Now Available As A Podcast…

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NOW AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST…

“Prog-Scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)”
Show #7, February 17, 2018

Featuring music from After The Fall, Anthriel, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, Credo, Dale, Electric Food, Fireballet, Genesis, Heart of Cygnus, Jane, Kraan, Mind’s Eye, Mechanical Poet, Overture, Panic Room, Rough Diamond, Seven Steps To The Green Door, The Shadow Theory, StoneRider, Thieves’ Kitchen, Trillion, Violet District, and White Willow.

Listen or Download: https://archive.org/details/ProgScureShow7

Now Available As A Podcast…

ProgScure_PromoBannerNOW AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST…

“Prog-Scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)”
Show #6, February 14, 2018

Featuring music from 3rDegree, Adagio, Angel, Armonite, Babe Ruth, D’Accord, Druckfarben, Epitaph, Gino Vanelli, Ian Gillan Band, Khan, League of Lights, Magnum, Mentor’s Wish, New Trolls, Paradigm Shift, Riff Raff, Socrates, Sweet Smoke, Thirteen of Everything, Twelfth Night, Uriah Heep, and Wallenstein.
https://archive.org/details/ProgScureShow6

Expanded Radio Show

ProgScure_PromoBanner_NewDOUBLE THE PROG-SCURE = DOUBLE THE PROG-FUN!

That’s right, “Prog-scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)” is expanding to TWO SHOWS PER WEEK. Not only will Prog-Scure continue at its regular time each Wednesday from 8-11 AM (CST), but an entirely new show will also be presented each Saturday from 1-4 PM (CST). So instead of savoring music from more than twenty artists of the past fifty years each week, you’ll have the opportunity to revel in more than forty, doubling the Prog-Fun!

Coming this week…

WEDNESDAY, 02/14/18, 8-11 AM (CST)
Including music from 3RDegree, Adagio, Armonite, D’AccorD, Druckfarben, League of Lights, Magnum, Paradigm Shift, Uriah Heep, and many more.

SATURDAY, 02/17/18, 1-4 PM (CST)
Including music from Anthriel, Credo, Heart of Cygnus, Mechanical Poet, Panic Room, Seven Steps To The Green Door, The Shadow Theory, StoneRider, Thieves’ Kitchen, White Willow, and many more.

Join me for the shows at http://progrock.com
Visit the chatroom during the shows at http://progrock.com/chat
Previous shows available at https://archive.org/details/@zap_niles

Now Available As A Podcast…

ProgScure_PromoBannerNOW AVAILABLE AS A PODCAST…

“Prog-Scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present)”
Show #5, February 07, 2018

Featuring music from Agnes Strange, Anyone’s Daughter, Blue Mammoth, Crucible, Crystal Lake, Dave Kerzner, Ethos, Everon, Golden Earring, Harvest, Introitus, Little Atlas, Moonrise, Now, Omega, Pictures, Shadow Circus, Skeem, Vienna Circle, Waste Lagoon, and Xsavior.
https://archive.org/details/ProgScureShow5

This Wednesday, 02/07/18, on Prog-Scure

ProgScure_PromoBannerTHIS WEDNESDAY – on “Prog-scure: Obscure Bands on the Prog-Rock Scene (Past & Present),” hear music from more than twenty artists of the past fifty years, including Blue Mammoth, Dave Kerzner, Harvest, Introitus, Little Atlas, Moonrise, Shadow Circus, Skeem, and Vienna Circle.

Join me for the show at http://progrock.com
THIS WEDNESDAY, 02/07/18, FROM 8-11 AM (CST)

Podcasts Now Available

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Hear or Download My Podcasts

Prog-Scure: Show #1 – Recorded January 10, 2018
Featuring music from After Forever, Ambrosia, Animator, Armageddon, Birth Control, Bloodrock, Grace, Gravy Train, Grobschnitt, It Bites, Legend, Lucifer’s Friend, Magenta, Max Webster, Mindwarp Chamber, Scarlet Hollow, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Siena Root, Stories, and Ursa Major.

Prog-Scure: Show #2 – Recorded January 17, 2018
Featuring music from Abraxas, Advent, Bad Dreams, Beyond The Bridge, Captain Beyond, Damon Shulman, Druid, Ezra, Friar Rush, Guru Guru, Hands, Hellfield, Imminent Sonic Destruction, Janus, Landmarq, Maestrick, Mona Lisa, New England, The Othello Syndrome, Ragnarok, Ricocher, Stories, Think Floyd, and The Watch.

Prog-Scure: Show #3 – Recorded January 24, 2018
Featuring music from Astarte Syriaca, Be-Bop Deluxe, Cell15, Cyan, Dynamic Lights, Epsilon, Frogg Cafe, Gentle Giant, Iluvatar, Journey, King Eider, Maze Of Time, Nektar, Pell Mell, Ritual, Shaolin Death Squad, Simon Says, Violent Silence, Wingdom, and Yezda Urfa.

Prog-Scure: Show #4 – Recorded January 31, 2018
Featuring music from Alan Parson’s Project, Andromeda, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Cressida, Distorted Harmony, The Emerald Dawn, Felony, Grand Prix, Indian Summer, Jack Yello, Kaipa, Kevlar Red, Lord of Mushrooms, Madsword, Moon Safari, Neuschwanstein, Novalis, Phil Manzanera (801), Poverty’s No Crime, Strongbow, Three Man Army, and Welcome.

Syzygy – Realms of Eternity (2009)

Syzygy_RealmsEternity4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Like the heavily Gentle Giant-influenced album The Allegory of Light, Syzygy’s impressive debut from 2003, Realms of Eternity, the Ohio band’s sophomore release—or its third, depending if one counts a single platter the group issued under the name Witsend back in the ’90s—still has those same influences sprinkled throughout when it comes to several tracks, but here the musicians have also considerably expanded their style into numerous other realms. And for this outing, the band also brought in accomplished vocal powerhouse Mark Boals, who surprisingly doesn’t sound like the “normal” Mark Boals I’d come to admire from ultra-slamming albums he did with Ring Of Fire, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc., but instead has trimmed away much of the former gruffness from his vocal cords, and his smoother tone and occasionally dramatic delivery seem absolutely perfect for this intriguing material.

On both shorter and lengthier tracks such as “Dreams,” “The Sea,” “Darkfield,” “Variations, Parts 1 & 2,” “Vanitas,” and the mammoth and glorious “Dialectic,” the band delves deeper into Yes and Genesis territory, featuring countless passages, shifting moods, and elaborate scoring, while also giving generous nods toward outfits such as Spock’s Beard, Moon Safari, The Flower Kings, Jethro Tull, Transatlantic, etc., all of which makes for another grand affair of classic Symphonic Prog-Rock with a touch of Avant-Prog.

Although the vocal segments are generally melodious, with a few songs openly flirting with Pomp Rock and AOR-styled choruses, the band simultaneously injects layered and labyrinthine harmony arrangements that once again bring the Gentle Giant influences to the fore. Meanwhile, the band delivers the vigorous and astounding material with top-quality musicianship. Indeed, the nimble fingers of guitarist Carl Baldassarre and keyboardist Sam Guinta continually impress, while bassist Al Rolik and drummer Paul Mihacevich consistently direct the band through twists and turns galore, showcasing everyone’s sheer diversity and talent.

As a quick aside, I must declare that it’s a crying shame the grayscale cover art is so damned bland and sedate, since the music on offer is the complete opposite—colorful, exciting, and vibrant—and the artwork doesn’t even come close in reflecting what’s in store for the listener.

Anyway, since this terrific release, the group put out a live “digipak” album in 2012, then Cosmos and Chaos in 2014, a “20th Anniversary Compendium” of the album previously issued under the Witsend name from 1993, but no other fresh material. I’m just hoping the band is still active and in the process of creating additional Prog-Rock magic for a future release.

Now, can someone please tell me once and for all how to actually pronounce the name of this exceptional band? 🙂

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Dave Kerzner – Static (2017)

DaveKerzner_Static4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The name of Florida-based keyboardist and vocalist Dave Kerzner first came to my attention back in 2015 when investigating a band called Sound of Contact, a Prog-Rock act that also included drummer Simon Collins (son of Phil Collins, of Genesis fame). The group’s sole album in 2013, Dimensionaut, proved fairly impressive, especially when it came to Kerzner’s grand and symphonic keyboard arrangements. So in 2016, when I saw Kerzner’s name in association with yet another new band, this one called Mantra Vega (also including vocalist Heather Findlay from Mostly Autumn), I snatched it up without question. And once again, the keyboard-rich material on that debut, The Illusion’s Reckoning, made a terrific first impression. So Kerzner was “two for two” in my book, and I started delving into the man’s background, seeing what else I might have missed.

Well, one of the tidbits I unearthed was that the keyboardist had also delivered a solo album in 2014, New World, which became another “no-brainer” for me when it came to the decision of purchasing it. And, no great shock, the album ended up being another first-class winner. This time, however, Kerzner provided the lead vocals (along with keyboards, some guitars, bass, and drums, and the proverbial kitchen sink, I’m sure) as well as composed and produced lush and breathtaking soundscapes, his performances enhanced with the aid of various Prog-Rock cohorts, such as drummers Nick D’Virgilio and Simon Phillips, guitarists Steve Hackett and Francis Dunnery, and even the magnificent Keith Emerson himself (RIP), to name but a few. Okay, I decided, so the guy not only knows some top-notch people in “the biz,” but has talent—considerable and enviable talent at that!

So, with his name indelibly emblazoned in my mind, I certainly did not miss the announcement of Kerzner’s latest album, Static, which he dropped on the Prog-Rock community in late 2017. And guess what? Yes, it’s another gem, this time with Kerzner repeating his songwriting, performing, and production duties as skillfully, enjoyably, and as powerfully as he did on his first solo effort. And like before, a wealth of “guests” (most notably Hackett and D’Virgilio again) pop up on several tracks, but despite the presence of these musicians injecting their own talents on various tunes, it also becomes crystal clear that, like the previous album, Static is easily Kerzner’s beautifully and lovingly nurtured baby. Indeed, with both New World and Static in his arsenal, creating a one-two punch of musical muscle, Kerzer can now claim his own distinctive sound/style, much in the same way as other solo musicians (Neil Morse instantly springs to mind) has his own identifiable brand stamped on each new collection of tracks he releases under his own moniker.

Sure, amidst the varied tunes, both brief and lengthy compositions, I can sometimes hear, as examples, a bit of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Spock’s Beard, and Transatlantic influences, but Kerzner never attempts to clone any other artist. He doesn’t need to, actually, since his creativity seems to know no bounds.

Aside from the brief “Prelude,” the album opens with a mighty and sardonic bang in the form of the upbeat, glorious, and occasionally eclectic “Hypocrites,” a track that includes everything from numerous and diverse passages, tempo shifts, ballsy guitar rhythms and leads, keyboards galore (including Mellotron and synth solos), and creepy digital ambience tossed in for good measure. The vocals, done in luscious multi-part harmony for the most part, do seem to have a “David Gilmour/Pink Floyd” flavor when it comes to Kerzner’s range, timbre, and execution, but heck, the man can’t help it if his voice possesses a few homogeneous traits of another singer, right? He does, however, do much to avoid direct comparisons, delivering the lyrics with layered harmonies and electronic enhancements. And in the end, this track is a real corker, and one of my favorites—”we’re all hypocrites”—indeed!

The title track, on the other hand, is—music-wise—pretty much in direct opposition to the previous tune, with a dreamy, keyboard-grounded background over a lazy rhythm, luxuriant in its spacier atmosphere and laid-back vocal delivery. In other words, more along the lines of groups such as Pink Floyd or Airbag. Whereas on the quirkier and bopping “Reckless,” the poppish vocal melody, varied and highly creative instrumentation, and overall eccentric character of the song arrangement suddenly brings to mind the wonderfully produced material released by the late Kevin Gilbert on his The Shaming of the True release. And no shock that Kerzner might have adopted some of the same “sound/style” qualities as Gilbert, considering the two had worked together in and around the group Giraffe and the latter’s solo material.

From this point forward, the album moves at a brisk clip, with several shorter, more direct tunes such as “Chain Reaction” and “Millennium Man” (which remind me of the catchier, straightforward side of artists such as World Trade or Trevor Rabin, only with multifarious studio enhancements and Prog-Rock embellishments), “Trust,” “State of Innocence,” and “Right Back to the Start” (delightfully mellow ballads that I can easily envision Art Rock artists such as Roxy Music or 10cc would have killed to release decades ago if given the studio capabilities of the modern age), and “Quiet Storm” and “Statistic” (electronically enriched tracks that add avant-garde strangeness to the overall collection).

And then, the album closes with “The Carnival of Modern Life,” the nearly seventeen-minute magnum-opus, which deserves (no, it demands) its own paragraph. Talk about varied and strange, this wickedly creative track has it all when it comes to Prog-Rock magic…heck, just look at the eerie cover art (thanks to equally brilliant artist Ed Unitsky) and that should give you an idea as to the song’s off-the-wall qualities when it comes to numerous melodies, rhythms, and sound effects. Yet, the organs and synths, the guitar and bass runs, and the vocals performed in the same multi-layered resplendence as the aforementioned “Hypocrites” all work to perfection. In fact, the track’s mischievously assorted instrumentation and sundry mood shifts reflect the often-insane reality of modern society’s ever-alternating viewpoints and occasional mass-hysteria moments. How long it took Kerzner to piece together and mix this mammoth masterpiece is beyond me, but my guess would be months, since the level of detail with the shifting song arrangements, the various sound effects and voice-overs that add atmospheric tinsel, would seem a mighty daunting task. But damn it, the whole track works, therefore, bravo to the mastermind behind this daring and audacious composition.

So in total, Kerzner has once again delivered an album of exceptional quality, and now, after reveling in his work for several years, I can clearly and undoubtedly declare that the man has a laser-focused brain and boundless imagination for creating engaging music in the Prog-Rock variety. And I’m so damned covetous!

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Saga – Silent Knight (1980)

Saga_SilentKnight4.5 out of 5 Stars!

When it comes to Saga’s third album, the first album I purchased by this Canadian band back in 1980—on a whim, actually, due to the eye-catching cover art—the instant I heard the synth intro to the opening track “Don’t Be Late,” I fell in love. Indeed, I clearly recall listening to the album several times in a row, then dashing to the record store the very next day to purchase the band’s prior two albums to discover all that I had missed thus far.

Including the dramatic opening tune, the superbly produced Silent Knight is brimming with synth magic, thanks to dual keyboardists Jim Gilmour and Michael Sadler, with the music expertly accented by an unsung guitar hero in the form of Ian Crichton, whose distinctive sound and dexterous style proved the icing on the proverbial cake. Add to that the ever-melodic bass riffs of Jim Crichton and the solid tempos of drummer Steve Negus, then toss in Sadler’s instantly identifiable vocals, and what you get is a collection of lush and glossy Prog-Rock with generous AOR overtones.

Along with “Don’t Be Late,” many of the additional songs included in this collection, such as “Too Much to Lose,” “What’s It Gonna Be,” “Help Me Out,” “Compromise,” and the stunning closer “Careful Where You Step,” display the band firing on full Prog-Rock cylinders. The labyrinthine song arrangements and creative instrumentation proved to be quite brilliant in their subtlety and polished execution, while Sadler’s vocal melodies etched their way into the listener’s skull, forging a permanent home in the memory banks like any of the best AOR songs of the period. Although Silent Knight wouldn’t become the band’s breakthrough album—that would come the following year with Worlds Apart, when Saga suddenly became MTV’s video darlings thanks to the single “On the Loose”—this third album cemented a solid foundation for the band’s deserved success.

Unbelievably, despite several lineup changes and a temporary break-up or two, Saga pretty much stayed around in some form or another for four full decades (officially calling it quits in 2017, its fortieth year) and I’ve stuck with the group for the entire ride (more than twenty studio albums), regardless of several “iffy” releases along the way where the group experimented with less-Progressive styles and sounds. Thankfully, however, those missteps proved few and far between. Nevertheless, Silent Knight will forever remain my favorite Saga album, since not only was it my introduction to the group, but the opening synth-riff to “Don’t Be Late” still has the power to put a smile on my face, even after all these many years.

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Traumhaus – Traumhaus (2001)

Traumhaus_14.5 out of 5 Stars!

Traumhaus is one of my favorite new “recently discovered” outfits. In my estimation, the band comes across almost as a German-language version of Symphonic Prog/Neo-Prog groups such as IQ, Galahad, Magellan, Pendragon, Also Eden, Leap Day, and Transatlantic, with (sadly) only three releases to its credit.

The band’s self-titled debut album, like its subsequent two collections, features terrific keyboard-rich material with a few heavier elements tossed in, thanks mostly to forceful guitar sprinkled throughout and the occasionally powerful rhythms amidst the pompish synths. Additionally, although most tracks on this debut fall between the five and nine minute mark, relatively short by Prog-Rock standards, another composition, “Ausgeliefert,” is a nearly eighteen-minute grand and glorious epic, acting as the album’s unrivaled centerpiece. But regardless of the various song lengths, many of the tunes, including “Zu Spat,” “Wandler,” “Am Abgrund,” plus the two instrumentals “Peter und Der Wolf” and “Navanita,” contain complex orchestration, sweeping keyboard backgrounds and nimble synth solos, tempo variations, numerous moods, and melodies galore.

One note of warning: the vocals, sung in the band’s native language as mentioned above, do sound a tad harsh, almost intrusive at times, and may not appeal to some listeners. Thankfully, on many tracks, the vocals are not the main focus, taking a backseat to the often-stunning instrumentation.

Nevertheless, Traumhaus is one band I’m praying will release another album in the near future since the most recent one (Das Geheimnis) came out back in 2013 (and included a twenty-seven minute epic, certainly the band’s most audacious accomplishment). Perhaps the delay between each album’s release is due to the band’s various lineup changes through the years, aside from keyboardist/vocalist Alexander Weyland, who I assume is the founding member/leader. But whatever the reason for the lengthy gaps in the band’s output, a new album is warranted, especially since the music is so entertaining, creative, and often spectacular, which means that for all fans of the Prog-Rock genre, Traumhaus is worthy of discovery.

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