Reviews in this issue:
- Dorian Opera - Crusade 1212
- Eureka – Silverware ~ The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010
- Jump - The Beachcomber
- Silentclock – Elephants And Porcelain
- Dropshard - Anywhere But Here
- Conqueror – Madame Zelle
- Patrick Vega - Anima [EP]
- Fusonic – Desert Dreams
- Rock 4 Life (VA) - Volume 19
Dorian Opera - Crusade 1212
Tracklist: Overture 1212 (5:13), Soldiers Of Fortune (5:37), Sermon In Saint - Denis (5:43), Follow Your Heart (9:12), Crusades (6:08), Two Hearts (4:13), Harbour Of Marseilles (5:15), Carthago (5:25), So Long (4:09), Hope (6:18)
Well 2011 is shaping up to be another good year in the world of prog metal. I was presented with the new Dorian Opera album Crusade 1212 for reviewing. Dorian Opera are a band that consists of five very talented individuals, which includes the very enigmatic keyboardist Andrew Roussak, this being their second album, their first album No Secrets scored a very impressive 7.5 out of 10, missing out being a DPRP recommendation due to some slight naivety in production and lyrical content. This has all been addressed this time around, the production quality is crystal clear and the band have offered an epic piece, that is in the same league as the premiership players of prog metal. For me this album sounds like Dorian Opera have entered the building and come of age.
The band consists of Sven the Axe (vocals), Oliver Weislogel (guitar), Joe Eisenburger (bass) and Andrew Roussak (keyboards and backing vocals), Harry Reischmann (drums) and Alexandra Goess as guest vocalist. The members of the band have all played together in various bands over the years, something that comes across well, especially when you hear the quality of their interaction.
The level of musicianship displayed here is rather stunning and outstanding, powerful musical interactions, well thought out songs that feature some really interesting time changes that is married by what can only be described as outstanding dexterity from all the participants. This is a band that plays high energy music, tearing their instruments up with style. We are talking about a band that has brought all their elements together, taking influence from the likes of Dream Theater, Symphony X and classic bands such as Yes, Rush and ELP and adding baroque, classical, renaissance and medieval music into the mix. This can only lead to an exercise in high craftsmanship placed in the right hands; these are the hands and the band don’t disappoint.
The instrumental Overture 1212 opens the album with style setting the scene, a powerful and highly charged piece that is laced with time changes that allows the track to grow creating atmosphere, never waiving far from incorporating perfect melodies created by the Roussak’s keyboard framework and Weislogel’s scaling guitar runs, a perfect scene setter for the album. Opening with such strength really confirms that the band have created something that is rewarding for the listener as well as its creator. The frenetic Soldiers Of Fortune powers its way into your ears, starting the epic story of Jan and Constance, Sven’s strong vocals are perfect for the whole concept, selling the story as if he was actually participating in the actual historical event. The whole song just plays through with musical melodic wizardry, being text book perfect in its presentation, not cold and clinical but with character and presence. This maybe a song about a mercenary, but the interaction of the band confirms that these guys aren’t hands for hire. Sermon In Saint - Denis is a darker song which harbours an excitement, where Sven who at times sounds vaguely like Geoff Tate, really utilises his lung capacity, a duet with the rather stunning Alexandra Goess. The climaxing guitar wails and runs which are reinforced by the layered keyboards and stunning and solid drum stickmanship of Reischmann really set the piece alive.
Follow Your Heart offers an epiphany, a moment that really confirms just how good Andrew Roussak really is, creating a culmination of varying sonic and musical approaches, beautiful, sedate, limbering, dexterous, complex and convoluted. That’s not to take away from the rest of the band as they are definitely at the top of their game here too. This really is premier prog metal at its best with the band following him with total trust and belief? The augmentation of duelling, echoing, mirroring keyboard and guitar interchanges may not be an original approach, but the way it’s played and presented here, it really does ignite the piece. Crusades is vocally refrained, being the second instrumental seeing Weislogel surpassing himself with his playing which is stunning, fast and clear which takes the band to a whole new level. This is just a playground of excitement, the to’ing and fro’ing of musical excellence, like kids entering a candy shop for the first time. Two Hearts makes good use of the medieval approach, tones that see Goess really manipulating the storyline with her powerful prowess, a midnight dialog, a madrigal from the Renaissance and early Baroque eras with a modern twist, which strangely seems to fade out very quickly. Harbour Of Marseilles steps the pace up with some urgency, Reischmann almost effortless and tireless drumming really underpins the movement. Roussak duels with his own keyboard tones that offer an almost desperate and frustrated effect with the realisation of opportunity and hope arriving in the end. Carthago becomes a musical conversation, having a more basic approach than the other tracks, which as ever is full of Roussak and Weislogel personality, which just seems to fade and end abruptly. So Long exalts a majestic tone, almost hymnal as it starts to bring the journey that is Crusade 1212 to an end, whilst Hope sombrely ends the journey, with finality, emotionally, being the food for the spirit and strength for the musical soul.
Repeated listens to this album makes for a rewarding experience. We see again that the band have created a very strong album which is finely balanced, dynamic and melodic. As you travel the journey with the band, the story and the music just suck you in. Dorian Opera has stepped up to the plate, stepped up a gear and succeeded. Early 2011 see’s another excellent prog metal album being released.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Eureka – Silverware ~ The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010
Tracklist: Solid Ground (4:42), The Challenge (3:36), Departure (3:13), Going Home (5:15), Will You Ever Return? (3:22), The Calling (5:52), Sol Y Sombra (4:15), The Village (6:50), Hunting The Frog (2:58), Highland Sun (3:42), Arabesque (3:44), Tempus Novum (3:40), The Full Circle (9:07), Into The Blue (3:24)
In 2009 I reviewed Shackleton’s Voyage, a concept CD from German multi-instrumentalist Frank Bossert and the fourth release under his Eureka moniker (we regrettably missed his first three releases). Eureka has a new greatest hits (using the term loosely) collection out, and in the press release that came with the promo copy Bossert is quoted as saying “after the first four albums a chapter for Eureka is closing, and I wanted to celebrate accordingly”.
The style of music Eureka plays is cinematic, symphonic prog with Celtic and world music influences. The fourteen tracks on Silverware ~ The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010 include one new song and three re-recordings, with various guest musicians helping out across the CD.
So for the Eureka die-hards out there, let’s get right to the new tune. It’s entitled Solid Ground and written by Bossert in dedication to his wife Raina. In addition to lead and backing vocals from Bossert, the new track features the wonderful vocal harmonies of Katharina Raschke, Lena Wulff, and Martje Johannsen (known collectively as the vocal trio Kalema) who Bossert also enlisted for Shackleton’s Voyage. Solid Ground offers soulful electric and light acoustic guitar from Bossert, and Kalema’s sojourn into some wordless backing vocal territory is not unlike that heard in Mostly Autumn.
A generous roundup of four tracks from Shackleton’s Voyage makes their way onto Silverware. To paraphrase a bit of my review of Shackleton’s Voyage:
“Will You Ever Return? is a chamber style ballad with some nice acoustic guitar soloing. Bossert lays down some symphonic synths on... Going Home. Going Home also features dramatic bass synth touches from Bossert and vocals from (Billy) Sherwood (Lodgic, World Trade, ex-Yes, Circa, Yoso, Sherwood/Kaye Project) which are nicely unadorned by the usual processing and multi-tracking that plagues much of his other vocal work. The other vocal Sherwood track is The Challenge, a mid-tempo number... (Troy) Donockley’s (Iona, Nightwish, many more) bagpipes and flute add an emotive flair...”
Now I will touch on the three re-recordings. I have not heard the originals, so I present them here in their current context. Into The Blue, originally from the debut Eureka release, showcases a melodic world beat waltz, with songbird-like guitar, Theremin style synth leads and abyss-deep Taurus pedals from Bossert underpinned by some snaky didgeridoo from Björn Both.
The re-recording of The Calling, a folk-based piece centering on the theme of failed love, features a new lead vocal from Esther Marake and her singing voice is similar to that of Lisa Fury, who sang on the Karnataka release The Gathering Light. Concert bass drum, moody fretless bass, and harp style synths from Bossert flavor the song along with plaintive bagpipes from Manuel Knortz and chiming rings of percussion from Ralph Schmedeke.
Schmedeke’s percussion chimes in again on the re-recording of The Village, which tells the story of the lost hamlet of Altenwerder, a quarter in the Harburg borough of Hamburg that was removed from the map to make way for a container terminal. The song spotlights backing vocals from Stephan Bork and straightforward lead vocals, pastoral acoustic guitar, baritone style synths, melancholy mandolin and flourishes of cymbal from Bossert. Kalle Johannsen, Knortz, and Sven Christiansen are credited with narration.
The colourfully designed CD booklet contains lyrics and credits, as well as written commentary from Bossert, some of which was referenced in this review.
Eureka, as I mentioned in my review of Shackleton’s Voyage, will most likely appeal to fans of symphonic and concept-based music. If you seek something mainstream, this isn’t it.
The future of Eureka or another Bossert project will unfold when it is ready. In the meantime, Silverware ~ The Best Of Eureka 1997-2010 is a DPRP-recommended starting point. Discover, as it were, Eureka!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jump - The Beachcomber
Tracklist: <1>Down Three Times (5:03), Dead Man's Shoes (5:11), Kingston Corner Blues (4:35), Rosetta Stoned (5:09), No-one Spoke (5:07), The Sniper (4:58), On Bended Knee (4:34), Eyes On The Prize (3:47), Lennard's Blues (4:14), Suffering In Silence (4:11), Forgive Me My Sins (6:21)
Despite this being their 11th studio album to date, Jump have probably a greater reputation live than they do as recording artists. I can recall for example in 2007 seeing this hard working sextet supporting Spock’s Beard and they virtually stole the show from under the Beard’s noses (if you excuse the pun). An ear for a good tune and the personal, story telling lyrics of charismatic front man John Dexter Jones has found favour with many UK prog audiences. This has included nearly 30 appearances for the Classic Rock Society since the band’s formation in 1990.
The Beachcomber is made up of no less than eleven songs, all in the mid-tempo mainstream rock vein. Jones’ voice (and words) provides the main focus of attention along with the fluid lead and rhythm guitar lines of Steve Hayes and Steve Rundle. Jones’ high register (sounding not unlike Chris De Burgh) doesn’t for me quite convey the same power and conviction as it does live. Whilst the drumming of Andy Baker is rock solid throughout prog fans I’m sure will particularly appreciate Phil Mayhew’s articulate bass work. Keyboardist Mo Hayes on the other hand loses out a little with keys in my opinion buried far too low in the mix despite the otherwise excellent production.
As Jump continue to plough their own unique brand of British rock well into the 21st century, their sound for me has its roots in the 80’s and tuneful post punk bands like Del Amitri. That said, the rocky opener Down Three Times has an almost folky ambiance thanks to the nostalgic tone of Jones’ lyrics and the strident fiddle playing of guest musician Alice Atkinson (daughter of producer Martin Atkinson). Alice also adds the smooth sound of saxophone to the concluding Forgive Me My Sins, a very talented young lady indeed.
Elsewhere the emotive Kingston Corner Blues stands out as does the punchy Dead Man's Shoes and the catchy On Bended Knee. There is also some particularly fine acoustic and electric guitar interplay during The Sniper. Superb examples of Jones’ wry observations on the consequences of human nature include the tragic Rosetta Stoned and No-one Spoke.
Whilst The Beachcomber is not an album destined to set the world alight it is nonetheless a fine example of British rock that places as much emphasis on the lyrical content as it does the music. Jones’ writing with its working class sensibilities is for me in the grand tradition of Ray Davies, Pete Townsend, Paul Weller and Billy Bragg (minus the politics). If you haven’t already caught up with the Jump boys live I strongly recommended you do so at your earliest opportunity.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Silentclock – Elephants And Porcelain
Tracklist: 5.6.7 (3:49), My Demons (4:46), We Are (3:57), I Used To Ride It Out (5:45), Let Down (4:32), Stand For Benefit (3:41), Heavenly Voices (4:41), Nothing Else [But A Dream] (5:04), Endless Electrical Motion Soundtrack (2:37), Colours (10:43), That Kind Of Romance (4:57)
This young French band proclaim on their web site that their main influences are Pink Floyd, Coldplay and Radiohead, and its safe to say it’s the latter two bands who are the best pointers to the sound that the band craft on their debut offering Elephants And Porcelain. Although they describe themselves as ‘pop/rock’ on their MySpace site, Silentclock are likely to appeal to fans of bands such as The Pineapple Thief, Gazpacho and late 90’s era Porcupine Tree.
The album opens rather weakly with the unremarkable 5.6.7. but gets going properly with My Demons, with its nicely creeping guitars and strong momentum, although the chorus is a little chaotic to work as intended. Vocalist Baptiste Labeyrie has a voice that is similar to The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord, although in a slightly lower register.
Other highlights include the up-tempo High, with its chiming guitars and brash, energetic feel; I Used To Ride It Out, with its strong stick-in-the-head chorus; the melancholic, acoustic-led Nothing Else [But A Dream] which has a warmly nostalgic feel to it, and the ten-minute-plus Colours, a song which builds gently, with hypnotic use of repeated guitar and keys motifs, and is also the song that shows the Floyd influence most prominently via a languid, Gilmour-esque guitar solo.
The production and arrangements are spot on throughout; I particularly liked the effective yet unobtrusive use of keyboards to bolster the songs. Ultimately two or three weaker tracks mean the album just misses out on recommended status, but this is a very promising debut that should find favour with fans of the bands I mentioned in the first paragraph.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Conqueror – Madame Zelle
Tracklist: Margaretha (14:47), Indonesia (5:22), Occhio DelÁlba (4:56), Fascino Probito (7:16), Eleganza Perfetta (6:25), H-21 (7:34), Doppio Gioco (5:36), Da Sola (5:38), Ad Occhi Alti (8:20)
Madame Zelle is Italian progressive outfit Conqueror’s fourth release in 16 years. Yes you’ve read correctly, 16 years and four albums - although it should be noted that the first Conqueror release was in 2003, so perhaps making it 11 years in the making. The band also state that this album consists of compositions throughout their career up to 2003. Now for their latest release Conqueror have taken the story of Madame Zelle - and they do what Italian prog does best - story telling.
Madame Zelle tells the story of Margarethe Geertruida Zelle (1876- 1917), known as as Madame Zelle or Mata Hari - has had her influence in the world. Being shot as an alleged German spy by the French in World War One. The story starts in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, passing through Indonesia, France, UK, Germany and finally ends as she is finally killed in France.
The group of musicians taking part in the story are: Simona Rigano: vocals and keyboards; Natale Russo: drums and percussions; Sabrina Rigano: flute and saxophone; Mario Pollino: guitars and Gianluca Villa: bass. The only member to have been with Conqueror from the start in 1994 is Natale Russo. Simona Rigano has been a member since the new start in 2002 and as such has also played on every album Conqueror have produced. Ever since their first album Natale and Simona have been the backbone of the band, the other members changing almost yearly.
The music Conqueror makes is your typical Italian progressive rock - which is best described as melancholic, eclectic in a way, but also certainly very melodic. It is almost always keyboard dominated, with long guitar solos to complete the songs - and this album is no different. The melody lines are strong with those Italian subtle changes like only Italian bands seem to really have a hang of.
I am, during my listening sessions, surprised by the sheer poetry of the songs, compositionally they have very complex structures but somehow sound like it is a piece of cake for the musicians playing them. Also I am utterly impressed that a band with so many line up changes manages to record albums of this nature and every time are able to find once again the musicians that fit into the band.
Now my Italian is not that strong, I do not always know what the songs are telling me but as I know some of the story behind Mata Hari, this enabled me to understand the first song telling the start of Margarethe’s life in the Netherlands - and as the album goes on, the various episodes are told.
The musical concept is a stunning one with subtle bits on keyboards followed by rocking guitars, in their turn interacting with a keyboard solo. Or vice versa, keyboard layers with long spun out guitar solos by Mario the additional flute and saxophone playing of Sabrina, which gives additional value to the songs, the subtlety in which these sections are played are the grandioso moments on the album. Bass player Gianluca also gets his moments in which he can really show off his playing, but mostly the songs revolve around the keyboards and voice of Simona. With her typical but nice way of singing the lyrics. Just one person left in need of credit for his work is Natale Russo who is one great drummer and percussionist. Apart from his drumming Natale also takes care of part of the recording of the album and of course he and Simona are the masterminds behind the project Madame Zelle.
In conclusion - Madame Zelle is an album that is certainly worth checking out, especially if Italian prog is of your liking - in the vein of PFM, Le Orme, Latte E Miele. All these bands have their own unique style but there are commonalities within the nature of their "melodramatic music". Conqueror are now ready to conquer the world - I am impressed - hat’s off to them.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Dropshard - Anywhere But Here
Tracklist: Anywhere But Here ~ Look Ahead (1:24), Anywhere But Home (6:21), Images Of Mind (5:59), A Cold Morning (4:18), Again (1:09), Changing Colours (8:17), A New Beginning (5:05), Look Behind (1:37) Bonus Track: Freedom Supermarket (5:45)
This little beauty dropped through my door, an unknown identity in my book. The only thing I know of this band is that they are playing at the Electric Garden Progressive Rock Festival.
So based upon that, I entered the CD into the car CD player for my journey to Oxford, an eight hour round trip I was making, to pick someone up. Mad, I know, but hey ho...
Anywhere But Here by Dropshard played for the whole eight hours straight, not one minute of irritation or boredom throughout. A feat in itself, but in all honesty this album is very mesmerizing, intriguing and beguiling, an album and band that has definitely gone for quality not quantity, which made the journey much more pleasurable. This is their debut album, but the band has also released some demo sessions prior to this called DS1 and DS2.
Sebastiano Benatti (electric and acoustic guitars), Tommaso Mangione (drums, percussions and sound effects), Alex Stucchi (bass and vocals), Tommaso Selleri (keyboards) and Enrico Scanu (vocals, flute and acoustic guitar on track 5) make up this fantastic Italian prog metal band, (a country renowned for its quality prog metal bands), and have by all accounts taken influence from the likes of early Genesis and Polish prog metallers Riverside according to the accompanying literature, something that I am not too sure I agree with totally with, (although Italian prog bands to have a very good knack of emulating bands like Genesis without being obvious at first glance), but I can fully understand the analogy, the references I would have used would have been Brave era Marillion, Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation and Riverside. Once you scratch under the surface and multiple listens later, you realise that there is just has so much more on offer here, than you first thought.
The album basically has two tracks, with the opening conceptual piece, a suit being presented in eight segments, which seamlessly flows from the beginning to the end and then a bonus cut called Freedom Supermarket.
The album is full of perfect unadulterated harmonies both vocally and musically, inflections of metal guitar work which at times is complex, convoluted and expressive. One minute you are faced with heavy guitar riffs, the next sedate and relaxed acoustic meanderings.
Look Ahead opens with some beautiful vocally harmonies which set the stalls out, a statement of intent, that the following musical and lyrical journey is one of passion and personal significance, which segues seamlessly into Anywhere But Home. The understated and highly layered keyboards heighten the emotions of the song, as the powerful and repeating guitar runs played, amplifies the lyrical prose, questioning, searching and trying to understand, not so much what they are saying but more what they aren’t, being a song built on perfection and interesting time changes. Tommaso Selleri weaves his tones like a support to Enrico Scanu vocals on the opening of Images Of Mind, but it’s not long before things heat up when the power that is Sebastiano Benatti kicks in with his signature guitar sound, working in unison with Selleri, creating a more dimensional approach, solid and strong. Even the lead breaks by Benatti are stunning, never outstaying their welcome, precise in approach. The whole dynamic of the piece is colourful, being built on so many layers.
An acoustic lead A Cold Morning works hand in hand with the impassioned and rich vocal approach, the band have opted to really manipulate the whole atmosphere, layering and repeating the vocal harmonies, which makes you really sit up and take heed with what is going on. Intelligently the band have chosen diversity in their song structures, which keeps it all fresh and stops it from meandering, something that the song Again masterfully achieves. Changing Colours undulates, searching, calling with despair a lost of control unlike the music, a fine balance of electric and acoustic, a tone that is never lost due to the great production that has been applied. This is something that is evident all the way through the whole album. The bonus for me here is that Benatti’s guitar work is really allowed to breathe inventively opening the way for the hard sounding A New Beginning. Selleri’s keyboards wrestle with the impending guitar structures that anchor the whole piece aggressively whilst Scanu vocally steps up a gear, turning the heat up, really mixing things up. The band has no option but to follow as they are just dragged along, which climaxes with reflection. Alex Stucchi bass contributions and Tommaso Mangione drumming is just stunning the whole way through, never letting the side down, which is what makes this band so exciting. No sooner has the suit started with the beautiful vocalisation; the whole suite ends in the say manner with Look Behind, but such is the power of this suit, it will demand repeated listens, make no mistake of that.
Album closer Freedom Supermarket the bonus track, is almost play time for the band, to lighten the mood of the masterpiece that has been created; it’s see’s the band take a more complex approach, diverse and rockier, a balance of fun, allowing the band to showcase their technical wizardry.
The whole approach of the albums concept maybe about the world seen through the eyes of a young innocent individual, but make no mistake, the band have taken a very mature approach in the construct, that doesn’t so much asks for your attention more demands it. Stunning stuff indeed!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Patrick Vega - Anima
Tracklist: Quake (2:40), Be Like Water (3:21), Falkor (3:28), Fire Walk With Me (2:38), Anima (3:54)
Austrian born, (and now residing in Los Angeles), guitarist Patrick Vega returns with this short download EP, his second release in 2010. Patrick's last two substantial releases Freefall Faith Firestorm (2007) and 8 Bullets (2010) have been favourably reviewed at DPRP. For Anima Patrick has chosen to go it completely alone and playing all the parts himself - (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums & programming). For his previous album he had enlisted the services of two drummers.
Introductions over and in case you hadn't already guessed Anima is a guitar instrumental album. I hear many a shudder - but hold on a second please - because I am pleased to report we may have a little gem on our hands. Now there was a time at DPRP when it seemed that the reviewing of the so called "guitar instrumental album" fell on these shoulders. I didn't particularly mind this as I had grown up with such greats as Al Di Meola, Allan Holdsworth, John McLaughlin, Steve Morse etc and had gone on to enjoy a later resurgence with guys like Vai, Satriani and Johnson - equally as rewarding. However tedium started to creep in as more and more albums arrived with the perpetrators more hell bent on displaying their fingerboard dexterity rather than actually coming up with some listenable music. There have been exceptions to this along the way and Patrick Vega is one of them...
So Anima isn't a long listen by any means and at just over sixteen minutes it is over far too quickly. What we have however in those sixteen minutes are five concisely written pieces that are strong on melody and structure. The guitar, although ever present, creates an atmosphere with its layered parts and infectious themes. Anima also has keyboards, (I don't remember these being present on previous releases), which again adds to the sonic palette. And finally we come to the drums, which has been a point of discussion on previous releases. For this release I have to say that the drums (and more so the sound) worked for me. Rhythmically they add to the tracks and the more "dated electronic drum" sounds give a different bent to the music. Now it is not difficult these days to find excellent quality drum samples, so I can only assume that the sounds used here are deliberate.
Musically I would have to say we are in Joe Satriani territory, circa Flying In A Blue Dream and onwards. As mentioned the beauty of this EP is the fact that the music is catchy and listenable and by the second run through of Anima, the themes had lodged in the mind. Be Like Water is particularly catchy - but that could be that the intro reminded me of a David Bowie track. Combine this with the previously mentioned drums, added keyboards, effects and the rockier edged guitar and we have some interesting music on offer. The icing on the cake is the guitar work - certainly Patrick is no slouch here, on the contrary he is a very fine player, but what I liked was that the guitar work was integral to the music. So you more than look forward to the solo sections rather than pray for them to end ;0)
Anima is a download only release at present. As Patrick says indirectly, (or perhaps even directly), on his website - selling his music in any other format is almost impossible. A shame really...
To conclude and if I have read correctly Patrick Vega is already working on his next album which will be recorded in a studio and with real drums. So something to look forward to. For now this is a pleasant taster and should you wish to grab a listen to Anima then follow the "Samples" link above. If you like what you hear, then for a little more than a McDonald's indigestion burger meal (regular), you could have this EP...
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Fusonic – Desert Dreams
Tracklist: Beyond Music (5:00), Entrance (2:26), Into The Dream (4:47), Desert Theme Part I (2:10), Yellow Horses (5:54), Bachianas: Theme & Variations (7:30), Desert Theme Part II & III (4:15), My Green Oasis (9:23), Brazilieras (6:49), Desert Theme Part IV (2:08), Fata Morgana (3:40), Desert Dawn (6:13), Endless – Exit (8:21), New Feelings (5:29)
Ronald Hoogwout (drums & percussion), Harry Ickelsheimer (keyboards & bass) and Teo (guitar & bass) are the basic trio that form Fusonic. The trio are augmented by keyboard player Sjak Franssen who makes a guest appearance. It should be noted that on the website the band claims to use a varied scala of instruments and whilst listening to the album I was definitely able to hear more instruments than those mentioned above.
Fusonic have not been around that long, if my information is correct, having completed a try out gig of their music in the winter of 2009 at a place called , "de Boerderij" - no, not the famous prog venue in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands, but a venue of the same name in their hometown of Assen. The audience were very pleased with what they heard and in response the boys of Fusonic were enthused from that point onward to the point of producing an album for themselves. That album is Desert Dreams and the music under review here.
Desert Dreams is what the title implies - one long dreamy journey with a lot of what appears on the surface to be improvised music. Although the album is a conceptual one, the boys really make it worthwhile to visit their musical journey. The whole concept is built around two stories, one created by mastermind Teo and the other created by Ronald Hoogwout. Desert Dreams is an instrumental album with only a few spoken words at the beginning of Entrance and even then it is in Dutch.
The guitar playing is smooth, technical, very precise and full of emotion. The band list Camel and Focus, amongst others, as influences and certainly these can be heard throughout. The rest of the band also acheive the same high standard of playing and whilst musically it leans towards lengthy improvised sections, in itself not a bad thing, Fusonic show us that they are still able to come up with very good songs. Whether or not these songs will be the same when played live in front of an audience.
Now I can’t be totally sure here, but putting the improvisation pointer aside, the music is very soothing, relaxing and music that you can close your eyes to, drifting into the mellow dream world that Fusonic are creating. Once you put on the album there is no stopping it, you will listen to it in full - this creation just demands that you listen to it in full. Great to listen to at the end of a very busy day...
In conclusion this a great debut album with nice tunes, grabbing the attention to the fullest, but in a very mellow and dreamy fashion. Probably not for an across the broad release, but if you like instrumental at a gentler pace then this may well be for you. If not approach with caution.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Rock 4 Life (VA) - Volume 19
Tracklist: Misunderstanding Almost Home (4:25), Paint The Lilies Words (4:40), Stelios Botonakis Tna Valo Plori (4:17), Purple Enclosure Cinnamon (5:26), Monoplain Let It Go (5:31), Roney Giah A Chuva (4:36), The Ocean Band High Shutters Speed (5:05), Aze Sputniki Satellites (3:39), Downsteps Gabrielle (4:34), Fingerprince No Lies [No More] (3:38), Domino Effect Hypocrite Society (3:44), The Kat My F* Valentine (3:45), Little Jimmy Reeves Drowsy Dogs (3:46), Dimitris Panagopoulos Ridin' In The Moonlight (2:48), Dimitris Panagopoulos Aura (3:24), Personality Crisis Die And Let Live (3:41), Yakamashii You Don't Care (5:15), Ashtoreth Falling Down (7:27)
A little over three years ago I reviewed the Rock In Asia compilation which in terms of musical content stretched the boundaries of the DPRP’s normal reviews policy but the CD was for a worthy cause. In a similar vein comes Rock 4 Life - Volume 19 which features another assortment of international bands gathered together with the purpose of raising money and awareness for a particular cause. This time the chosen beneficiary is research into the treatment of PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis), a chronic liver disease which is currently curable only by transplant.
The musical styles here are almost as diverse as the countries represented which includes Argentina, Indonesia, Greece, Denmark, Brazil, Malaysia, Russia, Australia, Luxembourg and Singapore. The album opens with Misunderstanding’s slow burning U2ish Almost Home and takes in a mammoth 16 songs before closing with Ashtoreth’s hard rocking Falling Down (which is pure Iron Maiden). In between rock, pop, metal, blues, folk and punk are all represented although unfortunately there is little in the way of prog. That said, Purple Enclosure’s haunting Cinnamon comes pretty close and there is some strident Jon Lord style organ during the powerful High Shutters Speed by The Ocean Band (the only group here I’ve previously heard of). Call me bias but in my opinion these are also the album’s best tracks.
Given the nature of this album and the music presented I’ve decided to pass on a final rating as it would be unfair of me to presume its appeal to a prog audience. Besides, regardless of personal tastes there is much to enjoy here and I don’t believe there’s one really bad track in the entire collection.