The three studio albums by SL Theory are all the work of one man, multi-instrumentalist Sotiris Lagonikas. But on this release, he has restricted himself to just one instrument, drums, and is part of a six-man band, to which he has added an additional four singers on top of lead singer Mike Karasoulis, and a string orchestra. Recorded live on March 3rd2017, the band can be seen to be surrounding the ten-piece string section (conducted by Yiannis Antonopoulos), and with 21 people on the stage, it must have been quite some spectacle.
The vast majority of the material is taken from the three albums, but there were also a few new pieces written which were performed that night. The strings are playing live what was layered keyboards before, adding an additional lightness and quality. Karasoulis has an emotional voice, and here he is able to work either completely solo, duetting or to pitch himself in as part of the harmonies. There are a real confidence and sense of aplomb and achievement with this release, with the band and strings working fully together as one. Obviously, this is not the first time this has been tried, but here it really works as the style of progressive rock/metal definitely fits in well. When the band wants to crunch then they go for it, but when they want to be acoustic and gentle then the string overlay is quite sublime.
Heavy, symphonic, majestic, bombastic, this may be a dark album in many ways, but there are plenty of contrasts and delights over this two-disc, 20 songs, 104-minute long set. ‘Progressively Dark: A Concert For Group & String Orchestra’ is a great introduction to the music of Sotiris Lagonikas, and it will be fascinating to see what comes next. Well worth investigating for all progheads into the heavier side.
9/10 by Kev Rowland