Episode 3 of Progradar Recommends – HeKz, Emperor Norton, Malady & Subsignal

Welcome to the third edition of my Progradar recommendations, this time around we have the new albums from HeKzEmperor NortonMalady and Subsignal

HeKz – Invicta

From the first notes of album opener Quetzlcoatl it is apparent that the rising stars of UK prog-metal, HeKz, have gone balls out on new album ‘Invicta’. This mighty powerful five piece from Bedford certainly know how to turn the amps up to 11. The Brian May-esque guitar and Matt Youngs flamboyant vocals that slot somewhere between Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins combine to take you on a thunderously wild ride of progressive metal pomp and circumstance.

For Our Lives is a adrenaline fueled rock anthem with totally excessive ( and utterly addictive) riffage and vocal harmonies aplenty, this band know how to give the audience what they want. There’s a couple of ballads and The Devil’s Coin is a properly progressive fifteen minute track to prove they have the chops but, overall, what you get is an thoroughly enjoyable blast that will blow the cobwebs out of your hair and leave a stupid, inane grin on your face for quite a long time.

I have a sneaking suspicion that HeKz will be an awesome proposition live and these dynamic and energetic tracks certainly deserve to be let out of the studio and onto an unsuspecting listening public, ‘Invicta’ is a musical tornado that will flatten everything that comes before it and leave you asking for more.

85/100

Released 20th April 2018

Pre-order ‘Invicta’ from the HeKz website here

Emperor Norton – Emperor Norton

Every now and again an album comes along that makes you reconsider your musical principles and stands out among a river of repetitive and formulaic releases and the eponymous debut from York’s Emperor Norton is proving itself to be one of those gems.

To quote the band’s website;

Emperor Norton promptly donned the musical cummerbund of “Prog” and added “Rock” to sound cutting edge. The very next day, the group discovered – to its astonishment – that it had unwittingly declared allegiance to an underground resistance movement of cape-laden keyboard wizards, fiery plectrum wranglers and lead singers who speaketh like Shakespeare. Emperor Norton felt right at home.”

They bring a freshness to the whole progressive rock genre and almost seem to be the missing link between the bombast of the 70’s leviathans with their overblown Hammonds and jangly guitars and the modern breed of progressive influenced rock artists like MuseCoheed and Cambria, Mandroid Echostar and Mars Volta.

Take the Steve Howe style guitar on Act I: Portents that along with the thumping bass line and swirling keys transports you back to tracks like Yours Is No Disgrace and the ilk and then segues into Act I: Petrichor with vocals that tip more than a hat to Matt Bellamy and you’ll begin to get my gist.

It’s an incredible piece of work especially considering that this is the band’s first release and, just when you think it can’t get any better, the fifteen minute joyful brilliance of the stunning Act III: Arrow comes along to prove that we really have some genre redefining musicians in front of us.

Do yourselves a favour, buy what is possibly the album of the year already and don’t just take my word for it, have a listen…

95/100

Released 17th March 2017

Buy ‘Emperor Norton’ from bandcamp

Malady – Toinen Toista

“Modern music consumption isn’t built for looking at trees or wandering through mazes. We live in a culture of straight lines and constant motion. Malady ask that you opt out, reclaim your time, and slow the f**k down for once. Trust me, it’s worth it.”

Sage advice from Finland’s Malady, hailing from Helsinki theirs is a sound rooted in the 70’s with fuzzy guitars and Hammond organs swirling like only a Hammond can. With their debut a deserved underground hit the band return with a polished follow up that invokes all of the best things that vintage Scandinavian prog can deliver.

Lush vocals and organic instrumentation abound on title track and opener Toinen Toista, a song that leads us into an album full of questions about being human and the transient nature of things but, don’t worry, this release isn’t asking you to take a PHD course in existentialism or the like, it has strings on it for God’s sake!

Lazy, hazy nostalgic days are invoked by the acid jazz heavy Teidon Kehtolaulu and the fact that the vocals are in Finnish doesn’t detract one bit, in fact they just add to the mystic feel (along with the superb flute playing, you’ve got to love flutes!).

The best is saved for last with the epic twenty-three minutes of Nurja Puoli, one of the best Prog ‘epics’ of recent years. To put this all into context I have actually ordered the vinyl of this superb release and I know it is going to get plenty of play…

85/100

Released 30th March 2018

Order the download of ‘Toinen Toista’ from bandcamp

Order on CD or LP from Svart Records:

Toinen toista

Subsignal – La Muerta

Germany’s purveyor’s of powerful and polished progressive rock, Subsignal, return with new album ‘La Muerta’ and (according to the press release), “…sends the listener on a proper voyage of discovery that is as complex as it is eventful. Subsignal have consciously designed the path to “La Muerta” a tad more accessible than was the case with the predecessor…”

Featuring Sieges Even luminaries Arno Menses and Markus Steffen, you get the signature involving songwriting but this time the band have decided not to hold the listener’s hand and, instead, let them make their own voyage of discovery through these eleven impressively crafted tunes. The expected superb harmonies are evident on the brilliant title track and the powerful guitar work of Markus drives the album on throughout.

I was a huge fan of the last Subsignal release ‘The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime’, each track had its place in the unfolding story that was laid before you and the band have tweaked their unique songwriting process to deliver an even more immersive and intoxicating musical journey.

Drowning sees the band baring their soul with a much more pared back approach, one that features the haunting vocals of Marjana Semkina. A beautifully stark piece of music, it will leave a mark on your soul that will stay for a very long time.

With the wonderfully lush production (courtesy of Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner of RPWL) giving the songs enough air to breathe, ‘La Muerta’ sees the band full of self-confidence and delivering a collection of songs that, while easily able to stand on their own, are a collective force when dealt with as a whole.

80/100

Released 26th May 2018

Pre-orders will open soon at Gentle Art of Music:

Subsignal

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Rising UK Prog Metal Band HeKz Confirm Eagerly Awaited Third Album

Described by Prog magazine as sounding like “Queen having a barney with Dream Theater as Rush and Iron Maiden duke it out on the sidelines,” UK Prog Metallers HeKz have announced that their third album, “INVICTA”, will be released on Friday 20th April 2018 via BMH Audio.

Taken from the Latin word for “unconquered”, INVICTA is a celebration of perseverance and resilience. The ten songs come together to form a story of betrayal, loss, reconciliation and hope. Far from straying into the realms of fantasy, the songs are rooted in real experiences, reflecting the triumph and defeat that we all encounter on our journey through life and, in the case of the latter, how we can choose to be consumed by it, or fight on and emerge stronger.

“Each time we start a new album, it feels like we learn a little bit more about the DNA of HeKz and, at the same time, find new elements to add to it,” says Matt Young (lead vocals/bass).

“I feel that INVICTA is a great reflection of that, as you’re going to hear all of the things you’d expect from us but with some flavours we’ve never explored before. We’ve drawn on new influences for some of the songs, some of which would seem like an odd combination with the sound we’re known for, but we’ve tackled them in our own way and it blends superbly with what we do to create for some exciting moments in the album.”

“I think that this experimentation comes from allowing ourselves a little bit more time to collaborate on the songs this time, and the results of that combined effort have really lifted the album. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!”

INVICTA was recorded at Liscombe Park & Visconti Studios, and the band’s home studios in and around London, and was mixed by producer extraordinaire John Mitchell (Lonely Robot, Kino, It Bites, Frost*, Arena) at Outhouse Studios, UK.

The album is currently available for pre-order from www.hekztheband.com, and will be released worldwide on Friday 20 April 2018. Fans who pre-order before Friday 23rd March will receive their copy one month before the official release date.

INVICTA Tracklisting
1. Quetzlcoatl (6:08)
2. For Our Lives (4:13)
3. The Light Fantastic (4:44)
4. To The Lions (5:10)
5. Ultimatum (6:07)
6. Line in the Sand (9:42)
7. Trecena (4:49)
8. Pariah (4:12)
9. The Devil’s Coin (15:03)
10. Victorious (5:39)

HeKz will be performing a select number of live shows to launch the new album:
Friday 23rd March – Parkvilla Theater, Alphen a/d Rijn, Netherlands
Friday 27th April – Winter’s End Festival, Chepstow, UK w/ MYSTERY

To keep up to date with all of this and more, join the band on social media and subscribe to their newsletter at www.hekztheband.com.

Web links:
www.facebook.com/hekztheband
www.twitter.com/hekztheband
www.youtube.com/hekztheband

HeKz are:
Matt Young – Lead Vocals, Bass
Al Beveridge – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Tom Smith – Guitars, Backing Vocals
James Messenger – Keyboards
Kirk Brandham – Drums

Mike Morton Announces Dates And Line-up For Resonate, The Follow-up To 2014’s Resonance Festival

The Gift’s Mike Morton has announced the dates and the majority of the line-up for 2018’s 2-day Resonate, the follow up to the Resonance Festival, an ambitious but ultimately rewarding 4 day musical extravaganza staged in 2014.

Taking place at the O2 Academy Islington on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September next years, Resonate will see some of the leading lights of the progressive music scene join forces with acts from wider musical genres to deliver an outstanding two days of live music.

About the festival Mike says:

Resonate (2018) will bring together a diverse group of acts, from progressive to hard rock with steampunk in between! Tickets will officially go on sale from October 31st, at which time the proper ticket link will be published. Also, our Sunday headliner had been confirmed…but they have asked us not to announce them until New Year’s Day!  Suffice to say they will be another jewel in the crown of this 2 day event. We’ll keep you updated.”

Saturdays Line-up will see Konchordat on stage at 1pm followed by Verbal Delirium, Comedy of ErrorsSon of ManThe Gift and headliners Lifesigns.

Sunday opens at the same time with the Tom Slatter BandHekzJumpCredo, the John Hackett Band and the mystery headline act, a world class progressive-metal act, to be confirmed.

Ticket prices are £25 per day advance or £30 on the door and £40 advance for the weekend or £45 on the door.

Tickets will be available, from October 31st, from:

www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academyislington