2011 prog debuts

by Kostas Barbas, Paris Gravouniotis, Dimitris Kaltsas, Panos Papazoglou, Goran Petrić, Tasos Poimenidis, Thomas Sarakintsis, Lefteris Statharas, Panagiotis Stathopoulos, Giannis Zavradinos

 

The bands that emerged from the progressive spectrum during the last decade are numerous and many of them are now regarded as highly promising or already established acts. This is the second part of a series of articles dedicated to the most important prog debuts since 2010 (you can read about the 2010 prog debuts here). The purpose of this article series is not only to remember these albums, but also to rate each debut as well as the prospect of each band today (at the bottom of the page). Let us now remember in chronological order (based on month and day of release) the most important debut albums for 2011 and what each band has accomplished thus far.


 

Utopianisti – Utopianisti

Markus Pajakkala is a very creative and unsual man. In the debut of Utopianisti he plays percussion, keyboards, flute, soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones and has enlisted many guests who participate in different songs. This is groovy jazz-rock fusion music that will make the stiffest head bob. This debut album shows vision and creativity that many experienced musicians would envy. The song writing is dense, however there is enough air between ideas to not tire the listener. The heavy jazz-rock avant-prog vehicle carries many blues, Balkan, metal and experimental passages that keep you engaged.

 

Since then…

Efforts to stabilize the line-up has have given us some great results (Utopianisti II, The Third Frontier) and some questionable adventures (Brutopianisti).

 

Scherzoo – 01

Scherzoo from Lyon, France were formed in 2009 and their first album was released under the title 01 on the fourth day of 2011. With drummer and band leader François Thollot as the sole composer, the exclusively instrumental music of Scherzoo was right from the beginning a cross between avant-prog and jazz-fusion. With the special weight falling primarily on Rock In Opposition and secondarily on zeuhl and Canterbury sound, jazz has been the Scherzoo’s main expressive frame since the band’s first album. Although the melodies are deliberately hidden behind technically perfect obscurity, 01 rightfully gave Scherzoo a prominent place on the avant-prog map.

                                      

Since then…

They have released 02 (2012), 03 (2015) and 04 (2018), displaying an enviable quality stability and an unwavering belief in the sound of their debut. Based on that, we expect 05 to be released soon…

 

Sanhedrin – Ever After

Sanhedrin was formed in 1998 in Tel Aviv by brothers Aviv (keyboards) and Sagi (bass) Barness originally as a Camel cover band. After numerous line-up changes, the instrumental album Ever After was released with Gadi Ben Elisha (guitar), Igal Baram (drums), Shem-Tov Levi (flute – ex member of the legendary Sheshet and Ktzat Acheret) in the quintet. The strong Camel and secondarily Pink Floyd influence is the only negative element that can be attributed to this charming symphonic progressive rock masterpiece. The exemplary flow of music and tracks, the stunning melodies and the perfect musicianship suggest that this is one of the top vintage prog records of the last 20 years.

 

Since then…

Although their traces were lost shortly after the release of Ever After, in 2019 Sagi Barness uploaded the new track Infinite Reflection which rekindled the interest for a second album by this great band.

 

TesseracT – One

As if they’d been long prepared, TesseracT shook up the wider prog metal scene in 2011. Meshuggah’s mathematic, cold rhythmic parts meet melody. A gifted, versatile and amazing performer, catchy choruses, concrete guitar riffs, a monstrous rhythm section with a great bass and delicate drumming in a seminar album production. The polyrhythmics in the heavy parts interact amazingly in an almost ambient environment with clean guitars and soundtrack-like keys in the quieter parts. Indeed, One showed that it had everything. Very rarely does a band look as ready with such a character of its own in its debut as TesseracT did here.

Since then…

Thompkins left, O’Hara joined, Altered State that followed was a triumph, Thompkins returned behind the microphone and two very good albums followed. The band live is amazing and their sound has become a reference point in the field. I don’t think we’ve witnessed their magnum opus yet.

 

Caligula’s Horse – Moments from Ephemeral City

The Brisbane quintet released its first album in the spring of 2011. This debut offers technically played and well written music with interesting variations in both tempo and chord progression. The album begins quite pompously and heavily, with one of the best songs they’ve ever done, The City Has No Empathy. The backbone of the songs consists of heavy prog metal riffs, consistently polyphonic alternative vocals, melancholic atmosphere and sound gimmicks according to new art-rock standards have also been sprinkled in. Despite the fact that the album lacks originality at some places, it is an enjoyable listening experience and a great starting point for these talented guys.

Since then…

Caligula’s Horse continues to grow and evolve with every new album in ways that are just beyond the capabilities of almost any other modern prog metal band.

 

Innosense – Outcast

Innosense managed to make their presence known and established themselves as a brilliant Greek prog metal with only one album, Outcast. There was a time when if a group sounded like an amalgam of the greats e.g. ‘Ryche and Fates, one knew he would hear something that following the progressive recipe with a bit of power metal. While in 2011 there was no possibility of a reunion for the amazing Conception, Innosense took the magic of Flow and relayed it to their debut, which is decorated with high level compositions, as well as excellent vocals that take them off. Yes, they were influenced by ‘Ryche’, but the result was so successful that the lack of an album-successor has turned Outcast into a hidden contemporary progressive metal gem.

Since then…

They have opened the concerts of some of their ‘heroes’, but a second album is still missing.  Conception, however, are back.

 

Ske – 1000 Autunni

Ske was the personal project band of Paolo Botta, keyboardist of the excellent Italian prog rockers Yugen. With almost all Yugen members on his side plus numerous guest musicians – including Nikos Nikolopoulos of Ciccada – 1000 Autumni is full of flawless and bold avant-prog with the ‘necessary’ doses of symphonic prog and classical music being spread in the 12 instrumental compositions of the album. One could say that this may be the ideal intersection between Änglagård and Univers Zero, with Ske approaching perfection, if not compositionally, definitely on a technical and aesthetic level.

 

Since then…

There was no sophomore record for Ske, with Paolo Botta focusing on Yugen and Not A Good Sign, while his guest appearances are way too many.

 

Methexis – The Fall of Bliss

The Fall of Bliss came at a time when the Greek scene was making its first steps finding its place in the revival of progressive rock. This is a nightmarish masterpiece debut by an excellent composer and connoisseur who dared choose the difficult path in finding a personal style without compromise. Composed vision, self-confidence and innerness are the main features of the musical ethics of Nikitas Kissonas who introduces himself ideally and promises consistency. Smart compositions, great arrangements, compositional maturity and dark lyrics complete a wonderful mosaic of modern perspective addressed only to thoughtful listeners. We are still at the beginning…

 

Since then…

With the spiritual journey of Suiciety (2015) and the wonderful Topos (2018) Methexis have paved their path in discography. With stunning live performances and participation in Verbal Delirium (and Jargon), Nikitas Kissonas honors his connection with the audience and the musicians with whom he shares the same artistic concerns.

 

Eldberg – Eldberg

In late 2008, brothers Ásmundur Svavar (bass) and Jakob Grétar (drums, keyboards) Sigurðsson formed Eldberg and along with Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson (vocals), Reynir Hauksson (guitar, keyboards) and Heimir Klemenz (keyboards, piano), they recorded their self-titled debut album in just four days. The sound of the band from Iceland is purely retro-prog with a suspicion of psychedelia and heavy prog leanings with the sound of hammond dominating, like a combination of 70s progressive rock by Mánar, Trúbrot and Svanfríður with the melodic heavy sound of Uriah Heep. With lyrics sang in their native language and almost nothing reminiscent of anything after 1975, the album is a hidden retro-prog gem.

 

Since then…

The also wonderful Þar Er Heimur Hugans was released in 2015 by the Chilean Mylodon Records and everything was rosy for Eldberg until February 20, 2018, when their keyboardist Heimir Klemenzson passed away. Their future remains unknown.

 

Cranium Pie – Mechanisms (Part 1)

This is the first and most informative proof of the dynamics of this wonderfully strange band from Wiltshire in southwest England. A dynamic that manifests itself here through a dreamy, but entirely composed work. An effectively progressive dialogue between psychedelic rock with intergalactic aspirations – with vivid memories of Meddle era Pink Floyd – the “sound of Canterbury” – with Caravan as the main reference, both in keys and symphonic climaxes, oriental mysticism and hallucinogenic slalom timbres (with a ton of effects). The eerie atmosphere and the stellar freak out are spreading in the frame, and the frisson rises more and more.

 

Since then…

They released Mechanisms Part II where they culminated their creative pursuits, remaining faithful to the interaction of structured composition and improvisation. They also released some EPs, as well as a very good collection of extensive jamming.

 

Druckfarben – Druckfarben

Druckfarben belongs to the rare group of bands formed by five already renowned musicians. In their self-titled debut, their music is a very melodic symphonic progressive rock with many other secondary elements, such as hard rock and jazz. The main influences here are Yes, Kansas and their Toronto compatriots Rush, in a more modern version, similar to the sound of Spock’s Beard. The album is full of exceptional high level performances and a spirit of positivity, while the amazing guitarist Ed Bernard (who also plays the violin, mandolin and has also done the production) steals the show along with Phil Naro, a truly powerful singer.

 

Since then…

The equally beautiful and heavier Second Sound (2014) was released with exactly the same line-up, a year after the live album Artifact. Ed Bernard’s first solo album, Polydactyl, was released in 2015. Druckfarben’s third studio album is expected soon, hopefully…

 

Camembert – Schnörgl Attahk

Two years after the promising EP Clacosmique, Camembert’s debut album was a revelation for avant-prog fans. The instrumental music of the sextet from Strasbourg, France flows effortlessly in Schnörgl Attahk. That’s because they masterfully balance between ethereal melodies and aggression, as well as between Rock In Opposition, zeuhl and jazz-rock, with fascinating Zappa and post-Allen Gong influences and – most importantly – with one of the best arrangements (at least) in the genre during the last many years. The groovy air, the discreet (?) humor and the atmosphere of mystery create the ideal environment for the “narration” of the adventures of cheese starship Clacosmique against Professor Frankenschnörgl.

       

Since then…

Negative Toe was released six years later again by AltrOck with three line-up changes and the result was at least equally wonderful with Schnörgl Attahk, if not more. We are waiting for the continuation of this fascinating concept!

 

Autumn Chorus – The Village to the Vale

In The Village to the Vale something unique in the history of progressive rock happens. In a clear post-rock context, we hear for the first time so clearly, but also so fittingly, the whole aftermath of early 70s British progressive rock / folk. All the nobility and Britishness of that time touch today perfectly through ambient soundscapes. The vocal melodies, the strings and wind instruments aim directly at the listener’s heart and succeed through the sincerity with which the mainman 0f Autumn Chorus, Robbie Wilson, creates. Thief is one of the best songs of the decade in the genre, and something similar has happened again only in the debut of Messenger.

Since then…

Unfortunately, Robbie Wilson was faced with cancer during the recordings of the second album of Autumn Chorus, and after a while he lost the battle, leaving behind a sincere work of incomparable beauty.

 


 

Those were the 11 prog debuts from 2011 we picked as most important. Several Progrocks.gr editors (not only those who participated in the article above) rated the albums and the prospect of all respective bands based on their activity till this day. The average of all ratings gave these results:

The bar chart above shows our rating averages regarding each record as well as the prospect of each band today. Sanhedrin’s debut is appointed as the highest ranking album of the selection (8.5/10), followed by the bedut albums by Ske (8.43/10) and Caligula’s Horse (8.33/10), while Methexis was appointed as the most promising act (8.54/10), followed by Sanhedrin (8.5/10) and Caligula’s Horse (8.42/10).

We are returning soon with the third part and the prog debuts released in 2012!

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