The original aim of the blog was to promote discussion about all and any facet of progressive rock but from time to time, bands and musicians contact ProgBlog with new prog-related material that they want to expose to a wider audience; ProgBlog's album of 2017 An Invitation by Amber Foil was one such approach.
The range of styles ProgBlog has been exposed to through this route has helped to expand and challenge my listening habits but time constraints have meant that not all submissions have received the attention that they deserve.
The DISCovery section has been introduced to better serve the requirements of musicians who contact ProgBlog with the aim of increasing the audience for their music; without music there can be no discussion of music.
Hailing from Viseu in Portugal (a 130km road trip south east of Porto) the trio of Ricardo Bernardo (guitar, vocals), Ricardo Silva (bass, keyboards, vocals) and João Lugatte (drums, percussion) came together from a number of pre-existing projects with different musical contexts and experiences in 2015 following a conversation about Japan, Mount Fuji and the elements that compose storytelling; the band’s moniker is based on the Japanese deity Amaterasu, the sun goddess, daughter of creator deities Izanagi and Izanami, who is central to the Shinto religion, chosen because of her representation of Light, the expansion of Life and the Universe and ultimately, the Will to create and expand in itself.
Amaterazu follow a path of authentic and spontaneous expression, incessant and progressive exploration, guided by intuition and the will to create and discover. Musically, the blend of influences brings different colours and textures creating an eclectic mix, from doom-driven riffs inspired by heavy bands like Tool, the progressive spirit of bands like King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra or Frank Zappa, the cosmic space-rock psychedelic ventures into the soul inspired by early Pink Floyd, and eastern mysticism thanks to the traditional Japanese koto. The disparate threads are bound together by a sense of narrative, painting a picture in which you are submerged, and emerge transformed. Since its formation, Amaterazu has refined this picture through invention and reinvention, spreading it out through three albums, each one a window into a never-ending journey. Amaterazu’s vision is moulded by the search of new ways of being and living, inevitably manifesting in their musical expression the many revelations, teachings and philosophies that exist at the core of each musician and of the collective progress that is being built.
The self-titled debut album, created, produced and recorded at Villa ‘L Dourado’ Resort, has nine interdependent tracks, like nine chapters of a book. In them, a narrative unfolds mutually with the music, from the first conceived chord and landscape. The narrative follows an epic journey through Mount Fuji’s valleys, through oceans and deserts, finding many mysterious and eerie characters, through the perspective of Shinto mythological beings such as Amaterasu, Susanoo No Mikoto and Yamata No Orochi. This adventure of self-discovery is told and retold through the music, ending suddenly and inconclusively in an enigmatic silence.
Yet, in that silence it's possible to perceive the beginning of Sunsum, an EP released in November of 2016. This developed naturally through rehearsals and jams, as well as maturing when played at live shows, and Sunsum helped Amaterazu to explore new nuances of their musicality, as well as of their conceptual approach, this time through the Hermetic teachings and the cultures of the Ashanti and Akan tribes in Africa.
From these cultures comes the name ‘Sunsum’: the spirit, the link between body and soul, between heaven and earth, between abstract and concrete. The Hermetic teachings express this same link in the formula “as above, so below; as below, so above”, which is repeated and explored throughout the song, floating between heavy and down-to-earth onslaughts and ethereal and meditative flights in different tones and textures. The hypnotic and epic nature of Sunsum’s finale reflects the realization that “All is Mind”; that all polarities and its contents are part of a whole reality, of which we are constantly conscious and in direct experience.
After some live shows across Portugal, Amaterazu released the live album recorded at Carmo’81 in Viseu in September 2017, a performance to celebrate the venue’s birthday. On Live at Carmo’81, the first two albums are merged into an intense single experience, with the band displaying its maturity and evolution over the space of two years, and their willingness to grow and expand even further and beyond.
They began to create and compose new songs in 2018, introducing new sonic and aesthetic elements into their musical identity. One of these elements was the Mellotron, adding new layers and orchestral harmonies to complement the irresistible expansion of their sound. In addition, the conceptual approach assumed a more mature and personal perspective, something that is reflected in progressively more complex and congruent compositions, as well as in more introspective and reflexive lyrics, from the point of view of a being in constant growth and union with the world.
Latest album Meeting of The Spirits is the next chapter of the band’s collective journey. Across the nine tracks, Amaterazu explores new soundscapes and states, pushing and stretching the boundaries of each theme with their progressive edge, the heavy riffs and thundering walls of sound on tracks Kaizen (from a Japanese business term meaning "change for the better" or "continuous improvement", a philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees) and the instrumental Nile with its complex rhythmic patterns; as well as crystalline and aqueous dream sequences, such as the sedate, spiritual, psyche/space rock album opener Here, Now with its eastern flavour and whispered vocal, and following track All in All: clear and meditative windows into one’s Spirit. As they delve deeper into the inner and outer limits of one’s Self and its growth, Amaterazu explores this complexity through long and progressive compositions such as the heavy riffing wah-wahed guitar and pizzicato guitar arpeggios of Bliss and Intuition and the stretched-out A Sense To See with its tempo and tonal shifts, extracting the Wisdom of these meditations and reflecting it both musically and lyrically. My favourite track, and the most proggy, is The Fountain, with stately Mellotron and a post-rock soundscape after the short vocal passage. All of the nine tracks act as a meeting in themselves: a meeting with a Spirit, a teaching, a lesson, a vision. As such, the last track of Meeting of The Spirits elevates us from our individual growth into a collective vision and state, one in which The Deeds of Man shall become our redemption and the harbingers of a new Reality.