ProgSphere’s AwesomeCast: Episode 20 – The Essence

The L.A. based progressive, psychedelic, space rock, doom metal monument Ancestors has been around for six years and everything they produced, and that is: three full-lengths (2008′s Neptune With Fire, 2009′s Of Sound Mind and 2012′s In Dreams and Fire (review here)), one EP (Invisible White, 2011) and one single split with Swedish heavy rockers Graveyard in 2010 was followed by deserved praise. The band is certainly one of my favorites, thus having Justin Maranga (guitar, vocals) as a curator of an AwesomeCast episode was kind of obligatory. And here we are. Listen to the Justin’s choice of tracks coming along with the commentary and enjoy.

I fought the urge to put absolutely no prog rock on this at all and just make a playlist of songs that people would never expect me to like (Ancestors fans always seem to expect that we all listen to heavy music and prog rock religiously). Anyway, I’m doing this for Prog Sphere, so I won’t be an asshole. Instead, here’s a playlist of incredible progressive rock tunes (and some stuff that’s not quite prog, but fits). So without further ado…

Agitation Free – First Communication

I’ve always loved this second Agitation Free record. People seem to only talk about Malesch, but I think 2nd is way better.  This opening track is SO good.  It’s only two chords! The bass is doing some great things to disguise that fact. The lead guitar is incredible. It’s melodic and it swings (which is my favorite kind of guitar soloing). I’m also a huge fan of the electronics in this. The little flourishes of what kind of sounds like a Buchla Box really tie this whole piece of music together.

Camel – Nimrodel / The Procession / The White Rider

You’ll notice a theme in the progressive rock that I like. I’m a big fan of strong melodies. I think that anyone can make technically impressive music, but it takes a real songwriter to write a solid melody. The combination of the two is what makes the best prog rock great. For some reason Mirage doesn’t seem to be as loved as some of the other Camel records. It’s by far my favorite. Every song on this album is gold and it was really tough to narrow it down to one. I wish I could make a record that sounded this good. Every instrument is in its right place and sounds so fucking good! The tones are incredible.

Goblin – Aquaman

Goblin are well known for their film scores; particularly for Dario Argento films. However, Roller is by far my favorite Goblin recording. This album is incredible from start to finish.  Massimo Morante’s guitar playing is perfect. And I’d kill for that guitar tone. Strong melodies and a great vibe (if nothing else, this band could create a perfect vibe) make this record a total gem. This was another one where I just picked a random song, but could have chosen any song on the album.

Ave Rock – Let Me Follow

Now we move away from Europe and over to Argentina. This opening track to the first Ave Rock record grabbed me immediately the first time I heard it. I love when the organ holds down the bulk of the chord progression while the guitar plays the melody. We do that a lot and the idea was stolen from bands like this. There’s such a strong sense of melody in this song that you don’t really even notice that it repeats the same chord progression for about 4 solid minutes until it breaks into that killer jammed out hard rock part! I have no idea what they’re singing about because I don’t speak Spanish.

Interesting fact: Guitarist Luis Borda is now a tango guitarist in Germany, and he’s apparently quite well known in the tango community (which I know nothing about).

T2 – No More White Horses

I don’t know a lot about this band. I just know that I like this record a lot. And it’s got cool horns that remind me of a marching band but sound like something out of a blaxploitation film score. Great sound, great melody, great playing…can’t fuck with any of that.

Nektar – Astronaut’s Nightmare

The best Nektar record is without a doubt Journey to the Center of the Eye. It’s also their first record. They went on to make a lot of other great music, but this is such an awesome concept album. When we first started Ancestors, we talked a lot about this album and I think it seeped into our collective subconscious while we were writing music, because it definitely had an impact.

Rush – By-Tor and the Snow Dog

Here’s the more mainstream portion of my playlist. I don’t care what anyone says, Rush is one of the best bands of all time (and without a doubt in my top 5 favorite bands). Fly By Night was their first record with Neil Peart on drums and they went from being a good hard rock band to an incredible prog rock band in one year! Neil sounds like he’s drumming for his life, and yet he never over-plays. Geddy’s bass tone sounds like it’s about to rip through the speakers. Alex (one of the most underrated guitarists of all time…often unfairly overshadowed by his bandmates) fucking kills it in this song. The guitar solo after the break at 6:30 is absolutely perfect. Every time I listen that section of the song, I wish I had written it. Alas, I did not, and I’m going to have to live with that. Sucks.

Neu! – Fur Immer

I know that Neu! isn’t a prog rock band, so I’m cheating a bit here, but I really wanted to include this song. The first two Neu! records are two of my favorite records to put on while I’m driving the van when we’re on tour. Especially when everyone else is asleep. The best driving music ever. Anyway, just put on some headphones and stop thinking for 11 minutes. Then meet me back here.

The Alan Parsons Project – I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You

Ha! Didn’t think I’d go there did you?! Fuck yeah I put an Alan Parsons song on here. And not only that, I put the most dancey, disco-esque song! Just shut up and realize that you love it. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Good music is good music, and THIS is good music. It’s catchy, the production is mind blowing (surprise…dude produced Dark Side), and not everything has to be so damn serious all the time.

Genesis – Dancing With the Moonlit Knight

Honestly, Peter Gabriel has never made a record that I didn’t like. What an unbelievable songwriter. His voice was so good too, and it’s only gotten better with age. I saw him perform with a full orchestra a year or so ago and it was amazing. This early Genesis stuff is untouchable though, especially Selling England By the Pound and Foxtrot. This is the first track from Selling England. Phil Collins used to be quite a ripper on drums too. People sometimes forget that.

King Crimson – Starless

I’m going to close this out with the best. It really doesn’t get much better than King Crimson. I’m one of those people who likes every single record they’ve made. Robert Fripp is inhuman. Sometimes I think Red is my favorite Crimson record, but then I listen to another record and I’ll think that one is my favorite. They’re that kind of band. “Starless” is iconic. It’s one of those songs that I could listen to on repeat all day and never get sick of it. Everything is perfect. Fripp’s Mellotron, Mel Collins’ sax, John Wetton’s voice… Nick from Ancestors has been striving to replicate Wetton’s bass tone on this record ever since I’ve known him (especially the one around 11:38…Jesus that sounds good). No luck yet. Anyway, there are things that this band gets away with that I would never even dare to try, but that they pull off with flawless finesse. Like, for example, that whole section from 4:30 to 9:15. Who would ever think to do that?!  ripp never shied away from anything. He was doing things in 1969 that no one would dare to replicate until well into the ’90s.  I think they call that BALLS.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little trip through prog land. I enjoyed it. It gave me an excuse to listen to music instead of working. Thanks to Nick from Prog Sphere for asking me to do this! Oh yeah, and check out our new record, In Dreams and Time.  We worked pretty hard on it and we’re rather proud of it.  Thanks for listening!

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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