A PERFECT CIRCLE TO HEADLINE BE PROG! MY FRIEND 2018 / KATATONIA AND ORANSSI PAZUZU ALSO ADDED

A Perfect Circle have been revealed as the headliners for Be Prog! My Friend festival 2018. The band who recently shared new song’ The Doomed’ will release their first new album since 2004 next year. The festival comment:

‘With A Perfect Circle’s new album out in 2018 it is the ideal time for them to play at Be Prog! My Friend, where we cannot wait to see them live. Really, we could not be more excited with having them as our biggest ever headliner. You cannot miss this edition of the festival. Tickets are going to sell fast!’

Named as the ‘Event of the Year’ at this year’s Progressive Music Awards the Barcelona based festival, sponsored by Inside Out Music, have also announced that Swedish melancholic metallers Katatonia will perform their 2006 album ’The Great Cold Distance’ in full, continuing the trend of special band sets at the event. Drummer Daniel Moilanen states:

‘In the quiet cold of late June we fix our eyes on the scorching Catalonian sun as Katatonia return to Barcelona and Be Prog My Friend. To celebrate this and to increase coldness, the wings of ‘The Great Cold Distance’ will once again unfurl. Are you in or are you out?’

They will also be joined by Finnish psychedelic black metal outfit Oranssi Pazuzu. The festival organisers have described seeing them live will be like ‘diving in to an unlit and terrifying ocean, and we really recommend you come and live the experience with us.’

With more artists to be announced soon the line-up for Be Prog! My Friend 2018 now features A Perfect Circle, Sons of Apollo, Katatonia, Pain of Salvation, Plini, Gazpacho, Oranssi Pazuzu and Persefone.

Be Prog! My Friend which has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ulver, Animals as Leaders, Ihsahn, Alcest, Jethro Tull and Marillion will take place on 29th and 30th June next year.

Held in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive artists.

Tickets are on sale now priced at 130 Euros alongside exclusive hotel deals from the festival website:

http://www.beprogmyfriend.com/

And so Prog finds itself in love with Barcelona, the delightful weather and everything that Be Prog! My Friend has to offer’ – Prog Magazine

‘The leading festival for progressive music in Spain, showcased avant-garde music in a magnificent location’ – The Independent

‘Set in the hazy sunlit square of Barcelona’s historic and quite stunning Poble Espanyol, it certainly beats the sodden mud of the British festival season’ – Total Guitar Magazine

‘If nothing else, it proves that prog is alive and kicking. Especially in Catalonia’ – Classic Rock Magazine

facebook.com/beprogmyfriend 

Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.

http://www.barcelonaturisme.com

KATATONIA ANNOUNCE “FALLEN HEARTS OF UK & IRELAND” 2017 HEADLINE TOUR

 

Sweden’s much loved architects of dark progressive rock/metal, Katatonia celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band in 2016, a year that also saw them release their 10th studio album – the critically acclaimed The Fall of Hearts.

A special one off anniversary show took place at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire towards the end of the year but now the band has revealed that they will tour the UK & Ireland in May. Guitarist Anders Nyström comments;

‘We’re really excited to be returning to the UK and Ireland for a proper full headline tour in support of our latest album ’The Fall Of Hearts’. Last year, we only got as far as playing London where we focused on the 10th anniversary of ’The Great Cold Distance’ by playing the album in full, so this time we’ll be coming back for more! Join us in May and see us deliver the rest of the darkness!’

UK & Ireland Tour dates:

7th May – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

8th May – Marble Factory, Bristol

9th May – Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton

10th May – Engine Rooms, Southampton

11th May – Sound Control, Manchester

12th May – Garage, Glasgow

13th May – Limelight 2, Belfast

14th May – Academy, Dublin

Tickets are on sale from 27th January at 10am – www.myticket.co.uk and www.seetickets.com

A new 2 disc tour edition of The Fall Of Hearts is due for release on 17th March 2017 through Peaceville, the new version will feature live tracks taken from the band’s show in the Ancient Theater in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in September 2016. 

February 3rd also sees the release of a limited edition 10th anniversary version of their class album The Great Cold Distance. This new 4 disc deluxe hardback 40 page, book edition of the album will include 3 bonus discs featuring b-sides and bonus songs, a new 5.1 remix of the album by Bruce Soord (Wisdom Of Crowds) and a live album of Katatonia playing The Great Cold Distance in its entirety with the renowned Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra in Bulgaria, performed September 2016. The design of this essential 10th anniversary edition has once again been taken care of by long time collaborator Travis Smith. (Available to pre-order via www.peaceville.com/store & http://www.omerch.eu/shop/katatonia )

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Progradar Best Of 2016 – Shawn Dudley’s Top 10

Let’s face it, 2016 has not been the best year in human history, but it has been an exceptionally good year for music.  Seemingly every week something new would capture my imagination and become indispensible.  Due to the magnitude of choices putting together a year-end list became a daunting exercise.

What follows is not necessarily a traditional “top 10”, it’s a condensed selection of albums that made the most impact on me throughout the year.

Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts

The Fall of Hearts was the easiest selection for this list; its place has been secure for months.  Nobody was more surprised than me as I had previously been ambivalent about Katatonia but this gorgeous, immaculately crafted album completely won me over. It’s a subtle, layered album that bears repeated listening, something I did almost daily for several months. The Fall of Hearts is their most mature and fully realized work to date, a rare instance of a band in their second decade who continue to evolve and improve their already unique sound.
Favorite tracks:  Takeover, Last Song Before The Fade, Shifts

Opeth -Sorceress

While the various factions of Opeth fans of different eras clash online, fruitlessly fighting for supremacy…Mikael Akerfeldt continues to laugh and do whatever the hell he wants. Sorceress continues Opeth’s exploration of vintage instrumentation that began with the controversial Heritage in 2011 and the more straight-forward and polished Pale Communion in 2014.  Sorceress goes against expectations by going for a rawer, heavier and more experimental approach.  It’s a stylistically diverse collection of songs with gorgeous folk rockers, heavy Prog epics and 70s inspired jams co-existing harmoniously.

Favorite tracks:  A Fleeting Glance, The Wilde Flowers, The Ward (bonus track)

Messenger – Threnodies

This sadly under-appreciated gem was easily one of the most enjoyable albums I heard all year. Messenger had the ability to work within the sonic framework of classic Prog, the instrumentation and vibe, yet not become a slave to it. Threnodies may offer up flashes of the past via inspiration; Wishbone Ash, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, CSN&Y; yet it sounds simultaneously modern and wholly relevant in 2016. Sadly the band has prematurely called it a day, but despite that I wouldn’t want you to miss out on hearing what they’ve left behind.
Favorite tracks:  Oracles Of War, Balearic Blue, Celestial Spheres

Seven Impale – Contrapasso

This thoroughly and wonderfully insane sextet from Norway was my favorite discovery of the year. Contrapasso is the type of album it’s best to just experience because describing it accurately is an exercise in futility. You’ll find elements of King Crimson, jazz-fusion, early 70s heavy metal and a love of the absurd, but that still just gives you a vague impression. The mixture of wonderfully heavy guitar and bass riffs, improvisational saxophone excursions and entertainingly theatrical vocals I find completely addictive.
Favorite tracks: Languor, Heresy, Inertia

Gong – Rejoice! I’m Dead!

Guitarist/Vocalist Kavus Torabi makes the first of two appearances on my year-end list. On Rejoice! I’m Dead! he effortlessly carries on the eclectic and joyful Gong; simultaneously a love letter to the recently departed founder Daevid Allen and a thoroughly rewarding work on its own merits.  It’s a wonderful collection of brief, quirky rockers and stretched-out fusion jam bliss. I love the sound of this album so much; I can’t help smiling whenever I play it. Who says Prog can’t be fun?
Favorite tracks: Rejoice!, The Unspeakable Stands Revealed, Kapital 

Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden

Our second Kavus Torabi appearance is another blast of experimentally playful fun. Knifeworld sets the tone immediately with the thoroughly addictive High Aflame, an artfully arranged pop confection that is the perfect album opener. The horn section allows them to employ voicings that you don’t often here in progressive rock circles, not that this album really fits into the general guidelines of that term. In fact I’m not sure Knifeworld exists within the guidelines of anything but their own imagination.  I applaud them.

Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

And now for something truly and beautifully frightening. This Finnish quintet has crafted an avant-garde treasure, a mixture of Space Rock, Jazz and caustic Black Metal that is supremely thrilling. The arrangements are incredibly dense, building layer upon layer of guitars, synths and scorched earth vocals that threaten to become atonal cacophony, but deftly remain right on the edge. It’s challenging, intense music, but also contains much beauty. If you’re feeling brave, I highly recommend it.
Favorite tracks:  Lahja, Havuluu, Vasemann Kaden Hierarkla

 

Haken – Affinity

I will admit that the technical end of Prog Metal is not my preferred style. I’ve never been inspired by the Dream Theater end of the spectrum, I can admire the craft, but it doesn’t generally speak to me. Haken is one of the few exceptions, a band whose audacious personality and jaw dropping musicianship manage to always remain entertaining. This is assisted by a welcome amount of dry humor that has a tendency to display itself on occasion. Affinity is their most complex and intricately constructed album yet, maybe not quite as accessible as The Mountain but just as artistically successful. The playfulness shows itself on the epic ‘1985’, a song built entirely on the instrumental sounds of the 80s that never devolves into parody and instead becomes poignant. Haken also continue to outgrow the limitations of Prog Metal, methodically expanding their musical vocabulary into new, unexpected areas. Affinity continues their winning streak of rewarding albums; I look forward to hearing where they go next.
Favorite tracks:  The Architect, Red Giant, 1985

Purson – Desire’s Magic Theatre

D.M.T. is Rosalie Cunningham’s love letter to the late 60s psychedelic and early progressive rock scene and the substances that often inspired them. What keeps it from becoming just a curio is the conviction she brings to her songs and how skillfully she applies the vintage instrumental sounds to create the required effect. The influences are plentiful; Hendrix, The Doors, Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Curved Air; but Rosalie has taken that inspiration and applied it to her own organic and highly enjoyable compositions.  It’s a fun album that is worth investigating, with or without the accompanying substances.

Favorite tracks:  Electric Landlady, Pedigree Chums, The Bitter Suite

Khemmis – Hunted 

In addition to Progressive Rock and Jazz I’ve also been a Heavy Metal fan for over 30 years. I don’t listen to straight-ahead metal very often these days but occasionally I’ll hear something that reawakens that old love of chugging, galloping riffs and thunderous drums. Khemmis is a young band from Denver whose latest album Hunted kicked my ass right and proper. Their sound is a tasty mix of doomy Candlemass/Trouble riffs, dual harmony lead guitars and NWOBHM inspired attitude. Satisfyingly crushing yet consistently melodic and inspired, these guys nail all the metallic requirements with their muscular performances and above-average songwriting.  My neck hurts…
Favorite songs:  Above The Water, Candlelight, Hunted

 

 

 

 

 

KATATONIA TO RELEASE 10TH ANNIVERSARY 4 DISC DELUXE EDITION OF ‘THE GREAT COLD DISTANCE’

katatonia-the-great-cold-distance

‘A winding trawl through myriad dark moods, at times supremely heavy, at others barely whispered, but always swathed in their own unique brand of somber atmospherics’ – 4/5 – Kerrang

‘Absolutely astonishing’ – 9/10 – Rock Sound

‘Make no mistake – this is a great album’ – Terrorizer

Hailed as one of the leaders of the death-doom genre alongside My Dying Bride & Paradise Lost, Sweden’s Katatonia have spent the last 25 years ever changing and evolving to become the much loved purveyors of dark progressive rock/metal we know today.

This year marks not only the band’s 25th anniversary but also 10 years since the release of their Peaceville album ‘The Great Cold Distance’.  Now the band is set to re-issue this classic album on special edition CD and vinyl. Founding guitarist Anders Nyström comments:

“Looking back at our set lists from a historic perspective, it dawned on us that there’s been no other album from which we played more songs than ’The Great Cold Distance’, so in the light of its 10th anniversary this year, it’s with much pride and joy to announce the ultimate edition featuring all the scattered bits and pieces related to this album. “

Originally released in 2006, The Great Cold Distance, Katatonia’s seventh studio albumwas recorded and mixed at Fascination Street, Örebro Sweden, produced by Nyström/Renkse on and co-produced, mixed & engineered by Jens Bogren & David Castillo. The album featured 3 singles, now classic Katatonia songs – “My Twin”, “July” and “Deliberation”. Vocalist Jonas Renkse, at the time of the album’s release stated“While embracing this album one must know that it will only help to increase the coldness between us. It’s a devious life. And this is a soundtrack to it.”

The new 4 disc deluxe hardback 40 page book edition of the album, to be released on 20th January 2017, will include 3 bonus discs featuring b-sides and bonus songs, a new 5.1 remix of the album by Bruce Soord (Wisdom Of Crowds) and a live album of Katatonia playing ‘The Great Cold Distance’ in its entirety with the renowned Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra in Bulgaria, performed in September 2016. The design of this essential 10th anniversary edition has once again been taken care of by long time collaborator Travis Smith.

The double gatefold LP version of the original album is set for release on 9th December, and includes the b-sides & bonus songs. Both the black vinyl and limited edition red vinyl versions are available to pre-order now:

PRE-ORDER LINKS:

4 disc deluxe hardback book: https://www.burningshed.com/store/peaceville/product/241/8087/

2 LP gatefold: https://www.burningshed.com/store/peaceville/product/241/8086/

Ltd edition 2 LP gatefold on red vinyl (available exclusively through the Peaceville webstore & Omerch) – https://www.burningshed.com/store/peaceville/product/241/8085/ / http://www.omerch.eu/shop/katatonia/

Friday 21st October, at London’s 02 Shepherds Bush Empire, Katatonia will play their biggest UK headline show to date which will feature a very special 2 set performance.

One set will see Katatonia perform ‘The Great Cold Distance’ in its entirety.

The other set will feature a wide selection of tracks panning the band’s 25 year including most recent album ‘The Fall Of Hearts’. Support comes from Agent Fresco & VOLA.

Tickets are on sale now – www.myticket.co.uk and www.seetickets.com

Katatonia are currently on tour in Europe with their Fallen Hearts Of Europe tour before heading to Australia for headline shows in December.

https://www.facebook.com/katatonia

www.katatonia.com

http://www.omerch.eu/shop/katatonia/

(Featured image by Therés Stephansdotter Björk)

Review – Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts – by Shawn Dudley

katatonia-fall-of-hearts-medium-res-cover

When 2016 draws to a close and I begin compiling my “best of the year list” one album that is definitely going to be near the top is ‘The Fall Of Hearts’, the quietly brilliant 10th album from Katatonia.  It’s the “sleeper hit” of the year in my opinion.  It’s not the most flamboyant release; it’s not aggressively pushing boundaries or showing off how technically proficient the band members are at every opportunity.  Instead it’s an album of subtle nuance and variation, the sound of a band perfectly comfortable in their own skin continuing to evolve and improve along their already distinctive path.

‘The Fall Of Hearts’ is the first album of new studio material in 4 years and also marks the debut of a couple new members to the fold; guitarist Roger Ojersson and drummer Daniel Moilanen (who really makes his presence felt in the arrangements).  In the intervening years since 2012’s ‘Dead End Kings’ the band has been focusing on stripping down their sound, first via the remix album ‘Dethroned & Uncrowned’ and secondly their live acoustic concert recording ‘Sanctitude’.  The lessons learned from this approach have carried over to the new album, adding subtlety and space to the arrangements and allowing the new compositions to really breathe and flow.  Katatonia’s compositions in the past were often more straight-ahead than others within the Prog Metal field, being primarily based off a standard verse-chorus-verse structure.   ‘The Fall Of Hearts’ offers a much more impressionistic approach, the more fluid nature of the arrangements really showing off Jonas Renkse’s gorgeous melodies to greater and more dramatic effect.

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(Photo by Alessandra Tolc)

Opening track Takeover is an excellent demonstration of how this new approach has been applied.  The song starts abruptly without an intro, immediately dropping you into its melancholic setting.  The rhythmic thrust of the song is understated, dreamlike; it creates the subtle impression of floating.  This feeling remains even once the heavier guitars come into play around the 1-minute mark.  There is something very “painterly” about the feel of this piece; it’s elusive, ethereal, like watercolors in varying shades of gray.  It’s simultaneously lovely and haunting, the metallic elements used effectively to create a subdued feeling of menace lurking just below the surface.  It’s a stunning beginning to the album and invites the listener to abandon their preconceived ideas and just let go, just experience it.

The unique feeling also presents itself on the more direct, mainstream songs on the album.  The singles Serein and Old Hearts Fall are deceptively accessible, the melodies so inviting that the listener might not even notice that the underlying arrangement is still quite complex and unexpected.  That is not an easy balance to strike for any band, especially in the Prog Metal genre, which is not exactly well renowned for subtlety.  Yet even the heavier compositions on the album never lapse into the expected clichés, they never get as militaristic or bombastic as you expect them to. The heavy riffs are applied with the same level of care and precision as the more melodic sections.

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(Photo by Sebastian Dominguez)

Katatonia is often mentioned along with Opeth when the discussion of Swedish Prog Metal comes up.  Jonas Renkse and Mikael Akerfeldt were roommates in the late 90s and remain best friends to this day.  Mikael also contributed the harsh vocals to their classic early death-doom album ‘Brave Murder Day’.  While there are similarities (especially in the approach to ballads) overall Opeth is a lot more extroverted in their approach and cover a lot more stylistic ground.   There is an undeniable kinship between them however, which presents itself in a few occasions on ‘The Fall Of Hearts’.  The beautiful acoustic-driven ballads Decima and Pale Flag show an affinity with Opeth’s ‘Damnation’ album and one of the albums heaviest tracks is Serac, which wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Watershed’.  But in reality the main thing these bands have in common is they both have very distinct, identifiable personalities and they are both led by very gifted singer/songwriters.

‘The Fall Of Hearts’ is a long album (67 minutes not counting bonus tracks) and thus takes a little while to fully reveal itself, but it’s such a rewarding experience that the effort is more than repaid.  I’m partial to the second half of the album, which gets a little darker, heavier and more complex yet never loses the melody and accessibility.  The light/heavy dynamic is used to great effect on tracks like Last Song Before The Fade (my personal favorite), The Night Subscriber and the uncharacteristically extroverted Passer, which allows new guitarist Roger Ojersson a turn in the spotlight.  It also features Shifts, one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I’ve heard this year in any genre.

While there are many albums from 2016 that have gotten more hype and publicity than ‘The Fall Of Hearts’, I’m not sure if many of them attain the artistic cohesiveness that Katatonia has achieved here.  This album took me completely by surprise, slowly worked its magic on me over the course of several months until it became indispensible.  Now hardly a day goes by where it doesn’t end up in my stereo at some point, still methodically revealing its charms, becoming ever more rewarding with each listen.  The very definition of a “sleeper hit”.

Released May 20th 2016

Buy The Fall Of Hearts direct from the band

 

Review – Earthside – A Dream In Static – by Shawn Dudley

Album-Cover-for-CD-VinylRE-600x600

If they gave out awards for most ambitious debut albums of the year then Earthside would be the clear winner for 2015. ‘A Dream In Static’, the audacious debut of this Connecticut prog metal quartet was recorded over a two and a half year period, on three different continents.

To ensure they attained the production sound they wanted they travelled to Sweden and worked with renowned engineers Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia)  and David Castillo (Opeth, Bloodbath). Another frequent Opeth collaborator, artist Travis Smith was brought in to design the artwork. The passion evident in the overall project carries over into the music.

‘A Dream In Static’ is evenly split between instrumental cuts and songs that feature the guest vocalists. The risk of featuring multiple vocalists on any project is sometimes the identity can get lost from track to track, but Earthside (mostly) avoids this pitfall with a unified compositional focus that perfectly ties the pieces together into a whole.

The opening instrumental piece The Closest I’ve Come begins the album by introducing us to the character of the core group before the other layers are applied. Their sound is striking; very modern, muscular, melodic and intricately arranged. A lovely looped guitar melody cascades over a synth backing and a driving beat before the rest of band enters. Unlike many prog metal bands the focus here is not on pyrotechnics, it’s creating a mood, an experience. The arrangement continues to build with each section, dynamics always carefully applied; quiet and then soaring, delicate and then aggressive, tension and release. After a lovely guitar solo the song quiets down into a soundscape, synth sounds and real percussion swirling together in the aether before crushing Meshuggah-style guitar chords lead back into the arrangement. It’s dramatic music to be sure, but they’re natural dramatics, not the oft-contrived variety.

The group describes their music as “Cinematic Rock” and nowhere is this more evident than on Entering The Light. The song features guest soloist Max ZT on hammer dulcimer and he creates a lovely wash of sound that intermingles perfectly with the full orchestra. The contribution to this piece by the band is mostly confined to the mid-section bridge. It definitely has a soundtrack quality to it, if I close my eyes while listening I picture low flying helicopter shots of a frozen tundra or some such…exactly the type of reaction I’m sure the band was hoping for.

The most impressive composition on the album is the mid-album centerpiece Skyline. This intricate instrumental has a breathtaking arrangement, the complex layering of piano, synth, 8-string rhythm guitar and soaring melodic lead guitar in the opening sections create a massive enveloping sound. This is contrasted beautifully by a stark bridge featuring just piano and drums, before slowly building into the epic conclusion.

Of the vocal tracks on the album my favorite is the driving title track A Dream In Static featuring Daniel Tompkins from Tesseract. The dramatic balance of melodic and aggressive from the instrumental compositions carry over to the vocal arrangements and the impressive vocal range of Tompkins is used to great effect. There is a Katatonia vibe to this song that also appears in other places on the album.

The lead single from the album is actually the only track that doesn’t really work for me. Mob Mentality is more akin to the symphonic metal style and I have to be honest and admit that isn’t really my cup o’ tea usually. The arrangement of the orchestra and the band is very nicely done and has a huge cohesive sound.  Guest vocalist Lajon Witherspoon’s (Sevendust) R&B-flavored vocals also provide an interesting contrast as usually these types of arrangements go for the operatic approach. But as a whole the song just doesn’t quite gel in my opinion and it also goes on far too long with too many repetitions of the chorus.  The band is actually underused here, this song is practically screaming out for an instrumental mid-section but it never materializes. While a nice attempt, this is the one track that feels out of place with the rest of the album.

The rest of the album fares better with the aggressive instrumental The Ungrounding and the album closing epic Contemplation Of The Beautiful featuring Eric Zirlinger (Face The King) being my other favorites.

Color me impressed. Despite my love of progressive rock and my love of good heavy metal I can’t say I’m usually that much of a Prog Metal fan. There are a few exceptions, but mostly the combination just doesn’t quite work for me.  I’m very glad to have found another exception.

Earthside has crafted an impressive work with ‘A Dream In Static’, one that could prove difficult to surpass with their sophomore effort.  But I’m laying odds they can top it.

Released 23rd October 2015

Buy the CD with complimentary download direct from the band

Buy the download from the band’s bandcamp site