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Reviews in this issue:
Sinister Street - Trust
Sinister Street are not new to DPRP, having had the demo release of Trust already reviewed in the past. The band itself saw the light of day in the late eighties and their claim to fame was having been the support band for Fish in 1989. In 1992 the band released their debut, and till now only album, Eve Of Innocence and with it the band presented a more radio-friendly styled progressive rock that seems to be modelled on the likes of bands such as IQ, Jadis and of course, Marillion. In fact though the band are linked to Fish, their music has more in common with the first two albums Marillion had released with Steve Hogarth as vocalist. [As a matter of fact, Sinister Street supported Steve Hogarth and Peter Trewavas once at their bass/piano-only performance of a Dutch convention of The Web. After their duo performance Steve and Pete joined Sinister Street on stage for some additional classics. - Ed]
The band is a sextet of which only three members remain from the original line-up, vocalist Olaf Blaauw and the two keyboard players Peter van Leerdam and Erik van der Vlis. The remaining members of the band are Frits Bonjernoor on drums, Roger Vingerhoeds on bass and Omar Niamut on guitar and together they have managed to forge a hard rocking band with plenty of progressive rock elements.
The opening Song For A Day immediately sets the pace for the rest of the album with its powerful keyboards, an important feature of the band which with its two keyboardists allows for an extremely rich sound with one keyboard dedicated to filling in the sound whilst the other carries out various arpeggios and solos. Another factor which intrigued me about this band was the way the drums are so delightfully played out. Parts which on any other album would have been just a run of the mill hard rock riff are given a different slant by Bonjernoor's effective drumming which is constantly changing with various off-beats included throughout the whole of the album.
As I have already mentioned the music on most tracks has a lot in common with the post-Fish Marillion though there is a much more rockier edge to the band on various tracks such as Thin Ice, conveyed mainly by the strong guitar work. However the quick and unexpected shift from power chord and full on distortion to broken arpeggios helps in creating a series of different moods within the same track. Couple this with some great guitar solos and one has great prog-influenced rock. This is further evidenced on pieces such as Midas Touch.
Sinister Street are also capable of slowing down the tempo, as happens on Lost For Words, though funnily enough, whereas ballad-like tracks are usually a highlight of most rock bands, it seems that this is where the band sound least effective. Two In One is also played at a rather slow-tempo, yet is much more effective in that the addition of an acoustic element creates a folk atmosphere and complements Blaauw's vocals which at times have an uncanny similarity to Roger Chapman.
One of the band's main influences are Canadian progmeisters Rush. One can sense this influence throughout much of the album, yet this is especially relevant on the album instrumental, Trust. The bass and drums are given much prominence on this track with the emphasis being on the string rhythmic changes rather than on creating hooks. Strangely enough the production on Trust as well as on Go the Distance seem to be much less polished than the rest of the album and leads to lead one to think that the band used the same recordings that had been used on the demo album Trust No1 that was issued in 1998, which is indeed a pity because the overall production of the album was impeccably polished.
Sinister Street are not one of those progressive rock bands from which one should expect overblown solos with vituosistic performances. Instead one gets a band effort with some great rock tunes and melody lines that have that marked dose of progressive rock influences to place Sinister Street in a street of their own. Here is a band that is too progressive to be simply called rock, and too rock to be simply called progressive. Some people have compared the band to fellow Dutch band, For Absent Friends, a comparison which could hold. If you dig good rock music, then you would do well to give Sinister Street a shot.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Notturno Concertante - Riscrivere Il Passato
Notturno Concertante is an Italian band, named after a musical piece by Carulli, a XIX-century Italian composer. The band has recorded 5 albums, and also contributed to several prog rock tribute albums (Genesis, Vander Graaf Generator, Camel and a Cantenbury tribute). Their most recent recording is called "Riscrivere Il Passato".
The 15 tracks on the album go through a variety of style, from modern or more traditional prog, to some not-so-proggy tracks. But even with all the diversity, the tracks fit quite well together, mainly because of the similar instrumentation (nice "warm" orchestrations, the acoustic guitar as the main instrument, and a bass/drum background).
The four vocal tracks have a typical Italian feel, they're sung in Italian, with those breathful vocals. Very catchy is Io Ti Amo (with an international "Wo-o-oh" chorus) and also Lezioni di Vita is quite good (with dramatic electric guitars). Not too proggy are Gente Dietro La Finestra and the mellow La Sitta Nuova (with some unexpected Marillion guitars.
The band's sound works quite well on the more subtle instrumentals. Because of their acoustic nature, they may not appeal to all prog lovers. Tracks like Erewhon (piano/guitar), So Many Things (piano/guitar/fiddle) and En Clave de Sol (peaceful, orchestrated guitar track) can best be compared with the acoustic Steve Hackett or Anthony Phillips stuff.
More proggy are the tracks that have a "darker" sound, like the strong Six of the Best, or the more modern Electric Rain and La Luce Della Notte. I particularly like the wordless vocals, and the contrast between the doomy themes, and the sunny acoustic guitars.
The album has quite some folk influences, most notably on three tracks: Giga (with celtic flutes/fiddle), If the Winter Had Its Spirit (accordion/flutes/fiddle), and La Danza (with cajun style accordion/fiddle). These pieces sound nice, but are hardly prog rock. With their combination of happy uptime folk dance music, classy orchestra and poppy drums sounds, their overall sound comes close to the music of Gordon Giltrap. Also the -less folky- lighthearted Persevi and Flood of Tears sound quite like him.
To conclude: Riscrivere Il Passato is a nice, light prog album. The album title translates as "rewriting the past". It's possible that this is a collection or re-recording of the band's earlier pieces (but I might be wrong, as I'm not familiar with the band's four former releases). The instrumentation on the album is quite good. I particularly liked the acoustic guitars and the tasteful warm orchestral sound (the drums sometimes are bit too fat and poppy though). My rating will be a bit low, because I think the melodies and arrangements could have been a bit more proggy. I mean, this is one of those prog albums even your mother in law will like! Recommended if you like Gordon Giltrap, the acoustic Steve Hackett, or Anthony Phillips.
Conclusion: 6,5 out of 10.
Poços & Nuvens - Província Universo
Brazilian band Poços & Nuvens are back with their second album, Provincia Universo featuring more of their folk-tinged progressive rock that flits between a more traditional European sound accentuated by the flair and colour associated with much of what Brazil has to offer.
Surprisingly, and thankfully, the band have not followed the path of many of their fellow South American bands and jumped on the speed-metal bandwagon that is striving to be labelled as progressive! In fact the band have much more in common with various Italian bands such as P.F.M. as they present a very mellow front in terms of vocals which despite being sung in Portuguese, come across as endearing and extremely delightful to listen to. Having said that the band does not stray too far from this vocal style when presenting their music thus allowing the album to flow along without sharp shifts in both presentation as well as rhythm. The only exception to this would be Vega which is also one of the rare tracks that allows both keyboards as well as guitars to really come out in full blown solos.
Most of the record is dominated by by the sound of flute and violin as the solo instruments with the keyboards playing out more of an atmospheric role. The guitar work has a very Marillionesque feel though it never overpowers the other instruments. The presence of the violin acts as a soothing influence to the rather hard hitting drums and together with the flute help create a very British touch to the whole setting as happens on Copla. Jethro Tull could be cited as a reference, especially since the the band really manages to rock when required as well as the use of the flute, however, one should also mention that the band have a mean rocking edge to their sound.
Describing them as prog-metal could be a slight bit harsh as much of the album is in an acoustic vein, yet when the drums kick in there is a power in the bands music which blows you off your feet. Tracks that epitomise that acoustic mellow nature would be No Inverno and whilst pieces like Neblina show off the rockier side of the band especially with the use of the double-bass drum other tracks also manage to fuse both elements as happens on Vega whilst Incenso E Chuva also introduces hints of King Crimson.
Towards the end of the album the band seems to push forward their acoustic touch together with some neo-progressive imagery. Both Poços E Nuvens and Milonguita have the band sounding like a progressive folk band with the vocals at times reminding me of the late Nick Drake. After hearing Noites Nas Ruas, one could define the band as Brazil's answer to Marillion circa the Misplaced Childhood era.
The whole of the album is an immensely pleasurable listen. The Portuguese vocals are of absolutely no detraction to the album which flows along at an incredibly smooth pace and should be of interest to most if not all progressive rock lovers. If you are interested in hearing what the Latin American world has to offer as regards progressive rock, then this album is a good place to start off from.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Deadsoul Tribe - Deadsoul Tribe
Deadsoul Tribe is the brainchild of former Psychotic Waltz vocalist Devon Graves (the alter ego of Buddy Lackey). In this new band he has formed he claims he can better express himself as a composer, guitarist and flutist. I personally am not familiar with Psychotic Waltz but apparently the music on this album is not to far away from Psychotic Waltz so if you like them, you should be able to enjoy this one too.
Is Deadsoul Tribe prog or prog metal? Not in the strictest sense of the word, but it relates to some prog acts and in general it sounds very good indeed. The tracks, especially the heavier ones, remind me of Devin Townsend's Terria, but for instance the second track has some Porcupine Tree like movements. Sometimes hints of Dream Theater can be heard, but nowhere the typical Dream Theater complexity is reached. The Haunted, a fine metal track itself, is the first track with some fiery guitar solo work. Here too, you have the impression of listening to a heavy metal version of a Porcupine Tree track!
The vocals are haunting, with lots of use of distortion and vocal transformers, which represents the more experimental
side of the album. I believe this works very well, especially in The Drowning Machine, which give the track
that tat extra to lift it above average. You has one of the most catchy choruses (in the positive sense: not that it's
trivial, it's just very good) I've heard in a while, it just keeps swirling in your brain. With its keyboard sounds it
has a distant resemblance of Pain of Salvation.
After all this electrical violence, the album calms down with the acoustic guitar and vocal track Under The Weight of My Stone. Here for the first time we hear the vocals undistorted and they are really good. Once is much closer to Pain of Salvation in its opening bars. This too, though electric again, is much calmer than the first part of the album. Next comes a very frustrating minute: the opening of One Bullet reminded me very strongly of a certain band, especially the vocals, but I just can't figure out which one! Any one out there who can help me with that? Subsequently we're treated to a minute of almost Latin music! A nice break before the last official track, Cry for Tomorrow which is the most uptempo track on the album. The bonus track (as Intro is actually the moody introduction to Into The Spiral Cathedral) is the most symphonic track on the album. Bombastic and convincing it is a worthy closer with many rhythmic changes and breaks. It has a very good solo at the end, music wise. The whole band participates to create a full and rich sound over which the solo is played.
This album is recommended for everybody who enjoys Devin Townsend, Pain of Salvation and Porcupine Tree. Production and mixing are flawless and is produced with the usual InsideOut quality. You can see them live at Dynamo Open Air July 14th.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Quarkspace - Drop
Quarkspace have long been heralded as America's answer to Hawkwind and the space-rock genre. Their repertoire is indeed vast and as a band they have been around for a relatively long time. With Drop, Quarkspace have ventured into new territory by offering their latest album up to public domain, thus providing all the material in MP3 format on their website.
The music is hypnotic and rhythmic with various loops and techno-like beats much in a similar vein to what you would expect on an album from bands such as Ozric Tentacles. However, the band lack the instrumentation variety that the Tentacles possess and prefer to concentrate on various layers of keyboards and electronic effects that are swirled around throughout the whole of the album. Of course psychedelia is one of the main genres in which one could categorise the album with a number of tracks featuring the vocals of Chet Santia. These songs are extremely well-structured with the vocals presented alongside some catchy hooks as happens on Sound Inside You. This particular track has been described as Roxy Music meets Hawkwind by the band, and there should not be a more apt description. Somehow much of these space-rock bands manage to convey such as similar structure when constructing vocals based tracks. Bands that come to mind would be Kromlek, The Rabbit's Hat and of course Tim Blake. At times, though not too often, the band also manage to deviate from their swirling space background to descend into an acoustic mode as happens on The Storm which features some admirable backing piano as does The Lie which could well have been composed in the late sixties alongside the Barrett-led Floyd.
The majority of the album is dominated by the instrumental tracks which are a matter of love them or hate them. Lengthy and inconsequential, the music is repetitive and at times down right boring. Obviously I am speaking from the view point of somebody who is not too impressed by this music style which has more in common with techno music than progressive rock. There are the occasional pleasant sequences such as Newton's Dream which is set in an eerie soundscape whilst the closing Blanket Hill features the poetry of Thom the World Poet Woodruff who talks about the 1970 Kent State University killings and there impact on humanity.
One cannot decidedly say whether this is a great album or a poor one. It all depends on what your musical tastes are and whether space or cosmic rock is your cup of tea. I found the instrumentals too drawn out and uneventful, yet on the other hand this is one of the features of this musical genre. The vocal tracks are excellent examples of modern psychedelia and they should be a delight for those into that musical style. However, the availability to the public of all this music from the band website should encourage everybody to visit the site and download what is available, and then it is just up to you to decide whether to retain the music or not!
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.