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.

After Forever – After Forever (2007)

AfterForever_AfterForever5 out of 5 Stars!

Unfortunately, I discovered After Forever, a female-fronted Symphonic Metal band from the Netherlands, way too late. Indeed, the group announced its break-up a few weeks after I purchased this particular album, which completely blew me away, and also introduced me to the genre of female-led groups that often used operatic falsetto vocals, thus sending me on a desperate quest to hunt for similar-sounding bands. I like to think that had I not stumbled upon (and taken a chance on) this release, I might have never subsequently discovered Nightwish, Within Temptation, Edenbridge, Leaves’ Eyes, Silentium, and numerous other artists of this nature.

Anyway, upon first listen, I fell in love with the extraordinary singer Floor Jansen, who would go on to form another exciting band (ReVamp) and is now the singer in Nightwish. Although after absorbing this album for several weeks, I started digging into After Forever’s back catalogue and eventually decided that none of the group’s earlier albums tops this final, stellar, and self-titled release, yet each deserves a listen since Floor KILLS on each and every album.

Here, the band offers a seemingly perfect combination of bombastic Symphonic Metal, barreling Power Metal, with even a burst of Progressive Metal, thanks to the intricate instrumentation and song arrangements. “Discord” opens the album with a mighty bang, with Joost van den Broek’s keyboards layered and grand, and Sander Gommans’s and Bas Maas’s guitars brutal and beastly. Bassist Luuk van Gerven and drummer André Borgman unleash their own furious backing, their musical foundation substantial and rigorous. And although the band includes some “growling” vocals on occasion (typically an aspect that often ruins many albums of this nature for me), I can tolerate them here since they are not dominant within the mix, allowing Jansen’s wide-ranging and pristine leads to shine through and impress.

Although the album contains plenty of other tunes to match the alluring fury of “Discord”—for instance, “Transitory,” “Who I Am,” “Withering Time,” “Evoke,” “De-Energized” and “Equally Destructive”—other songs follow different paths, offering up diversity. The ballads “Cry You a Smile” and “Empty Memories” offer lighter moments, allow breathing space for the listener from the high-voltage moments, and also thrust Jansen’s soaring and emotional vocals to the forefront. On the other hand, the eleven-minute “Dreamflight,” the album’s longest and most adventurous track, is a full-out foray into Progressive Metal—the myriad segments and divergent passages, not to mention the wide array of instrumentation, shines a fierce spotlight on the band’s formidable orchestrational skills. And then, my favorite track, the luscious and upbeat “Energize Me,” has a breathtaking chorus that repeated in my head for weeks on end, showing that After Forever also had a talent for writing memorable songs.

Overall, the album blazes with a luxuriant beauty that most female-led Symphonic Metal/Gothic Metal acts would kill to possess. About the only band I subsequently discovered that could, in my opinion, occasionally match the sheer nuclear grandiloquence of this material is (ironically enough, considering Jansen’s future) Nightwish, but even that group has never delivered a collection of tracks with such consistent vigor and majesty as this.

Regardless, Floor Jansen has me as a lifelong fan, and this swansong release by After Forever is one album I have never removed from my I-Phone since purchasing it all those years ago. Five Stars all the way!

Get The Album Now!

Time Requiem – The Inner Circle of Reality (2004)

TimeRequiem_Reality4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Led by keyboardist extraordinaire Richard Andersson (Space Odyssey/Adagio/Majestic), Sweden’s Time Requiem never got the recognition it so richly deserved, in my opinion. Between 2002 and 2006, the band delivered a trio of dynamic and dramatic near-perfect studio albums, with The Inner Circle of Reality (the second release) also featuring the brutally powerful Apollo Papathanasio (Majestic/Firewind/Evil Masquerade) on vocals, unheralded guitarist Magnus Nordh, and the always-stellar rhythm section (from The Flower Kings/Karmakanic) of bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Zoltan Csorsz, both playing outside their “normal realm of Prog” in hard-hitting fashion.

As with each of the band’s releases, The Inner Circle of Reality presents complex yet highly melodic Prog-Metal/Prog-Rock of the Neoclassical variety. Compositions such as “Hidden Memories,” “Reflections,” “Dreams of Tomorrow,” “Definition of Insanity,” and the nearly twelve-minute title track contain outstanding, often breathtaking musicianship throughout, especially when it comes to Nordh’s sizzling guitar leads and Andersson’s delicious keyboard fills and wickedly speedy solos. Any fans of artists such as Symphony X, Harmony, Yngwie Malmsteen, Artension, Stratovarius, and Royal Hunt will certainly savor the jaw-dropping proficiency on display here and, probably like me, wish the album contained more than just seven tracks (not counting the eighth tune, “Bach Prelude Variation,” the horribly brief album closer that would’ve likely had Johann Sebastian Bach himself smiling proudly and begging to hear more).

Although Time Requiem, after suffering major lineup changes—most noticeably with the gifted Goran Edman replacing Papathanasio on vocals—released its somewhat more commercial third album (Optical Illusion) in 2006 and seemed on the brink of gaining wider recognition, the band suddenly vanished without a trace. Even worse, founder/mastermind Richard Andersson, apart from popping up as a “guest keyboardist” on several albums through the subsequent years, has kept a sinfully low profile, while all the while I’d prayed he’d once again put together another band to showcase his enormous songwriting and performing talents.

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Gravity Rain – Artifacts of Balance (2016)

GravityRain_ArtifactsBalance3.5 out of 5 Stars!

From the Russian Federation comes Gravity Rain, a relatively new band that plays melodic Progressive Metal in a similar vein as Fates Warning and Redemption. Indeed, overall, the vocalist (who sings in English with no detectable accent) sounds similar in style, tone, range, and delivery as Ray Alder from the aforementioned groups.

I wouldn’t say, however, that Gravity Rain is as Progressive as those other bands. For the most part, tracks such as “Ikameshii (Jotun’s Rage),” “Temple of Haste,” “M.A.D,” “Closer,” and “Sunfire” contain a fairly “traditional” Metal sound, yet both Symphonic-Metal and Progressive-Metal touches do blaze forth from time to time, while the musicianship is typically at a high level. The riff-driven material is fairly thick with crunchy guitars and pounding rhythms, and although keyboards are included, they are basically added for only tinsel or atmospheric enhancement, relegated mostly to the background with only occasional piano or synth fills brought to the forefront.

One criticism I have, though, is that the majority of the ten tracks included on Artifacts of Balance are mid-tempo and composed in the same key, thus giving several of the tunes an almost “samey” feel. This is why I appreciate the occasions when the band employs those Symphonic and Progressive influences I mentioned, which lends some periodic distractions and keeps the album from becoming too mundane. Regardless, should Gravity Rain further develop its skills, include more diverse tempos and extra alterations in chord patterns regarding its songwriting, even experiment with more adventurous arrangements on future releases, the band apparently has the talent to give those aforementioned Prog-Metal bands a run for the money.

Nevertheless, Artifacts of Balance, the band’s first album (not including a three-song EP from 2014 called The Shining Silence, with which I am unfamiliar), is a fairly good introduction for an act with a ton of potential.

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Withem – The Unforgiving Road (2016)

Withem_UnforgivingRoad4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The Unforgiving Road is the second release from Norway’s Withem, a Prog-Metal band that seems to have just about everything—superlative musicianship, a vocalist with a killer set of pipes, and a knack for skillfully merging memorable AOR melodies with the technical instrumental maturity required for this demanding genre. Not many Prog-Metal bands can pull off this mixture successfully, but on tracks such as “In the Hands of a God,” “The Eye in the Sky,” “Riven,” “Unaffected Love,” and “The Pain I Collected,” the band certainly does.

For followers of groups such as Angra, Wingdom, Circus Maximus, Ice Age, or Sphere Of Souls, fans who prefer hearing lightning-quick yet tasty guitar and keyboard solos, thundering rhythms, crisp and clear vocals that often shoot for the stars, and creative instrumentation within often-intricate song arrangements that are somehow still easily accessible to the average listener, then Withem may just be a band for you to appreciate.

So as far as I can see, the only thing Withem doesn’t have is the worldwide plaudits it justifiably deserves.

Get The Album Now!