Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius - Behind the Curtain: Live at ProgStock

There's very big news out of the Joe Deninzon camp: The electric violin wizard and progressive music aficionado has been named a full time member of classic prog rock band Kansas. So fans can look forward to seeing Joe on the road with Kansas and in the meantime they can enjoy this awesome Stratospheerius release that was recorded at the ProgStock Festival in Rahway, New Jersey during the band's appearances there in 2019 and 2021.

Deninzon plays an electric 7-string Viper violin during these shows and with Stratospheerius members Michelangelo Quirinale (guitar and vocals), Paul Ranieri (bass and vocals) and Jason Gianni (drums) backing him up, every single moment here is filled with excitement. The band's version of prog rock includes lots of nods to jazz and jazz fusion, and the latter is especially noticeable on "Prism." "Imposter" is very Kansas-esque while Deninzon's fondness for King Crimson is demonstrated on an awesome cover of that band's "Frame by Frame." On the rocker "Gods" Deninzon plays his Viper like a guitar, holding it as if it were a guitar while strumming and picking and occasionally "spanking" the fretboard.

The second part of the presentation, from the second ProgStock show, finds Deninzon bringing out a couple of guest players, Rachel Flowers and Alex Skolnick. First up is Flowers who plays piano on the original cut "Storm Surge;" she's sitting in for Michael Sadler who couldn't make it to the show (Sadler is the song's co-writer and player of piano on the studio version.) Flowers' delicate and precise playing is captivating and she also contributes flute parts to the composition. A 13-minute version of the Chick Corea chestnut "Spain" is nothing short of stunning; it's an acoustic performance featuring only Flowers, Deninzon playing a regular violin and Skolnick (Testament, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, one time Stratospheerius member) on acoustic guitar. The band returns and Skolnick switches to electric guitar for "Heavy Shtettle," a 17-minute jam that Deninzon says, "Celebrates our metal and Jewish roots." Also included is a nice take on Muse's "Hysteria," a cut that Deninzon says was previously mercilessly panned by a British critic. Deninzon gets the last laugh on that as the crowd loves the performance.

Behind the Curtain: Live at ProgStock is a four-disc set that includes a DVD, a Blu-ray and two CDs. All include the exact same programming with the two CDs holding the 2019 and 2021 shows separately. Get it at Amazon (affiliate link).


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