Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gaillion "Renewal and Release"

Cool, crisp, "blowing-on-my-hands-to-warm-them" greetings fellow progheads!  Autumn (remember her?) seems to be making a hasty getaway as the mercury falls deep into the well of the thermometer.  As we here in the good ol' USA start to plan the holiday festivities that will wrap up 2017, I thought it might be appropriate to stay on domestic soil and keep the search for all things prog focused on the local scene...

I took the Concert Closet on a coast-to-coast journey this week...perhaps the best time to search the prog garden for hearty bounty; something that can stand up to--and raise the heat on--the cold weather creeping in.  A visit with Gaillion was just the remedy and all the warmth I needed for these past 168 hours.  The band's latest album, "Renewal and Release" made its debut in October.  Gaillion recorded one new song while remixing and remastering four previous single releases and putting them together on one EP.  The result is some very polished music and a most outstanding waltz through the prog garden.  But enough talk; headphones on...


Moving away from my usual way of doing things, I open the buffet with the final slice from this gem, "The Focal Point."  This is the new single Gaillion put on the album and it is brilliant.  The song opens as though the sound is coming through a poorly tuned AM radio--deliberately and just for a few seconds.  Gaillion then picks up the tempo and hits you with strong guitar and drum work.  There are top notes of Dreadnaught mixing with The Aaron Clift Experiment wafting through the headphones.  The vocals lay on top, riding on a heavy foundation and cutting through with the finesse of a jackknife slicing through rope...as Goldilocks would say, just right...

Scanning the balance of the buffet laid out before me, I sample a remix of "Letters From the Skipper."  This time around the drums seem cleaner, much more succinct as they draw the piece together.  Todd's vocals are once again the unpolished diamond this music needs to bring out the oomph...wrapping this music in silk would be akin to applying the proverbial lipstick to a pig; a mismatch that improves nothing.  Gaillion heats the branding iron and then applies it in doses just long enough to leave a mark but not a scar...soothing and penetrating.


Liner Notes...Gaillion the band is as much a testament to perseverance and determination as is this newest EP.  The band consists of Todd Howard on vocals, bass, and keyboards, James Vasquenza Jr. on guitar, and Don Gunn on drums and percussion.  Three bandmates, three hometowns; Seattle, NYC, and Ventura CA.  I detailed the specifics in a previous blog (June 2015), but suffice to say this trio has spent a lifetime building this band.

Having gone to school together in CT, they released their first full length album "Admit One" in 1989.  Traveling in separate circles but always keeping in touch, Gaillion reunited in a technological sort of way and has been releasing singles since 2015...hence their latest project.  "Renewal and Release" brings all their work from the past two years together, allowing you to purchase it as one EP.  The name alludes to their thought process, in a prog sort of way...

One last listen and I want to make it count...so of course I laser up "Lorelei."  The opening mood is almost sinister, as though someone is about to come up from behind and cut you off at the knees.  Quickly the tempo picks up as one more time smooth drum work leads the sound parade right down into your auditory canals.  James' guitar work is stellar as this remixed version has smoothed out the rough edges and left the listener with a clean firm sound.

Learn more about the journey Gaillion has taken at their website Gaillion.  The new album can be purchased at Gaillion iTunes and Gaillion Bandcamp.  For those so inclined, Gaillion can be found on social media at Gaillion FacebookGaillion Instagram, and Twitter @gaillionband.  You will find their full music library so take your time and walk slowly through the aisles...you wouldn't want to miss anything...

I chose "Backslide" for the clip-of-the-week to give you musical insight and a glimpse inside the remix/remaster work Gaillion has done.  Three people working in two time zones provides its own challenges, but Gaillion makes it seem elementary.  The bass on this song leads the guitar and drums through a labyrinth that spins you 'round and just before you lose your sense of direction, lands you firmly on your feet...well done...

                  

And as per usual, our time here in the prog garden this week has flown by much too quickly.  Gaillion is a bright spot in a multi-layered arena as they hit hard and fast but never seem to lose sight of their desire to enjoy themselves.  The band moves through the prog garden deftly, focusing on the acreage where the sound is full and the colors thrive.  Gaillion attempts to fill each five minutes of music with ten minutes of sound...every song bursting with energy.

And even more as per usual, the search for all things prog continues on.  The end of 2017 is beginning to appear on the horizon and before you know it will be in the rear view mirror.  So The Closet Concert Arena marches onward in the never ending attempt to bring as much new and as-yet-undiscovered prog music to light...until next time...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vuur, "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities"

Hello and welcome to the middle of fall fellow progheads!  Now that the US has caught up with the rest of the planet and set her clocks back one hour, the race to bring down the curtain on 2017 has officially begun...which puts the search for all things prog into overdrive...

Vuur is a band that while new to the prog garden, has members with rich prog soil running through their veins.  Anneke van Giersbergen is name not unfamiliar to many a proghead, having been vocalist for The Gathering and performing with Devin Townsend among others.  Vuur recently released their debut album "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities" on the InsideOut label.  Here Anneke sets out to cut her metal chops as it were, so let us queue up this latest and listen in...



The album opens with the cut "My Champion - Berlin."  There is an immediate keyboard/guitar energy burst that rattles around inside your head like pinballs pushing the machine into "tilt."  Anneke's vocals come through almost too smooth to partner with the mayhem that surrounds...much like an aria accompanying Dream Theater.  The canvas is pelted with paint balloons of every hue--mostly the bright ones that eliminate shadows. Vuur emerges from the smoke and fire with a mad rush; should be an interesting show...

My second helping from the buffet is "Sail Away - Santiago." The adrenaline rush is still on as Vuur continues to thrust themselves at you with all the gusto of a typhoon...I pick up top notes of Curved Air and After Forever crashing through my headphones.  The guitars strike fast and hit hard but do leave time for breathing (albeit intermittently) as the song carries on.  Meanwhile the drums keep up a frenetic pace that leaves you gasping but still standing as the music winds down.

Liner Notes...hailing from the Netherlands, Vuur, or "Fire" in Dutch, has the appropriately coiffed, red haired Anneke van Giersbergen on lead vocals.  Rounding out the band is Jord Otto and Ferry Duijsens on guitars, Johan van Stratum on bass, and Ed Warby on drums.  This may be Vuur's debut album, but their roots run deep in the prog garden.  Anneke has not only released solo projects, she has performed with Ayreon, Gentle Storm, and Danny Cavanaugh.  Coupled with my earlier mention of her work with The Gathering and The Devin Townsend Project, you realize Anneke knows her way around a sound studio.  The other members of the band have fairly extensive resumes as well so rookies they ain't...

My third selection is a more somber slice; the final cut "Reunite! - Paris."  A soft opening belies the adrenaline rush brought on by earlier servings.  The mood elevator does climb a bit as the song progresses.  Jord and Ferry manage to work up a lather--just not quite as frenzied as they had been previously, allowing Anneke's vocals to become the focal point.  Fear not my prog metal friends; Vuur seems unable or unwilling to slip a ballad into the mix.  The sound still tests your headphones, Vuur is just trolling another section of the prog garden before the stylus rests in its holster...


You can purchase "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities" at Vuur's website Vuur and
InsideOut Music where you will also find the rest of the InsideOut stable of prog artists.  Vuur boasts a Facebook page Vuur Facebook and Twitter account @vuur_band if you are so inclined.  As is seemingly the thing to do at the moment, Vuur also has a YouTube channel Vuur YouTube so you can keep up with new video releases and look behind-the-scenes at the making of "In This Moment We Are Free - Cities."

I chose "Your Glorious Light Will Shine - Helsinki" for your listening pleasure this week.  A song from the darker side of the garden, the headphones fill your auditory canals with a cacophony of sound from  the onset, and once again Anneke's vocals rest solidly on the shoulders of stellar guitar and drumming.  This song doesn't peel the curtain back; it tears it from the overhead rigging system to reveal a stage beset with a band more than happy to fill the arena with boisterous commotion.  Go ahead and turn the volume up...

                   

And as the sand drips slowly through the hourglass, so too another week in The Closet Concert Arena has slipped past like a ship in the night.  Vuur added a bit of Red Bull to the punch bowl this week...just enough to arouse your senses and awaken the nocturnal throng roaming the prog garden.

Prog has many facets, moods, and styles.  I believe it was best stated as "...a lifestyle--not a genre."  Progressive rock really is so much more because it has so much more; sights as well as sounds and  darkness as well as light.  For those who prefer not to stray far from the edge, contemplative as well as penetrating music.  Prog comes in many shapes and sizes and one need not prefer them all...like a connoisseur of the finer things in life, prog too can be subjective.  Vuur calls the progressive section of the garden home and yet they reach across the acreage to draw from many subsections as well.  Enjoy the amalgam; it's what makes prog so desirable...

Off now to continue the journey...tapping another vein as the search for all things prog winds through the remains of 2017...until next time...