Reviews in this issue:
Salmon - Decade Reference
Salmon are a new Dutch progressive rock band. It's quite hard for prog bands to get a record deal, and that's why they opted for releasing their debut CD independantly.
Musically, the band is not going along with the prog metal stream. In fact, they took the name Salmon to state they were rather swimming against the stream. This is not the same as stating everything you do is new and has never been done before. The band are aware of their influences and history. On the website they say their music is prog in the 1970s vein, combined with baroque and classical music from the 18th and 19th century.
I could mention some big names from the 1970s like Genesis as an influence. But that's easy. I hear some 1970s Italian prog influences too. But the best reference, I think, is British band Landmarq. The love for melodies, the mix of catchy lines with clever use of melodic composition, very good bass playing and some epic songs they have in common. Also the instrumental structure of the songs compare to some degree. Melody is way more important than building a wall of sound. The rather intimate and warm atmosphere created with the music is very pleasant. Another reference might be our fellow countrymen Kayak. Although they share the love for clever and catchy melodies, I think Salmon's music is warmer and let free now and then to explore instead of Kayak's shorter songs.
Don't think Salmon is a copy of Landmarq. The way of composing songs and vocal melodies is different, which leads to completely different music. It's the way their songs sound, the atmosphere, that reminds me of Landmarq.
A recorder is not an instrument you hear a lot these days. Conservatory graduate Jan Jaap Langereis uses the recorder a couple of times, and I actually like the sound. The song structures are usually not overly complex. Still, a lot of things are going on in even the shorter songs, but at least it's not a patchwork of different time signatures.
Langereis has a very pleasant and almost sweet voice. Sometimes a bit thin (although he does show power in his voice at times), but it's not hard rock he has to sing to; the type of music is right for his warm singing. And like the music, it sounds like it's coming from the heart rather than the mind. Emotional soloing in most of the songs, but also the almost agressive but still very melodic guitar lines during the verses in Trespassing.
I can listen to the album and not know which song is playing. The album is very consistent. Although there are very different parts in every song, they still are part of the same big picture, which is a very good thing. It shows they are really going the way they want to go: their own way. Drummer Robbert Schuster was the last one to join the band, but the others have been playing together for quite a while now and know each other musically. Also the fact that the band is not a bunch of kids thinking they can do something no one has ever done before, but musicians who have been playing for many years, makes this band experienced from the start, and it shows.
The lyrics are mainly written by guitarist Gerrit Hoogebeen, but also Jan Jaap Langereis and Sven de Haan write lyrics. Especially Hoogebeen has a poetical way of writing. His English is very good, and most important is that he has no need to use pretentious words. No bombastic vocabulary, but very lyrical. It fits the music very well. Subjects range from dreamy observations in Houses On The Voorde Banks to a social issue like sexual harassment in Trespassing, or thoughts about the relation between body and soul in the longest track on the album. It's been a while since I enjoyed reading lyrics!
I think Salmon would be a great band for Landmarq to do a tour with. Fans of the one band should definitely check out the other. Actually, everybody who listens to more than prog metal and has a love for melody, should check this out. I think Salmon deserves a following like Landmarq because they're equally musically important.
The CD is available from the official Salmon website. There's also a list of a few shops in Holland and one in France.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Baltimoore - The Best of Baltimoore
It seems that no matter what, various record labels persist in trying to promote various bands that play plain simple melodic hard rock/heavy metal via progressive rock sites. Both Empire and Baltimoore are two such bands. There is nothing remotely progressive about the musical style that they play which can best be described as being similar to the hard rock music that dominated the airwaves in the late seventies and early eighties. The melodies are great as well as the musicianship, though they are just simply out of place on such a website.
The Best Of Baltimoore incorporates tracks that span the solo career of vocalist Bjorn Lodin between 1989 and today. All tracks have previously been available on Baltimoore's studio albums though they have all been re-recorded with veteran drummer Ian Haugland (Europe) on drums, Thomas Larsson (guitars), Örjan Fernström (organ) and Weine Johansson (bass). The band's style of playing can be best described as a cross between heavyweight bands such as Krokus and the bluesier Great White.
Empire are ore of a star-studded band featuring Lance King (Balance Of Power) on vocals, Neil Murray (Gilgamesh, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath and various others) on bass, Rolf Munkes (guitars) and Gerald Kloos (drums). Furthermore there are guest appearances by Mark Boals (Ted Nugent, Yngwie Malmsteen), Don Airey (Whitesnake, MSG) and Anders Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen, Hammerfall). Musically Empire play a faster style of metal than do Baltimoore, however the emphasis is on melody, something which this band manage to achieve with great gusto.
In conclusion, both these bands do not have their place on a progressive rock website. The music they play is very pleasant and well executed, however there is nothing remotely progressive about what they do. The rating is only a reflection of what they do not achieve from a progressive rock point of view and should this have been a plain simple hard rock site, then it would have been much higher.
Conclusion for both albums: 4 out of 10.
Cyril Achard's Morbid Feeling - ...In Inconstancia Constans
Cyril Achard is a name that is relatively well known within the French progressive rock scene, mainly for his work with Atoll and Arrakeen. ...In Inconstancia Constans is the first album with his new band Morbid Feeling which comprises Eric Lebailly (drums), Franck Hermanny (bass), Patrick Peek (vocals) and Jean-Marc Layani (keyboards). Furthermore legendary keyboardist Tony MacAlpine plays as guest musician on Empty Vow, Fields Of Graves and Be My Thing.
Seeing that the label involved in this album is Lion Records I was prepared for an album that dealt mainly with a heavy melodic hard rock band, and I must admit to have been pleasantly surprised with this particular album. The whole of the album involves a style that can be quite easily defined as a progressive metal style, though the album does have its mellow moments. Another of the more positive aspects of the album is that within the tracks themselves there is a large amount of diversity that allows the music to be of interest to most if not all progressive rock lovers.
Tracks such as Alone Among My Friends and Exile Is Over stand out from the rest of the album with the diverse influences that seem to pervade the band's music. Possibly the only drawback (in my opinion!) is the style in which solos are played out with a throwback to the guitar and keyboard solos of the heavy metal eighties when it seems that a solo consisted of cramming as many notes into one minute. However, the tracks also involve some great changes in time signature as well as fluctuations between acoustic and electric guitar, a feat carried out in a most exquisite nature on Exile Is Over.
Not all music comes at a fast and furious pace. Take Fallen From Grace which has some excellent piano work with the occasional venture into the heavy sphere. Special mention must also be made of Patrick Peek's vocal talents which give each and every track that special flavour with his rich and powerful vocals.
Another special mention must be made of Tony MacAlpine's contribution to three tracks on the album. My memory of MacAlpine was his eighties music that consisted of instrumental albums full of melodic metal coupled with the occasional band such as M.A.R.S.. On all albums the music consisted of fast and furious solos and I must say that the last thing I would expect would be the relatively mellow approach found on tracks such as Empty Vow. The answer and response style between guitars, vocals and keyboards is carried out to perfection and when the track does pick in pace and power, it is done with great style. Of course the presence of MacAlpine is too much of a temptation and there are times where the duetting between MacAlpine and Archard is carried a tad bit too far such as on Fields Of Graves with the emphasis laying too much on how fast the solo can be executed rather than concentrate on the track itself.
On the whole the album is a very pleasant surprise from Lion Records with some great progressive metal belted out from this band. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the gauge for progressive metal bands is Dream Theater, which admittedly is a very tough nut to crack and very hard to live up to. Notwithstanding all this, Cyril Archard's Morbid feeling have come up with an impressive debut that is sure to please all progressive metal lovers. A thumbs up to the band and also to Lion Music who finally have discovered a band worthy of truly calling progressive!
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.
Distillerie di Malto - Il Manuale dei Piccoli Discorsi
Although Il Manuale dei Piccoli Discorsi was released in 2001, it has all the hallmarks of an album recorded thirty years previously and steeped in the traditions of early 70's progressive rock. There are no major production values on this recording from Distillerie di Malto, but a sense that they have approached the studio recording to reflect how the pieces would be performed in concert. The additional parts serving to embelish those sections that live instrumentation does not allow and all of these elements make this album a refreshing change.
Il Manuale dei Piccoli Discorsi contains five tracks which are in the main instrumental, although there are a few vocal sections, two tracks are in English and the remainder in the band's native tongue. All the tracks have complexities within the arrangements, with peaks and troughs, light and shade, and some avante garde freeform sections.
There are many notable elements within the musicianship shown by Distillerie di Malto on this recording, particularly engaging were the classical guitar and flute sections and the fluidity of many of the lead guitar passages. Some very Keith Emerson keyboard sounds and textures from Fabiano Cudozza - check out 5/5/1555, and the empathy between drummer Maurizio Di Tollo and bassman Salvatore Marchesani is very evident.
Highlights from Il Manuale dei Piccoli Discorsi was the atmospheric, languid instrumental Melodia di fine autunno - a gentle opening section which gradually develops into an early Camel sounding piece. Aria e vento followed in a similar style with a fluid "Latimer/Hackett" opening solo theme - sadly the following vocal section was a little cliched, however the reprise of the opening passage did help to re-establish the song.
Il Manuale dei Piccoli Discorsi reminded me in many respects of an early 70's prog rock, cleverly combining many elements and styles to create an album that has many of the characteristics from the era. Early versions of bands such as Genesis, Camel, King Crimson and VDGG all came to mind, but without sounding like any in particular. So if these bands are in your collection then you would do well to check out this recording.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10