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Reviews in this issue:
Metaphor - Starfooted
An advert in a San Fransico magazine reading "Hackett seeks Banks, Rutherford, Gabriel, Collins. Object: Suppers Ready." was the beginning of the band Metaphor. From the handful of people responding to the advert an 'early Genesis' cover band was formed in 1993, playing about 3 hours worth of material. While the line-up underwent some changes, the band shifted to a more original approach with own compositions. In 1999 they recorded their first album Starfooted, which is now released by the Galileo label.
Metaphor consists of Bob Koehler (Drums), John Mabry (Vocals & Acoustic Guitar), Jim Post (Bass), Malcolm Smith (Electric & Acoustic Guitars), Marc Spooner (Leyboards).
The whole thing just oozes Genesis, the way the instruments are played, the Gabriel-esque
vocals, the arrangements, the time signatures and tempo changes, the overload of lyrics, the
medieval feel of some of the songs ....
Influences by other bands (among whom IQ and Marillion) can be detected as well, but are nowhere near as obvious as the Genesis ones. The whole album sounds like something that could easily have been 'the great lost Genesis album'. For instance, a track like Starfooted in a Garden of Cans sounds like a direct remake of Back in New York City.
It's all done in a very good way and there are some fine moments and melodies to be found on
the album. However, after a couple of songs this all gets quite boring. The I've heard it all
before factor is omnipresent and never does the band venture into an own, original sound.
The biblical concept of the album describes the story of the creation of Earth, Adam and Eve, the coming of Christ, etc from the Gnostics point of view. Not what I would call a fresh, realistic topic. Then again, I'm easily put off by music with religious themes (or religion in general).
As I expected, lots of other prog magazines and e-zines are raving about the album (besides the
suposed Britney Spears quote "This is real dogcrap!", which proves the band's good sense of
humour). I personally find it a real shame that such talented musicians have choosen for such
a retrospective sound and bland copying of their heroes.
If you're one of those people that think that music stopped in 1975 when Gabriel left Genesis this CD is for you. If you like a more original approach and are not interested in the next Genesis wanna-be-band to come around, better think twice before you buy this CD.
For some samples of the bands music, visit their Homepage.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10.
Everon - Fantasma
Everon are back! Er... have they been away? Well, not exactly, but fate didn't have a lot of good in mind, which kept the band quiet for some time. But here's their new album: Fantasma! It's the band's fourth album, and the first with guitarist Ulli Hoever, replacing Ralf Janssen.
Opening track Men Of Rust blasts into your ears with that lovely Everon power. Not mere
bombastic power, but melodic power, a full sound, where so much is happening that you need full
and undivided attention. Have Everon become heavier, I ask myself. Sure sounds like it, and it
isn't too strange considered the path they went from Paradoxes to Flood to
Venus. It's this heavy Everon that I like best! It's more than just being heavy that
makes Everon the unique band they are, of course. It's also the diversity, the alternations of
musical bits that make you wonder where the hell they got the idea from. So many musical jigsaw
pieces, and they simply fit perfectly. Easy pieces with sensitive guitar and piano, or the heavy
pieces, with distorted riffs and keyboards following the way set by the rhythm section as the
driving force, and all covered with a lot of Philipps' thin and still powerful vocals.
At the beginning of Perfect Remedy, I thought the song was going to be a bit like Black River or something off the first album. It brings back memories off Paradoxes. The way it slowly builds up towards the middle of the song, where it falls back to the delicate opening music - very Everon.
Fine With Me is like a short and fast rock song, but in the Everon tradition. No simple, straightforward rocker, but think of Cavemen from Flood. Wow, how many things they can let happen in such a short time... This song shows more than other Philipps can write lyrics in places I would not necessarily expect words. This makes the music sound fuller, more complex, and more exciting. The union of music and vocals is really tight.
Alternating the heavy with more sensitive pieces, next song, A Day By The Sea, is a semi-ballad. Lots of piano, but too much is going on and building up to a greater sound to let it be a ballad. Great moving middle section with a marvellous guitar solo here.
The title track is divided into five parts, but it is the longest track in Everon history. Of
course, songs like this start slowly, but only after thirty seconds, things begin to rock in
the Everon way. Nice riff there, which reminds me of that break in Marching Out, by the
way. It goes without saying that this is a very diverse track, but not because it is composed
of different parts. A part like The Real Escape is very diverse in itself as well. A
soft, almost fragile first half with classical guitar and, oh beautiful cello. The second half,
fading into Whatever It Takes, picks up the rocking start of the whole suite.
Battle Of Words is an instrumental that undoubtedly will replace Prelude in the live set. It's another diverse song, even with its limited length. Especially in this song you can hear what a great drummer Christian Moos is. No technical showing off, but sounding almost relaxed even in the heavier parts. The first half of this song contains a guitar solo in the typical Everon style: fierce, sharp, and very melodic.
Did I say I like the heavy Everon best? May You is a very sensitive piano ballad. What
a great voice that man has... Philipps sings this song with his wonderfully warm and emotional
voice. In the second half of the song, the rest of the band joins in, but the beauty of the
song remains. It's a ballad, and it's a beautiful one. And a song like this makes me realize
why I love Everon's music so much: it's all about emotion, it's soul food. There's a lot of
technical playing, bombastic pieces, sharp guitar solos - and it's all about the heart, not the
mind. And that's, at least to me, what music is about.
I don't mind the splitting of songs like Under Skies... / ... Of Blue (from Flood) and Right Now... / ...Til The End Of Time, but I think Ghosts - Intro / Ghosts could have done without. But what the heck - I realize that this is the first point of criticism... Ghosts combines many of the ingredients heard before. Kind of an encore to a wonderful album. Quiet bits, a heavier (although not as heavy as this band can be) chorus, again a very moving guitar solo. And the lyrics say: "carpe diem!"
What a wonderful album! I simply think that if you don't have this album, you're missing out on something great. Definitely Everon's best album to date, and this is going to be a classic one. Whatever their influences, the results are a unique blend of melodic, symphonic, and progressive rock. Not in the centre of the musical style as set mainly by Genesis, but more towards the edge. Maybe like Yes - you love 'em or you don't, not a lot in between. In case of Everon - I love 'em.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10.
Kennedy - Kennedy!
Uh oh. Japanese instrumental prog. Live. A line-up of, and I quote, impossible saxophones,
eccentric keyboards, explosive drums, and emotional guitars. If you remember my review of Side
Step's album Alive, you know I fear the worst: cold and technical playign without emotion or
feeling for unity.
But oh how appearances can deceive. I admit, I was completely wrong with my ideas on what to expect. These guys know how to play a song. A real song. You know, with time signatures that make sense, and no changes for the sake of time signature changes. The music is driving and pumping. In fact, it could have used a bit of peace and quiet now and then, but the music rages on, most of the times. Well, it's just the overall impression, because I should mention a song like Kremlin Dream, which is slower, more sensitive and a bit dreamy. (Great title...)
The music makes me think of some other Japanese prog bands, who let keyboards predominate all
of the compositions. Although Kennedy have a wonderful guitar player, we don't hear enough of
him. It's still mainly the keyboards.
The "impossible saxophone" is indeed, at times, impossible. I don't like wind instruments in general, but I especially dislike them when the musician freaks out. And he's doing that a couple of times. For example, half of Tasmanian Devil is a freaky sax solo. That's not for my ears...
Intense, that's the word. They remind me of Mastermind in some of the songs. But where Mastermind play a wider range of styles, Kennedy stay close to their form of prog, heavily based on the keyboards. It's instrumental, so there are lots of solos, mostly on keyboards, some on sax, and too few on guitar. Still most of the solos are in service of the songs, and don't drift away like some half hour modern jazz improvisation. Fast and frantic solos, but still in the nature of the songs. Oh, and there's a drum solo as well: Birth Of Fire.
This is a live album, but there's hardly any audience audible. I should also mention that this is a re-issue of a recording originally released in 1987. Can things get weirder than this? Japanese instrumental prog, and I am going to find out if this band has released anything else... Now who would have thought of that?!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Obscured by Clouds - Bleed
When I received a new bunch of review promos, this was one that immediately drew my attention. Obscured by Clouds is the title of one of the lesser known Pink Floyd albums, and behold, the 10 track album featured 6 Floyd covers !
The band plays in an acoustic line-up with William Weikart on vocals and acoustic guitar,
Ray Woods on Mellotron & Keyboards and Roger Feibel on percussion (bongos and such).
As can be imagined from this line-up, the band focusses on the more pastoral and acoustic
compositions by Pink Floyd. Besides the songs on this album, the band has more lesser known
Floyd compositions in their reportoire, as well as songs by The Beatles, King Crimson, Led
Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and a handful of original compositions.
The whole Bleed album was performed and recorded live in the studio in one day.
The first Floyd cover is Fearless. Don't expect a cover as good as Fish' version of
from this track. Nevertheless it's quite enjoyable.
Pigs on the Wing is a bit more powerful and slightly faster than the original from the Animals album. The band plays both parts of the original in this interesting version.
Cirrus Minor (from Pink Floyd's soundtrack to More) is a song of which the original already bored the hell out of me (not counting the organ solo at the end). This cover version isn't much better and the low voice of William Weikart is enough to send even the biggest coffee addict to sleep immediately. An improvement compared to the original is the use of atmospheric keyboards in the first half, although they are a bit too high in the mix.
The acoustic version of Breathe (from Dark Side of the Moon) is spoiled by the loud keyboards. It might have been a very interesting track as a vocal/guitar-only version. The reprise which is normally played after Time is added to this version as well.
Julia Dream is an early Floyd single. This version again features more organ than the
original. A reasonable rendition.
Crystal Ship is a cover of the original by The Doors. Although I like The Doors, I never considered this one of their better songs, so I can't really be bothered by it.
The highly neglected Floyd classic Cymbaline (from More as well) that was played
in amazing live versions in the early 70s gets a fine treatment, although William's low vocals don't
come near Gilmour's and his 'tah-doo-doo-dah's sound more laughable than enjoyable.
I don't know where the song That's The Way comes from, but it doesn't seem to be an original composition. Anyway, it fits in quite well with the rest of the material.
Bleed is a mediocre acoustic track written by William Weikart. For some reason the band
has included a short and long version on the album, the latter of which doesn't fade out after 6 minutes.
I personnally consider that unnecessary duplication. Nevertheless, since the other tracks on the album aren't real improvements compared
to their originals, this one might be one of the best or most interesting tracks on the CD.
The end of the long version seems to be the only part of the CD where the band 'gets it on' and puts some energy in their music. I do wonder what that annoying sound in the song behind the guitar & organ is. Was this noise, which reminds me of a skipping CD, done intentionally ?
William Weikart is far from the worlds greatest singer and sometimes (like in Breathe) goes fully out-of-tune. As you can imagine, this kind of spoils the enjoyment of acoustic renditions of the songs. The fact that you can for some reason (a slight echo effect perhaps) hear the vocals twice doesn't make it any better. If you like Nick Cave, you might find his vocals endurable though. Besides that, the singer has either misunderstood some of the original lyrics for some of the songs or has taken intentionally changed them.
The booklet is a folded piece that has blanc pages on the inside.
An album with acoustic ditties might seem interesting but with the painful vocals and the sleep-inducing choice of material does not make this a real recommended purchase, unless you are a Floyd completist.
Since the release of this album the band has changed drummers and added a guitarist and bass player to their line-up, which will probably make their sound a bit more energetic than the approach on this CD.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10.
Ashes To Ashes - Shapes Of Spirits
Dark and atmospheric, or gothic metal is getting more and more popular. Slow, distorted riffs, deep voices, long songs. But when this kind of music is enhanced (to my taste, that is) with keyboards that do more than supporting a mysterious layer of bass sounds, the vocals are audible, understandable and actually very good, and the songs are more diverse, contain real slow and more delicate passages as well, then it's becoming more interesting for people usually listening to progressive rock. Ashes To Ashes are from Norway and they have these extra ingredients that make a gothic metal album go into the DPRP CD Review archives.
Not surprisingly, though, is that the album opens with a short keyboard-only instrumental, to
set the mark for the rest of this album: dark and mysterious. Although keyboard player Thomas
Sörlie is not part of the band, I am real glad he got some lines to play. Well, quite a lot
of them, actually. If you ask me, I'd let him be part of the band and give him more to play!
I think the idea for this kind of bands to have two guitarists is tempting. But guitarist Michael Stenberg, who wrote most of the songs, can handle the guitar parts himself very well, and with that the band prevents their music from drowning in an overdose of riffs. The way to get a dark atmosphere is distorted riffs. Stenberg plays them with diversity on his mind all the time. Most bands in this genre lose my interest after a couple of songs because of boring riffs repeating themselves. But this is something else.
The first half of Castle In The Air is more straightforward metal and doesn't do very much for me, but overall guitar playing is very diverse. Not a lot of soloing, by the way. Most of the guitar play is distorted.
The songs are also diverse in speed and loudness. Ashes To Ashes keep their songs interesting for the listener, although the longest songs tend to be a bit too long. The best piece of music, for example, is in Divide And Conquer, a three-minute instrumental. This track is the most diverse one on the album. Keyboards even take a step out of the supporting role and do a few solo lines. Sörlie plays them with a great feeling for contract between highs and lows, dark and light.
With a singer like Kenneth Brastad, there's not a lot that can go wrong. Only added to the
line-up after lots of vocalists auditions and shortly before the recording of this album, this
opera trained singer easily is one of the things you will remember Ashes To Ashes by. He has a
deep voice, and hardly screams, which is a very good thing. When he goes a bit higher, he
reminds me of Bill Berends of Mastermind. The lyrics and vocal lines, which I assume were
written before he joined, may be a bit hard for him, but I hope he can make the vocal lines a
bit more melodic next time.
The two longest tracks have female vocals by Randi Hoftvedt. High ethereal singing, which reminds me of Within Temptation. I wouldn't mind if she got a bigger role in this band as well, together with the keyboard player.
The lyrics are dark, not surprisingly. But with a certain limit to the vocabulary, things can
get a bit childish and amusing, which distracts the attention from the music. Too much pressure
is used to keep the words mysterious, making them painfully pretentious at times. Maybe Ashes
To Ashes should stop trying to be the dark metal band they want to be? With the diversity in
songwriting and removing the lid off the wish to experiment, this band could grow very
interesting and popular.
Still, the album I am listening to now, is interesting, also for DPRP readers. Largely dark metal, mysterious atmosphere - but at least there is a real atmosphere created by the players' enthusiasm, instead of the cold air that blows with too many bands around, thinking too much about their music instead of just play. There's enough diversity in songs as well. And I haven't even mentioned track 4 yet, which is almost a piano ballad! If you like sounds of The Gathering or Within Temptation, you should really try Ashes To Ashes.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.
Peter Hammill - None Of The Above
It has taken a while, but now we finally have a Peter Hammill album in the DPRP CD Reviews
archive. And I hope it won't be the last! Even if you have only heard a few albums Hammill has
recorded, either with Van Der Graaf Generator or solo, you know the man is something special.
Even after, what, forty or fifty albums, he's still a very original composer and musician,
writing very personal songs. A unique artist.
None Of The Above is his first studio album since This from 1998, save collaborations and a partly re-recorded opera. The first thing I thought when I read the title, was that this album was going to be different from all the previous ones. Hearing the first track, I knew this could not be completely true, but the statement still partly stands after I heard the whole album.
Hammill plays almost all instruments himself, mostly keyboards, piano, and guitar. Because
there's not a whole band playing (nor is it faked by numerous overdubs), the songs are very
open and delicate. This is not unusual for Hammill's solo albums, as fans know. What makes the
music warm and, with that, even more delicate, is that Hammill writes and plays his music with
emotion. It's all from the heart. And what amazes me over and over again, with every album he
releases, is that he keeps on being so original. Both in lyrical and musical terms.
The subjects of his lyrics are very real. No fantasies, but things that happen in real life. It's all about human communication and interaction. And Hammill is able to describe situations with the clarity of an author of literature. Well, I think that his lyrics can easily be regarded as poems. For example, Like Veronica, which is about a woman who's husband beats her up: "wear your hair like Veronica Lake, and the bruises won't show where he hits you", "he's only in love with his fists". Or Tango For One, about selfishness: "and every time you call me, I wait to hear what favour you require of me this time", "my world does not revolve around whatever problem you want solved". And something you would not have heard five years ago in songs: "I keep the website stocked with pictures of you, I love to scan your shocked expressions" (from Somebody Bad Enough). "I keep your picture in the back of the book, as index to my hidden pages". Real poetry; beautiful words beautifully put to music.
The music! Yes, let me tell you about that as well. Like I said, the first song sounded
somewhat familiar. It reminded me of the music on Everyone You Hold from 1997. But it's
more than just Everyone You Hold part 2. I thought Everyone You Hold was, in
general, too sweet, while the next one, This, was more intense and powerful. None Of
The Above is not as intense as This, but certainly has its moments of power and
melancholy. Touch And Go is keyboards, piano, and vocals, and I wonder if it's the
right choice for a first track. But hey, if you're going to read all of this review, you're
also going to listen to all of the album, aren't you?!
On Naming The Rose, Hammill invited Stuart Gordon on violin, and his daughters Holly and Beatrice for the soprano vocals. In a song like this, you know you're listening to Peter Hammill. It's a very delicate song, so things can't go hectic and impossible as he has done in his past, but the structure of the song, on which he sings the lyrics, is not very obvious. Although Hammill has done this throughout his musical career - it's the way he can write songs - the way it is performed here, with only minimal musical backing, it's almost pure poetry, or something close to New Music...
Ah, guitar. And piano. How Far I Fell is quiet and still powerful, because of vocal overdubs and haunting piano. I expected a few crashes of piano or guitar as in Bubble from This, but it didn't happen. The song doesn't need it, actually. It's still strong, and I like the way the guitar and piano are working together creating the song's atmosphere.
The chorus of Somebody Bad Enough gave me a Yes feeling! High vocals, but also the
vocal melodies sounded very Jon Anderson to me. The song has percussion, piano, keyboards,
and a bit of guitar as well. At first "sight", the song sounded sweet, but it's
great to hear all those things happening, and the way they are arranged. And again the
melancholy - dark at first, but there's always hope in the end.
Tango For One is piano and vocals again, plus Stuart Gordon's violin. At first, this also reminded me of Everyone You Hold, or even more of This, but after hearing it again and again, it became one of the best songs on the album for me. It's more "song" than How Far I Fell, less experimental, and maybe more typical late nineties' Hammill, but the feeling of the song is simply great. Can't put it into words what it is, but I love it.
Like Veronica is different from the rest of the album in that it contains drums, by
Manny Elias, and more electric guitar than the other songs. It starts off in the vein of the
rest of the album, a bit dreamy and quiet, but from the second verse on, Hammill's there
with his guitar. Not the sweet playing, but electric, distorted, and haunting. Another example
where Hammill can let the music and lyrics tell exactly the same story - words and feelings
mix perfectly. The vocal lines are very clever, building up at the beginning of the verse,
increasing in power and anger just when the guitar joins in. Pressure and menace until the
More guitar? In A Bottle even opens with that lovely distorted sound. But when the lyrics start, things are back to "normal", whatever that means in Hammill terms: keyboards and a bit of percussion in this case. This song has a long story to tell, and for four minutes, not a lot is changing. But at the last verse but one, the music stops and the verse is sung a-capella, with overdubs to create multi-vocal lines. The last verse is like the rest of the song. I think this song is a bit too long for what it is. OK, nice story, and the atmosphere is built up slowly, but Hammill is capable of changing the intensity or feelings in shorter songs, but fails to do so in eight minutes, save the guitar intro and the a-capella verse.
Astart almost has a happy start. But when Hammill starts to sing, there's that melancholic feeling again. Stuart Gordon and Holly and Beatrice Hammill are present again. When Hammill starts to sing more melodic lines, the song tends to sound happy after all, although Hammill is too much of a poet to make it really a simple beautiful song - it's more than that. It's not the most diverse song he's written. The most optimistic sounding song to close the album?
If you're looking for a Peter Hammill writing music like he did in the Seventies, you're a fool. The man is an artist, and he writes the music that he feels like. He has changed, and if he had not, he would be making the same music over and over again. Of course, there are elements in his music now that were already there on his first solo albums. But let me judge this album by what Hammill is like now. I think None Of The Above is more diverse than Everyone You Hold and This, although less intense than the latter. Still, as on most of his albums, Hammill knows how to paint the atmosphere with his emotional and personal songs. He knows how to touch the soul, which is most important in music, at least to me. The fact that he can touch the mind as well, makes it even better - well, the man is an artist, a true artist. And although I think he has written music that appeals to my musical taste better than this album, it's still a great album. Hammill fanatics will have the album anyway, but if you're looking for an album to know what Hammill sounds like these days and past couple of years, this one is the best.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Mind Gallery - Three Meals From Revolution
Three Meals From Revolution is the third CD from Canadian progressive rock quartet Mind Gallery. The band produces complexly layered, instrumental prog, while managing to retain strong melodies. Different tracks place focus on keyboards or guitar, but there's a distinct overall sound throughout this CD, heavily electronic.
Mind Gallery has quite a long history. Drummer Tracy Gloeckner began jamming with keyboard player Elio Bruno back in 1978. In 1980 they were joined by Mike Anderton, who back then not only played bass, but guitar as well. Guitarist Gary Bourgeois joined in 1990. The next year the foursome released their first studio album The Lemmings Were Pushed. May 1995 saw the release of Guilty Until Proven Rich and also a video release of a live internet performance, titled Alive In The Net.
The band has compared its music to a crossover of elements from Yes and King Crimson, but I also detect some early Pink Floyd, in songs with the intense atmosphere of a PF track like Careful With That Axe, Eugene. Some of their material can be compared to Rick Ray's work, although it must be noted that Mind Gallery has more subtlety in arragement and far better sound quality.
The best feature of Three Meals From Revolution is the originality of the compositions. Some tracks sound classically inspired, like Ennui in You, while others have very playful melodies, like What Goes A Round. An early part of Custer's Last Stand even sounds like a modern-day jig. Best is the heavier material, like the opening track To the Four Winds or Free the Free, which both have Oriental sounds emenating from the keyboards.
All four musicians display good craftmanship, though bassist Mike Anderton sometimes gets lost in the frenzy produced by his colleagues. Bourgeois has some of the best material, like his aggressive guitar play in Nothing Is Not. The absence of a vocalist is, in some tracks, resolved by the inclusion of samples or radio edits, most conspiciously in Armageddonouddahere, while at the end of Custer's Last Stand an entire battle is recreated! These are the kind of gimmicks that the aforementioned Rick Ray has also been known to use.
While instrumental albums aren't really "my thing", I did enjoy this one very much, thanks in large part to the quality of composition. Sixty minutes in a row is a bit much for my tastes, but if instrumental prog is your style, this should not be passed over.
All Mind Gallery cds can be purchased at their Homepage for $15,-. The website also includes MP3 cuts from three songs of this album: Armageddonouddahere, What Goes A Round and Nothing Is Not. More tracks are available at www.progradio.net.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10.