Reviews in this issue:
- Quidam - Strong Together [DVD]
- Kaipa – In The Wake Of Evolution (Duo Review)
- Masal - Galgal
- Robert Calvert - Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters
- The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band - Smorgasboard
- Sky Cries Mary – Space Between The Drops
- Canturbe - Sociedad Secreta De Melancolios
- Cerebrum - Spectral Extravagance
- The Sin Committee – Confess [EP]
- Typewriter – Pictures From The Antique Skip
Quidam - Strong Together
Tracklist: Different (3:49), Kinds Of Solitude At Night (6:20), One Day We Find [including excerpt from "Red"] (8:33), SurREvival (8:42), Depicting Colours Of Emotions (10:24), We Lost [including excerpt from "Walkin' Around The Stormy Bay"] (11:14), The Fifth Queen Of Everything [including excerpts from "The Fifth Season", "Queen Of Moulin Rouge" and "Everything's Ended"] (12:21), They Are There To Remind Us [including excerpt from "Riders On The Storm"] (11:21), Of Illusions (12:24), Not So Close [including excerpt from "Hush"] (10:48), We Are Alone Together (9:21), Sanktuarium [Sanctuary] (8:34), ...But Strong Together (4:45), Wish You Were Here (4:35) Extra's: Backstage Pass [Documentary] (4:03), Alone Together [Visuals] (5:29), Photo Gallery (5:58)
In 2007 Quidam delivered their second album with a new line-up, Alone Together, which was praised by all DPRP reviewers in a roundtable review. I still stand by the high rating I gave this album three years ago, although I admit that it has not been in my CD player as often as one would expect from such a masterpiece. The reason for this is simple. Alone Together is not an easy album, it's one of those albums that demands attention and is not suitable for each and every mood. It's an album you need to sit down for. This considered, I'm delighted by the release of a DVD that features all of the songs on the album plus more since it enables me to take the time and attention to sit down and rediscover one of the highlights of the last decade.
As with the band's previous DVD, The Fifth Season, most of the material focuses on the band's last two albums. The only track present from the 'Emila years' is the classic Sanktuarium. The band's first album with new vocalist Bartek, SurREvival is represented by the title track, Not So Close and a medley of three songs, The Fifth Season, Queen Of Moulin Rouge and Everything's Ended, which is smartly named The Fifth Queen Of Everything (more about this medley later). The full Alone Together album is played, in a slightly different running order and with four out of nine songs being substantially extended in their live renditions.
As I've stated many times before I dislike concerts where the songs are played note-by-note as they were recorded in the studio. My personal favourite live albums are most often concerts where the songs have been reworked, expanded or taken in a totally new direction. This is one of the reasons why I like Quidam's live work so much. Since their earliest days they've incorporated covers in their songs, have rearranged their older material and have made tasteful medleys of some of their most classic passages. Luckily this concert is not exception. Besides the full length cover of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here - which owners of the band's halfPLUGGED album will be familiar with - the renditions of the band's most recent material are combined with covers of King Crimson's Red, The Doors' Riders On The Storm and SBB's Walking Around The Stormy Bay. Furthermore, the live version of Not So Close that includes Joe South/Deep Purple's Hush is also present in the setlist.
And even the band's own material gets a rework here and there. SuREvival has been given an amazing extended climax. Everything's Ended gets an adrenaline shot and is intertwined with the powerful riff of Queen Of Moulin Rouge. Of Illusions has a new middle section where the song breaks down for an ambient intermezzo with flute, which goes back into the main song after a drum solo and a most excellent slap-bass solo. Finally, Not So Close has a new organ intro and some 'audience participation'.
The footage is well shot and edited, using interesting angles, close-ups, slow motion and temporary switches to black and white, all creating a compelling viewing experience. At times one wonders how they have pulled this off and Bartek reveals the secret at the end of the gig: they recorded the performance twice on the concerned day. An excellent decision since combining the recordings also ensure that the stage isn't flooded by camara men during the evening's performance. Oh and by the way, people taking flash photo's during a DVD filming should be put in a pillory on stage ! It is highly annoying during the atmospheric opening scenes. The lightshow is very effective, although the patterns projected on the backdrop are rather dull and sometimes don't work all that well with the music because of differences in pace. This doesn't go for the marvellous artwork by Michal Florczak that is used during the mesmerizing We Are Together Alone, contributing to this being one of the highlights on the CD. It has the band sitting down one by one, cross-legged at the front of the stage at the end of the song, as if to emphasize the meditative quality of the track.
The band has also grown as a live unit since the last tour. While their playing was already remarkably tight they have also loosened up a lot. There's a lot more interaction between band members and with the audience compared to the rather static performances on The Fifth Season. Bartek no longer spends the whole gig behind the microphone stand, hands folded over the top. And fortunately if he does, there are cameras filming him from different angles so you can actually see him singing. During the final encore of Wish You Were Here we're treated to a real 'campfire moment' with Maciek Meller and bass player Mariusz Ziolkowski sitting down to play acoustic guitar, while flute player Jacek Zasada picks up the bass.
There's two guest musicians at the gig, the lovely barefooted Tylda Ciolkosz (of the band Cashmere) on violin and Piotr Florczak on sax (on We Lost/Walkin' Around The Stormy Bay). Tylda's amazing violin play adds a lot to the power of the music and takes it into whole new territory. She joins the band during Red, SurREvival, They Are There To Remind Us, Sanktuarium and We Are Alone Together. Especially her Celtic sounding play on the latter is giving a whole new feel to the song. I was also hoping for a guest appearance of Emila during Kinds Of Solitude At Night, like on the album, but I guess you can't win 'em all.
As for the extra's, the backstage video is a short (and at times quite funny) peek into the preparations for the show and has Moje Zapomnienie (a Polish version of Kinds Of Solitude At Night) as a soundtrack. Another extra is a nice slideshow of Florczak's artwork and finally there's the obligatory picture gallery which - unlike many other galleries on DVDs - actually adds something to the main concert film.
The 'limited edition deluxe digipack' comes with the DVD and the full concert on 2 CDs. I haven't seen any sign of a 'regular edition' but this package is well worth the money. If you haven't bought Alone Together yet this might even be a better alternative since the album sounds even more dynamic in its live version. But even if you already have the studio album this DVD still comes highly recommended. Quidam once again prove what a live performance should be like, at least from a musical point of view. Check out the trailer to see and hear for yourself. Dziekuje Quidam !
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Kaipa – In The Wake Of Evolution
Tracklist: In The Wake Of Evolution (10:57), In The Heart Of Her Own Magic Field (5:12), Electric Power Water Notes (17:51), Folkia’s First Decision (2:33), The Words Are Like Leaves (5:36), Arcs Of Sound (8:22), Smoke From A Secret Source (9:24), The Seven Oceans Of Our Mind (10:09)
Geoff Feakes' Review
Several prog bands from the 1970’s have succeeded in reinventing themselves for the 21st Century but few have done it with the same creative flair as Kaipa. Whilst founding member and keyboardist Hans Lundin remains at the helm, the bands continued success is due in no small part to the talented contributions from contemporary Swedish proggers like Morgan Ågren (drums), Jonas Reingold (basses) and Patrik Lundström (vocals). Completing the line-up, which remains the same as 2007’s excellent Angling Feelings album, is the beautiful Aleena Gibson (vocals) and Per Nilsson (guitars). Nilsson is now firmly entrenched within the band having replaced the departing Roine Stolt in 2005.
Lundin himself describes the Kaipa sound as “Progressive folk fusion rock” in deference to the folky elements that sometimes surface in the music. One things for sure, like so many other Swedish prog bands, they have a sound that’s instantly recognisable and a flair for producing consistently strong melodies. Given the impressive line-up listed above, impeccable musicianship is always going to be a significant factor but solid arrangements and memorable hooks remain at the core of each song.
Take the title track In The Wake Of Evolution for example. It bursts from the speakers in a triumphant blaze with a surging and instantly memorable synth line underpinned by a compelling guitar riff. Aleena’s crystal clear and distinctive vocal tones cut through the sonic intensity, joined by Lundström’s equally distinctive voice for the upbeat chorus. Like so many of Lundin’s songs there is a watery theme to the lyrics (as mirrored by the excellent cover artwork) and a predisposition to quoting Yes titles, e.g. “We’re closer to the edge than yesterday”.
Yes (and Close To The Edge in particular) also appears to be the role model for the lengthy Electric Power Water Notes. Following a symphonic fanfare of keys strings and guitar, it delivers some blistering instrumental exchanges throughout its near 18 minutes centred around variations on a reoccurring choral hook. It’s driven along by some particularly powerful drumming from Ågren. In contrast Folkia’s First Decision is a short but engaging instrumental where the aforementioned folk influences are emphasised by acoustic guitar, recorders and violin (courtesy of guests Fredrik Lindqvist and Elin Rubinsztein respectively). Like the intro to the lyrical In The Heart Of Her Own Magic Field it adds a definite Celtic flavour that sits comfortably alongside the albums more strident and proggier moments.
Reingold’s prominent bass pattern stands out during the strident The Words Are Like Leaves as does Nilsson’s stirring lead solo whilst Lundström’s vocal dramatics during Arcs Of Sound is a reminder of why he’s often compared to the late Freddie Mercury. The lively guitar and keys intro to the penultimate Smoke From A Secret Source instantly brings Transatlantic to mind as does the insistent vocal melody. Aleena’s voice has been absent for the last few songs but returns for a memorable duet in The Seven Oceans Of Our Mind. The unexpected a cappella tribal chants are a departure for Kaipa as is the massed choir backing which builds to an emotional peak to close.
In my review of Angling Feelings I concluded that it was a significant leap forward for Kaipa unlike the previous Mindrevolutions which in my opinion had seen the band marking time. Similarly this latest release feels like a natural progression for the band although with the exception of The Seven Oceans Of Our Mind it doesn’t break any new ground. Also, whilst the epic length Electric Power Water Notes begins with much promise it seems to run out of steam towards the end rather than reaching a satisfying conclusion. In The Wake Of Evolution is therefore for me a good, rather than exceptional Kaipa album, but given their consistently high standards that still places it ahead of much of the competition.
Jon Bradshaw's Review
This is the fifth album in a decade for Swedish progmeisters, Kaipa. Remarkably, they have managed to work with the same line-up over these ten years with the exception of guitar duties which are now handled by Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) who also played on their last album Angling Feelings. Prior to Nilsson’s involvement it was the mighty Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings etc) who, as well as being a member of the original ‘70s line-up, played guitar and composed for the reformed incarnation of Kaipa between 2000 and 2006. In Roine’s absence, Hans Lundin is the only remaining member of the original band that recorded five albums between 1974 and 1982. As such, he is the polymath who now oversees and drives project Kaipa in its current form by handling all of the songwriting, production, mixing and keyboard duties, as well as contributing backing vocals.
The remaining artists who have been consistent members of the band since 2000 are Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic et al) on bass, confirming yet again his supreme mastery of the genre and his status, in my estimation, as one of the world’s best bassists. Morgan Agren (Zappa) drums and Patrik Lundstom (Ritual) sings lead vocals which he shares with Aleena Gibson. Many commentators have cited this pairing as something of an acquired taste, I think I would have to agree, but having now acquired it, I would have it no other way. Something about their unique vocal stylings makes them integrally Kaipa and I personally love their delivery on this and the other albums. Making special guest appearances are Fredrik Lundqvist (also of Ritual) on recorders and Elin Rubinsztein on violin. Together these players make a glorious noise that Hans terms as “progressive folk fusion rock”. I’ve also heard it called simply “Happy Prog” by another of my DPRP collaborators and I quite like that description for Kaipa, they always make for an uplifting listening experience.
However, this album marks a slight shift in tone from its predecessors in that it is not quite so pleased with itself. In The Wake… is underscored by a shade of regret and apprehension which, lyrically and musically, it repeatedly attempts to transcend and elevate to a position of hope. For me, there is a Gaiean message woven through the fabric of these songs and I get the sense that it is extremely heartfelt. Progressive music has always had an affinity with ‘green’ issues or the folly/destiny of humanity measured against cosmological forces. In The Wake… captures this spirit beautifully but keeps its banner-waving political content at one step removed; sufficiently within the realm of wishful, but earnest, thinking to avoid becoming too preachy or mere pie-in-the-sky. The strands of folk and folklore that have always been a part of Kaipa’s sound are artfully embroidered into the core of this album; if you were ever a fan of science-fantasy fiction, this is its musical equivalent.
Forged in the same fires as Yes, The Flower Kings and Transatlantic, In The Wake… is a precious metal, delicately and skilfully fashioned into rich, substantial, intricate and detailed forms by skilled artisans who are also versed in magic and folklore, imbuing their artefacts with wondrous properties. Kaipa have been incredibly consistent in this respect. Each of their previous three albums have presented a wealth of finely crafted tunes that are quite distinctly ‘Kaipa’, and each has garnered a DPRP recommendation. Hans Lundin points out in the press release the difficulty of writing material that is both fresh and consistent:
“…the biggest challenge is to find new directions without losing your basic identity. To write and record an album that feels fresh, progressive and includes great melodies and new ideas which still carry that unmistakable Kaipa sound.“
In The Wake… achieves this in spades, creating its own identity within the overall canon of the band’s output whilst developing their stylistic brand in a logical direction. I think most prog fans would travel great distances barefoot over stony ground to hear music like this and there are many, many bands I can think of who would doubtless give their eye teeth to create something as lavish and sumptuous as In The Wake… The album opener (and title track) alone is worth the cost of purchase. It’s jaw-dropping, eyes full of wonder, joyous listening. It gambols into life through a bouncing, trilling overture in 11/8, a time signature that declaims, “Oh, this must be prog!” This comes to an abrupt halt and Aleena begins the heartfelt and impassioned vocal, a melody I cannot get out of my head. Each verse has its own cadence that develops via the accumulation of doleful strings, weeping in descending arcs then a chopping and funky clavichord that lifts the melody out of the doldrums in a way that makes me want to applaud as the track ascends into its closing theme using melodies and harmonies that recall Fragile-era Yes with Jon Anderson and Chris Squire at their best. Structurally and musically this is extremely clever stuff, the leitmotif of the ‘overture’ is twisted, tilted, deconstructed and remixed in four different ways, at least. The musicianship is stellar. Per Nilsson sends a resounding signal about the multitude of tones and playing styles he is going to employ over the course of these eight tracks. In the opening alone he uses at least four different amp set-ups to effect his sound, introducing a new tone at each reiteration and development of the theme. Interspersing the sung sections he zips through four solos varying hammering and sweeping arpeggios with Steve Hackett-like sustained wailing and Robert Fripp-esque sonic soundshapes. Jonas Reingold’s bass pops and stabs, rolls, hops, skips and runs through the phases of the song underpinned by Morgan Agren’s drumming that drives the whole piece to its emphatic and dramatic conclusion with a host of polyrhythms and syncopated figures. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
The second masterpiece of the album is Electric Power Water Notes, the longest track on offer here, clocking in at just under eighteen minutes. As you might expect, it travels over a variety of musical terrain, much of it rutted and littered with protruding boulders to test your mind’s suspension. Jarring, syncopated sections where the chaos is masterfully controlled compete with tight, grooving jam sections for your attention, providing some truly remarkable, thrilling and breathtaking passages, not least in the fabulous vocal effects (Hypnotic power voices now/Around me illustrates this) and Agren’s devastating drumming. I do find myself drifting in and out of this one however. It doesn’t fully justify its length with some of the more chaotic movements being a little too long and repetitive, but when the band come together to jam, the torque is palpable and exhilarating.
Elsewhere, the guest musicians get to show off their chops on Folkia’s First Decision which is a delightful Renaissance courante. Hans’ keyboard work on every track is never less than stunning, considered and masterfully arranged. Aleena gets showcased in The Words Are Like Leaves where the melody of track 1 is reprised in a commuted form and In The Heart Of Her Own Magic Field which has a pastoral, delicate feel before swelling into an anthemic chorus and then becoming progressively more syncopated and jazzy. Aleena’s harmonies are lovely; crystalline and fragile but iridescent with light and colour. Patrik Lundstrom goes from strength to strength with each album I hear him on. Here he carries the lead vocal on five of the eight tracks and combines sensitivity with power to deliver a characterful, dramatic performance; providing biting edge and subtle, caressing inflections. However, I think Kaipa work at their best when Patrik and Aleena work in tandem as on the album closer, The Seven Oceans Of Our Mind which features a lilting, acoustic verse and multiple vocal overlays before building into a stirring, menacing, imploring choral hymn, if there can actually be such a thing, and there can be, Kaipa close their album with it. “Let their message fill our souls”
Here’s the thing, though. Tracks 1 and 3 are so good that the others can seem pale by comparison. If you randomly pick any of the other tracks and play them in isolation, they are all really good, involving and engaging, but the impression of the album as a whole listening experience can be less than fully satisfying, as wonderful as most of it is. The sum of its parts is greater than the whole, you might say. It can begin to sound very samey and can even become tiresome to sit through from beginning to end. This is another case of trying to cram too much onto an album, I think. Maybe it’s a grower, but for me, you could take Arcs Of Sound off this album and it would suffer none. Not that it’s awful or anything like it, it just seems pedestrian when considered alongside its neighbours. The same can be said of Folkia’s First Decision. Delightful though it may be, and even at only two and a half minutes long, I don’t know what it actually contributes to the album as a whole, especially following on from the majesty of Electric Power Water Notes which resonates through your mind long after its last note, making it extremely difficult to actually focus on Folkia… It’s a small criticism but it’s an important one, I think. Perhaps I just need more time to absorb the flow of In The Wake… there is a lot to take in here and even after three weeks of almost incessant play I don’t think I’ve heard half of what is actually there to hear. That aside, if you already a fan of Kaipa as I am, then you will find plenty here to sate your appetite. If you have yet to discover Kaipa’s heady blend of folk, rock and symphonic artistry then this is a sure-fire place to start. A certainty to be in the top ten of this year’s releases.
Masal - Galgal
Tracklist: Banzai (5:27), Galgal I (6:09), Galgal II (7:01), Intergalactic Tango (5:46), Prelude Et Fantaisie Espagnols (2:36), Talitha Coumi (14:49)
Masal was the title of a 1982 release from French composer and multi-instrumentalist Jean Paul Prat. Apparently something of an underrated classic in the zeuhl genre, it led to shows with the likes of Gong, Magma and Soft Machine. Whilst it appears that Prat has devoted most of the intervening years to work related to his Christian beliefs, he has revisited the Masal concept for this belated sequel. Whilst the original line-up seemed to be a shifting one of between five and fourteen members, Masal (the band) appear to be a more settled unit, and include Prat’s son, Jean, on drums.
Musically, this falls in to the category of what I would loosely term jazz rock fusion, although the three bands mentioned above give an indication to the fact that there also elements of zeuhl, the Canterbury scene and space rock to be found within these grooves. Prat senior’s main instrument is the piano, and it’s this that is very much the lead role, both melodically and as the instigator of changes in pace and structure. That said, saxophonist Richard Héritier gives as good as he gets, his playing alternating between smooth yet powerful passages and more dissonant blasts. The playing on the final, lengthy track Taltha Coumi is particularly worthy of note, with baritone, tenor and soprano saxes (the latter courtesy of guest Alain Debiossat) both competing with and contemplating each other.
Whilst there are occasions where the band lock in tightly and develop a surging rhythm that is in the vein of Magma, in general there is a lighter, more positive vibe on Galgal – not to say this isn’t complex music, as it is, but there is an approachability that is missing from some of the more avant-garde purveyors in this genre. Oddly, despite its length, the aforementioned Taltha Coumi is probably the most accessible piece here, as it gives the band more room to stretch out and weigh in with some highly melodic solo work – this includes guest guitarist Olivier Louvel, whose playing has a distinct Pat Metheny-esque vibe to it. Galgal I, with its slightly experimental feel, is a little harder to listen to, but even this won’t challenge most seasoned progressive rock fan’s palettes too much. As its name suggests, Intergalactic Tango is a psyched-up twist on the well-known latin musical form, whilst opener Banzai has a slight Mahivishnu Orchestra feel in places. Just to add to the variety on show, the short segue track Prelude Et Fantaisie Espagnols is a solo piano piece in a semi-classical vein.
Overall, whilst by its very nature this is likely to appeal to a niche market, I found this to be an enjoyable and well worked instrumental album that boasts both intricate rhythm work and some fine lead showcases. Being unaware of the original Masal album I have no idea how this stacks up in comparison, but on its own merits Galgal definitely worth investigating if your musical interests cover either or both jazz fusion and zuehl.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Robert Calvert - Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters
Tracklist: Franz Josef Strauss, Defence Minister, Reviews The Luftwaffe In 1958. Finding It Somewhat Lacking In Image Potential (1:40), The Aerospaceage Inferno (4:35), Aircraft Salesman [A Door In The Foot] (1:41), The Widow Maker (2:42), Two Test Pilots Discuss The Starfighter's Performance (0:41), The Right Stuff (4:22), Board Meeting [Seen Through A Contract Lense] (0:59), The Song Of The Gremlin [Part One] (3:24), Ground Crew [Last Minute Reassembly Before Take Off] (3:14), Hero With A Wing (3:24), Ground Control To Pilot (0:52), Ejection (3:36), Interview (3:47), I Resign (0:36), The Song Of The Gremlin [Part Two] (3:13), Bier Garten (0:37), Catch A Falling Starfighter (2:58) Bonus Tracks The Right Stuff [Extended Version] (8:08), Ejection [Single Version] (3:51), Catch A Falling Starfighter [Single Version] (2:56)
Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters is everything that one would expect from Robert Calvert, the eccentric poet and sometime lead singer with perennial space rockers Hawkwind. Calvert's first solo album features all of the classic 1974 Hawkwind line-up (Dave Brock, Lemmy, Simon King, Del Dettmar and Nik Turner), a couple of Pink Fairies (Twink and Paul Ruldolph), various English eccentrics (Arthur Brown, Jim Capaldi and Vivian Stanshall) and even one Brian Peter George St John Le Batiste De La Salle (or Eno for short). The album is a concept telling the tale of the US jet aircraft, the Starfighter, which gained the nicknames of 'The Flying Coffin' and 'The Widowmaker' due to its rather unfortunate habit of crashing. Despite this, Lockheed, the American manufacturers, managed to persuade the post war Luftwaffe into buying the 1000 of the aircraft claiming that a modified version would serve as bombers and fighter bombers rather than as the interceptor-figher it was designed as. The result was that nearly a third of the planes crashed claiming the lives of 115 pilots in the process. A serious enough event although, as one would expect, Calvert and his cronies approach the story in a rather tongue in cheek manner.
It had been years since I had heard an original vinyl copy and all I could really recall was that the between-song dialogue was rather amusing and the melody from the chorus of the final track Catch A Falling Starfighter. Interestingly, the dialogue sections were more amusing than I remembered and my memory of the chorus melody was completely wrong! Some of the dialogue is very Pythonesque, such as ground control running through final checks with the pilot prior to flight and listing a cocktail of sedative drugs (Ground Control To Pilot) or in The Interview where the prospective pilot (who wears mascara in honour of his mother, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in a Casio glider) harps on about the "glory of death" and "setting forth in a silver lance to joust with the forces of darkness". When the interviewer comments "They don't always crash you know", the deadpan response of "It would be an honour to crash in such a plane" is just perfect!
Of course, there is music to listen to as well, and again, I was pleasantly surprised at just how good some of the material on the album is, which, understandably, has a very Hawkwind ambience throughout. Standout tracks are The Widow Maker (written by Brock, one of only two tracks not written by Calvert who, of course, contributed all the lyrics), The Aerospaceage Inferno and the excellent Ejection with its pounding riff that ranks up there with anything that Calvert's parent band had come up with. The aforementioned Catch A Falling Starfighter offers a poignant end to the story and the album with its plaintive melody and softly intoned vocals. Also included are both sides of the single that was released from the album, surprisingly not edited versions of the album cuts but slightly different versions (I'm sure that I read somewhere that they were completely different recordings) and the previously unreleased extended version of The Right Stuff which at almost twice the length of the album version is a bonus well worth having.
Often dismissed as the ramblings of an increasingly unhinged mind or as an album for stoned freakos, Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters has a lot more to offer than as simply an indulgent solo cash-in to the success of a major band. Satire, humour, commentary on international business ethics in the arms industry and some decent music as well. If the planned full scale theatrical presentation had been realised (it was performed in a small theatre for a limited run), then this piece could well have gained the reputation of serious 'art'. However, things don't always work out as they perhaps could, or should, have. But at least this reissue with its interesting and informative booklet is available to preserve the heritage. Roll on the reissue of Luck Leif And The Longships which I remember as being marginally superior to The Captain and his Starfighters, I wonder how many errors about that album my memory will have introduced over the years?
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band - Smorgasboard
Tracklist: Medic (6:09), Godspeed Mother Earth (3:51), Happy (4:00), The Great Yeah (3:55), I Don't Mind (3:21), Sanctimonious High (3:57), Thin Air (5:03), Animal Riot Hill (5:50), Spain (4:10), Strings To The Bow (3:48), Crazy Rainbow (4:33), A Hill Of Beans (6:25)
Another new contestant for the strange band name competition. The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band is a strange name and the sleeve of the album Smorgasboard is hardly readable, an album that is easily missed. The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band is from Norway and to be exact from a town called Bergen, a beautiful town where it rains most of the time. This is a fact of interest because the music sounds more like beach music from California, not depressed music for a rainy day. It also breaths the spirit of the sixties/seventies, a nod and a wink to bands like The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane and The Traveling Wilburys. I also hear folky influences of The Decemberists. I had never heard of The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band, probably not a lot of people have, but they have been around since 1999. Smorgasbord is their third album and fans had to wait five years for this one, although it is worth the wait.
Medic has many retro organ sounds and is a varied song. Another name that now comes to mind is Beardfish, the same retro organ sound with rock guitars though no epic songs are to be found on Smorgasbord, only 'standard' compositions present. The title Godspeed Mother Earth suggests a heavy song but it is a nice ballad with folky influences, reminds me of the latest album of The Decemberists, Hazards Of Love. The same thing can be said for Happy, which is a happy folk song, just like the title implies. The Great Yeah starts with a strange guitar or keyboard ...uhh.. thingy, do not what to call it. Just when you wonder where it all should go it is perfectly blended into a catchy tune. Most of the music is catchy but still clever enough to sink your teeth into and so that you will hear new things even after several spins.
Sanctimonious High is to me the best song on the album, it is also put out as a single and I can understand why. It is a very addictive song and together with the fantastic video with Yellow Submarine like animations this to me is a hit. Just have a look on Youtube for this video and you know what I mean. Thin Air is a relaxed song with a slide guitar and Spain is just as relaxed as sounding. This is how they sing about Spain in rainy Bergen, Norway. Strings To The Bow shows a very different side of The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band. The info sheet states epic greatness and it sure is. Or as they sing themselves: "Glory, glory, halleluja!". By far the most progressive song but when listening to this album I do not care if the music is progressive rock or not, no label can describe Smorgasbord. The album ends with a more psychedelic song, Crazy Rainbow, and another folky song, A Hill Of Beans.
Smorgasbord is a very good album, music that puts a smile on your face. The sound of The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band is maybe not progressive enough but in this case I would like to advise them to keep it this way. Retro rock with folky and psychedelic influences and above all, highly enjoyable. Just have a look at the video for Sanctimonious High and I bet you will be hooked. I do not think that many people have heard of The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band and I hope that many people will take the effort to try out their music. Smorgasbord should give this wonderful band a much larger audience worldwide, highly recommended.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Sky Cries Mary – Space Between The Drops
Tracklist: Cornerman (5:30), Elephant Song (8:03), Rain (8:10), These Old Bones (4:01), Slow Down Time (5:51), Four AM (14:47), An Ant, The Stars, An Owl and It’s Prey (5:48), Want (Extended Version) (6:04), Gliding (Remake version 2006) (5:07), Land of All (5:12), Missing (5:24)
Sky Cries Mary’s music may lie all the way out near the outer edge of the progressive galaxy, but is still firmly within its space, gripped inexorably by its gravity. For sure, it’s not the symphonic or neo-prog that you find near the centre, but that does not mean to say that it lacks any less invention. Quite the contrary is true, in fact, as the band delivers a soundscape the like of which I’ve not heard before: hence, there will be virtually no cross-referencing to other bands. Their music sounds to me like “ambient progressive rock”, which is a genre that is not defined anywhere: I guess if you had to “pigeon-hole” it then it would go into the “art-rock/crossover prog” category.
But enough about categorisation: what about the music itself? Never rising above a slow to medium tempo, often rich in both rhythm and melody, its most significant feature is the wonderful singing of Roderick and Anita Romero. They both sing well, harmonise beautifully and Anita often uses her voice like an instrument, vocalising without words, adding to the palette of sounds. Work out all the combinations of those elements and you immediately have a rich source of beautiful music. The second most significant element is that the rhythms are “mantric”: oft repeated phrasing – making full use of the instrumental and vocal palette - is used that weaves a meditative, ambient soundscape. The difference with normal ambient music is that this music is played by a rock band – which then weaves in other colours in the foreground that compete with the mantra – so, for instance, you can switch off from the mantra during a song such as These Old Bones and listen to a superb melody.
This approach, together with their progressive leanings, also means that you get a number of different musical “flavours” adorning the rhythmic, cohesive element. So, for instance, there is a hint of soft blues in the guitar phrasing of Rain, Four AM has strong hues of Pink Floyd and Gliding comes in two versions: the “electric” version of the 2006 remake and (presumably the original?) a folky “unplugged” version as the hidden track after Missing. Both are delightful, the accordion in the latter being as well suited to the “fado-ish” vocal phrasing as the band make the electric version of the actual track listing.
Surprisingly, for a band that you’ve almost certainly not heard of, Sky Cries Mary have been around for about twenty years. Space Between the Drops is, in fact, a compilation covering their previous 10 CDs/EPs. Since listening to this homogeneous compilation, I’ve followed up on this extensive back-history by buying their This Timeless Turning (1994) and Small Town (2007), enjoying both very much. Joining Anita and Roderick in the current band are Ben Ireland (drums, percussion), Juano Davison (bass, percussion), Michael Cozzi (guitar), William Bernhard (guitars, keyboards, samples) and Kent Halvorsen (keyboards, vocals). Roderick writes the lyrics and the whole band is credited with the music composition.
Sky Cries Mary make beautiful music and this album deserves its recommendation from DPRP. Symphonic-prog diehards may not find it to their taste, but many progressive fans will find joy in its weaving of subtle rhythms and gorgeous melodies.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Canturbe - Sociedad Secreta De Melancolios
Tracklist: Tarde Para Ensayos (5:18), Asepto... (4:04), Eternidades (3:54), Contraseñas (4:37), Odiseo Por Buenos Aires (6.57), Guardería Para Melancólicos (2:13), Radiografía (4:43), Una Hija (2:37), Tiro Al Argento (3:45), Una Mujer En Buenos Aires (4:45), Viaje A La Lejanía (3:22), Volando En Una Linterna (2:47), Tarde Para Ensayos [instrumental] (2:31)
The cover of this is quite disturbing. You’ve got three old chaps, facing away from you, sitting on a park bench. One of these is holding behind his back what looks to be a lady’s bra. Female dismembered limbs (an arm and two shoe-adorned legs) complete the scene. Makes Smell The Glove seem a bit tame really. Like Betty Swanwick after waaay too much prescription medication.
It won’t play on my system – I keep getting a recurring disc error message but the laptop accepts it, so that’s what I’m listening to it on, piped through said hi-fi system. Maybe the necrophilia gang rape dismemberment motif displayed on the cover has somehow made its way into the grooves (do CDs have grooves?) and corrupted the music. All I know is I’m going to be in therapy for a while. Again. Southern Baptists will probably end up burning this one by the truckload. Which I suppose would get Canturbe’s sales up.
This is their 6th album since 1980, after an 18-year hiatus.
Their 1980 debut El Vuelo De Los Olvidados was re-issued in 2003 and was reviewed here on the Dutch Progressive Rock Pages. Like the current record, it was sung entirely in Spanish. Which will put some people off. Musically though, it received plaudits for its gentle, melancholic vibe.
I’m not going to attempt a track listing of this current offering, as my spell-check has gone into meltdown. And I have no idea what they are singing about. Given their history, and the cover, I’m wary of commenting on the lyrical content in case I inadvertently end up condoning something unpleasant.
Musically it’s a bit pedestrian to start with, kicking off with a slow acoustic track that might have been better as a footer, not a header, but then it gets folky and interesting, with sultry vocals, great bass lines and nice keyboards. There are some spoken word samples, which I think relate to football, given the use of the word goaaal. If it’s that handball, and you’re a footballist, then you will probably spit out your crisps and spill your cheap lager down your expensive replica shirt. And then beat your wife up. I have no frame of reference unfortunately.
Elsewhere it’s pleasant, and very understated. There’s some reverby saxophone, a nice groove and a laid back feel and the Spanish lyrics work well in context. It’s pastoral in places with trickling water, nice flute and synth strings with gentle guitar and violin. And pan pipes. And some accordion.
It gets better the longer it goes on, with some melancholy guitar and vocal harmonies, nice synths, violins and ding-dong bell work.
It really does pack the sounds in. You want ethnic flute and staccato doodling with reverb vocals? You got it. Genesis widdly bits? Check. Eurovision muzak? Okey dokey.
Quite a bit to whet the appetite of the adventurous prog fan, then. But whatever you do don’t show the cover to your kids.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Cerebrum - Spectral Extravagance
Tracklist: Fragments Of Illusion (4:18), Scatter-brain (3:49), Pattern Of Fear (3:47), Intolerable Ado (4:58), Epiphysis Thrive (3:59), Edge Of Parallel Circles (3:52), Beyond Imagination (4:38), Thorns Of Weakness (3:54), Salvia Divinorum (4:06), The Prologue Of Completion (1:37), Shreds Of Remains (3:50)
Ladies and Gentlemen without further adieu it’s time to create some controversy, sometimes this is an exciting and challenging path to walk. Define prog rock? I thought so. It’s not that easy is it? No it’s not. Everyone has differing standards of what prog is / is not. Now why have I started a review like this you may ask? Well Cerebrum’s Spectral Extravagance journeys close to the edge of what is not accepted as prog by a lot of people. How so? Well a lot of people would call this Death, Thrash or Extreme Metal, or as their record label like to tag it “Technical Prog Death Metal”. My, what a mouthful that was. Are we now any clearer for the aforementioned description? Probably not, but I guess you’ll have by now built up an image of what Cerebrum’s album sounds like already. Be honest there is no shame in that, I do it. There will be some who will read no further and then there be some who will. For those of you who are brave enough to have stayed WELCOME.
Cerebrum are a trio consisting of Jim Touras (guitar), Mike Papadopoulos (guitar, bass), Apollon Zygomalas (vocals) and featuring Nile’s George Kollias (drums) who hail from Athens Greece. Their MySpace page describes them as, “sounding like a monstrous collision between old-school technical ethics and state-of-the-art Sonics”. Before I go any further with the review I would just like to add a disclaimer about the vocals, as this is what most people do struggle with when hearing this genre. The vocals are very generic and throaty, (most of the time), and sometimes you have to get past that to hear what is actually being played, you will need the lyrics to understand what is being conveyed, that didn’t stop Opeth though.
So what have we on offer here is eleven tracks of very frenetic and well crafted music, with respites throughout being few and far between. From the opening track Fragments Of Illusion you are offered stunning interaction between Kollias, Touras and Papadopoulos pounding their way through the song like men possessed offering some interesting time changes and melodic guitar work. Scatter-brain operates much in the same vein as the previous and further tracks with an assault and battery. Kollias just put his drum fills in wherever he can whilst the rest of the cast work their magic around him. Some of the guitar breaks are very inspiring breaking the tracks intensity somewhat. Pattern Of Fear opens with a great mid tempo bass line from Papadopoulos then WHAM rhythmic vocals and military guitar structures march the track to a conclusion. Salvia Divinorum approaches the listener’s ears with the subtlety of being hit by juggernaut cruising down the motorway at 100mph. The only real let up in the intensity on this album is The Prologue Of Completion an instrumental which sounds out of place in the bigger picture almost as it was recorded by another band. Prologue Of Completion is a beautiful and well defined guitar piece with a slow tempo almost static compared to what is presented on the rest of the album.
The rub for me though with this album is it all becomes somewhat samey in sound throughout except for The Prologue Of Completion. Had the band maybe thrown some more diversity of this calibre into the mix this album would have been better for it. It’s not that this is a bad album by any means. It’s just that it’s very generic in its approach and sound like many other bands of this ilk.
There has been some inclusion of clean vocals on this album, which adds some depth but to be honest don’t really add anything. There is no denying the skilful musicianship on display here and the fury at which it is presented. These guys are taking no prisoners and anyone who gets in their way will be mowed down.
As ever the digital artwork supplied by Xaay throughout the package is excellent but the coup for this band is getting Kollias to play drums. This album has his signature beats all over it. I remember the first time I heard Annihilation Of The Wicked by Nile I was totally blown away by Kollias’ intense drumming, here he doesn’t disappoint either. If you like the more extreme end of this genre including the likes of Atheist’ Elements or Unquestionable Presence, Pestilence Spheres then you are going to love this. If you find those bands too heavy and extreme then avoid like the plague.
Is this Prog? YOU decide.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
The Sin Committee – Confess [EP]
Tracklist: Confess (3:59), Serious Adverse Event (4:05), Straw Men (4:41), Regression Of Faith (5:33), Four 2 One (4:02)
As the northern metal scene continues to grow, The Sin Committee brings another piece to the work already laid down by the Scandinavians. This band, an unsigned act from the Netherlands, have released Confess, a 5-track EP of powerful and gripping songs that should make enough noise to propel this band into the next level with a proper full length follow up album.
The band consists of Raymon van Vught (guitar), Joris Bod (vocals), Willem Elbers (bass), and Victor Smeets (drums); however, on the band’s website there is mention of obtaining a new drummer.
This music casts a dark pallor and they confess to draw from influences such as Opeth, Tool, Mastodon, and Gojira. That’s not a bad set of bands to draw from but they really don’t sound much like any of them. The difference with this band might be simply that they seem to employ a variety of changes in their songs without changing the tempo much. That might be a bit risky in today’s high-energy metal climate, but it might also just be the primary contribution from the influence of Tool.
A caveat: there are some growls here. I have to mention it since the gutturals seem to be a line of contention for many metal fans. It is intermittent and doesn’t dominate; when used sparingly I don’t mind so much.
Despite the otherwise straightforward metal sound, at times the music reminds me of a toned-down Nevermore or at this albums best moments, a less creative Karnivool. The album artwork is quite creative and captivating, however.
The sound quality is excellent and the deep bass lines really add to the package. The mix is good and downplays the lead guitar enough to treat all instruments in the band as equals while allowing the raw sounding vocals a slightly forward position. It took a while for the vocals to grow on me. After a few listens it really began to sink in, and the vocal overlays make use of Joris’ ability to transition. I still have the impression that this voice is untrained but it tends to work for these guys.
There isn’t anything new here, but the music is enjoyable and has a flavour that lies between the lines most other bands have drawn lately. There is room for the fans of most recent hard rock and old school death metal fans alike. This mixture makes for an interesting blend and left me slightly refreshed but not elated.
I’m anxious to hear what a full album will bring. The EP approach on this first shot works but if the follow up doesn’t show some diversity with tempo and key changes, I’m afraid this good band will remain obscure and forever be relegated to the world of ‘opening act’. Lets see what happens.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Typewriter – Pictures From The Antique Skip
Tracklist: Zounds Of Praise (0:51), Bambino [Gone Beyond The Pale] (5:43), His Lurching Footsteps (2:00), In Another World (4:31), Beachcombing (2:30), If I Could Reach You (3:51), Arctic Circle (4:15), The Here And Now (4:32), A Flask Of Tea At Fouras (1:12), All For One (4:45), Impossible Beauty (2:44), Camelot In Smithereens (8:03), Lonesome Roads (1:48), Lurching Interlude (0:28), In Your Atmosphere (3:17), Try? (2:07), Save Dodge City (2:46), Spring Is Here (3:29), Try And Make Me (3:37), Sunshower (2:01)
Pictures From The Antique Skip is the third album by Typewriter featuring twenty tracks ranging from 0:28 seconds to 8:03 seconds with his MySpace page quotes his sound as;
"...bounces from genre to genre with startling speed, adding more and more balls to his bizarre juggling act... Drum machines and electronic gizmos are used to full effect as he deviates between Krautrock and psychedelia. It is eclecticism gone mad and it's a mind-bend."
To be honest here, the first time I played this album I was not enamoured and I am somewhat indifferent about it still, not being able to put my finger on just what the reason for this is. I could do a track by track review but to be honest I don’t think this approach is appropriate. I am going to review the album for what it is an album of eclectic tracks recorded by Mark Bandola with pop overtones that range in sound from The Byrds, XTC and early REM, and not a prog album.
There are some very catchy melodies that buzz around your head especially on In Another World, Arctic Circle, In Your Atmosphere and All For One that have an early REM sound to them.
If I Could Reach You, has got an 80’s electro / Gary Numan phrased vocal passage with retro sounding computerized drum beats that were synonymous with that era which work well.
Save Dodge City sounds very much like XTC and to be honest this reference can be heard in other places on the album too.
Camelot In Smithereens is the longest track on the album and comes the nearest to being anything remotely like what I would call prog being psych, kraut and space rock in style. It has a great bass passage with some strong drumming and synth interjections that work very well. As the song progresses rhythmically it just drops into chaos seemingly breaking all the rules of which it started out on and then just fades away. I am not too sure that this does the album as a whole any justice. I really like the track and would have been very interested in hearing Typewriter exploring this avenue in a bit more depth.
Try And Make Me again travels down a different path that a lot of the tracks on offer here don’t, having a faint Hawkwind sound to it, offering some nice space rock interludes and ethereal vocals.
There are some really nice guitar parts that have been used on this album to build a working canvas for what Typewriter is trying to achieve. The album as a whole contains jangly guitar, some pop sensibilities, psych, kraut, space rock and spoken word. I just love the line “There’s somewhere that I know, somewhere elusive, some dark star”, that is quoted in Impossible Beauty which has a great melody and fantastic harmony.
After several listens on a whole my stance has changed slightly as Typewriter have produced an album that stands its ground trying different styles to some good effect, but be under no illusions this is not a prog album. Had I been reviewing this album as a different identity I may have given it another two points, but unfortunately I can’t as I feel it would be an injustice to our target audience.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10