Din Within Press Room


“Awaken the Man” is named #7 on the list of top ten progressive rock releases of 2007 – “Epic Prog with the Lurker,” — Dec. 2007

“Awaken the Man” receives “Debut of the Year” Award from the progressive rock radio show “Glasshuset.” (Kanal 1 Radio, Norway) — Dec. 2007

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Harmonie Magazine (France) – Album Review of “Awaken the Man”

Progressive music, in particular American prog, is like the hydra with its multiple heads – if one head dies, another emerges elsewhere, to our delight. Din Within is a newly formed band that spouts out of the geyser that is New Jersey. In fact, it is actually a duet of the guitarist Josh Sager – who is student of Scott McGill as well as a self-taught student primarily of jazz – and the singer/bass player Mark Gollihur, whose mother (recently passed) was a music and musical theater teacher and who passed on her genes and musical knowledge. Both players, nevertheless, share a passion for progressive rock, particularly for artists such as Kevin Gilbert, Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard, and Rush, while also being avid listeners of music such as the Beatles, Jazz and Classical music.

Although the duet cannot lay claim to a music revolution, they clearly have the ambition to provide pleasure with a musical style that does justice to their influences and inspirations. It is undoubtedly the key to their success on this album. One could fear that a “studio project” consisting of a duo would lead to a sound that would be artificial and non-cohesive. Yet, it is the opposite. With assistance by Josh’s guitar teacher Scott McGill, and the drumming contributions of Mike Ian, the group creates a debut of excellent quality, with music that is perfectly written and played, carefully composed melodies, vocal harmonies that are a work of gold, and varied textures throughout the album.

It is enjoyable for the listener to try to identify the influences of the group; a guitar solo from Boston here, a jazzy digression there, pop music elements elsewhere, a big nod to Genesis in “Awaken the Man”; but to my ear, much of the music bears some resemblance to Spock’s Beard, and even the tone of the voice sounds a bit like Nick D’Virgilio. Though Din Within do embark often on long-format epic songs, their sound also includes shorter songs; the album is a complete work. It is a small jewel that one will want to listen to over and over again. It is fresh, carefree, and will lift one’s spirits such as a musical antidepressant.

Philippe Gnana


Original review (French)

Le progressif, en particulier améri- cain, c’est comme l’hydre à multiples têtes : vous avez l’impression qu’une tête s’éteint qu’une autre surgit ailleurs, le plus souvent pour notre plus grand plaisir. Din Within est une nouvelle formation qui jaillit telle un geyser du New-Jersey. En fait, il s’agit à la base d’un duo formé du guitariste Josh Sager, élève de Scott Mc Gill et dont la formation autodidacte pour l’essentiel est d’orientation jazz, et du chanteur/ bassiste/ claviériste Mark Gollihur dont la maman qui vient de disparaître, était professeur de chant et directrice de théâtre et qui a transmis à son fils ses gènes et son savoir musical. Tous deux partagent néanmoins une passion pour le rock progressif, en particulier des gens comme Kevin Gilbert, Neal Morse et Spock’s Beard, Rush, tout en ayant d’autres centres d’attraction soit auprès des Beatles, soit dans le jazz, soit dans la musique classique. Pour autant le duo n’a pas la prétention de vouloir révolutionner quoique ce soit. Il a pour seule am- bition de se faire plaisir avant tout et de recréer une musique qui soit dans la lignée des modèles qui les ont fait vibré et inspiré. C’est sans doute une des explications de la réussite de cet album. On aurait pu craindre que la configuration du duo aboutisse à un artefact de studio un peu artificiel et désincarné. C’est tout le contraire. Avec le concours du guitariste Scott Mc Gill, le professeur de Josh Sager et la contribution du batteur Mike Ian, le groupe nous a concocté un premier opus de haute tenue, avec une musi- que parfaitement écrite et construite, des mélodies soignées, un travail d’orfèvre sur les harmonies vocales et des ambiances suffisamment variées. On peut s’amuser à décortiquer toutes les influences du groupe, un solo de guitare à la Boston ici, une digression jazzy là, des éléments pop ailleurs, un final à la Genesis sur Awaken the man (Arnaud mon ami, on se calme) mais, à mon sens, il y a avant tout beaucoup de réminiscences du Spock’s Beard, jusque dans les intonations de la voix qui ne sont pas sans rappeler… Nick D’Virgilio même si Din Within ne s’embarque que rarement dans les grands débordements homériques dont est capable son glorieux aîné, le propos musical du duo étant davantage retenu et polissé. Un petit bijou sans prétention que l’on a envie d’écouter en boucle. C’est frais, insouciant et dynamisant et ça vaut tous les antidépresseurs et autres anxiolytiques.

Philippe Gnana

SonicBond – album review

One of our favourite “new” artists of recent months is Din Within an excellent partnership between American’s Josh Sager and Mark Gollihur.

Stylistically, this is melodic progressive rock, very much in the American style, with strong hints not just of Spocks Beard, but also of Styx and their most progressive.

With feet firmly in the Spocks Beard / Styx / Glass hammer camp – but with plenty of great playing to keep the prog fan happy, including some superb, fluid keyboard work, this is an excellent debut.

Prog4You.com – album review by Josh Turner (added June 16, 2008)

Might I suggest Din Within for those of you who took issue with the backwards-compatibility of Spock’s Beard 2.0? Alternatively, those lighthouse customers who stayed onboard for the upgrade may also find usefulness as well as practicality in the go-to-market mechanisms stored on this disc.

Whatever the chosen model, there are checkmarks in each column of the option-laden matrix. Mark Gollihur’s bass rumbles in the vein of Dave Meros whereas Nick D’ Virgilio’s awesome groove is heard in Mike Ian’s drumming. Josh Sager, no doubt, embodies much of the same in his guitars.

Besides the rhythm section, the vocals and synthesizers – also architected by Gollihur & Sager – really spruce up their interface for better usability with power users and active listeners.

Also integrated into the system are Easter eggs from NDV, Kevin Gilbert, and Genesis. For instance, “Turn it Around” is encrypted with the granddaddy in that list. Once scrambled by the algorithm, it seems a lot like “Turn it on Again” as if it were instantiated by Kansas.

“Hey You (Part I)” and “For What It’s Worth (Hey You Part II)” fit together like keyed connectors even if they are separated by a lot of wireless space.

On another wavelength, the title track is patched with Transatlantic. Even if it ain’t the real McCoy, this well-laid track is tempered with lush keyboards and gladly handles Big Big Train’s Difference Machine with absolutely zero strain.

Once these works were scoured and searched, I decided that the opener, “Better Than Before”, was my overall favorite. The revealing clue could have been the fact that I played it a million times or memorized its words. To give it away, I just love the instrumentation, the lyrics and the singing, or in other words; everything about it.

It’s “Duel with the Devil” meets “Scenes from a Memory”. Plus, there is a smattering of “Cutting it Fine”, and “Distance to the Sun” is thrown in for good measure. If I were asked to submit a song that best represented progressive rock, this might very well be it.

By the way, if you’re clueless to my references, you have a lot of catching up to do. As for me, I’ve been an early adopter to these various product lines through each and every lifecycle.

A year or so ago, I took part in the beta program — as they let me evaluate some cuts before they were fully cooked. Even though the music was still scheduled for quality assurance; back then, I was already thoroughly impressed. At a minimum, I was confounded by the consonance between the various core components in their dynamically comprehensive merge modules.

To decipher what I’m saying, they not only borrowed from bands that I’ve adored since square one; they made sure their innovative medleys were extensible.

Now with a successful twist on several standard packages, Din Within is the ideal crew to compile the next generation of progressive rock. Outside the lab and no longer prototyping, Awaken the Man marks the launch of their ultimate edition. Not to mention, this particular critic can honestly vouch for it. After a series of rigorous listens, it’s proven to me to be 100% bug-free.


Kinesis – album review

Released late in 2007, Awaken the Man is the 63-minute debut CD by an American symphonic prog band that will no doubt elicit comparisons to Spock’s Beard, mainly because that’s the easy reference these days when a variety of British progressive rock influences are run through an American filter. It’s not a bad reference though, as Din Within have that same huge symphonic rock sound, technical skills and crisp production married with catchy melodies. Kansas is also a good reference, Rocket Scientists to some extent, and the one reviewers below a certain age will miss, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia (more so vocally and in the ballads). In addition to the Yes and ELP influences, Din Within have more of a Genesis influence than Spock’s Beard, while one song is quite Floydian. There are loads of instrumental passages. Din Within’s singer is not on a par with a Neal Morse when the lead vocals go it alone, but when backing vocals have been added, it produces the Utopia effect of average singers combining to create powerful ensemble vocals. Maybe the best reason to compare Din Within to Spock’s Beard is that one gets the same feeling listening to Awaken the Man that one got when listening to the first Spock’s Beard CD, that it will be difficult to keep this band a secret much longer.

MLWZ Radio Show (Poland) – review on website (March 2008)

(an edited version of this review appeared in “Metal Hammer” Magazine)

Loose English Translation:

This is an ideal record for the fans of the US rock form under the sign of such groups as Styx, Kansas, Kevin Gilbert or Spock’s Beard. The music of the group Din Within has so many elements characteristic to the prog rock form “over the pond”. After only a few first sounds you have no doubts that you are listening to the pure prog rock “made in USA”.

Din Within is a duo Mark Gollihur – Josh Sager. They play on keyboard, guitars, bass. They share the vocal tracks. To their first record is entitled “Awaken The Man”, they invited numerous artists and achieved formidable depth of juicy and pleasant sound. Their music, from the production point of view, sounds so perfect as if were a high budget label not an independent publishing. And the ideas with which both gentleman surprise on “Awaken The Man” one could fill up several different albums. In short, I am very impressed with the quality of the music that one can hear on “Awaken The Man” and with the professionalism and great use of talents of misters Gollihur and Sager. Undoubtedly, they draw form the sources that inspire their music, for sure they borrow some ingredients form the creations of other artists, but they prepare a great feast out of it all. Their record is such a feast prepared according to their own original recipe. Listening to the music of “Awaken The Man”, you feel on one hand some familiar “friendliness” with the sounds played by Din Within, and on the other hand you cannot resist the impression that the motives and themes are colored with some freshness and originality. Yes: freshness… While listening to this album I caught myself several times tha my jaw dropped out wonder that one can contain so many new and fascinatingly sounding elements in such a gentle, soft, melodic kind of prog rock, also called “music of the center”.

the group Din Within first appeared in 2005 on a mix “Tsunami Project”, where the rock community honored the memory of the Christmas 2004 Far East Tsunami. On this record, besides the music of IQ, Neal Morse, Izz, Avalon and Nick d’Virgillio, the group Din Within published they beautiful, melodic recording “Hey You”. This piece, in two separate parts, also became a part of “Awaken The Man” . I have no doubt that this is a real representative of this group. Considering that it is song-like approachable, “Hey You” may even be called “a hit”. However, what is interesting, the music of Din Within on this record is in its prevailing part consists of over 10-minutes long compositions. Exactly such two epic “shots” open the album. Both the composition “Better Than Before”, and “Turn It Around” strike the listener with its breadth and perfect choice of instruments (hey, these ENglish Horns in the final part of “Better Than Before”!) and genial vocal harmonies of both pillars of the band aided with great singing of Jessica Sager. These two compositions that open the album set the bar very high. What is also importatn the bar does not go lower even for a moment during the entire album. A series of shorter pieces (pompatic “Song For Life”, lyrically quiet “Weight Of The World”, hit “Hey You”, and breathtakingly mysterious “The Bottom / Between Two Lives”), comprise a chain of phenomenally played sounds and melodies that are set into a magical misterium filled up with melodic lines of above average beauty. There is one more sweet bite kept for the end of the record by the group of Din Within – about 15-minutes long name sake suite. This one is a real opus magnum of what I do not hesitate to call a fantastic record.

Sometimes it is so that whatever a given band records while specializing in a characteristic, touching maybe A.O.R. , “soft” sound, some critics will laugh out and say that this is but a shadow of a real rock play. However it is different for the fans, who love the kind of musical sensitivity of The Journey, Styx, Boston, REO Speedwagon, or Kansas. I do not hide that I am included in that group of fans. Such fans will for sure appreciate all that can be heard on “Awaken The Man”. And all this is also saturated with intelligently served progressive rock. One can feel really great joy and satisfaction from “discovering” of “Awaken The Man”. Din Within is a new and interesting phenomenon on the map of the US rock. As far as I am concerned this is the most interesting thing that happened to the progressive rock America since the debut of Spock’s Beard.

Original (Polish)

To idealna plyta dla sympatyków amerykanskiego rocka spod znaku grup Styx, Kansas, Kevina Gilberta, czy Spock’s Beard. W muzyce grupy Din Within jest tyle charakterystycznych pierwiastków dla typowego prog rockowego brzmienia zza Oceanu, ze nie sposób pomylic sie i juz zaledwie po kilku dzwiekach nie ma zadnych watpliwosci, ze ta muzyka to najczystszej próby prog rock „made in USA”.

Din Within to duet Mark Gollihur – Josh Sager. Graja oni na instrumentach klawiszowych, gitarach, basie i skrupulatnie dziela sie sciezkami wokalnymi. Do nagrania swojego debiutanckiego krazka, któremu nadali tytul „Awaken The Man”, zaprosili liczne grono artystów, dzieki którym osiagneli wspaniala glebie soczystego i bardzo przejrzystego brzmienia. Ich muzyka od strony produkcyjnej brzmi tak perfekcyjnie, jakby ich plyta byla wysokobudzetowa produkcja, a nie wydawnictwem niezaleznym. A pomyslami, którymi obaj panowie zaskakuja na „Awaken The Man” mozna by obdzielic co najmniej kilka innych albumów. Jednym zdaniem – jestem bardzo zbudowany jakoscia muzyki, która mozna uslyszec na „Awaken The Man” oraz profesjonalizmem i wspaniale wykorzystanym talentem panów Gollihura i Sagera. Niewatpliwie czerpia oni ze zródel, które inspiruja ich muzyke, z pewnoscia wypozyczaja pewne skladniki z twórczosci innych wykonawców, ale przyrzadzaja je w formie wspanialej muzycznej uczty, która niewatpliwie jest ich plyta, wedlug wlasnego oryginalnego przepisu. Tym samym, sluchajac muzycznej zawartosci plyty „Awaken The Man”, ma sie z jednej strony poczucie pewnego znajomego „zaprzyjaznienia” z dzwiekami granymi przez Din Within, a z drugiej – trudno oprzec sie wrazeniu, ze te znane nam motywy i tematy zabarwione sa nutka oryginalnosci i swiezosci. Tak, swiezosci… Podczas sluchania tego albumu niejednokrotnie lapalem sie na tym, ze szczeka opadala mi ze zdziwienia, ze w tej lagodnej, miekkiej i melodyjnej odmianie prog rocka, nazywanej czesto „muzyka srodka” mozna przemycic tyle nowych, fascynujaco brzmiacych elementów.

Zespól Din Within zadebiutowal w 2005 roku na skladankowym albumie „Tsunami Projekt”, na której spolecznosc rockowa oddala hold ofiarom pamietnego tsunami, które nawiedzilo Daleki Wschód w Boze Narodzenie 2004. Na krazku tym, obok utworów w wykonaniu IQ, Neala Morse’a, Izz, Avalon i Nicka d’Virgillio, grupa Din Within zamiescila swoje piekne melodyjne nagranie „Hey You”. Znalazlo sie ono takze w programie plyty „Awaken The Man” i to az w dwóch rozdzielonych od siebie czesciach. Nie mam watpliwosci, ze dzieki swojej zapadajacej w pamiec linii melodycznej jest ono prawdziwa wizytówka tego zespolu. Ze wzgledu na swoja piosenkowa przystepnosc, „Hey You” mozna by nawet nazwac przebojem. Lecz, co ciekawe, muzyka Din Within na tej plycie w przewazajacej mierze sklada sie z dlugich, ponad 10-minutowych utworów. Wlasnie od dwóch takich, epickich, bardzo rozbudowanych „strzalów” rozpoczyna sie to wydawnictwo. Zarówno kompozycja „Better Than Before”, jak i „Turn It Around” raza sluchacza swoim rozmachem, doskonalym instrumentarium (ach te rozki angielskie w podnioslym finale „Better Than Before”!) oraz genialnymi harmoniami wokalnymi w wykonaniu obu filarów Din Within wspomaganych przez wspaniale spiewajaca Jessice Sager. Te dwie otwierajace plyte kompozycje ustawiaja poprzeczke bardzo wysoko i, co wazne, az do konca plyty ani na moment nie wedruje ona w dól. Seria krótszych utworów (pompatyczny „Song For Life”, lirycznie wyciszony „Weight Of The World”, przebojowy „Hey You”, zapierajacy dech w piersiach swoja tajemniczoscia „The Bottom / Between Two Lives), stanowi ciag fenomenalnie zagranych dzwieków i melodii, które ukladaja sie w magiczne misterium wypelnione melodyjna muzyka nieprzecietnej urody. A na koniec albumu zespól Din Within zachowal jeszcze jeden rodzynek w postaci trwajacej blisko kwadrans tytulowej suity. Stanowi ona prawdziwe magnum opus tej, nie boje sie tego slowa, fantastycznej plyty.

Czasami jest tak, ze czego by nie nagral dany zespól specjalizujacy sie w charakterystycznym, byc moze ocierajacym sie nieraz o A.O.R, „miekkim” brzmieniu, to zlosliwcy i tak to wysmieja i szyderczo powiedza, ze to cukrowane popluczyny po prawdziwym rockowym graniu. Jednak fani, którzy ukochali sobie ten rodzaj muzycznej wrazliwosci, jaka przed laty zachwycaly grupy pokroju The Journey, Styx, Boston, REO Speedwagon, czy Kansas (nie ukrywam, ze i ja sie do nich zaliczam) z pewnoscia docenia to wszystko, co uslyszec mozna na plycie „Awaken The Man”. A gdy jeszcze wszystko to jest nasycone solidna dawka inteligentnie podanego prog rocka, to sluchajac plyty „Awaken The Man” mozna naprawde poczuc ogromna radosc i satysfakcje z „odkrycia” tak ciekawego nowego zjawiska, jakim na mapie amerykanskiego prog rocka jest Din Within. Jak dla mnie to najciekawsza rzecz, która przytrafila sie progresywnej Ameryce od czasu debiutu Spock’s Beard.

Interview with Josh Sager (Progressiveworld.Net) — April, 2005

Din Within hail from south New Jersey and consists of Mark Gollihur and Josh Sager, who met in the early 90s, but didn’t join forces as Din Within until 2003. Though they have not yet released an album, the duo has been hard at work getting that first album ready.

Joshua Turner: Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to answer my questions.

Josh Sager: Thank you for the interview. I’m happy to speak with you.

JT: You feature some exceptional music on your web site. Do you plan to show off this material live in the near future?

JS: Thanks; I appreciate the compliment. We would definitely like to play our stuff live. It’s going to take a lot of work considering the complexity of the music, but it’s certainly something Mark (Gollihur) and I want to do. Finding the right musicians to play with us will be a task, but we have a few great players in mind for when we’re ready.

Finding the right venue to perform the material is probably the biggest issue. The Southern New Jersey/Philadelphia area isn’t exactly the Mecca of progressive rock…

JT: You have an unusual name for your band. How did you come up with the name Din Within?

JS: The name is Mark’s baby. He had been using the name “Din Within” for about 3-4 years before he and I started working together. We decided to use it for our project ’cause it was a cool name and it fit. In keeping with the tradition of prog rock band names that cause funny stares when spoken (Porcupine Tree, Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, etc.) we thought it was appropriate. I was leaning towards “The Legend of NineFinger,” but Mark didn’t dig that one too much.

JT: Please tell us about any plans you have for an album.

JS: We definitely will have a full album’s length worth of material finished soon. We’re just about there, but there are a few songs that we need to finish up. One thing about us is we like to take our time. I’m about as anal retentive as it gets when it comes to making stuff perfect, so I’m sure that slows things down quite a bit.

JT: Have you got a title for the new album?

JS: Nothing concrete at the moment. We have a few names tucked away for when we get to that point, but right now we’re just concentrating on the music.

JT: Will this album follow a theme?

JS: Considering the songs that we currently have I would have to say “no.” Lyrically these songs all hit subjects that are close to us; things we’re learning and dealing with now that we’re “adults.” We purposely avoid writing lyrics about meaningless subjects… at least for now!

JT: Your music is lavished with complexities that integrate very well. Could you describe your songwriting process? How do you formulate these ideas and how do you put them together to form such clever music?

JS: Thanks. Our songwriting process is pretty unique I think; at least as it pertains to other music projects I’ve been involved with or seen firsthand. I should start off by saying that both Mark and I have very strong personalities; we both have an Alpha Dog mentality, which as I’m sure you can guess has the potential to get us into a lot of trouble working together. When we first decided that we wanted to write music together we knew that some ground rules needed to be established to avoid any Spy vs. Spy action that may arise.

A new song usually starts out with one person bringing a riff, melody, or lyrics to the table, the same way every other band out there in the world usually does it. The person with the initial song idea is considered the “parent.” What that means is that this person ultimately has the final word. If we both have different ideas about a particular part of the song and it doesn’t look like either of us is going to budge, the “parent” ultimately gets to decide what will happen. It makes things much easier that way. Egos do get bruised, but we manage to get past it pretty quick.

I should also add that we try to flush out any and all ideas that come out; regardless of how stupid they may end up being. That includes “styles” of music. It just so happens that we’re getting pretty comfortable writing this kind of music, but that doesn’t mean that a death metal song or two isn’t on the horizon. [grins] But we’ll probably “brand” the other music that doesn’t fit in with the current Din Within “mold” as another project, just to avoid confusion for the people who latch on to what we’ve done so far.

In past projects I was very quick to dismiss other band member’s input if my initial knee-jerk reaction to their suggestion was negative. In retrospect this was a stupid thing to do, and certainly not a lot of fun for my band mates, but that’s how I was back in the day. Mark probably wasn’t as “in your face” in his bands as I was in mine, but I’m sure his situation was relatively similar. In this project we make sure that we spend as much time as necessary so the person with the idea feels that we’ve given it all we can. This does sometimes have a tendency to sidetrack us, but it’s all about the journey, not the destination, after all! There have also been a few times where taking the extra time to explore these ideas has actually paid off very well for us.

JT: I’ve enjoyed all the samples on the web site, but overall, I find the long epic is best. It flows very well and introduces a vast number of catchy melodies. Out of the songs you’ve already put together, what’s your favorite?

JS: That song – “Better Than Before” – is my favorite as well. I really enjoy working in a linear songwriting format. Dream Theater was very good at this on the Images And Words album, and that’s kind of where I got it from. For example, in the second verse I wanted to change the music slightly from the first verse. The lyrics are different from verse to verse, so why shouldn’t the music be as well? Mark didn’t have a problem with it, so away we went.

I had a good amount of the music before I presented it to Mark. Mostly it was a bunch of miscellaneous riffs and ideas I had recorded into my computer. As I started going through the music I had, I realized that many of the parts fit together quite well. When I stuck them together into one idea and brought it to Mark he quickly added his own personality to it, and it didn’t take very long after that to have a completed song.

Lyrically, BTB was fun as well. There’s a good mixture of comedy, irony, and concept. It’s the first time that I really worked on allusion and strong imagery; all of my lyrics in the past were just crap! To be honest, it’s the first time I really spent a lot of energy on what I wanted to say. I’m certainly not saying these lyrics are worthy of Bob Dylan praise, but I’m pretty happy with them. Mark more or less forced me to write the lyrics by myself, and I’m glad that he did. It’s also the first time I ever sang lead vocals on a song.

We have a new song almost completed – yet untitled – that is another epic. It’s about 12 minutes long and I’m pretty sure when it’s done I’m going to have a hard time deciding which one I like better, “Better Than Before” or this new one.

JT: I hear a lot of influences in your music; mostly I’d say Spock’s Beard. I find a hint of Dream Theater below the surface as well. Who would you say are your musical influences?

JS: How much time do you have? [laughs] I have such diverse tastes; it’s hard to just pick out a few. I’ll try, however; just remember that you did ask…

I would say that Scott McGill (my guitar teacher) and the group Rush have had the two most profound influences on me. I can’t even begin to tell you how much Scott has taught me and helped to shape me as a player and musician. His band McGill/Manring/Stevens (“MMS” – with drummer Vic Stevens and bassist Michael Manring) is, in my opinion, hands-down the best fusion band out there. They cannot be touched.

I wish I could give you a solid answer when it comes to Rush; they just ARE the greatest band ever. They had an instant effect on me the first time I heard them and I never stopped liking them. Spock’s Beard is a huge influence as well; I think that’s quite obvious from our music. I think Neal Morse is a musical genius, and the music he wrote when he was in SB is nothing short of brilliant. Dream Theater was big for me back in the early 90’s, when I was practicing for hours and hours every day. John Petrucci’s guitar played has definitely been etched into my mind permanently. They kind of dropped off a bit for me in terms of my musical tastes, but I can’t deny their influence on my playing and writing. It’s nice to see them finally get the recognition they deserve, and they’re all extremely nice people to boot. You couldn’t ask for a better combination than that!

I’m also a huge jazz fan, so you can include Miles, Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Hancock, Pat Martino, Joey DeFrancesco, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and just about every other Blue Note hard bop jazz artist from the 50’s and 60’s. In college I was a classical music major (guitar), so you also need to include Beethoven, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern… most of the contemporary composers.

Who else? King’s X, Bjork, BT, Opeth, Pantera, Living Colour, Allan Holdsworth, Pat Metheny, the Beatles (of course), Slayer, King Diamond, Queensryche… all of them shaped me musically in some way. Kevin Gilbert is a recent addition, thanks to Mark. A masterful lyricist and most definitely my biggest lyrical inspiration.

JT: When did your involvement in music begin?

JS: I basically started when I was in 5th grade with the saxophone. I don’t really remember why I didn’t stick with it. My dad used to noodle around on the guitar when I was growing up, and my mom loved to sing, so music was always in the house. Around 12 years old I got into guitar and drums, and just gravitated to the guitar.

My only real musical regret is that I never learned piano. Certainly of no fault to my parents, but I wish I had started taking piano lessons at a very young age. Oh well… there’s something to be said for shedding on the guitar, so I shouldn’t complain. [grins].

JT: Everybody in your band is so talented. How did you stumble across such talented musicians?

JS: Thank you very much. Our “band” is really just Mark and myself; we both pretty much play everything on our songs, with the occasional guest appearance here and there. Whoever is best suited to handle a particular part gets to record it.

Mark and I met in college. I was in a band with one of Mark’s best friends, and that’s how we met. It wasn’t until very recently that we ever worked on music together. I think we were both lucky in that our musician friends were both very talented and very supportive. I can remember spending hours in the lounge of the music building in college, exchanging riffs, having little guitar battles, talking about theory… I guess it really was just luck.

JT: Can you recall any Spinal Tap moments that have occurred in your musical career?

JS: [sigh] Yes, I have a particularly good one that all of my friends enjoy reminding me about. Back in the 90’s Mark was in a prog power trio that had a gig at one of the local clubs in Jersey. His guitarist (Scott – also a good friend of mine) wanted to borrow my guitar cabinet, so of course I was happy to lend it to him. After the show he gave the cabinet back to me. I put it in the trunk of my hatchback (THE gigging musician’s car at the time) and was getting ready to shut the hatch and head home. Scott said to me, “Dude, I don’t think the cabinet is in the trunk well enough; I don’t think it’s going to clear the hatch.” Being the egotist that I am, I shrugged him off, telling him that I’d put this cabinet in my trunk a million times with no problem. I’m sure I said “Dude!” about 300 times during the conversation as well.

Anyway, wouldn’t you know that when I shut the hatch I heard the wonderful sound of glass shattering? I managed to completely destroy the rear windshield of my car because the cabinet wasn’t put in correctly after all. There’s nothing like getting out the trash bags and duct tape at three in the morning to fix a broken car window.

Needless to say I still haven’t lived it down thanks to my friends … I also no longer have large guitar cabinets as a result.

JT: I’d like to get an idea of some of your current tastes. What’s the last CD you purchased?

JS: The last CD I purchased was Live At Mt. Fuji by Gonzalo Rubalcaba. I’m waiting for the new Porcupine Tree CD to come out later this month, so that will be my next purchase.

JT: What is the last concert you attended as a fan?

JS: I just saw McCoy Tyner last week in Philly; an absolutely amazing musician and a living legend. I also recently just saw Herbie Hancock and Dave Brubeck recently. The best concert I ever saw was the recent Rush tour. Three hours of music spanning their entire career. It was worth sitting outside during the torrential downpour to watch and listen to.

JT: I would like to ask you about some of your favorites.

JS: Go for it.

JT: What is your favorite album?

JS: Bah! I hate this question. [laughs] I honestly don’t think I could just name one. How about I cheat and give you a few at the top of my list?

Rush – Hemispheres, Grace Under Pressure, Moving Pictures
Scott McGill – Everything he’s done (Hand Farm, Ripe, Addition By Subtraction, Controlled By Radar)
Spock’s Beard – V, Snow, Day For Night
Opeth – Blackwater Park
Bela Bartok – Six String Quartets
Arnold Schoenberg – Six Little Piano Pieces
Bjork – Post
King’s X – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
Pat Martino – Live at Yoshi’s
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue, ‘Round Midnight
Wes Montgomery – Smokin’ At The Half Note
Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage
Living Colour – Vivid
Allan Holdsworth – Wardenclyffe Tower, Secrets
McCoy Tyner – The Real McCoy

There are a million more…

JT: What is your favorite band?

JS: Scott McGill (solo and with MMS) and Rush. Everyone else is a relatively distant second.

JT: I would like to ask about some favorites that are not specifically related to music in order to get an idea of some other outlets that might influence your music. What is your favorite movie?

JS: Seven Samurai. Anything by Kurosawa, actually…

JT: What is your favorite TV show?

JS: West Wing, Law And Order, Whose Line…

JT: What is your favorite book?

JS: Nelson DeMille is my favorite author, so I would have to say probably The Charm School . Values For A New Millennium by Dr. Robert L. Humphrey would be a very close second.

JT: I have a quirky question that I like to ask. It helps me to identify with the artist. Do you have any pets?

JS: Nope. I don’t spend enough time at home to justify owning a pet. I don’t think it’s fair to leave a pet alone and unattended all day long, unless maybe fish. If I did have the time, however, I would love to have a dog.

JT: Before we wrap up, is there anything you would like to say to your fans at this time?

JS: Fans? You mean our families and friends? I talk to them all the time! [laughs] Seriously, though… I’m not sure how much of a fan base we have right now, but to anyone that’s heard our music and liked it I would definitely like to thank them for taking the time to listen to our stuff. It’s nice to know that some people dig what we’re coming up with.

The music industry is a shell of its former self, unfortunately, so it’s nice to know that there are still outlets available to fans of progressive music.

JT: Thanks again for taking the time to perform this interview.

JS: Thank you very much. Great name, by the way… [smiles]

JT: Great job on those tracks and good luck with the official release. I’m looking forward to hearing it.

JS: Ah, you’re too kind. Thanks!

Progressiveworld.Net song review — April, 2005

This group has it all. Their songs remind me of bands such as Splinter, A.C.T, and another newcomer named MoonSafari who mix numerous elements together with sheer ease. Rather than piece their songs together in separate disparate passages that don’t necessarily mesh (something many bands are guilty of doing these days in order to make an epic), Din Within is capable of blending everything together smoothly. I cannot recall the discovery of a band that excited me so much since the day I stumbled onto Spock’s Beard’s “The Doorway.” Interestingly enough, that’s the band that is closest to their sound. Do not fret; nothing has been stolen off the Xerox machine. Spock’s Beard’s intellectual property is safe and sound, because Din Within is groomed in a slightly different way. Rather than sport a full beard, they don bushy brown sideburns, a thick goatee, and closely-shaven hair. While their music embodies the same spirit as other bands, you’ll find their cuts to be quite uncommon.

Here are some samples you can currently find on their web site:

“Hey You” – There is dichotomy between the parts that are uplifting and downbeat. It almost has the feel of a Billy Joel ballad. At the same time, its symphonic traits remind me of the shadowy sides of Kaipa, Karmakanic, and The Tangent. This shows off the compositional skills of Josh Sager (the mastermind behind Din Within [along with Mark Gollihur]). The song is also one of the many generous contributions made to The Tsunami Projekt. When I first heard this tune on that album, I was instantly enamored with the band. I found myself reeling with the urge to hear much more from this artist, which is what ultimately led me to his site (www.joshsager.com).

“Better Than Before” – This song is so amazing it’s startling. The melody brings two great bands to mind. I think of Spock’s Beard’s Snow for the instrumentals and harmonies. Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory seems to be somewhere under the surface for its compositional choices. The singing, the synths, the harmonies, and the bass are all excellent. It has all the best elements of a great prog rock epic. This should put all the other artists on notice. The acoustic guitar solo in the middle breaks us away from any risk of stagnation. From start to finish, it’s neither too loud nor too mellow. The level is set right where I like it. There is also a lot of variety in all the various parts and passages. I didn’t tire of this song for a single second and I was moved to such elation that it didn’t take long before I returned to it again. With this kind of material, I am awfully curious what they have squirreled away for their official debut. Josh is already hinting that he has another epic up his sleeve that might even top this one.

“Song For Life” – A fitting title since it brings Kansas’ “Song For America” to life. It also has the accessible, commercial, and balladic elements that work so well in their other two samples. Toto and Asia are other bands that work themselves into the mix. Like Izz, we get blaring and bold guitar solos and co-ed harmonies. The guitar playing here emulates Al Morse and Paul Bremmer. Even though the song features female vocalists, the style of the singing emulates Neal Morse’s Testimony.

Long before the actual release is ready, these samples have stirred me in my seat. While their friends and family have already given their seal of approval, Din Within is brand-spanking-new to the scene. Consequently, they have yet to recruit their first wave of followers. As for me, I can hardly wait to hear what they have in store for this new fan.

Rating: 4.375/5

Prog Archives Interview

US act DIN WITHIN was formed in 2003 by long time friends Mark Gollihur (vocals, bass) and Josh Sager (vocals, guitars), a creative due that formed a friendship while attending college in the 1990’s. Aspiring to combine influences from bands they both know and love, they started to work towards producing an album of original music reflecting their various musical inspirations.

In 2007 this process was finalized with the release of Awaken the Man, issued under the band name Din Within. Not long after commitments outside of music forced this creative duo to halt further development of this project, but in 2011 they reported that the hiatus had ended and they had startet the process of creating a second CD.

I got in touch with the band for their story.

When and by whom was your band born?
Mark: Josh and I have been friends since meeting in the music department at college. We “ran in the same musical circles” but never worked together on anything substantial until Din Within was formed. The project started when Josh asked me to come over to check out a song he’d written (it later became “Better than Before”) because he’d kind of hit a plateau with the song, and wanted a fresh perspective to help him finish the song. After a very fruitful session at his studio, where we took the song all sorts of new and unexpected places, we decided we might like to continue working together and write more music, so we did!
Did any of you, past and present members, play in any other bands before joining up in your band?
Mark: For eight years, I was in a band called “Second Story,” a band I co-formed with (onetime Din Within collaborator and guest artist) Scott Lewis. We recorded two albums and performed many shows live in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the US (mostly around Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey). We were a female-fronted 5-piece with progressive leanings, but with more of a pop-friendly sound – think October Project, Over the Rhine, even Renaissance. Prior to that, I had a progressive rock power trio called Ransomed Soul – also co-formed with Scott – which sounded a bit like Queensrÿche meets King’s X, if you can imagine that. We actually just staged a 20-year reunion concert for that band this past June; it was a really fun experience.
Josh: My first real band experience was in college when I had a progressive metal group called Amsterdam, very much in the vein of Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, and Dream Theater. Up until that point I was practicing, practicing, and practicing. I love to practice guitar and didn’t really think about having a band until college. I have always been involved in a lot of different projects in one way or another – everything from techno to grunge to a lot of solo stuff. I have always loved many diverse styles of music, and have tried to find whatever opportunities I could to write as much music as possible.
Why did you choose that name?
Mark: The name “Din Within” was one I had come up with some time before we were writing together, and I considered using for a solo project; but it seemed like a very natural label for what Josh and I were doing. For “Awaken the Man” we were digging deep into ourselves and writing songs about our own inner turmoil – the “din within” ourselves, as it were. Plus, it just had a nice ring to it. So when Josh and I were throwing names around, I suggested it, Josh liked it, and so there we were.
Josh: I don’t remember exactly when in the process of writing our first CD that Mark suggested the name, but it felt right based on what the songs sounded like, and where our heads were. That it “sounded cool” was definitely an added bonus. I don’t think we had any alternative name suggestions, either; Din Within just “worked” from the get-go.
Which bands were you influenced by?
Mark: I “discovered” prog in my late teens – I’m not embarrassed to say that I sort of “backed into it” – I was a huge fan of Phil Collins during his heyday (the mid-80’s) and wanted to hear more from him. I started listening to Genesis (Duke, Abacab, Invisible Touch) and, hungry for more, started listening to the earlier albums. As I delved deeper into their discography, it “clicked” for me – this music was clever, interesting, and I liked it better than their later, straightforward “pop” hits. Also, my parents (also both musicians) had me listening to the Beatles, Gentle Giant and other cool bands as a kid – I just didn’t know it was “prog” at the time.
I enjoy and have been influenced by bands that inject progressive influences into melodic music; Genesis, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd – and later bands like Spock’s Beard and Porcupine Tree. And I have a particular love for King’s X (you can hear a pretty liberal taste of that influence in the last verse of “Awaken the Man”) and the music and lyrics of Kevin Gilbert, whose musical genius we lost too soon. All of those artists figure prominently into my writing style.
Josh: Disregarding The Beatles for a minute, my biggest influence is the band I consider to be the best ever – Rush. I got “2112” on vinyl for my 11th birthday and never looked back. From there it went to Iron Maiden and the metal bands of the 80’s like Dokken, Dio, and Ratt. When I really started to become serious about playing guitar, I got into the early shredders: Yngwie, Satch, Vai, etc. Towards the end of high school I listened to a ton of jazz guitarists such as Gambale, Holdsworth, and Metheny. That opened my eyes to music other than metal. I was a classical guitar major in college and really got into 20th century composers such as Stravinsky, Bartok, Berg, and Schoenberg as well.
From there, it’s a bit difficult to list all of my influences, because quite frankly there have been tons; I love so many different types of music and tend to absorb new sounds pretty easily. Here is a good sampling of the ones that have truly shaped my playing and songwriting aside from the guys I’ve already mentioned: Spock’s Beard, Queensrÿche, Fates Warning, Dream Theater, King’s X, Meshuggah, Periphery, Circa Survive, Living Colour, Bjork, Nine Inch Nails, Pantera, Opeth, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Bruno, Miles Davis, Mulgrew Miller, McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw… I should probably stop there before I get too carried away!
For those of us unfamiliar with it; how would you describe your music?
Mark: We seem to be different things to different listeners – I find it very interesting that if you ask five of our fans what their favorite song on our album is, you’ll get five different answers! In my opinion, on the whole we’re skirting the line between progressive rock and a more commercial rock music. We want to step beyond the boundaries of traditional pop and rock, to be sure; we’ve definitely got “prog” in our blood!
Josh: One of the advantages of our writing partnership is that while we have several similar musical influences, most of our personal favorites are quite different from one another. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re able to get a good mix of progressive and singable, melodic material. Mark definitely has a very melodic and orchestral personality to his writing, whereas I tend to lean more towards heavy, odd-time signature, and ambient sounds. We put them both together, and stir it all up in a thick soup; so I guess if you like any of the above, hopefully you will find something in our music that appeals to you.
Mark: Personally, I find that music that is purely technical (for the sake of technicality) isn’t interesting, beyond a purely “wow, that’s impressive” sort of response. It doesn’t invite repeated listening. I prefer to engage listeners with a few “hooks” like you’d find in radio-friendly music, and then surprise them with something unexpected, unique, technical… well, let’s be honest, progressive. For me, that combination is more enjoyable to listen to (and to write). Some of the die-hard progressive listeners shy away from music that has any commercial appeal, but I prefer to write songs that people actually will (hopefully) connect with emotionally AND technically, rather than “endure,” like some mental medicine that’s supposed to be good for you.

Over to your debut album from 2007 christened Awaken the Man by the local housewives association. Please tell us more about this album.
Mark:  I’m not sure I get the “local housewives association” comment, what am I missing? Smile
Josh: I don’t want to suggest that the writing of the music for the CD was easy (it never is) I think we felt very comfortable trying anything and everything we wanted, with the goal to write music we would be happy with ten years down the road. We not only worked on the music, but we talked about it – a lot. We really tried to get to the root of what we were doing to make sure that it was as sincere as possible. “Sincere” and “prog” don’t usually get used together often, and I think that’s why we did just as much talking about the music as we did writing it. Everything was on the table, and nothing was allowed to be dismissed without trying it first.
Mark: So, from a musical perspective, we were just throwing our ideas at each other and seeing what worked and what didn’t. Our arrangement allowed us to really feel free to experiment, and we came up with some stuff that I still listen to and almost can’t believe it’s us. We also didn’t limit ourselves – for instance, our neo-prog sound lends itself to the standard “Overdriven Ric Bass with a Pick” bass sound. As a bassist, I’m really more of a fingerstyle player, and while my plectrum technique is decent, it’s nowhere near as good as Josh’s. So there are bass parts on the album that I let Josh play, simply because I knew he could play them better than I could. Likewise, I‘d write a guitar riff here, Josh would improve it – then he’d write a cool chord progression on piano and I’d re-compose it with a Mellotron… our blurred “roles” within the band really freed us to experiment, and often made us think “outside the box” and come up with multi-dimensional parts.
The “theme” of the album was not really planned, it just sort of happened over a period of time. As it turned out, seven of the eight songs wound up being about personal growth and self-realization. I guess both Josh and I were going through a time in our lives where we were hyper-aware of these subjects, and it ended up being what felt most comfortable writing about. Personally for me, the writing of the album coincided with some very difficult times in my life; my marriage had failed, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer – it really made me step back and look at what was important, and the things I wanted to change in myself. And that came out in a lot of the lyrics; writing them became very cathartic for me.
Josh: I never really cared about lyrical content until I started writing with Mark. For me, it had always been about the music. We started to seriously compose lyrics right around the same time that Mark introduced me to Kevin Gilbert’s music. As I said, until that point I didn’t think very much about lyrics at all. Listening to Kevin’s words, however, gave me a huge reality check. (If you haven’t checked his stuff out, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.) Unfortunately, most prog lyrics are mere afterthoughts to the music, in my opinion, just as they had been for me for so many years. I finally came to realize how the lyrics could be considered as another instrument in the band, and how important they actually are to writing good songs. So when Mark and I started to talk about lyrical content I told him that I wanted to write stuff that meant something to us. Not just “cool” songs, but good songs, musically AND lyrically. Luckily, Mark has always felt that lyrics were important and didn’t need any convincing.
The latest news about your band is that you are working on your second album. What have you been up to during the last four years and what can we expect from the new album and you in the near future?
Mark: Well, I’ve remarried, I have a new baby girl, and was executor to my mother’s estate – and my work situation got a lot busier, which is why it’s been tough to get together with Josh. He had some things going on too, but we’re doing our best to make regular time for Din Within again. We’ve got a lot of raw material already in the vault; some tasty leftovers from the ATM sessions, a few songs each of us has written separately since we last convened, and a bunch of random riffs, song sections, and other interesting bits we haven’t quite found a home for yet. Right now, we’re mostly just trying to gauge what we have and arrange it logically so we can build from there.
Josh: I got married after we released ATM and continue to practice martial arts several times a week, among other things, which keeps me quite busy. It has admittedly been difficult getting together to write our second CD, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. Our lives are very different now than they were even just four years ago. I think we both realize that as much as we love to write music together, there is a time and place for everything. We both also know that if we push too hard in one direction, something will inevitably push back in the other, and neither of us want that.
Happily, we have been making time again for DW, and what we have put together so far is really, really good.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you want to add to this interview?
Mark: Speaking for both of us, we’d like to take special note of our guest artists. In particular, our good friend Mike Ian, who provided all of the drumming (as well as the drum recording duties) on Awaken the Man. He’s truly an incredible musician! We provided him with our sequenced drum track ideas, and he took our basic concepts, improved them, and played them flawlessly. There’s a lot of his personality in our music as a result, even though he wasn’t present during the original composition of the songs. We’re really hopeful that he’ll be able to return for our new album.
Also, guitarist Scott McGill stopped by and effortlessly laid down a gorgeous acoustic solo on “Better than Before.” I’d also be remiss not to mention the wonderful additions that our guest vocalists added; I mentioned Scott Lewis earlier – his vocals are on a couple songs. And our siblings also provided some wonderful harmonies; big thanks to Josh’s sister Jesse, and my brothers Geoffrey and Evan for that!
Josh: To conclude, I’ll just say thanks for hanging in there! *laughs* Seriously, one of the best things about the prog community is the loyalty of its fans, and we really appreciate everyone’s patience and continued enthusiasm for our next CD. We’ll get there, I promise, and it will be worth the wait.

Review by Christian Berg
4 stars *

2007 produced many great progressive rock albums. The second Blackfield album, a new one from Porcupine Tree, yet another great one from Riverside, Symphony X, Redemption, Magic Pie, Gazpacho, The Flower Kings – you name it.None of these even come close when compared to Din Within’s debut album, Awaken The Man.

I first learned about the band in 2005, when I bought a cd called The Tsunami Projekt (TTP), which was a collaborative effort originating on the official Spock’s Beard forum, set in motion to raise money for the victims of the horrific tsunami that hit Asia in 2004. Din Within contributed a track to this double-disc feature, and thus I was introduced to them.

So how is it, that some 2 years later, you hear the name of a band who you’ve only heard one song from before – and that they’re going to release their debut album – and all of a sudden you revel in joy? For me, the answer would be that the one track I’d heard before, on the TTP cd, was so memorable that I couldn’t wait to hear more from these guys – even if it took 2 years!

And believe me, it was worth the wait! Every once in a while, there’s that one cd who just knocks you right on your ass because it’s so great – and this is one of those. It’s got everything – lyrical depth, the ability to make you happy on an otherwise crappy day just by listening, epic endings, vocal harmonies, and to quote the late Kevin Gilbert: “it’s got more hooks than a tacklebox”!

Recommended for EVERYONE who loves prog a la Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse, Kevin Gilbert, Kansas, Genesis – or in short: for everyone who appreciate great MUSIC.

* [Note: I originally posted this review on amazon.com back in early 2008, and gave it 5 stars there. Now, almost 5 years later, I still feel the same about this album as I wrote then, but I understand calling an album “essential” and “masterpiece” is highly subjective. Were it not for the warning popup displaying upon trying to rate it with 5 stars here, and the fact that this site after all (in my opinion) should have some sort of objectivity through consensus, I’d have given it the 5 stars that *I* think it deserves. It is highly recommended.]