Finally the third and final list in the Album Of Year 2017 series has come to its completion. This was probably the absolute toughest list to compile. Due to the very tough nature of this list, I decided to sit on it a month before release it here at Power Of Prog . Another reason these sorts of lists are becoming tougher with every passing year is due to the immense volume of music out there. There seems to be too much music out there with the advancement of technology through social media. Therefore due to all these factors it is become more challenging to compile these lists. Thank you all who joined in for the Top 10 Album Of Year 2017 Melodic Hard Rock/ Melodic Metal/ AORlist and Top 10 Progressive Metal Album Of Year 2017.
1. An art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill, 2. Skill or dexterity 3. Skill or ability used for bad purposes; cunning; deceit; guile. 4. The members of a trade or profession collectively; a guild
When a band makes a album they frequently use words like write, record, produce, engineer and master. That conventional wisdom is not wrong whatsoever and those words are very appropriate to use to describe the album making process. Now when some people work on a project like a album they use attention to detail in every facet of that process. Attention to said detail can be called craft, crafting or even crafted once the process has reached its completion.
To craft something is to take extra attention to detail by carefully using a special set of skills to get a special set of premium results. This is exactly what Sweden’s Bla Lotus have done with their Melodic Revolution Records debut Tube Alloy’s. When we think of Sweden and progressive rock or metal music we usually think of Opeth or a Pain of Salvation, Flower Kings, Änglagård, Anekdoten, Spiritual Beggars,Nad Sylvan, etc …
Bla Lotus are a serious heavy prog band that carry various old school influences of late 1960’s to early to mid 1970’s stoner fried psychedelic music to a modern age of listener. Bla Lotus are a Hammond Organ lovers paradise combining elements of Rick Wakeman and Jon Lord meets Per Wiberg – Spiritual Beggars to craft a very unique melodic stringed section which is highly due the fact the band has no guitar whatsoever with the various Hammond, Mellotron and other synth’s. The fact they do not have a piece like a guitar does not cheapen the product at all. Even in the description on their official Facebook page says, ” Progressive rock trio. No six-strings allowed”.
For a band that started only two years ago in 2016 they have developed such a tight cohesive sound. On Tube Alloy’s you can certainly notice that Fredrik Andersson – Hammond Organ and Farfisa Organ/Mellotron/Synth’s/ElectricPiano/Flute and Vocals , Linus Karlsson – Bass Guitar/Theremin & Random Sound Effects and Wiktor Nydén – Drums/Percussion all mastered the craft at their individual instrumental roles much like musical journeymen. Now a breakdown of Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s track by track.
Trajectory begins heavily with a very deep bass/drum rhythm section that is soon met in perfection with a Hammond Style organ. From the first hooks the band transports the listener to the 1970’s based chord progressions and passages with a modern relevant sound. Fredrik Andersson definitely display’s his extraordinary finger talent on the synth sections on this one. Trajectory is also a instrumental track that gives the listener the appearance it serves as a smooth seamless transition intro to the next track Omnistellar Firefly.
Omnistellar Firefly picks up quite smoothly from Trajectory. This starts off in a very psychedelic manner much like the psychedelic music coming out of San Francisco California,London England or New York at the time. With very deep rhythm toned chord progressions and vocals that echo like a LSD trip this is any psychedelic purists paradise. You literally do not need a synthetic substance nor drug to feel the full melodious effect the band is portraying here. This also reminds me very much of the late great Jon Lord’s solo material with the orchestra.
Mephistopeles is a much more methodical groove laden piece. The rhythm and stringed sections definitely have a method to their madness and specific purposes in the body of the track or song itself. At 8:09 this is the second longest song on Tube Alloy’s and allows the band much more freedom to display their own skills while building a unified body of work. The echo vocals really accentuate the psychedelic feel to the song. The organs play in perfect time to the bass and drums within the rhythm section much in the vein of Deep Purple’s Space Truckin‘.
Moebius fades in quite subtly. This is most definitely the most experimental Avant Garde psychedelic track on the album. It is also a straight away progressive psychedelic track with standard stringed section and rhythm section until about a quarter or half way mark and then the experimental elements come into play. The experimental section works on all three major channels of the auditory senses, the right channel, the left channel and center channel. The band engineers this quite brilliant into a full surround sound package on the listener.
Recreational Nuke is the shortest track on the album, however do not be deceived it is still as full of progressive twists and turns and time signature changes. It may start a little slowly however do not let that be the focus. There are huge Hammond organ and rhythm sections. This is arranged perfectly within the album allowing a bit slower pace for the listener to begin to absorb the tracks of the album as a collective. It may require a few spins and listens for this to make sense to the listener. The psychedelic vocals are as strong on this as every other song on the album as well.
Indian Money starts out with big pounding and deep drum based rhythm sections. The drums are semi isolated allowing for a more heavier sound before the bass and Hammond and other organs come into play. This track takes all the various elements the band employed within the album as a collective. This one is written much like it was orchestrated or a symphony.
There is certainly a massive ground swell of this style of psychedelic progressive rock. Look at it like a over inflated balloon or a underground caldera waiting to burst through. I believe Bla Lotus will be at the forefront once this style of progressive psychedelic rock really takes off. This style of music will be the next significant genre to take off and bands like Bla Lotus will headline the pioneering spirit and craft of this style of music. Once this style does take off again Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s will be one of those future essential albums any fan of the genre must have. This is why I give Bla Lotus Tube Alloy’s and 5/5.
Interview w / Steffany Johnston – Vocalist Masqued
Houston Texas now has to its credit a progressive metal band that owns my Top 10 Progressive Metal Albums Of 2017 with Masqued -The Light In The Dark. Coming off a year where the area has damaged on a wide scale to Hurricane Harvey the band Masqued puts out a very positive and uplifting progressive metal album that seems to be lacking in the genre at times. Well this is not the case if Masqued’s lead vocalist Steffany Johnston has something to do with it. Trained at the University Of Houston in Voice and Music and expressing her lyrical ideas with a lifetime of experience at her back Steffany Johnston brings a level of positive enlightenment in the bands debut album The Light In The Dark.
She recently gave Power Of Prog some precious time with the interview you will read below. Bands like Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation and Delain are on notice that another band with a powerful minstrel are on the way up.
First of all Steffany it is great to have you here at Power of Prog. Welcome !
1) This is one of the more obvious questions, what or who influenced your journey into music and how young were you when that had taken hold of you?
It always did. As far back as I could remember, I always knew what I was going to do since I was 4. The first song I remember writing was when I was 6 years old. I always wrote songs. When I got a little older they would come to me in my sleep and in the middle of taking test, when I would write papers, when I would watch t.v., when I would eat, when I was driving. I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull over to write, record or notate my song ideas. I remember being late for things because an incredible song idea would appear as I am getting ready to leave for some event. It was a blessing and a curse all rolled into one lol. I also started playing piano when I was 6 and continued throughout the years and still do today aside of the band, and at the age of 12 I started playing the guitar. I would lock myself away in my room chunking away at rhythms and lifting metal guitar solos. When I was 18 I got a bass and bought some recording gear and would be late for dinner due to writing and recording original songs. I knew that one day I would form a band when I was old enough. I remember running an add in the paper when I was 14 years old, looking for other musicians to start a band with. When I turned 20 I started making a living playing bass guitar and singing locally and internationally. I have performed in numerous bands through out the years and am now grateful to have my place as the vocalist of Masqued.
2. Are you formally trained in music and if so where did you begin your study?
Yes, I have a Vocal Performance/Music degree from the University of Houston. Studying vocal performance, orchestration, arranging and opera. I would perform with the orchestra and with many famous conductors one of them being world renknown Robert Shaw. I remember driving to school listening to Jazz and fusion then staying at the university all day practicing classical music with the chorus and opera then heading off to practice or to gigs with my rock band. I was like “where do I really fit in? I liked it all and wanted to do it all, I remember feeling so different from most of the people I knew.
3. Do you have any influences outside music that influences any instrumental or lyrical passages in your music?
I believe everything I have encountered over the years has embedded itself in some way in my state of being and comes out to play in my writing. I see a lot of injustice all around and it affects me deeply. Its hard to keep silent when I can demand better for myself and others, to fight for a noble cause or to see the hurting and to bring them a sense of hope. We are all human and are in this mad house together.
4. Your debut album The Light In The Dark is loaded with a lot of very positive and uplifting music, this is something that is becoming lost in the metal or progressive metal communities. Where do you get your lyrical inspirations from?
I feel that there is so much darkness and chaos in the world that it is important to present the trials and then provide a solution, a way of resolve. Music is so powerful, it can give you the will power and strength to get up out of bed after suffering spells of hopelessness from a loss, an injury or failure, sparking new life into you that inspires you to live on. Music also has the power to curse you, to sentence you further into despair when your already down, sometimes so much so that you lose the will to live. You have to be careful with words…there is so much power in what you allow into your mind on a daily basis via words/lyrics and what you speak out into existence. Our themes lyrically are those of liberation, speaking out against hate crimes, fighting for our freedom, finding hope and the strength to live when you have lost the will. We are not going to just lay down and die. Its all powerful stuff. I have heard numerous testimonies of people finding solace in our music. It makes me feel like this is what its truly about, being a bright light in a very dark tunnel, hence the album title “light in the dark.” Life can be brutal.
5. What band or who would be a dream for you to open up for, co headline with for a live show?
Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Nightwish, Within Temptation and so many more.
6. If you had any concept album in you what or who would it be about ?
That is a fantastic question Robert and requires more thought on my end. Perhaps our third release will be a concept album. You have sparked my interest
7. I noticed that Light In The Dark as a album are pretty much straight away rock and metal tracks with hardly a hint of anything like a ballad, was that intentional or just how the album came to it creation?
Haha! Yeah, it just kind of happened that way. However, we have been working on a new collection of songs and yes, there are some brooding ballads. We are all really enjoying and are excited about this stuff.
8. Where did the name Masqued come from?
Choosing a band name was most difficult lol. It is kind of a blur, though I do remember one of my band mates throwing that name out there and it took off in my mind. I found the name rather intriguing with an element of theatrics and mystery. I really like the name and am glad we all agreed.
9) Out of all the music festivals that seem to come back around in Europe and the USA every spring and summer, what would be your dream festival to appear on?
Gosh there are so many…hmmm…I would say any of the Prog Power festivals would be great and definitely Wacken Open Air Festival would be stellar along with Chicago Open Air. To have a prime time spot would be the dream of dreams.
10. What are plans for Masqued by way of touring and performing in 2018? Are you booked for any shows yet?
Absolutely! We have some great shows in the processed of being solidified and will be making announcements soon though I can say the Female Metal Event in the Netherlands is one of our stops. Sooo exciting! Is there any ideas brewing for a follow up to your debut album? Yes, we definitely have a second album cooking right now. I am loving the new stuff, it just keeps getting better and better. So exciting, more great Masqued music IS in the works!!
11) When most bands with both a female and male vocalist are going with the more harsh growls ‘Beauty & Beast’ style vocal, you are your male counterpart Shane DuBose have chosen to go against the grain as it is and remain with clean vocal styles. Was this always the goal of Masqued or did it just happen this way through the evolution of the band?
We admire a great growl and scream but I think we do what is most natural to us. Who knows what will evolve in the future, anything is possible. I can say that we pride ourselves on such a melodic construct and rich harmonies. There is a lot going on in our music, a ton of musicality is what you will find from each Masqued member.
12. The final question, do you have any parting words for your existing fan base or any future fan base that takes interest in Masqued?
First of all I want to thank you all for your love for music and keeping the scene alive. We thank all of our existing fans for your unfailing love and support of us and we Masqued, are looking forward to reaching out and connecting to all of you new fans out there, all over the world. Where ever you are in your journey of life we hope to share it with you through this music; the human experience is very real and can reach great states of joy and punishing sorrows. In all the laughter and tears, we can travel this road, through music that bands us all together. We love to hear from you, messages us anytime, You can connect with us via
Top 10 Albums of 2017 | Progressive Metal | 2 of 3
Welcome back. This is the second of three lists of Top 10 Albums of 2017 here at Power of Prog. This time we count down the Top 10 Albums of 2017 . We are also at a point in history where there is as much progressive metal as there is it’s paternal genre progressive rock.
As many know who follow this music, progressive rock now has its branches in many other genres or sub-genres of heavy metal music. This list below is compiled from traditional progressive metal, extreme progressive black metal, progressive power metal, cinematic progressive metal, progressive death metal and a progressive rock/metal opera. Without further delay here are my Top 10 Albums Of Year, Progressive Metal.
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Electric and Acoustic Guitars/Bass Guitar/Mandolin/Synthesizers, Hammond/Solina Strings/All Other Instruments Ed Wabry – Drums
Original Cast Members/Vocalists
James Labrie – Dream Theater- As ‘The Historian’ Tommy Giles Rogers – Between The Buried And Me – As ‘The Chemist’ Simone Simons – Epica -As ‘The Counselor’ Mike Mills – Toehider – As ‘T-H1’ Floor Jansen – Nightwish – As ‘The Biologist’ Hansi Kursch – Blind Guardian – As ‘The Astronomer’ Tobis Sammet – Avantasia/Edguy – As ‘The Captain’ Michael Eriksen – Circus Maximus – As ‘The Diplomat’ Nils K Rue – Pagans Mind – As ‘The Prophet’ Zaher Zorgati – Myrath – As ‘The Preacher’ Tommy Karevik – Kamelot – As ‘The Opposition Leader’ Russel Allen – SymphonyX – As ‘The President’ Will Shaw – Heir Apparent’ Wilmer Waarbroek, Jan Willem Ketelaars, and Lisette van den Berg – Scarlet Stories as ‘The Ship’s Crew’ You … Insert Name Here … as ‘The Audience’
Production Lori Linstruth – Photo Stills/Ajren Lucassen & Ayreon Cast Wayne Joyner – Lyric Videos for Everybody Dies and Star Of Sirrah
Matthew Cerami – Vocals/Guitars/Bass Jordan Navarro – Guitars/Drum Programming/Keyboards/Additional Sounds Jordan Navarro And Nick Shann – Drum Programming/Arrangements
Additional Musicians Nick Shann – Guitar Solo & Stringed Arrangememnts on ‘The Long Road Home’ Violin on ‘My Father, My God Benjamin Ian Meyerson (Fin Amor) & Justin Barone (Consonance) – Additional Lyrics & Vocal Arrangements Samantha Marie Rae (Nectar) – Guest Vocals Charles Buonsera – Bass Solo on ‘Evisecrate Divine’
Here is my list of Top 10 Melodic Rock/Metal/AOR Albums of 2017. This list does not reflect the other members of Power Of Prog or its followers. Hopefully you will discover that quality rock still exists. This is a first in a three part series of Top 10 of 2017 lists. The other two lists will be Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal.
1. Coldspell – A New World Arise
Label – Escape-music ltd. UK
Band Members Niclas Swedentorp – Lead Vocals Michael Larsson – Guitars Chris Goldsmith – Bass Perra Johansson – Drums Matti Eklund – Additional Keyboards