Unsigned Bands Q4 2007/Q1 2008

This is the first of a series of blog entries on Unsigned Bands – cross posted in the ProgArchives.com Prog Blog forum and on my own blog. Each quarter a number of bands posted in the ProgArchives.com Unsigned Bands forum will be discussed, based on my own impressions and the feedback we got for these bands through our forums.

This first blog post focuses on ten bands – discussed below, some of which have made it out of the Unsigned Bands forum because they were signed by a record company, or released an album themselves. Other bands will follow in future blog entries, it’s hard to choose amongst over 150 bands that were submitted to Unsigned Bands in the past 9 months.

Sunpath is a German progressive metal band that entered the forums as an unsigned/unreleased band and was approved shortly after that on the basis of self-released their debut album. A band with many influences listed in their band information (and probably as many not listed), formed by a mix of young and slightly older musicians (ages between 25 and 45 at the time of this release) most of whom are well trained (some even classically trained) multi-instrumentalists. Promising…

Looking at my review of their album Acoustic Aphasia, the band’s sound is best described as mix between metal and and the progressive eclectisism of the heavier art rock bands. Metal is mixed with a violin, and the experienced vocals of former PICTURE THIS singer Ralf Kierspel. Strongest tracks on the album are Dreamscape (akin to Sieges Even’s Paramount album) and the more eclectic In Good Seasons.
The band expresses a clear vision and self trust in their own description of their music:
SUNPATH – a name that stands for virtuosity, richness in elements, powerful rock, and fine melodies. Five musicians combine this with stylistic influences from rock, metal, jazz, blues, and funk – in order to create innovative, unique music.”
Worth investigating for people looking for metal with a melodic edge and bands with a future ahead of them.

Centaur Rodeo, like Sunpath, were posted in Unsigned Bands and then announced that they had downloadable album out through iTunes. On the basis of that, they were proposed for inclusion in the archives. So far, this has been a pending effort – apparently the band’s style is so eclectic that it’s not clear whether or not they should be considered prog…
Initially identified as Eclectic Prog, with Krautrock influences, people have been looking at them from Xover, Heavy, Post-Rock and even metal influences. Currently, they are being reconsidered by Eclectic – in parallel with Prog Metal.

Krobak is a one person post-rock effort by ProgArchives member Prog-Jester (Igor). He released two albums recently and was added to the archives based on this effort. Again, I’ll use an excerpt from my own review to explain his music, this one based on the split album with fellow Ukranian post-rocker Krikston.
The Krobak part [of the album] starts of with the atmospheric Amnesia, containing a nice guitars solo with a hint of a bass groove underneath half way through. The violins at the end give it all a folk-like feel. Definitely within the boundaries of what is defined as Post-Rock – eclectic yet not straight-forward rock. The second track, The Diary of the Missed One, begins atmospheric as well. The track has a sound track to an ‘alternative’ movie feel to it: listening closely reveals what could be a number of movements in this 12 minute track, but I haven’t taken the effort to count them. The main trigger for listening in this was was the sudden switch to something ‘a bit more light’ at the 4 minute mark. The final Krobak track, The Fried Bull’s Waltz is a different animal (pun intended). It starts with heavy guitars that come back in many shapes throughout the remainder of this piece, that clocks well over 12 minutes again. There is a structure in here, but it’s not apparent upon first listen. Challenging for me, maybe less challenging for Post-Rock addicts, but I definitely want to retry discovering it. The ending of the track, which takes us back to more atmospheric grounds provides a nice contrast to the rest of the track.

Feedforward is based in Tilburg, some 30 kilometers from where I live. A progressive metal band, with a female vocalist and a lot of potential. On their debut album the band chose to include 10 quite varied tracks, making it a real show case debut album. A little bit more consistency in style between the selected tracks may appeal to some listeners, for me this variety was more than enjoyable. Straight from the opener Fade Away it is clear that this is not just another Dutch Within Temptation or After Forever clone. Feedforward vocalist Bianca (Biejanka) has a very powerful voice and she knows how to use it against the force her four gang members sometimes throw at her.
The track 143 is my favourite track on their, which has a real metal opening riff, a male/female vocal dialogue and powerful keyboard and guitar interplay, could very well be the most progressive of the album, and it gets better on every listen.
Compared to other bands, the band has made a great start, and shortly after their inclusion in ProgArchives, they score a record deal with Rusty Cage Records. Their debut album will be remastered and re-released later this year on that label.

Phenom is an Indian neo-progressive band, offering their EP through their own web site. Currently, the band is dormant, as some members are studying outside their native country. Their style comparible to the more well known Neo bands, and the band members are very profound on their instruments. In some places, their EP reminds me of Pendragon as they played some 20 years ago, yet with a more modern touch to it. Hopefully, the masters in robotics being persued by the bass player and drummer will not keep them from returning to the band, that deserves to be heard.

Pennelli di Vermeer is the most original band I’ve heard since I joined ProgArchives. Even though they are included in ProgArchives as Italian Symphonic Prog, their sound is more eclectic than most ISP bands, and in a very original way: you can mix rock with classical music, and Rush for example included some reggae influences in their music around 1980, so why not put in a bit of ska, opera and theater influences?

The Pennelli members guide us through their musical world on this EP, guiding us through theater/musical style music, ska, plain rock, electronics and tango and at some point bombast of the kind ELP used to provide us with. The track Aldiladelladilà even contains some Arabic and Cossack influences. All in all, a quite different experience from what I’ve heard in the past year, and definitely a band with it’s own unique, eclectic sound. To be checked out and enjoyed with an open mind.

Ritratto Di Un Mattino is an Italian Symphonic band that received very positive reactions amongst the ProgArchives community. A quote from their site bio, written by PA’s Eclectic team leader Ricochet sums it up best, so I’ll just quote him here:
“From the early symph-like melodies to the lot more eclectic compositions, RITTRATO DI UN MATINO have matured well enough, offering the slice and rag of art rock, hard prog, experimentation and variations in tasteful, carefully arranged bits and sizes. The violin inserts, as well as the vocals, are elements that add flavour to the instrumental story. With both acoustic and temperamental measures, RITTRATO DI UN MATINO sound like MARILLION, ORME and PINK FLOYD. Or even better.
Clearly a band less know to the prog community, that started from building best its formations, winning some contests and recording demos, this Italian band is yet recommended, with more music to be hopefully expected in the future.”

Gens de la Lune is are a French rock/folk ensemble, including in their ranks former Ange members Francis Decamps and Gérard Jelsch. These two have gather around them a few younger musicians (the youngest being 23) to create a sound that is a mixture of French folk, 70s rock and some hard to define ethnic influences. The band have an album out now (released on March 16th, and are being considered for inclusion in the ProgArchives database. Recommended listen for Ange fans.

Senza Nome are an Italian quintet from Rome, founded in 2003, and influenced by 70’s Italian Progressive Rock, naming bands such as Banco, Area and PFM as their main influences. On one end, this makes their music maybe a bit retro, but the tracks provided on MySpace (taken from a live gig) are of great quality. These guys know their instruments, and the latest news is that they are recording a studio album. Worth checking out for fans for Italian Progressive Rock – and hopefully we’ll get to hear that debut album later this year.

Hypnosis are, again, an Italian band. This time we are talking about band that could be considered heavy prog or even prog metal material. Their influences include Pink Floyd (just listen to the first part of Brezza di Luna Nuova on MySpace), Dream Theater, Genesis, PFM and Banco, but also Led Zeppeling and Deep Purple. Their songs are a mixture of symphonic, atmospheric pieces, and heavier guitar driven material. Vocals, as with many Italian bands, are in their native language which suits the music (isn’t Italian one of the most musical languages in the world anyhow?). The prog influences are clear, and with a first demo out, all we can do is enjoy the music and hope that more is in the making.

To close this list, I have to mention J’Accuse. who are releasing a debut album on Mellow Records on april 4th. Their music, as published on MySpace around the time we got to hear of them include psychedelic and jazz rock influences at the same time. When listening to their material, I heard influences of Porcupine Tree and maybe a bit of Krautrock. The heavier guitar work may be influenced by King Crimson. What surprised me was a track of which I can’t recall the name right now, on which the vocalist reminded me of John Lydon (PIL. Sex Pistols), even if the music was very distant from what he has ever done. Later on, someone even remarked that newer material showed clear influences of post-rock. The band has been very interactive ever since I contacted them, and if the quality of their album mirrors their enthousiasm, this one will be worth getting!

This first set of bands from the Unsigned Bands forum contains quite a few that have become ‘signed’ in the mean time. That could be considered faking in terms of an Unsigned Bands blog entry, but I deliberately included these bands to make clear that there’s a lot of good to be discovered in the Unsigned Bands forum. I can only urge ProgArchives members to dive into these forums and start discovering, providing feedback and helping out in giving new prog the attention it deserves.


[publised in parallel on ProgArchives.com and my own blog on March 22nd, 2008]

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