Haken, Leprous, Maschine & others - Bristol Prog Invasion, The Fleece Bristol
This was supposed to be a three band tour comprising three of the brightest young things in progressive rock and metal. The Bristol date on this tour turned this into an all day event showcasing a few more young bands to partisan fans. As we arrived we had missed the prog black metal of Reign Of Perdition, but we came in just in time for Wales own Akb'al.
The psychedelic, shamanistic prog of Akb'al is always well received by us here at the musipedia and the band put in a consistently strong live showing. Their percussive, driving fusion of world rhythms, heavy rock and mind melding psych always gets head nodding and brains altering. The guitars of Thoby and Rob worked in unison with Floydian leads on top of Tool-like rhythm playing much of which comes from the technical bass playing of Michael and the percussion of Mic. The bands sound was not the best I've ever heard which could have been the venue (something that would rear it's ugly head later). With songs like Equilibrium Akb'al have a big future ahead of them and were definitely one of the stand outs on this bill. 8/10
Bristol based Alatyr are a female fronted metal band with progressive influences, they combine thrash and black metal riffage from their two guitarists and bassist, blast beats galore from their drummer and a mix of female and growled vocals. Think bands of Epica and ReVamp's ilk, the problem with Alatyr is that they are a little bit samey, the riffs were all similar making all of the songs the same. Yes musicianship was good but Alatyr on the whole were boring and the vocals of Steph Kiddle were not really to my taste. On the whole Alatyr just didn't inspire me, sorry guys. 4/10
I was really looking forward to seeing Brighton's Maschine as I like their mix of intensely progressive rock, with a three distinct vocals harmonizing together. Unfortunately as they ascended to the stage there seemed to be a lot of problems with the sound and the instruments in general, this lasted for most of the set meaning that the band were only able to play two (admittedly long) songs, frontman/guitarist/bandleader Luke Machin did seemed a little miffed at the whole situation but the band managed two excellent songs one being the excellent Rubidium which is the title track of their album that bodes well and I look forward to seeing a full set in the future. 7/10
Leprous have seen their profile explode in the last few years especially since their latest album Coal hit the shelves. In fact these Norwegians are possibly one of the best truly progressive bands around at the moment with a multitude of elements to their sound making genre classification very difficult. For all the Pain Of Salvation (a band they share a lot with), they also have Opeth, some black metal leanings and even some King Crimson thrown in. The band are not only their own seperate entity but they also make up Ihshan's band meaning that they have a huge amount of live experience, which shows through in every aspect of the bands show. The the heavy rifftastic guitars of Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Øystein Landsverk are the driving force of the band with the rhythm section of Martin Skrebergene's bass and Baard Kolstad's drums anchoring the heaviness and melancholy of the Coal era songs of which made up the majority of the setlist, but the instrumentation also made the earlier songs sparkle with their more upbeat melodic progressiveness. The key to Leprous' sound are the keys and unique vocals of Einar Solberg who shouts, screams, croons and generally acts like ring leader while abusing his keyboard to provide that extra edge to Leprous' musicality. The band seemed very receptive of the warm applause they received from the large crowd. With their phenomenal musicianship, infectious energy and cinematic light show Leprous are a band to catch, no matter what your taste you will find something in this band. 9/10
The main event came around, British progressive rockers Haken are rapidly becoming THE band in progressive music, their talent is beyond words with influences from all of the prog greats combining them altogether with a modern freshness. Haken are now on their third album and their recorded output seems to be getting stronger and stronger with The Mountain being both their most recent and their finest. And as The Path Unbeaten intro moved into piano driven Atlas Stone kicking off the set proper. It's the atmospheric nature of their music that makes Haken so good as they manage to combine hard rock, modenr metal and old school ethereal prog together to create some unique music. Ray Hearne's percussion and drums are excellent with jazz influences interspersed with primal power, new boy Conner Green is the rhythmic bottom end allowing the guitars of Charlie Griffiths and Richard Henshall to really show off their talents playing with some intense, intricate riffs and solos that duel with Diego Tejeida's keyboards, his keys are also bolstered by the Hen's additional keys. Tejeida also draws the eye with his madcap antics as he fights for attention with vocalist Ross Jennings who has an amazing voice that is at it's best on the crazy Cockroach King which shows off his range to the full. After Atlas Stone came the heavier tones of In Memoriam which sounds a lot like Mr Wilson and co, then a new song in the shape of Darkest Light, into the Middle Eastern Pareidoila and the finally the two epic tracks in the shape of Crystallised and Visions end the set with a blistering display of musicanship and virtuosity both songs together provided nearly 40 minutes of music and sent the prog fans home with a euphoric happiness. Haken keep on getting better and better and on this tour and this show especially they get one step closer to that stratosphere. 9/10