Reviews in this issue:
- Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within
- Mr So & So - Sugarstealer
- Metamorphosis – Then All Was Silent
- Metamorphosis – Dark
- Little Tragedies – The Paris Symphony
- Mindmovie - An Ocean Of Dreams
- Tilion – A.M.I.G.D.A.L.A.
- Nine Stones Close - Nine Stones Close
- Chris Stassinopoulos & Friends - Light In The Dark
- MM Circle - Requiem Pour Un Vivant
Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within
Tracklist: The Art Of Loss (3:56), In The End (4:01), Now Or Never (4:13), When You Hurt Me The Most (4:46), Run Away (4:16), Games We Play (4:02), This Endless Night (4:20), My Leader (4:53), Burn My Pain (4:18), Let Me In (3:32), Street Spirit (5:22), A Part Of You (4:48), All I Know (2:12), Far And Apart [bonus track on the Special Edition] (4:12)
Stream Of Passion used to be an international band, founded by Arjen A Lucassen (Ayreon). After their debut Embrace The Storm and a live album/DVD Arjen Lucassen, guitarist Lori Linstruth and keyboardist Alejandro Millan bowed out, leaving lead-vocalist/violinist Marcella Bovio (Mexico), bass player Johan van Stratum and drummer Davy Mickers (both the Netherlands) with a dilemma: to go on or break up. They wouldn’t give up, so new musicians were recruited and Bovio, currently residing in the Netherlands, started to write songs. Eventually the whole band (all musicians hail from the Netherlands) participated and the fruits of all these efforts, produced by Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) and Jochem Jacobs (Textures), were presented to the Dutch public on May 29 and hit the charts immediately! In the mean time the album has been released in many other countries as well.
When the recordings were as good as finished the band saw Davy Mickers leave for personal reasons. His replacement however is an excellent choice: Martijn Peters (NoVact). SoP wanted to create strong, energetic and emotional songs suitable to perform live. You can call it pop-metal, female fronted metal, gothic metal, progressive metal, all descriptions would fit but more important would be the statement that SoP seem to me to have realised the album they set out to create: melodic, powerful with heavenly beautiful vocal lines and quite an emotional as well as energetic impact.
The compositions are all within the 5:30 minutes limit and except for the vocals, they are definitely different from those written mainly by Lucassen. The band included one cover, namely Street Spirit, originally recorded by Radiohead and they did a very well job re-creating this tune. It is hard to compare SoP with Nightwish, After Forever, Leaves’ Eyes or Sirenia. The music may well be in the same vein, but Marcella Bovio’s vocal is extremely characteristic and really one of a kind. The beautiful ballad Run Away brings tears to your eyes and has a lovely piano and string arrangement. All other tracks have this very interesting and constant tension between the lovely voice of Marcella and the pian, as well as the subtle orchestral arrangements played by Jeffrey Revet on one side and the heavy, powerful riffs (Hazebroek and Schultz), bass (van Stratum) and drums (Mickers/Peters) on the other. The tasteful artwork has been created by the Brazilian artist Gutavo Savez and features SoP’s beautiful singer. The ultimate mix between progressive rock, melodic female fronted metal and heavy pop music is here and it’s called The Flame Within!!
Highly recommended for all fans of bands like Evanescence, Kingfisher Sky and Within Temptation.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Mr So & So - Sugarstealer
Tracklist: Flying Triangles (5:03), New Year's Day (3:14), Thursdays Are Blue (4:51), Dandelion Amongst The Violets (0:33), Honey Jar (6:13), Lemon Tree (1:56), Falling Through Rainbows (0:29), Bleak Hill (4:53), Oh Look! A Rainbow!! (5:18), Evening Star In The Indigo Sky (0:18), Bi-Polar (4:39), Photograph (2:53), Seeking Poppies In The Dark (0:25), Falling (6:36), Broken Crown (3:26), Green Ward 13 (1:10), White Sun (5:55), [Return Of] The Gold (8:51)
I first came upon Mr So & So way back in 1990 when a demo of one of their songs was included on a compilation of new progressive bands (released on cassette tape, ah, how things have changed!). A debut album, Paraphernalia, was released in 1992 after which they were an early signing to Cyclops Records releasing Compendium in 1994. The, somewhat disappointing, third album The Overlap, was the first release on Steve Rothery's Dorian label, an association brought about by the band supporting Marillion on their This Strange Engine tour. Ten years later, the band have a new album, Sugarstealer which, at the moment, is only available for purchase as a download via all reputable download stores. However, a physical release is on the cards and may be available soon. The current line-up of the group contains founder members Shaun McGowan (vocals and bass) and Dave Foster (guitar), who is also a member of Rothery's Wishing Tree live band. Long-time vocalist Charlotte Evans is also part of the reformed line-up along with new members Anthony Hindley (keyboards and vocals) and Stuart Browne (drums).
Essentially, the sound of the band hasn't changed dramatically over the period of absence, largely due to the characteristic timbre of McGowan's voice. Evan's does get a larger role in proceedings, handling lead vocals on Lemon Tree, Photograph and Green Ward 13, the more acoustic numbers on the album. It is a shame that she doesn't get more prominence as she has a lovely, clear voice and her backing vocals add a lot to the proceedings. Perhaps, next time round there will be a few more joint leads. With 18 tracks and a running time of just under 67 minutes, the majority of the tracks are fairly short, which generates a lot of variety within the music. There are some outright rockers like Bi-Polar, some ballads like Green Ward 13 and then some that incorporate a wider dynamic such as Falling. This latter track is a fine number and one of the highlights of the album. A number of short linking tracks add to the ambience and give the album a conceptual framework, although not having any lyrics to hand I am not sure if there is a linking concept. Three of these linking pieces, Dandelion Amongst The Violets, Falling Through Rainbows and Seeking Poppies In The Dark, are rather lovely piano solos which provide fabulous interludes, giving Hindley a chance to show his talents.
There are also other breaks from pure rock music with the instrumental Broken Crown offering a more electronic feel mixed with an ambient backing and Thursdays Are Blue being a classier pop number. Closing track, [Return Of] The Gold is the longest track on the album at just under nine minutes and is somewhat of a showcase for Foster who gets to display some fine acoustic and electric technique in a number that doesn't outstay its welcome and also allows all the band members a significant contribution. On the whole, Sugarstealer is a fine album, which easily stands as the best the band have produced.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Metamorphosis – Then All Was Silent
Tracklist: The Birth (7:03), When Kenny Was Sad (7:58), Springtime (4:48), Beyond The Wall (6:45), Confinement (4:16), The Killing Machines (4:27), The Secret Room (3:31), Revelation (2:23), The Book (4:22), The Escape (5:53), Then All Was Silent (10:45)
Metamorphosis – Dark
Tracklist: Song For My Son (8:25), The Fight Is Over (7:51), Hey Man (9:56), Waking Up (7:14), Knowing All I Do Is Worth Nothing (8:42), You (6:33), Where Do We Go Now (9:51), Dark (3:16)
Swiss act Metamorphosis are less a band than a project, based around the talents of one Jean-Pierre Schenk. Schenk writes all the material, sings, plays the keyboards and handles ‘virtual’ bass and drum duties (i.e. these are programmed). Guitars are handled by a number of guest musicians. Schenk has released four albums under the Metamorphosis banner, of which Dark is the latest – Then All Was Silent is its predecessor, and was sent to us along with the newer album; reviewing the two of them together is actually a handy way of showing how the music of Metamorphosis has evolved and changed over the intervening years.
Looking at various reviews on the web, and even at their own label’s press release, the main comparator given to Metamorphosis’s music is that of Pink Floyd. This is not an unfair comparison, particularly when considering the latter-day, David Gilmour-fronted version of the band. The influence is particularly apparent on Then All Was Silent. A concept album, it tells the story of a cloned baby born as part of an experiment by a dictatorial president to create a nation of war machines, designed to obey all orders and commit atrocities at will. The story takes us through the child’s grim upbringing, effectively living in a prison camp; goes through his futile attempts to escape, finding evidence of a ‘real world’ outside the prison gates, ending when he really does escape – but with things not turning out quite as he had hoped…
A dark story undoubtedly, and the music to accompany it is a suitably sombre form of symphonic prog. Unsurprisingly, synths dominate for large sections, both in painting some atmospheric sonic pictures and in terms of some fleet-fingered solo work. The songs are split between solid mid-tempo tracks beefed up by some edgy guitar work and more melancholic segueing pieces. Guitar duties are in the main shared between Giova Espositio and David Grillon, and between them they let rip some soaring, Gilmour-esque solos at regular intervals.
Highlights include the powerful opening cut The Birth, the almost Ultravox-like eighties style electro pop/ rock of Beyond The Wall, the well-written, easy flowing The Escape (a track enlivened by a Camel-esque flute solo) and topping it all the stately, epic title track which provides a fitting conclusion to the album, ending as it does with a quite superb guitar solo.
Fast forward four years, and Schenk is back with the suitably titled Dark. Clearly not looking at the brighter side of life (corporate greed and the desecration of the planet being key lyrical themes), there’s a change of emphasis in the music, with the Floyd influence less prevalent. Opener Song For My Son, for instance, is driven by a heavy, fuzzed-up riff and features plenty of wailing guitars – the heaviness is balanced by some Jean-Michel Jarre-like atmospheric synth work, although it doesn’t erode the power of the song. Porcupine Tree are a newer influence that shows its head here – Hey Man boasts a piano-led intro which sounds like it could have come from Stupid Dream and a key melody line which echoes that of the In Absentia track Gravity Eyelids, whilst the melancholic Waking Up retains the PT feel. The Floyd influence isn’t completely missing – The Fight Is Over could almost be an out-take from A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, whilst You boasts a vocal performance from Schenk which has a definite The Wall-era Roger Waters feel about it - but it doesn’t jump out at you as much as on the previous release.
Both albums share certain weaknesses – the production (bar the guitar solo’s) has a home studio feel, with the boxy, computer-generated drum sound proving a bit of a distraction, and Schenk as a singer is merely adequate. There could also be levelled at the music the charge that it lacks originality, with too many sections having a familiar ring to them. However, set against this are the compositions, which are generally well executed and thought through and full of interesting melodies and, when required, hooks. I should also mention the guitar work, which is of a very high standard throughout – the work of Roger Burri on Dark tracks The Fight Is Over and Knowing All I Do Is Worth Nothing being particularly worthy of note.
Overall then, two good symphonic prog albums, particularly recommended to fans of latter day Pink Floyd and mid-period Porcupine Tree.
Then All Was Silent: 7 out of 10
Dark: 7 out of 10
Little Tragedies – The Paris Symphony
Tracklist: Notre Dame de Paris (7:37), Montmartre (5:57), Hotel Des Invalides (10:28), Napoleon (9:21), Jardin Du Luxembourg (3:56), Arc De Triomphe (6:14) Bonus Tracks: Moonlight People (2:38), Romantic Walz (4:07), Relayer (5:51)
Little Tragedies are a Russian band who have been working continuously in progressive rock music – heavily derived from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, or more precisely from Keith Emerson himself – since 1994. A number of their more recent albums – but not their most recent, Cross (2008) - have been reviewed by DPRP. None has yet achieved a “DPRP recommendation” accolade and The Paris Symphony album, originally composed and recorded in 1997 but only now released by Musea, also fails on that account. They have all come close but... I myself have only previously heard Cross but my impression of that album was the same as this – although the Cross’s style is quite different to The Paris Symphony – and that is that it was pleasant, but lacking that certain something to really make it “explode” in your senses.
Little Tragedies’ leader is clearly keyboardist Gennady Ilyin: the music he composes is clearly inspired by Keith Emerson’s style, as well as taking inspiration from classical music, particularly of the Russian late 19th and early 20th centuries (as did Emerson of course!). Little Tragedies are now a five-piece band but at the time of this recording there were just three members: Ilyin on keyboards, Yury Skripkin on drums and Oleg Babynin on bass.
If you’re a big fan of Keith Emerson or of Russian classical music of the period that I’ve referenced then you might well adore this album. It is inspired by Ilyin’s visit to Paris in 1995, when he attended the Easter service at Notre Dame cathedral. The major themes of The Paris Symphony take their inspiration from the tunes of that service and, similarly, the service provided the inspiration for some of the keyboard sounds: the heavy organ sounds especially impressive.
Napoleon is the composition that is the lynch-pin of the 45 minute “symphony”, determining the structure an intonation of the remaining pieces. The whole works well together but somehow fails to deliver a really significant motif or moment to lift the whole album to another level.
The bonus tracks sit reasonably well on the album but, personally, I feel the effect of The Paris Symphony would have been greater had they been omitted: often in music, less is more.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Mindmovie - An Ocean of Dreams
Disc One: Theme For An Imaginary Mindmovie (7:52), Planet Passion IV (4:16), Mekon Peppers (4:33), Secret Lies (5:21), Dark Tower (5:22), Journey Through The Outlands (5:32), Moonmaiden (4:37), Just The Thought Of You (5:14), On The Floor (5:21), Holy (4:08), A Space Based Utopia (5:35), Mahe (5:58), A New Kind Of Man (5:04), Is It A Dream? (6:06), For The Ones We Love (4:50)
Bonus CD: Corona (4:19), Promises (4:51), Earl Grey (4:53), Devil In Disguise (3:54), Way Back Home (5:19), Aurora (4:19), Living Through The Ages (6:04), I Can’t Be Sure But I Think I Love You (4:52), Sunday Evening (6:19), Time By Time (5:51), House Of Love (4:49)
I remember one time many years ago when my father, who worked in marketing, was doing a presentation at work and he needed some music for it. He turned to me for the music, knowing that I was a music lover with a vast collection. He said he wanted something “not too hard, not too soft”. I let him borrow my copy of Bête Noire by Bryan Ferry, and he was pleased with my recommendation. If my father were alive today and doing another presentation, I would turn him on to An Ocean Of Dreams by Achim Wierschem (under the moniker Mindmovie). Wierschem is the guitarist for legendary German prog band Flaming Bess, and this is his first solo project.
The CD comes as a standard single CD and a limited edition version that comes with a bonus CD of more music. The limited 2CD edition is the version being reviewed here. The style of music on this release is mostly electronica-based instrumental music in the vein of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason-era Pink Floyd and 1980’s-era Tangerine Dream. Like that Bryan Ferry CD I let my father borrow all those years ago, the music on An Ocean Of Dreams is not too hard, not too soft. Like the third bear’s bowl of porridge to Goldilocks, it is just right.
The CD booklet’s credits are not specific but indicate that the music was written, played and programmed by Wierschem. Ostensibly, “played” refers to guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. And the drum programming is evident on this release. Several guest contributors are credited as well.
The format that would serve this review best would be one touching upon enough tracks so that each of the talented guests is rightly mentioned.
- The Tangerine Dream influence is evident on Planet Passion IV, which like many of the tracks is based on a medium tempo and some carefully paced world beat programming from Wierschem. The track is flavoured with some guitar and sitar playing from Spanish musician Andrés Rexach. At times the guitar and sitar overlay each other as a string choir of sorts.
- Mekon Peppers is a rock-based track that features some nice nylon string guitar as well as some rhythm and solo guitar from California-based guitarist Catherine Delgadillo.
- Secret Lies, one of the few vocal tracks on An Ocean Of Dreams, is another rock number which evokes to an extent Nine Inch Nails and offers lyrics and singing from Wierschem’s good friend from the UK, Mike Pearse. Claas Reimer, bandmate of Wierschem’s in Flaming Bess as well as their other band Wi:Re, help to write the tune and he throws in some synth pad sound effects.
- Journey Through The Outlands is a great upbeat tune, via some quality bluesy guitar playing from the great German blues and jazz guitarist Gregor Hilden. Dire Straits and Peter Gabriel are both reference points on this track. The tune comes from a jam during the recording sessions for the Flaming Bess 2005 release Black Sun. In fact, Reimer spikes up the song with some of his sound effects, and Flaming Bess band-mates Peter Figge and Hans Wende handle keyboards and bass respectively. So this is, in fact, a Flaming Bess song.
- Just The Thought Of You is a moody piece with some spoken word elements inspired by the gravesites of buried WW I soldiers. The song is based on a poem by Jef De Corte, who also came up with the piano and orchestral arrangements. The simply-named Artie Q does the spoken word of Jef’s poem, and the delivery and the mixing of the spoken word lines is executed with just the right amount of restraint and is not overdone. The song is actually the fifth part of a twenty minute suite and download EP entitled Dreams Are Buried Here, available from Itunes.
- Holy is a gospel-flavoured adaptation of an old church song by Franz Schubert. It offers up some soulful guitar from Wierschem and a bit of talented piano playing from his good friend Lorenz Kaiser.
- A Space Based Utopia is one of several mid-tempo tracks on An Ocean Of Dreams and it includes a few samples from American re-mixer and producer DJ-Rkod. This Enigma-like piece features guitar from Wierschem evoking Trey Gunn, although no Warr guitar or Chapman stick is used.
- Although Wierschem is a talented guitarist, on many of the tracks he is more than happy to let another guitarist get in on the action. One of these tracks is A New Kind Of Man, which showcases some guitar stylings from French guitarist Yves Sordage.
- For the Ones We Love is another gospel-flavoured track dedicated to Wierschem’s wife and son. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Olaf Jordan sprinkles in some piano.
- Earl Grey is another mid-tempo number featuring a guest guitarist, this time Bernard Agis Garcin, who also co-wrote the track.
- Devil In Disguise is a funky, bouncy song featuring some rap-style vocals from Portuguese vocalist Paulo Freitas, along with a synth solo from German keyboardist Joachim Bendt that evokes the late Richard Wright.
- Time By Time is a track originally intended for the last Flaming Bess release. It has some liquid guitar soloing and Latin-flavoured programming from Wierschem and some vocals from the sultry-sounding and simply names Jenny K.
- The Ballad House Of Love was intended for an earlier and unreleased Wierschem solo recording. Awesome vocals here from Sara De Bourgeois.
My first impression upon listening to these CDs is that many of the tracks sound alike. Wierschem’s guitar soloing is repetitive after a while, although to his credit he is an awesome guitarist. I definitely plan on listening to An Ocean Of Dreams again and I suspect it will grow on me with future listens. In fact, I’m listening to it now as I type this review. Great music for working on the computer or just relaxing.
The CD booklet is very colourful, with cover art and design courtesy of Jef De Corte, of Aeronaut. Along with Mark Orr and Maria and Markus Wierschem, he took the photos for the CD booklet. The booklet’s well-written liner notes give detailed insight into each song and credit the several great guest musicians.
This release will appeal to anyone who likes laid-back, challenging instrumental music. If you seek more conventional vocal-based tracks or a prog epic like Karn Evil 9, you won’t find them here.
I can think of no room for improvement for Wierschem for his next solo project.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Tilion – A.M.I.G.D.A.L.A.
Tracklist: 680819DP (3:53), Symphony For A Shadow (4:42), The Mirrors Room (6:00), The Echo Of The Dark Side (5:18), Nocturnal [Pt 1] (4:10), Promonade Avec La Nuit (2:45), Alter Action (7:05), Eclipse (6:17), Nocturnal [Pt 2] (3:47), A.M.I.G.D.A.L.A. (10:32)
Tilion are an Italian band that rose out of the ashes of Prowlers, who released three albums from 1994 to 1997, after which keyboard player Alfio Costa and guitar player Flavio Costa formed Tilion. Completing the line up are drummer Paolo Cassago and Roberto “Bobo” Aiolfi on bass. With A.M.I.G.D.A.L.A. the band releases its third album and the first for their new label Musea. As you might have noticed the line up does not include a permanent vocalist, and for this album the band works with no less then seven guest vocalists. The aim of Tilion is to produce progressive rock that is inspired by the great bands of the seventies, and the dark and eerie artwork is representative of the albums concept, which deals with fear and human emotions and results in a dark and gloomy atmosphere for the album.
The album has in impressive opening with the instrumental 680819DP, which is an exciting track that functions as a perfect overture of what is to come; at times a dark and sinister musical landscape. The musicianship of all the players is of a high quality, and unexpected twists and turns, musical themes that reappear throughout the album in different shape and form. The four instrumentalists do not always go for the easy solution and it is this that makes this album an exciting listening experience. As they chose to make 70s style prog rock the usual suspects can be heard: Rickenbacker bass, Mini Moog, Hammond and Tron are all used here, but also the use of sound effects help the listener to get into the concept of the album. It’s funny however that despite the 70s instruments, bands like Anekdoten, Morte Macabre and especially White Willow spring to mind when listening to this album. King Crimson also seems to big influence to the guys in the band.
As I said before the band makes use of different vocalists, and that is the weaker part of the album and then especially on the first two vocal tracks. Symphony For A Shadow musically is a great song with great melodies, however, I just don’t like the voice of Sophya Baccini (from Presence). In the quieter parts of the song it’s ok, but in the heavier sections she has to stretch her vocal abilities a bit too much. The Mirror Room is the second vocal track and after some sound effects a beautiful Fender Rhodes melody starts the song, however, Clive Jones (from Black Widow) vocals are also dissapointing. Maybe that is to do with the way they recorded it, as with all the efftects on his vocals they sound as if they were recorded in a cave, however, it’s still a good song with a lot of tension in it. Jones also plays flute and saxophone in this song. The Echo Of The Dark Side is a beautiful song with a medieval feel to it and in this song the vocals of Helena Biagioni fit perfectly. Flavio Costa also shines in this song with his acoustic guitar playing. Nocturnal Pt 1 is also a great song and features some excellent piano playing by Alfia Costa. Nocturnal Pt 2 features a great hammond solo!). The short Promenade Avec La Nuit is basically a solo piano piece backed by Letizia Sperzaga’s wordless vocals. The start of the instrumental Alter Action gives the rhythm section of the band some room to enjoy the spotlight with some great bass playing and a short drum solo. Eclipse has a heavy wall of sound which works very well with the vocals of Lino and Irvin Vairetti. The album closer, longest song and title track has all the good things of the album come together. A.M.I.G.D.A.L.A. is largely instrumental song showing the great musicianship of Tilion. It is an exciting track with plenty of twists and turns and strong melodies.
All in all this is a very good album. Instrumentally the album is very adventurous. The dark heavy parts and gloomy quieter sections make this album a great listen, however not all the vocal guests had a positive effect on some of the songs, but that is just a minor part that is outweighted by all the positives. If you are into the bands mentioned in this review you should definetely give Tilion a try.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Nine Stones Close – Nine Stones Close
Tracklist: Too Far Out (1:38), A Door Opens (3:48), Crashed (2:51), Drowning Now (3:58), Silently Screaming (2:53), Remaining Days (3:02), A Sense Of Colour (2:33), Ran Aground (3:54), Hospital Bubble (5:46), Interlude To Something (1:30), Remaining Days [Reprise] (2:13), Red & White (4:54)
Ade Jones is the man behind this solo-project. Usually he plays guitar and sings in a band called Lie Big of which he’s also the main songwriter. In Lie Big the music is raised on rock and grunge, while this solo-effort is more progressive in nature. Jones plays all kinds of acoustic and electric guitars, bass and uses MIDI and ‘Drums On Demand’. This rather short album consists of 12 songs, of which most are connected, so it’s easy to listen to the whole album without intermissions.
Floating sounds and a distant echoing guitar are the almost ‘ambient’ opening. A sound as if someone takes a picture and the a steady bass drone is used to express Ade’s ability to play lead guitar, the sound of which is somewhat raw and distorted. In the second part drums and bass are added and the dreamy atmosphere changes into a more rock orientated end piece. Piano-sounds, a drum computer, echoing guitar chords and synthesizers are fundaments for Crashed and we hear Ade’s spacey vocal. When the echoing guitar fades away, we hear sounds of bubbling water in Drowning Now and Ade starts plucking his (again) echoing electric guitar. A second guitar and Ade’s dreamy vocal help to build up to more guitars, bass and ‘drums’. The atmosphere is bit like a melancholic Porcupine Tree, but Ade’s voice is deeper. In Silently Screaming plucking and floating higher notes of two guitars feature this ‘all guitar’ track.
The most rock orientated song on the album is Remaining Days: the song is built around a strong guitar riff. A Sense Of Colour shows a lot of David Gilmour influences, both vocally and guitar; not too original maybe, but it sounds really cool. The same dreamy, spacey atmosphere can be found in Ran Aground, until ‘drums’ and raw distorting guitars make the track more in the vein of an up tempo Porcupine Tree song. Hospital Bubble is the longest track of the album, echoing spacey vocals and a simple echoing plucking are the ingredients of the first part, whilst the second part sounds pretty much like Pink Floyd to me. The last part is a reprise of the first part and fades away really slowly. In Interlude the accompaniment are acoustic guitar chords and some electric guitar playing the lead. The reprise of Remaining Days is equally powerful and rocking albeit after an almost ambient opening piece. Two guitar leads and double vocals are the characteristics in the last mid tempo track, in the vein of guitar oriented Porcupine Tree.
A nice offering, much more appealing to me than the music offered by Big Lie but still in the huge pile of music available through all sorts of channels, this album is nothing really spectacular, but rather pleasant to listen to.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Chris Stassinopoulos & Friends - Light In The Dark
Tracklist: Ancient Civilization (8:59), Universal Harmony (7:40), Trip Through The Universal Light (12:17), Greece Meets India (6:12), Space Hymn (8:46), Flight Of The Condor (6:34), FA Blues [Space Hymn 2] (7:47), Cosmic 1 (8:46)
You know? Sometimes everything is not enough. Before giving Light In The Dark a proper listen, Chris Stassinopoulos’ calling card looked promising. There were some “big” names on the line up, such as former King Crimson violinist David Cross and Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper. Even Stassinopoulos described his music as “70s cosmic rock/jazz fusion, with themes from ancient civilizations, using chords from contemporary classical music by Bartok, Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ligeti…”
Well, I’m sure those were Chris’ promising intentions. But the result is miles, maybe light years away from what he intended to create. Put simple, this album is an absolute mess. Musicianship is often discussible (not least Stassinopoulos’ abilities on keys and drums), there’s no coherence to the tracks, no new musical ground to be explored. When the music pretends to be bombastic, it just falls on the “safety” of tedious and uninspired noodling.
The first track, Ancient Civilization, characterizes the whole album with its pointless soloing and “big” (but cheesy) sounding keyboards. It reminds me of Derek Sherinian and, much as I’ve never been impressed by the ex-DT solo output, he’d have done it with much more flair and skill.
David Cross is credited here, but he must be playing a highly processed electric violin, because otherwise the soloing sounds like it comes from a guitar. Universal Harmony is more of the same, but at least Alex Foster adds a dash of colour with his saxophone. Trip Through The Universal Light again repeats the same formula, but this time with almost metallic guitar shredding by Barry Finnerty and going on for maybe 4-5 minutes too long.
Greece Meets India is a bit more relaxed, leaving more room for the instruments to breathe, but be warned that its simple but promising title is not matched by the music, so you won’t find an epic mixture of Mediterranean and Indian musical traditions; just another pointless and boring instrumental.
To end the studio side of this release, Space Hymn, simply replacing the previous violin/guitar soloing for Alekos Karakandas’ keyboards. To round things up, and if it wasn’t enough yet, three live tracks recorded at various theatres in Athens. The line up may be different, but the music is just about the same. Ok, maybe these live tracks are a bit more dynamic (especially Flight Of The Condor, with Maria Kotsiri on vibraphone, and Space Hymn 2, where Stassinopoulos gets to show a better face of his drumming personality), but not enough to save this CD.
I understand and appreciate that nowadays, with all the technology available, almost anybody can produce their own album at home and release it without help from a record label. I understand and appreciate that Chris Stassinopoulos is probably a respected prog star in his home country. But only pompous titles and long song lengths don’t make prog. It takes more, much more. It takes talent to make a decent album. I’m sure there’s loads of passion, love and dedication put on the making of this CD, but the inspiration is simply not there.
This CD clocks at 67 minutes, and you can painstakingly feel each and every one of them get on your patience. It might have been an “important” release 35-40 years ago, but in our 21st century context is sadly and completely irrelevant.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
MM Circle - Requiem Pour Un Vivant
Tracklist: Lazaret (7:22), 6 Pieds Sur Terre (11:43), Stagnation (11:04), Requiem Pour Un Vivant (8:19), Iconoclast (6:15)
MM Circle is one of the side projects for drummer Martin Maheux, known to many DPRP readers as the sticks man with Canadian progressive jazz rockers Spaced Out. Along with bassist Antoine Fafard, Martin Maheux makes up the strong rhythm section from that band. Over the years I have invested in a few of Spaced Out's albums and certainly their Live At The Crescendo Festival 2007 amply displayed the band's chops.
So when the opportunity came along to review this the third outing for MM Circle, following up Physics Of Light (2002) and Sibylle (2006) I took the plunge. However what emerged from the speakers was a far cry from anything Spaced Out have produced. Credit to Mr Maheaux that unlike so many other musicians have in the past, he did not merely turn to the majority of his band for his solo outing. Instead he has enlisted the help of a chamber orchestra with Lizann Gervais (violin), Karine Lalonde (violin), Janie Massicotte (violincelle), Gaël Huard (violincelle) and Eric St-Jean (piano) on the final piece.
So how best to describe the music of Requiem Pour Un Vivant. Let's take the orchestra who lay down some fairly dark, haunting and certainly challenging pieces. The parts are well scored although there is little in the way of pleasant or memorable melodies to be found, therefore the music is always jarring and thought provoking. Enter Martin Maheux who then plays a drum accompaniment. And for the most part this works effectively during the album opener Lazaret, the drums gradually building in intensity throughout the track. However the more sporadic percussion elements employed during the eleven plus minutes of 6 Pieds Sur Terre are less effective to my ears. Truth be known my interest was already starting to wane by a third of the way in to this track. The lack of any hooks, the jarring themes and tension within the music grew heavy on these ears. And Requiem Pour Un Vivant, the album, continues throughout with this avant-garde and demanding style. Stagnation possibly being the strongest of pieces on offer, although here MM's contribution seems somewhat disparate to the music...
I have chosen not to offer a numerical rating for Requiem Pour Un Vivant, not as an implied criticism of the music, but more an indication that although the music may be progressive - it certainly never rocks. This is a bold move from Martin Maheux and all credit to the musicians involved, ultimately however, I cannot see this sitting too comfortably with many prog fans. However if challenging jazz infused chamber music sparks your curiosity then follow the link to the samples above and take a listen.
Conclusion: Not Rated