“Wild And Wonderful Sounds!” – ‘Eros’ by Stefan Petanovski

Stefan Petanovski is a progressive metal artist from Macedonia who is preparing to release his second album as a solo act. A musician who has been part of countless groups and left his mark on many albums, his main musical output comes from his band Station: Innermost. However, his 2019 album ‘Architect of Reality’ marked the beginning of a new musical adventure for Petanovski, allowing him to hone his compositional and production skills. With the exception of Stefan Mitev (bass), Ana Petanovski (vocals) and a host of guest musicians, Petanovski has solely pieced together the follow-up titled ‘Eros’, an improved development from the debut that showcases a fuller and richer sound.

As a guitarist, Petanovski’s solo work is very much guitar-based, whether that be crunchy, hard-hitting riffs, frantic solos or intricate acoustic work. ‘Eros’ is no exception to this, but what really gives his second album the punch that his debut lacked is Mitev’s bass which obviously sounds bolder than the programmed bass on the debut. Moreover, it is clear from the album’s complex passages, characterised by rapid turns and twists, that having a real bass player has broadened Petanovski’s compositional palette so that his guitars are able to interplay with the bass to a larger extent. The complexity is made greater by the uncompromising drums that Petanovski has programmed in himself, constantly filling and complementing the de-tuned guitars with their deep and boomy sound. A range of lush synths, contrasting the overall bass-heavy timbre with their light and airy sound, are used in abundance to make an already full sounding band seem even fuller – perhaps becoming even too saturated at points. But this is not necessarily a bad thing; the chaos and relentlessness prevalent throughout the album define the sound Petanovski is going for here – and it sounds impressive!

The second track on the album ‘New Moon’, best exemplifies this latter point – there is a lot to take in and assess. Moving from section to section at quite some speed, the guitars slash away against a canvas of background noise where instruments seem to fight for a place in the mix. The resulting battle that takes place throughout the song leaves no room for breath and is therefore perhaps the most intense and chaotic song on the album. The 12 minute epic track ‘The Path, Life’s Light and Suffering’, has its fair share of these intense moments but these are complemented with more straightforward sections that allow the music to breath. These often come in the anthemic ‘chorus’ like sections that showcase the powerful voice of Ana Petanovski over some huge open guitar chords. With the album being mostly guitar orientated, it is refreshing to hear her dominant presence throughout the epic. A cleaner sound can be heard on ‘Ocean Wave’ as guitar and saxophone solos are accompanied by rich and delicately played acoustic guitars. A long reverb on the guitar solo gives this piece a very spacious and fluid sound, much like that of an ocean coincidentally. The piece takes a darker turn as those distorted guitars make a return and inspire a sense of dread within the listener; but all too soon, this darkness is quickly swept away and the piece ends the same way it began. The short-lived ‘Cafune’ is similarly cleaner, contrasting the doom-laden moments on the album with a playful, light-hearted sensibility. Characterised by articulate acoustic guitar and sprawling piano lines underscored by subtle jungle noises, the piece is a brief diversion into a thriving world of colour and nature. But perhaps the most interesting track is the opener ‘Tanaka’ which introduces the sounds of the jungle that crop up throughout the album and assert its thematic concept. Beautiful orchestration, bouncy percussion and tribal chants make up this majestic piece of music, reminding me of Peter Gabriel’s solo work in some ways. I wish it went on longer but in this case less is more and it does an excellent job at grabbing the listener’s attention and setting up what is to come on the rest of the album – keep an ear out for the repeated musical motifs that neatly tie everything together and solidify the albums’s concept.

There is a lot to digest here and only one listen is not enough to be able to fully appreciate the work that Petanovski has put into it – there is a great deal happening in every song. It is unbelievable that he has composed, recorded and produced this largely by himself and should be seen as a testament to his exceptional musical skills. With the album due out in March this year, there is plenty of time for you all to prepare yourselves for the delight that is ‘Eros’!

Written by Dominic Sanderson

You can find Stefan Petanovski on Facebook and Instagram! ‘Eros’ will be released on 10th March 2021 on all major streaming platforms!

“Fun For All Ages!” – ‘Adult Children’ by Vince Tampio

You won’t find anyone who lives and breathes jazz as much as Vince Tampio. The highly qualified multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger has spent his whole life contributing his services to the jazz world – reading the endless list of groups and projects he has been involved with is quite overwhelming. It is no wonder that he has made a name for himself in Philadelphia, not only for his generous contributions but also for his solo work. His 2020 release ‘Adult Children’ is a professional statement of his abilities beyond jazz, although jazz is, of course, the main ingredient here. The atypical instrumentation and use of modern production techniques characterises ‘Adult Children’ as a jazz fusion album with a contemporary twist.

This isn’t the first time Tampio has fused jazz with other genres in his playing; ‘Sound Plan’ (2017) incorporates psychedelic rock and EDM whilst ‘Tides’ (2019) is influenced by ambient sounds and makes use of synthesisers. But ‘Adult Children’ is Tampio’s definitive take on jazz fusion, a selection of fun and colourful songs ‘informed by hard-bop and inspired by highlife music’. As well as Tampio himself on trumpet, guitar and bass, he is aided by bassist Ben Basile, guitarists Joe Heider and Drew Parker and percussionists Ben Diamond, Corey Mark and Alec Meltzer. And it is perhaps the Latin percussion that is the main feature of the album which importantly sets an alternatively exotic stage for the many bouts of creative improvisation. Additional layered guitar parts, doused in varied effects, provide a versatile accompaniment that is sometimes airy and lush but can also sound robust and punchy – the contrast of the electric instruments against the natural percussion creates a very interesting blend of sounds. The lead role in improvisation is taken on by either the trumpet or the guitar, alike in their wild playing styles and harmonic explorations that serve to challenge the overall tonality. This makes for a very interesting listening experience that will keep you guessing.

Explosive songs such as the fast-paced ‘Vapid Transit’, characterised by discordant accompaniment and rapid trumpet and guitar licks, contrast the laid back ‘Soul Food Buddhist’. The piece lends itself to a psychedelic influence due to the airy guitar accompaniment and hypnotic trumpet melody that is made to sound threatening by a strange guitar harmony over the top. ‘Cardinal Rule’ is yet again different in style, with a funk influence being reflected in the punchy guitar accompaniment. The middle section brings the dynamic down so that the bass line and percussion become the focus but the funk influence is still retained through intermittent punches from the guitar accompaniment – an increase in tempo brings back the energy of the piece. Perhaps the most interesting song on the album is the closing track ‘Blow Our Minds’ with its avant-guard style; over half of the song is dedicated to an extended percussion solo, giving the listener a chance to properly hear the quirky Latin accompaniment that gives this album a unique edge. As the improvisation develops, the sounds become shrill and discomforting before the bass jumps in to relieve the listener and a final jam brings the album to a close.

And there is more to hear and absorb on the album, but the songs outlined here showcase the many styles Tampio has chosen to fuse with his roots in jazz. This man has evidently worked hard to become the musician he is – and it really shows! It seems he can literally do anything and execute it in style, as I am sure he will continue to do with the new directions he will take for future albums. If you want something vibrant, playful and uplifting, then this is the album for you!

Written by Dominic Sanderson

You can find Vince Tampio on Facebook and Instagram! ‘Adult Children’ is available on all major streaming platforms!

“In It Was Life, And That Life Starts With Elevator Music!” – ‘VOID’ by exit A head

exit A head are a German progressive rock band with an excellent debut album – would this simple sentence be enough to entice you into discovering this for yourself? For these firm believers in the self-discovery of music, they have one simple request: ‘stop trying to figure out what exit A head might sound like’. In the spirit of this, and in respect of the unique sound they strive for, I will convey to you the excellence of their debut album ‘VOID’ without comparing them to the well known prog bands and without compartmentalising them into a sub-genre of progressive rock as this would not do justice to the varied musical ideas that make this album well worth listening to.

The trio is made up of Daniel Chagnon (guitars, vocals), Julian Schlitzer (bass, backing vocals) and Paul Sinkemat (drums, backing vocals) and it comes as no surprise that they have already reaped the rewards from their debut album, receiving two silver medals at the Global Music Awards (Rock & Album). Spurred on by this success, exit A head were planning to take the award winning ‘VOID’ to the stage – but then the inevitable happened and I’m sure you don’t need me to spell out what that is. Despite not being able to perform, they are currently working on new material for when the glorious time comes and live music is re-birthed! But for now, let us appreciate the genius of their debut album!

We gradually descend into the void with ‘Desafinado’, a two minute piece of elevator muzak with a very cliché jazz sound. A sat nav in the background of this guides us towards the void – the mystery of what is to come next is exhilarating. Unexpectedly, such easy listening is obliterated by the metal-inspired ‘Broken’ which in complete contrast to the content sound of muzak, presents the listener with a purposefully ugly sound. Ugly does not infer that the music sounds bad but quite the opposite; this trio are not afraid of discordant harmony and chromaticism, employing these to great effect in the hellish, doom-laden ‘Broken’. Chagnon’s cold and monotone singing style works really well with the mood of the song. The next piece is a perfect example of exit A head’s varied musical palette as ‘The Ocean Awaits’ lends itself to a more contemporary influence. Characterised by lush, clean guitars, consonant harmony and catchy melodies, this songs provides some needed relief from the evil ‘Broken’. 

The 8 minute centrepiece of the album, ‘Rise & Fall’, is split into two distinct sections; the first part is fast-paced and mostly instrumental, a melange of chugging riffs, changing time signatures and chromatic passages. The second half is much more ambiguous and can only be described as a developing wall of noise. It is again purposefully ugly, perhaps motorised and robotic in sound, as if some sort of machine is gradually powering up – whatever it is meant to be, it’s intrusive. The nature of this two part structure fits really well with the song title: it ‘rises’ in the first half and then ‘falls’ in the second. The 1 minute long ‘Void’ is a haunting solo piano piece that cycles through a variety of chords played over a pedal note; sometimes these chords fit, sometimes they don’t, making for a very strange piece of music that sounds both gothic and romantic in nature. The final track, ‘Octopuss’, begins with the bass and drums establishing a groove. Chagnon adds some gorgeous guitar decorations over the top of this, doused in reverb and delay. As the groove progresses and musical parts develop, a clear Spanish flavour arises. The sudden entrance of a huge climactic section changes the mood entirely before then once again suddenly returning back to the Spanish style to end the track and the album.

Some weird and wonderful sounds to be digested here! The album is nicely varied and is guaranteed to surprise the listener on more than one occasion. Whilst we await for exit A head to gift us with more eclectic sounds, ‘VOID’ is sat there waiting for you to discover it!

Written by Dominic Sanderson

You can find exit A head on Facebook and Instagram! Their debut album is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube!

“Uncovering The Secrets Behind The Cabinet Doors!” – ‘The Crimson Cabinet’ by Starfish64

Starfish64 are a German progressive rock band led by the versatile Dieter Hoffmann (guitar, vocals, keyboards, programming). Formed in 2006, Hoffman originally created Starfish64 as an outlet for his acoustic, singer-songwriter solo work but with progressive elements creeping into his sound, Hoffman inducted Henrik Kopp (drums), Dominik Suhl (guitar) and Martin Powell (bass, guitar, keyboard, vocals) into the band as permanent members in order to flesh out these ambitious elements. The first success’ of this new progressive outfit were 2016’s ‘An Altered State of Joy’ and 2018’s ‘The Future In Reverse’, the former boasting the 23 minute opener ‘Altered States’. Showcasing their ability to create atmospheric, dreamy art rock, Starfish64’s latest 2020 release ‘The Crimson Cabinet’ develops upon this same sound but with an overall sense of melancholia that will appeal to fans of Tim Bowness.

As well as hearing Tim Bowness, the compositional features bring Hogarth-era Marillion to mind; the lush soundscapes, the melodic bass lines and the most gorgeous clean guitar chords coupled together with heartfelt solos that often intermingle with Dietrich’s vocals – which conveniently don’t sound a million miles away from Steve Hogarth. Most importantly, the music refuses to be grandiose and overblown, opting for atmosphere over complexity and stark shifts in musical ideas that would disturb the album’s gentle flow – each track smoothly and delicately makes its way from beginning to end. All of these elements work together to create some of the most beautiful examples of catchy, melodic dream pop. 

The album opens with the ambiguous ‘In The Lobby’ – as it says on the tin, this short track centres around the sounds of a busy lobby, which assumedly houses the crimson cabinet and introduces a descending melody that crops up later in the album. This then segues smoothly into ‘Spindrift’, a sweet sounding, relaxed pop song that hooks you into its catchy chorus. It ends on a more sombre note as the bass and piano melodies intermingle underneath some narration from Hoffmann. ‘Lost & Found’ is similar in style but carries on this sense of melancholy to an even greater extent, the lyrics outlining an aimless road trip that seems to go on indefinitely. For any listeners feeling a little weighed down at this point, fear not, for relief comes in the form of ‘Future Perfect Tense’ and ‘Mr O’ Brayne’ which both feel more energised, driven and have a clearer groove to get the head nodding. The latter is particularly driven; the distorted guitars really stand out here and are responsible for giving this track more grit than any other track on the album. ‘Future Perfect Tense’ may not be as gritty, but it does have the most addictive groove in the chorus and, interestingly, features a children’s choir which is a rare choice of instrumentation. However, the real centrepiece of the album is the title track which returns to a feeling of melancholia and ambience. If you can remember the descending melody from ‘In The Lobby’, you’ll notice its prevalence here – you can’t go wrong with recurring motifs! If you’re like me and love euphoric endings, you will love the ending here complete with choir mellotron and a soulful guitar solo. The final two tracks of the album are again similar in style; ‘The Future In Reverse’ offers six and a half minutes of painful emotion felt in every note played and sung, before the music takes a sudden change in direction towards something more energised and uplifting. ‘Nowhere Bound’ revisits the theme of an aimless journey (as suggested by the title) previously outlined in ‘Lost And Found’. The music of course suits this bleak topic, the melancholia prevalent throughout the album lasting till the very end.

Once you enter the Crimson Cabinet, you never want to leave! This band really excel in creating beautiful sounds shrouded in uncertainty and melancholia. Could this perhaps be called prog pop? I’m sceptical of such a term but nevertheless I enjoy the straightforward, catchier moments just as much as the more ambiguous excerpts of music on the album. With a lengthy back-catalogue, there is plenty more to hear whilst we await more new music from this talented bunch in the future…that is if/when you can drag yourselves out of the Crimson Cabinet!

Written by Dominic Sanderson

You can find Starfish64 on Facebook and Instagram! ‘The Crimson Cabinet’ is available on all major streaming platforms!

“A Farewell to Rush (Almost!)” – How 2112 saved Rush’s Career!

It’s 1975 and Rush are in trouble. There was an initial feeling of pride permeating within the trio when they first listened back to their ambitious third studio album Caress of Steel. It was certainly a development from the straightforward rock imbued Fly By Night, as the band began experimenting with longer song forms, complex arrangements and darker themes – ‘The Fountain of Lamneth’ is a prime example. Unfortunately, such drastic changes in sound alienated their fan base, who struggled to understand what Rush were trying to communicate both musically and lyrically. The album ultimately flopped, the tour that followed was nicknamed the ‘Down The Tube’ tour and the Mercury record company were losing faith in the band. With one more album left on the contract before they could be dropped from the label, it was a make or break situation – thank god it wasn’t the latter! Deciding that they wanted to go out in flames, Rush defied the label’s desire for a commercial record and instead created an album that, not only saved their career, but has stood the test of time as a masterpiece deserving of a place in the canon of progressive rock – the victorious album in question is 2112!

Released in 1976, 2112 cemented the Rush sound that was evidently confused and ambiguous on Caress of Steel. It shared the same ambitious nature as Caress of Steel, boasting the epic 20 minute title track that entirely dominates side A of the record, but the difference is in the execution – 2112 is the opposite of confused. The title track is the obvious centrepiece of the album, split into seven sections that tell a story of a protagonist living on a planet devoid of creativity (a scary thought) and ruled by priests who reside in the Temple of Syrinx. The protagonist finds a neglected guitar in a cave and discovers music for the first time; unfortunately the priests are not as impressed with his discovery and destroy this precious source of individualism and creativity. Depressed that he will never be able to relish in the glory of creativity, he takes his own life and the song ends with a planetary war! Ayn Rand’s Anthem was the inspiration behind this powerful story – she is credited by lyrical genius Neil Peart in the albums liner notes. However, this did get them into a spot of bother with NME who pointed out Rand’s right wing views and tried to label Rush as fascists; a hinderance that Rush obviously resented, but not enough of a hinderance to prevent fans from indulging in Rush’s eventful fiction. 

How I envy those listeners hearing that eerie synthesised opening for the very first time, unaware of the journey they are about to embark upon – so long, but yet so memorable. It is effortless to recall each concise movement of the epic, neatly fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle with the blistering overture being the central piece that holds together the rest of the puzzle. Only after the overture does the story begin to unravel, the music perfectly communicating the action of the story. ‘III Discovery’ and ‘IV Presentation’ are perfect examples of this; the former tells of the significant moment in which the protagonist uncovers the creative secrets of the guitar, mirrored beautifully in Lifeson’s improvised guitar part that develops from out of tune open strings to fully formed chords and ideas – if only I had learnt to play the guitar so quickly! The fragility and sparseness of this movement completely contrasts the anger and grit of the next movement ‘IV Presentation’. Lee, singing gently as the protagonist in the previous movement, transforms into the ruthless priests, singing in a much higher range with an angry snarl in his voice and accompanied by Lifeson’s roaring, hearty guitar chords and Peart’s uncompromising drumming. The stark change of mood here is just one example of the rollercoaster ride ‘2112’ takes you on, and exemplifies the mature craftsmanship here that a song such as ‘The Fountain of Lamneth’ lacked.

And then we have side B which features the more commercial tracks but nevertheless they are just as important as the epic title track. The tracks on side B show that Rush are more than just a one-trick pony; as well as creating long, complex and challenging epics that appeal to prog rockers alike, they have the versatility to craft concise yet excellent rock songs. Whether it be the marijuana related ‘A Passage to Bangkok’ that outlines the places that grow the best weed, the album’s sombre ballad ‘Tears’ that is drenched in mellotron, or ‘The Twilight Zone’ influenced by – you guessed it – the stories of the 60s sci-fi programme The Twilight Zone, side B offers a different listening experience to the one on side A. ‘2112’ is much more serious and dramatic, requiring patience and concentration, whereas the songs on side B are purposefully light-hearted and fun.

It is this fusion that made 2112 so successful, offering something that would appeal to everyone whether they preferred prog rock or straightforward classic rock. Fortunately for Rush and for the fans, 2112 saved their musical career and set them up to create more masterpieces such as Hemispheres, Moving Pictures and many more. Thankfully, 2112 did not signal ‘a farewell to Rush’ but rather a farewell to the anxieties of the past that could finally be put behind them as they began to propel forward!

Written by Dominic Sanderson

“Blasting Their Way Into The Prog Universe!” – ‘Cosmos’ by Sunset Junkies

Sunset Junkies are a heavy prog band from Australia led by the creative impetus of Byron Short (guitar and vocals) and aided by the majestic vocals of Ellie Jane. Stefan Fuller (bass) and Daniel Trickett (drums) complete the lineup. Despite the impeding effects of covid on the live music scene, Sunset Junkies have much to be excited about; with the promise of a new album in 2021, the band are using the time they have before this release to properly celebrate their debut 2019 album ‘Cosmos’ that was prevented from being performed in the flesh. It is unsurprising that the band want to relaunch the album on vinyl and milk it for all it’s worth, as ‘Cosmos’ is a powerful musical statement that promises satisfying bluesy rock, that sometimes leans towards heavy metal, along with a more ambitious experimental flavour that arises near the end of the album.

It certainly packs a punch! The first half of the album in-particular, is all about grit, power and chunky riffs that stay true to a classic rock n roll sensibility. Nowhere is this better emphasised than in ‘Sunset Junkie’, a clear nod towards the greats of classic rock such as AC/DC. The song is energised, driven and has a clear purpose in that it does not attempt to be anything other than a classic rock n roll headbanger. The guitar solo in the interlude is hearty and honest, fitting well with the bluesy style of the song. The track previous to this ‘It’, takes this sensibility even further; structured around a 12-bar blues, the band stay true to the very roots of classic rock n roll. However, the playful piano interjections, that punctuate the quieter sections of the 12-bar blues with some very tasty notes, gives the rigid 12-bar blues structure some much needed fluidity and interest. The album opener ‘Inertia’, is probably the most powerful statement on the album and has the right lasting impact that any opener should have. It is also the heaviest track on the album, bringing to mind Dream Theater as opposed to a classic rock band. The anthemic vocals really stand out here, sounding as if they are being gloriously shouted from a high mountain top. There is certainly a sense of revolutionary anger in the way the vocal melodies are communicated, especially with the multiple layered backing vocals that succeed in giving this already powerful song a very full, chant-like sound. 

We then move on to the final two tracks of the album – things become a little more proggy here! The former of the two is the 9 minute title track that really slows things down. In contrast to the unrelenting power and drive that characterised most of the previous songs, ‘Cosmos’ begins as nothing more than an acoustic guitar and vocals underscored by subtle, spacey background noise that highlight the fragility of this opening. Repetition and development are the key here as the band take their time in constructing the piece from its humble beginnings, gradually layering in each instrument until the song sounds fuller, stronger and eventually reaches the point of its emotional climax. The final 13 minute track ‘The Spheres’ couldn’t differ more in the way it begins, coming alive instantly by enveloping the listener in a sudden and inescapable wall of noise. Much like ‘Inertia’, this piece is initially very heavy but differs in that the opening lends itself to a gothic sound that provokes a sense of dread and evil. Not that this lasts too long, as the piece is constantly evolving and transitioning into new and contrasting sections. The vocal polyphony that emerges from the dying wall of noise, for example, abandons the previous evil and menace and instead opts for something much more uplifting. The piece then makes its way towards the end and feels more purposeful, developing on a chord progression towards a powerful and euphoric ending. The final minute of the album is tricky to describe but trust me when I say that it brings the whole album to a mysteriously ambiguous close.

There is something here for lovers of classic rock and prog alike! It is a shame that the band haven’t had a proper chance to perform these songs live where they are bound to sound even more powerful. However we are glad to have contributed in celebrating this awesome debut album! Keep your eyes out for their next studio album out next year – I certainly will!

Written by Dominic Sanderson!

You can find Sunset Junkies on Facebook and Instagram. Their debut album ‘Cosmos’ is available on all major streaming platforms!

Guest Post: Bidi – ‘Dans Ma Bulle’ (2020) by Prog Loop!

“Bidi released his debut EP on the 2nd of December, 2020, after 6 years in the making. The EP contains elements of rock ‘n roll, such as distorted power-chord riffs on the guitar, electronic sounds establishing a mysterious atmosphere, prog metal runs, a 10-person vocal orchestra, and even orchestral or big band parts. The multi-faceted nature of such a record makes it hard to classify it as part of a single genre. His influences range from Dream Theater to alt rock band Nothing But Thieves. Apart from his obvious love of genre-bending, the EP’s main theme seems to be contemporary experimentation. For “cause perdue,” an emotional rollercoaster of a song that talks about rejection by a loved one, Bidi layered his interviews with people on top of the bridge of the song in order to augment the melancholic atmosphere. There is also a similar layering in “c’est un depart,” this time with real conversions from space missions since the song is about a space adventure. Oh, talking about space, the lyrics are very… unconventional. The 3rd track, “le gecko,” is about a gecko’s love life, while 2 tracks later tears roll down our cheeks because of the forlorn content of the lyrics. The EP, from start to finish, is full of surprises and small details that Bidi seems to have poured his years into.”

This is the introduction to a brilliant review of Bidi’s ‘Dans Ma Bulle’ published by our good friends over at Prog Loop. To read the whole article, click the link below:


Interview with Kevin Storm: Fleetburner and Their Debut Album!

Fleetburner is the metal/rock project belonging to Dutch guitarist Kevin Storm. For the first time, Storm has allowed himself the complete creative freedoms to create his own untampered vision. The close bond Storm has with this project is evident on Fleetburner’s debut album; an emotional rollercoaster, you can clearly tell that Storm has written this from the soul. Storm has produced a solid debut that refuses to be belittled as simply a ‘metal album’ – it is so much more! While the album succeeds in creating a satisfying heavy sound, there are many other flavours and influences that are guaranteed to appeal. Handpicked by Storm to create this ambitious offering, the lineup features Ken Simply (vocals), Peter Iwers (bass), Tomas Myklebust (drums) and Veli-Matti Kananen (keys) as well as Storm himself on the guitar. I had a chat with Storm to learn all about it…

How did the band form and what was the initial goal?

I started the album by myself. It started as a project, a story that I really needed to get out of my system. As you figured out, I met Tomas on a tour with Vulture Industries where we were both session musicians. We ended that tour by saying “we should totally start a band”. Fleetburner became a very, very personal story that needed to be released from my system and to get this to a full band; I really ONLY wanted to work with people that I trusted. I knew that the people I toured with had their hearts in the right place. I have a very particular view on making music and a lot of it centers around the magic of people putting themselves in their instruments. I believe in music as catharsis.

You released your self-titled debut album in September. How would you describe it?

I’ve said this in other interviews as well. I describe it as “me, lifted by friends”.

Could you outline the concept in detail? What was the inspiration for the concept?

I believe it’s something universal. The fact that all these musicians gathered around this single totem pole that has been shaped into Fleetburner proves that a lot of people can connect to it. I believe a lot of people connect to it on very deep levels. For me it’s about leaving things behind. Building new worlds, murdering your past self and leaving behind everything that tried to drag you down. To Ken, our singer, it’s a different, but equally emotional ride. My version of the story, the album I wrote before the others came onboard is that of the young child that is surrounded by harmful people. The child needs to learn to navigate its own emotions, the world around it and how harmful it can be. That, for me, was a very long and arduous path and led me to a point where I have learned to come to terms with the fact that the world is simply not what I dream it to be. The young man will have to deal with this world, and fleeing is not always an option. The fleet will follow, hurt is inescapable. For some it’s unsurvivable, but to me one of the most important lines in the whole album is “eyes ahead, chin up, run”.

The debut is said to be a mix of heavy metal, thrash metal, prog and classic rock. What would you say are the most progressive moments on the album?

It’s been insane to see how much love the album is getting from the prog scene, but I never intended it to reach any market. I wrote this music from within, and I simply can’t stick within a single genre. I love what Marty Friedman said about his leaving Megadeth. He said music to him is a palet of colours, and he was getting tired of only painting with gunnery metal. He went on to create some of the most fantastically creative music after that. I believe in those words.

Which artists are you inspired by and why? Which songs from the album reflect these influences greatest?

I grew up with bands like My Dying Bride, Anathema, Metallica, but I love music like Kate Bush, Nick Cave, so much more. I have a broad love of music, as long as it’s dark, I guess. Or from the heart. I think a lot of Doom and black metal influence can be heard but that’s probably because I toured with so many bands in that genre.

What was the recording process like? Were there any areas that proved trickier to record than others?

I can’t remember anything from the recording. The original writing I did, happened in a timespan of roughly two months, and all I can remember from it is coming home and listening to the results every night. I really was in a different space in my head when I did all this. And no, I don’t do drugs, or drink. It was a very emotional period at the time and this story just HAD to come out. I’m still amazed at the orchestra’s I created, I never even knew I could do that.

You have certainly done the rounds in other bands. How does working in Fleetburner differ with other bands you’ve worked with?

Fleetburner is the first and only band I ever truly wrote without limitations. I’ve written concept albums before and worked with big bands on helping them write their albums, but never have I written this close to the heart. I didn’t have to cater to any ego’s and that was incredibly liberating.

You say the arrival of vocalist Ken Simerly was unexpected? How so? And how did his unexpected arrival change the sound of the band?

Ken was something we were hoping for. I was looking for a new singer after having spent 9 months with a different singer who had too many personal issues to be really able to commit to the album. Ken responded to a video I posted and that’s how he auditioned. I was looking for a singer who could sing in the style of Jeff Buckley and he was without a doubt the right match.

What impact has covid had on your work as musicians? Did this effect the recording or release of the new album?

The music was intercontinental already, I believe the recording process would not have been any different if the world had been the same as before. Of course we are unable to promote the album live and this definitely had an impact on sales, but we’re happy the music is out there and the rave reviews we have been getting.

What is the next step for the band? Are there any touring plans? Or is it too soon to think about live gigs at this point?

I already started writing the next album, since there are no tours and no clear sight of when the roads will open again. I will just work on building the band, getting it out to people, and trying to somehow gather a little bit of money to mix the next album. It’s nearly impossible with all the streaming platforms out there to actually make any money with a new band, but I have high hopes for when the roads do open.

What is your advice to those independent artists struggling due to the pandemic?

Quit struggling, get to work. We’re all in this, if you’re not writing music NOW, then you’ll never do it. Use the time to find your center, your core and write what you want to write. Pretend there is no audience and find new grounds. Because the live-scene will never be the same after this.

Wise words from a talented musician. You can find Fleetburner on Facebook and Instagram. Their debut album is available on all major streaming platforms!

Intro and Interviewer: Dominic Sanderson

“Rolling Around In The Glorious Mud” – ‘Quiet Days On Earth’ by Electric Mud

Electric Mud are a post-progressive duo from Germany comprising of Hagen Bretschneider and Nico Walser. I would usually attempt to give you an overview of the artist’s main sound but on this occasion I struggle as these guys refuse to be compartmentalised. Having heard of this studio-based duo and the original sounds emanating from their work, I was intrigued enough to give their 2018 album ‘The Deconstruction Of Light’ a listen. This dark offering lends itself to a heavy, distorted sound where chunky guitars riffs dominate and dissonance is prevalent – very Crimson-esque I’m sure you’ll agree. Such heavy moments are contrasted with ambient Tangerine Dream like soundscapes that are still darkly coloured but provide a different texture to relieve the more intense moments. I knew that they had a new album out this year titled ‘Quiet Days On Earth’, and expecting to hear more of what ‘The Deconstruction Of Light’ offered, I was excited to get my teeth into their new album!

‘Quiet Days On Earth’ is the perfect example of how this duo refuse to swear allegiance to a singular sound; whilst it is not a million miles away from their previous album, there is definitely a change in direction. We still have the Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno influenced soundscapes but on this album they serve a gentler, more cinematic purpose. Rather than provoking an overall dark feeling like on their previous album, ‘Quiet Days On Earth’ is all about creating a plethora of contrasting moods – some uplifting, some haunting and some just plain beautiful! It presents the listener with 15 dynamically varied pieces that often begin as delicate, subdued ideas but grow into something much more intense and climatic. The synth/keys, being the real star of the show throughout the album, contributes most in creating these calming atmospheres, helped along by delicate piano, lush strings, Gilmour-esque guitar, Hagen’s bass that grounds these vast soundscapes and many other interesting appearances. It is the subtle, barely noticeable swells, tinkles and playful melodies on these instruments, weaving in and out of each song, that makes this a highly detailed album – it requires careful and repeated listening. What really stands out for me, however, is the incredibly rich harmony; the use of extended chords and unusual chord changes keeps the music interesting and often adds such colour to these soundscapes – I can’t help but smile every time I hear an unexpected chord!

You can imagine the smile on my face then when I hear the gorgeous repeated chord progression on the strings in ‘silhouettes floating down a rain-slicked street’, preceding a most glorious, euphoric climax that would succeed in making any grown man shed a tear. Or perhaps you can envisage the huge, joyful grin on my face during ‘the loneliness of the somnambulist’ when the song suddenly becomes really static, with chords being sustained for what seems like forever and trapping the listener in a glorious wall of noise held together by a repeating heartbeat rhythm on the lower instruments. When the chord eventually changes, it is unexpected, surprising and joyously fulfilling! 

For the many moments of beauty, such as these, there are also the more sinister pieces that hearken back to the duo’s previous material. In particular, ‘wading through the waters of time’ starts off ominously as a drone underscores a haunting chord progression that at times clashes with this drone and muddies the overall tonality. The second half then introduces an evil distorted guitar that reminds me of the sort of gothic sound Black Sabbath were well known for. Similarly, ‘the absence of light’ lends itself to an identical gothic sound, especially with the organ in the background. The dread-provoking piano and the uncomfortably shrill wail that crops up from time to time serve to cause some real discomfort for the listener – this piece sounds like it could be from a horror movie. ‘The space between the shadows’ fools you with its ominous opening; a very low drone underscores a mellotron melody that muddies the tonality with clashing notes. However, the entrance of a lively acoustic guitar quickly sweeps the doom and gloom away and suddenly changes the entire mood of the piece. Everything feels happier, playful and as we approach the end, a lot more uplifting than what was initially set out. 

Just when you thought this album couldn’t be any more diverse, the duo incorporate some world music influences into a couple of the songs. The title track ‘quiet days on earth’ begins with a subtle nod to a flamenco style of playing on the acoustic guitars, adding a nice Spanish flavour to the album. In fact, this track features the guitar more prominently than elsewhere on the album, and I must mention the long, epic guitar solo that brings the song to a close – a really soulful and satisfying guitar solo. We then hear a more folk-inspired sound on ‘adventures in a liquid world’ with the de-tuned guitar, mandolin and percussive shakers nodding towards this country flavour. This has shown itself to be an incredibly versatile album – and there are more songs to delve into!

There is a whole lot more that can be said but I’ll let you discover its intricacies for yourself. Clocking in at 79 minutes, there isn’t one single bad minute on the album, each song a refreshing change from the last. These guys deserve a lot of credit considering the obvious amount of heart and soul that has gone into this creation – a gem in the prog world! I cannot wait to find out which path they take their music down on future releases.  

“The Tale Of Royer The Wizard!” – ‘Wizard At Work Part 1’ by Jeff Royer

Jeff Royer is a 28 year old solo artist from California, working away in his small cabin on Palomar Mountain in San Diego – this is where the magic happens! He is another one of those astounding musicians who love being entirely independent, writing, recording and producing all of his own material unaided. His 2019 debut album ‘A Portal To The Message’ marked his first independent effort; this piano and synth led offering evokes a heavy Supertramp influence that meets a space rock sound. Royer describes it as a “testing waters album” in which he wasn’t overly worried about complexity. Now that he is more comfortable in the realms of being a solo artist, Royer is beginning to musically challenge himself for the next album. His efforts have paid off on his new single ‘Wizard At Work Part 1’ that definitely sounds proggier, evoking a clear Yes influence. 

This six minute piece refuses to repeat itself, encompassing both symphonic and atmospheric elements, Royer neatly ties this piece together with multiple recurring motifs that solidify all of his amazing musical ideas. The introduction is purposeful, with the tonic being outlined in the lower parts and emphasised in the higher descending synth parts – the guitar doubles the synth later on. The last bar in each phrase is filled in with a tasteful keys lick to spice up this introductory section. A more symphonic section then follows, beginning with a rapid ascending figure on the guitars; in fact the guitars really take the lead here for this entire section, presenting the listener with some memorable melodies. The twin guitar melody, in-particular, that precedes a more ambient section, works really effectively at indicating that something significant is about to occur. And funnily enough, the next section introduces the main motif in the best possible way; a huge synth drone gives this part of the song a vastness that brings this motif to the forefront. The bass and drums do an excellent job of grounding the music and retaining the energy of the piece. An unexpected rapid descending figure on the guitars then brings us into a new section centred around just two chords that allow for some soloing opportunities. The guitar and synth are both let loose, producing similarly melodic and hearty solos, each solo separated by a repeat of the rapid descending figure. The music then builds towards the final section of the piece which sees the return of the huge synth drone and that all important motif – with no drums or bass grounding the music here, a weight feels like it has finally been lifted as the motif repeats until fade out. If you listen carefully, you can hear the rapid descending figure distantly in the background making its way down to the tonic where it unifies with the synth drone. This final section feels like something has been resolved!

With the album set for release in just one months time, this first taste of ‘Wizard At Work’ will whet your appetite. For those lovers of symphonic prog bands such as Yes and Camel, this will be of great appeal to you. If you still want to hear more of Royer before the album comes out, check out his first album – you won’t be disappointed by any of the music he has made so far!

Written by Dominic Sanderson

You can find Jeff Royer on Instagram. You can listen to the single ‘Wizard At Work Part 1’ on all major streaming platforms. His new album ‘Wizard At Work’ comes out in December 2020!