Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I don’t personally care for most award ceremonies. This is especially true for music awards, which often fail to celebrate a genre’s best musical talent. However, a new award ceremony which started last year and on September 3rd will turn two years old, I do care for. The awards in question are the Progressive Music Awards run by Prog Magazine. This year’s event has seven categories which can be voted for by the fans and a further five will be decided internally.

Like most music awards, there is a category for the newcomers, called the Limelight award. The nominees include the one man band Cosmograf, the epic Distorted Harmony and the gritty Thumpermonkey amongst others. However, I give my vote to The Elijah. I bought their album ‘I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created’ last year and was immediately blown away. Their music is a cross between post-rock and progressive, using two vocalists: one singer, one shouter. Shouter? Don’t you mean screamer? No, they use a shouter to juxtapose the clean orchestral parts perfectly, letting a stream of pure emotion burst out across the bleak soundscapes. On the surface The Elijah’s unique brand of post-rock is abrasive and hard to digest, but multiple listens and an open mind will reveal the beautiful layers of love and heartbreak beneath.

The live event category sees many heavy weights of the genre go face-to-face with their best performances of the past year. These include legends Steve Hackett and Marillion, left-field Devin Townsend and the always quirky Kraftwerk. Whilst I can’t objectively judge all these events, I will choose the event which I so nearly bought tickets for (unfortunately I forgot) and am now deeply regretting missing the occasion. That is the Opeth tour with support from Anathema, which are the band that made Weather Systems; my favourite album of 2012 (and also 2013!)

The next award is for the best breakthrough artist. Whilst I would argue The Elijah should probably be in this section, they are not, but there are several bands which I am considering to vote for. Riverside, who are dubbed the polish Porcupine Tree, released the album ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’ (try making it into an acronym), which reintroduced them to the prog scene after their slightly disappointing last album. Big Big Train channel Genesis and King Crimson with their latest sprawling double volume entitled ‘English Electric’. However the band that gets my vote is actually the Von Hertzen Brothers. Need an explanation? Just check out their song ‘Insomniac’. It even has a cowbell!

The reason I didn’t vote for Riverside in the previous section was because they deserve it more in the this section for the best anthem. ‘Celebrity Touch’ is a bone crusher of a song from the same album as mentioned above. Other nominees included the fabulous song ‘Frozen North’ from Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) and Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) and the powerful ‘Golden Arrows’ by Humanfly.

Album of the year comes down to two nominations for me: Steven Wilson’s first proper band effort ‘The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)’ and the new maturity shown on TesseracT’s ‘Altered State’. Steven Wilson’s third solo album didn’t quite meet the expectations I had after two masterpieces in ‘Insurgentes’ and ‘Grace for Drowning’. Naturally with Wilson’s superb song writing, it meant the album was amazing, yet the middle of the album seemed to get lost in its own grand visions. This leaves the monolithic ‘Altered State’, with sensuous horn sections and well crafted djent riffs to take the victory.

The Grand Design category is an easy decision. Rush might as well already have the award in the post for the iconic 2112. A true prog rock classic.

The last award which can be voted for is the artist of the year. The full list of Nominees are Muse, The Pineapple Thief, Steven Wilson, Katatonia, Steve Hackett, The Enid, The Flower Kings, Rush, Marillion and TesseracT. This has surely got to be the hardest choice out of all the categories. After much deliberating I decided to give my vote to Rush, who not only released ‘Clockwork Angels’, but finally got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with modest and heartfelt speeches from Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, who were outdone with the bizarre and infamous ‘blah blah blah’ episode from Alex Lifeson. This is well worth a watch!

The other awards, which will be decided by Prog Magazine are Prog God, Virtuoso, Visionary, Guiding Light and Life Achievement. Whoever ends up being chosen will fully deserve it and with so many brilliant prog bands, both new and old, being nominated, the outlook for progressive music looks very exiting indeed. Check out Prog Magazine’s website for the full list of nominees and a chance to vote in the awards.

This Week’s Recommended Listening:

  • ‘I Loved’ by The Elijah
  • ‘Liberation’ by Devin Townsend Project
  • ‘Insomniac’ by Von Hertzen Brothers
  • ‘Of Reality – Eclipse’ by TesseracT
  • ‘East Coast Racer’ by Big Big Train

P.S. I apologise for the longer-than-normal wait between blogs.

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