Our Top 10 Prog Albums of 2016

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1 BIG BIG TRAIN – Folklore
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2 MARILLION – F.E.A.R.
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3 HAKEN – Affinity
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4 RIVERSIDE – Eye Of The Soundscapetop5-riverside-eots

5 THANK YOU SCIENTIST – Stranger Heads Prevailtop5-tys-stranger-heads

6 SYD ARTHUR – Apricitytop5-syd-arthur-apricity

7 STEVEN WILSON – 4 1/2top5-sw-4-1_2

8 VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR – Do Not Disturbtop5-vdgg-do-not-disturb

9 STICK MEN – Prog Noirtop5-stick-men-prog-noir

10 OPETH – Sorceress
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Haken – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

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Haken’s ‘Affinitour v2.0’ in support of their fourth album ‘Affinity’ has reached Canada and the United States.   I caught the band live at Toronto’s Mod Club. Words and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

‘Affinity’ is already a strong contender to be Album of the Year for many people,  and as the band took to the stage the enthusiastic crowd greeted them like conquering heroes. Kicking off with ‘Initiate’ from the new album and ‘Falling Back To Earth’ (from 2013’s ‘The Mountain’), it was evident that this is a band playing at the top of their game. There’s a visible confidence emanating from all the band, almost a swagger – they know they’re good and they enjoy showing it.

Technically superb,  mixing out and out aural assault with refined quieter passages – where the crowd were almost singing as loudly as vocalist Ross Jennings – Haken deliver dizzying rhythms with rousing melodies. ‘1985’ is the standout track from ‘Affinity’  – keyboardist Diego Tejeide wants a piece of the action and takes centre stage with his keytar. Both guitar players – Rich Henshall and Charlie Griffiths – are playing 8 string guitars and Conner Green’s bass has 6 strings…..this is prog after all.

Most of the set is culled from the last 2 albums (‘Deathless’ and encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ being the exceptions). ‘The Architect’ – the longest track on ‘Affinity’ – takes us on a journey through many styles and allows both guitarists more space to shine with solos. The highlight of the evening for me, and clearly a crowd favourite, is a storming version of ‘Cockroach King’ , complete with its quirky time signatures and Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies, which has the whole club shaking to the rafters.

‘The Endless Knot’ brings the main set to a frenzied finale and the band sign off with encore ‘Celestial Elixir’ from 2010’s debut album ‘Aquarius’.

Haken of course cross the genres. It is heavy, it is loud, but they combine this with subtlety and emotion, weaving an intoxicating medley of styles. It’s all uplifting stuff, the affinity  between the band members themselves and the band and crowd. This is a band on a roll, that seemingly can do no wrong at present – catch them if you can.

My review of Haken’s  ‘Affinity’ album is here.

Setlist:
Affinity.exe
Initiate
Falling Back To Earth
1985
Earthrise
Pareidolia
The Architect
Keyboard Solo
Deathless
Cockroach King
The Endless Knot
Encore:
Celestial Elixir

Haken:
Ross Jennings – vocals
Rich Henshall – guitars
Ray Hearne – drums
Charlie Griffiths – guitars
Diego Tejeida – keyboards
Conner Green – bass

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Tour Dates – Affinitour v2.0 2016

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Thank You Scientist – Mod Club Toronto, 1st September 2016

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Thank You Scientist are supporting Haken on their ‘Affinitour v2.0’ across Canada and the US in September 2016.  To coincide, the New Jersey seven-piece have just released their second full album ‘Stranger Heads Prevail’ (on the Evil Ink label) which is receiving rave reviews. I caught up with the band at Toronto’s intimate Mod Club…..Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Thank You Scientist are hard to define. They have been described as progressive, progressive metal, post hardcore, jazz fusion – helpfully their FaceBook page has their genre as ‘post genre sweet potato polka’.  Watching the band set up pre-gig , it’s clear we are in for something refreshingly different, with trumpet, sax and violin players. There’s no keyboards at all.

What is evident from the outset, is that the band is having a lot of fun. Bundle of energy front man Salvatore Marrano dances around the stage, his soulful vocals managing to cut through the backdrop of sax, trumpet, violin and crunchy guitar riffs. When it’s time an instrumental break, Marrano joins the crowd, preferring to watch from there.

The set is made up from tracks from the new album,  the funky ‘Mr Invisible’,  ‘A Wolf In Cheap Clothing’, ‘Caverns’ and the set opener ‘The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook’, and cuts from 2014’s ‘Maps of Non-Existent Places’ including ‘Feed The Horses’, ‘Blood On The Radio’ and ‘My Famed Disappearing Act’. The set is concluded with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘I Am The Walrus’.

Thank You Scientist already have a loyal fan base, with a sizeable proportion of the enthusiastic young crowd joining in the fun singing along to every word. The queue to buy their cds after their set would suggest they are picking up new devotees every time they play, including yours truly…… I hope they’ve brought plenty of cds with them on the tour!

Thank You Scientist remain happily uncategorisable – funky, jazzy, proggy, often all at the same time – it’s an intoxicating melange of styles. Catch this tour if you can, their merch/cds are available direct from the band  here.

Thank You Scientist are:

Salvatore Marrano – Vocals
Tom Monda – Guitar
Cody McCorry – Bass, Theremin
Odin Alvarez – Drums
Ben Karas- Violin
Ellis Jasenovic – Saxophone
Andrew Digrius – Trumpet

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Tour Dates with Haken:

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Haken Announce North America 2016 Tour Dates

London’s Haken return to North America this August/September – including 3 dates in Canada -to promote their excellent new album ‘Affinity’.

The ‘Affinitour’ kicks off in Chicago with support coming from American prog band Thank You Scientist. Tickets are on sale now for most gigs.

Dates are as follows:

30.08.2016 REGGIE’S  Chicago, IL, USA
31.08.2016 RAPIDS THEATER  Niagara Falls, NY, USA
01.09.2016 MOD CLUB Toronto, ON, Canada
02.09.2016 CLUB SODA  Montreal, QC, Canada
03.09.2016 L’IMPERIAL  Quebec City, QC, Canada
04.09.2016 BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL  Boston, MA, USA
06.09.2016 MARLIN ROOM  New York, NY, USA
07.09.2016 FOUNDRY  Philadelphia, PA, USA
08.09.2016 CAFE 611  Frederick, MD, USA
09.09.2016 CANAL CLUB  Richmond, VA, USA
10.09.2016 PROGPOWER USA  Atlanta, GA, USA
13.09.2016 GAS MONKEY BAR & GRILL  Dallas, TX, USA
14.09.2016 ROCKBOX  San Antonio, TX, USA
16.09.2016 JOE’S GROTTO  Phoenix, AZ, USA
17.09.2016 COMPLEX  Los Angeles, CA, USA
20.09.2016 EL CORAZON  Seattle, WA, USA
21.09.2016 ASH STREET SALOON  Portland, OR, USA

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Haken – Affinity

UK prog-metallers Haken have just released ‘Affinity’ on Inside Out, and I’m pleased to say, they’ve maintained the quality of their recent output – 2013’s ‘The Mountain’ and 2014’s ‘Restoration’ EP. – Review by Tim Darbyshire

Housed in a retro 1980s style sleeve, ‘Affinity’ is loosely a concept album based around the evolution of computing and humanity, the relationship between man and machine, human behaviour, modern society and and it also asks if artificial intelligence will ever surpass the human capacity to create/recreate life. According to vocalist Ross Jennings, ‘Affinity’ “is more like a soundtrack to a series of recurring themes than an actual concept album.”

Having enjoyed the 1970s style of ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Restoration’ – especially the nods towards Gentle Giant style vocal harmonies – I was unsure what a Haken album influenced by 1980s sounds – 90125 Yes, Toto, King Crimson Discipline era etc – would sound like. What Haken have delivered is another quality album that just sounds like Haken to me.

Kicking off with ‘Initiate’, ‘1985’ and ‘Lapse’, we’re in familiar territory from the off – crazy rhythms, great basslines, quirky time signatures, anthemic vocals, all full of energy. ‘1985’ pays homage to Yes ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ territory. The centrepiece (and longest track at over 15 minutes) is ‘The Architect’ featuring guest vocals from Einar Solberg of Leprous. This song encompasses the full range of Haken’s sound – it’s huge sonically with plenty of subtlety contrasting with the full on aural battery. ‘Earthrise’ continues in anthemic style, ‘Red Giant’ slows things down slightly before the pace picks up again with ‘The Endless Knot’. ‘Bound By Gravity’ closes out the album with a relatively slower feel, proving again that Haken aren’t just about intricacy and heaviness.

The limited edition double CD contains an instrumental version of the CD, an enjoyable if not essential listen. The European version is housed in an attractive hard digibook, whereas disappointingly in comparison the US version comes in a soft digipak.

The band are currently on tour in Europe, hopefully they will return to Canada/US later this year to promote ‘Affinity’

More info and tour dates are on Haken’s website.

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Haken – 4th Album to be Released Late April

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London’s prog-metallers Haken have announced their fourth album entitled ‘Affinity’ will be released on April 29th through Inside Out Music.

2014 saw the release of an EP of re-recorded material – ‘Restoration’ – but ‘Affinity’ will be the full follow up to 2013’s highly acclaimed offering ‘The Mountain’.

According to guitarist Charles Griffiths, “The 1970s was a golden age for prog music. In the past we’ve taken a lot from bands of that era, especially Gentle Giant, but this time, we’ve gone more towards the next decade for our inspiration. It means albums like 90125 from Yes, Toto IV and King Crimson’s Three of a Perfect Pair. We all love the sounds they used and we’ve incorporated some of that approach on Affinity.” 

Haken have produced a micro-site dedicated to the release of ‘Affinity’, check it out here.

Hopefully 2016 will see the band return to Canada to promote ‘Affinity’…..

The album will be available on double vinyl and limited double cd.

Tracklisting:

CD 1:

1) affinity.exe (1:26)
2) Initiate (4:16)
3) 1985 (9:08)
4) Lapse (4:44)
5) The Architect (15:40)
6) Earthrise (4:48)
7) Red Giant (6:06)
8) The Endless Knot (5:50)
9) Bound By Gravity (9:29)

CD 2:

1) affinity.exe (1:26)
2) Initiate (instrumental version) (4:16)
3) 1985 (instrumental version) (9:08)
4) Lapse (instrumental version) (4:44)
5) The Architect (instrumental version) (15:40)
6) Earthrise (instrumental version) (4:48)
7) Red Giant (instrumental version) (6:06)
8) The Endless Knot (instrumental version) (5:50)
9) Bound By Gravity (instrumental version) (9:29)