23 November 2009

THE RED MASQUE - new download only live album out now

From the artist's press release:

The new download-only live album by Philadelphia avant rock band Red Masque and signed to RER USA, "Stars Fall On Me" is now available through iTunes, eMusic,
rerusa.com and other online distributors. It will also be available to sites like amazon.com imminently......

Please note, there was a typo made by the aggregator and the album is being billed as "Stars FELL On Me" not "Stars FALL On Me" but we are working to correct this..... ;)

The live album was recorded on Nov. 1, 2008 at Orion Sound Studios in Baltimore and features a mix of songs spanning the course of three albums: "Carbon 14", "Das Snail", "Passage", "House of Ash", "The Spider is the Web", "Birdbrain", an Improvisation and "Tidal".

Front cover and back cover artwork (featuring credits and photo) are available for download at

Lineup for this album is:

Brandon Ross: bass, echo theremin

Lynnette Shelley: vocals, percussion

Vonorn: drums, theremin, keys

with guest musician

David Pym: guitar

Links to downloads:




21 November 2009

NEARfest 2010 Friday - STEVE HACKETT!

NEARfest is honored to present in a sophomore appearance, Steve Hackett and his band. There is very little that Prog fans don't know about the legacy of Steve Hackett. He is a renowned, iconic and immensely talented and innovative rock musician. He was lead guitarist with Genesis as part of their classic lineup with Gabriel, Collins, Banks and Rutherford that produced acclaimed albums such as Nursery Cryme and Selling England by the Pound (a favorite of John Lennon). From the post Gabriel era came the classics, A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering. With Steve's extraordinary versatility in both his electric guitar playing and his composing, he involves influences from many genres, including Jazz, World Music and Blues. His classical albums include renditions of pieces by composers from Bach to Satie, as well as his own stellar acoustic and classical guitar compositions.

With Genesis, Steve's guitar playing produced some of the most memorable moments, from the sensitivity of his acoustic sound on Horizons and Blood on the Rooftops to the dramatic rock guitar solos of Firth of Fifth and Fountain of Salmacis. As he embarked on his solo career he developed his exceptional range, pushing musical boundaries into exciting areas, inventing new sounds and also techniques such as `tapping'. Steve's solo career as well as his collaboration with fellow guitar icon Steve Howe in GTR, gained favorable momentum in the 1980's. After GTR, Steve worked further with many renowned musicians such as Paul Carrick, Bonny Tyler, John Wetton and Brian May, who has credited Steve as an early influence. He went on record Genesis Revisited and even further back to his roots with Blues with a Feeling, whilst continuing to challenge his own `horizons' with an amazingly eclectic mix of sounds, genres and a sense of the exotic that excites his many followers to this day.

Recent albums have possessed a high level of sophistication, along with an ever-present powerful dynamic, from the dramatic and atmospheric darkness of Darktown and Wild Orchids to the colorful voyage through time and space of To Watch the Storms. Steve's live electric gigs take his fans on an extraordinary journey that embodies his Genesis days right through to the present, all woven together with his exceptionally unique and distinctive rock guitar sound. With a new album entitled, Out of the Tunnel's Mouth, Steve is poised to continue his legacy of creating excitement through his music. His return to the NEARfest stage will be a fantastic journey; from classic tunes to Steve's most recent material. A big NEARfest round of applause is in order for Steve Hackett and his band as they grace our stage on Friday, June 18th for an Alumni-Night aural feast.

CD REVIEWS: Pineapple Thief and Knight Area

The Pineapple Thief occupies an interesting place in modern progressive music, for reasons that I hope will soon become clear.

Modern prog fans seem to have forced a dilemma in a number of ways. The giants of the past…the bands that were the foundation of progressive music, have cast such a long, dark shadow over the genre that bands seem to have had a huge issue coming out from under that shadow. Bands that tend to forge their own way, drawing from different influences and as such sounding different from those forefathers, are in their own way every bit as progressive as those initial bands. But because they don’t sound like those older bands, some people have major issues considering them prog. It’s a dilemma, and it’s one that bands as disparate as The Mars Volta, Tool, and The Pineapple Thief all encounter. In their own way, The Piuneapple Thief is a progressive rock band, even as their music draws from the indie and post rock scene more than traditional symphonic rock. While Bruce Soord’s vocals are every bit as self aware and self conscious as many of the 1980’s neo-proggers, they are set against a musical backing that has more in common with bands like Radiohead and their ilk. As such, they’re seen as prog-lite by many, and not prog at all by an equal group.

3000 Days (2009, KScope Records) is a 2-CD set compiling the band’s chosen best moments from a career that has spanned close to the 3000 days referenced in the album’s title. Featuring some remixes, alternate versions, and so on, it’s a career spanning retrospective that offers long time fans a little bit new while presenting a fairly complete look at what the band has achieved since spinning off the group Vulgar Unicorn. As such, it’s a perfect way to become acquainted with a group that certainly merits a closer look by fans of the more melodic side of progressive rock. Don’t be afraid that there aren’t mellotrons akimbo and lyrics about fantasy subjects…drink deep of a dark and melancholy musical draught that would make the members of Anekdoten or Landberk green with envy.

Highlights: Snowdrops, Too Much To Lose, Tightly Wound (Acoustic), We Love You, 137, God Bless the Child, the very minimalistic, yet wonderfully evocative cover art and packaging, including full lyrics for every song (!)

Musicians on this release:

Steve Kitch

Bruce Soord

Jon Sykes

Keith Harrison

Wayne Higgins

Matt O'Leary


1. God Bless The Child

2. Shoot First

3. Part Zero

4. 137

5. We Love You

6. Clapham

7. Dead In The Water

8. Kid Chameleon

9. Tightly Wound (Acoustic)

10. Remember Us


1. The World I Always Dreamed Of

2. Wretched Soul

3. All You Need To Know

4. Vapour Trails

5. How Did We Find Our Way

6. I Will Light Up Your Eyes

7. Subside

8. Private Paradise

9. Snowdrops

10. Too Much To Lose

The Netherlands’ Knight Area popped onto the radar of progressive rock fans around the world in 2004, following the release of their debut album The Sun Also Rises. Showcase gigs at stages across Europe, as well as the prestigious NEARfest festival in the United States, contributed to a heightened awareness of this newcomer to the front lines of symphonic and neo-progressive music. Three years passed before the release of the band’s sophomore effort, the well received Under a New Sign. Showing a maturing band from both musical and song writing standpoints, the album was greeted by several award nominations. The band toured the release across Europe, including major performances at the Night of the Prog festival in Loreley.

Autumn sees the release of Realm of Shadows (InsideOut, 2009), the band’s third album. One would expect for, and hope for, continued growth and maturity from the band, and Knight Area delivers this. While Knight Area does not ride the cutting edge of musical intricacy and intensity, those are not their motivations. Three albums have shown that their impetus is crafting well written, melodic progressive music, filled to the brim with interesting keyboard textures, incisive guitar, and lyrics that touch the heart as much as they engage the mind. From excursions into ambience and shade through fairly intense instrumental workouts, Realm of Shadows showcases a band that is continuing to grow and expand their style in a genre that has a tendency to try and compartmentalize its artists to a pretty extreme degree. While certainly one could point to elements of some songs and say that this sounds like (insert band name here), at no point do any songs actually mimic an artist throughout. Knight area takes these blocks and makes their own constructions.

Realm of Shadows is a solid, enjoyable release from this band, and shows them continuing to hone their craft, deserving of mention in the same breath as the bands that preceded them 10 to 15 years before.

Highlights: Occlusion, A Million Lives, Dark Souls, Momentum

Musicians on this release:

Gijs Koopman

Gerben Klazinga

Mark Smit

Pieter van Hoorn

Mark Vermeule

1. Ethereal (6:51)

2. Antagony (7:52)

3. Two Of A Kind (5:11)

4. Momentum (2:21)

5. Awakening (2:50)

6. Dark Souls (5:29)

7. Realm Of Shadows (5:51)

8. A Million Lives (6:52)

9. Occlusion (11:15)

20 November 2009

CD REVIEW: Makajodama, Makajodama (Laser's Edge, 2009)

It’s late fall, and young prog fan’s thoughts turn naturally to the colder, bleaker north…specifically the northern European nations. There’s just something about fall and bands from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland that seem to go hand in hand. It may be the smaller amount of light, the flatter, grey-er days, the skeletal branches of hardwoods reaching toward the sky trying to grasp at the last bits of sun and warmth. Scandinavian prog bands seem to match these images pretty well…I can’t count the number of times from now till spring that Anglagard’s Hybris, Anekdoten’s Vemod, or Viima’s Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta will get played.

I have a new addition to that list of bands that will see repeated plays as the days grow darker and colder, and that band is Makajodama.

Makajodama is a new project started by Mathias Danielsson, guitarist for the progressive rock band Gösta Berlings Saga. On this new all instrumental project, he is joined by Mattias Ankarbrandt (drummer, formerly of Carpet Knights), Johan Klint (violin) and Karin Larsdotter (cello). A host of guest musicians add to the chamber fell of the music, contributing flute, bassoon, tenor sax, tuba, sitar, and a number of other instruments atypical of rock music. Nicklas Barker of Anekdoten mixed the resulting 8 tracks, recorded over almost 2 years (June 2007 to April 2009).

How can I describe Makajodama? It’s tough. They certainly have a bit of a chamber prog sound thanks to the variety of orchestral instruments chosen, but they’re not at all like Univers Zero. They can be heavy like Anekdoten or 1973 King Crimson, dark like Van der Graaf Generator, and as complex as some of Frank Zappa’s more intricate works. The band’s press sheet lists a number of influences, among them Third Ear Band, Can, Faust and psych pioneers Älgarnas Trädgård. For me, the end result is a musical pudding that is as deep and dark as it is addictive and enticing.

I hate to say I can’t describe this music, but this is one of those times where writing about the music would be every bit like dancing about architecture. There’s a sense that this music is totally out of its time…while it has a modern sound and mix, the music itself feels more like some lost classic release from 1973, just discovered in the back of some cupboard in a studio in Europe, and released unexpectedly to the world. The playing is absolutely sublime…I find myself nearly brought to tears from the beautiful cello/guitar/violin work on “Buddah and the Camel.” The song is so perfectly arranges and played, the instruments like wordless voices weeping and crying alongside some slowly running stream in a deep, dark forest. The bass groove that opens “Reodor Felgen Blues” is deep enough to hide an ocean liner in, and when the song kicks into full gear, I swear that what I am hearing is an alternate version of “The Orange County Lumber Truck” from some alternate universe.

And these are just the first two tracks!

I am not someone who gives into hype. At times this has backfired on me, at other times it’s kept me from being disappointed by something that was assured to be the next big thing. This time I am instead hoping to be hyping myself, as there hasn’t been much said about this release that I can see. And it’s a damned shame, because Makajodama has come out of nowhere to rate as one of my albums of the year. If it had vocals, people would be raving about it. If it were less edgy and angular (not that it’s intensely either of those things), it’d be held up by the masses in the genre as one of the standards of modern prog. Thankfully, Danielsson hasn’t given in to any influences to make the music more easily digestible. This is an album that requests…nay, it demands!…repeated listens, and rewards the diligent listener handsomely.

Am I over enthusiastic? Perhaps. But it’s not often, perhaps once every couple of years, that an album hits me as hard as this. Drink deep, readers, and don’t be afraid of the dark. It’s only the shadows of winter, and Makajodama has crafted the perfect soundtrack for it.

Track Listing:

Reodor Felgen Blues

Buddah and the Camel


The Train of Thought

The Ayurvedic Soap

Vällingby Revisited

The Girls at the Marches

Autumn Suite


Mathias Danielsson - guitars, electric bass, organ, pedal steel, percussion, Korg WT10

Karin Larsdotter - acoustic and electric cello, percussion

Johan Klint - acoustic and electric violin, organ

Mattias Ankarbranth - drums and percussion.

Find out more:


CD REVIEW: Redemption, Snowfall on Judgment Day (I/O, 2009)

“ I used to see in colour, now it’s only black and white…”

Oh, those words have a tendency to hit home, depending on how my emotional weather is faring.

As time goes on, I find myself drifting further and further away from progressive metal as a style of music that gets a lot of play. Oh, I still enjoy it well enough, and I won’t shy away from a good prog metal album, but I’ve found that most of that enjoyment comes from bands that tend to lie on the outskirts of that genre…bands like Opeth, Enslaved, Agalloch, groups that could just as easily be described as something other than prog. The more traditional progressive metal bands…and by that I mean bands that seem to draw their sound from groups like Fates Warning or Dream Theater, seem to leave me cold more often than not. I can appreciate the skill, the intricacy, the intent, but in the end, it seems more often than not to be a case of ‘been there, done that.’

Redemption is a band featuring Ray Adler on vocals. He’s probably best known for being the long time vocalist in Fates Warning. On Snowfall on Judgment Day, the band’s fifth full length release (4 studio/1 live), he is joined by founder Nick Van Dyk (guitar, keys), Bernie Versailles (lead guitar), Sean Andrews (bass) Greg Hosharian (keys) and Chris Quirarte (drums). Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie even guests on one track (“Another Day Dies”). And in mentioning Fates Warning and Dream Theater, I am hoping I won’t have to do so again in this mini review, because this release deserves to stand on its own merits without being confined in such a restraining genre. There’s some great melodic work here, and the guys write some tight, compelling material. “Black and White World,” quoted above, is one of those tracks…eight minutes long, chock full of impassioned Adler vocals, some excellent guitar/keyboard interplay (especially in the climactic ending moments) and careful orchestration and arrangement.

Other songs worthy of note are “Unformed,” “Another Day Dies” (yes, featuring LaBrie in some of his strongest singing I have heard in yonks) and the nearly 11-minute long epic closer “Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day.” I love the piano bit that reminds so much of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, and the bursts of guitar that shatter the quiet…the use of contrast is so perfect here that it should be used as a textbook example of how dynamics work.

Unlike more modern…oh, I’m going to say it…Dream Theater, Redemption’s material seems designed to suit the song…songs flow naturally, sections blend well, and solos aren’t the focal point. Van Dyk and Versailles are a great tandem team of guitarists, playing off each other well, and van Dyk’s rhythm work is punchy and tight. Hosharian is a very good keyboardist…yes, he does tend to use some pretty standard keyboard sounds, but they fit the songs well and never seem out of place or selected for the sheer novelty of their sounds. Andrews and Quirarte are also worthy of note as a very tight rhythm section; I do wish Andrews’ bass was a little more apparent in the mix, but these two guys are the motor that drive these tracks.

I may find myself moving away from progressive metal as a whole, but there are occasional albums that perk my ears up just enough to attract attention. Snowfall on Judgment Day, while being as traditional a prog metal album as can be, is one of those releases. With an emphasis on songs rather than pyrotechnics, this release is worth more than just a passing listen.

Track Listing:

"Peel" - 6:31

"Walls" - 6:46

"Leviathan Rising" - 6:41

"Black and White World" - 8:03

"Unformed" - 6:29

"Keep Breathing" - 7:36

"Another Day Dies" feat. James LaBrie - 5:14

"What Will You Say" - 5:20

"Fistful of Sand" - 6:35

"Love Kills Us All / Life in One Day" - 10:59


Ray Alder - Vocals

Bernie Versailles - Lead Guitar

Nick van Dyk - Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards

Sean Andrews - Bass

Chris Quirarte - Drum

19 November 2009

CD REVIEW: The Tangent, Down and out in PARIS and LONDON (I/O, 2009)

I’ve been a bit of a Tangent fan for a while now…since the release of A Place in the Queue, really. While I enjoyed the previous two released, I really think the band began to soar once Roine Stolt left the group. This doesn’t mean he was a drag on the sound, but I do think that the Tangent really came into their own once he decided to refocus his energies on his own projects. Andy Tillison and Guy Manning are incredibly strong songwriters with unique voices (vocally and songwriting wise), and having the full canvas to work with has allowed them to soar nicely.

Not as Good as the Book, the band’s second release sans Stolt, only exemplified and enhanced this perception. For me, it was the right album at the right time, and so much of it hit home in ways most personal that at times it felt the songs were written for me or about me (or rather, things I was going through). Coming out the other side now, I think it might be fair to say that due to the intense personal nature of that release, reviewing Down and Out in Paris and London would be, as they call it, a sticky wicket. And it’s true…that previous release is still so personal that in many ways it towers over this new album in ways that make it such that there’s just no way to be fully objective.

At the same time, DAOIPAL is an incredibly strong release. There’s nary a dull moment throughout the roughly 60 minutes of music enclosed on the polycarbonite disc or digital bits that you hopefully legally downloaded and paid the artists for. While some of the faces have changed, this is definitely a Tangent album from first note to last. Tillison’s songs are every bit as strong as ever…and while Manning and Tillison’s voices are still the acquired taste they always have been (a taste that I have seemed to find enjoyment in), they are totally suitable for the songs.

Highlights abound throughout the release…I am particularly enamoured of the wonderfully bluesy solo in “Perdu Dans Paris,” while the devoted Canterbury nut that resides in a certain portion of my frontal lobes dances with glee at “Ethanol Hat Nail,” the second part of Tillison’s Canterbury sequence. It’s nice to see that very British sound still alive and well in progressive music, and while I do rather wish it’d play a larger role in the Tangent’s music, I’ll take what I can get. “Paroxetine - 20mg,” from what I have read, is a song that deals with the rather acquisational side of music fans…in a world where just about every recorded bit of sound is at our fingertips either legally or somewhat less than, how much can we really value any of it? Is it still art, and something precious, or is it just ‘stuff’ to fill up shelves or more likely hard drives and iPods?

(for the record and the curious, Paroxetine is the clinical name for medication that is typically branded under the name Paxil, among others, and is prescribed for a bevy of emotional disorders, including obsessive-compulsive behavious. As such, the title is frighteningly appropriate, though it does lead to a few other questions…)

Theo Travis shines on “The Company Car,” with some harsh and dirty sax work echoing vocal work throughout. And I’d be remiss to not say anything about the 19-plus minute epic opening track “Where are They Now?” I’m sure that’s a question fans are asking of Jamie Salazar or Jakko Jakszyk or Jonas Reingold or Krister Jonsson, but as far as Tangent epics go, this one rates.

This is the first Tangent album to feature a wholly English lineup; Tillison and Manning are joined by Jonathan Barrett (bass) and Paul Burgess (drums), who has been a member officially of 10cc, Jethro Tull, Camel,and a number of other bands. Theo Travis maintains his association with the Tangent on sax and flute, while Jakko does make a few guest appearances throughout. I think that in some ways this is the most band-oriented release the Tangent has crafted to date…everything seems to lock in just a bit tighter, the music feels just a bit more organic, and the flow is just that little bit smoother. While the emotional highs aren’t as intense as those on NAGATB, the overall result is a release Tillison and his compatriots should be intensely proud of. Down and Out in Paris and London rewards repeated listens with a surprising amount of depth and nuance to enjoy.

"Where Are They Now?" – 19:10

"Paroxetine - 20mg" – 7:47

"Perdu Dans Paris" – 11:47

"The Company Car" – 6:23

"Ethanol Hat Nail (Canterbury Sequence Vol. 2)" – 12:55


Andy Tillison – keyboards, guitars and vocals

Guy Manning – acoustic instruments and vocals

Jonathan Barrett – bass guitar

Paul Burgess – drums

Theo Travis – saxophone and flute

Special guest:

Jakko Jakszyk – lead guitar

18 November 2009

Coming soon to a BPB near you...

The Tangent

Shadow Gallery



Neal Morse



Robin Taylor

The Red Masque

General looks/not quite reviews:


Porcupine Tree

The Pineapple Thief


Who knows?

You have all been very patient. More patient that perhaps deserved. It is appreciated, even when I haven't quite been able to say so.

Michael Manring updates

From his recent newsletter:

I've been working on a much needed overhaul to my personal web site,
www.manthing.com, lately and I hope you'll have a look. I've included what I hope is all the relevant information about concerts, recordings, etc., but it's a work in progress so let me know if there's anything I've missed!

I've got two performances coming up in Southern California this weekend, on Friday a show in Woodland Hills and on Saturday a clinic at Bass San Diego with Joe Zon. Joe is the guy who builds my instruments, so we'll be talking about some of the projects we've done together and of course I'll be doing some playing. Please stop by if you'd like to learn more about Zon Basses, my music, or if you'd just like to say hello. You'll find all the details for both performances below.

I'd also like to mention I recently participated in a really interesting book project entitled "The Spiritual Significance of Music" by Justin St. Vincent. It's a collection of brief interviews with thousands of musicians about the connections between music and spirituality. If you'd like to learn more about it please look here:


Finally I'd like to thank the editors at CD Baby for choosing the recording I made last year in Provence with my friend Cyril Achard as one of their Top Ten Editors' Picks. The CD is called A Place in Time and you can check it out here:


IONA signed for NEARfest 2010

NEARfest is proud to announce the addition of Iona to the 2010 lineup! Hailing from England, Celtic symphonic progressive rock band Iona was formed in 1989 by multi-instrumentalists David Fitzgerald and Dave Bainbridge and joined soon after by lead vocalist Joanne Hogg. The inspiration for the band and its name came from a visit that Fitzgerald made to the serene and beautiful Scottish island of Iona the year prior. By the time Iona released their self-titled debut album in 1990, Nick Beggs (bass), Fiona Davidson (Celtic harp), Peter Whitfield (strings), Troy Donockley (Uillean pipes) and Frank Van Essen (drums, violin) had joined the band.

In 1992, the band released "The Book of Kells," a concept album based on the legendary Irish tome . Terl Bryant took over on drums and percussion for this album after the departure of Frank Van Essen. Fitzgerald also left the band to pursue a degree in music. The band's third album, "Beyond These Shores" (1993), which included guest musician Robert Fripp, was loosely based on the voyage of St. Brendan. "Journey into the Morn" (1995) was a more straight-forward release inspired by the hymn "Be Thou My Vision," which bookends the album in Gaelic and features Máire Brennan, lead singer of Celtic/New Age band Clannad.

After two live albums, Bryant left the band and Van Essen returned to play drums on 2000's "Open Sky," which was followed in 2002 by a boxed set called "The River Flows," the first release on the band's own label. The box contains their then-out-of-print first three albums remastered, as well as a fourth disc of unreleased tracks. After six years without a new studio album, the band released the gorgeous "The Circling Hour" in 2006 as well as a 2-disc live DVD "Iona: Live in London," featuring a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix.

Since then, the band has continued to play live shows across Europe to enthusiastic crowds. The band has also returned to the studio to begin work on a new album which will see the light in 2010 to coincide with their 20th anniversary. In helping to celebrate the band's milestone, NEARfest is very pleased to welcome Iona to the stage to treat us to their wonderful stylistic weave of Celtic music and symphonic rock.

Iona website:

12 November 2009

Magma - Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré info

(from the press release)

One of music's most innovative and eclectic ensembles, Magma, will be releasing the final installment to their most recent epic trilogy. Titled Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré, Magma's new opus will be released internationally on November 5, 2009 on Seventh Records. This marks the second trilogy by the legendary French band, the first being Theusz Hamtaahk. Magma was founded in Paris in 1969 by drummer Christian Vander, who derived his inspiration from a "vision of humanity's spiritual and ecological future" that profoundly disturbed him. Vander was a self-taught musician, who received some tips from drum legend Elvin Jones. In the course of Magma's first album, the band tells the story of a group of people fleeing a doomed Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Later, conflict arises when the Kobaïans, who are descendants of the original colonists, encounter other Earth refugees. A distinguished aspect of Magma's music is that Vander actually invented a constucted language, Kobaïan, in which most lyrics are sung. Later albums told different stories set in more ancient times; however the Kobaïan language remained an integral part of the music

"In its message, as in its genesis and its making, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré is an intimate epic, an occult stride forward, a quest for the sublime. Initiated in 1975, its composition beholds its whole fulfillment after more than three decades. It is the testimony of an unwaveringly timeless inspiration, of which the expectant present asserts itself beyond history. Connecting wide and contrasted scenes, it sets its coherence within its very dynamics, playing with chiaroscuro, between choral splendor, operatic jubilation and hurricane of spirits beyond graves.

As much a seraphic liturgy as it is a telluric opera, Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré comes as the final closure to a second trilogy, following upon that of Theusz Hamtaahk, in Christian Vander’s corpus. This is a music reaching out from a time before man time. Born at the heart of nebulas, fed on mineral glow, and riding crypts capped with a cosmic vault." Bruno Heuzé

When asked if the name Magma is part of Kobaian or does it refer to lava? Christian Vander replied, "Yes, it refers directly to lava. Back in 1966, I had written a piece and I was already in a band with Bernard Paganotti, who became a bass player. Already, I was searching for the right word. The tune I wrote back then was called Nogma. I was looking for the word Magma, but didn't know it was what I was looking for. One day the band didn't have a name at the time, and they were standing in front of a fairly well-known club in Paris. The club management told me if you don't have a name, you can't come and play tonight. So we went for coffee, at the shop next door. I thought deeply, you know, and the word Magma came out. At the same time, I founded Univeria Zekt. I wrote this down on the receipt from the coffee shop and kept it."

When asked where the music of Magma is derived, Christian explained to George Allen and Robert Pearson that "the music and the lyrics come up at the same time. If I am singing, and if it has to be in Kobaian, they come up in Kobaian. Sometimes there is a word that is maybe French or English and I leave it in because it is there, and it's natural. The lyrics come at the same time, parallel to the music. For pieces like Mekanik, they were not written in one shot or one session. I had to run a tape recorder to be able to capture it instantly- it goes very fast. I sing with new words that I don't know, and when I am improvising further, the same words come back, even though I don't know them. But I didn't learn them, they impose themselves on me."

Considered by many to be musically pioneering and imaginative, Magma makes extensive use of the choral format, their album Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh being particularly reminiscent of the classical composer Carl Orff, while Wurdah Ïtah reveals connections to Béla Bartók's piano music and "Les Noces" by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Reportedly, Christian Vander is also highly influenced by the work of jazz legend John Coltrane. "I am always listening and attentive to what they do," says Vander. "I am open to listen to what they do. But for my work, it is still Coltrane who actually gives me the real material to work on, to be able to move on."

Magma's new CD also comes with a 57-minute DVD, "Phases", as a testimonial to the intensity of the ensemble's work during its recording.


Stella Vander vocals, percussions

Isabelle Feuillebois vocals

Hervé Aknin vocals

Benoît Alziary vibraphone

James Mac Gaw guitare

Bruno Ruder Fender Rhodes

Philippe Bussonnet bass, piccolo bass

Christian Vander drums, vocals , piano, Fender Rhodes, keybords, percussions

also featuring : Emmanuel Borghi : piano - Himiko Paganotti, Antoine Paganotti , Claude Lamamy,
Marcus Linon, Pierre-Michel Sivadier : backing vocals

For more information on Magma visit:




Neal Morse - New live album out next week

(from the press release)

Renowned as one of prog’s leading solo artists, Neal Morse is better known for his epic studio releases than for lengthy tours. His acclaimed solo live DVDs (Testimony Live, Sola Scripture & More) and CD set (Question Live) have captured amazing performances from his live North American and European bands, and performers from bands ranging from Dream Theater to Christina Aguilera. Never before, though, has there been a definitive live Neal Morse experience. Over almost 20 years, Neal has recorded 22 studio albums with Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, and on his own. His career has followed an unconventional path, leading him to reject 10 years chasing a dream, and at another time, leave music altogether. His experiences and perspective have lead to some of progressive rock’s most memorable music.

The challenge of bringing these songs to life requires some of prog’s best musicians—a lot of them. In Europe, Neal came to know his band by chance email from an unknown Dutch drummer: Collin Leijenaar. Collin was trying to persuade Neal that his group of friends—all tremendous Morse fans—could not only play Neal’s material, but own it. Three and half hours worth. With one week’s rehearsal.

Morse was…skeptical, to say the least. The unknown performers were up against Mike Portnoy, Kerry Livgren, Roine Stolt, Steve Hacket, Jordan Rudess, Phil Keaggy, Randy George, Pete Trewavas, Kevin Gilbert, and the cast of Spock’s Beard. Neal had been down many roads he never expected, though, and something told him to take this one. The entire tour was booked before Neal even met his band.

The rest is history, of course, perhaps best illustrated by Neal’s comment on the Sola Scriptura &More Live DVD; before the band launched into a complete performance of the Sola Scriptura album, Neal says, “I hope you guys like this—it’s the second time we’ve performed it together.” And indeed, Collin and company owned every minute of it.

That was 2007. By the end of 2008, the now-seasoned band could tear through Morse’s material with confidence and creative improvisation. With changing material on different nights, the cumulative set is 3.5 hours long, encompassing Neal’s best songs and compositions from his 20 year career. This theme extends the recording engineering, mixing and production—resulting in studio-grade sound that whispers and thunders off the discs. At the center is Neal Morse, one of Classic Rock Magazine’s “100 Greatest Frontmen of Rock”.

With soaring vocals, virtuoso instrumentals, and a unique…sense of humor, Morse demonstrates why after 20 years, he remains one of prog’s brightest stars. Experience the definitive Neal Morse concert event—29 tracks released from the studio’s confines and into the living world of live performance. Discover new songs and rediscover familiar ones, evolved and arranged in unpredictable ways. From The Light to Lifeline, experience the extraordinary music at the end of a road less traveled.


CD #1 ~ 63:37 total

1. At the End of the Day 16:49

2. Leviathan 6:45

3. The Way Home 5:05

4. Author of Confusion/I’m the Guy 13:59

5. That Crutch 3:59

6. We All Need Some Light 4:24

7. Lifeline 12:33

CD #2 ~ 79:24 total

1. Question Mark Medley 31:25

2. Help Me 12:13

3. Testimedley 35:46

CD #3 ~ 71:34 total

1. Walking On The Wind 09:33

2. So Many Roads 30:17

3. Stranger/Bridge Across Forever 31:44

Recorded from October 23-30, 2008 at: De Boerderij, Zoetermeer (NL); De Reehorst, Ede (NL); Zeche, Bochum (DE); Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg (DE), Spirit of 66, Verviers (BE)