Even though much of the world has been in lockdown to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, many musicians have been working away on new material and over the last few weeks ProgBlog has been inundated with requests for reviewing/featuring a wide range of prog-related singles and EPs, from pop-prog to protest song to symphonic metal to punk-progressive metal, all submitted for viewing with a video. It’s a testament to the unifying power of music that groups have been able to write, record and distribute material through such turbulent times – Manchester’s New Luna managed to play a session in New York before catching one of the last flights back to the UK before global passenger air travel ground to a halt. Here are the singles I’ve been listening to and watching:
Fughu (Argentina) Right from the Bone (from the album Lost Connection)
Fughu play aggressive metal tempered with prog flourishes and a punk attitude. Their story began when guitarist Ariel Bellizio met drummer Alejandro Lopez at school in Buenos Aires in 1999, before recruiting Marcelo Malmerica (keyboards), Juan Manuel Lopez (bass) and opera singer Santiago Burgi. Armed with influences as varied as Megadeath, Deep Purple, Kiss, ELP, Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and tango composer Astor Piazzolla, the group took on the name Fughu. In March 2008, Fughu were selected by Mike Portnoy to be Dream Theater’s opening act at the 9000 capacity Luna Park Stadium. The following year they self-produced their well-received first album Absence, and followed that with the simultaneous release of conceptual pieces Human – The Tales and Human – The Facts in May 2013. Both works received glowing reviews and opened the door to overseas tours, including European dates in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Austria during 2015.
Santiago Burgi left the band and returned to opera in 2016, replaced by Renzo Favaro. The new-look formation began touring Argentina in 2018 when they were honoured to be the opening act for Premiata Forneria Marconi in their home city, fine tuning what they regard as their most defiant work, 2019’s Lost Connection
Silver Nightmares (Italy) The Wandering Angel (from the EP The Wandering Angel)
Silver Nightmares was formed in Palermo in 2018 by bassist Gabriele Esposito, drummer Alessio Maddaloni and keyboardist Gabriele Taormina, going through several configurations until arriving at its current line-up with Mimmo Garofalo (guitars) before setting about writing and orchestrating the musical material that would make up their debut EP The Wandering Angel (2020). For recording, the quartet was augmented by Simone Bonomo and Michele Vitrano (vocals), Giulio Maddaloni (flute), Tody Nuzzo (guitars) and Davide Severino (trumpet). Their pool of influences ranges through progressive rock, AOR, heavy metal and classical music with acts such as Asia, Genesis, Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Styx, Kansas, Toto, Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Dream Theater, Opeth, Ghost, Marillion, Anathema, Katatonia and Judas Priest.
The five-track EP is a concept piece concerning the loss of human spirituality. A wandering angel, from the distant star of life, falls from heaven and gradually becomes ever more contaminated by the corruption on earth. The story is illustrated by the fate of the natural world, heroes of the past and shrewd present day characters
New Luna (UK) Prunus
Affirming their reputation with a series of intense sold-out shows across Manchester last year, New Luna spent their final days before lockdown in New York for The New Colossus Festival and performed a head-turning Paste Magazine live session just hours before catching one of the final flights out of New York. Their sound has been described as ‘dream-pop reimagined for the Mancunian drizzle’ (Clash Magazine), a unique blend of post-punk and dream-pop that has earned them nods from the likes of Piccadilly Records and BBC Introducing. Tipped by Paste as one of the need-to-know Manchester artists, the band have performed at multiple major festivals and opened for softcore psyche band Childcare and alt-rockers Happyness, Kagoule, and October Drift.
Though it’s really not the sort of thing normally considered to be in the ProgBlog remit, it does blend a number of styles and I found myself quite enjoying it. Post-punk vies with guitar-driven dream-pop as the most dominant sound but mixed in with all this is a dose of psychedelia and the whole thing is held together with solid rhythm and intelligent, imaginative drumming – the interview at Paste suggests there are hip-hop references and Stewart Copeland is cited as an inspiration. The twin guitars work well together whichever style dominates, and there’s an admirable degree of variation
Moon Letters (USA) The Red Knight and On the Shoreline (from the album Until They Feel the Sun)
More about Moon Letters can be found on the ProgBlog DISCovery page http://progblog.co.uk/discovery-17-moon-letters/4594741702
Konarucchi (New Zealand) They Follow (from the forthcoming EP Stuck in Daydreams)
They Follow is a track inspired by alternative / progressive rock, influenced by bands such as Muse, Porcupine Tree, and The Pineapple Thief. The song is about someone reaching out for help because their bad thoughts and feelings are getting overwhelming, and they don't know what's wrong or how they can fix it. It's the second single off the debut EP Stuck in Daydreams, released at the end of May.
Konarucchi, who mostly performs solo acoustic or with his alt pop-rock band Pale Lady, is a multi-genre solo artist from the small town of Wainuiomata in New Zealand. He likes to experiment with many different styles of music, without focusing on how they will fit together, because he believes that cohesion in music comes from the artist rather than the genre. This idea has a clear influence in the music he creates, and is strongly apparent in Stuck in Daydreams. The EP has many different influences, ranging from jazz to rock to alternative to electronic to metal, which work harmoniously together to create an amalgamation of this raw emotional silliness (his words) he calls an EP. The material is a step-up from his normal work, employing a backing band of honed musicians in order to play the full versions of the songs from this EP
Kitten Pyramid (UK) Doughnuts
Experimental UK pop-proggers and The Guardian newspaper darlings Kitten Pyramid have just released a new song Doughnuts, the first track to be taken from upcoming album Koozy!, due out next year.
Seven years on from their acclaimed self-released debut Uh-Oh! and five since the ambitious High Five Scuba Dive EP, Burton-on-Trent singer-songwriter Scott Milligan, aka Kitten Pyramid, presents the new track Doughnuts, a reflective hymn to the importance of real people, ordinary lives and the march of time, carefully coordinated to coincide with National Doughnut Day. Milligan describes Doughnuts as embracing the beauty in repetition and of the mundane, saying 'it’s about the chirpy train of death rhythmically chuffing and clunking away behind us, getting louder as we get older.' Employing a Milligan family-and-friends choir, it begins with soft chanting before the introduction of a simple piano melody, subtle steam-engine percussion and A Day In The Life drums, building to a brass and strings-laden climax as Milligan details items of routine and domestic humdrum.
Superficially lightweight but really rather deep, Doughnuts and its accompanying video (filmed during the current lockdown) is subtle prog dressed in readily-digestible pop clothes
The Dowling Poole (UK) Deep Breath
The Deep Breath single doesn’t appear on The Dowling Poole's recently released third album See You See Me but was produced during lockdown and sums up the upheavals we are all enduring. Willie Dowling and Jon Poole have no qualms about penning political songs, and though they write catchy pop tunes the subject matter is treated with prog-seriousness.
Dowling suggests it tends to be those to the right of centre who advocate the hypothesis that music and politics is an unholy mix, in an attempt to protect the status quo. Explaining that almost everything that touches our lives is political by definition, he says any serious songwriter will be saying something in their songs about the recent immense events and the way that they touch their lives: 'Music is a powerful way of connecting people, and since the 1960s, established power worldwide [has been] aware of this and is keen to ignore, mock or condemn any critique of power made in song form.'
It’s pleasing that The Dowling Poole is free to speak up about what they believe in and highlight the injustices that surround them. In keeping with these ideals, the video for Deep Breath features footage contributed by fans of the band from around the world who have documented their recent experiences of protest and lockdown
Quantum (Sweden) The Next Breath of Air (EP)
Quantum is Anton Ericsson, Oscar Lundin, Marcus Lundberg and Samuel Walfridssona, a progressive rock band from Stockholm influenced by music ranging from classic-era prog like Genesis or King Crimson, to extreme metal bands like Mastodon and jazz fusion in the vein of The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Quantum’s music is packed with aggressive dynamic shifts and memorable melodies; music that can shimmer one moment only to explode the next. The material dips into jazz ballad and bursts of metal; it combines with expanded forms from European art music, exhibits flashes of math rock and blends intricate harmonies, all the while maintaining a focus on groove and melody, creating a sound that is quite something else
The Tragic Company (Spain) Rotten
The Tragic Company hail from southern Spain and recently released a seven-minute long prog-single in the style of Tool, Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater called Rotten, which is to be featured on their forthcoming studio album Paradox (Wild Punk Records.) Guitarist/vocalist and band leader Juanma Medina has shaped their style into a mixture of the best alternative, post-grunge and stoner rock with a prog touch, citing Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Porcupine Tree as influencing their sound. The other band members are Mariano Alcobendas (lead guitar and backing vocals); Alan Voreaux (bass and backing vocals); and Jose Luis Fernández (drums). They have gigged hard to build a solid reputation on the Spanish underground scene over the past few years, with well-crafted songs in English, and put out two studio albums and a live unplugged album
Seth Angerer (Austria) Not Here to F*ck Spiders
Seth Angerer explains that the title of his latest single Not Here to F*ck Spiders is an Australian phrase which means ‘not here to fuck around’. He regards it as his best produced piece, an anthem decrying hypocrisy, which like his other material is self-written, recorded and produced.
His early EPs were in a prog metal/djent style, influenced by bands like Meshuggah and Haken, but his first long-form opus was 2018’s symphonic album Shinka (Japanese: evolution) in four movements; expansive, dramatic and cinematic music that could have acted as the soundtrack for the creation of the solar system. Not Here to F*ck Spiders is a move away from the symphonic, back firmly into prog metal territory where in addition to his own voice, guest vocalist Pipi Gogerl (Ancient Fragments/Question of Eternity) lends a hand