THINKING MAN'S THURSDAY: A Salute To The Saxophone
Greetings Prog Dogs (no one calls you that)! In my last entry into the Thinking Man's Thursday series, I discussed the band Hemina and in that post I posed the question "why isn't there more sax in metal, god dammit?" In this edition I am straying from the band or album review/profile format to instead pay some respect to some of my favorite prog with saxophones prominently featured.
This are in no particular order, nor are these ALL of my favorites. Just some rad saxy stuff that came to mind.
Japan's Sigh are known for some of the most chaotic metal ever created. Each album they've released has included more and more crazy shit to the point where I'm certain the next record will literally include them banging on a kitchen sink (real talk: this could have already happened). In 2007 Dr. Mikannibal joined the band as vocalist and alto saxophonist. She was then first featured on the masterpiece Scenes From Hell. While also wonderful pre-Scenes, prominent saxophone separated them further from the avant garde black metal scene (albeit a small scene).
Theo Travis for his work with Steven Wilson
Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson was already one album into his solo career when he dropped Grace For Drowning. Grace began a really interesting jazz-influenced period is Wilson's solo catalog that also included The Raven That Refused To Sing (and Other Stories), and it's safe to attribute that to the saxophone work (also, clarinet and flute work for that matter) of Theo Travis. While had Travis actually collaborated with Wilson as early as Porcupine Tree's Stupid Dream, but solo tracks like "Sectarian," "No Part of Me," and "The Watchmaker" had Travis at the forefront and as a part of a band rather than a one-off collaborator. Hand. Cannot. Erase featured Travis in a one-off role once again and he has since left Wilson's band, probably to return to his work with other artists like Robert Fripp or David Gilmour or some other young up-start.
You've heard a lot about Cyborg Octopus on Metal Injection (mostly from me, frankly), and for good reason. They're fucking great. How I actually got into them was through a Facebook status I posted basically complaining that there isn't enough saxophone in metal, and a friend gave me a link to their page and introduced me to the majesty and madness of Patrick Corona. Love soon followed. Since that post The band dropped their fantastic full-length debut Learning to Breathe, the band signed to Apewhale Entertainment, and guitarist David Wu has gone on to become a metal YouTube darling with RiffShop. They've grown up so fast.
Somewhere in the ever-growing collection of side-projects feature Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me (which includes Orbs and now Nova Collective), there is the jazz outfit Trioscapes. They'd probably be the first to tell you that they aren't a metal band, but I'll tell you they're prog as fuck. As a BtBaM fan and bassist I gave it a shot for Dan, but I stuck around for his chemistry with sax-man Walter Fancourt. Fancourt approaches the saxophone in a way I hadn't heard before by running it though guitar effects and creating chaotic soundscapes with it. The band currently has two records out, and I'd love more.
He is primarily known for his work leading the self-proclaimed blackjazz band Shining, and they are a hell of a band. However, in recent years I feel like the band had strayed from some of the jazz/prog side of when they got big on the scene opting for some driving industrial vibes. This is not necessarily a band thing as International Blackjazz Society was a lot of fun, it's just a thing I've noticed. Munkeby is still getting out there in a very progressive way though, as he has been my favorite part of three of the last four Ihsahn albums After, Eremita, and Arktis. He has also collaborated with the Periphery off-shoot Haunted Shores (on "Viscera") and with guitar legend Marty Friedman's Inferno record. He gets around, and I want to see him around more.
This band includes Bruce Lamont of Yakuza/Bloodiest on horns, Dave Witte of Municipal Waste on drums, and Aaron Dallison of Keelhaul on bass, so these guys sound like the heavier, evil cousins of Trioscapes. Lamont's sax approach is more straight-forward than Fancourt's and they still have a jazz element to them, but they get much weirder and darker.
I love hearing sax in metal, so hip me to stuff I missed in the comments.