Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mile Marker Zero "The Fifth Row"

 As always, a pleasure to welcome you back to the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Thus far 2018 has been a banner year and the calendar has just recently moved into season two.  Recently I had the good fortune of connecting with a musician on Facebook who is a member of a band I was
up-to-that-moment unfamiliar with.   By now you (hopefully) know me enough to understand I am  incapable of walking past without checking out...so the Concert Closet took the search for all things prog to the Nutmeg State--that's Connecticut for you spice-deprived--and a check-in with Mile Marker Zero to unwrap their latest release, "The Fifth Row."

 Self described as an "Audio explosion...driving, powerfully progressive modern rock..."  How did I miss this gem walking through the prog garden as often as I do?  Not sure, but this is as good a time as any to broaden my listening skills, so to the prog buffet we go...leading off with "Source Code" and allowing it to bleed into "2001."

This is eerily magnificent; the album opens with a Big Brother-like overview of society flashing across your auditory sensors...from an age of innocence to a time of regret...or perhaps simple remorse.  As "2001" begins to erupt through the headphones you start to make the connection; we humans are beginning to outsmart ourselves.  With top notes of Muse wafting throughout, the adrenaline pumping through this song has the guitars pinging off the lining of my skull using the drum kit for bumpers...this is an adult dose...

Moving along, I find "Building a Machine" forcing its way through my headphones.  Mile Marker Zero is nothing if not intense; yet another sound explosion racing through your blood stream with enough force to burst through your chest, but with a calculated rhythm to the mayhem.  The vocals build a ferocity that showers down all around like a July hail storm...complete with accompanying calm. The song moves through a season of emotions as it unfolds; aromatics of Transatlantic and perhaps a scent of Rush stir my senses.

 Liner Notes...coming together in 2005, Mile Marker Zero originated in New Haven, CT and is comprised of Dave Alley on vocals, John Tuohy on guitars, Jaco Lindito on bass, Mark Focarile on keyboards, and Doug Alley on drums.  After meeting at college, the band spent much time honing their craft the old fashion way; practice and performance.  Mile Marker Zero has been on stage with  Porcupine Tree, Underoath, and
Spock's Beard among others.

"The Fifth Row" is MMZ's third full-length LP, released in March (their 2006 debut was an EP) and is a concept album dealing with Artificial Intelligence and its affect on society.  Not the first band to dabble in this subject matter, but quite an alternative view through an entirely different lens. Mile Marker Zero lets you catch your breath just long enough to suck the air out of your lungs...audio explosion indeed.

You can purchase "The Fifth Element" and other entries in the Mile Marker Zero catalog at
MMZ Bandcamp as well as the band's website Mile Marker Zero.  Music can also be found on iTunes.  Fans can follow them and learn about new releases, tour info, and all things MMZ on Facebook at MMZ Facebook and Twitter @mmzofficial.

Another bit of intrigue etched into plastic is this next cut, "Propaganda." Once again Mile Marker Zero crashes through the starting gate leaving a scorched earth and lavender aroma...Johnny and Doug paved a section of the prog garden to ensure no weeds got through; they gave this song a very solid foundation.  Dave's vocals come riding across the top like flames on a grease fire; all you need do is sit back and admire the explosive canvas on display.

The clip below is called "The Architect."  I chose it to for a peek behind the curtain that allows  you to discover for yourself what it's like to have sound travel that fast through a set of headphones.  The needle is pushing toward the red yet all the while the music is tight; this isn't loud for the sake of being loud.  Mile Marker Zero is enlightening (or warning?) us about the dangers of AI taking control of all we think, say, and do...and everything is self-inflicted.  You may sleep with the lights on after this...

                      

Just like that seven days finished a lap around the sun.  Another week gone by and another bumper crop from the prog garden.  Mile Marker Zero is a breath of fresh air--which is apropos considering the time of year.  There has been much debate about what is and isn't prog; many people seem to believe that the entire genre is stuck in a bubble that started somewhere around 1968 and sealed itself off in 1980 or so...and I could not disagree more.

Lest we forget, prog is short for progressive, and bands like Mile Marker Zero help progress the genre along, keeping it fresh and evolving for the next generation.  That can only be a good thing, because stagnation is a painful death.  The search for all things prog has opened my eyes and ears to some incredible music and some fantastic artists, and I hope my sharing with you has broadened your horizons as well.  Now as always, time to pack up the Concert Closet and continue the journey...until next time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Karmamoi

Sprinter greetings fellow progheads!  Now that winter and spring have "officially merged" to wreak havoc across the globe, I thought it the perfect time to take The Closet Concert Arena on a trip to one of my favorite prog places; Italy.  Home to many an ornate and elaborate prog rock band, Italy has produced some of the finest innovators, albeit underrated, in the genre.

This week the Concert Closet stops in Rome to check in with Karmamoi, who refer to themselves simply as a progressive rock band.  Not like the Italians to be humble, introverted, or understated, so already my attention has been grabbed...


Karmamoi has three full length albums and an EP in their current catalog and their latest release "The Day Is Done" is due in May.  Like many bands in the "modern era," Karmamoi is taking a less traditional approach to making this album a reality; reaching out directly to you the fans/listeners.  More about that later, time to start in on the prog feast...

Looking over all the offerings Karmamoi has out there now, I start with a slice of "Nashira."  In typical Italian prog style the music saunters across most of the prog garden with a focus on the brighter, more ornate sections.  Mood and tempo changes are as common here as mosquitoes at a summer picnic; so many and from all directions.  A strong foundation built on splendid piano and solid drum work allows for vocals smooth as softened butter to coat your inner ear...the week is shaping up quite nicely...

Moving around the catalog randomly I discover a cut called "Labyrinth."  Once again those siren vocals ooze through the headphones, sticking to the auditory canals as they echo through your head.  There are top notes of Porcupine Tree and a gentler side of Opeth ringing out from the disc.  Karmamoi likes to keep you focused as they come right at you, and like the proverbial train wreck, it is impossible to look away.

Liner Notes...Coming to be in 2008, Karmamoi is officially a two-man operation with Alex Massari on guitar and Daniele Giovannoni sitting behind the drum kit and playing keyboards; the founding duo splits time between London and Rome.   Karmamoi has several alumni that have left for various reasons and they list several guest musicians on their album credits; the woman with the killer pipes on "Nashira" is Sara Rinaldi for the curious among you...

About that reaching out to the fans thing; you can pre-order the new release "The Day Is Done" at
www.pledgemusic.com/projects/karmamoinewalbum. There are different packages you can
pre-order with some cool options.  Or you can simply go to Karmamoi to learn about the band.  You can purchase albums currently in their catalog at Karmamoi bandcamp.  Check out all their music and all things Karmamoi at Karmamoi Soundcloud  and Karmamoi FB.  If that doesn't slate your thirst there is also Twitter @karmamoirock .


 One more serving from the Karmamoi buffet; "If I Think Of The Sea."   The song is very ethereal as it opens with another incredible vocal performance...this time Serena Ciacci is the captivating siren.  Aromatics of Bent Knee waft through the room--which is crazy since Karmamoi recorded this gem first.  The song soothes your nerves as it arouses your senses...even the drums crash around you gently...
                             
This week a bit of a twist; yes I have a clip to whet your appetite...but...it's just a teaser from the new album.  Get an idea of what Daniele and Alex are up to as you listen to a waltz across the prog garden on electrified feet...walk tall, hold on, and wait for the drums to release the pressure...

                   

One more week comes to a crashing halt fellow progheads.  Karmamoi is that sparkling gem laid bare as the sun shines brightly on the prog garden, glinting off the soft stones in the soil.  Bask in the glow that burns through the dark clouds raining down a color storm on a streaked prog canvas.

  Progressive music casts a wider net these days it seems; some say too wide.  I, on the other hand, say that perhaps it isn't wide enough--there is always someone out there looking to push the envelope, skirt the edge, and look through a different lens.  It is for them the search for all things prog continues...until next time...

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Autumn Moonlight "Passengers"

Good evening and thanks for the return visit fellow progheads!  My calendar broke this week; never a pleasant thing...so time for a road trip!  Spring travel is always fun so I decided to take the Concert Closet to a place I have not been in  awhile...Buenos Ares, Argentina.  Autumn Moonlight, two talented musicians who have been putting out some incredible prog, recently released their latest album, "Passengers."

Calling themselves a progressive post rock band, Autumn Moonlight challenges boundaries as they blend a post-modern jazz feel with progressive overtones.  You may remember Autumn Moonlight being in the spotlight of  The Closet Concert Arena just about two years ago; they return now for us to witness first-hand how the band has grown and flourished while cultivating their unique sound in the prog garden...

Image result for autumn moonlight  band

 For no particular reason, we'll start the prog buffet with some lighter fare; "Transcend."  The song peels the curtain back gently with an acoustic opening that builds momentum on drums that explode in your head like roman candles...semi-bright colors everywhere against the backdrop of a dark, moonlit sky...and the festivities have begun...

Moving along the buffet line I find a cut that strikes a bit harder right up front; "Last Stand."  The drums and guitars try to one up each other as the tension begins to build.  The crescendo of sorts strikes as guitars "win" the battle and the dust settles a new calm over everything.  There is a jazz fusion meets prog metal thing going on; think Jaco Pastorius and George Benson meet Dream Theater.  Autumn Moonlight throw mostly dark colors at the canvas--but they do include a few bright hues to expound on the imagery.  This piece winds down delicately yet there is a tension in the air...not quite the Robert Fripp guitar solo in "Red" but enough to keep you looking over your shoulder...

Liner Notes..."Passengers" is the third album in the quiver of Autumn Moonlight, released November 2017.  Founding members of the band Tomas Barrionuevo and Mario Spadafora have developed a sound that cascades over you with an unsuspecting force; you don't feel overwhelmed or shocked, although you never did see it coming.  Listening to their earlier music I have an appreciation for how they have developed.  Not that the early works were less deserving, but like a great single malt, one of the key ingredients is time.

Learn more about Autumn Moonlight at their website Autumn Moonlight.  You will find "Passengers" as well as the rest of their catalog available for purchase at Autumn Moonlight bandcamp and Autumn Moonlight iTunes.  You can follow the band on Twitter
@AuMoonlight  and Facebook Autumn Moonlight FB.

My final selection to savor from this album is "Breathe."  The opening throws you at first; is this a dark mellow cut or a storm about to wreak havoc?  Perhaps a bit of both so you may be better off doing as suggested and inhale...then release.  The guitar works beautifully with the drums as they both alternate between a gentle touch and penetrating blows.  The canvas is flush with dark hues trimmed with striking primary colors, a contrast that belies an inner turmoil...and all this in sixty seconds.  Autumn Moonlight waltzes down the center aisle of the prog garden dabbling in the control section of all your senses.

Your aperitif this week is the title cut, "Passengers."  Once again Autumn Moonlight opens the door with trepidation only to leap out and hit you straight on.  Top notes of God Is An Astronaut are filling the room, interwoven with a touch of the introspective/instrumental side of The Alan Parsons Project.  Ironically,  there is a sense of motion as you close your eyes and just melt into the music...perhaps we are all passengers riding through the prog garden, searching for inner peace...

                       

All of a sudden the week is in the rear view mirror and while we are seven days closer to the end, we are also seven days richer thanks to another splendid find on the search for all things prog.  Autumn Moonlight plays with a passion that seeps through the headphones and massages your temples while  working its way down your spine; the jolts are there to keep you focused.

Now it's time to prepare for the next leg of the journey as the search for all things prog seeks out more music worthy of your listening and attention...until next time...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bob Katsionis "Prognosis and Synopsis"

As always, a pleasure to welcome you back to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog pulls a bootlegger's turn of sorts this week, traveling a trajectory I have not been on for a while.  Now that winter seems to finally be in the rear-view mirror, the time seems right to open the windows and crank the volume, allowing the wind to blow all that pent up dust out of the Concert Closet.

Stepping into some acreage in the prog garden with a bit more adrenaline running through the soil, this week the search for all things prog heads to Greece and a visit with Bob Katsionis to check out his latest release, "Prognosis & Synopsis."  Bob resides in acreage rich with new age sounds; Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre, Jordan Rudess,  and Keith Emerson have roots in this section as do many others.  A different travel log for the Concert Closet so hold tight and get ready for an
ear-opening week...


Starting with Prognosis, I am immediately struck by lightning as the needle shoots dead right toward the red; not so much as to break glass, but you won't be nodding off anytime soon either.  As the curtain is drawn back you can almost feel yourself needing to grab hold of terra firma; the headphones are filling your auditory canals with a cacophony of sound your mind needs a minute to digest.  There is so much here; top notes of Liquid Tension Experiment and Yngwie Malmsteen are whizzing past my olfactory sensors at a record pace. Bob Katsionis  certainly knows how to make a grand entrance...

Next up is Asymmetric Parallels.  If, for some unexplained reason, you need a shot of Red Bull after that first cut--here you go.  I sense a Trans Siberian Orchestra vibe wafting through this cut.  The guitar work would make John Petrucci drop a gauntlet, and the drum work sets a healthy foundation on which the entire production sits.  Bob Katsionis seems like an adrenaline junkie and the prog garden is where he finds his fix--nothing wrong with that.  Let this one crash over you like a Rocky Mountain avalanche...

Liner Notes...hailing from Neo Irakleio, Athens, Greece, Bob Katsionis keeps a busy schedule.  He plays guitar and keyboards for the bands Firewind, Serious Black, and Outloud.  Did I mention Bob also played all the instruments except the drums on his new album?  The sticks were handled deftly by one Vangelis Moraitis...many hats indeed.

Bob has had a full ledger since 1993 when he began playing at this frenetic pace.  He also runs a video making company and tutors the next generation of guitarists and keyboard players.  Somehow (between students I assume),  he also found time to put together some pretty impressive solo work.  Five albums by my count...oh yeah; that's why we're in the prog garden this week in the first place...

Bob started with keyboards at the age of ten and then dabbled with the guitar as a teenager.  In addition to being a member of the bands listed previously, Bob Katsionis was involved with no less than sixteen previous bands and/or projects...prodigy comes to mind...maybe over achiever...

The final serving this week is the last cut on the album, Synopsis.  Here Mr. Katsionis pulls out all the stops, exploring the prog garden from an entirely different vantage point.  If this piece truly is a synopsis of Bob's career thus far, he has had one helluva joyride across the prog garden.  Close your eyes and you can feel the wind on your face as the dry ice clouds waft in the air, the intensity level hitting its stride and cruising along that delicate edge where tranquility meets insanity.  Top notes are reflective of a Jordan Rudess/John Petrucci duel, with Keith Emerson throwing lighter fluid on the entire thing; the flame is controlled and burning ever so brightly...

You can find out more about Bob Katsionis and purchase the CD at Bob Katsionis bandcamp.  I would encourage you to purchase this disc and everything else in Bob's catalog.  Just a heads-up; the disc/download will not be available at iTunes, Spotify, or other streaming services.  I respect an artist who protects his work...

The clip posted below is only here to educate you to the uncanny ability and serious talent Bob Katsionis delivers.  The keyboards are almost hypnotic as they float through the background of the entire cut.  There is a haunting voice that starts to follow you down the path, like an extra terrestrial that isn't there when you turn your head suddenly...the fervor picks up once again and then the song fades to black...and you're out of breath...

                     

Thus concludes another week in the Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads.  It has been a while since the heat reached these levels; Bob Katsionis can definitely work up a lather.  This is a section of the prog garden I have always enjoyed but never seem to write enough about...perhaps it is time to broaden the scope and vision.  This section of the prog garden is always in full bloom and filled with vibrant color, the canvas exploding with vivid emotions that rain down like a summer hail storm.  So while I fumble through the prog garden exploring the next destination in the search for all things prog, you can just sit here and melt into the cacophony...until next time...

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Straight Light "Love Over Power"

Thanks for making the return trip to The Closet Concert Arena fellow progheads!  Sometimes the search for all things prog turns up a band that has been in the prog garden quite a while yet for me is a new discovery; this week finds us at that juncture.  Staying close to home this week as we venture to Michigan and spend several days (and nights) learning about and catching up with Straight Light.

With just a bit of swagger, Straight Light considers themselves "prog rock for all." They advertise "Crafty songwriting. Excellent playing.  Deep, yet accessible."  I like confidence--especially when it is backed up with talent.  So the only option at this point is to step into a pair of headphones and see if Straight Light is LED or incandescent...

Straight Light
Applying laser to disc, I start the musical foray with the album's title cut, "Love Over Power."  There are top notes of Big Big Train coming through the headphones, blurring with a 10cc meets Todd Rundgren vibe.  Straight Light hits the canvas with colors that light up the room without emitting a day-glow brightness...more of a thinking proghead's color spectrum...

The vocals ride the edge of a strong guitar/drum foundation as the calliope picks up a bit of momentum, cruising along the perimeter of your cranium. A song that makes you think about what powers your moral compass...what's in your character wallet?

Moving a bit farther toward the center of the disc, I discovered this gem, "Bread And Circus."  This song comes at you a bit more direct both musically and lyrically. Straight Light swims in the deep end of the pool as they blend cutting lyrics with a prog style akin to Kansas and The Alan Parsons Project; more to the mainstream side of the spectrum but with added soul and passion.

Liner Notes...hailing from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Straight Light is Bart Garratt on vocals, keyboards, and recorder, Brent McDonald on guitars, vocals, bass, and additional keyboards, Gil Bristol on bass, and Bill Roelofs on drums and percussion.  The band's FB page also lists Tere Bertke as a second bass player; however the album shows no such credit.

Originally formed in 1973, Straight Light performed in varying line-ups until 1980 when it became hiatus time...a symptom of many bands in the making.  Fast forward to 2007; Bart and Brent decide to get the band back together and bring it full circle...do now what they tried previously...write and play their music their way without the corporate hand cutting off the blood flow from heart to head.  Bump the needle ahead just a bit more to December 2016 and the result of their efforts is Love Over Power.


When a band has a mission of sorts; unfinished business, a change of season, a life experience...something driving them to create, you can usually expect some emotion to find its way onto the vinyl.  Straight Light absolutely fills the album with an understated intensity; you feel their passion without having to be knocked over with a sledgehammer.  Remember how your dad could get a rise out of you with just a stare and a whisper?

Learn more about Straight Light at their website StraightLight.net.  There you will find links to purchase the CD and downloads.  You can also visit their Facebook page Straight Light FB and the Straight Light Twitter (of course) @Straight_Light.

My final song for review this week is called " A Better Place." The opening rings with an almost contemporary jazz vibe if that makes sense; imagine Pat Metheny jamming with Kansas and you start to get a feel for the mood here.  Once again Straight Light comes right at you with lyrics that tug on your thinking nerves.  The mood is upbeat with a core of restraint running through the center, much like finding out your favorite ice cream is really frozen yogurt--good, and good for you...

For your listening pleasure and my way of luring you to the website to purchase the album, I chose "Cell Phone."  On this tune Straight Light seems a bit sobering, like the winning runner who just set a world record comforting his fellow nemesis who fell three feet from breaking the ribbon first...you appreciate what you have and revel in the world that surrounds you.  The acoustic guitar work flows seamlessly through the headphones as it transforms into a more elaborate canvas, bursting with vibrant hues that don't blind but instead clear your vision.  Play. Listen. Repeat...


Thanks for stopping in and staying for the encore fellow progheads.  Once again a week has fallen through the narrow neck of the hourglass much too quickly.  The journey with Straight Light was as much mind candy as it was auditory pleasure.  It has been said that listening to a song for the lyrics takes away from the music; I don't always agree.  There are times when lyrics are but window dressing--and there are times when lyrics bring the point of the music home.  With "Love Over Power" Straight Light brings out the beauty in using one to lift up the other.

The search for all things prog, as always, continues on...until next time...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pinn Dropp

Good evening once again fellow progheads!  The search for all things prog is ready for spring and anxiously awaiting what the "season of new beginnings" will bestow on the prog faithful.  This week The Closet Concert Arena takes the red-eye for a long journey to Eastern Europe to check out another first-timer here in the prog garden.  Pinn Dropp refers to themselves in the simplest of terms; a "progressive rock band from Warsaw, Poland."  OK, the bio isn't exactly earth shattering, but I learned long ago to never judge an album by its jacket cover...


The buffet opens with a serving of Kingdom of Silence. A beautiful piano opening slides fluently through the headphones, almost concealing the depths Pinn Dropp takes you to with this piece.  Vocals smooth like Montrachet chardonnay seep into your frontal lobe as the tempo begins to rise; an energy starts to burst forth that emits top notes of Marillion.  Excitement wrapped in an understated glow...Pinn Dropp is like that carnival ride that speeds up so it can slow down--designed to keep you guessing as to what is up around the bend...

Next up is a song that cuts right through you without leaving a mark, Unresolved.  Opening as if it were a throwback, the song quickly bleeds into today and picks up a little steam.  Pinn Dropp reflects The Tangent somewhat on this cut, and perhaps a touch of the Alan Parsons Project oozes through as well.  This is a band capable of wearing many hats as they stroll across the prog garden, taking from each section just enough to create a sound they can call their own.  Riding this song to its fade-out as the sea rolls across your ears acoustically and your feet figuratively, you see the canvas filled with a brightness that more naturally accompanies the outdoors.  The hues are brighter, the contrasts more subtle, and everything flows smoothly like ganache rolling down the sides a chocolate torte...decadent and rich, yet you don't feel stuffed.

Liner Notes...Pinn Dropp hails from Warsaw, Poland and is a concept originally brought to life by one Piotr Sym, the band's composer and electric/acoustic guitarist.  In 2015 Piotr was joined by Mateusz Jagiello on vocals, bass guitar, and keyboards, and Dariusz Piwowarczyk on drums, samples, and programming.  The trio put together their self-titled debut which was released in December.  Last month bassist Pawel Wolinski joined the band making them a quartet.  The band is currently working on their next project which will hopefully be a full length LP.

To learn more about Pinn Dropp and purchase the eponymous DP/EP, check out the website
Pinn Dropp bandcamp and of course the band's Facebook page Pinn Dropp FB.  You will also find Pinn Dropp on Twitter @PinnDropp.  These guys are new to the prog garden and with just one DP/EP on ol' the resume, could certainly use all the support you can muster...



Rounding out the review this week is the third cut cut from the EP called Cyclothymia.  Once again the music opens in grand style...Pinn Dropp is very good at getting you to notice as they enter the room.  On this cut the vocals have a more prominent role--as do the keyboards.  Although they stay pretty much within the brighter colors of the spectrum, the background has a bit of a sullen gray to contrast the glare.  Piotr cuts through the fog and clouds that blur our vision with his opulent compositions.  This piece rides the mood elevator like a storm chaser on the outskirts of that elusive tornado...

The ability to paint from both sides of the prog artist's brush--elegant visuals paired with brilliant music--is something I don't find in the prog garden every week.  While it isn't a prerequisite, it is a treat I savor once stumbled across.

No automatic alt text available.Pinn Dropp is a band whose next album is something to look forward to, not only because the first is just three songs, but also because they splayed out across the prog garden in such a way as to pique my curiosity...so much for being just a "progressive rock band from Warsaw, Poland."  The prog garden once again proves its robust ability to support many tangents of the genre and continues to encourage new growth.  While some genres of music under the wide umbrella that is rock 'n' roll flounder, sit stagnant, and have even shown signs of withdrawal, prog marches forward like a brave chameleon strutting right past its predator to reproduce another day.


And that, as they say, fellow progheads, is a wrap.  The search for all things prog continues to enlighten and educate (at least me) and uncover some great music in the process.  The adrenaline rush is in the search; the satisfaction is in the quality of the discovery.  This never gets old, so the journey continues...until next time..

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zombie Picnic "Rise of a New Ideology"

As I love to say upon noticing your return, welcome back fellow progheads!  Always a pleasure to have standing room only in The Closet Concert Arena, and lately it has been shoulder-to-shoulder madness as we continue the search for all things prog.  2018 may be the Year of the Dog in China, but it is the Year of the Prog here in the garden!  Lots of new bands breaking ground, and many more bands and artists coming back to the garden to plant new crops...and The Concert Closet has the best seat in the house to check 'em all out!

This week I honor me Ma (she's a "Sheehan--with two e's" is how she says it), as the search for all things prog heads back to the Emerald Isle to check in with a prog band that just released their second album upon the masses, Rise of a New Ideology.  Let us walk through the garden together expounding on the sounds of Zombie Picnic.  My first thought was death metal when I heard the name, and therein lies the mystery--and the fun--because this band is closer to Picket Fences than Walking Dead...and off to the garden we go...

Zombie Picnic is self described as "...post-rock instrumental..."  So with a focus on their latest release, I plan to indulge on as much of the Picnic as I can.  Two albums laid out in the garden for our listening pleasure means lots of mind exercise just in time for spring.  First up is Democracy Cannot Survive.  The song opens with a short-wave radio like warning complete with static, and bleeds right into a musical overview of a barren landscape still smoldering as the sun rises slowly.  Top notes of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" days waft through the mist, giving rise to aromatics of Phil Manzanera's guitar mastery...an ideology I can relate to...


Next serving placed on the platter is Life-Support Systems, which in an ironic way is much more upbeat.  The guitar has a swagger that grabs the drums and struts like the queen of the ball, demanding everyone's attention.  There is a Dreadnaught vibe to this tune, something about the way everything just works together while fun wends its way through the headphones.  Zombie Picnic cleared a wide swath on their journey through the prog garden.  The instrumental approach is stretched just a bit as Zombie Picnic mixes "message clips" and other spoken background pieces into their sound like parmigiana cheese added to piping hot popcorn; they are intertwined and now the magic is complete.

Liner Notes...Originally formed in 2012, Zombie Picnic hails from Limerick, Ireland and is comprised of Jim Griffin and Dave Tobin on guitars, Brian Fitzgerald on bass, and Brendan Miller on drums.  Yes there is no credited vocalist...just four musicians laying deep instrumental roots in the prog garden.  This makes the "vocal snippets" on the new release more beguiling; the hall monitors of the rabbit hole if you will.

Zombie Picnic released their debut Suburb of Earth in 2016.  It too, is an extremely busy canvas, splattered with bright primary colors that are connected with off beat hues.  This is a quartet that seems to enjoy gathering in the studio and just leaving the world behind.  These are two albums you want in your arsenal when breaking in new headphones...

The final selection for review this week is from said debut, "The Rama Committee."  A mellow opening belies the intent as this song delves deep into your subconscious.  There is a calmness along the lines of a Jaco Pastorius/Pat Metheny impromtu jam session throughout the entire piece...smooth as melted chocolate cascading down the sides of a layer cake...

Zombie Picnic staked their claim in a semi-dark corner of the prog garden; no direct light needed but nothing ominous brewing either.  They are more of a lunar band, emitting a silver moonlight glow.  Learn more about Zombie Picnic and purchase either or both of their albums at Zombie Picnic bandcamp.  You will also find them on Facebook at
Zombie Picnic FB and on Twitter @zombiepicnicire.

I was fortunate enough to locate a video clip from the new album to whet your appetite, "Anger in Storage (Denial Will Follow)."  This cut opens like a Liquid Tension Experiment outtake, only to melt right into a slick, stainless steel smooth, Talking Heads-like walk across a marsh...and oh that voice-over!  She leads you right down the garden trail to the briar patch.  My favorite thing about this song is not knowing where it's coming from or where it's going; you just gotta have faith the guys have the journey mapped out.

Zombie Picnic steps out here to paint with primary colors while explaining the whole "new ideology" thing.  This is an album that doesn't ride the mood elevator for kicks; they swing the pendulum across an emotional and psychological landscape.  The canvas is splattered with hues that bleed real passion.  It is rare that an album with little to no vocals says so much about a society and its foibles.  A prog documentary if you will...peel back the curtain and look deeper...listen to what the metal says...


                   

OK progheads, savor this one as it blows the cobwebs and dust bunnies from your mind.  Zombie Picnic walks that fine line between mind-blowing and thought-provoking with the grace of a dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet.  Prog metal is an offshoot of the genre that in my humble opinion is often abused; some bands are loud for the sake of making noise and hide under the prog metal umbrella.  But Zombie Picnic chose a different route much like Will Geraldo when he feels he has something important to say.

Rise of a New Ideology conjures up many things; images of  George Orwell's Big Brother from 1984, the Kent State Protest of 1970, The Chicago Seven in 1968, Martin Luther King's March on Washington 1963...the list goes on.  The mortar between these bricks is ferocity.  Prog music has the ability to be intense even when it whispers through the headphones...all you have to do is listen.  Zombie Picnic harnessed that energy and is able to whisper and scream without scaring you off or losing your interest.

Now of course the search all things prog must continue onward...and with a renewed sense of spirit I take the Closet Concert Arena on another leg of an incredible journey...until next time...