Adrian Belew in Israel 2016: An Interview

adrian-belew-power-trio-2016King Crimson ex-frontman comes back to Tel Aviv for a Power Trio show on February 3rd, 2016. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for his third visit to the Holy Land.

1) First – thanks for coming to Israel again. It should be your 3rd time here. How was the last concert with the Crimson Projeckt in Tel Aviv?

    Adrian Belew: it was amazing. I’m a lucky person to get to travel to so many important places. crimson project is a mighty sounding band I really enjoy working with. it is, among other things, my vehicle to play 33 years worth of king crimson music I helped create. and I love coming to Tel Aviv. this time I’m bringing something I love even more: the power trio. not to be missed! recently we have taken a new approach to playing music live and it’s something no else is doing yet.

2)  “Spotify” seems to be a new digital “enemy” of yours. Judging from your FB posts, you are very worried about the future of professional musicians.

   Adrian Belew: I have no enemies and nothing against spotify per se. I was only dispensing information which I think music lovers should be aware of. I personally make nothing from spotify and it doesn’t matter, that’s not how I thrive. my concern is for the future of those musicians (young and old) still vying for a way to make music their livelihood. I think society is in danger of losing its best “intellectual property creators”of all type by allowing royalty incomes to be the lowest possible rate.

3)  “66 is the new 26” – you’’re recently declared. You’re a very busy artist, performing worldwide, devloping apps and releasing new music. Can you say you’re working harder now than you’ve worked when you were 26 years old?

    Adrian Belew: your age has everything to do with your perception of yourself. most of the time I don’t even feel 20! and it’s a good thing, because I work harder now than ever before. when I was 26 years old I was a skinny starving musician who spent most of his time trying to figure out how to make the rent! with success comes the hard work and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been given a platform of self-expression any artist would cherish and I love what I do.

4)  Your song “This Is What I Believe” from 1992’s “Innver Revolution” album has caught my attention. You wrote: “All the world is dangerous, Full of homicidals and terrorists, But underneath their blanket of hate, The only thing that will survive is our love and faith”. Do you still believe in this today?

Adrian Belew: more than ever. love drives all good things and without faith I would never even board a plane in these dangerous times. but you can’t hide in a corner, you have to live your life. I’m not a politically-minded person, I’m more of a humanist. I often wonder when people will realize we are all the same: human beings. mankind. regardless of our cultures, religions, and skin tones. and we should treat us other accordingly.

5) The great Frank Zappa keeps appearing in your publications, memories and annoucements. You’re very proud of his endorsement “Adrian Belew re-invenvted the guitar”. Since his death, can you name a new musical genius in the world? is there anyone in his level? was Zappa a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon?

  Adrian Belew: there will never be another frank zappa, he was utterly unique. I am fortunate to have worked up close with him and I owe him a great deal for helping me. I can’t name new musical geniuses because I don’t listen to other people’s music anymore. I learned years ago to stay focused on the music I hear in my head and for me that means shutting out everything else. I know that sounds awful and I’m sorry, but it is the best way for me.

6) One of your great songs “Asleep” says, simply: “one day you wake up. But you didn’t even know you were alseep”. It was written after 9/11. Did that dramatic event *really* wake us up, in hindsight? I mean – maybe we all just woke up for a few minutes and then fell asleep again?

   Adrian Belew: “this is a dangerous place”.  I wrote that line in 1981. so I have been awake for a while. “asleep”was indeed written regarding 9/11. it doesn’t seem to have”woken all of us up”enough, but I think it is more profound for some of us than others. it did manage to change life forever, especially here in america where we can never go back to the way we were.

7) You’ve travelled all over the world and performed in so many cities. Can you nail down the #1 gig of your life so far? I know it’s really hard to do, but would you please be so kind as to pinpoint one particular music event that you always look back to as the “singular moment” of a long career?

 Adrian Belew: there are so many many moments I could name, but you are most impressionable when you’re young. when I was only 28 years old I remember standing on the stage of madison square gardens in new york city right next to david bowie playing to a sold out audience of thousands! the front rows were filled with famous people of all sorts including andy warhol, dustin hoffman, mick jagger, and interestingly enough: talking heads. that was quite a moment.

8)  The Music Industry has changed: Once it was the gig promoting the album. Now it’s the album promoting the gig. Do you find yourself performing much more than ever before, or it’s business as usual?

Adrian Belew: I do perform now more than ever, especially internationally, but it’s because I love it (in small doses). live performance is now the primary source of income for most musicians whether they love it or not. it’s the one thing the bad guys haven’t yet figured out how to steal from us! there were years in my life when I dreaded touring, but at some point it turned around 180 degrees. now I enjoy touring. (in small doses). there is something entirely zen about performing live. a performance happens once and it seems like in an instant it’s over!

9) You always talked about the compromise a musician like yourself has to make within a band format, with all the frustration that goes with it. You prefer to create alone, just like a painter with his canvas. Having said that – isn’t it amazing what King Crimson (for example) has achieved with this huge compromise — in retrospect, of course?

  Adrian Belew: I complain too much and too loud about many things. it’s part of my nature to point out the negatives before moving on to the positives. but once I’ve done so I can really enjoy the positives! clearly my life is a balancing act: family time, career time. touring, recording. writing, performing. digital, analog. collaboration, solo work. I need a diet of all these things and being in a band is very important to me. king crimson is and will always be one of the most important collaborations of my career and nothing can change that. for me it was mostly fantastic.

10) I’ve read your post about your first concert ever – The Beatles at Crosley Field in Cincinnati back in 1966. You say Paul McCartney is your favorite artist of all time. You’ve met both Paul and Ringo. Sometimes you sound like Lennon himself. Are you still creating music today that is directly inspired by the Beatles?

  Adrian Belew: yes. that cannot change either because it’s in my musical DNA. I learned enough from the beatles (at a young impressionable age) to set me on creative fire for life.

The Adrian Belew Power Trio will perform live in Tel Aviv’s Barby Club, on February 3rd 2016. Julie Slick (Bass) and Tobias Ralph (Drums) will help Adrian Belew (Guitars, Vocals) make this a great evening.

Posted in american prog rock | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cancel Israel gig

“Due to the present ongoing problems in Israel with all the recent shootings and people getting kicked to death in public etc, the band do not feel safe or secure with the idea of playing Tel Aviv, and as the ticket sales are also not very good I think it is in everybody’s best interests that we cancel the show now. Thank you for your understanding and I am sorry that it did not work out”.

That’s how Manfred Mann’s Earth Band cancelled their Israeli gig, scheduled for January 19th in Tel Aviv’s Reading-3  club. The security issue angered Israeli ticket buyers, who felt cheated and humiliated.

The show was originally scheduled for September 21st, 2015. Although the band has informed the Israeli promoter on November 3rd, the show only was officially cancelled in the last minute by the Israel production, citing difficulties with locating a proper Organ for famed keyboardist Manfred Mann. Ticket buyers were suspicious about the whole thing, but a new date was set (19/01/2016) and things looked fine.

On November 23, the band issued a quick statement, cancelling the gig:

manfred-mann-cancelled-19jan2016-gig-israel-581x334

However, the Israeli promoter, “Progstage”, refused to accept the situation. A wave of terror has swept Israel since September 2015, centering around the Temple Mount. The guys at ProgStage did not cancel the gig, and kept on selling tickets to Israeli consumers.

As the show’s January 19 date was getting closer, the UK band was bombed with questions from Israelis: are you coming or not? so they issued another statement on January 13th:

manfred-mann-facebook-announcement-13-01-16_484x203

After this annoucement, the Israeli promotor had no option but to cancel. However, this is where things got ugly. Progstage staff accused Manfred Mann’s management of joining a cultural boycott against Israel (BDS). This, despite the band’s sweeping denial of any such attempt.

It should be noted that Manfred Mann’s Earth Band has performed in Israel on May 2004. The band gave two gigs in Tel Aviv and Haifa. So clearly, at least some of the band members what Israel is like.

After the Israeli press turned the lost gig into a minor political scandal, the summary is quite simple: many UK artists don’t feel safe in Israel. They watch BBC News and see an endless stream of terror attacks throughout Israel, including the occupied territories. People are being stabbed in the streets of Jerusalem, Hebron and many more cities. Many Palestinians are being shot to death by soldiers, sometimes on a daily basis.

Justin Hayward (for The Moody Blues), for example, also cancelled his Tel Aviv gig after two attemps of rescheduling. American band “Kansas” also cancelled their gig back in August 2014, because of the war with Gaza.

We, Israelis, understand why some rock groups decide to avoid visiting Israel. However, it should be noted that many big rock bands have perfomed successfully in Israel lately. Bon Jovi, Art Garfunkel, Suede and the Rolling Stones are just some of the artists who ignored the security concerns. Even the great Elton John is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park on May 26th, 2016.

manfred-mann-group-photo-700x347

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – 2015 Promo Photo

 

Posted in progressive rock in israel, UK Prog, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Endless River: 5/10 – Worst Pink Floyd Album Ever Made

endless-river-pink-floyd-200[1]The Endless River, the 15th studio album by Pink Floyd, is a predictable disappointment. There are no great songs, no flashes of brilliance, no musical surprises and there is nothing exciting for PF fans.

We did not have “High Hopes” anyway, since the actual band broke up 20 years ago. Loyal fans of the British ensemble, adoring the guys for almost 50 years, did not really expect to receive an old-new album such as this money-making concoction. “The Endless river” is said to be a “tribute” to the late keyboardist Richard Wright, though it’s not at all clear that Wright, a fairly critical chap, would have expressed great satisfaction from the final result, had he been alive and kicking today. It’s more of a tribute to their record company.

How can leftover jam-session pieces made in 1993 for the Division Bell album, released way back in 1994, compete with the great works of the majestic Pink Floyd? It’s sad to say, but there is no competition with the ‘golden age’ of Floyd. The truth is, it takes a superhuman effort to put together something worthy of brain-ear intercation, from over 20 hours of useless studio jam sessions.

David Gilmour and Nick Mason had to recruit a team of musical producers and tech wizards, add new solos, throw in a mass of digital studio effects and try to build a consistent product, on par with the band’s perfect sonic reputation. But when time comes for the bottom line, “The Endless River” is nothing more than an elegant anesthetic for aging fans, which have become comfortably numb.

The album opens the voice of Richard Wright, the now-missing member, which says, ‘certainly we had an unspoken understanding’, and “There are many things that are left unsaid”. Gilmore adds its own statement, “Sometimes we fight, argue, and then work it out’, or something to that effect. Combining interviews at the opening of an album is an old trick from 1973 (‘ Dark Side Of The Moon ‘), offered by none other than Roger Waters. After a brief reunion with Waters in 2005, millions of Floyd-heads had renewed hope for a renaissance. The irritating Roger is missed (How I Wish you Were Here), at least those who think some political criticism is not the end of the world.

The direction of the endless cruise is highly ‘Ambient‘ (perhaps far too ambient), almost like a nostalgic fantasy filled with flashbacks, daydreams and perhaps some kind of polite longing for a gray and shy person. This is not the first time the Floyds mourn a lost band member. But unlike the grand lamentations about the colorful Syd Barrett, here it feels like browsing an old family album, with all the photos in black and white, faded, almost lifeless.

Throughout the album you can feel an attempt to recover and recycle great moments from classical albums like ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Animals’, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ and even some “The Wall” (“Alons-Y” sounds like a reproduction of “Run Like Hell”). Sometimes this is done in a gentle and implicit manner, and sometimes a little more blunt. The opening of “Anisina”, for example, sounds like “Us and Them” from The Dark Side, and Gilad Atzmon’s saxophone only strengthens the resemblance. The short track ‘Skins’ quotes the famous Tom-tom drums of “Time”. ‘It’s What We do’ sounds just like the final moments of ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’. “On Noodle Street” is elevator music, and ‘Calling’ can be a subsection of a soundtrack to a quite-pale documentary film about the Amazon river.

Naturally, the slow and ambient atmosphere is reminiscent of the less-than-dramatic sections from “The Division Bell“; But the music here, which is in fact just sleepy improvisations on the same three or four chords, is far less ambitious; In the absence of any meaningful text or true concept, they have no artistic direction, musical statement and lyrical depth. Some tracks are just too damn brief to be memorable at all. And above all, quite a few minutes sound too much like ‘On An Island’, Gilmour’s quite-nice solo attempt from 2006, which was far better-flowing than this mundane river.

Two tracks stand out from the ambience: “It’s What We Do“, and the only straight song, “Louder Than Words“. Polly Samson’s text is neo-kitsch, self-flattering and not very bright. Gilmour’s lovely guitar still sounds good here, with Mason and Wright giving the respectable guitarist all the space he needs for the right “take”. Bass roles, reserved in the past for Mr. Roger Waters, are now scattered between Gilmour, Guy Pratt, Bob Ezrin and Andy Jackson.

It is never pleasant to say negative things about a Pink Floyd album. Sometimes this ‘dirty work’ just has to be done, if you really love someone. Ironically, the new album actually highlights the greatness of the band at its peak, especially in the years 1973-1979. Even a hollow album like “The Division Bell” suddenly sounds so consistent, enjoyable and even inspiring, compared with the collection of meaningless glimpses. This endless river noq easily inherits 1987’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” disaster as the worst Pink Floyd album ever.

What motivated this negligible release? contractual obligations, an attempt to promote the back catalog (endless stream of 5.1 remasters), a new cashflow to the Wright family (note Wright’s name in the credits, again and again), or maybe even silencing the fans who demanded one last PF product. Perhaps we will never know what was behind the decision of David Gilmour to pull out the old tapes, sit patiently by the computer and the team of produers, and pretend that Pink Floyd is not just a company (corporation) with limited liability established in 1987, but also an artistic entity with a noble cause.

The ultimate test of any music album is the number of repeated listens. The Endless River does not arouse any desire to continue to listen to it in the future. It’s not because it sounds amateurish or ostentatiously embarrassing, not because the music does not sound “Floydish”. Luckily, though, there are at least 14 other good albums to choose from.

Conclusion: The Endless River is not a river you want to cruise in. The fountain of inspiration has dried out, long ago. A tribute to the late Richard Wright was not necessary at all. Every note in this album has already appeared in better form and context, inside past albmus made by the glorious Waters, Gilmour, Mason & Wright. Therefore, young listeners are cautioned not to start the introduction to Pink Floyd with this strange product.

Score: 5/10

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Genesis Together and Apart – BBC2 Documentary Review (7/10)

It’s very hard to say anything new about the Genesis story, and the BBC’s latest attempt, “Together and Apart“, which aired in the UK on October 4th (2014) was a failure at that point. Not only was it superficial, but it collapsed under its own weighty mission: to cover not only the band’s life-work, but to touch on multiple solo projects of band members.

The result was a mildly entertaining, but not very satisfactory, piece of public relations work, hiding behind the respectable cloak of “documentary” artisan-ship, and spanning only 90 minutes.

BBC Two - Genesis: Together and Apart

Genesis band members have interviewed themselves to death over the years. Their CD and DVD boxes were filled with extensive talking-head bits, describing in detail practically every album and song made by the band over their super-long history (1967-2007).

It would take more than 3 hours of video to handle this project with any level of respect. At least 2 hours for the band and 1 hour for the solo albums. Peter Gabriel’s work is, perhaps, the most influential. Not only has Gabriel’s music opened the doors for the world-music genre, but his political involvement justifies much more attention than BBC-2 was willing to give.

Besides the five band members, the film included exactly 20 interviewees, some of them from outside the band’s professional circle, with less interesting stories to contribute.

 

Missing pieces from the Genesis puzzle

  • Chris Stewart – first Genesis drummer. Wasn’t interviewed or mentioned in “Together and Apart”
  • Jonathan King – first producer for Genesis. His prison sentence wasn’t mentioned, perhaps in exchange for his willingness to participate in the film.
  • John Silver – 2nd Genesis drummer. Just like Stewart, he wasn’t interviewed or mentioned.
  • John Mayhew – 3rd Genesis drummer. As you’ve guessed, wasn’t interviewed or mentioned.
  • John Anthony – producer for the Trespass album. Totally ignored.
  • Paul Whitehead – artist for early Genesis albums. Didn’t make it to BBC’s final cut.
  • Anthony Phillips – his solo work wasn’t covered in any way.
  • King Crimson – huge influence on Genesis. Not a word in the docu.
  • The Nice – direct influence on “The Knife” epic piece. BBC viewers will not know that.
  • John Burns – producer for three early Genesis albums. Not in film.
  • Tony Stratton-Smith (“Strat”) – Charisma label for Genesis. The band’s real patron and godfather. He’s dead, but wasn’t included even through archive pieces.
  • Jill Moore – first wife of Peter Gabriel. Critical to “The Lamb” period, photographed but not interviewed.
  • Brand-X – Jazz-Fusion group, side-project for Phil Collins in the 70’s. No real mention of the albums, band members or significance.
  • Bill Bruford – hired drummer for late 70’s Genesis tour. Not mentioned.
  • Steve Hackett’s solo career – not included at all. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the film. Hackett is furious over this. Maybe the longer DVD version will fix that.
  • Milton Keynes Bowl reunion concert (1982) – important gig for the five. Not a trace.
  • Nick Davis – producer for We Can’t Dance. Wasn’t on BBC.
  • Ray Wilson – new singer after Phil Collins left in 1996. A huge miss for the film.
  • Calling All Stations – Genesis album in 1997. Impossibly, not mentioned in the film.
  • Genesis Archive box set (67-75) – great project that didn’t get any mention.
  • Three Remaster Box Sets: 70-75, 76-82, 83-98 – all three dismissed.
  • Collins’ 2007 accident on tour – reason for his inability to drum. Missing from final edit.
  • Genesis Live 1973–2007 – another box-set that was thrown out of the film’s “plot”.
  • Genesis Revisited II – even Hackett’s reworking of Genesis classics has been left out.
  • Influence on other bands – a subject that didn’t appear anywhere. Marillion’s just one example.
  • Tribute Bands – great groups such as The Musical Box and ReGenesis are missed here.
  • Hall of Fame Induction – both Genesis & Gabriel. Not there in the film.

Summary

Any short biography book, like “Genesis Inside & Out” (by Robin Platts) gives you a fuller and a truer picture of the band’s story, compared with BBC-2’s “Together and Apart”. Of course it’s better than VH1 short docu (44 mins.), but it seems like too many important milestones and people were not even interviewed, because a 90-minute duration is just not enough to cover this epic journey.

genesis-sum-of-its-parts-blurayThe DVD-BluRay edition, titled “Sum of its Parts”, has 30 minutes of extra footage, but it doesn’t showcase an expanded narrative or different interviewees. So, the jury is out and the rating is pretty low: 7/10 for “Genesis – Together and Apart”, a PR product to promote the “R-Kive” 3CD set.

The real documentary on Genesis has not been produced yet. It would take much more work, and complete editorial freedom to include the darker stories of the band, the chapters untold in the BBC dry-cleaning effort, and a wider perspective on the band’s work on the rock, pop and prog-rock world.

Posted in UK Prog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Kate Bush Live 2014: What went wrong?

How could it be that returning after 35 years, one of the most gifted artists of our times feels the need to wow the audience with visual theatrics rather than play her wonderful songs?

by O. Shinar (Eventim Apollo, London, Sep 19th 2014)

The news was so outrageous it seems something was wrong: could it be that Kate Bush has just announced a return to live performance, after so many years? Sure, there were some signs of that materializing – she has returned to album making, was seen in public accepting an award and also spoke of a possible return to the stage. But few seemed to have believed her. Kate Bush was famous for being a recluse, content on creating music while shying away from ever meeting a live audience. The ‘Before the Dawn’ concerts have thankfully shattered this conception. Unfortunately, they have also broke other perceptions, in a more disconcerting manner.

Kate Bush did return to the stage, as we all know, working secretly for more than a year on a lavish and intricate stage production, together with some of the most talented people in theater, lightning and special effects. Dancers, singers and, of course, musicians were also part of the menu, as was one special teenager, Kate’s own son, Bertie, who has become a regular fixture in her albums since ‘Aerial’ (2005), almost a decade ago. The show might have never come into fruition without him, notes Bush, and indeed it is hard to miss his many roles in the concert – singing, dancing, playing various acting parts, etc.

Young Bertie’s presence seems to be a plausible explanation for the show immature tendencies, yet when push comes to shove, given the artist in question has time and time again proved to be hands-on with regard to all aspects of her work, including semi hidden etching on her vinyl singles, it should be assumed that, for better or worse, the concerts are a reflection of Kate Bush’s own vision rather than anyone else, including her son.

Yet the show was deeply upsetting for me as it seemed focused on visuals rather than sounds. This has been a great disappointment for me, having spent thousands of pounds travelling with my children to the UK for the concert at the London Apollo. It was natural to assume we will witness some balance between what was important for Kate and what could be expected of her, i.e., singing some of her brilliant musical achievements of yesteryear but also as of late. Songs like ‘In a Coral Room’ or ‘Snowflake’, which are widely regarded among the peak of her work, are rather recent and therefore could have been included in a show which would suggest Bush is still very much a rare musical genius.

However, while the inclusion of many of the ‘Hounds of Love’ songs, including ‘The Ninth Wave’ was expected, Bush has also added obscure songs under the heading ‘Hits’, some of which were never even released as singles, let alone attained popular following.

SAMSUNG

Theater of Kate Bush Show

Eventim Apollo, London, September 19th 2014

It is possible to explain the omission of the earlier materials, some of which have been played live during the 1979 tour, but Bush decision to completely disregard more recent album such as ‘The Sensual World’ is a mystery. Well, at least somewhat of a mystery until one realizes ‘Never be Mine’, one of the most haunting songs ever recorded by Bush as to be included in the ‘Hits’ section, dropped, possibly at the last moment, due to the length of the show – three hours – one could assume. While this makes sense, in the context of having to shorten a very lengthy live concert, one which has been repeated almost every night during two months in the summer of 2014, the question still remains, why such a brilliant song, the only one from an entire album, was cut, rather than much less known and interesting songs.

"Never Be Mine" in the computer set-list

“Never Be Mine” in the computer set-list (Photo; O. Shinar)

The concert’s final section, the second half of ‘Aerial’, ‘A Sky of Honey’, provided a possible key to understanding the Bush criterion for song selection – visual aspects of the performance seemed more important to her than the sound. While the musicians faded into the background, literally shoved into the far reaches of the giant stage, birds, huge canvasses, the sun and the moon as well as a myriad of other stage antics were introduces in a spellbinding manner, spinning the heads of all present and making sure the musical experience become a soundtrack to some of the most amazing images, such as a huge, slowly revolving, yellowish moon, which was as real as the dancers who shared the stage.

For an artist who chose to transcend the need for tangible contact with the audience for so long, creating a show which included a selection of songs based on visual merit is unfortunate.

I’m probably missing something. Most critics and members of the audience wrote favorably and enthusiastically about the concerts. Many wrote of the Clouds passing us from above, the giant trees crashing on stage, the troop of skeleton-skinned fish patrolling the stage, which become a sea in which Bush drowns during the Ninth Wave reincarnation. Yet few contemplated the fact that the choice of song could and should have been significantly different.

Yet even more regretful was the heavy handed use of tapes and digital sounds rather than real musicians. A single violin player would have done wonders for the aural experience, while a small orchestra would have never been out of place given its extensive presence in the majority of Bush’s albums. Indeed, the songs renditions suffered, culminating in the abysmal omission of the counter melody in the show final song ‘Cloudbusting’. The audience seems content of just hearing the song. I wonder how many have noticed to lack of the delightful line played by the cellos on the album.

What to make of all of this? Perhaps the fear of performing pushed Kate into making such a bigger than life experience, one in which Kate herself is dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of the experience.

Kate Bush’s warm and wonderful voice is still very much there. It is still amazingly beautiful, lacking nothing, even if the range is a little more limited than before. Hence, she could have sung with ease most of the post 1985 songs.

For many, including myself, Kate bush is the most brilliant female artist alive today. She is among the most gifted musicians of our time, disregarding gender. When she sings other people’s songs, it becomes clear that her voice is a rare gift: Elton John suggests Kate Bush contribution to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’ saved his life. Is there a bigger compliment? Unfortunately, much of her brilliance was lost on ‘Before the Dawn’.

Posted in UK Prog | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Chain Reaction by Distorted Harmony (2014) – 8.5/10

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction [album] by Distorted Harmony [band]

After listening 48 times to the 2nd album by the Israeli prog-metal band “Distorted Harmony” (DH), I can say with certainty that this is an excellent export product for Israel.

“Chain Reaction”, while far away from the ethnic-metal music of bands like Orphaned Land, captures the right hemisphere of the brain with considerable success.
Compared to ‘ Utopia ‘, the ensemble’s debut album in 2012, this album boasts more sophistication, focus and self-confidence. Over 9 tracks and 51 minutes, the album proves that DH is not a one-time miracle. The CD displays extensive experience gained outside the band, very high technical skill and natural talent to write melodic musical pieces, original and exciting.

 

Many Israeli bands suffer from the ‘weak link syndrome‘ – when one member of a talented ensemble trails after the rest, but no one is willing to get rid of him, because that’s not pleasant, he’s a personal friend. Not so with Distorted Harmony: each band member is an ace, all endowed with appropriate musical abilities, and together they are just unstoppable. You can really feel that this is a collection of well-rehearsed musicians, working hard for two years, a real cutting-edge band that has painstakingly crystallized over time.

 

As the keyboardist and band leader, Yoav Efron,  was the most dominant member in the debut album, this time around he gave other members in the band the opportunity to lead the music. Guy Landau (guitar) demonstrates maturity, muscle, depth and amazing skill. I will compare him to John Petrucci and Michael Romeo‘s latest albums with Symphony-X. Second in the race for MVP, Yogev Gabay (Drums) boasts elegant virtuosity, using intelligent syncopation, changing meters and creative rhythmic transitions.

 

The compliments to Landau and Gabbay don’t come at the expense of Misha Sohinin (vocals), Iggy Jackson Cohen (bass) and of course Yoav Efron (keyboards, melodies, production, etc.). Sohinin sounds great as usual, refusing to conform to prog-metal singers clichés and mannerisms. Bassist Cohen filles his lines with a jazz vocabulary, although most listeners will not be able to hear his subtle intricacies. Yoav Efron enriches the entire recording with heavy walls of sound, electronic samples, broken chords and fast melodic lines. But Efron is primarily a project manager, who sees the overall picture — not just his own synthesizer; He can be proud of his “baby”, even though the album does not show-off with super keyboard solos under his belt. And that’s a very good thing, when you’re talking about prog-metal, a genre suffering from overkill, speeding tickets and heavy shouting.

 

Chain Reaction’s weaknesses are not hidden very deep: First, it’s a prog-metal album for prog-metal fans only. It’s hard to believe that people who do not like heavy metal music will connect to an aggressive one, which contains a predictable combination of heavy shelling and many moments of almost-symphonic beauty . Second, it is difficult to say that this album has something important to say, lyrically or conceptually. It’s not avant-garde in any way, and DH has no intentions in re-inventing the prog wheel; The band members stay away from gimmicks like fire. They don’t want to provoke, surprise too much or show they are more clever than their hard-core audience.

 

Chain Reaction has lots of wonderful moments worth experiencing over and over again: the choral anthem (5:10 timing) in the opening track (Every Time She Smiles); The revolutionary vocal tantrum of Sohinin (2:42 timing) in the 2nd track (Children of Red); Sophisticated instrumental passages (5:11) in the second half of the third track (Misguided); Thrash storm in the middle section (timing 3:50) in the 5th track, As One; The closing Djent-like section of the 6th track, Hollow (timing 5:46); Remarkable virtuoso opening of Natural Selection (0:19); Morbid band Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson in the last, 9th track, Methylene Blue.

 

Part of the secret of success of “Chain Reaction” lies, as usual, in technical matters: the musical production is extra-polished, loaded with up-to-date effects and electronics, benefiting from the superb mix by a great team (Yoav Efron, Priel Horesh and Jonathan Barak), and the work of the super-professional digital master wizard Jens Borgen. Sung in plain English, showing heavy financial investments and attention to fine detail, all of these qualities make “Chain Reaction” one of the best prog-metal albums of 2014.

Score: 8.5 / 10

Posted in israel progressive rock, progressive metal | Leave a comment

Kansas Band Cancel Israeli Gig, Scheduled for Aug 5th

The war with Gaza has made the American prog-rock band, KANSAS, decide to cancel their first-ever planned performance in Tel Aviv, Israel.

On July 29th, a week before the show was set to go, the band’s management issued this statement on their facebook page:

“Out of concern for the safety of concert goers, the band, and its crew due to the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza, the KANSAS concert scheduled for 5 August 2014 in Tel Aviv is cancelled.”

This was a huge blow for the band’s fans in Israel. Although the Gaza war started in July 8th, the band did not cancel right away. Everyone waited for an official ceasefire. When that didn’t happen, the band said “we can’t make it” and angered ticket-buyers.

In over 40 years of existence, Kansas never visited Israel. The band focused on the U.S. market, even ignoring major parts of Europe. Their 40th annivesary tour was supposed to be a landmark opportunity for Israeli fans to witness the band in an excellent venue (the revamped Tel Aviv’s Culture Hall, ideal for classical music), on Tuesday, August 5th 2014, shortly before the departure of Steve Walsh (vocals and keyboards) in mid-August.

Israeli production company, ProgStage, promised Israeli customers that Kansas will not cancel because of the war. It seems like the band just wanted to wait and see what happens, but eventually they couldn’t risk it.

 

Kansas with a fan, July 29th, 2014

Kansas with a fan, July 29th, 2014

Israeli rock fans have seen many cancelations of foreign artists recently. The war with Gaza, and the problematic security situation has made Neil Young, The Backstreet boys, America, Paul Anka and Chick Corea have all had to cancel. The German progressive-electronic band Tangerine Dream also had to cancel a show in Tel Aviv, following low ticket sales, even with no relation to any war.

The Rolling Stones was the biggest name to perform in Israel lately. Justin Timberlake also managed to make it before the war broke out. In light of repeated rocket attacks on Israel’s major cities, including Tel Aviv, the police and the home front command have ordered all outdoor performances to move to indoor facilities.

This political sad turn of events will force many prog-rock fans in Israel to take “rock trips” by airplanes, to see bands perform in Europe.

Posted in american prog rock | Tagged | Leave a comment