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Reviews in this issue:


Alan Case - Dark Matter
Country of Origin:Holland
Format:CD
Record Label:Distribee
Catalogue #:BBAC2000
Year of Release:1999
Time:73:07
Info:N/A

Tracklist: I Wonder Why (4.35), Mindless (3.01), I Don't Need A Lover (6.21), The Borderline (3.05), Dark Nights (3.55), All About You (2.35), Mistake of a Lifetime (4.57), Nighteye (4.02), Fast Asleep (11.11), Crawl Out of These Mountains (5.04), Make It Happen (4.35), Innocent Eyes (4.29), Celebrate Your Life (4.04), The Hurting (1.59), Wide Awake (5.14), Het Nieuwe Land (3.06)

It doesn't happen often that we review a CD twice. This is probably the first time, and there's two reasons why we do it. First, it's not exactly the same album. Second, this is enough of a personal victory for the artist to be worthy of attention.

In 1997 Dutch songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alan Case (real name Ernst van de Kerkhof) released his first CD Wide Awake. Cynically enough Alan's CD was only available in Japan. As a result he was completely unknown in his own country, where the album could not be found in any shop. In a recent interview on Dutch TV Alan jokingly told the press that 'at least ten people' would own a copy in Holland. One of them was yours sincerely. Back in 1998 DPRP received a copy of Wide Awake and reviewed it for our CD Review column (click on the album title to read the 1998 review).

When Alan's Japanese contract ended in July 1999 the Bee & Bee label from The Hague offered Alan a worldwide deal. The result was the re-release of the album under the name Dark Matter. Kayak/Camel keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel seemingly congratulated Alan with his 'fantastic release'. Alan himself described the CD on TV as 'pop in a symphonic outfit', meant for a broader audience than just the sympho fans.

Besides the new artwork, this new version of Alan's album also includes three new tracks, being the poppy I Wonder Why (complete with female backing vocals), Nighteye (which features some folky violin !) and Het Nieuwe Land, a Dutch lyrics version of The Borderline that therefore feels slightly out of place.

Some of the songs are quite poppy and I could easily imagine them being on albums by George Michael (The Borderline) or Freddie Mercury/Queen (Mistake of a Lifetime) and Christopher Cross (Crawl Out of the Mountains), partially because of the similarity in vocals (Alan uses several session singers).
Other tunes could easily have been on an album by The Alan Parsons Project (Dark Nights, Crawl Out of These Mountains). Other tunes are more rock oriented and there's a couple of more prog-oriented tracks (the long Fast Asleep, which sounds a bit like Valensia) on the disc as well. Oh, and there's the jazzy cabaret-like tune All About You.

Other highlights are the rocking and diverse I Don't Need a Lover, the gentle Mindless, the catchy Celebrate Your Life and the blistering synth rock instrumental Wide Awake.

Besides the dry and flat drums the CD sounds very nice and is a great mixture of pop/sympho cross-over tunes. A fine collection that isn't half as 'dark' as the title would make you suspect !
Recommended for fans of The Alan Parsons Project and people who don't mind their prog a little more commercial, as well as (according to the record company) lovers of Kayak, Kansas and Valensia.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Ed Sander


Archetype - Hands of Time
Country of Origin:USA
Format:Mini CD
Record Label:IntroMental
Catalogue #:IMP 003
Year of Release:1998
Time:22.15
Info:Archetype
Tracklist: Visionary (6.56), Dissension's Wake (5.33), Arisen (5.04), Hands of Time (4.31)

This might well be the year for a breakthrough for progressive metalband Archetype with their first full-lenght CD in production and scheduled for release in February. So although the MiniCD reviewed here is already a year old, it is definitely worth a look.

Archetype was founded in July 1997 by guitarist Chris Matyus under the name Prototype, including present bass guitarist Jamie Still and drummer Keith Ziegler. When the vocalist and second guitarist left the band after just a couple of months these three continued as a purely instrumental act. After appearances in Ohio followed the recording of a demo-CD, Archetype, with four instrumental songs (Pulse, Epic, Ascension, The Sage).
In October 1998 Archetype joined the Danish agency Intromental Managment. One month later they enlisted vocalist Chyle Wagner (ex-Hate, Public Outcry) before recording a second album, the MiniCD Hands of Time in February 1999.

Archetype's sound can best be described as progressive melodic metal with some strong heavy metal influences. The band is sometimes compared with Fates Warning. I myself can best compare it with Dream Theater - whom Matyus has named as a major influence - Threshold and some of the work by Savatage. One can also discern the familiar guitar-riffing of Iron Maiden. But none of these comparisons really hits the mark, as Archetype has a distinctly unique sound.

The compositions are original and occasionally very good. The songs display a lot of variety, especially the nearly 7 minutes long Visionary and the third track, Arisen. Bass and drums provide the heavy basis for good guitar play with some solos. Guitar and vocals bring the rough edge that is so basic to progressive metal. The overall result is powerful and agressive, with excellent dynamics. The aforementioned songs are the best two tracks of this short CD.

I must admit that I was not immediately impressed with the vocals of Chyle Vagner. He seems to lack stability and on some occasions seems rather out of touch with the atmosphere engendered by his band members. But after hearing the album several times I found myself growing rather fond of the variations he puts in his vocals, which can be gentle as well as aggressive. In this he reminds me of Jon Oliva, former lead vocalist of Savatage. One should remember that Vagner joined the band just one month before they recorded this Mini-CD, and was the first vocalist included in the band in a year.

Fans of Dream Theater should definitely check on this band and I recommend it for those of you who like Threshold. You can find more information at www.archetype1.com or www.intromental.com. Archetype could become a great addition to any progressive rock-collection, especially for those of us who enjoy the rough and agressive edge heavy metal-influences can bring to this type of music. I hope to have chance to review the upcoming album soon.

If I had heard this CD a month earlier, I surely would have included it in my Top 5 album list in the recent DPRP poll. What higher praise could one give?;)

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Mark Sander


4/3 De Trio - Faiblesse
Country of Origin:France
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4275.AR
Year of Release:1999
Time:68:28
Info:4/3 De Trio
Tracks: Faiblesse (6:33), Os (4:46), Queen Wilson (5:06), Marie J. (5:05), Vicious Hearts (6:26), Ed Depit (5:52), Spare Yourself The Pain (2:00), The Taste Of You (7:54), Ma Devise (3:06), Loe (9:26), Acore (2:44), Ile (1:30), Dying For Religion (7:39)

The name of this band is pronounced in French as "quatre tiers de trio". Other info I got from the website is that the band consists of multi-instrumentalists, that they play in the vein of KC's Red album or Anglagard, with guitar works that also have a Steve Vai touch. And then, a really rock sound and intense music, highly recommended.

Well, I have to disagree on some of these things. Of course, the booklet states these guys play several instruments each. And for what I know, they do it well. The Red reference I hear, but Anglagard is harder to hear.

The guitar rocks, that's true. But Steve Vai is only present in being an influence, not a reference. Some parts really rock, and some are a bit unusual, and to my taste a little towards irritation, quickly becoming tedious, because they use a limited number of tricks over and over again. It sounds like they wanted to create something different, but they went a bit too far. It does not sound very spontaneous any more. They spent more time on sounding differently than on making music. I might be missing the point here, and I apologize for that in advance, but it leaves me cold. Too many different things that you very soon don't know what it is that you're listening to.

Leaves one comment - "highly recommended". I disagree.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10

Jerry van Kooten


iO - Strange Tales From The Urban Circle
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:CD
Record Label:Dragonfly
Catalogue #:DFP 99882
Year of Release:1999
Time:50:26
Info:N/A

Tracklist: 75.8 (1.01), Satellite (3.20), Life (3.20), Nocturne (4.47), Fever Pitch (3.45), Here Now in the Knowing (6.18), Nations (6.09), Stolen Land (4.26), 5 Long Days (4.16), Chronomes (4.28), Reverie (6.19).

iO was founded in Toronto, Canada in 1995 under the name of Urban Circle, who released their debut EP Progress in 1997. Because people seemed to associate the 'urban' in the title with hip-hop, their name was changed to iO (which is actually pretty close to the name and former logo of my favourite band). Tim Foley (vocals & keys), Stephanie Sheri (vocals & keys) and Darren Poirier (guitars) recorded the CD at Steph's home with some help from Charlie Morgan (drummer for Elton John, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, etc) from the UK.

Normally when we receive a home-recording at DPRP we immediately cringe. The sound quality of this album however is remarkably good. Also it is not home-produced with a CD-writer like some of the other stuff we receive, it's actually professionally manufactured with unfortunately a very minimal booklet with just 4 pages (two of which filled with the lyrics).
Unfortunately most of the music of IO does not future a bass guitar, so the bass lines are created on keybaords. I personally find that a bit of a weakness, but that might be because I'm a bass player myself. Nevertheless, I prefer real instruments to midi version.

The most remarkable thing about iO is the fact that they use a male (Tim) and a female (Steph) vocalist for their melodic tunes. Some of the songs are done by one vocalist solo, but most are done as duets or with one of the two as a background vocalist. All vocals are great and especially Stephanie shines in certain tracks !

75.8 is just a one minute piece of sound effects that merges into the catchy tune Satellite. This song features a wonderful duet between a male and female vocalist. The song also feautures good piano backing and a nice guitar solo.
Life is one of only two songs with real bass and therefore immediately sounds more natural. Nice rhythm guitar accompanies another catchy tune with more dueting. Fever Pitch is the other track with real bass. Stephanie does backing vocals on this nice catchy tune.

Nations is probably the most poppy tune on the album and I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the charts. This doesn't mean it's bad, just more mainsteam.
Stolen Land is slightly more heavy than the other tracks of the album, mainly because of the ripping guitar bits. The chorus 'stolen land .... stolen land ... stolen land.. etc' is slightly unimaginative.
Chronomes starts with the same weird keyboard effects as can be heard in 75.8. It continues as one of the rocking tunes on the album.

The album also contains some more quiet songs like Nocturne; a quiet dreamy ballad with a rather dark mood, sung by Tim. It has the same feel as Go on Marillion's latest album. At the end it merges into Fever Pitch.
Here Now in the Knowing, is another nice quiet piece, this time sung by Steph. Five Long Days is a nice duet ballad and finally there's the last track on the album, Reverie. This album-closer has an almost ethereal feel to it and features wonderful singing by Steph and some delicious guitar playing by Darran.

Strange Tales from the Urban Circle is a pleasant combination of catchy rock tunes and more atmospeheric and quiet ballads. There are some jazzy and funky influeces, but not excessive. The emphasis lies on the fine vocals and melodies.
Recommended to people who like combined male and female vocals and don't mind more poppy tendencies in their prog.

For the band itself I've got two bits of advise. First of all, why not try some more daring compositions on the next one. Go ahead, experiment with some instrumental sections. Second, go and get a real bass player immediately ! ;-)
Nevertheless, thumbs up !

For samples of this music, check out their Homepage. Note: the band sells the CD for only 14 USD via their site !

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Ed Sander


Alpha To Omega - A Life
Country of Origin:Switzerland
Format:CD
Record Label:Black Rills Records
Catalogue #:BRR CD 002
Year of Release:1997
Time:72:01
Info:N/A
Tracklist: Alpha (6:11), Easygoing Childhood (1:09), The Crazy City (5:38), The First Day At School (4:35), The Tiny Difference (4:04), King Michael (2:47), One Thousand Arms (4:44), The Woman (9:41), I'm In Love With Life (3:12), Happy Time (3:32), The Breakdown (1:55), And He Doesn't Know What The Preacher Says (3:44), Awakening (3:33), The Rich Man, Yet So Poor (3:56), Temptation (2:18), Guilt (3:34), My Friend Death (0:50), Omega (6:36)

A concept in eighteen parts. Nothing special with that. How the concept was made, that's something else. Evolved from a choir singing christian hymns; an ever-changing group of people, named Alpha To Omega (or, if you have the Symbol font installed, written like this: ā - W), were working on a story telling of a boy from his birth until his death, when he realizes that he has spent way too much time thinking about the meaning of life instead of living it. The songs were recorded between 1970 and 1976, and by the time it was finished, all but one of the musicians that had worked on the project had left the band. It took a lot of time before all of the music was recorded, and releasing it didn't go very smoothly either. It was released as a limited edition only, but still got a lot of attention. Fortunately, it has now been released on CD.

And it is worth it! It is a great piece of music in the best rock tradition. It's not progressive in either classical or contemporary terms. It reminds me of bands like Cream, but with more acoustic ingredients, like The Who, but with more keyboards. Yeah, The Who's Tommy is a very good reference. And now I come to think of it, both musically and lyrically - the evolution of a boy to man, although Tommy's story was more of a metaphore for mankind, while A Life is more direct.

In total, eleven musicians and vocalists have worked on these recordings. All of them are doing a great job - the results are very powerful. The main vocalist has a great, raw blues voice, reminding me of Blind Faith. The acoustic guitar and piano make the music swinging, the distorted guitar rocking... it's just too hard to explain what it is that is making this music as great as it is. There's also a flute player, which gives another dimension to the music - the power in the music is given a little tenderness. The music is alternating between rocking and quieter, acoustic pieces.

I'll make it simple. When you like to listen to Cream, Blind Faith and especially The Who, in short: all those wonderful rock bands from the late Sixties and early Seventies, there is one thing you can do: buy this album, now!

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten


Guy Manning - Tall Stories For Small Children
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL078
Year of Release:1999
Time:69:20
Info:Guy Manning

Tracklist: The Last Psalm [ i) The Preacher ii) Windows iii) A Beacon iv) Last Psalm ] (14:07), The Voyager (5:22), White Waters (5:46), The Candyman (7:07), The Rise And Fall Of Abel Mann? [ Grand Fanfare (2:02), Waiting On A Ledge (4:42), Grand Fanfare (revisited) (0:43), Post Mortem { 3 Score Years and 10 (2:18), In My Life (5:06)} ], Castaways (4:25), Holy Ireland [ The Land (2:40), A Soldier's Story (3:21), The Widow's Tale (4:42), Priest's Song(4:01), The Land (reprise) (2:58) ]

Guy Manning, perhaps familiar to you due to some work he did with Parallel Or 90 Degrees, produces a fine solo album, a bit in the Roger Waters (Amused to Death) tradition, but more based on " mainstream prog ". No less than three "epics" can be found on this album!

The album focusses on lyrics and the music and soundeffects are used to bring over the story of the songs, like Waters does, so this doesn't neccesarily mean the music is second rank! In fact, there are a couple of real fine musical pieces on the album. I will focus on the music in this review, since Manning on his homepage already adresses the lyrics a lot. The first track opens with very Waters/Wall-like soundeffects (the song "Over the rainbow" from I believe The Wizard of Ozz is used in the background). The music can best be described as quite intense, with Hammond work by PO90 musician Andy Tilton and an a focus on Mannings vocals. But the guitar work is also very fine. All in all in this first epic it is clear that Manning knows how to find balance between all the instruments. The drumming on this album is rather uninspiring though. In this song, quite a lot happens, with musical themes appearing and re-appearing. Intruiging.

The Voyager has a very Middle Eastern feel to it. A man named Pav Chana plays Tablas on this track (no idea what those are...). Excellent keyboard work is the main attention drawing feature of this track. A little restpoint is White Waters, sounding like one of those modern Yes, even Jon Anderson tracks, the "easy listning" ones I mean. The Candyman is probably my favourite track, very intense and melancholic. Starting with hardly any rhythm, only acoustic guitar chords and vocal it grabs you by the troat. Subtle keyboards later lay the tapistry in the background. At points, David Bowie comes to mind. The Fall And Rise of Abel Mann? consists of four pieces, of which the first one is a male version of Kate Bush, with those floating piano pieces. Love this kind of music! The next part is simple guitar with vocals and some almost gospel-like hammond playing. The Post Mortem piece starts similar to Waters' Amused to Death album with soundeffects and a guitar improvising over keyboard chords. Very nice. The second part, In My Life features the strongest chorus of all, with a melody that sticks to ones mind.

Before the next epic starts, a quiet moment again with Castaways, featuring seagulls and a laid back melody. Nothing special. The album ends with the third epic, Holy Ireland. Of this epic, especially A Soldier's Story, being a letter of a frightened soldier to God, is of great strength. It has almost the feel of the protest songs of Bob Dylan to it. The very quiet The Widow's Tale is beautiful in its simplicity. Priest's Song is more of a march to start with, but transforms in a more powerfull song, with Irish infuences (the first ones in a song called Holy Ireland!) mixed with more regular rock. It merges into The Land (reprise), ending the album more bombastic then on any other track.

All in all, this is an album that you should really listen to. It is subtle in both music and lyrics, and people loving bombastic rock or really fancy prog may not like it. Maybe the mixing is also too subtle, a bit more dynamics might have done it good. Anyway, if you like any of the references quoted in the review, you will probably agree that this album may be a nice addition to your music collection.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers


Babylon - Babylon
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Syn-Phonic
Catalogue #:SYNCD 18
Year of Release:1999
Time:34:54
Info:N/A
Tracklist: The Mote In God's Eye (7:00), Before The Fall (10:54), Dreamfish (9:12), Cathedral Of The Mary Ruin (7:38)

Babylon were an American progressive rock band formed in 1976. Like some of their contemporaries, think of Pentwater, Lift, Mirthrandir (who, not surprisingly, all have a CD out on Syn-Phonic as well), they liked and played complex progressive rock. There is a difference, though: Babylon are more into melodies than the others. Influenced by Yes and Gently Giant, Babylon also shows trace of Van Der Graaf Generator. Complex, but not unnecessary complex structures, they tend towards the melodic approach of Genesis as well. And there's the unique part as well. The combination of influences makes Babylon very interesting and refreshing.

Babylon's one and only LP was released in 1978 (with a slightly different cover). In 1989, Syn-Phonic released a live recording from 1978 on two LPs. This CD contains the four original tracks from that one and only studio album. These songs are also on the live LPs, by the way.
The late seventies were not a good time for progressive rock bands. Maybe because of this, it produced some very fine bands. The biggest problem is how to find them! Well, thanks to a man like Greg Walker (what's next, Greg - Netherworld?!) you can enjoy the inventive, artistic, refreshing music of a band like Babylon. Here's musicianship at its best, don't look any further. This will offer you all you ever need - diverse and alternating tracks with great solos and beautiful changes in time and atmosphere. Forget the tyring and boring copying that the Grey Lady Downs and Arenas of this Earth offer us. This is simply essential stuff.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten


ImproVision - Energy
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD-R
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:1999
Time:21.15
Info:N/A
Tracklist: Ageing Years (4.35), Where Are You Now (6.52), Think (5.10), Fate Controller (4.36)

ImproVision, an energetic Norwegian band of Tor Ola Svennevig (vocals), Dylan R. Hopkin (guitars) and Pål A. Sevennevig (drums), has already been around for almost 6 six years, however, this is only their fourth demo they have released so far. On this self-produced mini-cd they are assisted by Bjørn Thomassen and Magnus Østvang on bass and keyboards, to complete the band.

The album opens with Ageing Years, a straightforward song, which gave me a déjà-vu feeling, i.e. it's not bad, but it's nothing special or original either. A catching keyboard melody, some great bass-work and decent vocals. Striking is the excellent sound-quality on this home-made product.

The second song, Where are You Now shows a more aggressive approach and contains some more interesting keyboard melodies. This song reminds me a bit of Fates Warning, as the chorus seems to come directly from a song on Pleasant Shade of Grey.
The song shows that we deal with four very talented musicians here, but the vocals somewhat destroy the song. For the rest there's not much to criticise.

Think is another varied song with heavy choruses and mellower verses. There's a leading role for guitarist Hopkin, who does an excellent job. Again, the main thing that bothers me are the unimaginative vocal lines.

Closer Fate Controller is the heaviest song on the mini-CD. Another interesting track with a very groovy bass-line and wah-wah effect on the guitar. Once again the vocals of Svennevig remind me a bit of Fates Warning, but not in a positive way.

In conclusion I must say that this is not bad for a home-recorded CD-R. The production is satisfactory, the artwork looks really professional and these guys clearly show they have talent. However, there is still need for improvement, the weakest point are clearly the vocals, which completely lack variation.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10.

Bart Jan van der Vorst


The Pineapple Thief - Abducting The Unicorn
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL079
Year of Release:1999
Time:68:44
Info:The Pineapple
Thief
Tracklist: Private Paradise (11:47), Drain (6:35), What Ever You Do, Do Nothing (6:18), No One Leaves This Earth (5:56), Punish Yourself (4:26), Everyone Must Perish (4:36), Judge The Girl (6:12), Parted Forever (18:27), Mysterious Extra Track (4:27)

Vulgar Unicor guitarist Bruce Lance has formed a second band, Pineapple Thief. The title of the album obviously reffers to his other involvement and apparently this sound quite a lot like Vulgar Unicorn, yet less esotheric (although I am not familiar with their music).

Not hindered by any knowledge (as one must know by now ;-), I simply enjoyed the music. Indeed, Radiohead is an obvious reference, e.g. in the first 11+ minute track Private Paradise. Also Porcupine Tree springs to mind; pleasently modern progressive rock, influenced also by the ambient house tradition (The Orb is one of the more well-known examples in this genre), mixed with modern 1990's rock music. Soord's vocals are in this 90's rock genre too. At time, other references pop up. The start of the second track Drain reminded me of The Cure, a favourite band of mine years ago (although I still love Disintegration) when I preferred to wear black. So it's kind of proggy New Wave stuff.

No One Leaves This Earth opens with an ambient Orb-like part over which later a guitar solo is played. Towards the end it becomes even a twitch psychedelic. This kind of style variations continue throughout the album. Still, Pineapple Thief is able to keep things consistent, so all tracks flow naturally into each other. Judge The Girl is perhaps the most powerfull track on the album. Sounding like modern U2, it showcasts Soord's guitar skills. Parted Forever is a 23 minute (if we include the mysterious bonus track that isn't listed in the booklet) epic. It starts of slowly and gradually builds to a climax with a melody first laid down by the bass and then picked up by the other instruments. Blistering guitar work on this one! The bonus track is an acoustic guitar piece in the vein of Grandchesters Meadows of Pink Floyd.

Generally, I really enjoyed this album, it's combination of 60's hippy style, 70's prog, 80's New Wave and 90's rock/ambient. Innovative yet pleasant. It's the kind of album you put on and relax with, let it flow over you. It makes me curious about Vulgar Unicorn. It's a pity there are no lyrics in the booklet though. Other than that: if you like modern prog, and enjoyed Plague of Ghosts by Fish, why not give this album a try.

Conclusion: 8+ out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers


Chimera - ...Ostatni Bard
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:CDR
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:1999
Time:54:52
Info:N/A
Tracks: Nadzieja (6:43), Swiatlocienie Smierci (12:59), Motyle Nie Umieraja (4:45), Nie Ma Mnie (4:15), Gra Ze Smierca (10:46), Basn (1:50), Dla Tych Ktorzy (13:32)

We usually do not review demo CDs, because we would like to keep you informed of what is available out there, and not tell you about things that you can't have anyway. If you wish, you can order copies of this demo CD at the band's address, so I thought I could do a review. Chimera are a new band in the progressive rock field, they are from Poland, and have a female singer. Yes, I thought I might as well let you know right away, since there are still not a lot of female singers or musicians in the musical genre we try to cover on this website.

The letter that accompanied the CD did worry me a bit, at first. The band introduced themselves in this letter, and, among other things, they say they are trying to avoid 4/4 signatures and like to experiment with odd-time signatures. Well, if you do your best to avoid this, there's a big chance that what remains is a cold piece of music, moving in all kinds of directions instead of a common one.
They try to mix various musical styles. Well, that's one of the key ingredients of the early days of progressive rock, and many other musical genres with that.

Despite these intentions, I am glad to say, the music still sounds musical, and has not been torn down by re-styling, re-thinking, and re-writing processes. It still is spontaneous.
The music is rocking. Not very hard - definitely no "power prog", fortunately. Too many of those around these days already... With all songs, the band is trying to create something. The lyrics are in Polish, so I don't understand a word of it. The female vocals are nice, but are a bit limited. Maybe the songs were written that way, I don't know - but I think it needs more diversity and power. I don't mind the voice is not as high as some other female singers - it makes the voice a bit more mysterious, and that's something I like.

Also the music tends to be quieter during the vocal parts. When the guitar is coming in, drums and bass are giving more power as well. This certainly needs to be more balanced than it is now.

Over all, I think they are on their way of creating a style of their own. Hard to give any comparisons, and that's a good sign. They're making modern prog, but deeply rooted in the Seventies, as they say themselves. Not filling every microsecond of silence, but let the silence do some talking as well - a very nice atmosphere is the result.
The mix is alright and clear, but the guitar might have been given a bit more space. Ah well, this is a demo recording, and for a demo it is a very good one.

I have a few suggestions for Chimera. The first is to forget about all that trying to avoid clichés, because so many people have done that before, so you run the risk of becoming a cliché yourself not not trying to become one. And do not mention these kind of things in letters. The most important thing is not to try so hard, but play what you really want to play, instead of thinking about it.

It seems their intentions were a bit cliché, but they didn't succeed, fortunately - the music is very melodic, not too many time changes at all, and the band is obviously working on getting something together that is of their own. I think we will hear a lot from this band in the near future.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten


No Brass - The Crowning of the Sun
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:1999
Time:54.15
Info:No Brass
Tracklist:The Crowning of the Sun (4.24), The Castle Dweller (5.34), Around the Corner (6.08), A world within (6.07), A Star to a Star (7.20), The Love Song (4.13), Roll on (5.34), The Death of a Drone (6.48), True Passion (7.48)

August 1999 saw the release of the first CD of Cleveland-based band No Brass, named The Crowning of the Sun. Driving force behind this project is Mike Kovacs as writer, drummer, vocalist and producer. No Brass is essentially a studio band including three different guitarists (Steve Ronyak, Dave Zuppert and Dirk Garman) and two bass players (Erol Somer and Dave Kovacs). No keyboards here.

This could best be described as guitar based rock with some progressive overtones. Most tracks come close to the hard rock sound that was so popular a few decades ago. Kovacs has written all the songs and provides some intresting ideas in composition. Most lyrics are OK, though some tracks show a weakness here, but that is usually patched over by the good instrumental perfomances. Production and arrangment are good. Not bad for a first outing.

Most tracks tracks have a rather basic structure with instrumental sections, but with some very good solos on guitar. The guitarists do provide the best work here, especially Dave Zuppert on tracks like Around the Corner, A Star to a Star and the title track. Most tracks feature two guitarist, one on rhythm, the other on solo. Bass is also well handled, dominating tracks like The Castle Dweller and Roll on.

Mike Kovacs provides excellent and energetic drumming, but weakens the album by his vocal perfomance. He brings a lot of emotion to the lyrics, but too many cries like "Oh yeah!" and "Woah!" become distractive, if not annoying. Personally, I'd like to see him focus on songwriting, production and drumming and enlist the aid of one or more good singers for the next album.

Tracks like The Castle Dweller, which I consider to be the best song, and True Passion have grown on me, so I'm sure I'll play this album again and will keep track of the band in years to come. This CD is foremost a good rock album, but I'm a bit disinclined to label it 'progressive'. But as that term has come to cover so much music in recent years, some of you may disagree with me, as I'm sure Mike Kovacs himself will.

Seeing as this is a web site for fans of progressive rock, I'm inclined to lower the rating somewhat (from a 7 out of 10), but I can definetly recommend The Crowning of the Sun to those who enjoy older guitar-based bands like Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, and fans of Rush and perhaps Spock's Beard could give it a go. You can sample the music at the No Brass homepage, which contains 2 samples for each of the songs on the album.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10.

Mark Sander