REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Knight Area – Under A New Sign
Tracklist: A Different Man (7:51), Exit L.U.M.C. (7:41), Mastermind (6:17), Under A New Sign (5:44), Courteous Love (7:08), Dreamweaver (7:38), A Different Man Part 2 (13:07)
Dutch neo-progressive act Knight Area came up with one of the pleasanter surprises in 2004 with their debut album
The Sun Also Rises – whilst obviously heavily in debt to relative giants of the scene such as IQ, Pendragon and Arena, the album nonetheless impressed with its solid song-writing and strong sense of melodic nous. Fans of the debut will be pleased to know that the main change to note on this sophomore effort is that, rather than being essentially a one-man project (of keyboard player/ main songwriter Gerben Klazinga) Knight Area are now a ‘proper’ seven-piece band; this obviously helps give a sense of cohesiveness to proceedings, as well as making it possible for the band to establish themselves as a live act.
Musically however there are no radical departures from the debut – nor is there any decrease in quality, making for a comfortably familiar-sounding album, yet one which has enough little quirks and new angles to it to make it more than just a pale retread of what’s gone before. Neo-prog fans should be in something approximating seventh heaven from pretty much the start of the opening track A Different Man; an opening burst of flute and swirling wind gradually gives way to a ballad-ish introductory segment with some plaintive vocals from Mark Smit; this soon flows into a fine instrumental section featuring all the hallmarks of good symphonic prog – lush walls of symphonic keyboards, crystal clear lead guitar work, bursts of Hammond and free-flowing, interlocking rhythms. From thereon in the song takes a typically grandiose course through lush balladry to a fine soaring extended guitar solo that Nick Barrett would be proud of.
Elsewhere there’s a touch of experimentation in places, but as I stated earlier nothing for fans to worry about. Both Mastermind and Dreamweaver incorporate a heavier guitar sound; the former counterbalances this with a wonderful melodic refrain, whilst the latter sees the riffs of some well-known rock classics cleverly incorporated into the song’s structure (I won’t mention who or it will spoil the fun!). The instrumental title track is one of the most upbeat pieces here and has a well-worked funk/ jazz section which fits in seamlessly. The grand finale, the 13-odd minute long A Different Man Part 2, may seem like the band stretching a few ideas to the very limits, but luckily they’re melodically rich ideas, meaning that the song rarely drags despite its length, and ends proceedings on a suitably bombastic note.
Negatives? Well, the soppily titled Courteous Love is an equally soppy ballad that tests by (non-AOR friendly) patience, although it does have some nice moments, mainly courtesy of a keyboard sound that’s straight out of Wind & Wuthering-era Genesis. Exit L.U.M.C., meanwhile, sounds a little too close for comfort to IQ – I never thought I’d write the words ‘sounds like Peter Nicholls’ in a review – given his rather, erm, unique voice – yet Mark Smit really does on this one (I should note that the song itself is still pretty strong). Talking of Smit, whilst his wimpy but pleasant voice is fine on the majority of the material, I found him a little wanting on the slightly harder-edged stuff – sometimes the material seems to require a bit of grit which he just doesn’t possess.
All of this really does very little to detract from what is an enjoyable slice of bombastic neo-prog; if you were a fan of the first, then purchasing this must be a complete no-brainer, and indeed if you’re a fan of this style of prog you really can’t go too far wrong with
Under A New Sign.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
TOM DE VAL
Marillion - Thankyou Whoever You Are
Tracklist: Thankyou Whoever You Are (edit) (4.06), Say The Word (5.14)
Tracklist: Thankyou Whoever You Are (edit) (4.06), Most Toys (2.49), Circular Ride (3.54), The Wound (7.15)
Marillion - Thankyou Whoever You Are / Most Toys
Marillion - Thankyou Whoever You Are / Most Toys
Tracklist: Thankyou Whoever You Are (edit) (4.06), Most Toys (2.49), Toxic (live) (4.49), Thankyou Whoever You Are (live video) (4.58), Most Toys (live video) (2.58)
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2007|
|Encoding & Sound||Region 0, PAL, PCM stereo|
Releasing singles in different formats in order to secure a high chart position is a tried and tested formula. For the last two decades it has been very common for bands to release both a cheap two-track single as well as a four-track Maxi single.
With the dwindling single markets of today you need far fewer sales to chart than ten years ago. Over the years Marillion have been building a huge database from the fans who have been buying merchandise or pre-ordered albums through their online store. A quick calculation learns that if all these people from this database would buy all three versions of the single, Marillion would have the biggest selling single of the year on their hands.
The band tried the same thing three years ago with You're Gone, which gave the band a very respectable top 10 hit in The Netherlands and the UK. However, of the individual single formats it was mainly the Maxi-single and the DVD that were most interesting to have, and not everybody who bought the single bought all three versions of it.
Coldplay managed to get themselves a number one hit by releasing three singles of which the B-sides made up almost an entire live concert. A good approach to ensure fans buy the several different versions, but Marillion releases far too many live albums to make their fans rush to the shops for such an approach. So instead they shook another trick out of their sleeves: for the first time in 12 years they released a single which had previously unreleased studio tracks as B-sides.
Another point where the band failed with You're Gone was airplay. Too few radio stations would play You're Gone, so the new single is a double A-side single, catering for both the mellow, easy listening stations (Thankyou Whoever You Are) and the more rock or uptempo orientated (Most Toys).
So from a commercial perspective everything has been absolutely well-thought out, and for that reason alone the band deserves to have a number one hit.
But how about from a musical perspective?
Well, first of all, I'm not overly fond of the band's new album Somewhere Else. Secondly, while I can understand the choice of a double A-side single with a slow and an uptempo song to suit differently styled radio stations, I think
Thankyou Whoever You Are and Most Toys are probably the two worst tracks off Somewhere Else. The previous single See It Like A Baby, which was released as download only, was a far better choice in my opinion.
As far as B-sides are concerned, the choice is much better. Circular Ride and Say The Word are left-overs from the Somewhere Else sessions (Circular Ride even stems from Marbles era) and serve the purpose of B-sides perfectly. I wouldn't see how these would have fit on either Marbles or Somewhere Else.
Say The Word is a nice little pop-tune in the vein of Crowded House or The Levellers, with some gospel overtones and a brass section towards the end. It takes a while to get used to, but it's a really nice track. In fact, I would not have mind if this had been the A-side!
The accordion intro to Circular Ride reminds of Paul Simon's Boy In The Bubble, but once again this is something that sounds quite like Crowded House.
So both songs are a tad poppy and may not be the best material they ever recorded, but they are certainly interesting enough songs to buy the singles for. And they're definitely a lot better than the unfinished outtakes which graced the Beautiful single back in 1995.
It remains to be seen whether these tracks will become the same fan favourites as Cinderella Search, Freaks, The Bell In The Sea or The Release, but as long as Marillion sticks to their word and keep these songs off any future albums, at least the songs will retain a certain 'specialness'.
The DVD single contains an audio-only live cover of Britney Spears' Toxic. Recorded at the Convention Weekend, where it was played as a joke during their Covers & Rarities set, it quickly grew to be the fans' favourite surprise song of the weekend. Marillion updated the pop-song to a far more rockier track, and surprising as it may seem (and I never thought I'd ever say this about a Britney Spears track) it is a damn good track!
The other DVD B-sides are videos of the two A-side tracks, shot at the convention weekend. Despite a new film crew, Thankyou Whoever You Are suffers from the similar unimaginative editing and static filming as most of their live DVDs, and it's about as boring and uninspired as the track. The terrific light show of the custom stage at the convention comes across quite well though, so I guess it is worth watching the video just for that.
Most Toys in that respect is much better, as it consists of a fast montage of clips from the entire weekend. Both videos can also be watched at Marillion's Youtube.
One of the things I criticised about the You're Gone single was the fact that all three singles contained the same version of the main single track, and I'm really disappointed to see that Marillion made the same error once again. Coming back to the Coldplay example, on both occasions when they did a three-part single, each disc contained a different version of the song: the single edit, the album version and a live version. A very easy way to make sure each disc is unique and to minimise overlap on the various versions.
Sure, the DVD single contains the live versions of Most Toys and Thankyou, but was there really need to include the same versions that are on the maxi single on the DVD as well? And also, what's the point of having only 7 minutes of video on a 20-minute DVD? Rather than the audio-only versions of the two A-sides I'd much rather had seen some other material, even if it were just a photo gallery or interview.
Compared to You're Gone this is a much better attempt, but unfortunately not as good as it could have been. Does this mean you shouldn't buy the singles? Of course not! Every self-respecting Marillion fan should buy the singles for the B-sides alone. And apart from that, it would really be a joke if a band like Marillion would top the charts, now wouldn't it? So for the sake of stirring up some dust and kicking the current studio-controlled, marketing-driven, safe-playing, variety-lacking radio industry full in the face, buy this single!
The single is released on Monday, June 11th, so go out and buy it in the first week of release, or visit the Marillion website for addresses where to obtain special three-disc package deals online.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
BART JAN VAN DER VORST
Magenta - Speechless
Tracklist: Speechless (single edit) (4.05), Speechless (extended version) (7.49), Anger (2007 Full Mix) (5.55), Speechless (video) (4.05)
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Record Label:||Tigermoth Records|
|Year of Release:||2007|
A few months back Magenta tried to do the same thing as Marillion with the single Speechless. In an attempt to 'bring prog back into the charts' the band called for their fans to buy the single in the first week of its release. Unfortunately, for several reasons, it didn't really set the chart on fire. It did however bring quite a bit of extra attention to the band, which they really deserve.
The song Speechless stems from the days of Trippa, a poppy band Magenta's leadsinger Christina Booth and composer/keyboardist/guitarist Rob Reed were in together some 12 years ago. The Magenta version has been updated to the band's current sound, with some great slide guitar by Chris Fry and the usual proggy analogue keyboards of Rob Reed. It's a nice poppy tune, with enough bite to be interesting for prog fans as well. The chorus slightly reminds me of Breakthrough by Queen. Compared to earlier singles Broken and I'm Alive this is certainly the best Magenta single to date.
There are three versions of the main song to be found on the single: the four minute single version, the superior extended mix, and the video in an enhanced section.
The extended mix is very interesting, because it is in fact a completely different mix and it adds an instrumental mid-section.
The video is a simple video of the band 'playing' in a white room, which can also be viewed on the Speechless Microsite.
The B-side track Anger is in fact one my favourite Magenta tracks. It is a beautiful ballad which originally appeared on the 2004 album Seven in a very acoustic, modest arrangement. It has now been updated to a full band version with an extended ending that contains no less than three guitarsolos (played by the three guitarists: Rob Reed, Martin Rosser and Chris Fry). This track is worth the price of the single alone. Although it has to be said that this track will also be included on the band's upcoming Singles album
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
BART JAN VAN DER VORST
Anyone's Daughter – Trio Tour
Disc 1 [CD]: Out Of This World (4:29), Helios Reloaded (4:10), Far Away (4:39), Nina (3:52), Porth Mhuirgheasa (2:54), The Wrong (6:39), No Return (5:53), Another Land (2:14) I’ll Never Walk This Road Again (6:01), Miscellaneous (5:48), Helios (1:29), Adonis II (2:49), Without You (6:43), Der Plan [bonus track] (4:19)
Disc 2 [DVD]: Out Of This World (4:25), Helios Reloaded (4:17), Miscellaneous (5:39), Nina (4:02)
I’ve always considered Anyone's Daughter to be an unfortunate name for a band, which may explain why I’ve avoided them until now. Hailing from Stuttgart they were originally around from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s with a symphonic style modelled on Genesis, Camel and Barclay James Harvest amongst others. Reforming in 2000, the latest incarnation is a far cry from those earlier influences even though it retains two key members, keyboardist and songwriter Matthias Ulmer and guitarist Uwe Karpa. Joining them for the aptly named Trio Tour is vocalist André Carswell, with the bands bassist and drummer both taking time out on this occasion. Originally planned as a DVD to promote the tour this release was recorded in Germany at several shows during 2005 and 2006. The resulting sound quality proved to be so good they decided to release it as a CD along with the accompanying DVD. And it has to be said that this is possibly the sharpest live recording I believe I’ve ever heard.
Judging by the DVD audience they appear to maintain an attraction for their older fans along with younger followers to the shows. Their prog heritage certainly stands them in good stead with some of the most accomplished acoustic guitar and piano playing I’ve heard live for some time. It’s not all unplugged however with synths and electric guitar given an airing. More than equal to the match is the smooth vocal tones of American born Carswell with a soulful delivery easily in the same class as George Benson. A voice that’s atypical for a rock band and possibly accounting for the high feminine content of the audience. The set is basically made up of songs from the two most recent studio releases Danger World and
Wrong. For the older fans it includes a few token tunes from the bands late 70’s/early 80’s period, which can be better sampled on the Requested Document Live 1980-1983 album.
My initial response to this release remained very positive, until I began to listen to the material in some detail that is. Out Of This World is the first of six songs included from the most recent 2004 Wrong album. On that occasion a fellow DPRP reviewer described it as “stadium hard rock” and “the album's highlight”. It’s obviously lost something in the acoustic translation because here it sounds like a very tame slice of Euro pop, although with an above average chorus. Helios Reloaded is one of the better songs with an insistent melody propelled by Ulmer’s high-speed piano work. The reflective Far Away retains its folk like ballad properties completing the opening trio of songs from Wrong. Nina the opening track from Danger World is a fairly unremarkable effort that comes and goes without leaving a trace on the memory.
Porth Mhuirgheasa is I believe a new piece and an engaging instrumental reel with showy synth and acoustic guitar work. The Wrong opens with a neat line in Andy Latimer style electric guitar but soon settles into a ponderous dirge, which even the meticulous cascading piano runs cannot redeem. Heavy guitar riffs and a synthetic rhythm fail to give it a lift. The sampled drum sound on No Return is just plain annoying distracting from what is otherwise a fairly decent mid tempo song with some OK harmonies. The almost gospel Another Land is built entirely around acoustic guitar but is another forgettable effort. I’ll Never Walk This Road Again is the best of the songs from the Danger World album with its striking chorus, passionate vocal from Carswell and a light dusting of synth strings.
Miscellaneous is another quality song with some nice variations in mood with Ulmer bringing all his keyboard effects into play and delicate guitar from Karpa. One of the album’s few concessions to prog. Likewise the coupling of Helios and Adonis II (from the very first album) features some excellent Keith Emerson style piano meanderings skilfully doubled by guitar. The shows highlight in my opinion. The cloying ballad Without You features some of the sickliest and clichéd lyrics I’ve heard for some time, which even Take That would think twice before singing. Der Plan (described as a bonus track for some unknown reason) is another oldie taken from 1983’s Neue Sterne album and the only song in the set with German lyrics. Driven by a honky-tonk piano rhythm it’s an uninspiring closer receiving a lukewarm response from the otherwise enthusiastic audience.
The DVD itself was filmed in the town of Mundelsheim, Germany a different location from the CD recordings and several months later in August 2006. It has just four tracks that do not differ from the CD versions although they all benefit from the visuals. The musicianship of Ulmer and Karpa can be fully appreciated especially during
Helios Reloaded with tight close ups of fingers on keys and frets. My opinion of Out Of This World as a song hasn’t changed but the passion Carswell puts into his vocal performance is clear to see. Nina also benefits here with the chorus given added impact. As I remarked earlier the audience footage at this intimate venue shows a good mix of young and old, male and female which is an encouraging sign for the bands future.
This is undeniably a well-put together package that will be must I’m sure for all fans of the band. Personally I’m all for live recordings and acoustic music although the stripped down style can be very revealing. And that’s where the material suffers with the mostly mainstream songs not holding up to the challenge. Even after a good number of listens the songs failed to leave any kind of impression on me. The set in my opinion relies far too heavily on the most recent studio releases, especially the last album. I can appreciate that the band’s style has moved on from the early days but a more balanced mix of older songs would have added more variety to the set I feel. On the plus side the live sound quality and the bands execution is impeccable. That at least elevates what would have otherwise been a rating of six by an extra point.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Refugee - Live in Concert ~ Newcastle City Hall 1974
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Catalogue #:||IOMCD 271 |
|Year of Release:||2007|
Tracklist: Outro - Ritt Mickley (2:53), One Left Handed Peter Pan (8:44), The Diamond Hard Blues Apples Of The Moon (7:00), Someday (6:06), Papillon (8:00), She Belongs To Me (8:54), Grand Canyon Suite: [a] The Source [b] Theme For The Canyon [c] The Journey [d] Rapids [e] The Mighty Colorado (18:24), Refugee Jam (4:13)
Rising out of the ashes of The Nice, albeit with a gap of 3 years came the appropriately named Refugee. The band formed in the summer of 1973 and had a short lived existence of just 12 months. Ironically it was former The Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson that first suggested Swiss born virtuoso Patrick Moraz as his replacement to former colleagues Lee Jackson and Brian Davison. In April 1974 the trio released their only studio album and by the end of that year Moraz had moved to richer pastures with Yes to replace the departing Rick Wakeman. The move was good for Yes and their fans but not so good for Jackson and Davison who found history repeating itself when Emerson had jumped ship to form ELP. Whilst Moraz did an excellent job on Yes’ Relayer album and tour it would be fair to say that he did not have the same freedom of expression as he did with Refugee. It did at least give him the financial clout to produce the stunning Story Of I album, which in my humble opinion still contains his best work. Why he went on to join The Moody Blues is anyone’s guess. After many years in the musical wilderness Jackson and Davison eventually reformed The Nice with Emerson in 2002 as evidenced by the Vivacitas album.
Whilst the excellent Refugee album sits proudly in my vinyl collection, unlike our illustrious DPRP editor I was not fortunate enough to catch Moraz live with the band. I did however see him with Yes five times during the spring and summer of 1975. He had a lively stage presence that sat somewhere between the restrained flamboyance of Wakeman and the over the top antics of Emerson. His distinctive wailing synth sound set him apart from his peers, which is very much in evidence on this archival set. Released for the very first time it is taken from a recently discovered cassette tape that has been cleaned up and re-mastered with the support of the former members. The superb CD booklet includes a wealth of live photos that shows the band in its heyday. The informative liner notes by author Martyn Hanson are based on a chapter from his biography of The Nice entitled Hang On To A Dream which is worth checking out if you can get hold of a copy.
The CD begins part way through the instrumental Ritt Mickley with a quick fade in suggesting that someone had forgotten to turn the tape on. No matter, what remains is a graphic display of Moraz’s unique synth work together with a rich Hammond organ sound that will strike a chord with Emerson fans. One Left Handed Peter Pan is a song that was slated for the never to be second Refugee album. It encapsulates everything that is good and not so good about this release. With Jackson’s vocal abilities never matching his talents as a bassist his aggressive vocal style is at odds with the bands otherwise polished performance. In fact on this occasion he brings
Shane McGowan to mind! Davison on the other hand shines with a brief drum solo that demonstrates both flair and restraint. The modest origins of the recording become apparent with a sometimes shrill synth and vocal sound contrasting with a slightly woolly bass and drum sound. I’m possibly being hypercritical here because I could level the same complaint at some of the more recent recordings I’ve heard.
The Diamond Hard Blues Apples Of The Moon is the first of two numbers in the set regularly performed by The Nice and it’s interesting to hear Moraz’s skilled interpretation of Emerson’s original Hammond lines. He also livens up the mid section with a touch of jazzy electric piano soling supported by some impressive bass work from Jackson. His vocals also work much better on Someday adding genuine emotion to the personal lyrics which relate the break-up of his first marriage. The inventive instrumental Papillon extends the album version by around three minutes allowing Moraz to indulge in some extended synth trickery which probably worked better live than it does on disc. Bob Dylan’s She Belongs To Me is another Nice favourite with Jackson and Davison on home territory both giving an amazing performance.
The band’s studio album included two epic length pieces Credo and the Grand Canyon Suite with the latter featured here. It’s certainly the band’s jewel in the crown and on a par with ELP’s Tarkus in my opinion. I love Patrick’s rich Mellotron and grand piano work during The Source and Theme For The Canyon. The Journey features some stunning synth playing whilst an extended The Mighty Colorado allows some breathtaking Hammond soloing. The closing
Refugee Jam is exactly what it says on the tin with Jackson and Davison keeping things rhythmically tight allowing Moraz to indulge in some electric piano flights of fancy. Only Jackson’s improvised vocals lets the side down. Not the most inspiring finish to a live set but the band was a little short on material after all.
It’s hard to predict if Refugee would have gone the full distance had their keyboard ace not been enticed into the ranks of Yes. They certainly left behind a very good debut studio album that held a great deal of promise for their future. This live set at the very least doubles the bands previous output and at its best proves to be a fitting tribute to one of the better, if short lived progressive rock acts of the 1970’s.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Magnum - Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2007|
Tracklist: When We Were Younger (7:00), Eyes Wide Open (5:54), Like Brothers We Stand (5:35), Out Of The Shadows (6:58), Dragons Are Real (5:21), Inside Your Head (6:01), Be Strong (5:40), Thank You For The Day (5:10), Your Lies (4:34), Desperate Times (5:22), You'll Never Sleep (4:57)
Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow is Magnum's 13th studio album, which may also be counted as the third album since they reformed. I must admit that I am not too familiar with Magnum's catalogue although Kingdom Of Madness has a special meaning to me, as at the time I was still much more interested in progressive rock than progressive metal, but Kingdom Of Madness struck a nerve that I still find hard to explain. Magnum is not really prog metal but this heavy kind of AOR was much more than I listened to normally at that time.
The voice of Magnum's Bob Catley might sound familiar to people that know Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman's- Jabberwocky. Catley vocalized "The Boy" in that story, and in the second album by the same duo, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, he again starred, as
"Sir Henry Baskerville". Cately has a very distinctive voice, easy to recognize between many. It is a voice I very much like with a small rasp that fits the music he is paticipating in perfectly. Some people just have the correct voice for a certain type of music, Catley is one of them.
I did mention Kingdom Of Madness, released in 1978 but of course there is a more to Magnum than just their first and their latest album. A Storyteller's Night for instance is often regarded as one of the classics of AOR (but underrated by many). Even though albums after that were financially more successful (e.g.
Wings Of Heaven) There was of course a long period of silence Magnum has been around for over 30 years (!): Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin formed the band in 1972. And they are still the core of Magnum. Only bands that have been around for this long can created such a sophisticated album while making it sound like creating it was a piece of cake.
Again Clarkin has shown that he is able to create some pretty good melodic rock music. Added to that the voice of Bob Catley and Magnum is back! But melodic rock is not progressive rock you might say, well just listen to tracks like When We Were Younger, Eyes Wide Open and Out Of The Shadows and you will agree: this is at least bordering on progressive rock. Unfortunately not all tracks are like that and that is were we come to the problem with this album: some for the tracks are just too pleasant, too easy, too tame. Don't get me wrong: there is no bad track on this album, none. But around track eight it is all getting a bit too much. The surprise is gone and what is left then are tracks that are pleasant, good melodies but: not ground breaking. A bit too much crowd pleasing one might say.
I don't think people will totally fall in love with this new Magnum album at least not to the point that they want to hear nothing else than this album. But still:
Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow is a great album and many will like it. Taking that to heart you will not be disappointed if you go out and buy it.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10
Profound – A World Of My Own Making
|Country of Origin:||Netherlands|
|Year of Release:||2007|
Tracklist: 0000 (1.05), When Silence Falls (5.23), A Little Paradise (6.49), Blossom (2.21), Hidden Treasures (6.36), Star Gazer (4.40), Blinded (3.36), Away of Life (7.53), The Land of Dreams (6.21), The Places I've Been (3.36)
I vaguely recall hearing Deep And Sincere, the debut album from this Dutch band three or so years ago. However, as I couldn't find a copy of it in my collection, it probably didn't leave too much of an impression. It has taken Profound four years to produce its second album, and this time my copy is unlikely to go astray so easily.
Describing their music as 'melodic metal with a slight progressive undertow', for a change a band seems to know where they are coming from. Although describing this as 'the album that Queensrÿche couldn't release after Empire', is giving in to hyperbole a little too much!
The thing that most impresses me across the seven songs and three instrumentals, is the twin guitar work of Gertjan Vis and Richard Tseng. Tracks like the opening
When Silence Falls really benefit from their strong and original riffing with some clever little solos laid on top. At times this gives a real
Iron Maiden feel to the instrumentation, although the closest comparison I can give to Profound is of a band somewhere between US melodic metallers Magnitude9 and the rising stars of ProgMetal Redemption - albeit with a strong 70s/80s heavy rock vibe.
Singer Pieter Bas Borger has a classically-trained voice and can certainly hit all the notes. His voice though, is very smooth and gentle. Fine for the calmer moments but he seems unable to change up a gear when the song demands a more powerful and emotional approach. After a while his one-dimensional approach becomes repetitive and fails to work with the dynamics that the rest of the band are busy creating.
Some fans of this genre will not take to his approach at all. Personally, after a few spins I rather liked him, yet halfway-through I always end up urging him to give a good old heavy metal screeeaaaam!
Where this album also misses the mark, is in the strength of the songs. As the term suggests, melodic metal does rely on having some strong melodies. Here, the riffs are generally far more memorable than the vocal melodies. Whether that's due to the song writing or the singer I'm not sure.
Nevertheless, there's something about Profound's sound and energy that I rather enjoy. A World Of My Own Making is an album that I will come back to from time to time, and as an independent, melodic metal album it is distinctive enough to win the band plenty of new fans.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Cosmic Nomads - Vultress
Tracklist: Another World (7:37), No More Heartache/Approach Of The Vultress/No More Heartache II (6:24), Elephant In My Soup (3:28), I Can't Stop Lovin' You (4:19), Journey of Trelucabeth's Dream/Escape Through the Mews (6:41), Cry Cry Baby (3:42), Winter's Day (5:32), Vultress (5:06), Return of the Vultress/Where the Wind Blows (10:49), We Are Lemurians (8:20)
The Cosmic Nomads are an Australian progressive band whose sound is centred around the Hammond organ skills of songwriter and lead vocalist Ray Vanderby whose musical pedigree stretches back some 40 years. Vultress is the second album to be released under the Nomads name, the first being 2003's Make Love Not War. The other Nomads featured on Vultress are: “King” Con Patogiannis (lead guitar, vocals), Gina Woods (Wurlitzer electric piano and synthesisers), Geoff Brown (bass), Miam Lentini (drums) and Anni Lang (vocals, percussion).
The opening track to Vultress, Another World, sets the scene for the whole album. Following a somewhat, well, cosmic opening, a driving riff led by Vanderby's Hammond pumps the track forward literally forcing the listener to sit up and take notice. Like some bastard offspring of King Crimson and Pink Floyd, with a touch of early Hawkwind thrown in to make things a bit spacey, the music is everything any fan of the Hammond organ craves after. One is instantly reminded of the great 70s Hammond pioneers like Keith Emerson, Jon Lord and Ken Hensley, illustrious names that Vanderby is well worthy of being mentioned alongside. His years of experience has made him a master of his instrument, the characteristic swirls, growls and Leslie speaker-induced vibrato on the sustained chords are present in abundance and effortlessly trip off Vanderby's fingers. Although the band have a characteristic sound, there are some surprises on the album, particularly the Syd Barrett inspired whimsy of Elephant In My Soup, a song that is played, and sung, with an obvious tongue in the cheek, you can practically hear the band smiling as they join in the 'Boop, boop de boop' backing vocals!
The multi-titled tracks invariably include instrumental passages that acts as introductions to the lyrical pieces and are always engaging, 70s-style progressive rock - such as Approach Of The Vultress which is a companion piece to Uriah Heep's Gypsy if ever there was one. Although the Hammond is the predominant instrument heard throughout the album, the rest of the band are not completely overshadowed. Of particular note is drummer Lentini whose complex rhythms are an important component of the music, especially on Where The Wind Blows where his playing takes the lead, which is not something you hear often from a drummer without them indulging in an all out solo. On tracks such as We Are Lemurians and Cry Cry Baby Woods' electric piano provides an effective counterpoint to the Hammond and throughout the album succinct and insightful guitar solos punctuate and accentuate the melodies.
Winter's Day is more restrained and more classically inspired with Patogiannis laying his Les Paul aside for a while instead using an acoustic to great effect, notably on a couple of flamenco-inspired solos. Title track Vultress has a dirty groove and swagger with a delightful undulating bass line, although the lyrical tale is somewhat bizarre to say the least! Then it is straight into Return Of The Vultress which bears no relation to the title track at all, indeed, I kept expecting the band to break in to Deep Purple's Speed King at any minute!
Nothing if not entertaining, this second offering by the Cosmic Nomads is a very enjoyable romp through decent 70s inspired prog. However, best avoided if you are not a fan of the Hammond organ!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Delphian - Unravel
|Country of Origin:||Netherlands|
|Record Label:||Lion Music|
|Year of Release:||2007|
Tracklist: Starting To Unravel (5:31), Creation (5:56), Sleepless Lullaby (5:21), Focus On Acid (3:45), Black & Blue (5:47), Hidden (5:51), Undone (5:05), Air (10:35)
Dutch outfit Delphian have been around in one form or another since the turn of the decade, although The Sun Also Rises is only their second full-length album. The band are a female fronted act, and dabble in the goth and prog metal genres, although there’s a more straightforward hard rock influence at play here.
Having read Andy’s review of their debut, Oracle, I’d have to concur with a couple of the comments he makes – that the band are at their best when they keep the progressive elements to a minimum, and are less impressive when they try to over-complicate things. For a perfect illustration of this, compare and contrast the opening two tracks. Starting To Unravel opens with a burst of heavy riffing, accompanied by a seemingly incongruous burst of flute - a neat trick that works early on but becomes overused as the album progresses. Thereafter the song develops into a technical prog-metal work-out that becomes rather disjointed and too complex for its own good – unless you have the fluidity of the likes of Dream Theater, all these sudden tempo and mood shifts can come off as a little clumsy. Second track Creation is much more like it – a more straight-ahead track with clear influences from the likes of early 80’s hard rock/ heavy metal kings such as Dio and Rainbow, it provides a perfect platform for the band’s greatest asset, vocalist Aniek Janssen. Whilst not possessing perhaps the range of some of her peers, Aniek boasts a powerful, deep delivery, and she bellows out the vocals with clear relish and authority. There’s still room for some technical wizardry from the instrumentalists – check out the classy dual guitar work towards the end – but here its an adjunct to the main body of the song, rather than dominating it. Could have done without the drum solo mind…
Elsewhere it’s a similarly mixed bag. Sleepless Lullaby starts out in a similar style to the Metallica Black-album ballad Nothing Else Matters, and is rather clunky and uninteresting until it bursts into life with some mid-paced crunchy guitars, wherein it deviates into a more doom-metal style track (rather bizarrely I was reminded of the revered US doom outfit Solitude Aeturnus). Focus On Acid again utilises the flute/ thrashy guitar combo, and has some tasty riffs and some sweet harmonies from Aniek which vaguely evoke the likes of Kate Bush or Tori Amos. It also benefits from its brevity. The lead guitar work on Black & Blue has the kind of Celtic-influenced hard rock feel pioneered by Thin Lizzy, although again the song suffers through some clunkily-executed time changes and a rather plodding feel in place – luckily Aniek’s classy vocals just about sees the song across the finishing line.
Hidden blasts off with one of the best riffs on the album, whilst Aniek’s vocals (in the ‘hard done chanteuse’ style) are particularly strong. Its one of the better tracks here, although I’m not sure whether either the ballad-y section or the short spoken word piece really fit with the rest of the song. Undone is also pretty strong, with a slightly smoother feel to the guitar work and some nicely funky bass in the verse sections. The darker-hued latter section is well-handled, and here the guitar solo-ing is from the top drawer.
Unravel concludes with the almost obligatory epic, the ten minutes-plus Air, which the promo material describes (fairly accurately) as a ‘semiballad’. Kicking off as a piano-led ballad, with Aniek joined by male guest vocalist Leon Brouwer, who has a deep timbre that works on the song’s more mid-paced sections but comes a little close to parody when he tries to over-emote on the slower parts. The song flows quite well, picking up pace along the lines of Threshold’s Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams – although its not really in the same league, few prog epics are, and this is a decent enough finale.
A quick word on the production – Delphian emphasise that they have gone for a ‘raw and honest’ feel, leading to a ‘grooving and heavy’ album. To an extent this works – the riffs are pleasingly in-your-face – although at times I felt the sound was a bit ‘dry’ – in going for a one-style-fits-all production, somewhat ironically the sound comes across as a bit uneven.
Overall, Delphian have delivered an album in Unravel which certainly has some strong moments, although its’ too uneven for me to unconditionally recommend it. There is a clear indication in the promo material that the band are moving away from the progressive metal style to a more hard-rock influenced sound, and whilst the continuation of this direction might lose them some fans, it seems the most sensible move to take, as these more conventional moments work best, allowing Aniek Janssen’s vocals to really shine.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
TOM DE VAL