Between A Rock And A Prog Place: Inside The Finnish Prog Scene
April 5, 2021, a year ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
For decades, prog metal’s popularity has been at its strongest throughout Europe. But what about Finland? James Lascelles – lead singer of the Finnish quartet, Wheel – gives us a guided tour.
“The first band to mention here is Kingston Wall who completely blew me away the first time I heard them – particularly their song ‘The Real Thing’ is a progressive masterpiece and among other amazing qualities, has the best saxophone solo I’ve ever heard. The group was short lived due to the tragic suicide of their singer/song writer back in the ‘90s, but the music holds up incredibly well today – to anyone reading this, check out ‘The Real Thing’ and thank me later. The three biggest players in progressive music in Finland these days are Apocalyptica, Amorphis and Von Hertzen Brothers, all of whom we have some degree of a relationship with. Apocalyptica began as a novelty cello group playing Metallica covers back in the ‘90s and throughout their long career, have transcended to something else entirely. There is a duality in their catalogue spanning from radio friendly metal hits collaborating with some of the world’s biggest rock/metal artists to some really crazy instrumental prog metal stuff that is wonderfully showcased on their latest album Cell-0 (spoiler: it kicks ass). I met Paavo from Apocalyptica back in 2016 when I was producing an EP he was performing on and he introduced us to their management company after hearing our first Wheel demo – their manager flew out to watch our second-ever show and we’ve been working closely with him ever since.
“Since then, we’ve had tours planned with the band for quite some time, although we keep delaying them due to Covid; currently, the shows are postponed until 2022. Amorphis blend elements of progressive music, folk and metal and like Apocalyptica have had a long and successful international career that spans three decades. We performed with them at the end of 2018 before we released our first album, Moving Backwards, and I have to admit, I didn’t know much about their music before that tour. I was blown away by their singer, Tomi Joutsen, who has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard live. Von Hertzen Brothers are less metal than the other bands I have mentioned but they have been central players in the Finnish progressive scene for 20 years. Our drummer, Santeri Saksala, was briefly their touring drummer a few years back and during this time, I went to check out a show in Helsinki which was absolutely amazing; their musicianship and song writing is excellent and I’ve always been surprised that they aren’t better known abroad. For any looking to dive into something new, I’d recommend their 2011 album, Stars Aligned, as a great place to start. Like in most places, prog has always been niche here, but metal music is a huge part of Finnish culture. Bands like Stratovarius were pioneers of modern power metal, Children of Bodom, Nightwish and HIM have had significant global success; honestly there are far too many bands to mention – metal is surprisingly mainstream in Finland, far more so than it is in the UK at least. The metal scene here looks extremely healthy and shows no sign of going anywhere.” Be sure to check out Wheel’s latest offering, Resident Human, by clicking your clicker here.
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Original Queensrÿche singer, Geoff Tate, returns this month with a new LP, Relentless, from his Sweet Oblivion project. For a sampling, check out the “Strong Pressure” lyric video here. Original Blue Öyster Cult drummer, Albert Bouchard, will be offering a livestream on April 10, where he will be performing his latest solo album, Reimaginos, in its entirety, as well as BÖC classics – from Deko Entertainment’s 2Trax Studios. Buy tickets here.
On April 23, Symphonic metallists Eleine will release a new vinyl single, “Die From Within,” which comes in three different colors: white/gold splatter, black/gold, and regular black vinyl, and can be ordered here. Chicago-based instrumental metal trio Aziola Cry recently issued a new single, “…Where Once Bore Wings” – off their new album, The Ironic Divide. The LP can be ordered here.
Korpiklaani recently announced that their own Korpiklaani Vodka was awarded the World's Best Infused & Botanical Vodka at the International Vodka Awards competition. You can watch a commercial for Korpiklaani Vodka here. Turbulence, a new progressive metal band hailing from Lebanon, recently released their new album, “Frontal,” which can be ordered/streamed here.
Icelandic modern prog-rockers The Vintage Caravan will be releasing their latest album, Monuments, this month, and the album’s lead-off single/video, “Whispers,” can be heard/seen here. Described as “an experimental style of psychedelic art-rock that weaves its way into garage, fusion, krautrock, no wave, post-rock, noise, hard psych, and sci-fi prog,” Florida’s Odd Circus recently debuted the video for their song “Gezora,” off their album, Mantha.
Swedish multi-instrumentalist prog rocker Per Wiberg will release a new solo EP, All Is Well In The Land Of The Living, But For The Rest Of Us...Lights Out, on May 14 via Despotz Records – find physical preorders at this location and digital orders here. Symphonic metal foursome Sirenia recently released its tenth studio album overall, Riddles, Ruins & Revelations, via Napalm Records, and the official lyric video for “This Curse Of Mine” can be viewed here.
Stranger Vision has been described as finding their inspiration “in the limitless storytelling skills of Savatage, the percussive intensity of Symphony X and the fluent harmonic layers of Blind Guardian and In Flames, but any influence is deeply reworked by the unique personality of the band.” You now can be the judge, by viewing the video for their track “Soul Redemption,” off their recently-released album, Poetica. Israel’s progressive metal outfit, Subterranean Masquerade, has a new single/video for the track ‘Mångata,’ from their forthcoming fourth LP, Mountain Fever, which is due for worldwide release through Sensory Records in May.
April New Albums
April 2, 2021:
Odd Circus – Mantha (Good Idea Music)
April 9, 2021:
Sweet Oblivion (Featuring Geoff Tate) – Relentless (Frontiers)
Nad Sylvan – Spiritus Mundi (InsideOut)
April 16, 2021:
Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3 (InsideOut)
The Vintage Caravan – Monuments (Napalm)
April 23, 2021:
Ciccada – Harvest (Bad Elephant Music)
Morse, Portnoy, George – Cover To Cover Re-Release (InsideOut)
Morse, Portnoy, George – Cover 2 Cover Re-Release (InsideOut)
April 30, 2021:
Vienna Circle – Secrets of the Rising Sun (Bandcamp)
Remember that time back in 1984, when Rainbow (in one of the last-ever performances by the Joe Lynn Turner-era line-up) performed with a symphony at the Budokan in Tokyo? If not, here is a reminder – “Difficult To Cure,” including “Beethoven's Ninth Symphony”!