Each month, Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo will give some insight into his views of the state of the industry, happenings at SoT, and other assorted rants that might be of interest to our loyal readers.
Read on for the November installment…
Hello folks, and welcome to the first Publisher's Corner, a segment of Sea of Tranquility that has been a long time in the works, but now is finally become a reality, thanks to some "kicking myself in the ass" effort on my part to make it work. What I'd like to accomplish here each month, is give our faithful readers some insight into the world of progressive music as seen through my eyes, where I think it all is headed, as well as news and updates going on from within the mighty Sea. I hope you find my ramblings enjoyable, and if you do, and would like me to indulge on any particular topics in the future, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be more than happy to consider it.
Well, it's now November 2004 (hard to believe 2004 is coming to a close) and baseball is over with for a few months, which allows me plenty of time to dedicate myself to music. I've noticed that the "live" scene seems to be fairly vibrant these days. Oh, not like it was in the 80's and early 90's, where just about every band was doing stadium and large arena gigs, but I'm talking small to large clubs, as well as mid-size venues, who are regularly hosting metal bills, prog bands, and plenty of jazz. In fact, many bands, especially progressive bands, are taking to the road these days, even to just to do a handful of dates to get some exposure. It's amazing when a Genesis "cover band", The Musical Box, can fill 1000 seat halls across the North East on a regular basis, and bands like Happy the Man, Marillion, Nektar, Caravan, Bill Bruford's EarthWorks, Chick Corea Elektric Band, Kansas, The Red Masque, Jethro Tull, Miriodor, Frogg Café, Tunnels, and countless others are scheduling shows across the US. This is a good time for progressive rock. Festivals like NEARFest and ROSFest are helping get bands from across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to the US audiences, and as a result we have bands like The Tangent, Present, Kenso, Le Orme, Mostly Autumn, Magenta, Arena, Wobbler, and Riverside, all who will be traveling from great distances to thrill us with great music in 2005. In addition to live music, labels like InsideOut Music, ProgRock Records, The Lasers Edge, Musea, Cuneiform, Frontiers Records, Relapse Records,Carbon 7, Cyclops, Lion Music, Century Media, Magna Carta, Metal Blade, Eclectic Entertainment, as well as many other independent companies, are churning out quality product month after month, helping to find new bands and keep the genre of progressive music alive.
On the more metal side of things, I am starting to see a creative spark in some of the newer bands that perhaps hasn't been present in a while. There are a few bands that are helping create some new sounds, a combining of styles so to speak. I'm talking about bands like Mastodon, Candiria, and The Dillinger Escape Plan just to name a few (although there are many others). These three are really doing something different. Mastodon creates a huge epic sound that combines the doom of early Black Sabbath, with the complexity of Rush or King Crimson, and shrouds it in the dark angry veil of death metal. Candiria fuses metal with hardcore, jazz, and hip-hop, while The Dillinger Escape Plan bludgeon you with hostile hardcore vocals, shred guitar mania, and complex progressive fusion arrangements. Not your standard fare for sure, and I urge any progressive music or metal fan to check these three young bands out for a taste of some truly unique and inspiring music. As far as prog & power metal goes, there also seems to be a slight shift happening. With the release of Dream Theater's Train of Thought, it now seems acceptable for prog-metal bands to really kick up the "metal" quotient a bit. Up until recently, many bands in the genre tried very hard to have as much proggy tendencies as possible in the music, without cranking up the riffage too much, but I think Train of Thought changed that thinking a bit. Check out some of the metal passages on Pain of Salvation's latest Be for example. While that album has less metal moments than their previous releases, those moments are huge, and perhaps show signs of something to come from the boys from Sweden. Even the latest from relative new-comers Chain is substantially heavier than their previous effort, showing some metal muscle that most listeners doubted they had in them. Power-metal bands on the other hand are deciding that slower and more symphonic might be the way to go in the future. A band like Germany's Edguy told me personally that the speedy riffs –meet double bass drums of the past have been done to death, and bands are looking to get into catchier, heavier, and more symphonic material. Will power-metal bands actually be adding grooves to their music? Time will tell, but in my view, power-metal has been stale for a long time, so anything that will add a little variety to the genre is good news in my view. Extreme bands that fall into the black & death metal camp are busy injecting prog-rock elements into their sound in hopes of tapping into a new audience, and bands like Opeth, In Flames, Borknagar, Dimmu Borgir, and many others are finding their way into the CD players of progressive music lovers.
Japan in my view is the place to seek out quality fusion music these days. Not only is the land of the rising sun spewing out some hot prog in the form of Gerard, Ars Nova, etc., but jazz & fusion lovers must be in heaven with groups such as Kenso, Side Steps, Satoko Fuji, Akihisa Tsuboy and Natsuki Kido, Sixnorth, Djamra, Igzit-Nine, KBB, and Natsuki Tamura, are just a few stars rising out of Japan these days, and you can read many highly rated reviews of their releases here on SoT. That's not to say that the US and Europe are not kicking out some serious jazz inflected product either. Far from it actually, as all you need to do is wander over to the Cuneiform Records website, perhaps the premier label for avant-garde/prog/jazz music in the world, and home to such bands as Univers Zero, Pip Pyle's Bash, The Muffins, Far Corner, Guapo, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Soft Machine, Thinking Plague, Djam Karet, Deus ex Machina, and many other cutting edge artists. If you like jazz, especially with a healthy dose of avant-garde and prog-rock thrown in, there's plenty of quality music floating around these days.
Enough talk about music, what about Sea of Tranquility? Well, we've added a few members to the ever-growing family this month. New on board are writers Ken Pierce from Brooklyn, NY, Steve Ambrosius from San Antonio, TX, Josh Petraglia from Staten Island, NY, and Brad Pingel from Speigletown, NY. Our "newbies" will add their own distinctive styles to the already "variety-rich" current crop of star writers that we have assembled here at Sea of Tranquility, so please be sure to check out their new CD reviews and interviews as they post live on the site. Be sure to check out our FAQ page in the upcoming weeks for bio's on each of our new writers.
So, now that we have added more people, what does that mean to you? Well, it means more CD reviews of all the latest releases, quicker than before, as well as more Roundtable Reviews of CD's, this way you can get different viewpoints from different writers. It also means we will be able to interview more artists, which is one topic that is highly requested of us from the record labels, and something that we know is fun for our readers. Having more writers also means more additions to the now monthly Past Present Classics feature, another popular part of SoT, where we post in-depth reviews, or articles if you will, of classic albums from the past and present. Each month a different writer will tackle a specific classic album (check out our two recent PPC's, Banco' Darwin and Savatage's Streets), and give you an in-depth analysis of it in his own unique style. We also now can send more people to more live shows, which means many more concert reviews.
We hope you get to know each of our new writers just as you have gotten to know our core of SoT veterans who currently entertain and inform you with their meanderings on Mellotrons, fairies, dragons, shredding guitar licks, and demonic love cries. Sea of Tranquility, in its webzine form, has now been in business for over three years, and for all of us is a real labor of love. From the beginning, our motto has been to give our readers up-to-the-minute CD reviews on all the latest releases, hot news in the industry, interviews with many of the top bands and artists, new concert reviews, and thought provoking views on classic albums in the genres we cover. So far, I think we have done a pretty good job, and will continue to work hard to bring you even more content in the months ahead. No other site brings prog, metal, and fusion together like Sea of Tranquility, so make sure to tell your friends and help spread the word that the Sea is spreading, and will pull you in with its wake.
See you all around Christmas, where I hope to spread some Holiday cheer to you all before we head off to spend time with our families and get ready for the New Year. All I ask is that you make sure to familiarize yourself with the new Trans Siberian Orchestra CD, as there will be a quiz to make sure you are all in a proggy holiday spirit.
Oh, and please say a prayer for my New York Mets, and hope that they can work some magic and either spend some money on a few quality free agents, or make some damn trades that make sense and will help the team. Three losing seasons in a row is too much I say!!
Sea of Tranquility