My original thought for this blog was to post about both photography and music. I think it’s time I post about music now – but with photos, of course. There are a few gigs and such I’ve been meaning to write about, but thanks to being rather ridiculously busy last week or so, I haven’t had the time to sit down and arrange my thoughts properly. I’ll make amends now and start at the prog end of the story.
For a couple of years now I’ve been writing reviews and interview articles for an online rock mag called Stalker and it’s been good fun. It’s also the reason why I get to meet interesting bands & people and go to a few interesting gigs every now and then. However, I do feel like sometimes there are more things I’d like to write about than can be included in my texts for Stalker. Not to even mention the fact that even though my editor has been really great about publishing pictures and making separate galleries of my shots, the pics are tiny and are just shots among hundreds of other rock shots on the site. Which is why my own site will come in handy.
Last week I got to chat with a prog rock band that hails from my home town of Turku. Magna Vice is the name of the band and I got to talk with them about their first album Serpent of Wisdom. (They’ll be the Fresh Act of October 2013 in Stalker!) It was a lot of fun talking with five guys who are very excited about what they do.
And what they have done, is a classic prog rock concept album. And I mean classic in the sense that it sounds and feels very retro, very 1970’s. The soundworld, the themes of the songs, everything builds on “old school” prog rock. If you think of comparisons, it’s more Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin than Dream Theater and Symphony X.
I knew their album wasn’t going to be your standard radio edit rock album, but the complexity of it was a positive surprise in any case. When we talked about the album and music in general, turned out not all of the guys have any kind of formal training in music. The guitarist, Esa, has taken lessons as well as the lead vocalist, Veli-Matti, but the other guys were mostly just chuckling and saying they don’t have much use for sheet music as they don’t read notes that well.
If only I had had a piano teacher who would’ve encouraged learning by heart rather than exactly by notes, which in the end killed all my interest in ever playing an instrument ever again. I thought Esa’s story about trying to get a “cool rock sound” out of his guitar as a kid by looking at a KISS poster and placing his fingers on the fingerboard of his guitar just like Vinnie Vincent had his in the pic – and whoaaah, there it was! A rock sound! What a great story! And I suspect it’s true for many talented musicians without classical education but with burning passion for rock.
I guess these are the ingredients that make prog happen. These five guys are extremely talented and seem to have a pretty unanimous opinion about the artistic style of Magna Vice as a band, but they all also bring in their ideas when they write their songs. A riff from there, another from here, let’s add a bit more modern sounding heavy guitar solo here… And still the end result is logical and it has a great flow, despite the complexity of the material.
What I love about prog and greatly appreciate about Magna Vice’s album as well, is the fact that it doesn’t underestimate the listener. You’re not given an easy way out of the experience, to get the most of it, you really need to listen. There are so many levels to good (prog) songs, both in the music and in the lyrics. For Magna Vice the themes are big ones, they admitted quite openly that they want to provoke and get people thinking. Thinking about what rules this world. Money, religion, politicians ruled by money & religion? When most radio playlist music is rather light on the message side, proper prog leaves you thinking about your values and the world around you.
I’m not saying I don’t listen to light and fluffy radio playlist music. Of course I do. And I enjoy some of it quite a bit. But I guess my academic bookworm self has found a musical equivalent of a really interesting and thought provoking book. A prog album!
The Magna Vice guys gave me a few copies of their album to take with me to the UK in a couple of weeks. I’m not saying I’m going to meet anyone with any contacts even though I am attending a rock festival, but I can see what comes along. Because you know, for a classic prog band – UK’s the place. They would certainly deserve a gig or four in England where the genre has long roots and a strong tradition. If you, my reader, by any chance happen to be connected with any British (or elsewhere!) concert venues / rock mags / prog approving radio stations that might be interested in a Finnish prog band and their concept album, let me know. I might be able to send out a few records as samples.
And if not, here’s a video the band has made of the shortest song of the album that was released as a single back in 2012. Hope You Find Your Way Out.
There. I’m all prog’d out for now. Time for some evening tea.