Sunday, December 30, 2012

PROG ROCK PARADISE:Double CD sets remind listeners of Poland's mighty Progressive Rock scene!

When the average music listener thinks of Prog Rock, most likely the bands Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer and King Crimson spring to mind first.  The more 'educated' music fan (ie: geek) will probably throw in names like Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant and maybe some more modern acts like Marillion and Dream Theater.  But, like any music scene, things get exciting when you look beyond the U.S. and UK shores and start digging deeper into bands from other countries like Italy, Germany and Poland. While English lyrics may grace most of the releases, some of the bands do sing in their native tongue. But isn't it the music and musicianship that matters most?

Metal Mind Productions is a Polish label and one of the finest Rock/Prog/Metal labels in the universe. Whether you love Thrash Metal, Death Metal, classic Heavy Metal, AOR or Prog, Metal Mind has something you'll slobber over.  Yes, they did sign a band by the name of Anal Stench (insert your favorite 'stink' joke here) but they also handled some amazing reissues by AOR and classic Metal bands like Giuffria, Boulevard, Lillian Axe and Tank.  In fact, their catalog is so varied that its always exciting to see what they release next.  You may not love everything on the label, but there's something for everybody to love.

Some may love to scan the radio dials and look for something 'new' to listen to.  Others may want to read Rolling Stone or Pitchfork to stay on top of the latest musical trends.  Me?  I just love to hear as much as possible in any way that I can. And yes, I am very blessed to be able to listen to a lot of different things each week, whether they are new artists or reissues. With that being said, Metal Mind is a label I'll always pay attention to.  I don't like all of it, but I appreciate the fact that they exist and they are great at doing what they do.  With each of their releases that I'm lucky to get a hold of, I listen and I learn.

Being a relative newcomer to their catalog, I was over the moon when they released a batch of 2CD sets that contained a pair of albums by some of Poland's greatest Prog Rock artists: SBB, Collage, Satellite and Believe. These 2CD sets are reasonably... no, make that incredibly... priced and should be snapped up by anyone wishing to expand their musical horizons, Prog Rock or otherwise.


SBB are one of Poland's longest-lasting Prog bands, originally forming in 1971.  While they did split up in 1980, they've reformed a few times over the years and made that reformation semi-permanent in 2000.  Metal Mind has released two separate double disc sets: Iron Curtain/ Memento Z  Banalnym Tryptykiem and Nastroje/Ze Slowem Biegne Do Ciebie. Both sets provide a great overview of the band's later work and offer up a plethora of great Prog moments.  


For anyone into the '80s and '90s Prog Rock scene, Collage were one of the best of the best.  Like a mixture of both Fish and Hogarth eras of Marillion, Collage's sound mixes the lush and moving sounds of classic '70s bands with clean, well-produced modern Prog shine while tossing in loads of stunning melodic hooks.  With great vocals and musicianship, Collage sound just as wonderful today as these nearly 20 year old recordings sounded when first released.  My current favorite is the Moonshine album, which contains many 'wow' moments.  Metal Mind has released two different double CD sets, both of which are pretty amazing: Changes/Moonshine and Basnie/Safe.


While Collage may have broken up, the band's members have gone on to create more great Prog.  Believe was formed by former Collage guitarist Mirek Gil, who takes the band in a similar lush direction.  The playing is superb, the production is warm and open and the songs are top notch.  Sometimes, it's hard to understand why a band from Poland can't make waves in the U.S., but I suppose there is always time.  The double CD set World is Round/Yesterday Is A Friend offers up some magnificent music that is as moving as it is melodic.


Continuing with Collage offshoots, Satellite was formed by that band's drummer, lyricist and co-writer Wojtek Szadowski. With the help of new bandmates and some of his Collage pals, Satellite's music picks up where his old band's Moonshine album left off. Mesmerizing melodies drift in and out of expertly arranged Prog movements, never sounding old and tired.  Frustrating as it seems, Satellite are constantly compared to Collage, although they do tend to travel above and beyond the musical boundaries that he helped create nerely two decades ago.  The two double disc sets include the albums A Street Between Sunrise And Sunset/Into The Night and Evening Games/Nostalgia

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