was. But for each chapter, we would sit and talk endlessly about what we were trying to get across. There are certain songs where he plays harder than others, because he´s trying to punch out the energy that we´re trying to establish. In other songs he´s holding back a little bit, because there´s some other feeling that we´re trying to embed. So it was an amazing experience to watch him.
Lotsofmuzik – For the readers who are not versed in recording technology, what was the importance of recording the drums at Dave Grohl´s Sound City Studio with the Neve console?
ZZ – The great thing about Sound City is that the room is huge! The drum sound resonates endlessly, and running it through that Neve console, the sound was so warm and punchy! Of course this is a modern progressive metal album, but we also wanted to pay respect to all the great progressive music that influenced us over the years. We really wanted the tones to come through, and what´s great about the Neve console is that it’s a console from the early 1970´s, and in some respects, I think you can kind of hear it. If you really listen to it, there´s a classic rock element over the whole album, and I think in some ways the Neve really helped us to achieve that.
Lotsofmuzik – Before we knew who was behind this project, many people thought this could be a John Petrucci solo album, and we can definitely hear the similarities between your playing and his. What were some of your other influences as a musician?
ZZ – I´m really appreciative that you would say that. John Petrucci is an incredible guitar player, and being named in the same sentence as him is certainly a big ego boost. But actually my biggest influences really have nothing to do with John specifically. If I had to name them, I´d say my biggest influences would be Steve Lukather and Dan Huff, who was in a band called Giant in the 80´s and now is a country producer. The thing about him and Lukather that´s so great is that they know how to construct a solo and with that they tell a story within a song. But I couldn´t leave out the influence that guys like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani had on me in my formative years. The first time I heard Satriani it was mind blowing…I spent hours trying to figure out what he played on an album and finding a way to replicate it.
Lotsofmuzik –Are there any plans to tour to promote the album, and will Mangini be included?
ZZ – I have no goals to tour as a live band. Our goal is to bring the album to life in unique ways, by telling stories differently than most music fans would experience them. We have some interesting things in the work right now. Without getting into too much detail, it doesn´t involve live music, but it does involve a live setting. So the goal is to bring people together with a common interest, and to find new ways of telling stories. Playing live would be great, but I have a big company that I run, and that´s my focus and what gets the majority of my attention. The goal that I have here is to be able to find new and unique ways to bring people together, just like we found a new and unique way of making the album in the first place.
Lotsofmuzik – Do you plan to keep releasing albums under the “Into the Great Divide” name, like a regular project or full band?
ZZ – No, the goal for me is to continue to share the narrative that we established here. But there are some really interesting and creative ways to connect with people using music, which doesn´t even have to take the form of a traditional album, and my goal is to expand on that. The response to the album has been better than I could have ever hoped for, and the thing that´s exciting for me is to find a way to connect with people that are interested in the format of “Into the Great Divide” as a concept, and find new ways to connect with them using music.
Lotsofmuzik – How did you select the narrator – did you think of narrating it yourself?
ZZ – I never thought of narrating it myself. I´m fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, where there´s a bunch of voice actors. I had a sense of what I wanted to hear already in my head, and I auditioned a bunch of people until I found the voice that best matched with what I wanted to achieve stylistically.
Lotsofmuzik – Thank you so much!
ZZ – Thank you!
Into the Great Divide comes out on 26th January 2018 via Wilshire Records.
Chapter 1. Intro
Chapter 1. The Crossing
Chapter 2. Intro
Chapter 2. A Call To Adventure
Chapter 3. Intro
Chapter 3. Under A Bright Starry Sky
Chapter 4. Intro
Chapter 4. Tests & Enemies
Chapter 5. Intro
Chapter 5. Challenge Accepted
Chapter 6. Intro
Chapter 6. Dark Waters
Chapter 7. Intro
Chapter 7. Mist In The Sun
Chapter 8. Intro
Chapter 8. A New Perspective
Chapter 9. Intro
Chapter 9. The World You Made
Chapter 10. Intro
Chapter 10. And So It Ends