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Reviews in this issue:
Quidam - Sny Aniolow
People who came to the Dutch Progressive Rock Stage festival could
already hear some of the work in progress for Quidam's second album. Now
the album itself has arrived.
First thing I noticed about this new album is the wonderful way it is packaged. The front cover features a collection of pictures of cloud formations in different hues. The booklet itself contains lyrics (read: lots of incomprehensible Polish) and pictures of the band members playing a wide range of instruments. A couple of slightly familiar names popped up in the 'thank you' list.
The album itself contains 9 songs. The short opening track Prezebudzenie
(1.48) (which probably means 'Realisation') starts with bird sounds (hey,
where have I heard that before !?) and keyboard strings, which is followed
by a nice little flute solo by the new flute player Jacek Zasada.
Moje Anioly (4.21) (My Angels) is an uptempo song with a flute which reminds me both of the old Focus material, as well as the flute solo in that old 80ies Chess hit One Night in Bangkok. This track, which was also released on CD-single, is a nice tune with a wonderful catchy refrain.
After Morelowy Sen (5.17) (Apricot Dream), which was also played on DPRS and features some great drum playing, we are treated to Wesola (6.59) (Hapiness) which starts with acoustic guitar and pan drums. Emilia sings in quite a few different styles in this song, which also contains a wonderful flute-guitar duet. These three tracks are among my favourites on the album.
Beznogi Maly Ptak (4.06) (Small Bird Without Legs) features special
percussion, a flute imitating a bird's singing and various other wind-instruments.
It's not one of my favourite trakcs on the album.
Lza (4.56) (Tear) features a lot of Dust in the Wind-like thrumming in the beginning. The rest of the song leans very much on the vocals, which makes it a bit less adventurous than some of the other Quidam material. Not a favourite either.
Pod Powieka (13.57) (Under the Eyelid) on the other hand, holds lots of suprises. This epic, which starts with keyboard sounds and a threathening guitar before leading into loads of changes, shows us what a wonderful singer Emila is, with deep and powerful vocals. This is also the only track on the album in which I can detect the same power as can be found in some tracks on Quidam's debut album. Great stuff ! One of the highlights on the album.
Przebudzenie (Swit Nadziei) (4.07) (Realisation (Break of Hope)) is a
piano/vocal ballad which also features the flute solo that opened the
Jest Taki Samotny Dom (5.31) (There is Such a Lonely House) is a nice closing track with a marvelous chanting refrain and a great guitar solo.
All in all, Quidam has succeeded in delivering another quality album which proves that they are one of the most talented progressive rock bands around. The only criticism I have regarding this second album is that it does not have the same power and 'balls' as some of the work on the first album. Sny Aniolow is, as the cover might indicate, a more peaceful album. I only hope this is not a tendency the band will follow in their future compositions.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Porcupine Tree - Staircase Infinities
During the sessions for 'Up the Downstair' a lot more music was
recorded than was actually used on the album. In addition 2 tracks
were completed too late to be considered for the album. The 'Staircase
Infinities' CD contains 3 out-takes from the album and the two tracks
recorded shortly afterwards (in that order).
It should be considered as the missing tracks from the originally intented double album of 'Up the Downstair' which would also have included an edit of the first 2 phases of 'Voyage 34'
This text comes from one of the pieces of paper which are shown on the inside of the booklet of the Staircase Infinities mini CD. Staircase Infinities was previously available in vinyl format but as now been re-released on CD. The tracks clearly match the style of the music on Up the Downstair.
Cloud Nine (4.39) starts with some jazzy guitar and features quite
a lot of breaks. When the electric guitar solo comes in, the track starts
to sound a bit like a remake of the solo part of Voyage 34 (phase
The Joke's on You (4.05) is the only song on the album with vocals. It's a mixture of an acoustic ballad with almost whispered lyrics and a full band in the chorus. The track could easily be compared to Always Never.
Jungle drums form the opening of Navigator (4.51), a rather ambient track which slowly builds up with new instruments joining in one by one. This track could easily have been part of the The Sky Moves Sideways epic which was recorded not long after.
So far the three out-takes. The first 'new' song is Rainy Taxi (6.44)
which features a long section with ambient keyboard sounds before an acoustic
guitar joins in. Later on this very Floydian track begins to resemble a
cross between Pink Floyd's Celestial Voices and the Tree's own
The strangely titled Yellow Hedgerow Dreamscape (9.24) closes the album. The song starts with a repeated bass-riff, after which the song slowly builds in both power and tempo. In the course of 9 minutes the tracks speeds up from 92 to 150 beats per minute !
The inside of the booklet is very interesting because it contains pictures of various pieces of paper; studio sheets for some of the tracks on the CD, scribbled lyrics of The Joke's on You and a list of all left overs of Up the Downstair. Get out your magnifying glasses.
Although the music in this CD might not be as essential as Up the Downstair and As the Sky Moves Sideways, it will certainly be enjoyable for people who like these two albums. If you can't get enough of Porcupine Tree, make sure you get this one.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Bjorn Lynne -
Wizard of the Winds/When the Gods Slept
For his latest project multi-instrumentalist Bjorn Lynne wanted to make a soundtrack of one of his favourite novels, Wizard of the Wind by Allan Cole. Cole's book is called When the Gods Sleep in the UK, which explains the two titles of the CD, as well as the two alternative cover drawings.
When Bjorn contacted Allan, the writer loved the idea and even ended up writing the narrative bits of text which open the tracks on the album. Bjorn and Allan divided the story of the book up in different sections and while Bjorn wrote the instrumental tracks which would capture the mood of the concerned part of the novel, Allan wrote small summaries of those parts which were later read out by one Chris Blyth and added to the beginning of Bjorn's musical pieces.
The story is all about demons, wizards, magic and such and although I've left the time in my life when I read fantasy novels and Tolkienish stories far behind me (I've since fallen for Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos) I found the story accessible enough to be quite enjoyable. The narrative bits work very well and set the mood for the music which follows.
Oh, before I forget .... the music, because that's what it's all about after all, isn't it ? Well, I found this one of the best instrumental albums I've heard in a long time. The music varies from dark and brooding pieces to beautiful acoustic passages and from Porcupine Tree-ish tunes like The Forbidden Desert to folkish Mike Oldfield-like tracks like Gundara & Gundaree. Some of it defintely sounds like a soundtrack but the 71+ minutes work of Bjorn is exciting and bombastic enough to capture the listener's attention with each new track.
The booklet features the two alternative covers (one of which can be seen above), an introduction by Bjorn about the development of the album as well as the narrative bits by Allan Cole.
If you like exciting instrumental progressive rock, this album is a must !
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Marillion and the Positive Light -
Tales from the Engine Room
What's worse than an album which wasn't exactly what you expected it to be ? Answer: the ambient/dance remix of the same album.
'Someone gave me this very rare Marillion CD', a colleague of mine said while he handed over a disc without jewel case and booklet. I immediately recognised it as the album with remixes of That Strange Engine songs by Positive Light (whoever he, she or they might be). I explained him that this wasn't a real Marillion disc and had to admit that I hadn't heard it yet. Since the disc only features ambient remixes I didn't really feel like flashing out some more cash for something I might not like. I was a bit curious nevertheless, so I was glad when he let me borrow it for a couple of days.
The disc opens with an ambient remix of Estonia (11.44), one of the better tracks from the original album. The original version of this song was already rather ambient, but this version is even more atmospheric. I actually liked this version a lot.
An awful version of Memory of Water (9.36) followed. The original vocals have been cut and pasted until they fitted the dance rhythm of this remix. Some parts of the lyrics, for instance the 'from the tree' bit of the first line, were even discarded altogether. As a result the vocals sound very unnatural.
After three minutes the song basically changes into a long techno track which, besides the repeated samples of snippets of vocals, has got nothing to do with the original anymore.
Though this might get your toes tapping, this version has me longing for the original, which wasn't even a favourite to begin with. This track has become a real favourite of club DJs though and was one of the reasons why the remix album was officially released.
Next up is a remix of This Strange Engine (20.37). Although you would
expect that some nice things would be possible with this song, the result
is again very disappointing.
After 3 minutes of effects the vocals start. The original melodies of the songs have been removed and replaced by a slow beat and techno melody. Sample after sample try to keep the song interesting. The Moog solo sequence has been removed while it was one of the highlights of the track in the first place. The 'ever since I was a boy' lyrics which followed have been placed elsewhere in the song and have been reduced to nothing more than some echoeing vocals.
The 'Oh mummy, daddy, will you sit a while with me' sequence, the new merge between Rothery's solo and the ambient rhythms and the screamed climax are about the only interesting part of this remix.
A remix of One Fine Day (8.20) is the fourth remake on this album. As with other parts of this album, the vocals are about the only thing remaining of the original track. The new drums, percussion and bass line make this version an interesting listen but the end result lacks all emotion present in the original version and starts to bore the hell out of you halfway through.
The last track is called Face 1004 (8.40) and although it seems to refer to Man of a Thousand Faces it's got nothing to do with that track (besides one short sample), or with Marillion's music at all. It's just a techno dance track like any one you could pick from the contemporary charts. I really don't understand what it's doing on this CD.
Since I got the CD without the packaging I can't really tell you anything about it.
This version by Racket Records, the label which Marillion uses to release fan club CDs, is no longer available. The CD has recently been released by Eagle Records with an additional track; a remix of 80 Days.
The initial idea of the band was to find a way to reach a new audience with their music. Seemingly they thought that changing the music altogether and targetting the result at the club audiences is the way to ensure themselves of new fans. I don't understand it though, because this isn't Marillion's real music at all, so who are they kidding ?
Estonia and One Fine Day might make nice bonus tracks on a CD single, but a whole CD of this stuff is just too much. Let's hope the forthcoming album will be better.
Oh, and don't think I'm being narrow-minded here; KLF is one of my favourite bands.
Conclusion: Only interesting if the thought of mixing Marillion's music with techno trance music really appeals to you. 4 out 10.
As you might have noticed in the previous issue of the Reviews Page, we often receive CDs which not always fit the label 'progressive rock' in the way DPRP visualized the genre. Nevertheless, we always review CDs unless their connection with rock music in general is completely absent. This time we have some of these discs to review again. Here we go.
The Axis Y - D'Spayre
The Pittsburgh-based band The Axis Y was formed in 1990 and, unhappy with
radio and arena rock, started creating music that was meant to be both
oppressive and emancipating at the same time.
The Axis Y is: Ed Dillon (vocals and bass), Frank Nemchik (lead guitar), female drummer Maria Colencio and John Hargnett (rhythm guitar). As you might expect from their line-up, the band plays guitar based rock with heavy bass lines.
Listening to the album, you would assume to be listening to an English band, which it in't. The music is very brooding and dark and features good solid playing by all members. No killer guitar solos and no keyboard at all, but great bass lines, effective guitar riffs and striking vocals.
I found it hard to compare the band to any other band until someone told me they sounded a bit like The Cult in their non-commercial period. I think he was right.
D'Spayre, the bands second album, features 11 tracks, most of them 2,5 to 4 minutes long. Although this is not my favourite musical genre I certainly enjoyed the multiple listenings I gave this disc. I especially liked the short opening track Five Minutes, the duet Sometimes with one Kim Ley and the long (7.50) experimental closing tune Collapse.
The booklet is a mixture of lyrics and mediaeval drawings of people fighting death, devils and such. The front cover features Mozes coming down the mountains and showing his people the Axis Y logo on his ten commendments tablet.
The band's CD can be ordered through their Web site.
Conclusion: 7- out of 10.
Fireaxe - A Dream of Death
Brian Voth, the only real musician behind Fireaxe (the rest is just a bunch of drum computers and effects), is a bitter and disillusioned man. On his web site he rants on for pages about 'being punished for his ideas and challenging the status quo' and other complaints.
Brian describes Fireaxe as 'power/progressive metal, and has elements of doom metal, (blimey !) hard rock and even jazz. Influences include King Diamond, Judas Priest and Metallica among countless others.' Though I certainly think Brian is right about the first two (bands I never liked, by the way), I find it very hard to find any Metallica in his work.
Brian is not looking for a record deal but wants to deliver his music in a
'pure manner' to the listener. According to Brian, the traditional method of
delivering music would require a heavy commitment of time and money without
a guarantee of success. Brian goes on describing the current musical industry
as 'cutthroat business'. 'Merely producing good quality music is no
guarantee that an artist will receive anything more than local attention and
admiration. Without a recording contract it is difficult for an artist to
pay the bills. (...) Bands which appear profitable will be signed more
readily than those which will only appeal to niche markets. Thus, the music
industry tends to follow a herd mentality, concentrating on what is
currently popular and profitable and milking that style until the next big
thing comes along.' Did I hear someone say Spice Girls ?
Brian clearly figured out the way of today's music business (haven't we all ?) and therefore decided to put out a CD on his own. His album was recorded entirely in an apartment room (Brian's neighbours must love him) on a Yamaha 8 track cassette recorder. After mixing and digitization in a studio, CDs and booklets were duplicated using PCs.
As Brian wrote, the purpose of Fireaxe is to express the emotions of its creator, no more no less. (...) It means more to [me] to have a single person enjoy his music to the fullest than have a million of people think that it is merely 'cool'. If only one person likes Fireaxe, but that person is deeply moved, then I consider Fireaxe to be a success. Not really a personal crusade if you ask me and quite a blunt statement if you write elsewhere that Fireaxe is a culmination of fourteen years of hard work; quite a lot to make just one person happy.
So far I could agree with Brian, even though I have a hard time taking a man who calls his guitar 'The Instrument of Doom' and says he's the 'Forgotten Son' serious. When he starts describing his CD as 'I think the sound on "A Dream of Death" rivals that of professionally recorded CDs', I clearly have to disagree. His CD might well be the worst production I have ever heard! Everything sounds flat and one-dimensional and synthetic. As far as the msuic is concerned, it's just one big flow of distorted speed metal guitar, tasteless computer drumming and Brian's awful vocals (which indeed sound a bit like Judas Priest and King Diamond; those guys couldn't sing either, they only screamed).
A Dream of Death is a full length concept album about a person torn apart by the beauty of his dreams and the ugliness of reality. The actual story is clearly the product of a depresssed mind and the lyrics fit the genre prejudice perfectly, if you know what I mean.
I think you get the impression by now that I did not like Brian's music ? Good.
Is there nothing good to be found then ? Well, actually there is. I really have
to compliment Brian on the great thing he pulled of without the help of a
record company. The music might not be something to write home about, but the
packaging is quite beatiful, on quality paper, as is the label on the CD.
Though I'm not convinced by Brian's talents as a singer I must admit that he is quite a talented composer. Some of the melodies, vocal lines and song structures are quite impressive. Maybe Brian should team up with another band and compose material for them.
This CD might be nice for the Beavis and Buthead population visiting these pages (we hope that's not many) but most of you probably couldn't care less about Brian's world vision. On the other hand, Brian sells copies of his CD quite cheaply through his Web Site, so if you like to give him the benefit of the doubt ....
Brian asked us to give his CD to someone who would like it, if we didn't like it ourselves, and we will. The first person who reads this review, visits Brian's Web site and e-mails me the name and author of the poem which inspired Brian's musical efforts, will get our promo copy.
Conculsion: 4.5 out of 10, most of which is earned because Brian does show the ability to compose some good stuff and out of respect for the work he did on his own.