Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess: “In our new album, we’ll go back to the roots and the core sound of the band”
Just as we wrote when we first interviewed him about a year ago (find the article here), Jordan Rudess never seems to stop. Fresh out of a tour with Al Di Meola, he is about to embark on a solo tour entitled “From Bach to Rock”, with dates scheduled for Asia, Australia and South America. In addition to that, he has just finished recording the new Dream Theater album, which promises a return to the sound that made them one of the most influential bands in the prog metal genre.
Lotsofmuzik collaborator Rodrigo Altaf had a chance to sit down with Jordan and in a very lighthearted discussion, they discussed his plans for the “From Bach to Rock” tour, his musical influences, some aspects of the new album, and many other cool subjects. Check it out below:
Lotsofmuzik – Hi Jordan, it’s great to talk to you. So you have a few dates scheduled for November and December, and the tour is entitled “From Bach to Rock”, right? What can the fans expect?
Jordan Rudess - The "Bach to Rock" tour has been a wonderful musical outlet for me because it's a chance for me to return to my roots and play the piano. My musical path started as a young pianist at 7 years old and at 9 starting my classical studies at Julliard in New York City. So the "Bach to Rock" is about a journey, following the "Jordan Rudess" kinda musical journey. Literally, I take people through my path as a musician and I do it all from the piano. And I throw a little bit of technology in the middle of that, showing my work with music applications - I show my GeoShred app, but mostly it's on the piano. The fans can expect not only a little bit of classical music thrown in and some improvisation, but also some Dream Theater songs rearranged for piano as well and some original music. So it's a real, almost chronological journey through my musical life. It involves music and also I'm talking and telling its story.
Lotsofmuzik - Very cool! I saw the setlist of the other tour you did under the same name and it seems like a great show. Do you think there will be changes on the setlist or will you be playing primarily the same thing?
JR - There will be similarities, but because it's just me and I can do whatever I want, I always make up some stuff spontaneously right there and then. If something comes into my head, I can do it. So it's not so rigid like in other kinds of shows.
Lotsofmuzik - You also did a few dates on August and September with Al Di Meola. How did that tour come together? I imagine you guys have known each other for years, right?
JR - I hadn't known Al exactly. I had met him but many years ago, about 30 years ago. I didn't really bring it up to him, but he didn't remember me [laughs]. He knew my name because he is very well aware of Dream Theater, you know, John Petrucci and all these things. But I really met him for the first time let's say, in his mind [laughs] and the tour happened because we have the same agency - our agency is called APA. He is booked out of the California branch of APA and I’m booked out of the New York branch of APA. They were trying to organize the Al tour and someone in California thought “it would be great to have Jordan join the tour because then it would help the whole package and it would be more interesting”, so I was asked to join it. I thought that was cool, I was very excited because I felt that although there are similarities in our approach to playing musical instruments, it's a different audience. The Al Di Meola audience is very different from the Dream Theater/Jordan Rudess audience. It's more like a fusion, Latin jazz and we all thought the people in the audience would enjoy what I do. So it was a great opportunity to go out and reach different people which is what you want to do especially when you are doing an opening act. It's the whole purpose. It really did function. Actually the only thing that was bad, I did eight shows on the West coast and the only thing that was really bad about it, is that after the first show I woke up the next morning in severe pain. I had a back issue and when I got home I ended up having a back operation. It was horrible because I was in such pain but I made it through. As they say, “the show must go on!” [laughs]. So on all the shows, I basically crawled to the piano, did my shows and when I got back to New York, I said ok, I gotta deal with this. If you were to tell the story, yes, when the shows happened it was quite difficult. But musically speaking, thank God it was good. Now I'm actually getting ready to do a whole other batch of shows. It should be amazing for me, because although I’m known all around the world as the keyboardist for Dream Theater, I haven’t played solo in all these places ever before. So it’s really exciting to be able to go out for solo shows, especially because it’s so personal and intimate. It’s a chance for me to share that kind of personal musicality with people but it’s also a chance for me, because of the nature of the shows, to be able to have a more personal connection because I’ll be doing meet and greets that are a little bit more relaxed than in a band environment, where we have to be more on schedule and more careful. In this case, I can spend more time meeting people and chatting. This is a nice opportunity to connect with other people musically and personally.
Lotsofmuzik - I noticed that in your solo tours and with Al Di Meola and Dream Theater, it’s either short runs or longer runs with breaks in between. Have you found a good work/life balance at this point with your touring career and the home life?
JR - It’s always challenging to do. I feel like this time around, I’m putting more energy into my solo stuff because I’m trying to establish it, so I’m using this time off with Dream Theater to kinda do that - It’s pushing a little bit harder than usual. Sometimes in a career path, one needs to push a little bit more in one direction than the other. Some guys maybe are lucky enough to chill out and to get ready for the next chapter of Dream Theater, but in my case I’m saying “well I have a little time, I’m gonna develop this, I’m gonna go out”. Everybody has a different way of managing their lives, their career. It’s a very busy time doing all this, and there’s a lot of rewards to it as well. When you put the energy out there, very often it comes back but sometimes it’s just hard to find the energy to move forward more than you absolutely need to.
Lotsofmuzik - At your age, many musicians are playing the same songs over and over, lots of them are doing that and are relying on their hits, but you are always moving forward. Why do you think you have such a driving power?
JR – I was saying to somebody the other day, I don’t have many hobbies. Music is my life, my hobby, my passion. I’m always creating, I’m always improvising. I just like to sit at the piano and just play and make up stuff. I just turn on Facebook live and play whatever comes into my head. I love to do that so, I’m always creating new stuff on that level. Even from a compositional point, I like to write music. I like to do it with my band, I like to do it on my own. At the same time, as I like to create new things, I’m not a musician that really minds playing the old stuff like some people say “Oh I played that song a hundred times or a thousand times and I don’t want to play it again”. I kinda feel like all the songs are a part of me and every time I’m playing, it’s a little bit different and maybe I’m getting better at it...so I enjoy all aspects of it.
Have you taken time to reflect on the path you would have taken, hadn’t you joined Dream Theater?
JR - It’s a lot of steps along the way that you wonder what would have happened. Dream Theater was a very important step for me because it really put me in the public eye. I was doing stuff before that and I kinda stepped into the arena of professional life ever since I joined Vinnie Moore’s band, I played with Paul Winter, I had gigs with the Dixie Dregs and I did a solo album. But nothing was really taking off to a point where I could say “ok, this is my livelihood, I can do this”. So it’s hard to say what would have happen: Dream Theater functions so beautifully for me to have a very strong career. We don’t know what would have happened. Musically speaking, I would have absolutely continued down the path that I was on. I was happy to navigate in the direction I was going. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened musically if Dream Theater didn’t happen, because Dream Theater takes a lot of my time. I say that not in a negative way, but only in the sense that there’s a kind of music that I’m interested in which I do with Dream Theater, that is very consuming, but I do other things as well. We don’t know what would have happened. It’s interesting because now I am taking the time to develop my solo career more which is an interesting move for me because I feel like there’s a part of me that wants to expand the possibilities in addition to Dream Theater that weren’t as open as before.
Lotsofmuzik – From what I’ve seen in your solo work you’re a prog fan. Which of these keyboard players would you say was your biggest influence: Rick Wakeman, Tony Banks, or Keith Emerson?
JR – My biggest influence was Keith Emerson. And the reason for that is because his harmonic sense was interesting to me. I love all the guys and they were also inspirations to me. But the chords and the power of the sound that he had…for a keyboard player to have that kind of power and energy was really impressive, along with the harmonies that he used, the suspended chords, that was really powerful in my mind. The other guys had other kinds of influences, even though I wouldn’t say they’re as large as the one Keith Emerson had on me. When it comes to Rick Wakeman, I enjoyed how he could take the classical elements and bring them into rock. Rick’s album “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” was an example of how you can use classic motifs and really rock out, so I thought it was very cool. And Tony Banks was a different kind of inspiration – I always thought that Tony’s harmonic language was very cool, and very different from Keith Emerson’s, and he had beautiful chords, a lot of ostinato based ideas where he would change chords over a single bass note. You could always tell a Tony Banks harmonic movement, and I tried to bring that into my own language as well, and mix it in with the other things that I was influenced by. I ended up having a mishmash of harmonic ideas in my head between all these guys and all the classical music I studied, and all the jazz influence , so now it’s all floating up here in my head, and it comes out in whatever way.
Lotsofmuzik – Are there any younger bands that you admire? I’ve seen you attend Haken concerts for example – any others?
JR – Yeah, I think the Haken guys are really great. A lot of the newer prog metal guys play so well, like Animals As Leaders, for example. I respect their virtuosity and their dedication and how they’re pushing their style. Musically my favourite stuff goes back to either classical music like Chopin, or classic prog like Genesis, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd etc. When it comes to the newer stuff, I really like how Haken pay tribute to the classic prog sound and add a bit of metal to it too. And there’s groups like Periphery and Animals As Leaders who are shaking things up a little bit and raising up the level of technicque – I hear some stuff in their music and think “oh my God, I didn’t even know you could play guitar like that!” [laughs]. That whole revolution in the guitar playing with guys like Jason Richardson impresses me a lot. When you think about how far the guitar as an instrument has come from the introduction of the electric guitar up to what people are doing now is phenomenal. You can’t say the same thing about keyboards, because it’s not the same kind of path. You had people like Franz Liszt or Rachmaninoff playing incredible things in the piano, and what people are playing on keyboards now is not necessary harder than that, whereas with guitar, it kinda is thatw ay because the idea of picking like that on an electric guitar started with Les Paul. So the evolution of the instrument is very interesting to see, but it happens in different ways with the keyboards. Certainly there was nobody doing pitch bending on a keyboard in Bach’s time, although on the clavichord, which was the instrument before the harpsichord, you could press down on it and it would change the pitch. That’s interesting to think about, because not many people realized what was going on, but every keyboard after that didn’t do that – harpsichords, pianos or organs etc. We’d have to fast forward to the age of the synthesizer in order to have a lever to change the pitch.
Lotsofmuzik – Very interesting! And one of your many endeavours outside of show business is being an Artist in Residence at Stanford University’s CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics). What exactly does that entail, and how is the work going – how much commitment does it require?
JR – I had a wonderful time as an Artist in Residence at Stanford. My connection with the Stanford guys was in the musical technology world, and my company making music apps. I had partnered with some of the guys coming out of there, and in my various visits to Stanford as an artist showing new technology I established a relationship with the school and with these guys to the point where they invited me to spend the semester there as an artist. Being an artist in residence is a very flexible and wonderful position to be in, because it basically means that you’re doing your art out of the university, and you’re expected to open up your artistic world to the students and the community around you. So I very much did that. They have these things called symposiums, but I changed them to “synth-posiums” [laughs] and showed various technologies, whether it would be on a seaboard or on an IPad etc. I invited people in and talked about what I use in my musical life, I’d meet people doing cool things and ventures, young students changing the audio world as we know it, and I played a few concerts there as well. So, being an Artist in Residence was a combination of doing some performances but also opening the doors of my musical life to people there, meeting everybody, trying to educate and being educated as well. And I’m going back to Stanford this winter, not as an Artist in Residence, but maybe more as an adjunct teacher for one semester.
Lotsofmuzik – In addition to all that, you have your “day job” with Dream Theater and just finished recording a new album. I saw a picture of you with a Hammond organ in the studio – will you bring it with you on tour, or will you stick with the Korg?
JR – Yeah, I was playing around with the idea of getting some very cool organ sounds, and I was thinking of all the possibilities, because today in the digital technology world there’s all sorts of ways to achieve an organ sound. But I ended up with the Hammond X5, and I found it to be amazing, really great. I ran it into a device called “motion device” which is kinda like a Leslie [amplifier] – it moves the sound, spins it around. So eventually I thought I should take this with me because it has a good place in the new album, it has a really powerful sound, and changing things up a little bit would be cool as well.
Lotsofmuzik – Great to hear that! And to use a phrase that many fans have been saying one way or another, this seems like your most collaborative effort to date, at least on the lyric writing side. Was that the same musically, or did you and John Petrucci write the bulk of it as before?
JR – It was definitely very collaborative, we had a wonderful time all together, we basically hid away in a secret location, we found an old barn turned into studio and set aside a couple of months to do everything. We were very constructive, very energized, had a great time together, a lot of laughs, we cooked together, joked around, but in general we had an uninterrupted musical experience together, which was very productive. We feel very good about the new stuff, we think it’s very strong and that the fans will really enjoy this album.
Lotsofmuzik – Some of the most prominent criticisms of the fanbase are about Mike Mangini’s drum sound in the studio and about how difficult The Astonishing was to absorb – were you guys aware of that, and did you discuss it when it came the time to write and record the new album?
JR – Yeah, I know there were a lot of people who had trouble with the drum sound. Personally I never had a problem with it, I liked it, but I guess everybody’s a critic nowadays, and everybody’s voice is somehow of great importance in the internet world in the safe zone behind a computer [laughs]. I think I understand why some people maybe didn’t like the drum sound, and I’d also say that Mike Mangini wasn’t 100% happy with it either. But I think what’s gonna happen on this album is an amazing drum sound – it’s killer! Again, everybody’s a critic and I’m sure in the end somebody will always find something to say, but for me it’s one of the best drum sounds I’ve ever hear.
As for the second part of your question, Dream Theater has had a very long career, and when it came the time to do the album that turned out to be The Astonishing we wanted to do something that was created a little bit different than usual. We wanted to do a concept album, and John Petrucci and I decided that the best way to do this kind of album was to sit in a room and really write this thing, like a musical or a rock opera, and that’s what we did. We took some very focused time writing all this music, an it’s an album that I’m extremely proud of - It’s one of my proudest achievements with Dream Theater. But I know it was a very polarizing album for the fans, and I think the reason is that Dream Theater fans are varied anyways. You have the guys that like the heavy stuff, while other like the progressive and more melodic stuff – and there’s a lot of different kinds of music within what we do, so it creates this situation. You can’t really please everybody, and in The Astonishing we couldn’t please everybody. A lot of our metal fans kinda dropped off and said “what the hell are you guys doing with these sweet soft parts?” [laughs]. And I get that, that’s fine – you can’t please everybody all the time. But I’m excited because I feel like this new album is going to be a home run. I get it – Dream Theater fans don’t like to go for too long of a gentle ride. Maybe a ballad here and there, but I think the bulk of them are not so into the Disney-esque influence [laughs]. We did that and we loved it, we had a great time, it was the biggest production ever. But now the next stage is back to the roots, back to the core of the sound – screaming Hammond organ, killing leads, chunky riffs, slamming drums, and everybody will be there moshing! [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik – Some artists say that the tension between band members create the best albums - that seems to have been the case with Jagger and Richards, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen etc. Dream Theater, on the other hand, seems to be a VERY friendly environment. Do you think that having tension in the studio would generate a different, or better DT album?
JR – I think that what happened in this album was that because John Petrucci and I wrote the last album together without any input from the other guys, there was a bit of tension in that [when we started to write the new one]. I think that led us taking the move of convening in this hideaway. So in a sense, tension led to this great album, because everybody was so anxious to be involved and said “I wanna do this”, “I wanna do that”, and we got together as a group. And John and I were very opened to it, since we enjoy hiding away and do the bulk of the writing. But at the same time we were like “yeah, bring it on, guys!” [laughs]. Let’s feel your energy and create something that’s more a “group-approved” kind of album. It was great to have Mike Mangini there because he is very high-spirited and has a powerful reaction to things, and creates excitement in the room. I’d play something and he’d go “Wow! Wizard, that’s amazing!” [laughs] and this kinda influenced his drumming as well. In The Astonishing we didn’t have that, and this time it really helped push the energy on this album. And having all the guys being involved ended up being a lot of fun. I guess I’ll relate it to the question in the sense that it did result out of some kind of pressure, or tension, that everybody wanted to return to the core of who we are and get together in a room to do this.
Lotsofmuzik – I’ve seen you shred on guitar on YouTube - have you ever considered performing guitar live, or recording a song on guitar?
JR - I have been playing more guitar. Not so much in the last month because I hurt my back, but I played some on my new album. What started it was that at the last NAMM show I met a wonderful luthier whose name is Przemek Drużkowski - you can probably see him online, he built me an 8-string custom guitar which is called The Wizard Model, and it’s available for purchase if you go to his website. It’s an awesome, slick guitar. Then I discovered the Strandberg guitars, which are these wonderful light carbon fiber guitars, so I’ve been playing them. But the sad part of it is that now all my calluses are gone! [laughs], I had to really work to get those back, but now they’re gone because I haven’t played it for so long. I guess the bad part of playing guitar is that you have to endure a little bit of pain before you can really go!
Lotsofmuzik – You have a reputation for walking around town when you’re playing a show – I myself have met you in the streets of Pamplona in 2014, when you were there on the self-titled album tour. How often do people recognize you, and what was the craziest fan encounter you’ve ever had?
JR – They recognize me more if I’m walking around in the area of the venue on the day of the show. If I’m walking in a random area in a big city like Barcelona, there’s usually one or two people that recognize me, but my career is nowhere near the level of, say, Madonna, for example [laughs]. Usually one or two people at the airport will recognize me as well, and that’s ok.
The craziest encounter I had was in Italy, where I was walking around on the day of the show, and I didn’t realize we were very close to where we’d be playing a few hours later. People discovered I was nearby and I literally had to hide, because when situations like that happen everyone wants a picture or an autograph and things like that, and that’s ok, but with a large crowd, things tend to be a bit chaotic.
Lotsofmuzik – I found it funny when I ran into you that you didn’t have any entourage or security or anything like that
JR – On certain countries I’ll have security, but it depends on where we are as well.
Lotsofmuzik – Ok, so a silly question to wrap things up: have you considered shaving your beard?
JR – I have considered it, but I haven’t done it yet. I think it’s a statement. As an artist it’s kinda fun to have a signature look. If I shaved it up, I’d look like this, what do you think? [hides beard with the hand on camera].
Lotsofmuzik – Not too bad, you’d look just like a regular guy! [laughs]
JR – I could go into hiding, then I wouldn’t be recognized by any fans and I could walk around everywhere, right?
Lotsofmuzik – Right! Well thank you so much for your time, and I wish you a great tour!
JR – Lovely to talk to you! Take care, man! Bye!
For an updated list of Jordan Rudess tour dates, please click on the following link: https://www.jordanrudess.com/tours/
THE NEAL MORSE BAND INVITES FANS TO EXPERIENCE ‘THE GREAT ADVENTURE’ WITH NEW ALBUM SET FOR RELEASE JANUARY 25th, 2019 ON RADIANT RECORDS/METAL BLADE WORLDWIDE
THE NEAL MORSE BAND
INVITES FANS TO EXPERIENCE
‘THE GREAT ADVENTURE’
WITH NEW ALBUM SET FOR RELEASE JANUARY 25 2019
ON RADIANT RECORDS/METAL BLADE WORLDWIDE;
WORLDWIDE TOUR STARTS
FEBRUARY 3, 2019 IN NASHVILLE AT CITY WINERY
October 15, 2018 -- THE NEAL MORSE BAND—Neal Morse (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals), Randy George (bass), Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals), Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals)—will take fans on THE GREAT ADVENTURE with their latest double concept album due out January 25, 2019 on Radiant Records via Metal Blade Worldwide. It will be available in three formats: a two CD package, two CD/DVD Special Edition featuring behind-the-scenes video clips of the making of the album, and three vinyl LPs. Pre-orders begin December 4 on Radiant Records’ website.
The follow-up to 2016’s critically acclaimed THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM, which critics hailed as “a masterpiece,” will be the ninth studio album with Morse, Portnoy and George, and the third as a true collaboration with this current lineup. Together, Morse and Portnoy have launched four bands, but the one that has endured the longest and thus with the most musical output has been THE NEAL MORSE BAND.
“Let the great adventure now begin…” The closing line of THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM, has proved to be strangely prophetic. The new album is exactly that: a perfect companion piece to TSOAD’s partial retelling of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. It has everything that fans would expect from an album by THE NEAL MORSE BAND, and more: rock, metal, classical and jazz elements appear throughout, as well as some killer melodies, all played faultlessly by some of the greatest rock musicians on the planet.
As Neal Morse explains, “This band continues to amaze me! I have to say it was a little daunting to follow up THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM as it was such a special album and it delivered every night at our concerts, but I believe that THE GREAT ADVENTURE will have a tremendous impact as well. This new double album is everything that I hoped it would be! I listened through last night and I was in tears at the end!“
Mike Portnoy emphatically agrees. He says, “How do you follow an epic double concept album??? Well, create another epic double concept album!! Hahaha. I always knew topping THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM was going to be difficult, if not impossible, as I held it in such high regard, but alas, I am absolutely blown away with what we achieved here! We’ve created what is the ultimate companion to TSOAD.”
“Sometimes there are things that you just can’t mess with,” Randy George continues. “On THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM we tapped into something special. I was sure that the follow up should be something quite different, but you have to follow your heart and follow the music where it wants to go. THE GREAT ADVENTURE is nothing short of a miracle. It’s similar to SIMILITUDE in concept and form, but yet it’s tougher and deeper in its tone! This is a powerful work and I look forward to playing it live!
True to the album’s title, the creative process was indeed a “great adventure.” Unlike many previous Morse albums, which have often been written and arranged within weeks, this time around these prolific and world-class musicians spent almost a year working on the end result, producing an abundance of top quality material. This meant some ruthless decision-making: some already completed songs and characters had to go, and-–with studio time running out–new links and ideas were being composed and recorded up to the eleventh hour. “A lot of work and re-work has gone into this,” says Morse, “but I know that some of the most successful and far-reaching albums I’ve been involved with have been just like that. SOLA SCRIPTURA and Spock’s Beard’s SNOW album come to mind.”
Another key question that had to be addressed in the studio was how to pull all the ideas together into a coherent whole. In the end, what unlocked this “adventure” for Morse was the realization that THE GREAT ADVENTURE needed a new voice and perspective. This time, it is that of the Pilgrim’s abandoned son, a younger, perhaps angrier, voice than was heard on THE SIMILITUDE OF A DREAM.
THE NEAL MORSE BAND will bring THE GREAT ADVENTURE to fans worldwide with a new round of headlining tour dates, which begin February 3, 2019 in Nashville at City Winery. For ticket information and VIP ticket sales go to www.radiantrecords.com. Check them out at any of the following stops, with more shows to be added in the coming months:
DATE CITY VENUE
Sat 2/2 Nashville, TN City Winery
Sun 2/3 Tampa, FL The Ritz (Cruise To The Edge Pre-Cruise Party)
Mon 2/4 Tampa, FL Cruise To The Edge 2019 (through February 9)
Sun 2/10 Atlanta, GA City Winery
Mon 2/11 Charlotte, NC Neighborhood Theatre
Tue 2/12 Baltimore, MD Soundstage
Wed 2/13 Jersey City, NJ White Eagle Hall
Fri 2/15 Boston, MA The Sinclair
Sat 2/16 Philadelphia, PA Keswick Theatre
Sun 2/17 Westbury NY The Space at Westbury
Mon 2/18 Montréal, QUE. Club Soda
Tue 2/19 Quebec City, QUE. Salle Sylvain Lelievre
Thu 2/21 Toronto, ONT. Opera House
Fri 2/22 Pittsburgh, PA Mr. Smalls Theatre
Sat 2/23 Cleveland, OH Beachland Ballroom
Sun 2/24 Detroit, MI The Crofoot Ballroom
Tue 2/26 St. Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
Wed 2/27 St. Louis, MO Delmar Hall
Thu 2/28 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Live
Fri 3/1 Lawrence, KS Granada Theatre
Sat 3/2 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall
Tue 3/5 Seattle, WA The Triple Door
Wed 3/6 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
Thu 3/7 San Francisco, CA Slim's
Fri 3/8 Whittier, CA The Whittier Center Theatre
Sat 3/9 Chandler, AZ Bogle Theatre (Chandler Center For The Arts)
Sun 3/24 London, United Kingdom Islington Assembly Hall
Mon 3/25 Paris, France The Alhambra
Tue 3/26 Tilburg, Netherlands O13
Wed 3/27 Esch /Alzette, Luxembourg Rockhal Esch Sur Alzette
Fri 3/29 Koln, Germany Kantine
Sat 3/30 Copenhagen, Denmark Viften
Sun 3/31 Goteborg, Sweden Stora Teatern
Mon 4/1 Stockholm, Sweden Skandiascenen
Wed 4/3 Berlin, Germany Heimathafen
Thu 4/4 Hamburg, Germany Markthalle
Fri 4/5 Leipzig, Germany Halle d / Werk 2
Sat 4/6 Warsaw, Poland Progresja
Sun 4/7 Brno, Czech Republic SONO Music Club
Tue 4/9 Munich, Germany Technikum
Wed 4/10 Pratteln, Switzerland Z7 Konzertfabrik
Thu 4/11 Lyon, France C.C.O.
Fri 4/12 Trezzo sull'Adda MI, Italy Live Club
Sat 4/13 Barcelona, Spain Salamandra 1
Sun 4/14 Madrid, Spain Sala Mon
The release of a new Haken album has become a big event in the progressive genre. While their
debut album Aquarius and its follow-up Visions have already saved the band a spot among their
colleagues, their last two masterpieces The Mountain and Affinity have proved that fans can count
on the band to release something that will cover new ground, yet is still unmistakably identifiable
as Haken. The band’s 2015 release Affinity offered a 1980s inspired theme and was the first
Haken album to feature major compositional contributions by every member, while the previous
albums were mainly efforts by guitarist Richard Henshall. This resulted not only in a massive
expansion of Haken’s sound palette, but also in a whole new rhythmical level. Haken are moving
forward in a very subtle way and effortlessly skip every Prog-cliché. But after a run of four and a
half fantastic albums one might wonder: Where are they going next? And how the hell are they
gonna top this?
While Haken have always incorporated Metal into their music, they decided to release something
heavier and more riff-oriented. Still, Vector seems like a logical step after Affinity.
The band starts off their new album with an intro named „Clear“, which sets the mood for the next
45 minutes. During the first few seconds one might think that Nomacs are descending, but some
of the following keyboard sounds manage to build a bridge to the 80s oriented Affinity, while still
sounding new and fresh. The harmonies remind of those by Russian masters of Romantic Music
by the likes of Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Suspense is built up and keyboardist Diego Tejeida
gets to show that he’s one of today’s masters of his craft. His apocalyptic sounding organs and
sound effects already give away the atmosphere of Vector: something dark, demonic and big is
coming our way.
The problem with intros (as opposed to overtures) for me is always the „waste“ of ideas that
would have had the potential to become so much more. „Clear’s“ motives will not appear again
during the rest of the album. Then again, Haken has been renouncing the Prog-typical style of
revisiting and reprising melodies present on Aquarius and Visions, and instead narrowed it down
to one or two motives reappearing throughout The Mountain and Affinity. Consequently, this was
completely erased on Vector. The album’s music is completely linear, doesn’t „end where it
began“ and doesn’t make the impression of a concept album. The last point is proven wrong by
Haken-guitarist Charlie Griffiths himself: „[…] lyrically it’s a bit more theatrical and about as „rock
opera“ as Haken has ever got“. Vector seems to be about a doctor and his sinister intentions for a
certain patient, combined with several psychologic and psychoanalytic themes and influences
from Stanley Kubrick movies. The Rohrschach inspired cover is presented with a classic Hakenunderstatement
vibe and fits well into the psychological themes of the album. Not having read the
lyrics completely, I can’t wait to check out the story Haken have come up with.
Opposed to the „theatrical“ concept, „Clear“ is followed by a series of songs that work perfectly
as standalone tracks. The first time the whole band kicks in, a soothing feeling is spreading. Two
and a half long years fans waited for this prescription of new Haken music. „The Good Doctor“
will see you now.
The first „real“ song and lead single bursts in with one of Haken’s signature riffs, guitar arpeggios
and a lot of crash cymbals. The riff-oriented focus of the music is already audible, but it feels like
a logical step from the more compact songs on Affinity. A bass imitating 8-string guitar and some
80s drum-sounds lead into the first verse. The band plays an unusually funky groove carried by a
slapped bass guitar. Conner Green is more present on Vector than he was on Affinity and it
benefits the album very much. „The Good Doctor“ continues with a big chorus based on the
opening motif and a completely different second verse with somewhat banjo-like strumming
guitars, before leading into the obligatory rollercoaster-middle section. Guitars and bass play an
unpredictable riff consisting of only three repeated notes, while drummer Ray Hearne makes the
whole thing even more difficult to understand by adding several polyrhythmic layers. A short cut
with hospital noises and a deep laugh, as well as a jazzy, calm vocal interlude strangely don’t
break the song’s flow and the whole section seems to build up for a reprise of the chorus.
However, the band knows how to surprise their listeners and slide in a reprise of the second
verse, before the chorus closes the circle and finishes the song at 100% energy.
Or so I thought. The following song has the ungrateful second and a half position that was
previously occupied by „1985“ and „Cockroach King“, which both have become fan favourites
and the equivalent of a „hit“ in the modern progressive genre. „Puzzle Box“ keeps the up energy of the album with a riff featuring Ray Hearne’s snare and portraying the fantastic drum mix that
Adam „Nolly“ Getgood has come up with. The intro riff is varied and reprised very cleverly
throughout the song and is consequently kept in 4/4, although at many points it doesn’t sound
like it. Reportedly, Ray Hearne is a big Meshuggah fan, so these polyrhythms over a 4/4 time
signature might be an influence coming from them. The verses once again benefit from Conner’s
deep, awesome bass sound and kicks played in perfect unison with the drums.
„Puzzle Box“ has a pretty interesting structure. The section that initially serves as a chorus is later
revealed to be more of a bridge, as the whole track leads up to one final chorus that has never
been heard before. I have noticed a similar approach in „The Architect“, except in that example, a
theme from a previous song was reprised in the final chorus. Of course, there is also a whacky
instrumental section which leaves you both laughing and impressed. A following spheric passage
with electronic beats, as well as the combination of hymnic melodies and deep guitar riffs in the
final chorus once again makes „Puzzle Box“ seem like a little brother to „The Architect“.
So, can „Puzzle Box“ live up to its predecessors „1985“ and „Cockroach King“? No need to.
Haken don’t need to prove they can continue running gags or traditions because they are creative
enough to create new ones every time they break new ground.
„Veil“ is the centerpiece of the album and a great follow up to songs of similar extend like „The
Architect“, „Pareidolia“ and „Falling Back To Earth“. It starts off with a fragile piano and vocals
presenting a chorus that would later reappear packed into a bombastic arrangement. Several
rhythmic motifs are introduced that are being reprised and varied during the next 12 minutes. In
fact, the whole song is masterfully built around very few rhythmic ideas that makes it come across
very concise. Despite all instrumental freak outs, most of „Veil“ once again stands in 4/4 or
alternating 4/4 and 5/4 time signatures.
The guys from Haken know how a song of these proportions is supposed to be composed. They
don’t introduce new motifs every 14 seconds, but rather let already heard ones reappear in a
different harmonic, dynamic or rhythmic context. The two parts that hold the whole tune together
are the catchy chorus and a post-chorus section underlined by the relentlessly pushing forward
16th-notes coming from Ray’s bass drum. I guess only time will tell if this monster of a song will
be able to take „The Architect’s“ place as my favourite Haken song.
One might wonder why the band didn’t include a 23 monster track on Vector. „Veil“ is the ultimate
answer. This composition is so round and finished that there can’t possibly be anything else to
So, what else is there to say? I guess, nothing for a while. That’s why „Nil By Mouth“ is seven
minutes of absolute brutal instrumental insanity. Some electronic sounds introduce the first riff.
And what a riff that is. No melody, no harmonies, just one and the same chord played by both
Richard’s and Charlie’s guitars. The second rhythmical idea lays the foundation for most of the
song’s following parts, before it’s interrupted by one of only two sections with an actual melody.
„Nil By Mouth“ once again reprises and varies motifs in a very clever way. There’s not too many
ideas worked into this song, but those ideas are very well worked out. „Nil By Mouth“ is one of
those instrumental tracks that have no need for a mindless shredding section over an extended
Blues vamp - nor does it have the need for any solos at all. Haken has become a unit, a well-oiled
machine. These guys know just how to compose arrangements for their lineup. I want to say that
every member is on the same level here - but I just have to give a special mention to their beast of
a drummer. Not only is Ray Hearne’s drumming incredibly well thought through, it’s also always
tasty, on spot, impeccable. The whole album is pervaded by his complex polyrhythms, pushing
grooves and at times brutal fills („Nil By Mouth“ at 5:09 - wow). I was already deeply impressed by
the complete new rhythmical dimension he added to Affinity, but in my opinion, he has improved
once again on Vector. The same, however, can be said about Conner Green. His thick bass lines
are more present on this album and his playing is in perfect sync with Ray’s drums.
A quick return to previous Haken songs with a similarly heavy approach („Endless Knot“,
„Drowning In The Flood“, „Darkest Light“) reveals the actual heaviness of the new songs. Vector’s
mix and production are huge and loud in every way and the two guitars have never been more
present. It seems like it’s time to take it down a notch.
„Host“ is not a ballad per se, but a mellow song with a very morbid atmosphere. Personally, I
wouldn’t have minded if Vector had turned out to be heavy and riff-oriented from start to finish,
without any exceptions. But then again, „Host“ is still a welcome change and an opportunity for
Ross Jennings to shine. As much as I love the battling guitar riffs in the other songs, they don’t
leave too much room for the vocals. This might be the only real point of criticism about this
album. Ross’ fantastic performance on „Host“ (especially towards the end) compensates for that
and confirms that at least one mellow song was needed on Vector. Still, while it gives you a short
break from heavy guitar riffs, it doesn’t give you a break from the sinister atmosphere of the
album. This benefits the flow. A more uplifting song in the vein of Earthrise or Bound By Gravity
would have completely fallen out of place here. Just when one might think the song is over, Ray’s
deep toms lead into the dark finale of the song, which Ross finishes with a dramatic, high note.
Vector’s seventh and final song „A Cell Divides“ takes over where „Nil By Mouth“ left off. Another
shattering riff is thrown towards the listener, before a clean guitar leads into the verse. Ray uses
unconventional sounds for his drums and the whole section plays cleverly with its 7/8 time
signature. In contrast with the flowing verse, there is a chorus based on a slow staccato rhythm.
„It’s the beauty in the flaw, the grace of imperfection“ - there’s something of this reflecting in the
music. Not that there’s anything wrong with this last song, but it doesn’t follow the bombastic,
vast finales of previous Haken albums. There’s no big reprise of the album’s opener, no huge
forgiving choral at the end. The chorus is melancholic, almost a little sad, and doesn’t give off the
satisfying „Visions“ overkill vibe. Instead, some sustained vocal lines reminiscent of Affinity
appear, while the opening riff evolves in the background (brilliant). The chorus returns and swells
up, before Ross leads us back into the song’s intro. The album ends without any closing chord
and leaves the listener on the edge of his chair. „The grace of imperfection“.
No matter if they develop into a more dark or complex direction; the melodies, hooks and
atmosphere are all unmistakable Haken. The band seems to be on a quest to become more
perfect with each effort. Their music has reached a stage of complexity which is almost
unreachable for a normal human being, yet it’s still mysteriously melodic and not at all hard to
listen to. Similar to Affinity, some parts on Vector bring up the question how in the world the band
will be able to perform this stuff on stage. But once again I’m sure that a visit to one of Haken’s
upcoming concerts will prove this thought redundant.
Haken managed to once again develop their trademark sound into a new direction. Album
number V and no sings of wear and tear on one of today’s greatest bands.
Haken’s “Vector” is set for release on October 26th 2018 via InsideOut, cover art and the tracklist can be seen below.
2.The Good Doctor (03:58)
3.Puzzle Box (07:45)
5.Nil By Mouth (07:11)
7.A Cell Divides (05:00)
Ross Jennings – Vocals
Charlie Griffiths – Guitar
Rich Henshall – guitar & keys
Diego Tejeida – keys
Conner Green – bass
Raymond Hearne – drums
Enter the 5th Dimension (2007 Demo)
The Mountain (2013)
Restoration (EP) (2014)
Comeback Kid is a Canadian hardcore punk band from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Their name comes from a headline in a newspaper about hockey player Mario Lemieux coming back to the NHL. The band was formed in 2000 by Andrew Neufeld and Jeremy Hiebert who were both members of the band Figure Four, which is currently on hiatus. They were joined by their friends Scott Wade and Kyle Profeta.
Upon releasing Turn It Around on Facedown Records in 2003, Comeback Kid began touring full-time, covering most of North America as well as Europe. They also appeared on many high-profile hardcore punk festivals like Hellfest and Posi Numbers festival. Following the touring for Turn it Around, Comeback Kid entered the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado to begin recording their second album.
In February 2005 Comeback Kid released "Wake the Dead," their first for Victory Records. After some long tours, vocalist Scott Wade left the band. Neufeld became the band's vocalist, and they began recording their third album "Broadcasting". The release of Broadcasting was followed by more steady touring, culminating with a summer long tour supporting Rise Against in North America, and their first appearance on the "Never Say Die" tour in Europe with Parkway Drive. By the end of 2007 the band was to take a short hiatus. At this time bass player Kevin Call left the band on good terms, issuing a statement regarding leaving Comeback Kid.
Call was replaced by Matt Keil who had played in Minneapolis area bands with Hjelmberg. Two more years of touring followed, with the band visiting South East Asia and Latin America for the first times.
In 2008 a CD/DVD was released called "Through The Noise" which is a line from the song "Industry Standards" off of "Broadcasting..." . The DVD is a documentary of the first 6 years of Comeback Kid. The CD is a live recording of a show in Leipzig, Germany filmed in fall 2007. A release tour in Canada followed, named the "Through the Noise Tour." It featured Bane, Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, Grave Maker, and Outbreak. While on this tour Gravemaker suffered a van accident with Neufeld in the vehicle, which inspired the song "G.M. Vincent and I" off 2010's "Symptoms and Cures."
After two years of international touring, the band spent much of 2010 writing and recording their fourth studio album, "Symptoms and Cures" which was released in Canada by Distort Entertainment and internationally by Victory Records. Two more installments of the "Through the Noise" tour followed in North America and Europe.
In early 2012 guitarist Casey Hjelmberg announced he would be leaving the band. Stu Ross of Misery Signals/Living with Lions will assume guitar duties.
On May 13, 2014, drummer and founding member Kyle Profeta announced his departure from the band, to focus on his culinary skills in South Africa.
On September 8, 2017, Comeback Kid released their sixth studio album 'Outsider' on Nuclear Blast Records/New Damage Records in Canada.
The band is touring extensively across the world in 2018, and in their stopover in Toronto, Lotsofmuzik collaborator Rodrigo Altaf spent some time talking to singer Andrew Neufeld. Find the interview below:
Lotsofmuzik: Andrew, it’s great talking to you - welcome to Toronto! How is the tour going so far?
Andrew Neufeld: The tour is going great, we just played in Montreal, Oshawa, Ottawa and Quebec, and we’re gonna head west after Toronto. And actually live here in Toronto now, so it feels like a home show for me. I actually just handed in my 100 person guest list! [laughs]
Lotosfmuzik: Nice! And on this tour you have No Warning and Higher Power. How involved were you in picking those bands?
A.N.: We picked them personally. This is actually kind of a co-headlining tour with No Warning. They are also from Toronto, and they’re one of my favourite hardcore bands, so I was happy to finally get them to come on tour with us. And Higher Power is a band we’ve taken with us before in the UK and Europe, so it’s good to have them back as well.
Lotsofmuzik: I looked at the tour dates, and your schedule is BRUTAL - more often than not there are ZERO days off between shows – is that by choice, or would you have a more relaxed schedule if you could?
A.N.: We want to make so money in a short amount of time! [laugh] Our guitar player Jeremy has a young kid, so we can’t be out for more than three weeks, and we gotta make it work with that in mind.
Lotsofmuzik: What does a typical day when you’re on tour look like?
A.N.: Wake up at the hotel, start driving – most of the guys in the band are vegan, but I’m not, but either way, the next thing to do is to find a gas station and find some food [laughs]. We usually get to the venue by 4pm and do the soundcheck, we go for dinner and I usually have a couple of vodka sodas [laughs], then do the show, go back to the hotel and go out with some friends, go to bed and repeat everything the next day! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: What’s the main difference between playing club shows like this versus festivals, and which one do you prefer?
A.N.: I like variety – it sucks to play the same thing over and over. I love the small clubs, but I also like the huge festivals where you play to different people in other parts of the world, and it’s usually massive audiences too.
Lotsofmuzik: In terms of setlist, do you have a fixed one for the tour, or do you change things around every night?
A.N.: We have a fixed one, but we change things here and there. Tonight for example, I just told the guys that I don’t want to commit to the first song until I feel out the crowd. I’ll have a look from behid the curtains and get a feel for it, and that will dictate what I choose to open up with tonight.
Lotsofmuzik: I looked at the setlists of your recent shows, and it seems like a good balance between old and new material. Do you have a process to pick your setlists or not?
A.N.: We like to play the hits from every record, and honestly, if we were a band of a different style it wouldn’t matter so much, but with hardcore, you get so obsessed with how the crowd is vibing off the songs that we play, so we simply try to focus on the songs that get the best reaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, that’s what it is.
Lotsofmuzik: And would you say there’s ONE particular song that you can’t NOT play every night?
A.N.: “Wake the Dead”!
Lotsofmuzik: I noticed you start a few shows with a song called “G.M. Vincent & I” which was inspired by a car accident with a band that opened for Comeback Kid on tour – what other things do you look for as inspiration for your lyrics?
A.N.: Being depressed, being addicted to certain substances, and as I get into my head a little bit, there’s all kinds of self-deprecating lyrics – I noticed that about myself lately. I try to write things that make sense, and the songs find me before I find them.
Lotsofmuzik: I need to ask you about one of my favourite songs, which I hope will be in the setlist tonight, “Wasted Arrows” – what’s this one about?
A.N.: This one will be in tonight’s setlist for sure, and in short, it’s just about getting burned by someone.
Lotsofmuzik: On your last album, “Outsider”, you guys did a song with Devin Townsed – what was it like working with him?
A.N.: It was cool! I had a song with a part where I was kind of ripping him off, and Jeremy, our guitar player, suggested that we asked him to sing that part. He produced some material from my other band “Sights and Sounds”, so I texted him and said “hey, do you wanna sing a song on our album?”, and he said yes. He recorded it on his own and send it to us. I’m a big fan of Devin!
Lotsofmuzik: What kind of special care do you have to maintain your voice?
A.N.: I don’t! I’m not too big on warm ups or anything like that. But usually, when I’m on tour, I find that consistency helps – if I stick to a certain routine, I’m usually ok.
Lotsofmuzik: Punk is a challenging style to sing, and as you mentioned, you do have a side project called Sights and Sounds where you sing more melodic – which of the two singing styles do you find more challenging?
A.N.: Probably the more melodic stuff. And I play guitar in Sights and Sounds as well, which makes it a bit more challenging too. Actually, I pay to play in Sights and Sounds – we don’t make much money out of it, so it’s a passion project at this point! [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik: Speaking of money, what was the turning point for you, where you knew you could leave your day job and live off of music?
A.N.: I’ve been touring since I got out of high school, so I’ve never been a day job kind of guy. I’ve worked day jobs, but usually I tour so much that I’m only home for a month, so it’s not enough time to get a “proper” job. So I try to make my money stretch when I’m off. I do odd jobs here and there and I also produce bands, but that’s also “term” work – you’re very busy for a couple of weeks or months, and then you’re off for another moth or so. It’s not consistent, but it’s intense, just like touring.
Lotsofmuzik: Your most recent album Outsider is about one year old now – any plans for a follow up?
A.N.: We just released that record, man! [laughs]. And we just released a seven inch two months ago! At this point we’re planning on touring a bit more, and then we’ll see
Lotsofmuzik: Any plans for a 20 years anniversary tour in 2020?
A.N.: Oh yeah, we’ll have to do something special for sure, and capitalize on that.
Lotsofmuzik: Looking back those almost 20 years, is there something you would have done differently?
A.N.: Probably, but I try not to focus too much on that. I mean, I suppose you can learn from your mistakes, but there’s not much point in keep banging your head against the wall because of something you did years ago.
Lotsofmuzik: You just mentioned that you did a few European shows, now you’re touring North America, and there will be a couple of shows in South America soon, right?
A.N.: Yeah, we’re gonna do a few shows with H20 on the West Coast, then we have a few shows with Madball on the East Coast, a festival in Florida, and then we go to South America with Pennywise in December, so it’s shaping up to be a pretty busy year!
Lotsofmuzik: Have a great show tonight, and I hope everything goes well with the tour, man!
A.N.: Thanks, man, take care!
Cover art and traclist of their atest album can be seen below, and the official video for the song Surrender Control as well.
2. Surrender Control
4. Hell Of A Scene
5. Somewhere, Somehow
6. Consumed The Vision
7. I’ll Be That
8. Outrage (Fresh Face, Stale Cause)
10. Livid, I’m Prime
12. Throw That Stone
13. Moment In Time
You can order it through their label Nuclear Blast webpage here:
Talking about the new music video for Rockin' With The Best, Sonny comments: "Rockin' With The Best is direct, raw and in your face, unapologetic sound that has been pioneered by P.O.D. The only question is whether or not you know how to get down with it?"
On November 16th, 2018, Mascot Label Group will release 'Circles,' P.O.D.'s debut for the label. The album is the San Diego band's first since 2015's The Awakening, and comes at a time when the group is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. In the last few years, P.O.D. have performed at the Download Festival, Hellfest, Rock on the Range, River City Rockfest, Carolina Rebellion, and Aftershock Festival, as well as shared stages with In This Moment, Prophets of Rage, Shinedown, and Five Finger Death Punch.
On Circles, P.O.D. collaborated with an L.A.-based production duo called the Heavy, who ensured the album is contemporary-sounding without losing any of the band's core sonic signifiers. The rap-driven "Rockin' With The Best" has an old-school P.O.D. sound that nods to the Beastie Boys, while "Always Southern California" is a reggae-inflected rocker and the groove-heavy "Soundboy Killa" is a hip-hop/metal hybrid. The dynamic title track even boasts moody electronic flourishes, glassy piano, and laid-back rapping verses.
Taken from their upcoming album 'Circles'
Release date: 16 November 2018
Mascot Records / Mascot Label Group
Check out the brand new video for Rockin' With The Best:
The dreamy sounds and vast keyboard harmonies standing next to odd time signatures, heavy riffs and Mariusz Duda’s introverted, yet charismatic vocals provide for a sound that make Riverside unmistakable among modern progressive rock bands. The formation from Poland have appeared into the world of music with a bold move, in form of their big conceptual piece „Reality Dream Trilogy“, consisting of their first three albums. As if this wasn’t enough, bass player, singer and creative mind Duda made sure the band would never stand still, but develop their sound and try something new on each album. Riverside is one of Europe’s finest exports for intensive, melancholic progressive rock.
I remember the first time hearing the romantic piano chords of „Hyperactive“ turning into something dark and, well, hyperactive, and being completely amazed by the seemingly natural succession of different styles and atmospheres. Still, while they have drawn their influences from many great artists, and are admired by many great artists themselves, I have never really given Riverside the attention their music needs to be appreciated. „Anno Domini High Definition“ would remain my only contact with the band - until their performance at this year’s Night Of The Prog Festival, which left me deeply impressed.
After the rather unusual album „Eye Of The Soundscape“, „Wasteland“ is Riverside’s first album completely consisting of new material since the death of their guitarist and founding member Piotr Grudziński. The band decided not to find another guitarist. Instead, Duda replaced Grudziński’s part on upcoming studio albums, while Maciej Meller took on guitar duties on stage. „Wasteland“ is Riverside’s „And Then There Were Three“. While Duda is doing a good job on the guitar, Grudziński’s absence is noticeable. There are no flashy, epic guitar moments, nor are there heavy metal riffs. But then again, the whole album comes across as somewhat of an understatement and is completely free of huge or orchestral passages. At times though, the production of the album is a little too slim and a richer sound could have helped a few riffs to come across better. But that is not always a disadvantage. Instead, „Wasteland“ pursues an organic, retro-like hardrock sound, reminiscent of Opeth’s or Beardfish’s later efforts. The mood is melancholic and introverted, which is perfectly supported by Duda’s clean vocals.
Those vocals open up the album. „The Day Before“ is an almost-acapella track full of unanswerable questions that sets the mood perfectly for the album. It’s mellow, a little marching, and the repetitive character gives off a vibe of recurring thoughts in a man’s head he can’t stop thinking about. Mariusz Duda sings a melody I instantly recognised from the band’s performance at the Night Of The Prog Festival. That of course reflects the quality of the motif, since I had heard it one single time weeks ago and instantly remembered it when hearing it again. While the performed version at the festival was expanded into a full song, the album version is merely two minutes long and functions as an intro. This track would have had the potential for more, but it works perfectly as what it is and segues very well into the following song.
„Acid Rain“ is a classic rocker that stands at the beginning of a prog album. A dark but catchy riff opens up this two-parter, before Duda’s inconspicuous vocals kick in. The song has a great hymnic chorus that sounds a little like Muse. This is not the only time this comparison comes to mind. The synth arpeggios and hammond organ make for a slightly apocalyptic character and stand in perfect contrast with the calm way in which Mariusz Duda sings his lines. This hook is so good that I will dare to say „Acid Rain“ is my favourite track on the album. After around three minutes, the song evolves into a sing-along choral with another hook impossible to get out of your head, but still with a slightly mellow vibe. The combination of the keyboard sounds, the acoustic and electric guitars build up a very Floyd-esque atmosphere. The song doesn’t come back to the original chorus, nor does it end with a huge bang or orchestral reprise. Another evidence for the understatement this album is making.
„Vale Of Tears“ once again reminds me of Muse. It’s a straight rocker with some cool riffs, imaginative rhythmic irregularities and a quiet chorus. But during this song, the production issue becomes most evident. The guitar could have used a little more distortion, the snare could sound a little less like its wires and more like Dom Howard during „Panic Station“, the bass could be louder. This becomes very obvious during the instrumental middle section. The hymnic march and the dark, rocking riff are supposed to build up suspense and Mariusz Duda is providing a great guitar solo. A little more wall of sound would have helped that. But maybe that’s just me. The composition is still very good, and I’m sure that this song will work fantastically on stage.
The fourth song, „Guardian Angel“, is a beautiful little ballad, only instrumented with guitar and piano. The main motif is so catchy that it could actually work as a pop tune, but Duda just performs his vocals an octave deeper than expected, which almost results in a whisper and, in connection with some spacey electric guitar lines, builds up a very intimate atmosphere. „Guardian Angel“ is not a huge masterpiece, but it’s a touching tune with a personal vibe to it.
The slow „Lament“ is a little weak point on the album. It picks up some themes from the opener „The Day Before“ and is carried by the fragile voice of Mariusz Duda. The verses and bridges work very well, but they are followed by a chorus that is not strong enough for a floating song like this. By far the best parts of the track are the quiet middle section and the dreamy coda, which are both made perfect by a „lamenting“ violin.
But the listener is quickly reimbursed by the longest song of the album, a ten minute instrumental called „The Struggle For Survival“. The opening guitar once again lacks an appropriate guitar sound, but the arrangement constructed around the lick compensates for that. The two and a half minute long intro does a very good job building up suspense, before some slightly heavier riffs kick in and give the album a much needed push. Still, this song could also have used some richer sounding drums and a distorted guitar. But the composition and Duda’s bass lines are indisputable. Some wordless vocals close the song with a melancholic vibe and form a good transition into the second of three ballads on the album, „River Down Below“. This song begins with an Opeth-like intro by an acoustic guitar and once again great vocals. This song features a touching chorus and a very well crafted arrangement. The verses and choruses are instrumented with a beautifully played acoustic guitar, a fragile mellotron and a hammond organ that goes perfectly with the vocal harmonies. „Take me to the river down below“ - truly beautiful. The song finds its climax in a Gilmour-esque guitar solo accompanied by a distorted organ (not unlike the one in Steven Wilson’s „The Holy Drinker“), which stands in contrast to the floating, peaceful character the song had before. „River Down Below“ had me at first listen, and I still consider it to be one of the best songs of the album.
The following title track begins - similar to „The Struggle For Survival“ - with several acoustic guitars and a carefully built arrangement of piano and electric guitars. The intro features the only lyrics of the song and some wordless harmonised choral passages. „Wasteland“ takes almost three minutes until it bursts out into an instrumental breakdown. The following melody is reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s epic compositions for just about any Spaghetti Western you can think of and it’s built up for over two and a half minutes. This beautiful homage is even made complete with a tremolo guitar and a soprano voice supporting the motif. At the end of the song, almost every theme is reprised in a majestic, yet not too bombastic finale, which makes this composition seem like a circle. „Wasteland“ is the final big statement of the album and my personal favourite next to „Acid Rain“.
The album closes with the third ballad named „The Night Before“, contrasting the opening track’s title „The Day After“. This final song is a lullaby cleverly playing with 5/8 and 6/8 time signatures and featuring a beautifully played piano by Michał Łapaj. It’s a quiet way to close this album, and it functions perfectly as somewhat of a coda to the title track’s more opulent finale.
„Wasteland“ is a good statement for the introverted, melancholic side of Riverside. The lack of heavier guitars and a bigger sound was certainly intended, but they could have helped a lot of passages to come across better. At other times, the retro-hard rock sound suits the music very well. However, the compositions and arrangements are out of the question. The album is packed with sensitive, soulful passages, moderately heavy riffs, instrumental breakdowns and great vocals, as well as some fantastic songs. This will be my album for the upcoming autumn.
10/15 (11 with a richer production) Favourites: Acid Rain, Wasteland
The album it's out NOW under the label InsideOut
Riverside “Wasteland” tracklist (50:58):
1. The Day After (01:48)
2. Acid Rain (06:03)
Part I. Where Are We Now?
Part II. Dancing Ghosts
3. Vale Of Tears (04:49)
4. Guardian Angel (04:24)
5. Lament (06:09)
6. The Struggle For Survival (09:32)
Part I. Dystopia
Part II. Battle Royale
7. River Down Below (05:41)
8. Wasteland (08:25)
9. The Night Before (03:59)
Mariusz Duda - vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piccolo bass, banjo, guitar solo on 'Lament’ and 'Wasteland'
Michał Łapaj - keyboards and synthesizers, rhodes piano and Hammond organ, theremin on 'Wasteland’
Piotr Kozieradzki – drums
“Each album is its own fresh start, and you shouldn't compare it to what we've done before” – Charlie Griffiths of Haken talks about their new album, “Vector”
There are very few prog metal bands who can claim to be as innovative, creative and restively dynamic as Haken. Since their formation in 2007, they have shown over four previous studio albums, one EP and a live release that they never stand still, merely satisfied to rely on past triumphs. Rather, Haken always look for ways to challenge themselves as musicians and artists, and also to keep the listeners on their collective toes.
Their fifth studio record sees the band going in a heavier direction with the music. But if this album, titled 'Vector', is musically heavy, then there's an underlying theme running through the seven songs which is certainly esoteric and fascinating: it explores the relationship between a sadistic doctor and a confused patient. Producer Adam 'Nolly' Getgood did a fantastic job, and extracted perhaps the best drum sound on any Haken album. And the Shattered Fortress tour, where members of Haken helped Mike Portnoy relive the songs from his time in Dream Theater, has left an indelible mark on the band, which can be experienced on “Vector”.
Gearing up for the upcoming North American tour with Leprous and Bent Knee, Haken’s guitar player Charlie Griffith took some time to chat with Lotsofmuzik’s collaborator Rodrigo Altaf and discuss the writing process of “Vector”, the decision making process of the band, and several aspects of the new album.
Lotsofmuzik - Tell us about the writing and recording process of the new album Vector – it seems like yesterday that I saw you guys here in Toronto last year, and you’re back with a brand new album!
Charlie Griffiths - Yes! We’ve been pretty busy. We kind of haven't stopped since we did Affinity and did the tour supporting that album. Then we were also doing the Mike Portnoy Shattered Fortress tour at the same time last year. That was a pretty busy time and we had a lot of music in our heads. I remember at one point we had five hours’ worth of music memorized between the two different bands! [laughs] And during the Australian part of the Shattered Fortress tour in November we had some days off - we would do a show and then we'd have a day off and then we’d fly to the next city, and we actually started during those days off to sort of reconvene in a hotel room and start writing. And that was when we had the very first seeds of a couple of songs: “A Cell Divides”, which is the last song on the album, “Puzzle Box” and “The Good Doctor”. And we kind of had the demos with programmed parts. We just keep working on them more or less until Christmas, and it was really pretty quick after that, once we had an idea of what the album was going to be, we went through it in a somewhat logical way. Really, this was probably the most organized we've ever been about the final outcome of an album. We’re usually a bit more loose with the writing process and write loads of stuff, and put it together like a jigsaw at the end of it. But this time we had quite a good idea of what we wanted since the start, and we stuck to it. It took about six months from the initial ideas to actually getting the final master, so it was was a pretty good process.
Lotsofmuzik – The first thing that caught my attention when listening to the new album is how great the drums are sounding in this release. I understand that Raymond [Hearne, drums] worked with producer Adam 'Nolly' Getgood to achieve that drum sound, right?
CG - Yeah, exactly. He’s kind of renowned for his drum sounds, and he’s worked with a lot of bands we like: Sikth, his own band Periphery, Devin Townsend and we were impressed with the sounds of the albums he’s worked on. I've known him for years as a guitar player - on the scene in the UK, especially in the progressive genre, everyone knows everyone in a roundabout way kind of thing. So we met ten years ago or something like that and just kind of loosely stayed in touch and I'd always wanted to work with him. And once we started writing the songs, it became apparent that he would really be the man to produce this album. We were interested in hearing his vision applied to these songs, to put it that way. So he came down, he lives up in Bristol, which is a couple of hours out of London, not really that far. He came down to London where we recorded the drums and set up drums with Ray the way he likes to do it and brought some of his own drums and tuned them specifically how he does it. And that's really the reason why they sound like they do.
Lotsofmuzik – Another thing I noticed is the Muse influence on a few songs – the keyboard arpeggios on a few songs, and certain vocal melodies here and there – I never took you guys for Muse fans!
CG - Oh yeah man, we're big Muse fans! What I like about Muse that they’re kind of pop, with catchy choruses, but at the same time they have classical influences which are played through these analog synths. And that was actually one of Diego's mission statements for this album - he wanted to avoid any kind of orchestral sounds, string samples or brass and stuff like that, which we've done a lot of in the past to be given a kind of epic sound. But this time he kind of wanted to challenge himself and see if he could do an album by going outside of your comfort zone and only use analog synth sounds. So when you say you hear Muse influences, that’s probably because of that choice of arrangements for keyboards.
Lotsofmuzik – You toured with Mike Portnoy on the Shattered Fortress tour when he revisited his time with Dream Theater – has this affected the way that Vector turned out?
CG - I think so. I mean, I can only speak personally, but I certainly think so on the song “Veil” - just the kind of intensity and energy of that song. I think that we wanted to try and capture the feeling of playing those Dream Theater songs like “The Glass Prison” and “This Dying Soul”. Both of them have this intense thing of staying twenty minutes on a stage just nonstop laying heavy riffs, like intense music and that was always my favorite part of the show. I really enjoyed the intensity of it, and wanted to try and capture that feeling, so that when we get to play “Veil” live, it will be like reliving that moment and that emotion a little bit. So from that point of view, doing the Shattered Fortress Tour influenced “Vector”, definitely, and “Veil” is probably my favorite song on the album.
Lotsofmuzik – Whose idea was it to use the trumpet at the beginning of “Host”? I couldn't help but notice a “film noir” vibe at the beginning of that song.
CG - That's actually a flugelhorn, which sounds quite similar to a trumpet. That was actually Ray’s idea. On the demo, Diego had an analog sound which was kind of similar to a brass instrument and Ray was quite adamant that he could hear a flugelhorn at that point. Not many people know this, but he’s an orchestral player, and he has a lot of friends who are brass players, trumpet players etc. He had a friend that he had in mind that would be perfect for that and he actually came down for a day during the drum recordings and recorded ten different solos over that. It definitely has a kind of film noir feel to it. Actually, one of the working titles of “A Cell Divides” was “Tech Noir”, so we definitely had some sort of mix of film noirs with technology – Blade Runner, Terminator etc., that kind of vibe.
Lotsofmuzik – The first song to be revealed, “The Good Doctor”, is by far the catchiest song in the entire album, and was a no-brainer choice for first single, right?
CG – Actually we had a debate about it, and some of us wanted to put out “Puzzle Box” first, because it's a heavier song and it's a bit more representative of the sound of the album. But we had discussions with the label, and when they heard ‘The Good Doctor” they said, “yeah, that's definitely a lead single”. And at the end of the day I'm glad we put it out first, because people responded to it.
Lotsofmuzik: I found it very clever how this song talks about mental disease in the lyrics but it has a kind of happy feel to it, especially in the chorus.
CG - The idea of the song is that it describes an ECT [Electroconvulsive therapy]. It was inspired by the famous scene from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, where in the 50’s this technique was used to lobotomize people. Today it’s used with a different aim, and with a more humane technique, but, you know, back in the fifties it was, it was a bit more brutal. I think what I would like people to do is to actually get a physical copy of the album because we'll be putting a lot of stuff in the booklet, the CD booklet. We’re going to tell the story visually, and the booklet has doctor's notes and prescriptions, with a psychological wording. And it tells you when the story's taking place as well, which will help get a lot more context. But going back to “The Good Doctor”, much like “Nurse Ratchet” in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, he kind of enjoys tormenting the patients and the song plays with the idea that in this case, this doctor enjoys punishing this person, this subject on the album. So that's why it's got a happy feeling, because the doctor is happy about it, enjoying what he’s doing! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik – On “Puzzle Box” you go back to the electronic sounds that were used prominently on Affinity, and the middle section is insanely heavy too. Is it true that Haken’s original keyboard player Peter Jones did some work on that track as well?
CG - Yeah, that's right. He programmed all the electronic drums that you hear, particularly on the most chilled middle section of “Puzzle Box”. Those kind of glitchy drums that go on in that middle section, you know? And it was cool to have an original member back as a guest, we felt great about it.
Lotsofmuzik – The album is quite short compared to your other efforts – we’re used to having more than an hour of music from you guys – was that intentional, or a consequence of the busy schedule of the band?
CG – It kinda was intentional. We wanted to make more of a metal album than a prog album, and I looked at all of my favorite metal albums and they were all around forty minutes. Take Megadeth’s “Rust In Peace” for example. To me this is like the perfect metal album, and it lasts around forty minutes. It’s just perfect as it is, and I’ve never heard anyone complain that it’s too short! [laughs]. So that was the idea actually. We were aiming to make a forty minute album, and kind of expanded just a bit above that. But we definitely wanted to keep it short and concise and to the point.
Lotsofmuzik: The example I always use is Van Halen II, which clocks in at thirty six minutes, and it's just amazing from start to finish - not a note is wasted on that one!
CG – Yeah, we basically had our ideas laid out and it filled just around forty minutes, and just didn’t want to fill up time just for the sake of it, because that's what people are used to. Each album is its own fresh start, and you shouldn't compare it to what we've done before - it's simply its own thing. Nobody asked Stephen Spielberg when he made “The Color Purple” “why are there no sharks in it?” just because he had made “Jaws” [laughs]. For sure you don't go into it expecting there to be full of sharks or aliens. You should go in with a fresh blank mind and willing to accept it for what it is. And that’s how we’d like our fans to listen to our new album – with a fresh pair of ears and not expecting us to do the same as before.
Lotsofmuzik – Do you often reflect on how much you all have evolved as musicians? Because the change is palpable when you compare your first album to Vector, don’t you think?
CG - I guess we do. To me it's gone pretty quick. It really just seems like yesterday that we did Aquarius and Visions, and we haven't really stopped since then. We're not extremely focused on playing better or faster, we're just trying to stay inspired and make sure that what we're writing is true to what we're actually feeling at the time. And even planning some of the “Affinity” material now, it takes us back to a different mindset that we were in when we recorded it, you know, it brings back memories. I think we've really improved as songwriters and lyricists, but what do I know - some people still prefer Aquarius over anything else we’ve done. So on certain aspects, that’s really hard to say [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik – Tell us what the plans are for the upcoming Haken and Leprous tour.
CG - We've only just figured out the set list we're going to play, and we’re trying to keep it balanced between the “Vector” songs, which we’re of course excited about playing, and some familiar stuff in there as well because it's going to be quite close to the release of the album - the tour starts a few days after it's released, and we want people to know what they're listening to. So yeah, we were going to be playing some old stuff and some new stuff, and it’s going to be about half and half. As for Leprous, I've got no idea what they’ll play! [laughs]
Lotsofmuzik: I was thinking you would bring Einar Solberg, the Leprous singer, to sing the part he did in the studio for “The Architect” with you, but that part is only like ten seconds long, so I guess it won’t be practical, right?
CG - Actually, I can tell you now that “The Architect” won’t be in the setlist. We actually just played in Transylvania a few weeks ago at a festival, Leprous was going to play the following day, but they happened to be there earlier, so he sang that song with us. We've done it a few times with him, and it’s always great. It’s kinda funny, because off stage he’s reserved, quiet this tiny person, but he seems a lot bigger when he gets to the stage [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik - On the last tour you had the Haken coffee and the 80’s-themed sunglasses on the merch stand. What kind of things are you bringing this time?
CG – We might be bringing coffee again, but a different blend, some cool t-shirt designs…we work with this company called Blacklake Design, which has been working for us since “The Mountain”, and they always come up with the coolest t-shirts. Maybe hats and a few other things.
Lotsofmuzik – No “The Good Doctor” stethoscopes then?
CG – [laughs] that’s a cool idea, but no! [laughs]. Actually, if anyone’s interested in buying the VIP packages, there’s a bunch of cool merch exclusively available for those who buy it. Particularly the t-shirt is great – it will be a VIP package for both bands, so we came up with a t-shirt that combines one of the very few things we have in common: Leprous has a song about a fly, and we have “Cockroach King”, so the t-shirt has an insect in it! [laughs]. The only crossover between the bands is insects, and we decide to call this tour “The Entomology” [laughs]. That t-shirt will only be available for those who buy the VIP package.
Lotsofmuzik – I also noticed you guys will be touring South America next year with Intervals on a few shows, right?
CG - Yeah, we came over with Mike Portnoy last year, but collectively as Haken, this will be our first time in South America. Honestly, they were the best crowd ever! From the first down beat they’re already jumping on the air and screaming – it’s insane! I can’t wait for it!
Lotsofmuzik – With more albums under your belt it gets harder and harder to put together a setlist – what’s your process?
CG - When you release a new album, it's kind of obvious which songs are going to work better live. In this case it’s going to be the heavier, more high energy songs. Those are the ones that we're looking forward to playing. As I said before, we want to keep it kind of balanced, so as to not alienate people in the audience that haven't heard the new stuff, you know, and to have enough familiar stuff. We try to keep a balanced set, but it's kind of hard because of time constraints and a lot of our songs are very long. When we did the 10th anniversary tour we did a medley of Aquarius - we took all our favorite parts of the album and made a twenty minute version of it so that we could play that every night. It worked well, we enjoyed playing it, and at least people got to hear some of that album.
Lotsofmuzik – I also noticed you don’t all live in the same place – Diego lives in Mexico and Conner is in Indiana, and everyone else is in the UK - what kind of system do you have in place to make decisions in the band, to rehearse for tours and write new music?
CG - We use Whatsapp everyday. If you don't check your phone for like a couple of hours, you come back to it and there are like fifty messages on it, just on the Haken group! [laughs]. We're constantly in touch with each other every day, talking about whatever's coming up. We've just been discussing the setlist, the merch, and we're working with the label as well on the release schedule, what single's going to be released when etc. Everyone has an opinion, and we try to come to an agreement on the issues as a committee, so it doesn't really matter that those guys are across the Atlantic. Richard and I live minutes away from each other, but still we never see each other! I see him as much as I see Diego, who lives in Mexico City. Very often, it's just easier to communicate by email or what have you, you know, and we'll figure out when we're going to rehearse and then that's where we'll figure out the logistics of that, all the flights and everything and where are we going, where we're going to rehearse etc. And then we'll have a couple of days blocked out and then everyone will arrive at the rehearsal studio, and leading up to that, we’ve all done our homework, we've, we've learned in our parts and practiced a lot. When we get in the rehearsal room, we can pretty much just play through the set in, in one go. If you’ve done your homework, then it’s fine. You don't have to be together week after week refining it – if we prepare for it, we can take two days to do it, as opposed to weeks and weeks of rehearsals.
Lotsofmuzik: I’m looking forward to your show here in Toronto – it’ll be on Halloween, and I can’t wait for it!
CG – Oh, that will be a special night, we’ll dress up in costumes, so come see us there! [laughs].
Lotsofmuzik: I surely will! Thank you for your time, and all the best with “Vector” and the new tour!
CG – Thanks!
Haken’s “Vector” is set for release on October 26th 2018 via InsideOut, cover art and the tracklist can be seen below.
2.The Good Doctor (03:58)
3.Puzzle Box (07:45)
5.Nil By Mouth (07:11)
7.A Cell Divides (05:00)
Ross Jennings – Vocals
Charlie Griffiths – Guitar
Rich Henshall – guitar & keys
Diego Tejeida – keys
Conner Green – bass
Raymond Hearne – drums
Enter the 5th Dimension (2007 Demo)
The Mountain (2013)
Restoration (EP) (2014)
[Special thanks to Nick Andreas]
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