Prognose/Prog-resiste V.A.: A taste of Belgium.. (B,2006)*°'
It is a very good idea that the Flemish (=Dutch speaking part of Belgium) prog association, Prog-nose, worked together with the Wallonian (=French speaking part of Belgium) magazine Prog-Resiste to release a compilation of unknown progressive groups in Belgium, to stimulate the existence of such a scene in Belgium. For the moment its is mostly only Club 66 in Verviers who regularly does progressive rock music shows. Both mentioned organisations take all the effort to make this grow beyond this little spot and readers of their newsletters.
When Prog-Nose came to existence I was a bit sceptical on the whole newly defined "progressive scene", because the new scene of today has entirely different visions and intentions, than when the genre came to existence when there was no chasing a definition yet. Today the hard core of this “scene” consist of much more conservative music lovers than those who were looking for surprises in the ‘70’s, redefining the genre to a degree of melodic exploitation of the previous middle of the road heritage of the most known groups at each stage in time. Most of these so called music lovers and self-acclaimed specialists, grew up in a pop culture and now searched for something else, without caring much to develop their skills in judging first by exploring the collector’s classics outside any of the label’s new commercial purposes of promotion which takes the best advantage of this new born interest. I always insist many lovers check also the most important artefacts outside the UK. For me it is a must if you want to know what symphonic rock is about, to check the 70’s Italian scene who were a country which saved the genre for many years, and search for the generally accepted classics regarded by real collectors. For learning structured improvisation and experimentation I also suggest to explore at least 100 or so of the generally regarded classics of the German Krautrock scene. Further I always advise to check some of the best Latin American items and a few of the preserved Middle Eastern rock examples to prevent people from navel staring as if the cultivated world is English, to check out the best core of new Japan, the new and old Scandinavian progressive scene (especially Sweden and Norway), and a handful of a few other countries, to learn how a musical foundation that was the core of progressive music and how it developed itself with some different aspects in varying countries. And of course one should also not forget to check a few sub-genres like RIO and avant-prog, and a few mind-expanding artefacts in the new (classical and contemporary) music, experimental music, and in the borders of jazz and fusion. If one should forget a certain range in scope and curious challenge to get the wider idea and scope, when recreating and reviewing.
What was progressive in those days when looking back with developed skills to understand, is something completely different than what is regarded as being progressive now.
Most people involved in the new definition depend entirely on the neo-idea, expecting a fashion-like melodic-symphonic affair, even when it’s not even successful in any other way. It is obvious that outside the milieu some examples are not so much appreciated simply because they aren’t really so good or have not much to say or they don’t care to look around further if it’s not hip enough or surprising for them. Progressive music lovers I always suggest to members spend money or at least listen to all the collector classics. Especially writers and musicians should do so, because otherwise their ideas will fall back on a shadow of what progressive really can be. The real core of musically inventing classics won’t get much promotion, but more mediocre new examples will take anything they can get. I’ve noticed how much people that make themselves a fan within the boundaries of the new born progressive scene are often too conservative to pick out the right elements that go deeper beyond the occasional accidental form. I hammer on so much on the complete range of skills, because I easily get bored by the misinterpretation of falling back on melody only, as if one can make any composition interesting to build paper written melodies for any instrument, without thinking of sounds and deeper coexisting contents of expression outside song and melody. While many new groups are rather mediocre in this, and only have fast melodic paper-notes playing with little attention for sound invention in the composition, I consider some of them even like clowns of disguised pop music, overobviously playing their melodies and mediocre songs. Most progressive and psychedelic groups from the 70’s however experimented with all kinds of varieties in sounds, and also very much acoustic sounds. Many examples learned much from contemporary music and other genres.
So with all this scepticism I started to listen to this compilation.
The actual review :
I must admit that the compilation is well done within the intentions and scopes of the makers, the tracks are well produced and the groups practiced well to make their performances as perfect as possible. This can be said especially from the first two groups, Panopticum and Madelgaire, who fit so well with one another, it could have been two tracks from the same group. They both play with a certain power, and with certain fast passages and good variety.
Panopticum uses parts of exactly similar vocal harmonies as Yes, but they learned something from the new Scandinavian scene too, just like Madelgaire, who also used mellotron. Even when I can still hear the groups does not develop their music full time, they managed well to make a fine presentation of hard work to revive a Belgian scene.
Quantum Fantay is a slow move to a slightly different style and is instrumental symphonic prog with a metal touch and some softer moody melodic electronic passages with flute and straight drumming and rhythms.
The next groups move one step further to neo-territories.
Beyond The Labyrinth is neo-progressive hard rock with a metal touch. Their music is for me basically in fact pop music with harder rock instruments and some melodic interventions, the kind of neo-prog I find inferior to the old definition of progressive, even when the band tends towards moodier moments.
Ghiribizzi is even more neo-styled hardrock pop with a simple metal touch. The texts and song content is laughable (quote : “in an orgasmic rhythm”) and the vocals completely emotionless. Personally I think the progmetal genre which they present is far from progressive at all. Most darker metal is much more interesting than this, but I noticed that the scenes that call themselves “progressive” always adapted this as ‘a right genre’.
AmAndA for considering it ‘progressive’ could also be very disappointing. But considering it for what it is, as operatic house-disco with a harder neo-prog influence, in an 80’s sence, it has something attractive.
Also Karma Depth leans to the progmetal genre, as graded up pop music into a different milieu. It has jazzy moody guitar playing here and there.
Last track, by Globalys, I find much more rewarding. I feel the group has a live experience of playing, and therefore has an extra element of moody attractive spontaneity, more rhythmic changes (with a good rhythmic section) and a more rewarding vocalist. The group has a professional sound, with keyboard passages at the right moments, and varied musical theme evolutions also in the melodic fundament, with a fine spontaneous development.
The release which in content is more or less what I expected has made really the best of what they could, but for making a revival of progressive music in Belgium for me it is not the real new thing yet. Many bands, even when the result is somewhat effective, are still too predictable as a weekend-developped skill to compete enough with the other existing contemporary scenes. Panopticum, Madelgaire and Globalys I found most rewarding.
Audio : Panopticum : "Say No More" (from "Reflection", 2004), Madelgaire : "Regrets" (for next release,2007), Quantum Fantay : "Niek Shlut"(track for upcomming CD "Ugisiunsi"), Beyond The Labyrinth "Icons" (remixfrom "Signs",2005), Ghiribizzi : "Don't Fear The Unknown" (from "Pan'ta Rhei",2005), AmAndA : "Demain" (from "Qui est Amanda?", 2002), Karma Depth : "Second Chance", Globalys : "Eagle, Eggs & Bacon"