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2008 : VOLUME 08
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Cathedral - The Bridge
Cathedral - The Bridge
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2007
Time:58:40
Info:Cathedral
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Monsterhead Suite Parts 1,2 & 3 (13:21), Satellite (5:00), Hollins (9:53), Kithara Interludium (6:28), Angular World (7:11), The Lake (5:10), The Secret (11:33)

In 1978, when punk started to rule the world, American (New York) band Cathedral released their debut album Stained Glass Stories. Although the music on their debut contained strong influences by bands such as Yes and King Crimson it immediately showed that Cathedral had the ability to turn these influences into a style of their own. Especially the upfront bass work by Fred Callan and the totally unique way Tom Doncourt played the mellotron made an incredible impression. In my opinion it’s totally justified to call Stained Glass Stories one of the best progressive rock records to come out of the States ever. I’m pretty sure that the album must have had an influence on Anglagard. With the growing popularity of punk, however, the possibilities of releasing progressive rock records got more difficult. In 2003 the band finally got back together again to start rehearsing for their next album. They experimented for three years and after a year of recording their second album The Bridge was released by the end of 2007.

On this album Cathedral consists of lead vocalist Paul Seal, drummer Mercury Caronia IV, guitar player David Doig (who replaced original guitar player Rudy Perrone who left the band because the three years of rehearsing proved to be too much for him), the earlier mentioned Fred Callan on bass and Tom Doncourt on mellotron and other keyboards. So that’s four of the five original members. After nearly thirty years these guys haven’t slowed down one little bit. They certainly did not take the easy way on The Bridge. It is an album that takes all of your attention and a lot of spins before it uncovers its beauty. It’s not an immediate friend. As on their debut the music of Cathedral is still dramatic, full of passion and in places dark. Progressive rock is still at heart of their music but they’ve taken onboard some new influences. There are some David Bowie influences on Satellite and The Lake reminds me of Peter Gabriel. And lastly there are some hints of avant-garde. Those moments reminded me of bands like Underground Railroad (on Angular World for instance) and Deluge Grander. Main influence however is still King Crimson.

The level of playing is terrific throughout the album. New man David Doig is a very versatile guitar player and displays his acoustic abilities on the brilliant Kithara Interludium. An acoustic guitar piece of more than six minutes which impresses from start to finish. You can hear a lot of his acoustic skills throughout the album, whilst on the other side of his guitar spectrum is the mad solo he plays on Angular World. Paul Seal has the perfect voice for this grand and dramatic music, which is convincing and full of passion. Fred Callan's bass playing is often the driving force of the songs - very upfront and aggressive. Tom Doncourt leaves the soloing on this album mostly to David Doig but his keyboard work hasn’t really changed much since Glass Stained Stories. He does use some other keyboards now but there is still a lot of mellotron to be heard on this album. And I must say his keyboard work impresses again. Listen for example how he uses a strange keyboard melody first and then follows this with some beautiful mellotron strings on Satellite. Or the pitchbends on Monsterhead. Or his string chords at the start of The Secret. Brilliant stuff. And finally drummer Mercury Caronia IV who has a very varied style of drumming, utilising an array of percussion. But I believe he’s using an electronic kit for this album and I really don’t like they way it sounds - it makes the album sound a little compressed. So please next time use a regular drum kit. But it’s really the only negative thing I can find.

There are too many highlights to mention. Still I will name two. Number one would be the album closer The Secret. A very progressive song (also with some great saxophone playing) that displays perfectly all the things that are great about Cathedral. Dramatic, grand, dark in places and that finale! Incredible song. The second highlight of the album is the Crimsonesk Angular World that completely lives up to its name. The Bridge is an impressive album from start to finish and as I said earlier it will ask for your complete attention and several spins to get your head round the music. It’s not an easy album but the rewards are very, very, very satisfying. I hope they won’t wait another thirty years to release the third album.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

LEO KOPERDRAAT



Tiles - Fly Paper
Tiles - Fly Paper
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:InsideOut
SPV
Catalogue #:IOMCD 289
SPV 79672
Year of Release:2008
Time:49:34
Info:Tiles
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Hide In My Shadow (5:43), Sacred & Mundane (5:26), Back & Forth (6:02), Landscrape (4:31), Markers (6:55), Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds (8:09), Crowded Emptiness (4:06), Hide & Seek (8:31)

Martien Koolen's Review

The Detroit based foursome Tiles have always been a much underrated band although they have already released two masterpieces of rock, namely Fence The Clear (1997) and Presents Of Minds (1999). The music of Tiles can be described as a mixture of Queensryche, Jethro Tull, Iron Maiden, Primus, but foremost Rush. As a matter of fact I can say that if you like Rush – like yours truly – then you will like Tiles and especially this album as well. This is also due to the fact that Fly Paper is produced by former Rush sound engineer Terry Brown and this album really brings back memories of Rush’s Permanent Waves, which Brown produced and mixed back in 1980!!

This fifth studio recording of Tiles features eight new songs and the album really has an accessible song-oriented rock focus with lots of interesting guitar solos and passages. Opening song Hide In My Shadow sets the tone with those typical Rush-like rhythms and melodies and this song almost has a catchy chorus. Sacred & Mundane shows a mandolin intro followed by lots of nerve racking guitar riffs and a howling wah-wah guitar solo. As to the vocals I must say that singer Paul Rarick has a distinct hate-or-love voice, just like Geddy Lee in fact ...

The two true musical highlights are: Back & Forth and Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds (nice title by the way). Both tracks are filled with great riffs, tempo changes, sparkling guitar solos and even melodic choruses. There are guest performances by vocalist Alannah Miles (she sang Black Velvet), guitar player Kim Mitchell and Hugh Syme who plays keyboards on two songs.

Fly Paper is definitely much better than the previous Window Dressing (2004), as it is more rock-oriented and much more multi-faceted. This new album is heavier, has more guitar solos and the sound is absolutely powerful! Tiles is back at their high musical level which we already heard on previous albums and therefore I still consider Window Dressing as a musical failure in the band’s history.

Advice: buy and enjoy at a very high volume!

Dave Sisson's Review

Detriot’s Tiles reach album number five with Fly Paper, and deliver a solid set of hard rock with progressive sensibilities which, whilst hardly likely to set the musical world alight, will surely please their fans and also all devotees of their chief musical inspiration Rush.

I’m sure that longstanding Tiles fans are heartily sick of the Rush comparisons, and indeed, they are not mere slavish imitators, but Tiles do use the same producer (Terry Brown) and cover artist (Hugh Syme), and on this occasion, they even have Alex Lifeson contributing guitar on one track. In the face of this, it would take a stronger man than me to resist the obvious comparison.

Also guesting are Matthew Parmenter, Alannah Myles, Kim Mitchell and Hugh Syme. Syme contributes keyboards to two tracks, but perhaps he should have used his time on the cover design, as it, disappointingly, could have been cribbed straight from the cover for the American edition of PFM’s late 70’s offering Jet Lag – Even if he’s never seen that particular cover, the idea is not up to his usual imaginative invention.

My experience with Tiles is limited to their 2nd and 3rd albums only, but a quick glance around the net seems to show that they received a fair bit of criticism for the last album, in particular for the seventeen minute opening track.

Perhaps with this in mind, Tiles keep things relatively short here, with the longest track only reaching a meagre 8:31. Unfortunately, this paring back has not resulted in the classic album their fans crave to hear, and which I am sure they are capable of delivering. Fly Paper, whilst always entertaining and pleasant to listen to, never really takes off (ahem!).

I’ve whiled away several hours with this album in the hope that its gems would become apparent, but nothing really ever stands out ahead of the pack. Sure, there are great moments (I like the mandolin on the opening numbers), good riffs aplenty, and good melodies throughout, but I can’t point to even one great song. They never seem to break out of the “good song” mould, which at this stage in their career they really should be able to achieve.

Sure, Rush fans will want to hear Sacred & Mundane and Lifeson is all over the track. It would stand up alongside the material on Snakes And Arrows with no trouble, but, again, I’m afraid that, in my humble opinion, Rush too, rarely break into great material these days even if they never drop below the good level.

Not wanting to bash a talented and hardworking band, I’d like to end by emphasising that this is a good album, worthy of a place in any Tiles and Rush fans collections, with no clunkers on board, but it’s not the great album we all want them to deliver.

Conclusions:

MARTIEN KOOLEN : 8.5 out of 10
DAVE SISSONS : 6.5 out of 10



Combination Head - Progress?
Combination Head - Progress ?
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2008
Time:44:26
Info:Combination Head
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: New City (5:08), Glass And Steel (4:10), Liquid (5:42), Smoking Tree (2:19), Future Wisdom (3:36), Anthem (4:10), Solid Ground (5:19), Tomorrow's World (4:41), The Great Escape (4:11), Cloud Cover (5:09)

An album that came out of the blue with the sun behind it catching me completely unawares was the debutfrom Combination Head. This excellent 2006 release was the brainchild of producer, song writer and keyboardist Paul Birchall joined by Keith Ashcroft (guitar and bass) and Paul Burgess (drums and percussion). Birchall’s previous claim to fame had been producer of several UK chart-friendly acts so an album of prog and fusion instrumentals came as a complete surprise. In fact his leap of faith in many ways paralleled that of Jem Godfrey and his Frost debut. Ironically Birchall’s commercial flair is more in evidence on this latest, not that it’s likely to find itself in the running for next years Brit Awards I hasten to add. The original line-up has expanded to include Gareth Moulton (vocals and guitars) and Dominic Finley (bass). Phil Knight who played drums and percussion on the title track of the debut also has a more prominent role here. Several guest lead vocalists are featured providing a more expansive sound.

The attention grabbing New City provides that all important start to the album. Reminiscent of ELP in their prime, this sparkling instrumental is richly melodious with a rousing Hammond sound and stirring synth motif. It would have fitted very comfortably on the last album, whereas Glass And Steel sees the band taking a fresh direction with the first of several melodic rock songs. In addition to his guitar talents Moulton demonstrates his vocal abilities sounding not unlike Colin Blunstone, in delivery during the strong chorus. The band is back in instrumental mode for the lively Liquid, featuring another strong melody with fluid organ notes cascading in all directions. Mid period Camel are brought to mind with Moulton coming into his own adding a soaring solo and later some exquisite jazzy noodlings. By way of a breather Birchall provides a short keyboard solo in the shape of Smoking Tree. It’s hauntingly effective with chiming xylophone effects and a lyrical piano sound.

With renewed energy the band launch into Future Wisdom, which features some fast and tricky Keith Emerson style keyboard and crisp guitar exchanges. It’s sharp and inventive whilst still retaining a strong grip on the melody. Anthem slows things down with spacey and ambient keys effects. The infectious chorus features a tide of backing vocals supporting Neil Fairclough’s credible lead. Book ended by Lyn Christine’s clinical narration Solid Ground really rocks, driven by fiery Wakeman style synth and animated, almost metallic guitar. The emotive vocal comes courtesy of Nick Daneede. The moody Tomorrow's World may well prove to be my favourite track with another excellent chorus and vocal from Moulton that recalls the rich harmonies of the West Coast sound. Instrumental highlights are a soaring slide guitar break from Ashcroft and a stately synth solo from Birchall.

In contrast with the previous song The Great Escape is the albums least successful offering for me. It’s a guitar propelled rock ballad with a raunchy vocal from Sheila Gott. Supercharged bass work from Finley and strident Hammond soloing to play out prove to be the best parts. The album concludes on a more laidback note with Cloud Cover which has a smooth late night vibe. The atmospheric keys intro is joined by Moulton’s relaxed vocal with a melodic Porcupine Tree twist in the chorus. Wordless harmonies and synth build to a peak for a strident guitar lead coda. And before you know it, it’s all over. With ten tracks over 45 minutes playing time Birchall certainly cannot be accused of excess. That being said, the songs have more than their fair share of lush instrumental passages, memorable hooks and tuneful vocal sections. New man Moulton in particular has stamped his mark making a significant contribution to the writing process. He is also responsible for the striking artwork that graces the sleek digipack foldout sleeve. Progress? Without a doubt!

Conclusion: 8+ out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Aisles - The Yearning
Aisles - The Yearning
Country of Origin:Chile
Format:CD
Record Label:Mylodon
Catalogue #:MYLOCD0031
Year of Release:2007
Time:56:41
Info:Odyssice
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Wharf That Holds His Vessel (11:20), Uncertain Lights (4:04), Clouds Motion (7:06), The Rise Of The White Sun (4:56), The Shrill Voice (4:59), The Scarce Light Birth (7:34), Grey [I. The Yearning, II. Unlit Land, III. Path Of Gleams] (16:39)

Chilean band Aisles had a rather unusual line-up at the time The Yearning, their debut CD, was recorded. Germán Vergara and Rodrigo Sepulveda played all the guitars and basses, Luis Vergara and Alejandro Meléndez contributed piano and keyboards and Sebastion Vergare being the principal vocalist as well as adding minor flourishes on the flute. However, the band has since added two new members (bassist Felipe González and drummer Marco Prado) to make the group a fully functioning live unit. The lack of a drummer on the album is not at all noticeable as the sampled drums have been so convincingly incorporated I wasn't even aware that they were not physically being played until researching the group for this review! There is little information about the band given in the otherwise beautifully laid out CD booklet (by Luis Vergara who could have a fine career as a photographer!) but the copyright information on the CD tray suggests that the CD dates back to 2005 and has only recently been picked up for distribution around the globe.

The strength of The Yearning lies in its harmonic construction, the use of melody and keyboard-derived orchestrations. Naturally, with two sets of keys and two guitarists there is plenty of opportunity for interplay and multiple melody lines. This no more apparent than on opener, The Wharf That Holds His Vessel which goes through numerous changes sounding at times like a male fronted October Project and at others like a version of Camel with a twin guitar line-up. Lyrics, and therefore vocals, are in English and are of a rather more literate nature than many progressive artists. Vocalist Vergare tends to sing in a quite reflective manner which suits the rather melancholic nature of the words and also fits well with the music, as on the mostly acoustic Uncertain Lights, which bears comparison to the early solo work of Anthony Phillips. Overall, the album does have a pervading mist of melancholy with lines like "Demons kill when angels die in my head.." one is not expecting a joyous gig. Although, the track those lines are taken from, Cloud Motion, starts with some lovely harmonies that display the tightness of the band. Even when things do take on a more positive vibe, like on the opening The Rise Of The White Sun where the opening pianos and vocals are suggestive of something more upbeat is about to surface when the guitars chime in with a few minor chords reintroducing the sense of isolation and almost despair. Although this may sound, in the written word, as being all rather gloomy, it all works rather well.

Things go a tad astray on The Shrill Voice as the group get a bit more ambitious with their writing, the opening section being almost pretentious in the spoken vocals partially redeemed by the very progressive middle section (is that a Mellotron sample I hear?!) but followed by a disappointing ending. The Scarce Light Birth continues in much the same manner as the majority of what has gone before, but lacks any truly memorable hook and seems to be playing for mood with some excellent singing. Final track, the three-part Grey drifts along quite nicely but in my view could have done with some slight editing to remove some of the extraneous and repetitive elements. A greater variation in tempo would also have been of benefit as one does tend to drift off in places. Several times during the final section, Path Of Gleams, the band is on the edge of breaking out but each time is reined in by a slower more reflective passage. Despite these minor criticisms the music does a good job of telling a tale although a more definitive denouement would have been welcomed.

Overall, The Yearning is an impressive debut album and only just misses out on a recommended tag. For those who like music with a more mellow air Aisles are certainly worth checking out via their impressive website. Given the time that has lapsed since this recording, hopefully Aisles have a lot more music written for their sophomore release. I for one will certainly be taking an interest in hearing how they have developed.

Conclusion: 7+ out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Side Steps – Alive II
Side Steps – Alive II
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG4723.AR
Year of Release:2007
Time:69:11
Info:Side Steps
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Rainbow Chase (7:16), Moon Over The Road (4:56), Meiji Street (6:28), Another Encounter (9:14), Jazz It (9:32), Yellow Moon (8:14), The End Of Tears (11:32), Blowout (7:30)

Jazz, if the Bonzo Dog Band are to be believed, is delicious hot but disgusting cold. This is HOT so don’t be put off by the “J” word as it doesn’t always signify four guys on a stage each playing a different tune.

Side Steps are a very tight and exciting jazz-fusion outfit from Japan comprising Atsunobu Tamura (electric guitar), Hiroaki Itoh (keyboards), Koichi Iwai (bass) and Ichiro Fukawa (drums). Their instrumental electric jazz is in the vein of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band with fluid instrumental prowess and dexterity and an ear for melody being consistently present. All the pieces are written individually by Atsunobu and Hiroaki and this live set, recorded at 3 nights over a period of 14 months at the Silver Elephant in Tokyo, show the band to be a formidable unit capable of holding their own with the best. The bravado in their playing is not overdone and individual performances do not stray into ego massaging – though it certainly could have done as these guys can really play. Each member plays it just right, the result being a powerful band performance.

Formed in 1990, the band have been quite prolific over the years and their website reveals a dozen albums worth of material, including several live discs. The rhythm section inventively supports the lead keys and guitar to produce a melodic and sophisticated sound with some prog influences amongst the jazz dexterity. These guys know each others playing inside out and this leads to some lovely exchanges and arrangements. Elements of Spyro Gyra and Uzeb emerge and the guitar work is sometimes reminiscent of Allan Holdsworth or Frank Gambale – the band is not out of place in such exulted company. Pretension is avoided despite the complex and ambitious nature of the music, an example being Another Encounter with its great melodic sweep and energising pace holding the attention throughout.

This is the second volume of their Alive live albums, the first being reviewed unfavourably on DPRP here. I totally disagree with the conclusions regarding the emotion in the playing, however this is how fast, technical jazz can come across as it is hard to add emotional elements at 100mph. I do find a warmth and depth in the playing so maybe they have developed over time or maybe it’s just the way I hear this kind of music. More favourable reviews of what this band has done on previous studio albums can be found here: Steps On Edge and Verge Of Reality. To me they play for the good of the melody rather than the individual instruments and the quality to be found in the compositions only underlines the precision of the playing

There is real variety on this album with tracks taken from throughout their career. Opener Rainbow Chase is a high-energy blast, which is carried over to the delicious Moon Over The Road. Last track, Blowout, starts with a Steve Vai influenced solo before the rest of the band comes in. This is the most rock orientated track on the album but the bubbling John Patitucci bass runs and Corea-esque keyboard stabs still give it a jazzy vibe. The bass is particularly notable for the precision of the playing and the knowledgeable way a supporting role can quickly change to lead. All instruments swap brief solo spots that don’t get out of hand with The End Of Tears being a long and emotional track, very melodic and showing the lighter side of the group.

This is dynamic instrumental music and if it is a fair glimpse of what their live shows are like then Side Steps are a great band indeed. Of particular recommendation to those with a liking for the instrumental rigours and rewards of top quality fusion, this band may be a very good place to start for those unfamiliar with the work of the giants of the genre. There are clearly going to be many who cannot take to this sort of music and are put off by the barrage of notes seemingly spewed out in a random fashion. I personally marvel at the closeness of the playing on such difficult material and enjoyed the album very much. My rating is therefore based on my feelings towards the genre and this great band deserves to be heard – not prog so I can’t really give it an 8, but very good stuff nonetheless.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

JEZ ROWDEN



Zao - In Tokyo
Zao - In Tokyo
Country of Origin:France
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG4699.AR
Year of Release:2007
Time:73:17
Info:N/A
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Free Folk (9:50), Atart (7:40), Chardaz (12:05), Natura (9:53), Sadie (3:14), Ronach (5:38), Isis (10:30), Zohar (14:06)

Zao originally formed in 1973 when Francois “Faton” Cahen (piano) and Yochk’o “Jeff” Seffer (sax) left Magma. This live album sees them on a Japanese tour in 2004 with vocalist Cynthia Saint-Ville, violin virtuoso Akihisa Tsuboy, Francois Causse (drums) and Gerard Prevost (bass) recapturing the original spirit of the band.

Early albums were more jazz orientated than the parent band but Zao soon moved into the fusion territory where the likes of Weather Report can be found. Since their inception they have produced eight albums and their sound is often described as Zeuhl fusion and is predominantly instrumental, though on the current album the vocals of Cynthia Saint-Ville are quite frequent and take the form of a quasi-operatic scat that may take a bit of getting used to as there are no lyrics and the voice is used for sound alone. Elements of Soft Machine are also present in the mix.

Of special interest here is the presence of KBB leader Tsuboy whose violin darts and weaves around the other instruments sometimes taking on a role similar to the one electric guitar would take and sounding much the same as can be heard during Zohar. Comparisons to Jean Luc Ponty spring to mind on occasion. This CD offers excellent sound quality and an appreciative audience makes it a very organic experience. A couple of slight wobbles here and there in the excellent vocal performance only add to this natural live feel. The album may be jazzier than some of their work but retains the strange overtones one would expect from a Magma spin off.

Of interest to lovers of Third Ear Band and Univers Zero but the excellent jazzy interplay leaves them open to appreciation from all lovers of tight and varied jazz not just Magma aficionados. It took a couple of spins to get used to but patience is rewarding as the album reveals itself in layers. Generally excellent with lots of interesting things going on and great performances from all concerned, this is probably one of the best places to start when discovering this interesting outfit.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

JEZ ROWDEN



Ex-Vagus - Âmes Vagabondes
Ex-Vagus - Âmes Vagabondes
Country of Origin:France
Format:CD
Record Label:Galileo Records
Catalogue #:GR011
Year of Release:2006
Time:61:31
Info:Ex-Vagus
Info:Click here

Tracklist: Astrodelica (4:57), Le Cheval De Nébuleuses (11:21), [Il A Neigé Sur] Pluton (5:51), Le Songe Du Surfeur D'argent (5:40), Ici (6:51), Au Domaine Des Trois Collines (11:25), Un Petit Empire (9:43), Rideau! (5:40)

Though I remember reading the name Ex-Vagus, I had never heard their music before. The band's discography starts in 1999, so there's something to catch up for me. I quite like what I heard here.

The song titles are a dead giveaway the band sing in French. I don't have a problem with that - always far better than heavily accented English! Since I don't understand French, the vocals simply become another instrument to the whole composition. A powerful voice, pleasant to listen to, except in a few bits of overacting and forced weirdness.

Opener Astrodelica already depict the band's sound and way of writing songs - lots of changes within even the shorter songs. Intricate rhythm changes, alternating easier with heavier parts, with an emphasis on the melody at all times. Not a lot of keyboard or guitar solos, it's the sound as a whole that counts, creating the atmosphere. This first song is probably the heaviest on the album and a great opener it is.

The music reminded me of one of the most important French progressive rock bands of all times, namely Ange. Ex-Vagus are undoubtedly influenced heavily by them. This became very obvious when I noticed the band had recorded a song by Ange's main man Christian Décamps: Ici. And he also guests on backing vocals on Le Cheval De Nébuleuses.

That song has a chorus that has very French vocal melodies, almost chanson-like - more influences from long ago and not the best of influences to hear when listening to a progressive rock album. The song Ici is a bit out of the ordinary for the band. To be honest, it doesn't fit the rest of the album that well. The ending drum bit of Au Domaine Des Trois Collines made me laugh - it sounds very much like the drum ending of Demon's Blackheath!

But the most important thing for me is that the music has emotion. When it becomes too technical, things are getting cold and uninteresting, musically. This is not the case with Ex-Vagus, and that's a big plus. For me, anyway. Nothing brilliant, but good, powerful, melodic music, played from the heart, with interesting contrast between the heavy and delicate parts. After more than ten years of experience they are nowhere near a new band, but a discovery for me nonetheless, leaving me interested to hear more.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JERRY VAN KOOTEN



Odyssice - Impression
Odyssice - Impression
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:GFT Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL 094
Year of Release:2000
Time:70:17
Info:Odyssice
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: Scream (8:49), Lokapalas (4:19), Señkan (6:24), Children Of The Cloud (4:36), Olympus [The Flame, Zeus's Thorn] (7:13), Impression (4:23), Crusader (3:26), Legend [Mystique, The Spell] (7:04), Anuradhapura [Founded By The Ayrans, The Sinhala Kingdom, Abandoned In Time] (7:46), Flower Of Scotland (2:08), In Your Eyes (3:25), A Prophet's Dream [Eager Attempt, Genuine] (10:43)

Well we are a little late in reviewing this, the first proper full-length album by Dutch group Odyssice, to the tune of eight years! This review does not come as the result of a reissue of the album, but at a personal request from drummer Menno Boomsma, most recently notable for his contributions to the two excellent Trion albums Tortoise and Pilgrim, who noticed that although the DPRP site featured a review of Moondrive Plus the band's 2003 expanded CD reissue of their first tape, we had not covered Impression. As a fan of DPRP he thought that it would be good to have reviews of both Odyssice albums on the site as people do use our highly regarded review section as a guide to albums worth investigating. As he asked very nicely, promptly provided a review copy and was so complimentary about what we at DPRP do, we decided that a retrospective review would be undertaken as a special favour. However this does not mean that we will be undertaking reviews of old albums, there are far too many new releases for that, and besides that is what the Forgotten Sons area of the website is for! Now in my review of the Moondrive album I stated I had ordered a copy of Impression from Cyclops and that, dear reader, was not a hollow assertion. It was just that very shortly after the CD arrived I unfortunately suffered a burglary during which about 1000 CDs were stolen, including the Odyssice album. In the ensuing chaos and panic it was one album that was never replaced, until now. So, with all that out of the way and with thanks to Menno this one-off, special case, never to be repeated, eight-years in the making review can commence!

At over 70 minutes, this is a long album even by prog rock standards. That it is totally instrumental makes it rather more unique. However, the time flies by when playing this album and it never seems to drag or let the listener's attention wander off. As on Moondrive, the key focus is on the guitar work of Bastiaan Peeters although that is not to dismiss the fine work put in by keyboard player Jeroen van der Wiel. There is no escaping the fact that Odyssice do play in the musical area largely monopolised by Camel and there are definite similarities in the playing styles of Peeters and Andy Latimer. But Odyssice should not be dismissed as a Camel clone, think of it rather like the situation in the natural world where the Bactrian camel and the dromedary exist side by side, sharing obvious similarities but being distinctly different (it is one hump and two humps, respectively, in case you can never remember!). Having said that, the first and last track on the album exhibit the most overt Camelesque characteristics. In Scream the keyboards and guitar get equal billing with a nice arrangement featuring a variety of keyboards, especially some nice piano work. A Prophet's Dream meanwhile, is the album's highlight, even if it does start sounding a bit like early Pendragon! Never fear, this doesn't last long and soon the more upbeat tempo of Eager Attempt slows to the guitar laden Genuine which is reminiscent of Camel's Ice. Solo piano also features heavily throughout Children Of The Cloud, which also features the most realistic cello sound I've ever heard reproduced electronically.

A heavier Olympus features repeated organ chords over some very crisp drumming from Boomsma with a nice switch to synths as the piece moves from the first to the second section. The title track itself is more laid back and is of a style similar to the opening of Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, very atmospheric and a nice prequel to the lively Crusader. Legend, another seven minutes plus track (of which there are five on the album), is again split into two parts run together seamlessly, the transition between parts identified by the change in tempo or instrumentation. First part Mystique has lots of background mellotron providing atmosphere while The Spell is once more dominated by a lovely guitar melody. Anuradhapura, a musical history of the fantastic ancient city in the north of Sri Lanka (photos from which feature on the cover of the CD), has a jaunty beginning with bassist Pascal van de Pol driving the funky rhythm of opening section Founded By Ayrans. A more Eastern style of music is adopted in The Sinhala Kingdom representing the growth of the city and the spreading of its trade bass across the world to Italy in the North West and China in the North East. Final part Abandoned In Time reflects the demise of the city after 1400 years of prominence, its gradual disintegration and reclamation of the land on which the city was built by the jungle. The city was not rediscovered until 1000 years later when Sri Lanka was (under the name of Ceylon) part of the British Empire. I am at somewhat of a loss as to the inclusion of traditional melody Flower Of Scotland, probably only familiar to people who have ever seen a national sporting side from Scotland as it is the national anthem of the proud Celts. It does stick out as rather an anomaly on the album but is mercifully brief. Finally In Your Eyes has nothing in similar with the Peter Gabriel track of the same name but is another lovely instrumental melody that Odyssice seem to excel at.

Impression is a great album and one that will be adored by fans of instrumental prog music and, although I am sure the group are tired of the comparison by name, anyone who has ever admired Camel and in particular the guitar work of Andy Latimer. Even though it is eight years old, the music is quite timeless and could easily have been released last week or 25 years ago. Good music never dates or sounds old and Impression is an album that will easily survive the changing musical environment as years go by. I am not sure of the current status of the band, if they are still in existence or have any plans for another album. However, if they are planning another release (and 2011 will be the 25th anniversary since the original band got together!) then I will be one of the first to review it!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARK HUGHES




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