REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Vanden Plas – Seraphic Clockwork
Tracklist: Frequency (6:14), Holes In The Sky (5:24), Scar Of An Angel (7:25), Sound Of Blood (6:45), The Final Murder (9:51), Quicksilver (8:52), Rush Of Silence (9:20), On My Way To Jerusalem (12:47) Bonus Track Eleyson (5:33)
Vanden Plas, with a strong back catalogue, strengthen it further with another powerful release Seraphic Clockwork, a story involving a clock maker who finds himself involved in an intriguing plot to go back in time and reroute history that has been manipulated to deny salvation to the world. This kind of story writing is exactly the stuff that in a large part drew me to this genre; progressive rock has become a solid medium for communicating theatrical entire story lines in this modern era.
The German power-prog act picks up where their last album Christ O left off - the musical style remains upbeat and catchy. The distinctive voice of Andy Kunz carries their signature sound and the frequent jams from the band send this work even further down the familiar path. Seraphic Clockwork includes a wider range of backing and choir vocals (including female) to complete the larger than life soundscape delivery.
The instrumentation has expanded as well with the Hammond organ, greater orchestrated arrangement, incredibly active percussion remains, and the intense action occasionally and artfully breaks to catch the story line back up. The fully stocked orchestra stands out with flute, violins, and about any other instrument you would expect to find in a theatrical production.
Vanden Plas aren’t the type of band that requires effort to get into. However, there is so much material here, it takes some time for it to digest. It takes several listens for even the catchy parts to sink in. This metal band has a distinct ability to write music that should carry well into the commercial and limited prog markets alike. From song to song you won’t find a lot of deviation in key, but to keep things fresh they do employ alternating time signatures and speed changes.
Seraphic Clockwork comes through very clean in the recording. The high activity and dynamic range is captured extremely well. The instruments are well balanced and nothing overpowers or underperforms in the mix. The guitar, keyboards, and bass work tirelessly to leave no gaps in this busy album, and the metal distortion in the guitars remain highly accurate.
If you are new to Vanden Plas, you can expect to find the musicianship of Threshold, with the creativity and emotion resembling Pendragon’s Pure, and the intensity of Karnivool. The music has mood and texture and flows beautifully from song to song and is extremely easy on the ears. This album, with all its intensity and activity, carries itself so pleasantly that I find myself relaxing to it. This seeming contradiction will make sense once you listen.
If you are already know this band, storyline notwithstanding, this album could easily be considered an extension of Christ O with more passion. Luckily Vanden Plas have not elected to reinvent themselves; I am not finished with the familiar. This year is shaping up to be a good one for prog and this release is sure to be among my favourites. While this album continues in similar vein as their previous work, it is an improvement in many ways, large and small.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Frogg Café – Bateless Edge
Tracklist: Terra Sancta (12:25), Move Over I'm Driving (7:58), Pasta Fazeuhl (14:02), Under Wuhu Son: In The Bright Light (8:22); Under Wuhu Son: Left For Dead (5:36); Under Wuhu Son: Brace Against The Fall (6:15), From The Fence (12:05), Belgian Boogie Board (10:31)
Frogg Café started out as a Frank Zappa tribute band and free-form Zappary is still an essential element of their sound, which has developed across four previous studio albums, and one double live set. Their sound continues to challenge the listener, but they have definitely moved to the slightly more challenging end of the spectrum with this one. As you’ll gather from the list of personnel these guys play a lot of instruments. And as you might imagine there’s always a lot going on sonically but the sound, helped by pin sharp production, is never overly busy, each instrument, however multi-layered the arrangement, having space to breathe.
For those of you unfamiliar with their work, Frogg Café’ are: Bill Ayasse (violin, viola, mandolin, hand percussion, vocals), Frank Camiola (electric guitar, banjo, string bass), James Guarnieri (drums, glockenspiel, orchestral percussion), John Lieto (trombone and bass trombone), Nick Lieto (lead vocals, piano, keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn), Andrew Sussman (electric bass, cello, acoustic guitar).
They are joined by a multitude of guest musicians, including Steve Kastikas of Little Atlas and Vessela Stoyanova of Fluttr Effect, both from the USA. The latter I saw at a real ale pub in Otley way back when. Of all the places…
Now, as a bit of a fan of American prog, I own 2005’s Fortunate Observer Of Time, and love its synthesis of Kansas, Gentle Giant, Echolyn and Zappa and the resulting genre jam of symphonic prog, jazz and avant-garde. In fact I bought it after reading the 9/10 recommended DPRP review.
2007 saw the double live set The Safenzee Diaries, also in the Watson auto-changer and also reviewed by DPRP. That album also garnered a recommended 8/10 rating, and rightfully so. I’ve been meaning to get hold of Creatures (2003) and their reissued 2001 debut Frogg Café (2004) for some time, but have never quite got round to it. Do not fear though, dear reader, on listening to this my love of the band has been duly piqued and they have now been ‘added to cart’ as I continue to contribute to the global debt crisis.
Back to the work in hand and Terra Sancta kicks things off, with an infectious Eastern groove, Indian slide guitar and electric violin. Dedicated to children who lost parents on 9/11 it’s incredibly moving and indicative of the challenging music that lies ahead.
Instrumental piece Move Over I’m Driving melds trumpet, violin and guitar with a lovely electric mandolin solo and a goosebump-inducing closing guitar solo.
Apparently Frank Camiola wrote Pasta Fazeuhl after being mightily impressed by Magma’s appearance at NEARFest in 2003 and whilst not so much in the style of the French avant-garde meisters it is “a tribute of sorts”.
Now this is a genre that I don’t, if I’m being brutally frank, much care for. I can, however, appreciate the compositional complexity and the musicianship. The track is 14 minutes long and will undoubtedly divide opinion. But surely that’s what great art, or indeed any art, is all about. Last time I went to the Tate there was a urinal mounted on the wall – upside down as I remember – and it wasn’t there for you to urinate in. Now some might see this as an upside down urinal, others as an (in)direct challenge to our preconceptions, to our taken for granted assumptions of everyday life, to our worldview. Put it this way, I’m not going to play this track at dinner parties – my guests might throw bread rolls at me. Except Jonno, who really digs this stuff.
You’ll have figured by now that Bateless Edge is a tad more experimental and challenging, less mainstream and immediately accessible, than the band’s previously recorded output. And you’d be right. But surely ‘progression’ connotes movement forwards? But just as you thought the mad trumpet fairy had landed comes Under Wuhu Sun, comprising three separate movements and which clocks in at the 20-minute mark. It is, simply, a beautiful piece of music. With an incredibly moving story behind it.
It starts off with mandolin, a woodwind section and violin, and the tune makes your heart break, before it gets dramatic with brass and xylophone. Then Lieto’s achingly touching vocals kick in before a guitar solo that would make an angel cry. Words can’t really do it justice. Yes, there are scratchy and plucked violins, trumpets, and glockenspiels, but it just works. Even though it is jarringly discordant in places. This is mainly due to the emotive subject matter. In the words of Andrew Sussman, who composed it:
"This piece of music is very personal to me and based on true life events surrounding the adoption of our baby girl, and it has taken me nearly a year to get my thoughts into this piece."
From The Fence is a slightly more traditional verse, chorus, verse slice of tuneful American symphonic prog, reminiscent of Kansas in their pomp that also includes a horn section Big Big Train would be proud of. Nick Lieto, who wrote the piece, has a lovely restrained vocal style perfectly suited to the song.
Belgian Boogie Board, written by Camiola, is a monster, written for 27 different instruments including marimba, xylophone, flute, cello, reeds, horns, clarinet, keyboards, guitar and violin. No cow bell, though. Which is an oversight for the Blue Oyster Cult fans amongst us. It marks a return, though, to the difficult, zeuhl-y end of the Frogg Café musical spectrum that should not, under any circumstances, be listened to by people who are feeling evenly moderately depressed. It’s not going to gain them any new fans, put it that way.
Just as prog is broadening its mainstream appeal Frogg Café release a challenging, complex album that will disappoint those expecting another Fortunate Observer... but which cements their reputation as one of the most original American prog bands working today. Truly original, truly progressive, it eschews the commercial blandness permeating the genre for an opportunity to record songs that actually mean something to the creators. Now this means that it isn’t going to have mainstream appeal. I can’t, for the life of me, give it a recommended rating, as some might rightly criticise it for being a tad self-indulgent, but I would refer the interested reader to the phenomenally good earlier albums mentioned above. Once you’ve digested these I promise that Bateless Edge will reveal more of itself to you.
If you need a touchstone from the past then I guess this is Frogg Café's democratic Fragile moment, where each member got to add their own compositions into the mix. It doesn’t make for a coherent whole, but it is nonetheless a worthy addition to the band’s canon.
All tracks from Bateless Edge and the band’s other albums are currently available to preview in their entirety through the 10T Records website:
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Osiris – Tales Of The Divers ~ Live
|Country of Origin:||Bahrain|
|Record Label:||Musea Records|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Set The Sails (5:58), The Deep (2:26), Salute The Sea My Enemy And My Friend (1:30), It’s Always Hard To Say Goodbye – It’s A Hard Life (6:48), The Lull Before The Storm (1:59), The Storm (1:43), The Quiet Horizon (3:44), We Wait (4:50), Homeward Bound Once Again (5:39), Waves (2:37), Apprehension (1:52), Home At Last (3:47)
Osiris are probably one of a hand full or maybe the only Arabic progressive rock bands, a rare breed indeed, as the middle east isn’t really a geographical area that lends itself to the genre. Osiris are a prog band from Bahrain, comprising of Mohamed Alsadeqi (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Nabil Alsadeqi (drums, percussions, vibes, electronic effects, backing vocals), Howard Tierra (piano, electronic keyboards, and backing vocals), Abdul Razzak Arian (organ, electronic keyboards), Mohammed Shafii (vocals, flute, vibes, keyboards, acoustic guitar) and Khalid Al Motawa (bass, acoustic guitar, bass pedals, backing vocals). They have released Tales Of The Divers ~ Live which was recorded live at the Gulf Hotel in 1985.
Pervious Osiris albums reviewed are Beyond Control Live which received a much rewarded 7.5 out of 10 whilst
Visions From The Past only received 5 out of 10.
Oh my word this is a stunning piece of work, melodic keyboard runs, stunning guitar progressions, fantastic bass and percussion interaction and great vocals too. This album was recorded in 1985 and listening to it in 2010, not one bit of this recording sounds dated, which would imply that someone has to be thanked for spending a lot of time re-mastering this release from what one would assume would have been somewhat more limited recording techniques than those of today. Throughout these musical passages you can hear influences from the likes of Genesis, Caravan and Camel and thankfully retaining some Arabic influenced musical interludes too.
What is really nice about this recording is that Osiris has managed to marry eastern and western musical influences together to build such a unique and compelling album. The combinations work really well together making it a very rewarding album.
Set The Sails opens the album with the wind and Arabic vocals before the keyboards start with their spacey passages punctuated by a defined piano notation. The guitar is eastern sounding and rather excellent, emotional and atmospheric. Just close your eyes and you can feel yourself there. The Deep is more assertive in its approach but not in an aggressive way. The keyboard punctuation is much defined working in contrast with some fantastic percussion work by Nabil Alsadeqi and bass passages by Khalid Al Motawa. Salute The Sea My Enemy And My Friend is an Arabic poem building the atmosphere with some very good keyboard interaction which segues into It’s Always Hard To Say Goodbye – It’s A Hard Life the longest track on the album. The guitar work of Mohamed Alsadeqi is phenomenal throughout very stated when required then taking lead pitch perfect, guiding the whole piece. A lot of though has gone into building the whole structure of the song. In essences it is very English sounding track with great vocal diction. The Lull Before The Storm his a nice eastern sounding percussion piece which reminded me of some recordings I have of the Grateful Dead when they played their groundbreaking shows in Egypt with local musicians. Percussion work is not everyone’s cup of tea and some can find it lumbering, but for me this is both fitting and spot on. The Storm has a very defined musical passage, sounding somewhat like Kansas on its opening; this is soon replace by more stunning musical interactions and interludes reinforcing and confirming that this is / was a very cohesive band. The Quiet Horizon reintroduces the swirling electronic keyboard sounds, whilst Mohammed Shafii lets his acoustic work create the tone which is interjected by some really relaxing flute melodies. We Wait moves in a similar direction as The Quiet Horizon without the accompanying lead acoustic work, having layered keyboard interactions creating the main body of the piece, which really works well together. Homeward Bound Once Again allows Mohamed Alsadeqi’ fret work to walk over the piece creating dynamics, adding an extra dimension sounding almost neo prog. The bass and percussion lines are very supportive and complimentary to the whole ambiance of the piece, giving it that extra lift, not that it requires any lifting. Waves is another moody and atmospheric piece where the guitar is juxtaposed with the keyboard and added choral work adding depth. Apprehension is a building guitar piece being supported by a repeating rhythmic keyboard passage sounding very grand and majestic. The closing piece of the album Home At Last is very percussion heavy with the addition of some very interesting melodic tones being offered by the band, making it a very fitting end to the album.
Osiris has delivered in my eyes a very good live album and is definitely worth investigating having that something different appeal. The whole album is a concept based on simpler times in Bahrain before technology etc took over, that has been well executed and mastered. If you are a Camel, Genesis or Caravan fan you will like what you hear here.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Harvey Bainbridge - Dreams, Omens & Strange Encounters
Tracklist: Fatima's Hand (12:34), Nemesis (18:40), The Scanning (1:39), Zone Of Avoidance / The Voyage (12:46), Unravelled In Rye (23:07)
In a first for the Esoteric group of labels, this release by Harvey Bainbridge is brand new and previously unreleased. Bainbridge, of course, was the bass and synth player with Hawkwind for 13 years having first joined the psychedelic warriors at the time of The Hawklords 25 Years On album in 1978 remaining with the band until the 1991 release Palace Springs. Now at a sprightly 61 years, he releases what I believe is his third solo album, although he has performed and released material with several other groups over the years, notably the Alman Mulo Band.
Dreams, Omens & Strange Encounters is a completely solo effort with Bainbridge playing a varied selection of synths on a collection of four extended instrumental numbers and one brief piece (The Scanning) which features an overlaid spoken message that is similar to the type of thing that Hawkwind have been known to do in the past. However, this is the only real similarity with his previous band as although the album is laden with the inevitable spacey synth lines, the music has its own character and individuality. Maybe that is because Hawkwind limited such instrumental pieces to a more fragmentary status on their albums, and didn't allow them to expand over a handful of minutes let alone 10 or 20! The general form is as one would expect from such material, lots of soundscapes and suitably applied effects that generate atmosphere and mood rather than hummable tunes. This is particularly the case in the 23-minute Unravelled In Rye, although it has to be said that despite its length the piece manages to avoid excess rambling and maintains an integrity throughout. The major deviation from this 'template' occurs with opening number Fatima's Hand which as the name of in the title would suggest, has somewhat of an Eastern feel. Overall, favourable comparisons can be drawn with artists such as Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream.
I was rather wary of hearing this album as I am not a particularly big fan of electronic music or pieces dominated by synthesisers. The majority of material by the likes of Tangerine Dream just leaves me cold. However, I have to admit that I was quite gripped by the album, even though most albums of 70 minutes duration can seem to outstay their welcome. The key seems to be that, although absorbing, it doesn't require the listener to maintain rapt attention throughout, which is not to say that the album should be categorised, or dismissed, as purely background music because it is much more than that. Worth investigating even if synth music is not your typical thing!
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Auto De Fe – Appomattox [EP]
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2010|
|Info:||Auto De Fe|
Tracklist: Across The River (4:59), Interlude (1:21), Appomattox (10:22)
The title track of this three-track EP appeared on the most recent Classic Rock Presents Prog cover disc, and for me was head and shoulders above anything else on offer. Which is saying a lot because there were some great tunes on the CD.
Before we go any further, I’ll quickly offer up this wikipedia definition of the band name:
"a Roman Catholic church ritual which became associated with its use during the Spanish Inquisition… The ritual took place in public squares or esplanades and lasted several hours with ecclesiastical and civil authorities in attendance"...
Lasting several hours? Very prog. Yet this record is not a long listen at all, clocking in at the sixteen minute mark, but it’s chock full of invention and cracking musicianship, and is essential listening for anyone who digs bands like Mogwai, Pure Reason Revolution, Porcupine Tree, Tool, Dirt Jake Replicas, Guapo, Explosions In The Sky, The Mars Volta, Radiohead or Oceansize.
The band comprises: Daniel Pattison (Lyrics & Vocals), Steve Barrett - (Guitar), Jamie Dawe: (Guitar), Vince Solazzo - (Bass Guitar & Keyboard), Mike Dunn - (Drums & Percussion). Previously known as Hampshire based heavy rock band Sub Rosa they formed approximately two years ago, with a new vocalist and bassist.
It’s the Mars Volta influence that particularly stands out for me, especially on the title track – it’s very well crafted and produced alt/prog that continually threatens to go off on one, and sometimes does. When this happens it serves as a joyously frenzied counterpoint to the moody soundscapes the band sculpt.
Indeed, Appomattox has made my track of the year list. And we’re still in June. OK, so it really does sound like a lost Mars Volta track but who cares. They are young, British and massively talented. Let’s celebrate that. The more we do, the more chance there is that they get an opportunity to craft a long player that will surely showcase that talent.
With a twin guitar attack, providing the sonic equivalent of light and shade, Pattison’s amazing voice and a devastating rhythm section the band, if there’s any justice whatsoever, deserve to be listened to by the widest audience possible.
They have got some gigs lined up in the south of England in July and August, so if you get a chance I’d urge you to check them out. Go armed with a copy of the EP, available for a fiver now from
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Schizoid Lloyd – Virus [EP]
|Country of Origin:||Netherlands|
|Year of Release:||2009|
Tracklist: Virus (7:39), Quarantine (5:20), The Fall (4:12), Nothing Left (8:42)
Sophomore release by Dutch band Schizoid Lloyd, the Virus [EP] was released back in 2009, however the CD only landed at my desk just last week. Schizoid Lloyd's bio tells me that I need to be aware to expect the unexpected when listening to their music. I will let them surprise me then.
Based in Haarlem/Gouda region, the band is situated in the highest populated area in the Netherlands. Schizoid Lloyd is Remo Kuhlman (lead vocals & guitar), Ruben Kuhlman (backing vocals & drums), Guus van Oosterum (backing vocals & bass guitar) Daan Divendal (keyboards) and Thom Lich (backing vocals & guitar). Schizoid Lloyd has already won a prestigious prize after being in existence from end 2007 they won the Rob Acda Award in 2008. Not bad for a band that existed little over a year at that point in time. Musically said to be influenced by Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Radiohead and Bach. So I must surely be in for surprises in the music, I hope.
Now to their music, which I must say I did not hear that many surprises. Schizoid Lloyd play music that has a lot of influences present anbd very apparent with both heavy riffs on guitar as well as tender - softer played strumming on the instrument. Beautifully crafted songs, in which they leave no doubt what they feel music should sound like. In the huge pool and still growing scene in progressive rock in the Netherlands, Schizoid Lloyd will have to be strong to hold their spot in this market place. Musically this may not be a problem. What needs to be seen is, is there room for all these fantastic new progressive bands or...
With only twenty six minutes of this great music this CD is way too short to my liking. I have very much enjoyed listening to the classical built up songs. Schizoid Lloyd have succeeded in winning me over, no big surprise really considering the high standard of their music. In my believe we have another great progressive rock act in the Netherlands. Let us hear more soon boys, I for one cannot wait to hear more. Hope seeing them live also sometime soon... Concluding - take a look at the rating.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Mentat Routage - Mentat Routage
Tracklist: Vox Of An Industrial Nowhere - Overture (0:44), Zonder’s Kilt Vacation (7:08), Les Premices (0:19), Mentat Swing (6:32), Neorurbanism (0:40), Monklimit Variation Partie Un (2:43), La Chute (0:16), Seriel Killer (5:56), Et Le Grand Zornbergh Dit... (0:04), Zorn Mask Replica (6:47), The Message (0:37), Monklimit Variation Partie Deux (2:07), Doc Ledus Madness (1:14), Monklimit (5:03), Rythmico-Verbal (0:12), Noisy Tap (4:23), Les Improphetes Partie Un (1:44), Genese (7:09), Les Improphetes Partie Deux (2:12), Il Est Dangereux De... (1:54), Tritonite’s Prelude (1:45), Mentat Tritonite Aigue (8:18)
The promo literature states, “this French collective known as Mentat Routage as having been influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Magma, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Thelonious Monk, John Zorn, KarlHeinz Stockhausen, Salvador Dali and Portishead but to name a few”, which in my eyes is a very impressive list, which would suggest to me that this body of work is going to be a very convoluted and intricate framework of music.
The Mentat Routage collective consists of Ludovic Fabre a.k.a Zorn Behagh (violin, machines and various objects), Nicolas Fabre (keyboards, synthesizers and samples), Karl Ledus (saxophones, vocals, flute and samples), Sylvie Daguet (xylophone, tap dancing, effects and percussions), Alexandre Berton (drums, samples and various objects), Thomas Leverger (saxophones, vocals, flute and samples), Simon Dutay (fretless bass and effects) and Pieric Le Teissier (drums and various objects).
Zonder’s Kilt Vacation, Mentat Swing, Monklimit Variation Partie Un, Seriel Killer, Zorn Mask Replica, Monklimit Variation Partie Deux, Noisy Tap, Genese and Mentat Tritonite Aigue are the tracks of depth on this album, as they are the pieces with substance, a body of music that has direction being dynamic in approach. The album Mentat Routage has taken a somewhat familiar path with their take on experimental jazz and rock. Sound wise for my money and probably the best reference points generically being Frank Zappa and Magma with archaic tones and passages thrown in for good measure. The listed artists above are also really good reference points too, as you can hear their approach built into these pieces. Monklimit Variation Partie Un’ approach is archaic and freeform where Monklimit Variation Partie Deux carries on the approach but being more over the top and stunted in its direction. Zorn Mask Replica (is this a play on Captain Beefheart’ Trout Mask Replica?), has a more aggressive approach especially in the field of violins, but not being a cacophony of noise, building in tone and phrase featuring stunning rhythm. Genese is a stand out track having a relaxed jazz beat and some fantastic saxophone, keyboard and drum interaction supplied by Leverger, Dutay and Le Teissier. It’s tracks like this that makes listening to albums really enjoyable, where as Zonder’s Kilt Vacation is a track that makes you want to buy albums like this with its clever interlocking bass, violin and keyboard passages making it a real power house track.
Tonally this is a fantastic album that really hits all the points that you would expect twisting and turning leading you a merry dance. Just when you think you’ve put your finger on what is going on here, it becomes a case of all bets are off. The music has a very retro feel with a modern and no nonsense approach. Even the experimental pieces are interesting in their own little way, try Daguet’ tap dancing which is used to good effect on Les Improphetes Partie Deux. This is an approach / genre of music that the French seem to be able to produce in abundance.
Musically the collective are very proficient, all the refrains are well though out and constructed meticulously, I especially love the drumming on this album; it just has so much soul and passion. In fact to be honest as a unit they aren’t afraid to experiment, which always adds to the excitement.
As an album the longer musical passages will appeal, but some may struggle with the shorter more experimental pieces. If you like or are interested in any of the aforementioned artists then you are going to like this album immensely. As ever with this genre you do need to keep an open mine. You have been warned.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
American Hollow – Whisper Campaign
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2010|
Tracklist: Terronoia (4:54), State Of Decay (4:50), Operator (3:28), Variable (5:57), Constant (4:26), Gravity (6:14), Illumineye (7:12), Prizards (13:06), Blow Wind! Bring Forth Storm (7:33), Terrannoyed (4:07)
Debut release from American Hollow who consist of Jameson (vocals), Kyle Mullikin (guitars), Nathan Alan Gilbert (bass) and Chronos (drums), bring us their sophomore release with Whisper Campaign. Three members of American Hollow had already started playing together as far back as 2001, whilst at university, however it wasn’t until Jameson joined in 2008 that American Hollow really developed into what is to date.
I received no promotional information with the CD, but as these days almost every band has their own webpage and or MySpace page, it was not too difficult to find these fellows. I must admit I had not tried to find the info before listening to their music, however it came as no surprise to me to find among their influences some of the bands I could hear sounding through in the music. This it does not mean American Hollow are a bunch of copy cats, far from this actually, they may be influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and others mentioned on MySpace, but they have created a sound of their own with these influences. Most certainly Jameson’s singing is a trademark for the band.
Whisper Campaign is a collection of ten songs of good quality, well written and produced. Whilst playing the album I felt I was in a room together with the band. I find music is produced in a manner that it fills your room and is music that holds your attention. So is Whisper Campaign a thoroughly misleading title - as it rocks and is far from whispering - music best played at high volume.
The CD starts with a greeting, which after the fourth time I even got a little annoyed by, I am not an American and do not want to be greeted as one. Never mind this the track Terranoia seems to slowly move forward to pass the time. The track is instrumental and did not get my attention, apart from the greeting at the start and some 30 seconds before it ends. I thought the second track had already started but wasn’t so.
What does happen is that the second track follows the lasts sounds of the first track brilliantly. Here is where I hear the Chili Peppers influences, mostly in the way the song is built up vocally. Musically there is more of Soundgarden or Pearl Jam may be.
The music of American Hollow is both progressive but yet also very alternative. In Operator influences by the Peppers, Alice In Chains and some others are present. Nevertheless as I already stated in the introduction is this no mere copy and the sound of the songs is all American Hollow. Heavy, beautifully and emotional at the same time. Operator is followed by Variable, however it is not my intention to repeating myself over and over again by doing a track by track. And by no means wanting to get this review done fast, I will not continue the review track by track, but will only give you my highlights.
Which brings me to my conclusion. I could not find any weak songs on the album, the only flaw for my taste is that the music is not entirely my beef, although I like listening to the type of music American Hollow brings. I cannot sit and listen to this music over and over. The music simply just drains me.
As a sophomore release, however, I think this a strong album and surely places American Hollow amongst bands like Stone Temple Pilots or Alice In Chains. The band is not all too progressive to my liking, but they have done a good job with Whisper Campaign.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Arthur Brown And Kingdom Come - Kingdom Come
Tracklist: Water (8:11), Love Is A Spirit That Will Never Die (4:20), City Melody (6:10), Traffic Light Song (2:41), The Teacher (1:54), The Experiment (7:25), The Whirlpool (4:17), The Hymn (8:46) Bonus Alternative Versions Traffic Light Song (2:42), The Hymn (5:58), The Experiment (8:45)
The majority of people will only associate Arthur Brown with his big hit, Fire. However, he has released numerous albums over the years, exploring many musical styles, three of which were with the prog/psych band Kingdom Come. The band, Brown on vocals accompanied by Andy Dalby (guitars), Phil Shutt (bass), Slim Steer (drums) and Goodge Harris (keyboards), recorded their second, eponymously titled, album in the famous Rockfield Studios in Wales in early 1972. If Brown's first album, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown was infused with fire, the first Kingdom Come album, Galactic Zoo Dossier was more linked to earth and the elemental allegory was continued on the latest album but focusing on water.
Brown is something akin to the Julian Cope of his era, a true maverick if ever there was one. And this is reflected in the album which, to be honest, is not an easy album to get into. Brown admits himself that not everything on the album works as well as he would have liked and several 'interjections' in the songs are obviously inspired by acid which was liberally being consumed by the band at the time. At best these less musical interludes are whimsical folly, at worst rather tortuous and distracting, but fortunately they are generally rather brief. Opening track Water takes a while to get going with sound effects from a party being superseded by a recording of a storm at sea. However, when the music does start (after about two minutes) we are treated to some very atmospheric keyboards and guitar that gently lead into a pretty decent song with Brown at times sounding not unlike Scott Walker. The song ends with some nice organ work before a brief period of nonsense leads into Love Is A Spirit That Will Never Die, a genuine classic song that deserves much wider attention - a lovely blend of organ and piano mixed with a fine guitar solo. More pseudo theatricals preface City Melody which is a rather good organ solo that has a touch of early Keith Emerson about it. The end of the track is a collage of sound effects and odd bits and pieces that can be positioned alongside Revolution No. 9 from them there Beatles and is quite an amusing listen.
As we head into the middle of the album things start to deteriorate a bit with Traffic Light Song and The Teacher being somewhat throwaway nonsense and The Experiment being a collection of disparate musical pieces which at its core has a decent riff but is confused by having so many layers and so much craziness that one wonders if it is just one elaborate joke, particularly the Lower Colonic Irrigation section featuring rather infantile humour based on farting. However, Hymn ensures that the album ends on a high note, with the band stretching out giving Dalby the opportunity to lay down an extended solo backed by plenty of mellotron and some prominent and at times inventive drum patterns. As for the bonus cuts, well Traffic Light doesn't get any better second time around, the shorter, alternative take of Hymn features piano rather than mellotron and easily withstands the repetition while the alternative version of The Experiment is rather more coherent than the release on the original album, featuring less wackiness and focusing more on the music.
This re-release will please fans of the original with a definitive remaster enhancing the sound and a booklet that features some rare, and wild, photographs. Definitely a product of its time, the album will largely be a curio for others and despite a few excellent songs its inconsistent nature hardly makes it an essential purchase. However, this, and the re-release of the other Kingdom Come titles, should prompt a worthy re-evaluation of Brown's position in musical history.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Arthur Brown And Kingdom Come - Journey
CD1: Time Captives (8:23), Triangles (3:14), Gypsy (9:13), Superficial Roadblocks [i. Lost Time, ii. Superficial Roadblocks, iii. Corpora Supercelestia] (6:58), Conception (2:09), Spirit Of Joy (3:16), Come Alive (8:48)
CD2: Spirit Of Joy [single version] (2:50), Slow Rock [b-side] (3:55), Time Captives [alternative version] (7:09), Conception [alternative version] (2:01), Come Alive [alternative version] (8:23), Slow Rock [BBC session] (7:08), Spirit Of Joy [BBC session] (8:35), Triangles [BBC session] (3:11)
The third and final album by Arthur Brown And Kingdom Come was released in early 1973 and once again showed a completely different style to the previous two albums by the band. The most dramatic change was the absence of a drummer, a human beat generator being replaced completely by a machine for the first time in recording history. Another change was a new keyboard player in Victor Periano although Andy Dalby and Phil Shutt, on guitar and bass respectively, remained from previous albums. The use of the drum machine meant that the music was more linear and uniform than on the eponymous Kingdom Come album, although the fact that the band had cut back on their allegedly copious acid consumption may have had an impact on reducing the more 'out there' aspects of the previous release.
The album begins with Time Captives that has a lengthy metronomic drum machine intro the tempo of which is gradually increased as first Dalby and then Periano start adding some cosmic sound effects. The greater use of synthesizers, particularly the new VCS3 which was also being experimented with by Pink Floyd who were in the process of recording Dark Side Of The Moon at the time, contributes to the song bearing a degree of similarity to Hawkwind. The song segues smoothly into
Triangles cleverly utilising a different drum machine sound to differentiate the start of the new number. The track got its name through the experimental way in which the guitar parts were determined - Brown would literally move a triangle along the fret board with only notes inside the area of the triangle being the only ones that Dalby was allowed to play. The resulting instrumental number is quite quirky with the keyboards mimicking the tone determined by the guitar. A mix of Mellotron and synth introduces Gypsy, the first song where the limitations of the drum machine are immediately apparent. The song also sounds very primitive in many respects, at least in the first four minutes where the band seem rather disjointed and almost playing against each other. However, once the tempo increases things become rather more cohesive with some interesting melody lines. Another difference from previous albums is the relative lack of vocals thus far. Brown provides some typical vocals in the first half of Gypsy but his contributions to the second half are electronically manipulated. The three-part Superficial Roadblocks begins in an almost baroque manner with the very brief Lost Time which exemplifies the string quartet approach that the group were trying to achieve when writing the parts for the instruments. The second part again features a mass of Mellotron which is accompanied by a lively guitar riff and more treated vocals while Corpora Supercelestia is largely a guitar solo followed by a lone Mellotron which also sounds rather twee.
Conception allows Shutt a chance in the limelight with his bass being right to the fore with Brown adding vocals that are pretty much from the 'primal scream' school of singing! Doesn't really go anywhere as a number but is a sufficiently strange piece of music before the more 'conventional' song Spirit Of Joy which is inevitably the reason it was chosen as the single. The template for the song was suggested by original keyboard Goodge Harris before he departed as he believed that the album needed to contain what he referred to as a 'proper song'. Maybe the excess experimentation, both chemically and musically, was one of the deciding factors for his leaving. The song itself is quite catchy, particularly in the shorter single version (included on the second disc of this release) where the more esoteric components have been edited out. Final track on the album, Come Alive, was the third of the seven songs to exceed the eight-minute mark and the second song which was co-written with Harris. Again, and presumably also down to Harris' influence, the song is less experimental than some of the other pieces and employs the synthesiser to generate some more of those space rock effects. It is also the most wordy of the songs, somewhat ironic as it is only one of two songs that Brown did not have a hand in writing (the other being the instrumental Triangles).
The second disc is a collection of bonus material that has mostly not been previously released. The first two tracks are the single lifted from the album: the aforementioned edit of Spirit Of Joy and the non-album track Slow Rock, which is rather good with the exception of an odd falsetto vocal section. The alternative versions of three album tracks are not dramatically different from the released versions although no doubt fans who have lived with the original versions for many years will be able to spot the differences in an instant. Needless to say, the alternative versions are a real bonus for the enthusiast and collector and the fact that the two best songs on the album, Time Captives and Come Alive, are included amongst the three is an additional plus. (Actually, on more careful listening, the versions of all three tracks do contain quite a few differences and, in my opinion, have a more warmer feel). Last three tracks are from a September 1972 John Peel session that was long thought lost. The recordings are taken from an 'off air' source so fidelity is not as good as other bonus cuts but are certainly listenable and their rarity value justifies inclusion. Both sides of the single are included in the session with Slow Rock being a more straightforward interpretation with some decent keyboard work from Periano. It is also extended well beyond the length of the b-side version, as is Spirit Of Joy which is three times the length of the 45rpm version. (According to the definitive book of Radio 1 recordings, In Session Tonight, at the time of the session the song was going under the name Van Gogh's Not Ear! Surprisingly the band had recorded another Peel session the previous week performing the tracks Time Captains, Director General and Steer Out. It is not known if these latter two songs were early versions of album tracks with working titles, unreleased songs or if a copy of the session still exists). The versions of Spirit Of Joy and Slow Rock from the Peel session included on the bonus disc are presumably more akin to the way they would have been played live and show the flexibility of the 'Bentley Rhythm Ace' drum machine (so good that it even had a band named after it!) which was operated by Brown during concerts. Ah, the days before everything had to be pre-programmed! Again, these versions are, to me, superior in style and execution, to the released versions. Finally, Triangles shows that even the experimental numbers could effectively be reproduced in the live arena. Obviously it is somewhat disappointing that the BBC no longer has the original tapes but definitely a bonus that the session exists in some form.
Journey is another fine, although not essential, reissue from Esoteric. For anyone wanting to replace a vinyl edition of the album with a digital copy then the care, detail and bonus material will make this a welcome addition to the Esoteric catalogue. Indeed, the album is of historical importance given the pioneering use of a drum machine and, if the press release is to believed, the three Kingdom Come albums are now considered to be "masterworks and rightly regarded as classics". Well, maybe...
Conclusion: 6 out of 10