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Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 200 Best Progressive Rock and Progressive Metal Albums of All Time

Omitting live CDs and compilations, bonus disks, etc. The scores are based on cumulative user votes on Progulus Radio. Each song is voted on separately, and the average for each album is calculated. A baysian average is then used on the result.

14.77Dream TheaterImages And Words1992US
24.73Dream TheaterScenes From a Memory1999US
34.69Symphony XThe Odyssey2002US
44.64RushMoving Pictures1981CA
54.64RedemptionThe Fullness Of Time2005US
64.64Liquid Tension ExperimentLiquid Tension Experiment 21999US
74.63Symphony XParadise Lost2007US
84.61Pink FloydWish You Were Here1975UK
94.61Circus MaximusThe 1st Chapter2005NO
104.6RiversideAnno Domini High Definition2009PL
114.6Symphony XV: The New Mythology Suite2000US
124.59Symphony XThe Divine Wings Of Tragedy1997US
144.59AyreonUniversal Migrator Part II: Flight Of The Migrator2000NL
154.58Dream TheaterTrain of Thought2003US
164.58Porcupine TreeFear Of A Blank Planet2007UK
174.58Vanden PlasChrist.02006DE
184.58Dream TheaterA Change of Seasons1995US
194.58Dream TheaterSix Degrees Of Inner Turbulence2002US
204.56QueensrycheOperation: Mindcrime1988US
214.56RiversideSecond Life Syndrome2005PL
234.55RedemptionThe Origins Of Ruin2007US
244.55Symphony XTwilight In Olympus1998US
264.55Circus MaximusIsolate2007NO
274.54Dream TheaterAwake1994US
284.54AyreonThe Human Equation2004NL
304.54Liquid Tension ExperimentLiquid Tension Experiment 11998US
314.54DreamscapeEnd Of Silence2004DE
324.54RiversideOut Of Myself2004PL
334.54Pain of SalvationRemedy Lane2002SE
344.53KoyaanisqatsyFrom The Yearning To Burst - The Perpetual Circle2000DE
374.52RedemptionSnowfall On Judgment Day2009US
384.52Pain of SalvationThe Perfect Element2000SE
394.52Pink FloydAnimals1977UK
404.52RiversideRapid Eye Movement2007PL
414.52YesClose To The Edge1972UK
444.51Porcupine TreeIn Absentia2002UK
474.5AyreonInto The Electric Castle1998NL
484.5Vanden PlasThe Seraphic Clockwork2010DE
504.49Spheric Universe ExperienceAnima2007FR
514.49RushPermanent Waves1980CA
524.48Pagan's MindCelestial Entrance2002NO
534.48Porcupine TreeDeadwing2005UK
544.48Sieges EvenThe Art Of Navigating By The Stars2005DE
564.47GenesisA Trick Of The Tail1976UK
574.47Star OneSpace Metal2002NL
584.47Pain of SalvationBE2004SE
594.47Dream TheaterFalling Into Infinity1997US
604.47RushA Farewell To Kings1977CA
614.47GenesisSelling England by the Pound1973UK
624.46ThresholdCritical Mass2002UK
634.45Guilt MachineOn This Perfect Day2009NL
644.45OpethGhost Reveries2005SE
654.45Spock's BeardV2000US
664.45John PetrucciSuspended Animation2005US
674.45Yngwie MalmsteenRising Force1984SE
684.45KansasPoint of Know Return1977US
694.45AyreonUniversal Migrator (Disc 1)- The Dream Sequencer2000NL
704.45Dream TheaterSystematic Chaos2007US
734.44KamelotThe Black Halo2005US
754.43GenesisThe Lamb Lies Down On Broadway1974UK
764.43Pink FloydDark Side Of The Moon1973UK
774.43Shadow GalleryRoom V2005US
784.43Seventh WonderMercy Falls2008SE
804.43RushGrace Under Pressure1984CA
814.42ThresholdDead Reckoning2007UK
824.42Dead Soul TribeA Lullaby For The Devil2007US
834.42Sieges EvenParamount2007DE
844.42Pagan's Mindenigmatic : calling2005NO
864.42Pain of SalvationEntropia1997SE
874.42GenesisNursery Cryme1971UK
894.41KarmakanicWho's The Boss In The Factory2008SE
904.41Frost*Experiments in Mass Appeal2008UK
914.41EvergreyThe Inner Circle2004SE
924.41Dream TheaterOctavarium2005US
934.41Vanden PlasBeyond Daylight2002DE
944.4Tool10,000 Days2006US
964.4LaluOniric Metal2005FR
974.4DominiciO3 A Trilogy - Part 22007multi
984.4Pink FloydThe Division Bell1994UK
994.4KansasSong for America1975US
1004.4DarkwaterCalling The Earth To Witness2007SE
1014.39MyrathDesert Call2010TN
1024.39Pink FloydThe Wall1979UK
1034.39GenesisWind & Wuthering1976UK
1044.38Beyond TwilightFor The Love Of Art And The Making2006DK
1054.38AmasefferExodus - Slaves for Life2008IL
1064.38Anubis GateAndromeda Unchained2007DK
1074.38Fates WarningA Pleasant Shade Of Gray1997US
1084.38AdagioSanctus Ignis2001FR
1094.38Poverty's No CrimeSave My Soul2007DE
1104.37Animals As LeadersAnimals As Leaders2009US
1114.37HeadspaceI Am Anonymous2012UK
1134.37ArkBurn The Sun2001multi
1144.37AmbeonFate Of A Dreamer2001NL
1154.37QueensrycheRage For Order1986US
1174.37Seventh WonderWaiting In The Wings2006SE
1194.37PyramazeMelancholy Beast2004multi
1204.37Thought ChamberAngular Perceptions2007US
1214.37Magic PieMotions Of Desire2005NO
1224.36SavatageGutter Ballet1989US
1244.36OpethBlackwater Park2001SE
1254.36OSIOffice of Strategic Influence2003US
1264.36QueensrycheThe Warning1984US
1274.36Fates WarningParallels1991US
1304.36Fates WarningDisconnected2000US
1314.35Jordan RudessRhythm of Time2004US
1324.35IQDark Matter2004UK
1334.35QueenA Night At The Opera.1975UK
1344.35Star OneVictims of the Modern Age2010NL
1354.35Beyond TwilightSection X2005DK
1364.35EchoesNature | Existence2010VE
1374.35Allen/LandeThe Revenge2007multi
1384.35The Gourishankar2nd Hands2007RU
1394.35Dead Soul TribeThe January Tree2004US
1404.35Symphony XThe Damnation Game1995US
1414.35AndromedaII = I2003SE
1424.34SubsignalBeautiful & Monstrous2009DE
1454.33AtmosfearInside The Atmosphere2003DE
1464.33PhideauxDoomsday Afternoon2007US
1474.33NightwishCentury Child2002FI
1484.33OpethStill Life1999SE
1494.33KarmakanicEntering The Spectra2002SE
1504.33Pain of SalvationOne Hour By The Concrete Lake1998SE
1514.33SylvanArtificial Paradise2002DE
1524.32Eric JohnsonAh Via Musicom1990US
1534.32SavatageDead Winter Dead1995US
1554.32AndromedaThe Immunity Zone2008SE
1564.32VotumTime Must Have A Stop2008PL
1584.32Pagan's MindGod's Equation2007NO
1594.32Mind's EyeWalking on H202006SE
1604.32Lacuna CoilComalies2002IT
1614.32RushFly By Night1975CA
1624.32A.C.TLast Epic2003SE
1644.31GenesisAnd Then There Were Three...1978UK
1654.31LeprousTall Poppy Syndrome2009NO
1664.31Dead Soul TribeA Murder Of Crows2003US
1674.31Fair To MidlandFables From A Mayfly2007US
1684.31SavatageHall Of The Mountain King1987US
1704.31Porcupine TreeThe Incident2009UK
1714.31PallasThe Dreams of Men2005UK
1724.31KamelotGhost Opera2007US
1734.31Riverside02 Panic Room2007PL
1744.31EvergreyIn Search Of Truth2001SE
1754.31Jordan RudessFeeding The Wheel2001US
1764.31Porcupine TreeLightbulb Sun2000UK
1774.31KamelotThe Fourth Legacy1999US
1794.31Green CarnationA Blessing In Disguise2003NO
1804.31ThresholdMarch Of Progress2012UK
1814.3TransatlanticBridge Across Forever2001multi
1824.3GalahadEmpires Never Last2006UK
1844.3AyreonActual Fantasy Revisited2004NL
1854.3TransmissionID, Ego, and Superego2007DE
1864.3King CrimsonIn The Court Of The Crimson King1969UK
1874.3YesThe Yes Album1971UK
1884.3Sun CagedSun Caged2003multi
1894.3RiversideVoices In My Head (Inside Out Reissue)2006PL
1914.3Arch/MatheosSympathetic Resonance2011US
1934.3Joseph MagazineNight of the Red Sky2011PL
1944.3RushPower Windows1985CA
1954.3Age Of NemesisTerra Incognita2007HU
1974.29KarmakanicWheel Of Life2004SE
1984.29Maximum IndifferenceThe Transmutations of Supposed Angels or Beings that were once Girls2000US
1994.29AvantasiaThe Scarecrow2008multi
2014.29DemiansBuilding an Empire2008FR
2024.29EpicaThe Divine Conspiracy (Ltd. Editon)2007NL

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Top 10 albums each year over the past two decades.

Top 10 studio albums each year, omitting live CDs and compilations, bonus disks, etc.

The scores are based on cumulative user votes on Progulus Radio. A look at the voting pool: Average unique voters in 2012: 62.5, Average votes per month: 2,036.  Each song is voted on separately, and the average for each album is calculated.  A baysian average is then used on the result.  The results of 2012 may change slightly in the future as more and more votes accumulate.  The result is based on a small pool of voters compared with the prog scene as a whole.

The number is the album's overall rank on the station.

127 Headspace- I Am Anonymous, UK
301 Threshold- March Of Progress, UK
542 Hemina- Synthetic, AU
605 Delain- We Are The Others, NL
768 Bad Salad- Uncivilized, BR
781 Circus Maximus- Nine, NO
787 Lord Of Mushrooms- Perspectives, FR
794 OSI- Fire Make Thunder, US
810 Mystery- The World Is A Game, CA
888 Kaipa- Vittjar, SE

100 Haken- Visions, UK
141 Opeth- Heritage, SE
160 Leprous- Bilateral, NO
195 Joseph Magazine- Night of the Red Sky, PL
232 Arch/Matheos- Sympathetic Resonance, US
286 Subsignal- Touchstones, DE
292 Redemption- This Mortal Coil, US
302 Karmakanic- In A Perfect World, SE
338 Dream Theater- A Dramatic Turn Of Events, US
348 Steven Wilson- Grace For Drowning - Deform to Form a Star, UK

54 Vanden Plas- The Seraphic Clockwork, DE
83 Haken- Aquarius, UK
105 Myrath- Desert Call, TN
143 Echoes- Nature | Existence, VE
151 Star One- Victims of the Modern Age, NL
215 Chimp Spanner- At The Dream's Edge, UK
264 Darkwater- Where Stories End, SE
273 Day Six- The Grand Design, NL
370 Kingcrow- Phlegethon, IT
402 Unitopia- Artificial, AU

12 Riverside- Anno Domini High Definition, PL
40 Redemption- Snowfall On Judgment Day, US
69 Guilt Machine- On This Perfect Day, NL
137 OSI- Blood, US
138 Animals As Leaders- Animals As Leaders, US
169 Subsignal- Beautiful & Monstrous, DE
176 IQ- Frequency, UK
194 Leprous- Tall Poppy Syndrome, NO
206 Porcupine Tree- The Incident, UK
221 Ozric Tentacles- The Yum Yum Tree, UK

23 Ayreon- 1011001, NL
28 Opeth- Watershed, SE
90 Seventh Wonder- Mercy Falls, SE
101 Frost*- Experiments in Mass Appeal, UK
115 Karmakanic -Who's The Boss In The Factory, SE
123 Amaseffer- Exodus - Slaves for Life, IL
186 Votum- Time Must Have A Stop, PL
188 Andromeda- The Immunity Zone, SE
191 Shadrane- Temporal, FR
229 Everon- North, DE

7 Symphony X- Paradise Lost, US
20 Porcupine Tree- Fear Of A Blank Planet, UK
26 Redemption- The Origins Of Ruin, US
30 Circus Maximus- Isolate, NO
44 Riverside- Rapid Eye Movement, PL
55 Myrath- Hope, TN
56 Spheric Universe Experience- Anima, FR
79 Dream Theater- Systematic Chaos, US
84 Dead Soul Tribe- A Lullaby For The Devil, US
87 Sieges Even- Paramount, DE

17 Vanden Plas- Christ.0, DE
31 Frost*- Milliontown, UK
82 Wolverine- Still, SE
109 Tool- 10,000 Days, US
118 Beyond Twilight- For The Love Of Art And The Making, DK
132 Seventh Wonder -Waiting In The Wings ,SE
162 Mind's Eye- Walking on H20, SE
183 Venturia- The New Kingdom, FR
214 Riverside- Voices In My Head, PL
228 Galahad- Empires Never Last, UK

4 Redemption- The Fullness Of Time, US
9 Circus Maximus- The 1st Chapter, NO
22 Riverside- Second Life Syndrome, PL
50 Indukti- S.U.S.A.R, PL
57 Porcupine Tree- Deadwing, UK
62 Sieges Even- The Art Of Navigating By The Stars, DE
71 John Petrucci- Suspended Animation, US
76 Opeth- Ghost Reveries, SE
80 Shadow Gallery- Room V, US
85 Kamelot- The Black Halo, US

25 Ayreon- The Human Equation, NL
32 Dreamscape- End Of Silence, DE
36 Riverside- Out Of Myself, PL
58 Threshold- Subsurface, UK
65 Pain of Salvation- BE, SE
95 Nightwish- Once, FI
98 Evergrey- The Inner Circle, SE
136 Pyramaze- Melancholy Beast, multi
146 Jordan Rudess- Rhythm of Time, US
159 Dead Soul Tribe- The January Tree, US

14 Opeth- Damnation, SE
18 Dream Theater- Train of Thought, US
86 Adagio- Underworld, FR
149 OSI- Office of Strategic Influence, US
170 Andromeda- II = I, SE
178 Atmosfear- Inside The Atmosphere, DE
181 A.C.T- Last Epic, SE
204 Dead Soul Tribe- A Murder Of Crows, US
216 Green Carnation- A Blessing In Disguise, NO
223 Sun Caged- Sun Caged, multi

3 Symphony X- The Odyssey, US
19 Dream Theater- Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence, US
34 Pain of Salvation- Remedy Lane, SE
46 Porcupine Tree- In Absentia, UK
61 Pagan's Mind- Celestial Entrance, NO
64 Star One- Space Metal, NL
73 Threshold- Critical Mass, UK
107 Vanden Plas- Beyond Daylight, DE
166 Karmakanic- Entering The Spectra, SE
175 Nightwish- Century Child, FI

52 Threshold- Hypothetical, UK
122 Ambeon- Fate Of A Dreamer, NL
125 Ark- Burn The Sun, multi
126 Adagio- Sanctus Ignis, FR
150 Opeth- Blackwater Park, SE
155 Tool- Lateralus, US
179 Jordan Rudess- Feeding The Wheel, US
209 Evergrey- In Search Of Truth, SE
219 Transatlantic- Bridge Across Forever, multi
238 Stride- Music Machine, US

10 Symphony X- V: The New Mythology Suite, US
15 Ayreon- Universal Migrator Part II: Flight Of The Migrator, NL
33 Koyaanisqatsy- From The Yearning To Burst - The Perpetual Circle, DE
38 Pain of Salvation- The Perfect Element I, SE
74 Spock's Beard- V, US
81 Ayreon- Universal Migrator Part I: The Dream Sequencer, NL
131 Fates Warning- Disconnected, US
152 Porcupine Tree- Lightbulb Sun, UK
224 Maximum Indifference- The Transmutations of Supposed Angels or Beings that were once Girls, US
356 Planet X- Universe, multi

2 Dream Theater- Scenes From a Memory, US
6 Liquid Tension Experiment- Liquid Tension Experiment 2, US
184 Opeth- Still Life, SE
220 Kamelot- The Fourth Legacy, US
295 Spock's Beard- Day For Night, US
300 Balance Of Power- Ten More Tales Of Grand Illusion, UK
309 Porcupine Tree- Stupid Dream, UK
311 Ozric Tentacles- Waterfall Cities, UK
314 Dali's Dilemma- Manifesto For Futurism, US
429 Mastermind- Excelsior!, US

27 Symphony X- Twilight In Olympus, US
35 Liquid Tension Experiment- Liquid Tension Experiment 1, US
53 Ayreon- Into The Electric Castle, NL
189 Pain of Salvation- One Hour By The Concrete Lake, SE
201 Threshold- Clone, UK
282 Shadow Gallery- Tyranny, US
331 Platypus- When Pus Comes To Shove, US
387 Savatage- The Wake of Magellan, US
424 Eloy- Ocean 2 ~ The Answer, DE
496 Arena- The Visitor, UK

11 Symphony X- The Divine Wings Of Tragedy, US
13 Dream Theater- Falling Into Infinity, US
114 Pain of Salvation- Entropia, SE
120 Fates Warning- A Pleasant Shade Of Gray, US
180 IQ- Subterranea, UK
250 Spock's Beard- Beware Of Darkness, US
297 Spock's Beard- The Kindness Of Strangers, US
341 The Flower Kings- Stardust We Are, SE
365 Devin Townsend- Ocean Machine Biomech, CA
389 Crucible- Tall Tales, US

320 Rush- Test For Echo, CA
403 Eric Johnson- Venus Isle, US
409 Ritual- Ritual, SE
436 Tool- AEnima, US
448 Pendragon- The Masquerade Overture, UK
449 Lemur Voice- Insights, NL
598 Steve Vai- Fire Garden, US
620 Angra- Holy Land, BR
658 The Flower Kings- Retropolis, SE
749 Superior- Behind, DE

16 Dream Theater- A Change of Seasons, US
161 Symphony X- The Damnation Game, US
182 Savatage- Dead Winter Dead, US
308 Ayreon- The Final Experiment, NL
366 Kansas- Freaks Of Nature, US
488 The Gathering- Mandylion, NL
490 Shadow Gallery- Carved In Stone ,US
491 King Crimson- Thrak, UK
492 The Tea Party- The Edges Of Twilight, CA
521 Enchant- A Blueprint Of The World, US

29 Dream Theater- Awake, US
116 Pink Floyd- The Division Bell ,UK
323 Roine Stolt- The Flower King, SE
345 Marillion- Brave, UK
428 Savatage- Handful Of Rain, US
584 Queensryche- Promised Land, US
608 Fates Warning- Inside Out, US
627 Ozric Tentacles- Arborescence, UK
815 Symphony X- Symphony X, US
875 Michael Manring- Thonk, US

505 Savatage- Edge of Thorns, US
610 Rush- Counterparts, CA
612 Threshold- Wounded Land, UK
679 Tool- Undertow, US
680 Ozric Tentacles- Jurassic Shift, UK
703 Saga- The Security Of Illusion, CA
709 IQ- Ever, UK
720 Greg Howe- Introspection, US
782 Pendragon- The Window Of Life, UK
863 Porcupine Tree- Up The Downstair, UK

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Progulus Radio Average Ratings by Genre Tag

Without further ado, here's a graph of z-scores by genre tag:

ratings by genre z-scores

Notes on the graph:

Z-scores measure how many standard deviations each item is away from the mean.

Genre tags are not usually exclusive genres, but tags used to try and describe the music. One artist may have several genre tags. For example:

Arena: Neo-Prog, Progressive Rock, Symphonic
Cosmosquad: Heavy Prog-Fusion, Guitar Oriented Rock, Technical, Instrumental
Epica: Progressive Metal, Symphonic, Goth Doom, Female Fronted
John Petrucci: Guitar Oriented Metal, Shred, Instrumental, LTE/Planet X and Influenced, Technical DTI

There are a few catch-all tags that apply to most bands on progulus: Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Symphonic, and Instrumental. For instance most Neo-Prog bands are also tagged as Progressive Rock. These super-genres shouldn't be compared with other genre tags due to their breadth, but could be compared against eachother.

Technical DTI is an abbreviation for "Dream Theater Influenced", and also includes Dream Theater and its side-projects. Some other examples include Andromeda, Dreamscape, Spheric Universe Experience.

Fore the tag "LTE/Planet X and Influenced," LTE is an abbreviation of Liquid Tension Experiment.

There are many more genre tags than are highlighted here, but I picked out the ones with the largest pool of data.

"Mean" is obviously not a genre tag, but a placeholder for the average rating.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Interesting trends in Progulus Radio ratings data

I've been taking a close look at various aspects of the user ratings data on Progulus recently. Here's the first of a few posts about my findings. What I was interested in finding out was what the best years for prog were. Was there a "golden age" of the 2000's modern prog like there was with the golden era of prog in the 70's?

First, a digression into the method that I use to rate albums on the station. What I did first was to take the raw average album scores based on user ratings for each song and obtain the bayesian average. Why baysian averaging? Well using this method allows you to weight ratings based on the number of accumulated votes. For example, an album with only two "5" votes is really not a "5" rated album when compared to another album that has accumulated 100 "5" votes. Only after an album gets sufficient votes will the album's true rating become apparent. The bayesian formula takes this into account and adjusts the rating of albums with fewer votes closer to the mean.

After I adjusted the user ratings for each album, what I did next was to rank them all from highest to lowest in sequence from 1 to 4,500+, up to the total number of rated albums. In case you're wondering, the #1 ranked album on the station is Dream Theater - Images and Words. No big surprise there. Next, I took the albums from each year and looked at the top 50 albums of that year individually. One could tally an average rating for each year from those 50 CDs and then plot them on a graph, but what I did was to simply sum up the overall rankings of those 50 albums for each year. I inverted the result so that a higher score is better, as it's what we are used to seeing on graphs. Here's the result:


A couple of things to note on the result. First, as you go back in years to the early 90's, there are fewer and fewer representative albums. Before 1994 there were fewer than 50 albums for each year so they couldn't be included in the poll. Compare this to the late 2000's where there were upwards of 200 - 250 albums each year. I believe there is a direct correlation between the number of albums in the pool and the number of highly rated albums. Granted, Progulus does not have every possible album for a given year available, but I'd like to think that we have all of the most important albums. So by this reasoning, there are simply more albums available due to the popularity of the genre, and as a result we have a certain percentage of highly rated albums out of that pool to draw from.

Second, the graph drops sharply as we get to the present time. Fortunately for us I don't believe that this is wholly the result of a tail off in music quality over the last 3 years. Part of the reason goes back to the bayesian averaging. Newer albums have fewer votes, so it may just take a few years to accumulate enough votes to adjust the rating up away from the mean. I don't think this is the whole picture though. I have a hypothesis that people tend to rate music lower that they are less familiar with. To test this theory I would have to look at the raw user ratings going back a few years. That may be the subject of a future article.

The real finding here is that we started to hit our "peak" or golden age somewhere around 2004. This result wasn't surprising to me since I always personally considered 2004 as a banner year for prog, and a year that really opened the flood gates and inspired many new bands who would follow. Where the surprise was for me was that this peak continued well into 2008 - 2009, with 2007 marking the high point in the annual ranking. Lets take a look at the top 10 rated albums for 2007 as an example:

7, Symphony X- Paradise Lost, US
20, Porcupine Tree- Fear Of A Blank Planet, UK
26, Redemption- The Origins Of Ruin, US
30, Circus Maximus- Isolate, NO
44, Riverside- Rapid Eye Movement, PL
55, Myrath- Hope, TN
56, Spheric Universe Experience- Anima, FR
79, Dream Theater- Systematic Chaos, US
84, Dead Soul Tribe- A Lullaby For The Devil, US
87, Sieges Even- Paramount, DE

The number listed before each album is it's overall rank on the station. The #10 album that year is still in the top 100 of all albums. The only other year that I looked at that came close to this was 2005. In 2008 the #10 album ranked #191 overall, and in 2006 the #10 album ranked #228 overall. We can take a look at this in more depth with the following graph that shows the total number of top 10 albums each year that presently rank in the current overall top 100:


To be in the overall top 100 rank an album has to be in the highest tier, or better than about 98% of the other 4500+ albums on the radio station. Looking at the result, 2005 and 2007 both had the highest number of "hit-producing" years with all 10 of the top 10 CDs falling within the overall top 100 ranking. While 2000, 2002, and 2004 did produce a quite a few albums that rank in the top 100, the indication from the first graph is that a lot of other CDs that came out those years ranked quite a bit lower than the top 50 did in 2004 - 2009. It's also interesting to note here that there are a lot of peaks that seem to happen every other year.

We may need to wait a few more years to find out if 2009 - 2012 is really marking a downward swing in the quality of music coming out, or if it's simply an error in the way the data was analyzed as I described above. But it's clear from the data that the modern "golden era" of prog began to peak around 2004 and continues at least into 2008-2009, if not further.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Some reviews and things

As some of you know, I'm also a reviewer at I'll try to make a better habit of cross-posting here, but here's what I've done so far:

  Consecration: .avi

  Brooks, Chris: The Axis Of All Things

  Ilium: Genetic Memory

  Fantomas: The Director's Cut Live - A New Year's Revolution

  Isis: Live V

  Einvera: In Your Image

  Francesco Atrusato Project, The: Chaos and the Primordial

  The Book Of Knots: Garden Of Fainting Stars

  Pluto and the Planets: 360ยบ of Wonder

  Bohren & der Club of Gore: Beileid

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The DIY of kicking clouds

I'm not sure how many people know about Cloudkicker or it's mastermind Ben Sharp. I think that's mostly because he's avoided the usual routes for releasing music, and in fact avoided many of the reasons people write music and join bands in the first place. He releases music when he feels like he's done with it, sometimes a few songs, sometimes a dozen. He writes, records, plays, and programs everything himself. It's all instrumental, but not anything like Joe Satriani or Planet X. The music gets often lumped in with the Djent music movement, but I think that sells it short. There is a lot more melody and atmosphere here than I think your typical djent band puts out. 

Cloudkicker releases are available for free download via the Cloudkicker bandcamp site. Yes, everything really is free, but throw the guy a few bucks anyway. We need more music like this. Ben was kind enough to answer a few questions via email. I got some insight into the Cloudkicker process, and found out what airline cockpit voice recordings have to do with metal music. Ben also dispensed with probably the only advice you need to live a good life. Want to know more? Read on…

1. How long does it take to write and record a typical Cloudkicker song? 

It really depends. I've written songs in hours and over the course of weeks. 

2. Do you write one part (like a guitar part) all the way through, or do the different instruments leap frog each other as you go? 

I write from the beginning to the end, usually starting with a guitar riff or idea, and then I just doodle around until I find what I think should come next, and so on until I feel like I have something that I can call "finished". 

3. I checked out your equipment blog post. Even though you are working "in the box" you use a Vox Tonelab rather than guitar plug ins. Any particular reason? 

No not really. It works, that's about all the reason I have. 

4. Your equipment list doesn't include any synths either. Do you use any, or is everything guitar generated? 

I've used a piano synth in maybe one or two songs, but 99% of everything is guitar generated. 

5. The song titles on Beacons seem to tell a story. At least they do to me. Was that intentional? 

They're all excerpts from airliner cockpit voice recorder tapes. 

6. Your releases vary in length from just a few song to what most people would call a full album. How do you know when you're done writing and it's time to put it out there? 

If I have a handful of songs and I put them in some order and listen to it all the way through and feel like it works, then I'll do it. If not, I'll hold off until I think it does. Not very scientific, I know. With Beacons, I set out to make something more along the lines of a full-length from the start, so I knew that's where I was trying to go with it. 

7. How do you go about making the art for each release? 

For everything before Beacons, I tried to make something that I felt represented the music well. I'm not very good at making art like that though, so on Beacons I had a friend of mine do the layout...sort of. He came up with the idea but then didn't do anything and I ended up doing it anyway. 

8. Everything has been instrumental so far, any desire to add vocals in the future? 

Meh, not really. 

9. You've always posted your music online for free, basically relying on the kindness of strangers for any monetary support. Was this an easy decision when you started Cloudkicker? 

Yeah, that's how Cloudkicker started. I never expected to make any money off this, so it's really surprising that I have. 

10. What do you think about file sharing and the future of music in general? 

Don't care. People are going to do it anyway. I personally haven't bought a CD since 2004, and I think it's bogus that somewhere, sometime, someone would say to themselves "I wish I could listen to this music, but I don't have enough money." That's just me though. As for the MUSIC INDUSTRY, well, lots of industries are struggling right now, either they'll figure out how to adapt or they won't, I don't see it as that big of a deal. 

11. What's next for Cloudkicker? 

I'm working on an EP at the moment. I'm aiming for somewhere around 25-30 minutes and I'm almost there, so maybe in November or December you'll see something. 

12. Any new music you're listening to these days? 

Yeah kind of. I've been rediscovering some older stuff that I had sitting dormant in my itunes library. Like the album El Cielo by Dredg. So, so good, but that's probably almost 10 years old. I've been pretty outspoken about my enjoyment of the newest Sufjan Stevens album The Age of Adz, and I was listening to that exclusively for basically the entire month of April. I've been dabbling in Radiohead, El Ten Eleven, Pinback, The Appleseed Cast, and lots of other random things that pop up on Pandora and shuffle. When I get to the end stages of making an album or EP or whatever, I tend to listen to that a lot, making notes and generally being critical, so I'm not really "into" any one thing right now. 

13. Anything else you want to add? 

Don't be a jerk! Not you, just in general. 

Good advice, thanks Ben!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

AT&T stole my tape

Happy new year everybody!

Just ran across an interesting article and wanted to share, since I think it had an impact on recorded music. Apparently Bell Labs had invented the answering machine, and the magnetic tape to go with it, in 1934. Fearing that it would hurt the telephone(?!) AT&T shelved it for 20 years. Imagine how recording and music might be different if artists hadn't been stuck with the limitations of recording directly to records in the 30s and 40s. More evidence, IMO, that innovation and invention must always be free and open.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An instrument to end the war of strings

The fretted harp!

12 strings exist since quite some decades. On those every string has a second one, an octave higher, except string 1 and 2 which are simply doubled. They have a very rich sound, but playing them is not different than usual ones.
Then came 7 strings, 8 string and 9 strings to add more scale. Also 5 string, 6 string and 7 string bass guitars aren't that uncommon anymore.
In stage 3 the chapman stick and warr guitar and nowadays the stringstation rule.

So, being Stringray, I gotta find some more strings!

The idea is simple: attach a fretboard to a harp.

1. playability:
But how can one play that if not standing in fron of it, with your back to the audiene, constantly movin up and down and showing them your fat ass?
So, you still had to play it like the harpist does, from both sides. For achieving this, a normal fretboard is imposible. But there's still a way. At first, -yes- double the amount of strings. Every string must have its twin, sitting behind it. In between the string layers would be steel bars that carry the steel frets, one on each side of the bar, so each of the twin strings can have frets.

good playability, a pretty cool looking artist, and --- MORE SRTINGS!

2. Tonal set up:
The harp is constructed to transport the strings' frequencies to the sound body on both ends, so it's quite tricky.
Now attaching frets brings of course the 'problem' that it will always produce 2 notes, one on the upper and one on the lower end of the string.
There's only one way to gain control over this. The fret distances must be set in a way that a harmonic is always given. Both ends of a string must be in harmony in every given scenario.
That also gives options. Since there are many strings in similar tonal range, you can have different string set ups for different dual harmonic scales.

Advantage: nobody will ever be able to play this.

3. Construction:
I swear, if you ever build that, I will not die until I've learned to play it! 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The flagship loses its captain

So Portnoy calls his quits?

I'm not shocked. Not this time.

I'm saying for a couple of years now that the band needs a break to charge their batteries of creativity. Now Portnoy, the band leader, is the one who does it while the rest doesn't. That's quite a surprise as I always thought it was MP who sailed the band into those commercial sell out shores. So was it the other way round and MP simply saw that they were going the wrong way and tried to get back on the right track? We will see.

It will be interesting who will step into his shoes as there aren't too many out there who could replace him, and I bet quite a number of them won't even try to compare themselves to him.

On the other hand the best times of DT in the past have always been the ones when they had to replace a member and merge new creative aspects to their musical identity, so there's hope that DT now find another spark that brings them back to their old strength.

Let's see what the future will bring.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The (public) library vs. the (private) RIAA

In another in a seemingly endless series about the present day music industry, I had a new thought cross my mind. Not new information, but maybe a new metaphor to apply to the recording industry situation. I've make reference before to the idea that massive record sales of the 80s and 90s are an anomaly, not the norm, for music as a consumable product. People have moved on the DVDs and Tivo. I've watched in amusement for the last few years as the RIAA tries desperately not to accept this.

I have visited the Littleton public library several times and it's an excellent resource for a smaller library. While browsing the stacks last week I was reminded of how many hundreds of books are released every month. Even if all new book releases were stopped today it would take me decades to read everything in the speculative fiction section alone. It applies to music as well. Online radio like Progulus lets me get a good sample of a lot of music. I enjoy most of it, and I could never afford the money or time to actually buy all of it.

So why keep writing books? Well, for authors it may be a mix of artistic compulsion and a job. For publishers, they hope for the occasional huge hit, but they can also publish books in moderate quantities and not put a lot of money up front. With new digital options, there's almost no production cost at all beyond paying the people who worked on it. It's similar to something I read about Jazz back in college, that Jazz labels considered a record successful if it sold 20,000 copies. Make your money back, make a small profit, and move on the the next gig. The RIAA can't tell the difference between success and MASSIVE HIT EVERYBODY PARTY! No one should be pressured not to write a book, paint a picture, or record an album because it won't make someone else rich.

After a book or any creative is done, it enters the culture at large. Whether 10 people or 10,000 people read it, it's there to be used. Libraries now also have a lot of music and movies. Libraries are storehouses of culture. It's a place that holds a record of a people and their creativity. Storytelling is one of the few things left that humans do and animals don't (as far as we know). As an artist, I am more interested in being part of the creative conversation and part of the cultural record than in diluting my intentions to make money.

Do authors lose money when people borrow a book from the library rather than buying it? Sure, it seems obvious. But, as others have ably written, obscurity is far worse an enemy to art than whether or not people get it for free.