Reviews in this issue:
- RPWL - The RPWL Live Experience [DVD]
- Flamborough Head - Looking For John Maddock
- Quidam - The Fifth Season
- Deluge Grander - The Form Of The Good
- Apogee - Mystery Remains
- Gargamel - Descending
- Enochian Theory - Evolution: Creation Ex Nihilio
- Cirrha Niva - For Moments Never Done
- Adventure - Beacon Of Light
- Chris Thompson - Live
- Chris Thompson – Backtrack 1980-1994
- Being & Time - Being & Time
RPWL - The RPWL Live Experience
Tracklist: Hole In The Sky (7:40), Breathe In, Breathe Out (3:56), 3 Lights (9:26), Start The Fire (4:45), Silenced (10:10), This Is Not A Prog Song (6:59), Sleep (9:35), Opel (6:24), Waiting For A Smile (7:18), Trying To Kiss The Sun (5:07), Wasted Land (5:57), Roses (7:37), Biding My Time (5:09), I Don't Know (6:06)
Bonus Material: Music Video of 'Breathe In, Breathe Out' (3:39), Tour Footage 2006 [incl. Sleep Demo Version] (1:58), Interview with Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner (29:02), Biography, Discography, Desktop Images, Websites, Photo Gallery (2:24)
One of the bands that performed at the Progrock Festival 2009 in the Wyspiaski Theatre in Katowice, Poland was the German RPWL. No strangers to the readers of DPRP, the band that evolved from Violet District and Pink Floyd cover band line-ups have released four fully fledged studio albums, two albums with compilations of outtakes and other rarities and one live album since their debut in 2000. The RPWL Live Experience is their first DVD and is also available as double CD set and limited edition box set with the DVD and 2 CDs.
I've been a follower of RPWL's work ever since their first album God Has Failed and to be perfectly honest I thought the band was heading in a rather disappointing direction with their last album The RPWL Experience. There were simply too many tracks on the album that didn't meet the level of quality I've come to expect of this band. To my delight, for the setlist of the Katowice performance the band decided to drop a few of the newer tunes (the dreadfully dragging Dylan meets Floyd cover of Masters Of War and the annoying Choose What You Want To Look At) as well as the overrated Gentle Art Of Swimming. As far as I'm concerned, all improvements for the overall setlist. It's a shame though that they didn't play Stranger off the last album, they didn't play the full length version of Hole In The Sky and also skipped the cover of Court Of The Crimson King which was played during last year's tour. But playing at a festival probably had it's limitations on the set's length (which is relatively short for an RPWL gig) and we do get one of their classic tunes, Waiting For A Smile, in return.
Metal Mind Productions have built a real business out of recording and releasing DVDs of gigs at the Wyspiaski Theatre. The venue is perfect for such recordings and the DVD offers a lot of atmospheric footage. The lightshow is amazing, there's several mobile camera's providing great shots and are the swooping shots from bird perspective clearly show the lovely projected patterns on the stage. The projection screen is relatively small compared to the stage and I'm surprised that with so many bands using projected footage these days the venue doesn't have a better alternative. The sound of the concert is great, although the drums sound a bit dry and low in the mix, whereby the music sometimes misses a bit of power. The editing of the footage is probably the only thing I have some complaints about. Sometimes I find myself watching a close-up of an instrument when another musician is playing a solo, or the wrong keyboard player is filmed. Makes you wonder how much knowledge about music the editors of this DVD have. Also, the editors have not put a lot of effort in making sure that you don't see any cameramen wandering through the shots. A shame but fortunately not a major disaster.
As most people that have seen RPWL live will know, they are not the most exciting combo you can see on a stage. Yogi Lang is a very nice and gentle guy, a singer with a warm voice and a great keyboard player, but he's not the best frontman you can imagine. His sad puppy eyes show that he is absolutely absorbed in the band's music, but you won't see him going crazy on the stage. Like the members of their favourite band Pink Floyd they are rather static and depend on the quality of the music and lightshow to deliver a great experience. The only exception might well be guitarist Kalle Wallner, who has a slightly more rock attitude than his other mates.
Having said this, this minor complaint has never kept me from seeing the band live. The music, excellent performances, screen projections and the fact that RPWL is one of the few prog bands that sometimes stray from the original studio versions of their material and are not afraid to throw in the occasional cover are more than enough reason to go and see them. In this case the set includes covers of Syd Barrett's Opel and Pink Floyd's Biding My Time. Opel is a song the band recorded for their Stock album and also included on their Start The Fire live album. I've never been too excited about this track, but Biding My Time is one of the highlights of the DVD. The band turn this bluesy Floyd rarity in a roaring rocking version.
Other highlights of the set include the stunning live version of Three Lights, the excellent Silenced, Waiting For A Smile and This Is Not A Prog Song (including the hilarious projection footage). I've grown to really like this song and the live version is so much better than the one on the latest studio album. Not only is the screaming rant at the end of the song thankfully absent, it's been replaced by a tongue-in-cheek medley that includes versions of Status Quo's Rockin' All Over The World (which becomes Proggin' All Over The World) and The Scorpions' Rock You Like A Hurricane (Prog You Like A Hurricane). Not only does the band show they don't take themselves too serious, they are also clearly having a great time between all of the songs with more serious subject matters.
The bonus material on the DVD is mildly interesting. The short Tour Footage film is too random and short to give a good look behind the scenes, the interview with Yogi and Kalle is interesting but sometimes borders on silliness, the video for Breathe In, Breathe Out (besides featuring rather horrible animations) is far too repetitive and boring for my taste and then there's the obligatory photo gallery, biography and discography and some website links and desktop images for your PC. Recordings of the band's Rockpalast show from 2005 would have been much more interesting. What a missed opportunity!
So, what edition should you go for ? I would probably recommend the DVD. If you want the double live CD than you'd better go for the limited edition box set that includes the CDs and DVD. If you don't care about the DVD and haven't got the band's previous live album Start The Fire I would suggest you get that album first because it overlaps a lot with this setlist and includes some absolute must-haves that are not available on The RPWL Live Experience. Anyway, The RPWL Live Experience gives a good impression about the excellent musicianship of this band and although they may not be visual entertainers in the vein of Freddy Mercury, their first DVD still comes very much recommended.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Flamborough Head – Looking For John Maddock
Tracklist: The Garden Pond (5:31), Sleepless Night (7:02), Spring (5:25), Waste Of Time (6:32), Don’t Forget Us (8:23), Looking For John Maddock (19:43)
It was disappointing to read of Eddie Mulder’s departure from Flamborough Head at the end of last year. Guitarist with the band since 2000, to my mind the interaction he shared with keyboardist Edo Spanninga was on a par with the likes of Hackett and Banks or Rothery and Kelly. This is aptly displayed on their last release, 2007’s Live In Budapest. Mulder’s replacement Gert Polkerman joined at the beginning of 2009 but he is yet to make his recording debut with the band. In the meantime Mulder’s legacy lives on with the release of his final recordings with the band and their fifth studio album to date, Looking For John Maddock. In addition to Mulder the rest of the band are all present and correct, namely the aforementioned Spanninga (keyboards), Margriet Boomsma (vocals, flute, recorders), Marcel Derix (bass) and Koen Roozen (drums, percussion).
Mulder is responsible for writing five out of the six tracks, with Spanninga saving himself compositionally for the epic title piece that concludes. An even mix of instrumentals and songs (with Margriet providing the lyrics in addition to the vocals for the latter) gives the album a fluid balance throughout. Of the three instrumentals The Garden Pond is probably the most immediate with a striking melody courtesy of Mulder’s lyrical playing that has something of the Andy Latimer’s about it. The languid mood is broken by a tricky up-tempo section with some neat bass work and superb flute from Derix and Boomsma respectively. Flute is once more to the fore during the beautiful Spring which combined with the smooth organ sound and melodic guitar brings Focus to mind. Mulder is credited with arranging all three instrumentals including Don’t Forget Us with strident synth and guitar interplay plus a scorching Moog solo to add a certain edge to the proceedings. A fanfare of medieval sounding recorders provides a brief but welcome diversion into Gryphon territory.
Sleepless Night seems to pickup from where the opening track The Garden Pond leaves off where in addition to flute Margriet adds her enchanting and distinctive vocals. Around the midway point there is a haunting bass and mellotron moment that echoes classic Yes. The weeping guitar solo that closes is a nod in the direction of Nick Barrett. Waste Of Time is anything but, especially as it displays a sense of urgency often absent from the proceeding tracks. It benefits from some fine drumming courtesy of Mr Roozen and a very proggy synth break with a melody line that bears more than a passing resemblance to Yes’ The Revealing Science Of God. The concluding epic Looking For John Maddock is ambiguously titled and the images of the young girl on the cover artwork give nothing away. One thing’s for certain however, it provides a fitting finale for Mulder’s tenure with the band. Margriet’s vocals, with superb backing harmonies from Mulder, are excellent throughout and the music contains some beautifully evocative instrumental soundscapes. Particularly impressive is Spanninga’s lush, orchestral keyboards, a style usually associated with Robert John Godfrey and Woolly Wolstenholme.
Once again the Dutch quartet have produced a compelling collection of tunes that displays a strong sense of melody and assured if not over elaborate instrumental work that deserves wider recognition outside their homeland. They certainly do enough for me to justify a DPRP recommendation although their often restrained style and absence of heavy riffs may prove to be a drawback for some. Mulder’s clean and expressive guitar contributions will be sorely missed although he can be heard on the up and coming debut release from new Dutch band Leap Day. What the future holds for Flamborough Head is difficult to say particularly as new man Polkerman has a style quite different from his predecessor who was also a key contributor to the song writing process. Watch this space for future developments.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Quidam - The Fifth Season
Tracklist: Hands Off (9:23), Queen Of Moulin Rouge (8:25), SurREvival (5:57), Sanktuarium (7:43), Oldies But Goldies: [including List Z Pustyni I, Pod Powieka, Plone, Wesola, Jest Taki Samotny Dom, Niespelnienie, Gleboka Rzeka] (9:42), The Fifth Season [including Los Endos] (10:32), Everything’s Ended (11:42), Not So Close [including Hush] (10:04)
Yet another (I’ve lost count) live show recorded at Katowice’s Teatr Sláski (or Wyspianski Theatre). This time, is Quidam’s turn, tough in fact, this concert was released in 2006 as a DVD, and already favourably reviewed by DPRP.
I can’t really see the point in releasing this CD, and even giving it the “Limited (to 1000 copies) Edition” treatment. Don’t get me wrong, the performances are top notch, and the quality of the recording is exceptional, but what’s the point in getting only the audio versions of some of the songs, if you can have both images and sounds of the whole (including Credo, Jestes and a great cover of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter) set? Well, I’m sure you’ll be interested in getting the adequate companion for Live In Mexico (1999) and Half Plugged (2006), but only if you’re a completist.
That said, this is quite an enjoyable show from one of Poland’s leading bands. Most of the setlist presented here is extracted from their then current release SurREvival (2005), with some older pieces thrown in for good measure. Undoubtedly, the challenge here was (and still is) to keep the high standards of respected albums such as Sny Aniolów (1998) and get on with the music without the presence of Emila Derkowska, former vocalist and most notorious band member until her departure. Bartek Kossowicz, her improbable substitute, has done a decent job so far, but I’ll admit I still miss the “old days”, not only because of her beautiful vocals, but also because of the radical change of style the band has undergone after the release of Time Beneath The Sky in 2002.
What once was a neo-progressive outfit deeply rooted in the 70’s sound, and particularly influenced by Genesis, Pink Floyd and Camel, has morphed into a modern neo-progressive in the style of compatriots Satellite, Pendragon or (somewhat bizarrely) Enchant; in fact, Kossowicz’s vocals have a strong Ted Leonard vibe to them. This is made evident from opening number Hands Off, a powerful, bombastic piece with excellent drumming, lively Hammond and nice flute courtesy of Jacek Zasada. The flute is probably the odd (but classy) ingredient here, and the one that links the band’s new era with the previous one.
Queen Of Moulin Rouge starts as a pretty standard ballad, but around the four minute mark gains intensity thanks to an infectious piano groove that doesn’t let up until the end. On the other hand, SurREvival is the shortest cut of the CD, and also the most conventionally neo-prog sounding.
Unmistakably, Sanktuarium gets the most effusive applause, as it is probably the most “classic” song included here. The style is noticeably different; lyrics are sung in Polish, not in English, and band leader Maciek Meller’s gets a strong David Gilmour/Andy Latimer emotional flavour out of his guitar, instead of the more alternative/distorted sound present on other cuts. The nostalgic trip continues with Oldies But Goldies, a nicely titled instrumental (all bass pedals and Minimoog runs present and correct) medley of old favourites, including Plone, Wesola and Niespelnienie, all stitched together seamlessly and presented with enough enthusiasm and vigour to make of it one of the highlights of the show.
Title track The Fifth Season starts as a piano driven ballad, only to go up a gear around the seven minute mark and turn into a vibrant instrumental, crowned with a nod to Genesis’ Los Endos, expertly performed but slightly out of place at the end of the song, as it doesn’t work as well a climax as the band pretended it to be.
Everything’s Ended is the longest cut here, clocking in at nearly twelve minutes, and certainly one of the best; an intriguing, jazzy piece in the best slow-burning Marillion (Hogarth era) tradition, à la Neverland/This Is The 21st Century.
To round things up, Not So Close, which starts with some acoustic guitar, to build up and become a crowd sing along, with a few lines from Joe South’s Hush (Deep Purple version; Quidam also wonderfully covered Child In Time a few years ago) thrown in for fun. A true, effective set closer.
This is a very good show, but if you have the DVD (and if you’re a fan, you have it already), it is somehow redundant and unnecessary.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Deluge Grander - The Form Of The Good
Tracklist: Before The Common Era (5:22), The Tree Factory (14:08), Common Era Caveman (6:26), Aggrandizement (19:12), The Form Of The Good (8:41)
It’s not always easy writing reviews - sometimes you have to listen long and hard to an album before it opens itself up and reveals its beauty. If you write the review too early, you end up with a verdict you don’t agree with a couple of weeks later. The Form Of The Good by Deluge Grander is such an album.
Deluge Grander was formed in 2005 in Baltimore USA. In 2006 they released their debut album August In The Urals. This second album took two years to make. Compared to their debut album there is a shift towards classical music, especially because of the many guests on woodwinds, violin and cello. The performances of the four band members however keep Deluge Grander firmly rooted in progressive rock. For this album the band members are Dan Britton on keyboards, Dave Berggren on guitars, Brett d’Anon on bass (the band’s website mentions a Christopher West on bass suggesting that d’Anon has since left the band) and Patrick Gaffney on drums. The album's central theme is, and I quote; “It involves the overestimation of differences between urbanism and naturalism by modern philosophical paradigms” (uhhh???).
The album opens with the gentle Before The Common Era - a chanting choir forms the centre of this track while the music weaves around it like a gentle wind. Megan Wheatley contributes the only vocals on the album. In the middle of the song the sudden climax takes you by surprise - but it is a pleasant surprise. The Tree Factory is quite another matter. It opens symphonicallly before it really takes off, with some very strong performances to be heard. Some great guitar solos by Dave Berggren but also the guests contribute positively with strong performances on violin, trumpet, flute and saxophone. Also drummer Patrick Gaffney delivers a great performance with some unusual drum patterns. In the promo sheet Dan Britton reveals that the song was built around two drum rhythms (one in ten and a half and the other in 21). Also the band builds in enough quieter sections to get your breath back. When you listen to this track for the first time it sounds very busy and hectic. At first I had the impression that all the instruments were fighting for the attention of the listener, but after a while I started to hear the structure and it all began to make sense, and this applies to the whole album. You have to give it your full attention.
It is also difficult to compare the album to other artists. There are traces of King Crimson and the Canterbury bands, but also Frank Zappa (the 1974, 1975 band with George Duke, Chester Thompson and Napoleon Murphy Brock). The climax in Before The Common Era could have been Genesis. And because of the many guests on different woodwinds, violin and cello it also has touches of classical music.
Common Era Caveman is another great track with a great performance on (distorted) bass by Brett d’Anon. There is a repetitive theme that runs through the entire song played by bass, drums and electric piano. On top of that other instruments take turns to join in the central theme or deliver short solos. Because of that the track has an enormous drive and energy. It’s a dazzling song.
The longest track on the album is Aggrandizement. This composition has a very pastoral opening with its beautiful melody, but not for long because then it gets darker with the electric guitar leading the way. In this song there are contributions on cello, trumpet, flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone and violin. They all give, at different stages, different colours to this epic track. The unique selling point of this composition lies in the different beautiful melodies that pop up at regular intervals during the song. There are no sections that are too long. Just when you think that you could do with a quieter section Deluge Grander delivers. But again, coming back to the beginning of this review, you have to listen to this album again and again because it needs time. There is some impressive playing by keyboard player and main songwriter Dan Britton, especially the piano parts in the song. Also impressive is the fact that Britton wrote all of the arrangements for the instruments guesting on the album.
The album ends with the title track. The first half of the piece is atmospheric, quiet and dark. The tension builds up suggesting a heavy, difficult and hectic ending of the album. However that is not the case as the track opens up to give way to a beautiful full on symphonic melody before ending the track with a part of the opening track.
This second offering by Deluge Grander takes some time to reveal its beauty. The complex arrangements need some time before they start to make sense. But the complexity of the music did not get in the way of beautiful melodies. I think for this album Deluge Grander have found a good balance between great musicianship and strong melodies full of emotion. And that’s a great achievement.
PS: on the Deluge Grander website Dan Britton tells about the different tracks on the album.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Apogee - Mystery Remains
Tracklist: Mystery Remains (12:57), Get Your Reward (8:59), The Claws of Insanity (14:13), Point of Ignition (12:33), Tracing Experience (20:07)
So the press release that came with the promo copy of Mystery Remains by Apogee heralds them as being influenced by Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill, and King Crimson. Yeah right, I thought to myself. It probably won’t sound anything like those bands.
Boy was I wrong. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first some housekeeping stuff. Apogee is a project formed by Arne Schäfer, front man of German band Versus X. Schäfer has been playing guitar since age 14, and besides prog has dabbled in improvisational jazz/rock and new romantic music. On Mystery Remains, Schäfer handles lead and backing vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, and fretted and fretless bass guitars. Current Versus X drummer Thomas Reiner handles drums and percussion on four of the CD’s five tracks, with former Versus X drummer Uwe Völlmar helping with the fifth.
The style of music the band plays is epic prog in the obvious vein of, you guessed it, VDGG and Peter Hammill. Some eighties-era Crimson does make an appearance as a pointer here and there, but to only a secondary extent.
The VDGG/Hammill influence is immediately evident on the opening title track, which also gives up early Genesis as a commonality. Schäfer has an interesting singing voice not unlike that of IQ vocalist Peter Nicholls. The keyboards are arranged (and in some places obviously multi-tracked) well, but some of the synths on the opening title track sounded kind of cheesy to me. Reiner fortifies the beat with some well-placed drumming, and around the 5:41 mark of the track the lead and rhythm guitars think for a second and then say, “Yeah, we’re getting in on this too!” On the opening track spoken word vocals are also a highlight.
Elsewhere on the CD, we get some fine guitar/keyboard interplay, most notably on the Floydian Get Your Reward. On the cleverly titled The Claws Of Insanity, flute style keyboards over some acoustic guitar do not necessarily sound like a certain British band whose singer plays a flute and stands on one leg. Some piano style keyboards evoking Rick Wakeman show up in the somewhat militant Point Of Ignition.
The emphasis of instrumentation on the CD seems to lean more to keyboards and away from guitars, a good thing for all you keyboard lovers out there (myself included).
The five tracks on the CD travel across 68 minutes. Lengthy stuff, and good that Schäfer had the vision to keep it a little trim. If you have a short music attention span, you might want to stick with The Ramones or The Misfits.
The CD booklet is colourful and designed well. Andreas Tofahrn took the photos of the band members (there is not one of Völlmar), with the artwork and layout/electronic publishing courtesy of Schäfer, Reiner, and Tofahrn.
Room for improvement? I can think of none other than to avoid the occasionally cheesy synths. So I have to knock what would have been a perfect rating half a point down to a . . .
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Gargamel - Descending
Tracklist: Descending (9:54), Prevail The Sea (13:58), Trap (5:30), Labyrinth (17:40)
Having formed in 2001 Norway’s Gargamel released their debut, Watch For The Umbles, in 2006. The line-up up now features Tom Uglebakken (guitar/vocals/flute/sax), Morten Tornes (drums/vocals/theremin/synth), Arne Tøn (keyboards), Stig Jøran Rygg (bass) and Bjørn Viggo Andersen (keyboards) and this follow-up continues along a similar path to the first album.
Like the debut there is a distinct Retro feel to proceedings from the very first note. This is definitely in vogue at the moment with bands such as Diagonal and Astra bringing all manner of previously shelved notions back from the dead, polishing them up and proudly presenting them to an audience eager for more. This is not meant to degrade the work of any of the bands who play in this style, Gargamel included, as the result can be a fresh take on some of the traditional tenets of Old School Prog.
The title track is first up and immediately the early ‘70s vibe is well in evidence, particularly in the keyboard department with analogue instruments widely deployed. The vocal style is unusual with a strong Peter Hammill inflection at times but works with the music. Van der Graaf Generator are a key signpost within the sound which is dark and Gothic, moving at a stately pace for the first few minutes, rhythms dropping away, sinister passages coming and going. The original riff returns before the keys and guitar take a turn towards The Doors, tension building on a change of tempo in the final section making for an excellent opener.
Windswept effects open the massive Prevail The Sea before a mightily heavy Black Sabbath riff kicks off which moves towards early King Crimson when the saxophone gets involved. Everything is slowed down and given a sinister graveyard twist with the atmosphere morphing between fury and dream-like segments before plodding bass, tinkling glockenspiel, guitar with a hint of Steve Hackett about it and flute heralds a Gabriel-era Genesis segment. Next up is a jazzier section with the flute possessing a bit more attack a la Ian Anderson. A bizarre lyric sung in Hammill-style is followed by a pirate and more racing up-tempo phase sweeping into a distinctly Pink Floyd section, the weird yet fitting appearance of Mariachi trumpet giving a Spaghetti Western feel. This track almost has it all!
Trap, the shortest track, starts as an old fashioned horror movie theme with wheezing keys and angular rhythm. A sinister vocal that if added to a Voivod track wouldn’t be out of place adds atmosphere and a stomping early-Genesis crossed with Arthur Brown section changes things around again. More atmospherics and a nice understated guitar solo and the piece concludes with a theatrical flourish.
Dwarfing even Prevail The Sea, Labyrinth again starts in the graveyard before flinging open the gates and rampaging out on a driving late ‘60s rhythm. A gloriously baroque riff comes and goes throughout the track but elsewhere there is a pulsing sax-led riff, keyboard solos, sedate verses and sweeping instrumental passages. The brooding and dissonant passage in the middle leads into a twisting, melancholy sax duet which sets things back on the path of melody. Drums add some pace and the band swell up into a driving section with Melotron and flute before more heaviness towards the finale. That’s quite a lot to fit in even 18 minutes! This track is a fun ride but could have done with a bit of editing to make it sharper and tighter.
In our review of the debut album complaints were levelled at the vocal lines lacking tunefulness but I enjoyed them on this release. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste but I found them tuneful and strong with a dissonance that counterbalances the rest of the band when necessary. The production is good, giving the right retro feel but with clarity and distinction. The disc came without a lyric sheet so I have no comments about them other than to say how well they seem to fit within the sprawling and epic qualities of the music.
This album is a bit of a grower and I was unsure what to make of it first time but the engaging pieces are well arranged and played and come with just the right amount of bombast. Tempos and rhythms fluctuate and produce a very interesting and enjoyable listen. Retro fans should be giving this a try. Gothic Horror-Prog anyone?
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Enochian Theory - Evolution: Creation Ex Nihilio
Tracklist: Every Ending Has A Beginning (1:08), The Dimensionless Monologue: [i] Tedium (2:20), [ii] The Dimensionless Monologue (2:59), [iii] T.D.M (1:36), At Great Odds With (5:07), Apathia (3:58), Triumvirate (2:35), Movement (5:14), After The Movement (2:53), Waves Of Ascension (6:57), The Fire Around The Lotus (7:15), The Living Continuum (2:22), A Monument To The Death Of An Idea (4:36)
Formed at the end of 2004, Enochian Theory took just five months to create a seven track demo. Our Lengthening Shadows was only available through the band's official website and their live shows. Keyboards were added to create a full album in the shape of A Monument To The Death Of An Idea. With no management or record label backing, they decided to produce it on their own label, securing a distribution deal with Plastic Head. The download single Namyamka and extensive touring extended their profile.
Internal upheavals led to the departure of guitarist and founder member Scott Ware but the remaining trio of Sam Street (drums), Ben Harris-Hayes (vocals and guitars) and Shaun Rayment (bass) have pushed on, with Evolution: Creation Ex Nihilio being the end product of a lot of hard work and perseverance. The basic trio is supplemented by what is termed ‘The Lost Orchestra’ on keyboards and additional sounds and orchestration. This expanded element is very much a key feature of the Enochian Theory sound.
Despite positive feedback from some high-profile labels, it has again been released on their own label and on their own terms. In terms of a package this is superbly done. The artwork is top class, the box sleeve adds a touch of class, and the booklet is weighty and superbly designed.
Musically the band combines the progressive atmospheres of Floyd with the modern approach of Tool and Porcupine Tree. Specific moments remind me of Wolverine, Black Sabbath and Pearl Jam. There’s also a recurring dark intensity (and growls) which suggest an Opeth influence and a strong retro' feel throughout. Despite the big build up however, I have found this a very difficult album to get into. The 13 tracks (I avoid the word ‘songs’) are best appreciated as a whole. To take one or two songs in isolation would do it a disservice. But as a whole, I find it a frustratingly disjointed and stop/start affair. Around a third of the tracks are little more than a collection of noises; rain and thunder, bird song, tuning guitars and orchestral hums. For me they add nothing in the way of atmosphere, ambience or storyline.
I’ve grown to appreciate Ben’s understated vocals - other than his use of growls and screams. I’m not the greatest fan of that technique but can take most things in moderation. However I just don’t think it fits here. When combined with screechy riffing on track 6, I have to press ‘skip’
There are some great moments to be found here – the lilting guitar lick on track two, the opening riff of track three, the acoustic-meets-heavy arrangements of track 5 and the Pearl Jam-isms of track eight. But all too often the ideas are given the time to really develop their full potential. Look at the track lengths and then listen to how the band just keeps moving onto the next mood or idea. Only on The Fire Around The Lotus do the melody and instrumental ideas really evolve into a coherent and fullsome piece of music.
There will be those who love this approach and if the general pointers above suggest it is something you would enjoy, then I’d strongly recommend giving it a go. Don't get me wrong. In no way is it a bad album. It’s one of those 'love it' or 'don’t really get it' albums. I guess I fall into the later. Even so, there is clear promise here and I will be interested to see how they translate the music on this album into a live arena when I catch them at the ProgPower Europe festival on Sunday October 4th.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Cirrha Niva - For Moments Never Done
Tracklist: The Fooling (7:28), Dreamon (5:07), Framed (8:02), Running From The Source (6:11), Golan Heights (6:55), Spring Before Winter (4:49), Self-Chosen (8:15)
Third album, third vocalist and third time lucky for this up and coming ProgMetal act from The Netherlands. The oddly monikered Cirrha Niva has been around since the release of their debut effort The Mirror World Dimension in 1997. Two EPs preceeded album number two. The rock opera Liason De La Morte garnered a rave review from my DPRP colleague Joakim in 2002.
Not a band I’d previously connected with, but as the opening act for this year’s ProgPower Europe gathering on Friday October 2nd, I’ve made an effort to get acquainted.
First thing to say, is that judging by previous reviews the band appears to have gone in a more thrashier and technical direction this time around. There is still plenty of ProgMetal, but rather than the previous gothicy comparisons to Evergrey, Wolverine and Saviour Machine, there’s more of a Metallica, Archetype and Meyvn influence evident here. That said, the quintet really does encompass a wide range of styles which provides a well-balanced showcase for their accomplished song-writing and musicianship. It’s an absorbing and often challenging listen that rewards repeat plays.
Second thing to say is that in new vocalist Legrand they’ve uncovered a real talent. There’s no reference to any previous bands, so I’m presuming this is his first chance to be in the limelight, and what a voice this guy has. Equally at ease with air-raid siren high notes and the more emotive lows, he nails every note – even throwing in the odd burst of rap.
Opening track The Fooling mixes Mordred and Faith No More with Textures and Archetype. It’s the only time growls appear courtesy of Robin de Groot from Chiraw. The way that Running From The Source develops from acoustics to thrash is very reminiscent of Metallica. This song is the best showcase for Legrand’s vocal dexterity.
The guest keys of After Forever’s Joost van den Brook add a nice warmth. The twin guitars ensure a genuine heaviness. The addition of the sax on Spring Before Winter is very effective. The cover illustration adds a nice sense of mystery to what will be found inside. The production is spot on. Dreamon has a marvellous roller-coaster riff with a tasty AOR-esque melody. Golan Heights combines the thrashy guitar of Metallica with the atmosphere of Amaseffer thanks to some spoken word from Yuval Kramer. As I said, there’s a lot to enjoy here.
Grumbles are few and far between. The band needs a few more memorable hooks and riffs to lift them to the highest level. I will probably enjoy this album as a whole rather than specific songs standing out and demanding repeat plays. With just seven tracks it’s a little bit lightweight and the track listing doesn’t quite allow the pace and energy to flow as well at it could. The slower groove to Framed and the acoustic opening of Running From The Source dips the pace nicely halfway through. We rise again for Golan Heights but then slow again for Spring Before Winter, before rising again in the closing number. The initial change of pace is very effective but after that it’s a little too up and down. Another more technical, thrashier song after Golan Heights or at the end of the record would have allowed the band to stamp its intent a little more effectively.
But overall this is a highly accomplished release which should see the band getting serious attention among fans who love progressive rock/metal that isn’t afraid to push different boundaries whilst remaining accessible. If you’re going to ProgPower Europe this year, make sure you are there at the very start.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Adventure - Beacon Of Light
Tracklist: Something to Believe In (Part 1] (1:09), Something To Believe In [Part 2] (12:48), Something To Believe In [Part 3] (4:29), The Swan (8:50), A Crack In The Ice? [Part 1] (3:51), A Crack In The Ice? [Part 2] (6:58), Emilie's Piece (1:26), Fragile Frame (7:10), Joybringer [For Gorm] (2:15), Beacon Of Light [Part 1] (1:18), Beacon Of Light [Part 2] (16:36), Beacon Of Light [Part 3] (3:33), Beacon Of Light [Part 4] (2:20)
This Norwegian outfit from Trondheim, led by guitarist Terje Flessen and keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Odd-Roar Bakken, has existed for almost 20 years, although there have been several changes in the line-up. Their aim had always been to create the ultimate ‘prog’ record, in the style of their heroes from the seventies. Odd is it may seem, both Terje as well as Odd-Roar, according to the information provided, mainly played hard rock in their early days and those heroes were also mainly the hard rock bands from the seventies. Although the album is a very pleasant mixture of seventies hard rock and prog, the influences of bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow and Uriah Heep are clearly recognizable. The production was done by Flessen and Bakken and the album features several guest musicians and vocalists.
After the beautiful intro played on the organ and reminding of Deep Purple’s Speed King, the first part of Something To Believe In features the organ played like Ken Hensley, so very much sounding like Uriah Heep, but the vocals by Vebjorn Moen are making a difference. Especially when he tries to mimic the more raw vocal by Ronnie James Dio, for my ears it just does not work. Moen has got a good singing voice but for my perception it doesn’t go well with this kind of music, though the few times when he sings more gently, it fits a lot better. Odd-Roar tries his best (and with success I might add!) subsequently on the synthesizers, followed by a piece where the sound of the music comes close to German prog acts like Anyone’s Daughter, Novalis or Ramses. The last section of Part 2 features the acoustic guitar, mellow tones on the keyboards and some flute. In Part 3 the acoustic guitar is the foundation of a more poppy song, with a rather simple melody but nice bass playing by Terje. The title is repeated just too often for my taste.
The Swan brings back the sound of the aforementioned bands from Germany. Now Henning Mjoen does part of the lead vocals and his voice matches this kind of music better in my opinion. The melodies are not too complicated but the orchestral arrangements and the keyboards are exquisite. At the end of the track the acoustic guitar by Terje is played like Blackmore would have done.
The first part of A Crack In The Ice is a nice almost entirely instrumental piece in a style mixing Uriah Heep and Rainbow, whilst the second is a mixture between Uriah Heep (the more powerful passages) and again bands like Ramses. Flessen plays his distorted (probably Fender) guitar quite well with nice melodies as well as some good solo’s. Odd-Roar proves he can play the acoustic guitar too next to his keyboards in the short but tasteful instrumental track called Emilie’s Piece, with Mari Haug Land on the flute. Mjoen sings gently in the opening part of Fragile Frame, accompanied just by an acoustic guitar and keyboards. Then he brings more power in his singing when the full band joins in. Very gentle passages, a bit like their fellow countrymen Kerrs Pink, are alternated by more powerful yet melodic parts, featuring organ and flute. Some nice changes in key in this track. ‘Ritchie Blackmore’ returns in his current profession as guitarist of Blackmore’s Night and the acoustic guitars are joined by Mari’s flute. The title track opens with a nice overture by keyboards and flute, then more of the old fashioned heavy stuff. Terje often plays his bass following the notes played on the guitar and this part reminds of Uriah Heep again but I must emphasize one can find some really nice instrumental pieces here. A more heavy though uplifting version of Kerrs Pink can be heard in Part 3, a tasteful, melodic instrumental. Part 4 features the piano and a distant electric guitar, so the album doesn’t end with a grand finale but fades away rather anonymously. This track however, because of its variety, is one of the best on the album.
A fine mixture of early symphonic progressive music with the characteristics of the most popular hard rock bands from the seventies. Some really nice melodies and instrumental parts are there but due to the use of fairly standard chord-schemes and vocals I don’t particularly fancy, this record doesn’t appeal to me as much as the ones from Presto Ballet. Despite of the lack of originality, which wasn’t intended anyway, Adventure still managed to produce an album, which I would consider to be an honourable tribute to their heroes from the roaring seventies. Fans of the more ‘adventurous’ but equally heavy prog with a seventies/early eighties sound, should definitely check this record out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Chris Thompson – Live
Tracklist: Wasting Time (4:36), One Man Mission (6:07), Hot Summer Nights (5:09), Redemption Song (4:05), Angel (4:18), Heart Of The Fire (6:10), Mighty Quinn (7:35), Blinded By The Light (9:47), Davy’s On The Road Again (6:18), For You (3:35), Back In Your Arms Again (5:37), You’re the Voice (5:41)
Chris Thompson – Backtrack 1980-1994
Tracklist: You’re The Voice (4:08), Blaze Of Love (3:41), Blinded By The Light (4:05), If You Remember Me (3:01), Thru’ Your Eyes (4:58), One Step Away (3:33), The Fever (3:19), Tower Of Love (3:54), When The Wind Blows (5:00), Dr.Rock (4:05), Shift In The Wind (4:20), Secrets In The Dark (4:16), The Longing (4:20), I Want You (4:16), Out Of The Dark (3:47), Don’t Stand So Close (3:47), Finale (2:00) Bonus Tracks: Hot Summer Night (3:22), For You (3:12)
For progressive music fans, Chris Thompson is probably best known as the vocalist with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, a role that he filled from their popular Roaring Silence album through the rest of the 1970s. He left the band after the Chance album, rejoining in 1982 and most recently performed on the band’s 2006 album. Progressive fans, however, may not be aware that Thompson has had a significant career as a solo artist, as a songwriter and with other bands. In 1979 he formed the Los Angeles band Night, with whom he had two hit singles: one of which was co-written by him and was the theme song to Zeffirelli’s film The Champ. Night broke up in 1982 and this was when Thompson rejoined the Earth Band, but he continued having a major career as a solo artist and has released six albums under his own name, as well as contributing to a number of other projects. The most noteworthy of these have been his contribution to Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds project, where he sang Thunder Child on the original recording, as well as touring with the show to the present day, and co-writing the word-wide hit You’re The Voice for John Farnham.
Listening to these two CDs recently re-released by Voiceprint, it is clear why Thompson is best remembered by progressive fans as the singer with the Earth Band, and that is because there is nothing in his other catalogue which is remotely progressive. Even his re-recording of one of the Earth Band’s greatest triumphs, the cover version of Bruce Springsteen’s Blinded By The Light - a great song given bright new life by Mann’s clever arrangement - is “dumbed down”. It’s true that Thompson is an excellent singer and a gifted songwriter, but whilst the Earth Band moved nearer to AOR territory in the 1980s, Thompson embraces it whole-heartedly, so that his material becomes radio-friendly pop.
As such, I find it quite difficult to be positive about these two CD releases; neither of which is unpleasant but, then again, neither of which is memorable.
Taking the Live album first: this is a re-issue of the 2005 release. Of the two CDs, I prefer this, because it has more covers of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band material and, in my opinion, their material is stronger than Thompson’s. It has a rockier edge to it than the Backtrack album. It is a good live performance, with Thompson being in fine voice. Neither the CD sleeve notes, nor the record company’s promo material, however, tell me where the show was recorded. Overall, it’s ok, no more.
Backtrack 1980-1994 was originally released, as its title implies, in the 1990s: this version includes two bonus tracks. Again, it should be noted that where he is performing Earth Band material, these are covers of those songs, not the original arrangements. The material is selected from his solo albums and from his work with Night. The preponderance of musical soundscape hovers in the pop/club/AOR area: no vestige of progressive composition or even art-rock. Again, the performances are good, but not memorable.
Overall, disappointing; clearly the artist has no affinity for the progressive elements of his past.
Live: 4 out of 10
Backtrack 1980-1994: 3 out of 10
Being & Time - Being & Time
Tracklist: Watchin' Your Inner Watch (1:28), Freddy Ver. 2.0 (1:17), The Concept Of Time (6:35), Floating Brain (5:36), Cloudy Moon (3:19), Nerve Centre (3:44), Led (4:09), Loops (3:13), Another Sky (3:48), Watchin' Your Inner Watch [Reprse] (1:40)
Being & Time is a Japanese duo with Fuyuhiko Tani on guitar and Hiroshi Tsukagoshi on bass. They probably met at university as in the booklet it is stated that Tani is a Psychologist, PhD and Tsukagoshi is an Anaesthesiologist, MD. Their self titled debut album offers progressive jazz rock with experimental and electronic elements built in. The album is instrumental with also use of guitar synthesizer, keyboards and programming which is absolutely necessary when only two people are available.
Watchin' Your Inner Watch is an intro with clock noises and some keyboard sounds, whilst Freddy Ver. 2.0 is a short song in the style of Sherinian, though not as over the top technically, a nice short piece of music with a fresh sound. The Concept Of Time is progressive jazz rock with a powerful rhythm guitar, not flying solos but melodic parts with an odd timing. The drums sounds however are very static, but that might be because of the use of programming. Floating Brain sounds more jazzy, especially the first part with many different guitar chords ringing all over. Cloudy Moon continues in that style.
Nerve Centre is the song where it all changes. It starts with a nervous drum and some rap like singing/talking. The track continues in a style which is a melding of Jean Michel Jarre, The Prodigy and Joe Satriani. For people who love all these previously mentioned names, I have to say the end result is a mess. Led changes it all back to the jazz-rock, again the lack of interesting changes and twists makes listening to this a bit of a drag. Loops is what the title says, a combination of loops and sounds, a bit too electronic to my taste. Another Sky finishes this album in the same style of the normal songs mentioned above. Watchin' Your Inner Watch [Reprise] is as pointless as the opener, only thing mentionable is that the reprise is longer.
Being And Time at first spin had a fresh sound but in the end it did not offer very much. These two Japanese guys sure play some nice music but not enough to provide a satisfying spin. Some parts of this album seem very pointless, the clock noises, the electronic mess and the loop song. The rest is nice progressive jazz rock but it does not come further then two talented musicians jamming away.
Conclusion: 4.5 out of 10