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Prog from the ancient city of Athens

Ciccada – Greece

In the home of the Gods, the cradle of Western civilization, something powerful and magical is stirring. When it comes to progressive rock, Greece has a long and distinguished history, not least among the list of notables being the mighty Aphrodite’s Child. Inevitably, though, old makes way for new, and here come a fresh band of torch-bearers from the ancient city of Athens…

Ciccada are: Nicolas Nikolopoulos (flute, recorder, sax, and keyboards); Yorgos Mouchos (guitars); Yannis Iliakis (drums,synthesizer); Dimitra Spela (vocals) and Aggelos Mal (bass). The band was formed in 2005 and their last album, The Finest of Miracles, was deservedly well-received by the prog community. It’s a down-the-rabbit-hole adventure that is cinematic in scope, weaving and turning whilst rocking hard.

Ciccada - The Finest of Miracles
Ciccada – The Finest of Miracles

At times Ciccada sound like a heavenly mix of Renaissance, Gryphon and King Crimson, but that would be selling them short – there is a marriage of robustness and delicacy, intricacy and power in their music that is unique. It’s a spellbinding quality perhaps best reflected in their wide-spread influences. As Nicolas attests, the band not only cite prog-rock luminaries such as Gentle Giant, but also “…the greats of the first half of 20th century like R.V. Williams, Bartok, Martinu, the French school of Six, Stravinsky, Martin, Bernstein, to name but a few.”

I asked Nicolas how he viewed the musical vision of the band. “To merge our influences,” he told me, “in a genuine musical language of our own. Be faithful to our tastes `till the end. And play it to the people!

What is, does he think that makes progressive music so popular and enduring?

The challenging mixes of styles and its adventurous nature. Many progressive artists` output is timeless like the great classic composers` work is.”

Perhaps it’s this even-handed respect for both progressive rock and classical music that makes Ciccada’s work sound so extraordinary. Not that the band limit themselves to inspiration from musical sources, they have also contributed to “Decameron”, a special project featuring music based on tales by the 14th century Italian writer, Boccacio, and a similar venture celebrating the work of visionary horror-maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

What next for the band?

A new release of a 12′ inch is due next month,” says Nicolas, “there will be just two songs that never made it to our albums but were included in several thematic projects in the past.”

 

 

Discography:

Child In The Mirror
The Finest of Miracles

Submarine Silence Releases Journey through Mine

Italian progressive rock band Submarine Silence has a new album titled Journey through Mine (Maracash Records). This is the third studio album by Submarine Silence, the parallel project of the founding members of Moongarden, Cristiano Roversi and David Cremoni.

On Journey through Mine, the band has recreated the original line-up (Roversi, Cremoni, Pizzocoli) of the critically acclaimed self-titled debut album.
In addition to the original trio, Submarine Silence also includes talented vocalist and songwriter Guillermo Gonzales.

Journey Through Mine features captivating artwork by Ed Unitsky.

Kotebel’s Beautifully Composed Symphonic Rock

Kotebel – Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 (Musea FGBG 4968, 2016)

Spanish symphonic progressive rock band Kotebel has released its first live album on CD. Kotebel Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 is a 2-CD set that is not the same as the digital release. The limited edition CD set has been remastered and contains two bonus tracks.

Kotebel has become one of the leading symphonic progressive rock acts in the international scene. The group combines classic epic prog with classical music elements and contemporary forms such as minimalism.

Most of their pieces are instrumental, a sort of mini-symphonies. What’s especially attractive about Kotebel is that it features two virtuoso keyboard players, composer Carlos Plaza Vegas and his daughter Adriana Plaza Engelke. This allows the band to deliver masterful keyboard solos and orchestrations.

Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 features an entire rendition of Kotebel’s concert at the 2013 Prog-Résiste Convention in Belgium. It is a Limited Edition double CD digipack that includes bonus tracks with a selection of performances at 2007 Gouveia Art Rock Festival in Portugal, and 2011 in Madrid.

The rest of the band includes excellent instrumentalists: César Garcia Forero on guitars; Carlos Franco Vivas on drums; and Jaime Pascual Summers on bass. Vocalist Carolina Prieto makes a guest appearance on bonus track Mercury Pentacle.

Kotebel Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 is an exceptionally good album featuring beautifully composed symphonic rock pieces with an epic atmosphere and some stellar individual playing.

Buy Live at Prog-Résiste 2013 in the Americas

Buy Live At Prog-Résiste 2013 in Europe

Dark Sorceress

Opeth – Sorceress (Nuclear Blast, 2016)

Heavy metal band Opeth has been gradually drifting towards progressive rock in recent albums. The band’s 2014 album Pale Communion had discarded a lot of the heavy metal riffs and death metal screaming. On Sorceress, Opeth’s new album, we find a mix of heavy metal, Deep Purple-influenced hard rock and progressive rock.

The metal tracks are straight-ahead metal so they should please heavy metal fans. If you’re into the group’s progressive rock material, you’re better off skipping those tracks.

The highlights of the album are the “progressive” tracks, beginning with the opening piece, a short instrumental titled “Persephone,” featuring acoustic guitar.

Another effective track is “Will O the Wisp” where Opeth uses strong vocal harmonies, mellotron, Jethro Tull-style folk-prog ambience and a great guitar solo.

“Sorceress 2” is a short gem, with acoustic guitars, enchanting mellotron and soft vocals.

One of the high points is “The Seventh Sojourn,” a composition that introduces exotic world music elements.

On “A Fleeting Glance” Opeth offers a good balance between folk rock and progressive rock, with some of the harmony vocals on the album and a memorable epic prog guitar conclusion.

Although the heavy metal community seems to think that Opeth has become a progressive rock band, more than half of Sorceress is heavy metal or hard rock. I look forward to future recordings where the band sheds off the metal or maybe comes up with two versions of the album: a metal mix and a progressive rock mix.

Buy Sorceress

Progressive Music Guitarist Markus Reuter Announces USA Tour

Markus Reuter will be on tour in the USA this Fall, after finishing two weeks tour with Stick Men in Europe (between October 11-23). Reuter will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of his own project Centrozoon.

The American tour is a combination of live concerts, live radio shows and radio interviews.

Reuter’s most recent recording is Prog Noir with Stickmen.

Stick Men - Prog Noir
Stick Men – Prog Noir

Tour dates:

November 3 – WDIY/Bethlehem, PA
Radio appearance at Galactic Travels (with host Bill Fox) – 11:00 p.m.

November 4 – WPRB/Princeton, NJ
Radio appearance at Music with Space (with host Mike Hunter) – 12 midnight

November 5 – Mt. Laurel, NJ
Private show: Living Room Concert Series – time TBA

November 6 – WXPN/Philadelphia, PA
Radio appearance at Star’s End Radio (with host Chuck van Zyl) – 2:00 a.m.

November 8 – WLFR/Pomona, NJ
Radio appearance at Digital Dreams Radio (with host Mark Dickson) – 10:00 p.m.

November 9 – Charlottesville, VA
Live at IX Art Park – 8:00 p.m.

November 10 – Asheville, NC
Live at Living Room Concert / Streamside Concerts – 8:00 p.m.

November 11 – Charleston, WV
Live at Kanawha United Presbyterian Church – 8:00 p.m.

November 12 – Baltimore, MD
Live at (venue TBA, time TBA)

November 13 – Beacon, NY
Live at Quinn’s – 8:00 p.m.

November 15 – Philadelphia, PA
Live at The Rotunda – 8:00 p.m.
Event Horizons Concert Series
with special guests: Chuck van Zyl, Nocturne Blue

November 17 – Farmington, CT
Live at Edge Media Space / Farmington H.S. (Rm. 809) – 7:00 p.m.

November 18 – Bordentown, NJ
Live at The Cosmic Crossings
with Centrozoon and Nocturne Blue

November 19 – New York, NY
Live at Spectrum – 8:30:00 p.m.
with special guest Nocturne Blue

November 20 – WVKR/Poughkeepsie, NY
Radio appearance at Secret Music (with host Scott Raymond) – 11am

November 20 – Branchburg, NJ
Private show: Living Room Concert Series – time TBA

February 4, 2017 – Dallas, TX
Live at I Came for the Light and Stayed for the Shadows (time TBA)
With Nocturne Blue

Splendid Renaissance at Union Chapel

Renaissance – Live at The Union Chapel (Symphonic Rock Records, 2016)

What a beautiful concert! Pioneering symphonic progressive rock band Renaissance videotaped this concert at the stunning Union Chapel in London in 2015. The group is still led by founder Annie Haslam. Her longtime collaborator Michael Dunford passed away in 2012 so Annie Haslam, who has been living in the United States for the past years, has put together a band of outstanding American jazz and session musicians.

Annie Haslam’s five octave vocals still sound particularly beautiful. She has one of the finest voices in progressive rock history. Her live band delivers an exquisite performance. The band features two extremely gifted keyboardists, Rave Tesar on piano and keyboards and Tom Brislin on symphonic keyboards, synths and samplers. Bassist Leo Traversa gets several opportunities to showcase his talent, offering stirring jazz-infused grooves. The band also features Mark Lambert on delightful acoustic guitars and backing vocals; and the creative drumming of Frank Pagano.

This concert features a mix of classic Renaissance fan-favorites along with newer material. It’s truly memorable musicianship. On the final piece, “Ashes Are Burning” the musicians perform a series of solos and improvisations including a knockout synth solo by Tom Brislin.

The DVD is available in NTSC all-region and compatible with PAL DVD players and televisions.

Live at The Union Chapel is a remarkable performance by one of the great masters of symphonic progressive rock. Annie Haslam has found a formidable band and I look forward to more recordings by this talented set of artists.

Buy Live at The Union Chapel

Maestros and Innovators of the Electric Sticks

Stick Men – Prog Noir (Stick Men SMN1611, 2016)

Three extraordinarily talented musicians have put together one of the finest progressive music albums of 2016. Stick Men is a trio that includes three of the brightest minds in the current progressive rock scene. Prog Noir is their new album, scheduled for release in October 2016.

Two of the band members specialize in advanced versions of guitars and basses. Tony Levin plays the versatile Stick, an instruments that serves as a powerful bass, a tapped and looped instrument, and also a captivating soloing instrument. His colleague, German musician Markus Reuter plays the ergonomic touch guitars that he developed together with luthier Ed Reynolds.

Stylistically, Prog Noir navigates through various musical forms, including technically impressive new generation King Crimson-inspired progressive rock, indie rock, lyrics with good humor, mesmerizing cinematic soundscapes, creative drumming, and electronic ambience.

The lineup includes Tony Levin (King Crimson) on Stick and vocals; Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) on acoustic and electronic drums and percussion; and Markus Reuter on U8 and AU8 Touch Guitars.

The new album comes in various packages and formats, ranging from digital, vinyl and single CD to a deluxe CD with bonus tracks and a deluxe boxed set with vinyl LPs, CDs and T-shirt.

Prog Noir is a remarkable example of forward-thinking progressive rock, featuring memorable performances, strong song compositions, impressive interplay and innovative sound design.

Buy Prog Noir in the Americas

Buy Prog Noir in Europe

Rock in Opposition 2016 Program Revealed

The 2016 Rock in Opposition (R.I.O.) Festival will take place September 16-18 in France. This three-day festival is dedicated to artistically-uncompromising rock music. The festival specializes in the avant-garde forms of progressive rock as well as Zeuhl.

The 2016 lineup includes:

Apollonius Abraham Schwarz (Switzerland)
Cicala-Mvta (Japan)
Half the Sky (Japan)
Jump for Joy (England, Germany, Netherlands)
Magma (France)
Nippon Eldorado Kabarett (Italy, Japan)
No Noise No Reduction (France)
Pixvae (France)
Richard Pinhas & Arthur Narcy (France)
Upsilon Acrux (USA)
Uz Jsme Doma (Czech Republic)

More at www.rocktime.org/rio

Essential Emerson Lake & Palmer Debut Album Remastered

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Emerson Lake & Palmer (BMG, 2016)

The 2016 re-edition of the fabulous classic progressive rock album Emerson Lake & Palmer, the debut album by Emerson Lake & Palmer, is a 2-CD set.

I’ve already reviewed another re-edition of this album in the past so I won’t repeat what we published earlier. Nevertheless, I need to re-emphasize that this album is a true classic. It’s the debut album by three musicians who created one of the first rock super bands. Emerson Lake & Palmer is a true classic by three trailblazers who revolutionized modern music in the early 1970s.

Disc 1 includes the 2012 remaster of the original album that was released in 1970. Disc 2 features Steven Wilson’s expertly-crafted stereo mix. Aside from the improved sound, this disc also offers an extended version of the musical piece “Knife Edge.”

Disc 2 also has 4 alternate versions of several songs. Even though I prefer the final versions the band came up with, it’s really interesting to listen to alternate takes of “Take a Pebble”, “Knife Edge” and “Lucky Man.”

The price of the physical version of this album is a great deal. You get two discs and a nicely packaged digipack with early band photos, a biography with quotes from the musicians and credits.

Emerson Lake & Palmer is an essential groundbreaking album by one of the great masters of progressive rock music.

Buy Emerson Lake & Palmer in the Americas

Buy Emerson Lake & Palmer in Europe