My 2017: Prognosis
This year's Metal 2 The Masses champions reflect on their year as a band
Manchester’s progressive metal fiends Prognosis began 2017 with their crosshairs locked. Drawn in the Metal 2 The Masses competition for the second year running, the 2016 finalists were determined to go one step further. Their ultimately triumphant run through the competition this year, as guitarist/vocalist Phil Weller tells Manchester Rocks, was a learning curve which helped shape the band to what it is today, with their debut album due in 2018 and even bigger aspirations now whetting their appetites.
Where was the band at the start of 2017 and what were your hopes and expectations for the year?
We came into 2017 full of confidence. After a really busy 2016 we’d started to really hit the ground running with our songwriting and live performances and so we entered this year with our sights set on playing Bloodstock, getting enough material together for a substantial EP release or album as well as getting out on the road and playing as many out of town shows as we could. We wanted to build on our success in Manchester and take the band further afield.
What have been your biggest highlights of 2017?
There’s been a lot really, which is great to say. But the biggest achievement this year as a band was definitely our M2TM campaign. I actually didn’t want to enter it again, having gone through the heartache of being beaten in the final last year, but the rest of the band were desperate for another bite of the cherry and so we went at it tooth and nail. The competitive edge to those shows really brought out the best in us, we went through all our songs in great detail, really refining them and making sure we put together a set for each round that gave us an edge over the other bands, gave us a huge impact and put us in the best light possible. It also made us play better.
Then there’s High Road, which we wrote as a ‘do or die’ move to get us through the semi-final. We knew if we played it well and people liked the song then we were just one great performance away from Bloodstock, but if we ballsed it up or it went down like a lead balloon then we were crashing out. But that risk factor paid off and not only have we played Bloodstock festival this year – just after Obituary and on the same day as Megadeth – but we’ve also ended up with a song that is one of our personal favourites.
So yeah, the biggest highlight for me, as amazing as it was to play Bloodstock itself, was the journey to get there. The competition drove us to improve tenfold and has, we feel, made us a force to be reckoned with. In truth we're glad we didn't play Bloodstock last year because the band that played the New Blood stage this year pisses all over the one that existed 12 months earlier.
You released a single, Echoes, to coincide with your Bloodstock performance, talk to us about your feelings towards that music and how too have the public responded to it?
We were in the studio during the final rounds of M2TM as it was and when we won I felt it made sense to finish recording Echoes, a song we wrote at the start of the year, and release that as a sort of mission statement, ‘look out world, here we come’ ahead of Bloodstock. It’s a really cool song, we feel, and one that possesses everything that makes Prognosis what it is. It’s got big, meaty riffs, some lavish lead playing, a big chorus and a gorgeous lucid sort of proggy break and an epic outro. People seem to love it and when we get compared to Opeth and Mastodon because of it I couldn’t be happier. That being said, the version that’ll be on the album is much feistier, so the best is still yet to come for that song.
What is the biggest thing you learnt about your band this year?
I guess it’d be what makes us who we are. The main two songs we’ve written this year, Echoes and High Road show how we’re growing as a band. Through our own individual and collective improved musicianship, along with trying stuff out on stage and gauging people’s reactions, we feel we’ve nailed the balance between everything we want to be as a band. We always wanted to be a punchy and aggressive metal band – even if we’re heavier now than I ever envisioned us being! – and we always wanted to write progressively, meaning we wanted to explore new musical ideas, experiment with more unconventional time signatures and structure songs in ways which were unpredictable and, here’s a mega music cliché, take the listener on a journey. But we also wanted to accessible and we have always strived for each song to pertain its own unique character. So even if you don’t like brutal metal or you don’t like prog or whatever, over 30 odd minutes of a Prognosis set there’s still plenty of colour and things to keep you interested and entertained. I mean, yeah we write for ourselves, but we also have one eye on how the listener will react to stuff, we like to throw curve balls in and fill our songs with plenty of plot twists, but we don’t want to alienate people. So I guess the biggest thing we learnt about Prognosis this year is how we work with those desires we have and balance them out across each and every song.
Have there been any releases by bands and artists this year that have become a new love for you, or helped breathe new inspiration into your playing? Has anyone or anything that happened in 2017 impacted the way you play your instrument?
For me, particularly with my lead playing, Plini has been an enormous influence and inspiration. I saw him last year supporting Animals As Leaders at Sound Control and then again when he headlined Satan’s earlier this year, and since then I’ve been obsessed with his music. I’ve studied it deeply and tried to incorporate a lot of his feel into my approach to lead. I just wanted to understand what made his playing so melodious, there’s something about it that makes my heart flutter. So I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from him, and it’s helped me improve the way I play notes more than anything, the dynamics and tonality of how I play something more so than what I am actually playing. There’s so many ways you can play one single note and its how you articulate your ideas that really brings them to life.
And looking ahead to 2018, what do you want to have achieved a year on from now?
Well first and foremost we’ll have the album out in 2018, hopefully sooner rather than later. We want that to stand as a testament as how far we’ve come as a band and it will be definitive as to who we are and what we sound like. We want to smash the PR campaign around its release too. We’d love to grace the pages of Metal Hammer, Prog Mag, Kerrang! and so on because that’s what you dream about when you first pick those magazines up as an impressionable 12 year old. That’s a bit of a bucket list thing for all of us I think.
Then, pushing on from that we want to get out across the country, play as many cities and towns as we can, spreading the message further and further and then of course we want to be getting on festival bills – from Tech Fest to HRH Metal/Prog and so on. We just want the world to hear the music that we’ve put so much into and we want to take this band as far as we can.