Many of the most brilliant musical ideas are spawned in isolation. Spyros Charmanis knows this better than most. Despite having a small but passionate audience in his native Greece, he has nurtured his new project None Other alone, producing new music that manages to be both familiar and thrillingly distinctive.
The follow-up to his 2012 solo debut Wound, new album Than The Common Plague is an elaborate concept record
that covers a huge amount of musical ground: from post-Porcupine Tree bombast through to film noir jazz. Based
on Charmanis’ experiences of illness, treatment and rehabilitation, it also comes with a self-written novella that delves deeper into the album’s existential themes. Throw in the fact that he played the vast majority of instruments himself and it seems Charmanis is nothing short of a one-man prog rock dynamo.
“The difference between this record and what I’ve done before is that I wrote the small novel to go along with the music, with the lyrics of the songs as part of the narrative,” he explains. “I’ve never done that before, and that challenge was hugely inspiring and very rewarding. At the time I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow through and write about disease and how someone deals with it, but ideas kept coming – puzzle pieces kept connecting, so to speak – so I figured thatI probably wanted to write about it.”
Taking cues from literary works such as Albert Camus’ The Plague and J.M. Coetzee’s novel Summertime, and what
he describes as “various hippie-dippy stuff”, Charmanis’ attention to thematic detail gives Than The Common Plague
a sense of cohesion and depth. It’s a diverse and atmospheric record, with shades of Devin Townsend and Pain Of Salvation adding to its air of all-encompassing timeliness. Perhaps this is the moment 21st-century Greek prog rock hits its stride…
“I’d say the scene here is avid, but seriously underplayed,” Charmanis laughs. “There are a few bands that are very active, but the opportunities and venues that can support them are limited, to say the least.
I never run out of plans –there’s always something going on.
“Whatever gets done and aired is thanks to a few enthusiasts who truly love and support the genre, and I’m honoured to have met one or two,” he adds. “When it comes to the wider world of prog, I personally feel isolated in that here we’re thousands of miles away from any active scene. But when it comes to gaining access to new things to listen to, I have the internet to thank for not feeling left out.”
Not surprisingly for a man so obviously in tune with modern prog, Charmanis is hoping his online presence and burgeoning reputation will lead to him making more connections in the wider progressive world. Meanwhile, the surfeit of ingenious ideas that informed Than The Common Plague shows no signs of abating. Spyros Charmanis is in this for the long haul.
“I never run out of plans – there’s always something going on,” he grins. “Focusing on something enough
to see it through, though… Well, that’s a whole other story! [Laughs] I’ve done some solo acoustic and electric shows, which were fun, and I’m hoping I can do more. I also hope I can find the time and put a proper band together, and maybe make a fuzzy prog record. Provided you have right people and the amount of time needed, it can become a much fuller experience. I just want to continue creating.”
Spyros Charmanis (vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums)
Consummate modern progressive rock with a strong sense of wide-eyed wonder at music’s endless scope
Than The Common Plague is available now via Bandcamp
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