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2009 : VOLUME 43
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


The Enid – Arise And Shine ~ Volume 1
The Enid – Arise And Shine ~ Volume 1
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Inner Sanctum
Catalogue #:ENID017CD
Year of Release:2009
Time:72:38
Info:The Enid
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Castles In The Air - Fantasy (5:52), Riguardon - The Dancing Lizard (4:46), Chaldean Crossing - 2009 Revision (9:32), Dark Hydraulic Forces Of The Id (13:28), Sheets From Blue Yonder (11:15), Apocalypse - Judgement Day (8:09), Avalon - Under The Summer Stars (6:43), Malacandra - The Silent Planet (12:39)

Mark Hughes' Review

Anyone who attended the concert at the Bush Hall in London back in May will know that the group which Time Out described as The Orb Meets Pink Floyd Meets The Berlin Philharmonic are truly back in business. With what is hopefully a stable line-up of Jason Ducker on guitars and bass, Max Read on keyboards, programming and vocals, Dave Storey on drums and percussion and the inimitable Robert John Godfrey still ensconced behind the keyboards, the band are re-launching themselves with a new album (Journey's End) almost ready for release, a new version of the fan collective The Stand called The Enidi being launched and a five-year plan, things look like things are finally in movement for the most English of progressive bands. Arise And Shine is a limited edition half-way house to Journey's End as a demonstration of the power of the four-piece and also a technical preparation to finishing the new album. The album contains reinterpretations of past songs (also given extended titles) which feature in the current live shows as well as a "major new piece".

The album starts with two pieces that were originally on White Goddess, the last Enid album from way back in 1998 and one that seems to have been slightly overlooked. This is a great pity as it is a marvellous album as these two track highlight with Riguardon - The Dancing Lizard being a classic Enid number, full of the joyous and playful spirit that made their early albums stand out. A quick word about the performance of the musicians, well it is immaculate. One does believe this is the Enid of old back together and in Jason Ducker, Godfrey has found a guitarist that is able to take on the role of Stephen Stewart. It would be wonderful to hear him play live alongside Francis Lickerish, something that may yet happen. But more of that later. The 2009 revision of Chaldean Crossing, which originally appeared on 1987's The Seed And The Sower, has been extended slightly and features a range of new synthesiser parts. However, the original hypnotic beat is maintained and the grandiose nature of the main synthesiser provide a soundtrack for a film yet to be made.

In complete contrast, Dark Hydraulic Forces Of The Id builds slowly from seemingly below the limits of human hearing, with the tempo gradually increasing, a menacing organ rumbling in the background until finally the riff breaks through. A powerful piece of music and one that will be unfamiliar to many as it originally appeared during one of the many 'lost' periods in the band's history on the 1994 Tripping The Light Fantastic and in a remixed version on the hard to find Sundialer CD. The menace is maintained with excerpts of a speech by a certain A. Hitler (big in the thirties and early forties). My only criticism of this version is that it is not nearly as heavy as when performed live at the Bush Hall when it literally blew people away. Still, Ducker wrings out some delightful noises from his guitar whilst Godfrey and Read fill in the gaps. A favourite Enid tune of mine and one that I'm glad that they have decided to keep in the set. Sheets From Blue Yonder, or Sheets Of Blue as it was first called when it appeared on the 1986 Salome album, is another gentler piece that is characterised by an excellent guitar part which once again Ducker replicates as if was the originator. Indeed, he is credited with writing some new parts to the number. Of course, the best way of re-launching the band is to give the fans what they want and so it would have been silly to ignore the classic debut album which contained some of the most enduring Enid Music. Present and correct here are the suitable re-titled Judgement and In The Region Of The Summer Stars. Considering there pieces are approaching 35-years old they have lost none of their power or majesty. There are some changes to the arrangements but they are not too drastic and in many ways add to the reinterpretations. Avalon - Under The Summer Stars in particular benefits from the fresh coat of musical paint - the colour has not changed, but the result is somewhat brighter.

And so what of Malacandra - The Silent Planet, the major new piece? Well, if the rest of Journey's End can match up to this dramatic and moving piece of music then we really will be in for a treat of the highest order. Given that the piece is taken out of context of the album's concept (which deals with our place in the cosmos, the nature of eternity and the final question, the journey into the shadows and the inevitable path we must all tread - a subject matter that Godfrey states has allowed the The Enid to deliver their most optimistic album!) it is rather difficult to see how it fits in. It is also the only track on this album with vocals, which are handled by Read, although they still seem to have undergone the 'traditional' electronic manipulation/refinement. And it is also the only track that is completely new to the reviewer. But needless to say, all the characteristics of class Enid are present building up to a dramatic climax that stimulates instant piloerection (look it up you smutty individuals!)

According to the band's website, Journey's End may well be the last major concept album from The Enid. One of the reasons for this is Godfrey's diabetes which can have a debilitating effect on the body, indeed Godfrey is actively looking for a 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' he can mentor! But at a sprightly 62, there are a good few years left in the father of The Enid yet which is where the five-year plan comes in. This can roughly be split into three projects, Virtuoso, Fand Grosse and Enid Redux. The first of these is the creation of virtuoso arrangements for solo piano of suitable pieces from the back catalogue, which I guess means that the planned piano concerto is another project that won't see completion. As an extension of this first project, the band are experimenting with unplugged chamber versions of the most appropriate pieces. The second project is for The Enid to team up with Secret Green to perform a special extended arrangement of Fand. This will see Godfrey and Storey reunited with Francis Lickerish and Willie Gilmour and with the added excitement of there being three guitarists and three keyboard players in the joint band. All it needs is Steven Stewart to be dragged out of retirement and it will be a fully-fledged Enid reunion. I also hope that the amalgamation will extend past Fand - Robert I remember your remark at the Bush that you would try to work on an arrangement of Albion Fair - Make It so! Alongside these activities Godfrey hopes to re-record all of the past Enid albums in enhanced arrangements and in 5.1 surround sound. An epic endeavour and one that will make all the Enid material available in the highest quality, but one can't help thinking that this tinkering with the past is not entirely necessary and new music would, from the fan's perspective, be preferential.

Still, that is all in the future. For the present we have Arise And Shine which is not only a fine introduction to The Enid for those new to the group but also a worthwhile addition to the long-standing fan's collection. Having achieved both in one recording is certainly something to be celebrated so become one of the lucky thousand and get hold of a copy today!

Menno Von Brucken Fock's Review

A very peculiar band they were, or rather they are, because Robert John Godfrey, the founder member reformed the The Enid again recently. Together with Jason Ducker, a former member of one of the latest existing line ups, on guitar/bass, Max Read on keys, programming and vocals and another Enid-veteran, Dave Storey on drums, the band is going to tour in the fall, which for the time being only in the UK. Their classically orientated bombastic and orchestral music appears to have stood the test of time.

While they are working on a brand new album, this album was released to let the fans know they are back for real. Several old gems are reworked by the new line up and there’s also a preview from the forthcoming album later this year featuring the brand new composition Malacandra.

The selection of songs has been made carefully because all the songs will be featured in the forthcoming live shows. They are coherent and in spite of having been composed by different musicians contributing their own ideas, Godfrey was and is still the main driving force.

All tracks show that Enid-trademark of classical orchestral music that could have been film scores. Castles In The Air is a slow, majestic song with delicate and subtle melodies on the guitar, next to complex arrangements for ‘the orchestra’. Riguardon is a romantic song equally appealing and in the same vein. A little more tempo in Chaldeon Crossing, continuous subtle pounding of the bass-drum and nice guitars, sometimes in multiple layers and some chanting to provide a bit of a poppy feel. Almost in the vein of melodic electronic music is the first part of Dark Hydrolic Forces Of The Id, in spite of the trumpet samples and the guitar. The atmosphere is quite similar to the previous track. Halfway a voice claims “The only real danger is man himself, he is the grave danger and we are pitifully unaware of it”. This message dates from the days many opposed to the threat of nuclear warfare but albeit in another sense, the statement is still true today! In the second half the basic themes and the rhythm remain unchanged, but a more powerful melody and a solid rock riff by the guitar give the music a more progressive edge.

Sheets Of Blue Yonder opens very sweetly, almost soft jazz, but as soon as the ‘twin guitars’ begin to play the melodies the music turns into symphonic progressive again. The delightful orchestrations with a trumpet sample playing the melody are a prelude for a bit more powerful interludes with the addition of drums and foremost guitars. Some of the music could have been used for a film score of a fairytale in the fifties/sixties: very melodic, very romantic. The end is fading away as new age music. The ultimate classically orientated bombast you’ll find in Judgement Day, superb, heavily orchestrated, tasteful guitars, powerful church organ, eloquent drumming and a smooth melodic finale. A heraldic trumpet and sounds of waves breaking lead to probably one of the best known themes by The Enid. A frivolous folk theme on a flute is misleading because very soon bass, drums and guitars and some keyboards take over, however the theme returns once more. A warm gentle sound of the guitar accompanied by keyboards gently leads to yet another great bombastic finale and The Enid’s trademark: “classical music for a rock band” when all the instruments join the big ‘orchestra’.

Fortunately the same quality is maintained in the brand new track Malacandra. As could be expected an orchestral first part, but in the second part the sound becomes more pop-rock because of Read’s vocals. The last section is for Godfrey again, a display of orchestral sounds and Read’s guitar playing the main melodies.

Because this is primarily a compilation album I don’t think rating is appropriate, however because there will be many younger people who might never have heard of The Enid before, I’ll give a rating anyway. This absolutely unique band has returned, making old fans like me very happy.

Conclusions:

MARK HUGHES : 8 out of 10
MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK : 8 out of 10



Darwin's Radio – Template For A Generation
Darwin's Radio – Template For A Generation
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Time:44:25
Info:Darwin's Radio
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Illusion Is Freedom (19:18), Breathe It In (11:28), Age Of Broken Reason (13:35)

Geoff Feakes' Review

It’s been fairly well documented that the current line-up of Darwin's Radio originated from the ashes of two bands, Grey Lady Down and The Spirit of Rush with the former supplying keyboardist Mark Westworth and bassist Sean Spear and the latter guitarist/vocalist Declan Burke and drummer Tim Churchman. A three-track EP marked their debut in 2003 with their first fully fledged album the Eyes Of The World appearing to favourable reviews in 2006. That same year Churchman replaced original drummer Dave Pankhurst. The latest album Template For A Generation may not follow closely on the heels of its predecessor but it’s certainly in the same proximity style wise. The sound remains melodic but muscular progressive rock with mainstream sensibilities and a touch of metal that echoes Dream Theater, Cryptic Vision, Rush and post Rabin era Yes.

Burke and Westworth took time out from preparations for this album to make high profile appearances on the latest releases from Frost* and IQ respectively. A versatile vocalist, Burke’s performance on Frost*’s Experiments In Mass Appeal was for my money compromised by Jem Godfrey’s claustrophobic production whereas here the spacious sound allows him free reign of expression. Westworth’s keyboard work is a reminder of why he was chosen to replace Martin Orford for IQ’s recent Frequency album although in my opinion his contribution here is somewhat overshadowed by Burke’s guitar presence. Spear and Churchman for their part provide a solid backbone to the proceedings.

With three tracks totalling just 45 minutes the band waste no time in establishing a promising start with The Illusion Is Freedom. Rippling piano punctuated by crunching guitar chords may not be the most original way to open a song or an album but it certainly succeeds in grabbing the attention which is clearly the intention. From here on in Burke’s guitar dominates with Spear and Churchman laying down a complex and busy rhythm (ala Yes) to underpin his powerhouse riffs and frantic soloing. In contrast his voice has a relaxed and confident delivery with tasteful electric piano accompaniment from Westworth. The mood and tempo takes several twists and turns allowing soaring guitar moments to be interspersed with reflective piano and vocal interludes. Even though this piece clocks in at little under 20 minutes it never lapses into self indulgence. Several memorable hooks and tuneful instrumental excursions include a compelling synth solo before it draws to a triumphant and satisfying finale with Burke ringing every drop of emotion from his guitar.

Compared to the opener, Breathe It In is less ambitious time wise but no less eventful in terms of dynamics. It develops from deceivingly tranquil, acoustic beginnings into a solid barrage of persistent metallic guitar and symphonic keys providing an atmosphere of heightened tension. DT at their most dramatic comes to mind here as does the heavier moments on Magenta’s Metamorphosis album. A syncopated rhythm provides a platform for the final build with rhythmic organ and thunderous rolling drums anchoring the majestic guitar coda and wordless harmonies.

The final piece Age Of Broken Reason opens with the scratchy sound of stylus on vinyl evoking an air of nostalgia which is unceremoniously pushed aside for a tuneful organ and guitar theme. The tone is set for some lively instrumental exchanges on a sea of mellotron style strings. A hauntingly beautiful piano section sees a hint of compression applied to the otherwise evocative vocals contrasting with the spiky guitar break that follows. Each segment is thoughtfully constructed flowing seamlessly into the next culminating in the anthemic vocal lead finale. Westworth’s tinkling piano has the last word bringing the album full circle.

Although Template For A Generation is only their second album, Darwin's Radio have already established a winning formula boasting confident melodies, strong vocals, superb musicianship, backed by a fine and weighty production. It has an across the board appeal that should find favour with devotees of the usual sub-genres including classic-prog, symphonic, neo-prog and prog-metal. In an uncertain world the band has all the necessary ingredients to succeed, not least in their excellent front man Declan Burke.

Tom De Val's Review

On their formation a few years ago you would have described Darwin’s Radio as a new band uniting the talents of former Grey Lady Down (a 90’s-era UK neo-prog band) members Mark Westworth (keyboards) and Sean Speer (bass) with two members of highly-rated Rush tribute band The Spirit Of Rush, namely vocalist/ guitarist Declan Burke and drummer Tim Churchman. However, things have moved on and nowadays you’d more likely say that DR are a side project for IQ keyboardist Westworth and Frost* guitarist/ vocalist Burke. It is presumably due to the fact that two of their members are now members of a couple of the bigger (in relative terms!) prog rock names in the UK that this (second) studio album is now appearing, especially given that two of its three tracks were apparently pretty much finished back in 2007. A release now serves to both show that the band are far from finished, whilst also the fact that Westworth and Burke have become higher profile names in the scene can’t hurt the marketing effort.

That is not to say that the album feels like a rush job – far from it; the standard of writing and composition are, in general, as high as you would expect from musicians with the background these guys have. Whilst some may think that a 45 minute album is short in this day and age, I’d say its still pretty much the ideal album length (obviously provided that the content is of high quality!), and the fact that the three tracks are all lengthy allows the band to showcase their song writing and arranging skills and their instrumental chops. Apparently there is a concept linking the three tracks, as indicated by the album title – the fact that, although we all think we are free to live our own life, we are actually being manipulated into making certain choices.

Sound-wise, it won’t come as a great surprise that Darwin’s Radio follow a similar path to the likes of IQ, Frost* and even Grey Lady Down – you could also add modern-day It Bites as a similar musical bedfellow, and add the fact that there are plenty of references to more contemporary modern rock (Muse and such like). On the opening title track, another unavoidable comparison can be added – Transatlantic; the way the song flows and the various tempo changes can’t help but bring back memories of epics by Morse, Portnoy and co such as Duel With The Devil and Stranger In Your Soul.

The first half of this opening epic is, in my opinion, easily the strongest. A nice piano run from Westworth leads into an ‘overture’ like opening, where various pleasingly melodic musical themes are established, with Burke impressing with his confident, strident guitar work – there’s certainly a Mike Holmes (IQ)/ Steve Hackett feel to his playing, but with a harder, rockier edge. Good underpinning bass work from Sean Speer keeps the track moving forward smoothly. The tempo drops a little when Burke’s vocals come in – his pleasing, soulful voice is slightly higher in range than the average male – no doubt due to all those years impersonating Geddy Lee! The Rush feel goes over to the music, with many of the vocal and melodic hooks having shades of the eighties era of the Canadian masters. A big guitar solo from Burke leads into a strong balladic section, with Westworth’s piano playing having echoes of Tony Banks’ celebrated work on The Firth Of Fifth. This part of the track has a strongly melancholic feel, with some good close harmonies (presumably all handled by Burke) and a strident guitar solo to top it off.

Unfortunately, the track takes a downward turn when the tempo suddenly shifts upwards again, with quirky keys and train-of-thought vocals having the familiar traits of a Morse-era Spock’s Beard track. The lyrics are well thought out (and very scathing of our modern lifestyles) but the music and vocal delivery seem too contrived and detached from what has gone before to really work. The song drifts into a stately climax, but this goes on too long and doesn’t really hit the highs achieved earlier.

The other two songs are both somewhat shorter than the opener and, to me at least, indicate that ten minutes or so is the length Darwin’s Radio should stick with in the future, as they seem much more comfortable constructing tracks around this sort of length. Breathe It In opens with acoustic guitar and piano setting out the outline melody before an ominous electronic pulse leads into the edgy main riff which drives the song – this, combined with Burke’s high-ish vocals does give the song a sound reminiscent of dormant US proggers Enchant. The ‘chorus’ (such as it is) is more anthemic and symphonic, and the various instrumental runs (particularly the one featuring Westworth’s simple but haunting keys set against a busy repeating bass/ drum pattern) are well executed, although Burke’s big guitar solo is perhaps a bit over the top in its shred-tastic execution. The song again does drag a bit once it gets over the ten minute mark.

Final track Age Of Broken Reason opens with the rather over-used device of a crackly vinyl record going through its paces, but improves once Westworth gets things underway properly with some hectic organ work, which leads into an up-tempo, IQ-ish melody, with Burke’s edgy guitar work giving the song a darkish feel. There’s a mellow feeling to some of the sections, always undercut by a feeling of unresolved tension. Again, the balladic section in the middle of the song is a high point, and the way the track builds again to its powerful conclusion, with a spiralling melody, urgent vocals and lively lead guitar work gelling together, ensures that the album goes out with a bang.

Overall, despite the criticisms above, this is a decent release. There are plenty of strong moments, although the feeling does persist that perhaps the songs have been stretched out a little to get the album up to an ‘acceptable’ length – personally I’d have preferred a slightly shorter CD (a mini album if you will) chock full of say the thirty five minutes of material that’s top notch. That said, there’s enough here to satisfy fans not only of ‘parent’ bands IQ and Frost*, but also slightly heavier outfits such as Enchant and Threshold.

Conclusions:

GEOFF FEAKES : 8 out of 10
TOM DE VAL : 7 out of 10



Eclat – Live Au Roucas
Eclat – Live Au Roucas
Country of Origin:France
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4829
Year of Release:2009
Time:55:24
Info:Eclat
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Sawaka Song (2:22), La Machine (4:38), Le Cri De La Terre (7:17), Tri-Un (5:09), Mr Z (6:22), Energies (2:49), Toujours Courir (16:29), Circus (10:14)

Eclat has been an influential band on the French progressive scene for over 20 years, recording 4 studio albums during this time as well as several live releases. This live album, recorded in 2007, shows off the band at its instrumental best with a good and varied selection from their repertoire. The 8 tracks feature a couple of short, punchy numbers and some longer pieces that allow the band to stretch out.

After some subdued applause Sawaka Song kicks things off with Gamelan flavoured percussion and a World Music vibe before the sweeping keys of Thierry Masse offer a solid foundation for some soaring guitar from Alain Chiarazzo and a tasty slice of Space Rock. There is a much harsher attack within La Machine where repetitive industrial rhythms and a metallic sounding bass from Fred Schneider conjure up industrial images with a nod towards 80s era King Crimson but again with a spacey feel. This then moves through a lighter piano interlude and on with a touch of The Flower Kings at times with the interplay between bass, keys and the again noteworthy guitar.

La Cri Da La Terre is a longer piece that picks up a straight ahead rock beat before moving through some angular, more rhythmic, sections with stabbing piano and a mixture of jazzy and classically influenced keyboard solos. Elsewhere there is some tasty slap bass and some lovely fills from drummer Marco Fabbri, the instrumental dexterity shining through with great interplay between all the players on an excellent and varied piece of instrumental prog.

Tri-Un starts with some plaintive guitar over a flowing rhythm before adding a piano counterpoint and a good bass solo redolent of Jonas Reingold. The jazz element returns but swirls to and fro between rockier sections and hints of Santana. The bass and piano jointly take the honours on this one before a frantic conclusion. Mr Z is much sleepier and more relaxed – probably ideal for a late summer evening in the south of France. Chiarazzo solos to good effect with more melodic lead bass from Schneider and Masse’s laid-back keys. Another short track is next but the well named Energies does not disappoint with intricate rhythms and melodies colliding all over the place.

The last two tracks are both of epic proportions. First up is Toujours Courir, the longest piece on the album, much of its length given over to extended solo showcases for each member of the band. After a restrained opening we get some controlled playing from Chiarazzo over a steady rhythm, whammy bar well in evidence, before moving on to a bright and jazzy piano section from Masse which picks up a driving beat that falls away to allow space for a much more lyrical interlude. Next up there’s a drum solo from Fabbri. This sort of thing usually spells bad news when shoe-horned into the middle of live tracks but Marco plays up a storm and seeing as everyone else gets a go I don’t see why he shouldn’t show off too for a couple of minutes. His foot work is noteworthy and as drum solos go it is quite an entertaining one. The band comes back in to tie things back together and locks into a reggae beat to begin Schneider’s bass section which is wonderfully melodic. He can’t resist putting on a touch of the Stanley Clarke’s with a funky slap section ably supported by Fabbri. There’s a brief tapping guitar section with driving rhythm for a finale. The whole works well and shows the individual class of the performers.

Circus concludes the album, the track starting with the Big Top vibe of the title – you can almost hear people being unimpressed by the clowns – but this quickly moves into a guitar section that immediately brings Rush’s Xanadu to mind before guest vocalist Jean-Marc Negre adds a solid French language performance. The circus theme returns between the sung verses and there are excellent emotional solos from Chiarazzo and Masse. The pounding mid-section on a rising bass line is very good indeed and we get some more bizarre circus-style music before a smoother section that ties things up nicely.

Not having heard Eclat before I had no preconceptions and I liked what I heard and live is probably the best way to experience them. The playing is thoughtful with each leaving room for the others to express themselves while offering strong support. Their music has jazz influences but does not get bogged down in the noodling trap that many instrumental bands fall into and they also manage to keep themselves on the prog side of the fence offering well thought out and enjoyably musical selections with interesting rhythms. Nothing is forced and control seems the name of the game, nobody going over the top for the sake of it. Good stuff.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

JEZ ROWDEN



Imagination School – To The Level Of Light
Imagination School – To The Level Of Light
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:SJCDIS001
Year of Release:2008
Time:45:33
Info:Imagination
School
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Chalk Man (4:37), Interlude (1:04), Riverwoman (5:22), Temporal (5:11), Winter Constellations (5:53), Devil’s Heaven (2:42), Hatewave (5:45), Firmament (4:49), Impossible (8:08)

Imagination School’s website claims that its “imagery has always included depictions of bleak power stations, disused machinery slowly being reclaimed by nature, [and] desolate country and coastal scenes.” I’m going to begin by both endorsing and questioning that claim. I can endorse it by admitting that, after I read that list, I could certainly picture, as I listened again to the album, bleak power stations, rusting machines, and desolate landscapes. I must question it, though, because in my understanding only words can create an image. Music can only suggest, perhaps evoke images.

Okay, enough pickiness. I like this album quite a lot, and I like it partly because of what the music evokes. (I should add that it’s entirely instrumental save for the lovely vocals of one Suzi Hicks on Temporal.) It’s not ambient, though it creates an ambience, to be sure; it’s keyboard-based, quiet, slow, evocative music, strong on local melodies, nicely arranged, unhurried, satisfying. End of review. Really, there’s not a lot more to be said.

I ought to say a little more, though, about the musicians – rather, musician – and the tracks. The music is the work of a man named Laurence Harwood, who has had this project going for some ten years from “the depths of the Sussex countryside.” If you’re thinking of Moby sitting alone in the bedroom of his apartment in New York City recording in solitude the albums that sell gazillions of copies, well, this ain’t Moby music. Harwood’s Imagination School albums don’t sell in the gazillions, and I further assume that he isn’t aiming for that kind of mass market. These songs don’t have percussion, and they wouldn’t serve as background for television commercials. I guess I’d say that the feelings created by Harwood’s songs aren’t a million miles removed from the feelings created by my favourite of Moby’s compositions, though – the slow, mournful, contemplative ones. Harwood’s arrangements are more complex and interesting than Moby’s, though, each track offering any number of points of interest.

For my taste, the single most successful track is Temporal, and that because of the vocals. The music on the rest of the album, lovely and melancholy as it is, seems a little bare compared to that one song. Oh, I ought to point out something that Harwood himself points out on his site (because goodness knows, we couldn’t have guessed if he hadn’t): the song Winter Constellations uses a manipulated sample of the sound generated by the Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent. Listen carefully to the track – you’ll hear the sample. Kind of neat.

So there you have it. This album is successful, I think, on its own terms; if you have a taste for or are in the mood for skilfully composed and performed melancholy instrumental music, you’ll like it.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

GERALD WANDIO



Epsylon - The Gift
Epsylon - The Gift
Country of Origin:Belgium
Format:CD
Record Label:Fastball Music
Catalogue #:406521
Year of Release:2009
Time:58:48
Info:Epsylon
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ascension (1:36), Liar (4:58), Broken Dreams (5:40), Forever Angel (5:54), Journey Of Sacrifice (4:25), The Pirate (6:31), Between Darkness & Light (5:42), Masquerade (6:28), Legacy (4:45), Devil Incarnated (5:14), First Cry (7:26)

Female-fronted ProgPower metal from Belgium with a heavy folk tinge. That just about covers it. Next review?

Oh okay, I’ll give a few more clues.

The Gift is the debut offering from Epsylon, a new band from the town of Leuven consisting of just two members. Sylvie Boisieux is the soft-voiced, female-fronted part of the equation. Yves Vermeersch handles most of the instruments (guitars, bass, keys and even some of the backing vocals). The drums are performed by Jeroen Simons, who was behind the kit with Epica for many years. In addition, Jan S. Eckert, known for his years with Iron Savior and his current role with Masterplan, contributes some lead vocals and bass segments. Heather Shockley, vocalist for the hard rock band Rock Ignition, adds vocals on two tracks.

The pair really do bring a lot of genres to their table. Liar is a classy, beauty and the beast opener mixing Helloweeen with post-Tarja Nightwish. Eckert sings not growls. Legacy is simple, female-fronted Masterplan or Helloween, whilst Devil Incarnated is the heaviest track on offer. Between Darkness & Light is mid-paced and very melodic – again post-Tarja Nightwish is a good comparison. Broken Dreams is one of two tracks which add an effective touch of Within Temptation-esque symphonics. The sparse, folky vocals give a Leaves Eyes/Midnattsol vibe to the balladic Forever Angel and to the opening of Masquerade. First Cry adds a nice dose of progressive ambience.

On the down side, the track Pirates is hideous. Think Leaves Eyes meets Running Wild and you’ll get the idea. Journey Of Sacrifice, the title track from their 2007 demo, sounds a little dated and simplistic in relation to the newer material. Some of the production is rather limp and cold. In my book, symphonic, melodic, heavy metal requires lot of power, warmth and richness to really hit the mark. I’d also have liked a couple more tracks with Eckert combining his contrasting vocals with Sylvie. It’s where the band works best, but he only appears on two of the first three songs.

Overall, the record is bit like a family saloon. Smooth, reliable and well-constructed. Nothing exciting or radical but you’ll get to the end having had an enjoyable ride. Vocally, Sylvie has a lovely, soft voice. She reminds me of a smoother Liv Kristine from Leaves Eyes. The balance between the music and vocals is good, as is the quality of the song writing, packed with catchy choruses and melodic hooks.

For those who enjoy their ProgMetal with an emphasis on the ‘Prog’, then this will be too lightweight. But for those seeking a simpler approach, then The Gift is a good slab of above average, progressive-tinged melodic metal. File under ‘promising newcomer’.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ



Lee Abraham – Black & White
Lee Abraham – Black & White
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:F2 Music
Catalogue #:200905
Year of Release:2009
Time:60:23
Info:Lee Abraham
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: And Speaking Of Which… (2:32), Face The Crowd (6:24), The Mirror (8:25), Celebrity Status (5:21), Black (14:27), White (23:12)

At the beginning of July a short and succinct message on the Galahad website announced that Lee Abraham was no longer the bass player in the band. He and Galahad had parted company after three years and one album, 2007’s Empires Never Last. Lee himself explained that the reason for the departure was to concentrate on solo work which includes the latest release Black & White. Like his debut album, 2005’s View From The Bridge, it features a number of high profile prog guests including Sean Filkins (ex - Big Big Train), John Mitchell (It Bites), Jem Godfrey (Frost*), Simon Godfrey (Tinyfish), Dean Baker (Galahad), Gary Chandler (Jadis) and Steve Thorne amongst others. Lee has also been kept busy in his own studio producing Filkins’ up and coming solo album as well as being a member of prog tribute band The Indigo Pilots and one half of the duo Idle Noise along with Steve Kingman.

Although the previous album View From The Bridge passed me by, reading Gerald’s review as I did, stylewise Black & White would appear to follow in its footsteps. Each track comprises tuneful song sections capped by a strong chorus, interspersed with instrumental excursions that veer occasionally towards the symphonic but mostly towards the prog metalish. Nothing new there I hear you say but what sets this apart from the also-rans is Abraham’s skilful arrangements (making the most of his guests) and his ear for a good melody. Also like its predecessor the songs vary from 2 to 20 plus minutes in length although such appearances can be deceptive as the final track reveals. But back to the opening and the instrumental And Speaking Of Which..., an overture of sorts with dramatic Gilmouresque guitar and atmospheric keyboards (all played by Abraham) setting the tone of the album.

Each track flows seamlessly into the next adding a feeling of continuity although only the two concluding tracks have a conceptual connection. The first song proper Face The Crowd is suitably muscular with a no-nonsense heavy stattaco riff (not unlike Galahad’s Empires Never Last) and a fine performance from Sean Filkins. He doesn’t necessarily have the most powerful of voices (although he did remind me a little of Pallas’ Alan Reed) but he certainly asserts himself well aided by Abraham’s backing vocals to add weight to the memorable chorus. Abraham provides a neat, if not over ambitious nylon guitar solo which gives way to John Mitchell’s characteristic metallic wailings.

More on the prog money in my view is The Mirror, with a compelling Marillion like chord sequence and first rate drumming from Gerald Mulligan. Simon Godfrey’s vocal conveys the songs mood of restrained power perfectly until the tension is shattered by Simon Nixon’s aggressive, no holds barred guitar work with symphonic keyboard colourings from Abraham. Dean Baker adds some tasteful piano although he’s a little low in the mix in my view and I also had trouble distinguishing the synth solo credited to Jem Godfrey. The song belongs to Simon Nixon however who continues to impress with a series of lightning fast guitar volleys.

The breezy Celebrity Status features Gary Chandler’s characteristic vocal tones which are always a joy to the ears especially during the catchy chorus. This is probably the most mainstream and instant song the album has to offer, somewhere along the lines of Mike & The Mechanics with a touch of Chandler’s own band Jadis. Abraham’s cleverly constructed lyrics take a sideswipe at reality TV shows and the instant (and unwarranted) fame and fortune they bring. The ringing guitar solo from John Mitchell is a real highlight.

The penultimate Black is the first in a two song cycle that gives the album its title. Abraham lays down a dense wall of sound featuring guitar, keys and bass for a stunning instrumental intro. Sean Filkins responds once again with an engaging vocal delivery and one of the most infectious choruses I’ve heard in a very long time supported by a gritty organ rhythm. The instrumental mid section features Abraham’s skilfully overlaid guitars in a heavy metal riff laden assault that recalls Deep Purple’s Highway Star. Dean Baker’s gentle piano introduces a variation on the vocal melody before John Mitchell returns to the fray for a typically histrionic solo. Some fine twin guitar work follows, rounded off by a fiery synth solo and crashing chords to close.

The longest and concluding track White is lighter in tone for the most part although there is still a touch of bombastic riffing to keep the listener on his toes. On this occasion Abraham plays all the guitars, proving if there was any doubt what a fine exponent he is. A stately fanfare of synths and piano lays the foundation for a richly melodic acoustic guitar and keys theme. It has a distinct IQ feel about it as the warm vocal delivery of Steve Thorne leads the song into yet another memorable chorus. Superb a cappella harmonies from Thorne and Abraham in the vein of Gentle Giant make way for the strident instrumental break with guitar and keys trading blows before a soothing return to the opening theme. Thorne’s ad lib vocal interjections mirrors Phil Collins’ style, blending beautifully with Abraham’s soaring guitar solo to provide a triumphant and uplifting conclusion.

When White fades around the 17 minute mark and the track counter continues to run its clear there is more to come. And sure enough after a minute of silence a ‘hidden’ song emerges in the shape of a lyrical acoustic guitar, piano and synth lament. There’s no clues as to the songs title (although the bittersweet chorus includes the repeated line ‘I see the ending now’) but it does provide the album with a haunting and unexpected curtain closer.

Lee Abraham has certainly done a praiseworthy job here, fusing classic rock, neo prog and prog metal into a palatable concoction that has an instant, across the board appeal which improves with each successive play. It also benefits from his powerful production with assistance from Threshold’s Karl Groom who also worked on Galahad’s last album. True, the song structures occasionally follow a tried and trusted formula but there’s no denying the consistent excellence of the melodies. The guest performers all bring their own individual talents to enhance the overall quality of the music without overshadowing the not inconsiderable contributions of Abraham himself. Seriously recommended to every prog enthusiast regardless of personal preferences. As solo albums go this is nigh on perfect.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Hemy/Rowell - What Lies Below
Hemy/Rowell - What Lies Below
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CDR
Record Label:Mrs Vee
Catalogue #:AUDVEE18
Year of Release:2009
Time:39:35
Info:Hemy/Rowell
Samples:N/A

Tracklist: Burning Ghost (8:24), Dead Setting (3:32), Addiction (12:56), Shimmer (2:52), What Lies Below (8:05), Ghostly Fire (3:43)

Since writing for DPRP I have taken a great liking to what I have heard from The Resonance Association, on experimental label Mrs Vee Records. Now, Resonance Association partner in crime Dominic Hemy joins forces with Mrs Vee labelmate Jamie Rowell for their debut collaborative effort What Lies Below. And it kicks ass.

The style of music the two plays is in the experimental/ambient/noise/drone vein. The instrumentation is mostly electronics, synths and guitar. The press info I received with my promo CDR does not say who plays what instrument on which track, but suffice it to say everything is played well.

The all instrumental recording is comprised of three short tracks sequenced among three longer ones. I’ll touch upon them all here. Dead Setting is three and a half minutes of early Floydian/Tangerine Dream style blackness, Shimmer is a melodic Eno-like bit of minimalism and some sprinkly guitar, and then there is Ghostly Fire, a reprise of opening track Burning Ghost.

The eight and a half minute opening track leads in with some Flowermouth-era No~Man atmospherics and at the 1:32 mark with heavy guitar and some electronics creating a sound reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails.

I think my favourite track is the thirteen minute Addiction, which starts off with a nightmarish drone and at around the 6:38 mark abruptly brings in a heavy wall of guitar recalling some of the ambient noise Dirk Serries threw down for Steven Wilson’s recent Insurgentes release.

I was somewhat dismayed at first to pop the CDR into my CD player and see the brief running time of 39:35, but as I listened to it I realized that the quality of music here more than compensates for its overall relative brevity.

The third epic track and another favourite of mine is the title track, which features a lot of swirling electronic ear candy and dark ambience recalling Russian neo-kraut band Vespero. Best served with headphones.

The music is composed, played and produced well, and is a fine first Hemy/Rowell offering. If you’re looking for pop or song based fare, this isn’t it.

The packaging of the CDR I received for this review is basically a clear plastic envelope and a “record cover” like card featuring a somewhat gothic photograph of trees silhouetted against the sky taken by Hemy. Resonance Association partner Daniel Vincent helped with the layout.

To grab this music, which I suggest you should, download it at Mrs Vee Download.

I can think of no room for improvement from this fine duo for their next release. A very rare rating from me here ...

Conclusion: 10 out of 10

JIM CORCORAN



Haddad – Eros & Thanatos
Haddad – Eros & Thanatos
Country of Origin:Brazil
Format:2CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4802
Year of Release:2009
Time:CD1: 47:32
CD2: 45:34
Info:Haddad
Samples:Click here

Tracklist

Disc 1: Deuses, Anjos, Homens & Bestas (10:02), Solidão (6:04), A Colônia dos Cybermen (9:00), Liberdade, Cedo ou tarde (4:59), Fluidos Rituais (3:13), O Executor (2:34), Viena Flashbacks (1:14), Punk Baby Lou (4:44), Eros & Thanatos (5:42)

Disc 2: Se o Céu Não Tem Almas Para Nos Dar (8:04), Horizontes (3:46), Alright (2:06), A Dança da Viuva Negra (2:32), Raios da Centaura (3:57), Joie de Vivre (3:54), Rotina (3:35), Brother John (2:28), O Vôo da Feiticeira (2:45), Twilight Zone (12:27)

All of you fans out there who think that “melody is king”, pay attention now!

I’ve not been writing for DPRP for very long, but regular readers will by now know that I don’t tend to favour very long CDs, so you can imagine my trepidation at the thought of reviewing a double-CD from a Brazilian band that I hadn’t heard of before. However, as in life, then so in music: worrying about an event before it happens is not the best use of mental energy, and neither is dread about listening to music sensible. Eros & Thanatos has turned out to be one of the most intriguing and enjoyable albums of the year!

At the very beginning, the start of Deuses, Anjos, Homens & Bestas (translated - “Gods, Angels, Men & Beasts”), the music is reminiscent of Emerson, Lake & Palmer - more specifically of Keith Emerson - then further into the piece as the electric guitar comes in there are echoes of Karcius’s melding of classical and rock and then, as the flute is introduced, the memory flies to Camel, then there’s even some Jean-Michel Jarre. As the album progresses, through its meandering visits to various musical pastures, the abiding recollection and footprint is Camel’s – specifically post-Moonmadness Camel. The main reasons for this are the tempo (slow), the cleanness of the sound, the artists’ openness to different musical forms and the stress on melody as a key ingredient.

After listening to the two CDs a number of times, the conclusion that I draw is that Haddad’s Eros & Thanatos is like a musical patchwork quilt: throughout the work the band call on different musical styles - such is the idealisation that they occasionally seemingly quote musical phrases from elsewhere, like a non-satirical pastiche – and undertake subtle sonic and textural exploration within the music. The framework for this exploration, the thread pulling this “quilt” together, is the most sublime melodic writing I have heard in a long while. Listening to the album is a little like looking at a quilt, or any other work of art: you look at the whole and can absorb that and appreciate its beauty in one sense, as well as being able to look closer in and appreciate the varying detail within the overall. So it is with Eros & Thanatos: there is great beauty that you can enjoy over the two discs of the whole album, as well as the nuances of the individual pieces. What you take away after listening though is the melody; absolutely stunning! The melodic writing is so good that these guys could, if they wished, be writing song after song for the hit parade and make shed-loads of money. Instead they suffuse it with progressive thinking...ah well, at least they are true to their art!

It is fair to give a warning at this point: this music will not appeal to all, for three reasons: the slowness of the tempo, the lightness of the music (the Brazilian progressive web site calls it “soft-prog”) and the fact that the majority of songs are (very well) sung in Portuguese, so understanding the words may be difficult for most of you. But, believe me, you will understand the melodies!

Haddad are a family-run band from Vitória in Brazil. Their previous album, 2004’s Ars Longa Vita Brevis received a favourable review from Joris Donkel on DPRP, although clearly Joris prefers his music faster and rockier – it’s like I said above folks! I have not yet heard the previous album, but judging by his review it is in a similar vein to Eros & Thanatos (click here for Joris’s review of Ars Longa Vita Brevis). I can’t wait to get my hands on it!.

The band’s sonic and textural exploration is undertaken virtue of Gustavo Haddad’s various keyboards and synthesizers, as well as from the more organic sounds provided by band members Leandro Haddad’s classic guitar, and the lyrical electric lead guitar playing of Paulo Pelissari’s and Gabriel Haddad. The band Haddad are completed by Rubinho on bass and Sérgio Melo on drums. Additionally, further textures are added by invited musicians: for instance, flute, violin and saxophone (this last beautifully played – given some sumptuous melodic phrases – by the Haddad’s family father, Zezito, who is nearly 90!).

There are too many songs to describe them all individually, but let me give you a quick guide. Looking at the song durations, you can immediately see that there are distinct types of compositions. Those that are greater than about 8 minutes have greater development and variety than the shorter songs, more “progressive” if you like: for instance, both the opening number, Deuses, Anjos, Homens & Bestas, and the closing one, Twilight Zone - which features singing in both English and Portuguese – fit neatly into this category. Slightly shorter songs such as Se o Céu Não Tem Almas Para Nos Dar also fit this general rule. The very short songs, however, tend to be pastiches or simpler, undeveloped, melodies: Viena Flashbacks, for instance, must be a memory of a visit to the Prater amusement park and its keyboard sound emulates a fairground organ; and Joie de Vivre has a very traditional French-flavoured tune at heart. Elsewhere you’ll get nuances of waltz, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and more. These are the individual musical “patches” that skilfully make up the pretty “quilt”. But, wherever you are on the album, that melody-to-die-for is never far away, played on this instrument or that, or sung. It’s the melody that keeps you listening and coming back again for more – gorgeous!

I’ve given the album a “DPRP Recommended” score, which it firmly deserves. That recommendation is reinforced if you do not object to lighter music but is given with caution if your taste for heavier rock does not allow you to occasionally enjoy mellower musical pastures.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ALEX TORRES



Galadriel – Calibrated Collission Course
Galadriel – Calibrated Collission Course
Country of Origin:Spain
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4790
Year of Release:2009
Time:58:32
Info:Galadriel
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Blind Hostage (5:53), Leap Of Faith (7:05), Calorie Street (5:09), Press? Sure! (6:55), Views From A Greenhouse(6:22), As Big As Bang (20:27), Consumer Satisfaction (6:22)

Galadriel, who from 1988 onwards have produced ‘only’ 4 albums, is well respected name within the progressive genre and this Spanish band has been around for many years. Although, band? Just two of the members remained: Jesús Filardi (lead vocal, keyboard programming) and José Bautista (bass, keyboard programming). With the majority of the music composed by Bautista, the two are helped by some pretty good musicians amongst others Jean Pascal Boffo on guitar. The recordings took place between 2004 and 2007 so in fact this is an album written quite a few years ago.

Unlike some of the earlier albums this one requires much more concentration from the listener, certainly not an album you would like to have playing as background music. I must admit I’m not fond of this kind of music and I have not enjoyed listening to it over and over again. For my taste the melodic essence of music suffers under all the arranging and numerous effects. Difficult rhythms patterns and the lack of melody doesn’t mean it’s a bad album, on the contrary. The compositions are obviously well thought over and delicately arranged and every voice, instrument and vocal (singing) has its place. From the start to the end of the album it’s a strange mix between Steely Dan/Donald Fagan and a touch of Peter Gabriel.

In Leap Of Faith there are some nice guitar solo’s by Javier de Las Heras as well as synth solo’s by Santiago Peréz, whilst the majority of the vocals, by Filardi, are spoken rather than sung. Some evident jazz influences appear in Calorie Street along with impressive piano playing by Peréz. A beautiful symphonic opening of Press Sure! is followed by a piece in the vein of an exotic Steely Dan again. A number of fragments from American news bulletins are followed by the same kind of jazzy, ever changing music carried by keyboard programming and the multiple overdubbed voices of Filardi. An operatic voice joins Filardi in track 6, As Big As Bang, the most varied and ‘difficult’ track of all. Next to the sounds of buzzing insects, there’s a melancholic piece with accordion and a really awesome piece of classical piano too. The most melodic track would be the last: Consumer Satisfaction, again with some jazzy influences.

Now I’ve found out how hard it is to write about an album full of contents you’re not familiar with and at the end of the day you don’t like as well. Although cleverly conceived and carefully produced, paying attention to every detail, one can hardly state Filardi is a great singer. One can safely say there are some great musicians at work and the rest is a matter of taste.

In my opinion this is not an album every prog-fan would like, except perhaps those who favour Steely Dan music a lot. To rate this album would not do justice to Galadriel because the rating would be influenced too much by my preference for more melodic music.

Conclusion: Unrated

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Luca Olivieri - La Quarta Dimensione
Luca Olivieri - La Quarta Dimensione
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2008
Time:43:19
Info:Luca Olivieri
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Angelina (3:39), Chrome (3:02), Lontana Presenza (4:05), Il Sogno Di Napo (4:05), L'attesa (2:56), Un Mondo Segreto (5:19), Fantasmi (1:48), Baricentro Morale (2:37), Alibi (4:09), Angelina (Reprise) (2:09), Le Ali Del Tempo (5:47), Ricordo (3:43)

Luca Olivieri is an Italian composer and musician on several instruments including a glockenspiel and a melodica. His album La Quarta Dimensione, the fourth dimension, contains twelve instrumental tracks of which some were realized for theatrical shows and old silent movies while, some songs are musical fragments that have been constructed as a larger piece. The album features a host of guest musicians on instruments such as oboe, accordion, cello, clarinet, flutes and guitars and percussion.

Some pieces were written for movies which results in very gentle music with not many outbursts and many of the songs could also come from a movie sound track, but certainly not a fast action or horror. This is very beautiful music during which you can imagine yourself sitting in the sun in Italy eating at a table in front of a small restaurant. I would not however label this album as restaurant music but at times it comes very close. The mellow music and the warm instruments breath the feeling of summer and vacation. Fantasmi sounds like something I call a tingle, a short piece with a nice sweet melody usually played for babies and the same can be said for Ricordo, but not really something a prog fan is waiting for.

Summing up, Luca Olivieri has created a very beautiful album that makes you want to go on vacation and La Quarta Dimensione contains mellow music played on many different instruments, sadly though the album fails to hold the attention and becomes background music. At times it does sound like music played in an Italian restaurant and some tunes are for small children. So this album is nice for prog fans with a baby or a restaurant. So not the most interesting music but if you do like it is very beautiful.

Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10

EDWIN ROOSJEN



Echo Us - The Tide Decides
Echo Us - The Tide Decides
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:MP3090
Year of Release:2009
Time:44:25
Info:Echo Us
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: From Snow To Sea... (4:26), We Surfaced (5:34), Trans-Atlantic (10:54), State Of Expectation (5:42), The Tide Decides (5:10), Fantastic Elevation (7:34), Descending From The Dream (7:11), Shooting Scenes (5:23), Out At The Edge Of The World (5:18) ...And Sea To Sky [Bon Voyage] (11:34)

Apparently, it took four years to make this album, but if they told me band leader and multi instrumentalist Ethan Matthews entered the studio in 1987 and spent the last 22 years recording The Tide Decides in complete isolation from the rest of the world, I’d believe it. Former Greyhaven keyboardist intended to achieve a “metaphysical approach to music with fantasy”, but far from reaching such high aspirations, Matthews has barely managed to make a mediocre 80’s synth pop album.

There’s a few elements here and there to give The Tide Decides a slight intriguing atmosphere: dreamy ethereal keyboards, sound effects and samples (with special attention to what sound like excerpts from Stephen Hawking’s speeches), some elegant touches from violas and harps…

It just doesn’t work. For the most part, this sounds like an 80’s B (or Z) movie, complete with bass synths, drum machines and loads of keyboard noodling. When it wants to sound more “modern”, there’s even some dance beats (Trans-Atlantic, Fantastic Elevation) thrown in for good measure. There’s also slight references to Mike Oldfield (especially his trademark guitar sound), some of the big names (Vangelis, Jarre) in synthesizer music and even 90’s hit makers Enigma, but for the most part it lacks the spark some of these artists might have had in some of their most accomplished (or popular) works.

To make things worse, most of the tracks tend to be unnecessarily (and excruciatingly long {…And Sea To Sky [Bon Voyage] dangerously approaches the 12 minute mark}); come on, the eighties were sharp and to the point! Ok, there were extended dance mixes of the most popular singles, but most definitely you can’t dance to The Tide Decides.

This would have been a mildly entertaining 40 minute 1987 release at best. Unfortunately, the truth is that this is a 2009 69 minute boring, irrelevant, anonymous release which I just can’t recommend. Having Frankie Goes To Hollywood-like vocals and quoting Aldous Huxley on the same album was never going to work… call me skeptic.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10

HECTOR GOMEZ



Elsie – Elsie [EP]
Elsie – Elsie
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Time:26:44
Info:Elsie
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Horn (4:02), Laguna (6:53), Surfing (6:28), Nautilus (6:28), Venus (2:18)

The little available information I have on Elsie – taken from their rather sparse website – tells me that this Polish band originally formed way back in 1988, but following little success went on hiatus in 1995 before deciding to give it another go as an instrumental unit in 2005. Apart from an appearance on a compilation many years ago, this EP is their first release. A long time to wait for 26-odd minutes of material!

Obviously however its not the quantity but the quality that’s important, and on that score this EP is somewhat hit and miss. If me describing the content of the EP as (predominantly) guitar-led progressive rock instrumentals brings to mind Camel, then you’re certainly in the right ball park, although guitarist Zbigniew Slatata obviously numbers amongst his influences, in addition to Andy Latimer, the likes of Yngwie J Malmsteen, as there’s plenty of neo-classical style shredding going on – thankfully its relatively reined in for the most part. Slatata also moves the music into a heavier vein on occasions by introducing some crunchy riffs to proceedings – these are OK in and of themselves, but often seem to jar, especially when they come in to the song from nowhere.

Jacek Fajfer’s keyboard work often takes a back seat to the guitar, but in periods where it dominates, the quality ranges from cheesy, stuck-in-the-eighties efforts such as on the opening Horn and Laguna to the tasteful Hammond organ found on Surfing.

Composition-wise, it’s also hit and miss – many of the pieces have some good melodic parts, and the instrumental work is often decent, but the songs often seem to have a cut and paste feel to them, with different sections not gelling well together, and the longer tracks seem to drag after a while. A fairly rough and ready production and an uneven sound in places (the snare on Surfing sounds like someone hitting a saucepan lid very loudly, and drowns out the other instrumentation) also serves to lessen the impact of the music.

I don’t want to be too hard on Elsie, as there are some good ideas and strong melodies here and there, but taken overall this isn’t an album I’ll be revisiting often, and I can’t see this effort really getting the band much of a wider audience in an overcrowded marketplace.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

TOM DE VAL




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