Reviews in this issue:
Moonlight Circus - Outskirts of Reality
Tracklist: Nightfall (1:15), Silver Surfer (5:54), Two Shadows (the Profecy) (9:28),
Whirls Of The Past (8:55), Ballad For A Falling Star (6:30), July Days (9:10),
Outskirts Of Reality (11:40)
Now, this is prog metal, with a focus on prog. No wonder, since members of
Moonlight Circus have played with Black Jester (hence the name, since
one of the Black Jester albums is called Welcome to the Moonlight Circus) and
The opening track Nightfall is a kind of Pink Floyd and
JM Jarre hybrid opening: piano (but way faster than Wright could ever do), keyboards
and a piercing guitar. Since I adore Floyd, I could appreciate this piece.
Silver Surfer also has a very keyboard dominated opening, but with powerful
deep guitars and a nice uptempo verse. The vocals are on the edge sometimes
(especially on the slower moments...),
but that is well compensated for by the power with which this track is delivered.
Actually I think this will probably be a treat to see live, especially if the
abundant keyboards are well up front (horns, strings, the whole works is pulled out
of the microchips in this track!).
Two Shadows is darker in mood. The pounding
rhythm, supported by all instruments, is very driving. Here again, the vocals
could have been better. The lead is fine, but the backing vocals (which are too
much up front here) sometimes are disturbing. The song is a bit too long as well,
since the basic idea has worn out after about seven minutes. Fortunately, this
is broken by a rhythmically interesting interlude (of course, Dream Theater
pops to mind, but also a lot of more prog rock oriented bands have done things
like that, just think of early IQ).
Whirls Of The Past opens with
a classical symfo melody played on a keyboard (string setting), over which a
guitar plays a strong melody. This reminds me of the kind of music that first
triggered my interest in progressive rock (and especially symphonic rock), of the likes of
Quasar and early Landmarq (even though the rest of the track is heavier
than that). Also, a band like Polish Collage is a good reference for the
melodic structure of this track. It was good to be taken back to the roots of
my sympho love for a change!
Ballad For A Falling Star is a good rock ballad, of the Dream Theater type.
Not that it is overly complex, but there is something that triggered this
reference. The semi-acoustic approach of this song is always garantueed to work.
Nice, but nothing really special.
The last two tracks on the album are also half epics. The first is July Days, which
opens extremely DT like, with dissonant chords, a non-trivial measure and very complex
melodic and contra-melodic lines. A powerful track follows, with lots of
interludes, short melodies popping up here and there, in the best DT tradition.
Now here is a DT clone track that actually works! Good job boys!
Outskirts Of Reality is the final mini-epic on the album. It opens like a ballad, and
only slowly becomes harder and more and more bombastic, until the climax-building
starts all over again. Fine track, in the same vein as the previous one. This
one will also do great when performed live!
Good prog metal, with the focus on prog for a change. Good use of keyboards
and other instrumentation. The vocals are weak, unfortunately. Better vocals
would have lifted this album to a much higher level. The compositions are
sometimes very strong, like July Days, and sometimes less, like Two Shadows.
Where the first is full of original ideas, the second exploits a handful of
ideas for almost 10 minutes.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Raimundo Rodulfo- Sueños (Dreams)
Tracklist: Labyrinth (8:05), Friendship (5:14), New Horizons (10:20), Brainstorm (7:12), Hard Times (9:03), Math & Arts (6:57), Universal Codes (21:24)
|Country of Origin:||Venezuela|
|Year of Release:||2001|
It is not often that we get a South American album to review. Indeed it is
quite a gem if you are interested in calm, moody and semi-acoustic music. This
must also be the reason that Musea Records
has selected this album as their pick of the month January. Behind the CD lies quite
a story that can be read on his Internet page (see above, you can also find
soundclips etc. there). It is apparently also featured on a multimedia section of
the CD, however, my computer refuses to load the CD. The whole CD is larded with his
paintings. Apparently he is quite an artist, as he has had some expositions in
London galleries. The band recently opened for The Flower Kings, again giving a
testimony to their musical skills.
Now to the album itself: the Steve Howe-like acoustic guitar opening of
Labyrinth sets the scene for what is to come. The song continues a bit folky,
bringing seventies bands like Happy The Man or the highly symphonic
Sebastian Hardy albums to mind. As such, the compositions sound a bit dated,
but well, good music never dies. The guitar, both electric and acoustic, plays
the most prominent role on this track, supported by a very strong rhythm section.
In the guitar lines I sometimes seem to hear a couple of bars of the odd Yes
songs (which also were clearly an influence to Raimundo). All in all a really nice
uptempo, sometimes even edging to jazz, opener of the album.
The folky influences continue in the next track, Friendship. Here, the
Sebastian Hardy reference is even stronger. The interplay between
a violin and the guitar is very nicely done.
New Horizons starts very
Howe-like again, fingering the acoustic guitar in top speed. The flute and violin
over it gives it a calm mood, almost like Granchester's Meadow (Pink
Floyd). However, the combination of the violin and flute further down the
track doesn't really work any more, it seems like they are mildly out of tune
(probably due to the difference in character of these instruments).
The song combines uptempo almost danceable pieces with very withdrawn parts,
keeping it interesting, but one also constantly has the idea the track is finished
only to discover it starts all over again.
Brainstorm is more electric,
a bit more in the vein of the jazzier French jazz-fusion-proggers like
Spheroe (although they keep it quite easy at first, with a 2-4 beat rasta
rhythm as the most shocking part before entering a truly jazzy part, even
featuring some trumpet).
Well, with these tracks I basically have discussed the rest of the album as
well. There is not much more variation to the aforementioned themes, except maybe
the opening of the 20 minute epic Universal Codes, which opens with a
synth soundscape, combined with tribal sounds, giving it a New Age (or
Yes, whatever you prefer) feeling. In fact somehow it reminded me of
Antarctica by Vangelis. The rest of the track, though well composed
and well played, contains no additional value for the review.
In conclusion, a fine played album by skilled musicians. The mix is not too great,
in the faster parts the rhythm section is too much up front in my opinion. It is
understandable why especially Musea showed interest in this album, seeing the
preference they show for the more jazzier and complex progressive music, as well
as the symphonic highlights of the seventies. This album fits in seamlessly with the
rest of their catalogue. Therefore, I don't think this will remain an independent
production for long. It has all the quality to deserve a good marketing and
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Soundchaser - Intergalactic Radio Station
Tracklist: Intergalactic Radio Station I (1:53), Intergalactic Radio Station II (3:49),
One World (5:39), Neon Pink Glow (3:52), Lunarscape I, II, III (11:38), Lakestorm/Heaven (6:32),
The Nexus (6:37), Wild Robots (6:18)
Soundchaser (or The Soundchaser Project) consists of two guys with an obvious passion for
science fiction, prog rock and electronic music. Renato Menezes plays guitars, guitar synths and synthesizers,
while Soren Lemche takes care of vocals and keyboards. Both of them live in Rio de Janeiro, although
Soren - as the name suggests - hails from Copenhagen.
The band's first album, Intergalactic Radio Station, was recorded between January and September
2000 and released last December. On their web site the band explains the album and band name as follows: "The band name is
from a Yes tune at the Relayer album and the title is from a Vangelis song at the Direct album,
and this doesn't mean that we sound like them, just paying due respect to the "masters".
Besides Vangelis and Yes, the band names a whole list of influences in their biography, ranging
from various progressive rock bands to many fushion bands and contemporary stuff like Enigma,
Portishead and others.
The album opens with the dark and atmospheric Intergalactic Radio Station I, which is basically just a series of
synth sounds and effects. The tune wouldn't be out of place as an intro tape to an IQ concert. When
the (compuer) drums come in, the second part of the song starts while a DJ welcomes the listeners
to 'Intergalactic Radio Station'. This is one out of 4 songs that feature spoken lyrics (the others
are purely instrumental).
These narrated lyrics, which the band
use in their songs and are often inspired by science fiction, balance on the sometimes thin line between hilarity and poetry. For instance,
check out the words to Neon Pink Glow: "What ever happend to that axe Euguene? And why
did that diamond stop shine ? Did we all go clean? Or did we just feel fine? Did Pink get well ?
And was there really anybody there ? Yes Mother, they all broke my balls....". Clearly an ode to Pink Floyd, although the song doesn't sound anything like Floyd's stuff.
Or what about the text in Wild Robots where 'an unemployed and badly damaged cyber-grandson of HAL' ponders over computer sex and environment failure ?
Most of the songs can be divided in two groups. Some follow the 'pop song structure' verse-chorus-verse-chorus,
even though they are instrumentals (not counting the spoken text). Tracks like Intergalactic
Radio Station, Neon Pink Glow and Wild Robots fall into this category.
The other half of the tracks are much more free formed (One World, Lakestorm/Heaven and
The Nexus) and some even seem
to contain spontaneous jams (Lunarscape), not unlike some of the long solos by Keith
Emerson (ELP) or Ryo Okumoto (Spock's Beard).
Most of the material is quite lively and 'happy', resulting in some nice 'toetappers'. The music
also takes some obvious influences from fushion and funk. Soundchaser uses a lot of different
synth sounds, ranging from flute-like sounds to guitar and bass emulations.
One World has a rather Eastern flavour and features some chanting you would normally expect on
a Deep Forest album. The funky Lunarscape contains a very interesting jam-duel
between different keyboards, but unfortunately this builds a bit too long around the same theme
for my taste (6 minutes!).
Although I like a bit of electronic music from time to time, I couldn't get myself to play the
whole album in one go. That's probably just a matter of taste because Soundchaser do offer some
fine tunes on their debut album. They are clearly very talented musicians having lots of
fun and inspiring eachother and - as I've said with other solo keyboard artists - I would love to hear them play in a full band line-up.
The album as it stands now is basically one big synth solo, and although I like keyboard
solos there's only so much I can take. All in all, this is an album that comes recommended to the
lovers of electronic music that appreciate a healty dosis of fushion and funk in their music.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
John Wetton - Live At The Sun Plaza Tokyo 1999
Tracklist Disc 1: The Circle Of St Giles (0:44), The Last Thing On
My Mind (5:18), Sole Survivor (7:08), Battle Lines (5:01), Book Of Saturday
Orford's Solo (3:07), Emma (3:09), The Smile Has Left Your Eyes (3:30), Hold Me Now
Night Watch (4:06), Only Time Will Tell (4:49), In The Dead Of Night (6:12).
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2000|
Tracklist Disc 2: Easy Money (11:08), After All (4:29), Rendezvous 6:02 (5:32), Time Again (5:16), Starless
Heat Of The Moment (6:50), Don't Cry (5:38)
Another John Wetton live album, and at first glance this seems to be a great
offering. Unfortunately the result is a real disappointment with an extremely
poor production. Quite frankly it sounds like a cheap bootleg with an almost
inaudible bass and an almost continuously echoing treble! What makes it even
more sad is that this in fact seems to have been a great concert and one that
would have been the definitive John Wetton live album!
The line-up on this live features John Wetton (bass. guitar and vocals),
Martin Orford (IQ) (keyboards, vocal), David Kilminster (guitars, vocal)
and Steve Christey (drums, percussion), with the recording taking place at The
Sun Plaza, Tokyo on August 5th 1999. As Wetton himself describes the location in
the liner notes, the Sun Plaza has been the scene of many a great rock concert
over the decades with Wetton himself playing there under the guise of U.K., Asia
and as a solo artist.
The material offered here is indeed a trip through how progressive rock has
progressed since the early seventies and is proof how John Wetton has himself
been played an important role throughout. On the other hand one can see how
musically Wetton's output has changed since rhythm-driven days of King
Crimson to the radio-friendly music of Asia as well as his latter day
The King Crimson tracks are spread out over an era of three albums,
'Lark's Tongues In Aspic' (Book Of Saturday, Easy Money), 'Starless And
Bible Black' (The Night Watch) and 'Red' (Starless). Of these tracks,
Starless has become a John Wetton live standard with the track played out
in its entirety and it is heartening to hear these classics still being played
around the world, something that the today's King Crimson unfortunately
hesitates to do.
U.K. was one of the first progressive super groups that appeared on
the scene towards the end of the seventies. Their repertoire unfortunately only
yielded two studio albums, 'U.K.' and 'Danger Money' represented here with the
tracks In The Dead Of Night and Rendezvous 6:02
respectively. U.K. could be seen to be the bridge between the musical complexity
of King Crimson and what was to come in the eighties, Asia. Once again this was
a super group, yet their output was a sad reflection of the times that were
afflicting progressive rock. Radio-friendly pop sounding tracks took precedence
over virtuosism. Asia also saw some bitter internal wrangling between various
members of the group most notably the rows between Steve Howe and John Wetton,
as well as between Wetton and Geoff Downes.
In truth one has to admit that the debut album Asia, was a multi-platinum
affair and till this day remains a form favourite with rock lovers. A
demonstration of this is the fact that on this album we have four tracks taken
from that particular album: Sole Survivor, Only Time Will Tell, Time
Again and the classic Heat Of The Moment. The group's second album,
'Alpha', could never compete with such a strong debut and was a disappointment in
terms of sales. Nevertheless it represented by two tracks, The Smile Has Left
Your Eyes and Don't Cry.
John Wetton's solo career has never matched in terms of sales his experiences
with the other above-mentioned groups. Suffice to say that only six solo tracks
are played out here (as much as from his Asia career!). Of course 'Arkangel' is
well represented with four tracks, one of which is the forty four second
introductory The Circle Of St. Giles, The Last Thing On My Mind, Emma and
After All. One must add though that Emma is surely one of the
classic tracks penned by John Wetton and his live renditions of this track are
always moving to hear. The last album that has tracks also utilized is what in
my opinion is John Wetton's finest solo album to date, 'Battlelines', which has
the title track and Hold Me Now played here.
As I said initially, it is a tragedy that this album has such a poor
production. In this day and age I cannot figure out how and why an artist can
attempt to release such a mediocre album. The rating I have given is indeed a
5.5, with five of those points going out to John Wetton and his band for the way
they played, and half a point going out to the packaging and poor sound! Sorry
guys, but if you are looking to buy a John Wetton live album, look elsewhere.
[Try the brilliant Nomansland instead - Ed.]
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.
Paranoise - Private Power
Tracklist: Evil Vs Evil (3:14), Instability, Containment, Rollback
(4:58), Tetrahedral Metaphor (6:40), Mechanical World (4:56), International
Monetary Fun (4:57), Constant Fear (4:44), Structural Adjustment (8:40), Private
Power (6:08), Tarana (4:49), Not There (5:07), Centerless Grinding (2:40),
Monuments (5:20) Bonus track (3:30)
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Catalogue #:|| |
|Year of Release:|| 2000|
If Peter Gabriel ever wanted to transpose the world music that gets
released on his Real World label into metal setting, then he would most
definitely utilize the services of (The Ancient Ecstatic Brotherhood Of)
Paranoise with the outcome sounding somewhat similar to Private Power. This
album has blown me away and gripped me from the first to the last note. Private
Power is the third album from this group which features Jim Matus as bandleader
on guitars, dulcimer and vocals. Most of the band come from a jazz background
which has evolved to incorporate a love for world music, though admittedly world
music hold the musical roots for the majority of all music.
Together with Matus there are Thorne Palmer (vocals, lyrics), Rohan Gregory
(electrified violin) who has played with Page/Plant, Hypnotic Clambake
and the Klezmatics, Bob Laramie (bass) who has studied with Michael
Manring and played with Matt "Guitar" Murphy and Geoffrey
Brown (drums) who comes from a funk background with groups as The Monster
Band, Station 416 and percussive group Ninja Rhythms.
The album kicks of with samples from the Master Musicians Of Jajouka,
a group from Morocco who are famous for the tributes paid to them from rock
luminaries especially in the sixties when the late Rolling Stone Brian Jones
produced the album 'The Pipes of Pan', featuring these musicians. The chants of the
Master Musicians slowly merge into that of the group with the two complementing
each other to perfection as violin and guitars race off competing with each
Instability, Containment, Rollback featuring sampled text by Michael
Parenti, has the group moving in a grunge direction with a rumbling bass
backdrop as the guitars and violin let off power chords to Thorne Palmer's rich
vocals (guest violinist on this track is Judy Stanton Cohen). Here the group
move into King Crimson territory with their utilization of minor chord
structure thought the back beat is a 4/4 time (unlike King Crimson!). The
Musicians Of The Nile remind us that Paranoise's aim is to create an
awareness of third world countries and their cultures as they introduce Tetrahedral
Metaphor. In a similar fashion to Evil Vs Evil, the group
progressively move in to seemingly play alongside the Musicians Of The Nile,
and at times branch off independently, yet always return to The Musicians.
Mechanical World sees a return to a basic grunge rock structure. What
sets Paranoise apart from the vast number of grunge bands is their utilization
of a violin as a lead instrument, an effect which pays off. International
Monetary Fun sees the group return to the African continent, this time
though delving deeper into the heartland and further away from the Arab
influences of North Africa. Samples this time are taken from Tanzanian Hukwe
Zawose and master drummer/percussionist Doudou Ndaiye Rose. Once
again the group's ability to merge their music with the samples is mystifying
and magical, and most definitely enviable. Musically the totally unconventional
time signature and continuous change of structure and chord sequences lends
alot to King Crimson, but yet again, King Crimson never came close
to creating this kind of musical diversity.
Constant Fear takes us back to the band composed
tunes, without an utilization of samples. Funnily enough, though this kind of
track would have been an excellent track on any other album, it pales in
comparison to what the group have managed to create insofar. The throat singing
style of xoomei from Tuvan group Huun-Huun-Hur introduces us to Structural
Adjustment once again the group are back at doing what they know best. Also
included are samples from The Gnoua Brotherhood Of Marrakesh. Here the
group have managed to fuse together the music of musicians from two extremities
of the world together with a westernized form of music. Few groups have managed
to create this kind of atmosphere, and presently I can only think of two groups,
namely Australian Aboriginal group Yothu Yindi and Berber group Orchestre
National Des Barbes (incidentally I saw them live in London and met Robert
Wyatt (Soft Machine, Matching Mole) there and he was blown away by
The title track Private Power showcases the
political message that Paranoise are trying to push through to the listener.
This track features loops of Noam Chomsky backed by an impressive rhythm
which initially utilizes samples from Doudou N'Diaye Rose to eventually
give way to the group. There is a certain similarity between Paranoise and
Rage Against The Machine in that both groups utilize their musical
prowess to promote their political beliefs. The power generated by Private Power
is immediately dissolved by the voice of Asha Bhose accompanied by the
sarod of Ali Akbar Khan. The vast majority of rock bands, especially
those with a progressive inclination, share a lot with sacred Indian music
especially when one analyzes the structure that is used in composing tracks and
perhaps it comes as a surprise that this influence has taken so long to show up
on this album. Tarana has the band chugging along in an almost dragging
fashion to the drone created by Bhose's voice.
Not There is the last track which is a totally
Paranoise creation, in that no musical samples are used. It also shows another
face to this group and proves that they could achieve much even if they had to
perform purely within westernized musical circles. North African rhythms
courtesy of Abu Hilal herald Centerless Grinding which features
some great bass playing from Bob Laramie. Monuments also utilizes North
African (Egyptian) rhythms, this time courtesy of Hossam Ramzy who apart
from being a noted percussionist in his own right having played as a guest on
various albums with various artists such as Peter Gabriel, is also leader
of the Pharaoh's Chief Ensemble, the backing band to the Page/Plant
releases and therefore an acquaintance of violinist Rohan Gregory who also
played with Page/Plant. The track also features sampled spoken word from Richard
Hoagland and Colin Andrews
The final segment of the album features various chants
which act as a backdrop to spoken commentary from who sounds like Noam
Once again, I cannot explain fully the effect this album
has had on me. It might be a bit difficult to digest if you do not dig world
music, but if you are willing to experiment then make sure you get this album.
The progressive rock featured here is very unlike what you would find on a classic
prog-rock album, yet the very definition of a progressive band is one that dares
to do something different and Paranoise have most definitely done so.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.