Reviews in this issue:
- Blackfield – Welcome To My DNA (Duo Review)
- Credo - Against Reason (Duo Review)
- Univers Zero - Heresie
- Aethyr - Messio
- TDW – Scrapbook
- Bruce Arnold - Heavy Mental
- Igayon – To Go
- Matthew Anderson – Uncaged [EP]
Blackfield – Welcome To My DNA
Tracklist: Glass House (2:56), Go To Hell (3:03), Rising Of The Tide (3:48), Waving (3:55), Far Away (2:47), Dissolving With The Night (4:06), Blood (3:18), On The Plane (3:42), Oxygen (3:05), Zigota (5:04), DNA (3:57)
Geoeff Feakes' Review
When we covered the last Blackfield album Blackfield II in 2007, such was the level of interest the Round Table Review consisted of no less than six DPRP team members. With an average rating of 9 out of 10, my own personnel conclusion was 7.5 reflecting the belief that although it was a good release it didn’t impress me as much as the debut Blackfield album from three years earlier. As a result I approached this third studio offering from the team of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Israeli artist Aviv Geffen with an equal mix of expectation and trepidation. I was also conscious of the fact that due to Wilson’s commitments elsewhere all of the songs here bar one were composed by Geffen whereas before the division was more equal with Wilson’s contribution for me being the strongest.
That said Geffen’s Glass House is a gloriously poignant opener with a typically understated vocal and soaring Gilmour-esque guitar from Wilson. With the repeated line “F**k you all” Go To Hell is not a song to play in mixed company although paradoxically it’s delivered in deadpan fashion by Geffen. The swirling strings at the end are also strangely at odds with the lyrically content. The excellent Rising Of The Tide is a beautiful song that put me in mind of The Beatles at their most romantic with a gorgeous guitar and strings hook to play out.
The Wilson penned Waving is in a more up-tempo vein with a compelling wordless choral hook (recalling Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer) from the man himself. Keyboardist Eran Mitelman has does a superb job simulating the sounds of the orchestra and here he adds flute as well as stabbing string effects. Wilson remains at the microphone for Dissolving With The Night with a nasal delivery sounding very John Lennon backed by lilting piano and pulsating strings that build to a dramatic (John Barry style) orchestral conclusion. Great stuff!
Blood is easily the albums (and possibly the band’s) heaviest song thus far with powerful guitar riffs against a Middle-Eastern (or could it be Turkish?) flavoured backing with added weight from the always superb rhythm partnership of Seffy Efrat (bass) and Tomer Z (drums). On The Plane is a typically reflective song from the duo with the choral line “Daddies on his way” given added poignancy by Wilson’s tastefully restrained guitar solo. With Wilson and Geffen responsible for producing the other ten songs here, Oxygen is credited to Trevor Horn and his trademark punchy upfront sound coupled with the catchy melody makes this ideal singles material.
The Hebrew titled Zigota originally featured on Geffen’s solo album but here the vocal is distinctly Wilson’s. It features another compellingly haunting chorus with subdued mellotron and organ textures which leaves the listener unprepared for the sonic barrage at the end. The wistful and concluding DNA is perhaps not Blackfield’s strongest tune to date but it benefits from the soaring strings and gentle acoustic guitar that bring the song and the album to a stately close.
In addition to good old fashioned vinyl, Welcome To My DNA is available in CD format (standard and limited edition digi-book) although curiously my promo copy omits the track Far Away. No matter, the rest of the songs here are of a sufficiently high standard to rank this release alongside both its predecessors. A melancholic but beautiful and thought provoking collection, produced with meticulous attention to detail and an acute awareness of melody and structure that sometimes challenges, but always entertains the listener.
Hector Gomez' Review
Here’s the third (if excluding their Live In NYC release) chapter in this peculiar partnership between one of England’s current rock music headlights, and one of Israel’s most popular pop stars as well as a respected voice in social and political matters. The marriage of Steven Wilson’s and Aviv Geffen’s backgrounds might suggest that the outcome would sound like some kind of socially conscious art rock. Well, if you’ve followed this project you already know that that’s not the case. Instead, what you get with each Blackfield outing is a (concise) dose of beautiful, catchy pop songs with fairly sparse arrangements that, through their apparently personal/autobiographical nature, seem to be aimed to your feelings (hope not to have sounded too corny there…).
The nicely (and fittingly) titled Welcome To My DNA represents all of the above, but in my opinion it takes the project’s aesthetics even further and, excepting some string embellishments here and there, the songs are kept literally to their bare bones. In fact, I’d say they’ve been too “simplified” and shortened for my taste this time, but that might be the charm of Blackfield anyway… that is: to keep it nice and simple (though I don’t mean writing three minute pop gems is an easy task by any means).
Glass House makes a pretty opener, all warm feelings and delicate strings, and wouldn’t be out of place on Stupid Dream or Lightbulb Sun (even as a decent B-Side) but, as the exception that proves the rule, following track Go To Hell brings a vehement, repetitive message of venomous discontent through an anything-but-subtle motto: “Fuck you all, I don’t care anymore”. A bit too simplistic perhaps, but maybe that was the point anyway.
On the other hand, Rising On The Tide is again all melancholy, sadness and depression, with Wilson and Geffen alternating vocal duties, though presented in a more conventional pop envelope that gives it an oddly uplifting (sorry for the contradiction) feel.
A nice acoustic guitar introduces Waving, but then at the 1:15 mark comes a refreshing change of pace accompanied with some lovely handclapping, that speeds up the proceedings and breaks the somewhat sedate atmosphere that dominates the album. Please also note a beautiful Mellotron coda.
Aviv Geffen sings the piano ballad Dissolving With The Night and, even if his accent is still a bit too evident, it isn’t distracting at all and we can’t deny his vocals have improved considerably. Anyway, if you were missing Wilson’s voice, they come with the string section. A beautiful song.
Blood is the odd piece on Welcome To My DNA, a hard rocking Eastern-tinged affair maybe placed in the middle of the album to work as a hinge between its two halves. On The Plane is another trademark Blackfield gentle ballad, this time getting closer to Pink Floyd than anything else on the CD thanks to its dreamlike atmosphere.
Oxygen is one of the more vigorous songs on the CD, a socially conscious slice of pop where Geffen’s processed vocals give shape to one of Israel’s most respected (and feared) voices.
The “best song on the album” honour goes to Zigota, the longest and most elaborate piece of the lot; again, the references to middle-period PT are quite evident, and there’s a wonderful twist at the 4:21 mark that makes this song shine. A track that encapsulates the Blackfield sound in five minutes.
DNA is the pseudo-title track that wraps it all up, once again one of those languid ballads this band knows to craft so well, this time with an ominous touch. Not bad, but not memorable either.
All in all, a pleasant listen, with the occasional memorable passage, though this time I believe the songwriting is not as consistent and melodies not as touching as on previous efforts.
Credo - Against Reason
Tracklist: Staring At The Sun (10:02), Cardinal Sin (12:02), Intimate Strangers (8:39), Against Reason (3:26), Insane (8:01), Reason To Live (3:10), Conspiracy [MCF] (10:51), Ghosts Of Yesterday (13:34)
John O'Boyles' Review
Mike Varty (keys and backing Vocals), Mark Colton (vocals and percussion), Tim Birrell (electric and acoustic Guitars), Martin Meads (drums) and Jim Murdoch (bass and backing Vocals) are the members of Credo, the guys who brought us the rather stunning Rhetoric, (an album that was DPRP recommended), and now this their third studio release Against Reason.
From the opening invitation of Mike Varty’s keyboards on Staring At The Sun, the rest of the band step up to the plate to invite you into the world that is Credo, a landscape of exacting, precise and punctual musical passage, being melodic, catchy, bombastic, memorable, dark and to be perfectly honest rather spectacular. These guys may have been away for some time but the musical imagination and compositional genius of the band has not been idle. It’s hard to work out who is being the smartest here as the lyrical content is on parity with the presented notational dexterity. The anthemic approach as ever is very catchy, like that long lost love that you fondly call to mind, that puts a smile on your face as the image builds of those recurring memories. The repeating passages that are urgent in presentation are the staple of the song, seeing the rest of the band weaving in and out of Varty’s keyboard genius, scaling crescendos, one note solos, using all the guitar tones that I adore within music and it’s what neo prog is all about. The word play as ever is astute, thought provoking, enticing you right into the portal of Mark Colton’s dark world, which is a matter of fact, pulling no punches in its analogy or integrity.
Cardinal Sin bounces into the ether, a balance of one minute being sedate and ethereal without lacking substance, the next aggressive and pointed, a soiree of imagination, emotionally scaling heady heights, interjections of powerful musical statements that are allowed to build and build, being highly layered and intricate. Martin Meads really keeps the pace with his tribal approach where you can hear every beat perfectly, pounding out the sincerity of the piece, whilst Tim Birrell conjures up his guitar tones which give direction, one minute rhythmic the next leading. Varty’s keyboards as ever are never far away swooping and swaying throughout, stepping to the front and then nonchalantly stepping back into the shadows.
Intimate Strangers opens with its majestic tones, guitar work to die for, Colton being allowed to stamp his vocal and emotional authority over the song, with Jim Murdoch’s bass contributions really confirming Colton’s intentions. The whole piece may not initially sound as convoluted as the previous passages, but on further listening there is more going on underneath the surface than is first imagined.
Against Reason the second shortest piece, an instrumental, countless and infinite in its approach, being abstract in its positioning, music that meets the needs of a broad cross section, atmospheric, undulating and emulating, causing antagonistic muscle control, meandering before the start of the highly emotive and heavier Insane. Insane is a scathing attack questioning the morality of regimes and the insanity of mankind, how they treat each other, being brought into peoples homes via televisions, something that most have to suffer every day, a ballet, an opera, a lost innocence’s, musically taking many twist and turns, time changes that highlight the emotional rollercoaster. Colton’s calls are questioning statements, full of angst, frustrated and angry, saddened by the criminality and insanity of it all. As it grows in tempo the music really emulates the frustration of the whole situation, being an absolute perfect example of 80’s neo prog being brought up to date and a shining example of what Credo do best. Reason To Live is a haunting ethereal song, sedate in its approach, with the band taking a back seat, building melodies unobtrusively, featuring Colton’s passionate heartfelt tones offering reassurance, reinforcing that not only are Credo competent of producing long impressive opuses but are able to turn their hand to shorter impressionable songs too.
Conspiracy [MCF] displays that the pen is mightier than the sword, which has been put to good effect here, lyrically taking a similar approach as Insane, using language with persuasive effect, where the words are used to study and theorise social sciences. It really has been utilised well, which is more than evident and best heard on the stunning album closer Ghosts Of Yesterday. Rhetoric pure and simple, which is what they band are about.
“When all that’s left is hear say truth masquerades as lies, disarmingly economic with the facts, you fill them full of half truths, an illusion of the mind, confuse them with coincidence”
The music colludes, asserts, imposes itself in may guises, Varty underpins the movement, whilst Birrell, Meads and Murdoch work their magic, leading and following Colton’s stalking words. The instrumental segments throughout confirms that this is a band that is working in perfect harmony.
All good things do have to come to and end? Credo has found a perfect, yet sombre way of doing this, making you really question your role in the bigger picture of life, Ghosts Of Yesterday, intelligently engages the listener, confirming that you will revisit the whole album. The effects of a broken society, the lethargy and underwhelming need to do anything about, haunting, faces and names changing, vaguely familiar scenes, yet the story remaining the same, generation after generation. I defy anyone not to have an opinion on the content of this song; Mark Colton has absolutely nailed those emotions with his sublime word play. Colton and the band tell a story here one that most can relate to one way or another, a story that’s worth telling. This along with Staring At The Sun demonstrates perfectly the abilities of the band, a band who can marry challenging lyrics to powerful melodies, which create soundscapes with depth and tone. I may have just discovered the song of 2011?
“Village of the living dead, can’t be arsed get out of bed”
Some time may have past since these guys recorded as a unit, but with the quality of what has been written, recorded and performed here, that wait has been well worthwhile, confirming that these five musicians are definitely a perfect fit. I can only imagine that Mike has agonised over their production sound as it is crystal clear, knowing when to call it a day. This is an album that will appeal to fans of Marillion, Pallas, Twelfth Night and anyone who loves stunning melodies and the great neo prog approach. The list of great albums is starting to evolve slowly now, it looks like 2011 is going to be another strong year and Against Reason has just added itself to that list.
Geoff Feakes' Review
Shortly after joining the DPRP in 2005 my first CD review as I recall was Rhetoric, the long awaited second album from Credo. A glorious slice of neo-prog, it was a perfect introduction to the wonderful world of progressive rock reviewing. Since then Credo has released the 2009 DVD This Is What We Do which successfully transformed the songs from Rhetoric to the stage. Recorded in Poland it also included a selection of tunes from the 1994 debut Field Of Vision.
Whilst this latest offering from the band may perhaps lack some of the progy refinements of its predecessor it more than makes up for this with a more contemporary, polished and harder edge blessed with a particularly sharp production job from keyboardist Mike Vartry. Mark Colton in particular has matured as a vocalist with a more confident and distinctive delivery that’s less prone to the Fish mannerisms evident on Rhetoric.
Blessed with a compelling choral hook and riff, Staring At The Sun is a near perfect adrenalin-fuelled opener. Delivered at an energetic but tuneful pace it put me very much in mind of Marillion’s Incommunicado. The synth flurry at the end is a real joy whilst lyrically this is Credo wearing their ecological concerns firmly on their collective sleeves.
Cardinal Sin contains some of the album’s longer instrumental passages although here the tone is darker, more urgent than we’re used to from the band. Piano and guitar interlock in stately fashion whilst Varity delivers some particularly satisfying (and gritty) organ and synth solos. The air of impending menace is successfully sustained throughout the entire piece until it comes to a surprisingly abrupt end.
Intimate Strangers sees the band in more familiar territory with a beautifully melodic and structured arrangement underpinned by a warm undercurrent of Mellotron style keys. The story here concerns the same protagonists that featured in From The Cradle… To The Grave, one of the highlights of the last album. Lead guitarist Tim Birrell lays down some particularly fine and fluid guitar lines here.
The instrumental title track Against Reason features chiming electric guitar (ala Steve Rothery) providing a solid foundation for eerie keys effects and spacey guitar. Very pleasant but could easily be written off as filler if it wasn’t for the fact that the album clocks in at a generous 70 minutes.
The aptly titled Insane reflects on the atrocities presented nightly on our TV screens and appropriately it’s probably Credo’s heaviest song to date. A particularly acerbic vocal performance from Colton is given added weight by the solid rhythm partnership of bassist Jim Murdoch and drummer Martin Meads with the latter mimicking the sound of gunfire at the end.
In contrast the relatively short Reason To Live has a lush, dreamlike quality with superb harmonies and tastefully restrained playing from all concerned. The sensitive vocals in particular reminded me of German proggers Everon.
The band displays a welcome sense of cynicism throughout the album particularly during Conspiracy [MCF] which points an accusing finger at society’s more gullible. This is superbly conveyed by Colton’s vitriolic vocals underscored by one of the most powerful but coherent ensemble performances yet from Credo. The makings of a great live song, it’s rounded off nicely by a noodly synth break.
In true prog fashion, Credo has saved the best until last with the triumphant Ghosts Of Yesterday. Lyrically it has an introspective tone whilst musically the expansive, wide screen feel makes full use of its near 14 minute length. Slow burning to begin with, it opens it into an infectious choral melody that lingers in the memory long after the disc has stopped spinning. Guitar and synth soar and dive taking the song to its natural and epic conclusion.
In most every way this is a significant step forward from the previous Credo album. Whilst musically Rhetoric had one foot in the past, Against Reason has a bigger and bolder modern progressive rock sound. A real triumph and a welcome addition to the superb stable of albums that have come courtesy of the F2 label in recent years.
Univers Zero - Heresie
Tracklist: La Faulx (23:05), Jack The Ripper (13:20), Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu (12:51) Bonus Track: Chaos Hermetique (11:52)
R.I.O stalwarts Univers Zero continue to have their back catalogue remixed and re-mastered and re-released by the devoted guys over at Cuneiform Records. Here we presented with album number two Heresie, which was originally released in 1979, with its rather excellent high quality packaging and informative book, something that which we have grown accustomed to with products from Cuneiform Records, which has been bookended with a bonus track Chaos Hermetique, being the earliest incarnation of the track. Heresie for me is probably their most accessible album and a good starting point to jump aboard and hear what all the fuss is about.
As ever with Univers Zero the personnel on each album never remained the same even at this early stage in their career, a dynamic that reflected on their musical creations. This time out the band consisted of Michel Berckmans (oboe and bassoon), Daniel Denis (drums and percussions), Patrick Hanappier (violin and viola), Guy Segers (bass and voice) and Roger Trigaux (guitar, piano, organ and harmonium) and Vincent Motoulle (keyboards track 4).
Univers Zero always created music which they didn’t particularly care as to whether it was for man, woman or beast, its musical notation knew no boundaries, it’s dark, can be challenging, never dull, interesting and not always accessible. That’s where the excitement is.
La Faulx a twenty three minute plus journey, a journey perceived by Denis, one that you would expect to be written by someone who has an intricate mind for strange and obscure rhythmic patterns, it’s stark approach is devoid of any real emotion, gothic in its narrative; although it is tantalisingly intriguing in the same breathe. The music builds oddly with the final ensemble coming across as a soundtrack, which is something that Univers Zero has always excelled at, confirming what R.I.O is all about. Jack The Ripper doesn’t move in any lighter circles, in fact it is a very precise titled piece, which supports the character, twisting tones that sound anarchic in places, a law unto itself, stalking the listener from the shadows it creates, ready to strike at any given moment. The wind and string section emulate and confirm its arrogant growth, mirroring and echoing the darkness of its soundstage.
Vous Le Saurez En Temps Voulu literal translation is “To find out in time” being the shortest piece on the original release, again cusps the unemotional musical realms, which is succinctly punctuated throughout, its meter and timber weaving in and out of itself merrily, featuring an abundance of time changes and approaches, having more sense of urgency that the previous instrumentals being for me one of the standout tracks, although La Faulx for me is the epitome of what Univers Zero are about.
Chaos Hermetique an instrumental that has sat in the vaults for the last thirty five years, some detractors may say it should have stayed there, but it is more than a fitting piece to add to this album. This is a track that has been created by a band that had found their stride, playing with varying styles, jazz, rock, chamber music and coming up with a winning formula, confirming why the R.I.O movement was so important.
The power and magnitude of this music speaks for itself, the importance of what these guys create also speaks volumes, hearing it today confirms its validity; even now it still sounds fresh and daring. This is an album that is highly recommended for any R.I.O buffs out there, and as ever people who have more than a passing interest in Magma, Zappa, Crimson and Stravinsky especially in their more experimental approaches.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Aethyr - Messio
Tracklist: a.s.c I (6:34), Occultus I (10:22), Mass II (7:36), Occultus II (9:25), Ave_S (12:07), Occultus III (4:28), a.c.s II (2:07)
There is no secret that I hold the releases from R.A.I.G. records in high regard as they offer high quality, music that isn’t afraid to challange the world of audio tolerance, sonically interesting, rewarding for the brave, to some degree epitomising the word progressive. No expense has been spared with the packaging of the new Aethyr album, which is their second release, called Messio which falls directly into the category of the challenging. This is an experimental, ambient, avant garde and doom laden instrumental album of massive proportion. The sonics that are presented here scale the dark and blackened depths of the most evil soul, scratching their way out, metallic and industrial, at times indecipherable. Distorted, droning and discordant sonic works are the order of the day, almost cacophonous in their presentation having a semblance of other unearthly tones included and built around them.
There is a sombre sadness to the whole soundscape; musically this is evil incarnate, which has even sampled speeches from the The Great Beast Aleister Crowley the influential English occultist positioned throughout. I am sure he would more than love what has been created here. The whole creation could be a soundtrack for his life. I am not going to try and fool you, as there is no easy way to listen to this. Most people don’t take this as a serious art form and others do. It is a genre of sonic work that does firmly divides people. This is music that will punish the weak.
Whoever the secretive duo is that created this sonic drone; they are not afraid to push musical experimental boundaries. Although the tempo is slow, be under no illusions it is powerful, very powerful. What has been created here is very atmospheric, almost as if was a soundtrack created for a black mass.
a.s.c I as opposed to the sonic free a.s.c II, fuses the primitive elements of sound, raw energy, distorted bass interplay, ultra low sonics offering a stage for Crowley to state his evil intensions to the audience of listeners, an opening track that displays quite accurately what Aethyr are all about. Occultus I is layered with sombre melancholy with its slow doom riffs that are interjected with a basic rhythmic percussive section and with what can only be described as Gregorian monk tones, which gives the whole piece an almost religious deified feel; we are not talking joyous tones by any stretch of the imagination, these are tones that have spiralled up from the depths of hell. Mass II is sonically even darker if that could be possible, featuring some very monotone percussive work that allows the piece to meander for a period until the duo picks the pace up, where it becomes more urgent, with the percussive and bass creating a magnitude of power. Occultus II takes a similar approach to Occultus I but is interjected this time with a piercing and scathing guitar tone that wraps itself around the modulated bass patterns, almost becoming white noise in its conclusion. Ave_S encompasses the scathing guitar tones that played through Occultus II offering a new dimension and approach, heading deep into a psychedelic mind warp, angular sonics bouncing around the room, re-writing reality with its sheer power and audacity, proving that Aethyr can present more than a singular approach, really shaking the whole album and concept up. I can’t even remember when I last heard such deep powerful bass sonics, climaxing into a cacophonous, anarchic soundscape. Occultus III as if the piece is almost a part of a triptych, offers another differing approach to the piece, this time being delivered by a low end sonic spectrum as opposed to the Gregorian or scathing guitar tones, attitude ridden, purposely deriding the listener with contemptuous mirth. Album closer a.c.s II has the most bizarre of endings, The Great Beast offering his words of wisdom, devoid of any interaction by the band, making it such a fitting closing statement.
You aren’t going to sit and work out the musical merit of these pieces, nor is this an album that most would frequent regularly. What we have here though is a very good album that for me sits in the top end of its genre calling to mind bands like Jesu, The Melvins and Sunn O))).
I have rated this album twice, firstly for the discerning prog listener and then the really adventurous of us out there. You know who you are?
Conclusion: Not Rateable
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
TDW – Scrapbook
CD 1: All That Stands Will Remain, Part 1 (1:40), King Of Lies (6:10), She’s Gone (7:06), Monkey Bussiness (7:21), Answers (5:51), A Drive Till The End (14:41), Cathedral Of Loss(5:46), Voided Eyes (8:18), De Gecontroleerde Chaos (3:58)
CD 2: March Of The Freaks (8:01), To Infinity And Beyond (5:26), Connection Interrupted (6:10), The Fine Art Of Perseverance (11:24), Unorthodork (2:24), Scream Of Consciousness (6:30), De Ongecontroleerde Rust* (4:19), Needled Meditation (5:22), All That Stands Will Remain, Part 2 (11:06)
TDW is the abbreviation for Dutch musician Tom de Wit who has released four discs since 2003, the most recent was entitled Haunts which received a some favourable comments on this site in 2008.
Previously TDW undertook all of the compositional, lyrical and production work, as well as being band and lead singer. A few guest musicians helped out here and there. However one-man-bands can be a very draining process and after completing Haunts, TDW faced a period of musicians’ block.
Seeking a way to continue to expand the TDW discography, Tom opened his contact book and asked some of his musical acquaintances to lend him some ideas. “I would ask the musicians if they could provide me with new ideas, riffs, concepts, whatever and if I could use those to create new TDW songs out of them,” he recalls.
The plan was to invite nine musicians to the project with each contributing two songs. Tom would then add two instrumentals. Another four musicians then added small details to make the songs shine even brighter. Job done!
I can’t say I’ve heard of any of Tom’s Dutch contributors (or the bands in which they’ve played) but the end result is a mammoth two hours/120 minutes of epic ProgMetal spread across two CDs.
Scrapbook really is an appropriate title for the end product, as it really does take its influences and contributions from all over the place but with a stylistic consistency that is arrived at from having one person sticking it all together in their own manner.
As you’ve probably guessed by now a normal track-by-track review wouldn’t be quickest and easiest of reads. And that is the biggest problem I have with this CD. It really is just too much to take in and digest. How often do you have (or want to have) to spend two hours listening to one album. It’s too much of a mouthful to be enjoyably digestible in one go. Thus I’ve taken my time to work my way through it in smaller doses. With that approach I’ve found it to be an inventive, well executed and enjoyable album. It explores familiar metal themes with enough complexity to please any listener who likes the word progressive. The guitar work and keys are particularly impressive throughout Scrapbook.
With the breadth of material and again the length of the album, I’m afraid Tom’s vocals do show their limitations. On some songs his voice fits perfectly but on the more powerful material it doesn’t really work for me. Maybe next time a range of guest singers, male and female, could contribute to the scrapbook too.
The album is available as a double CD with 24-page booklet featuring concept art for each song and all lyrics. You can also get an MP3 version with the cover art as a PDF file
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Bruce Arnold - Heavy Mental
Tracklist: 12 Tone Boogie (5:01), Multiplicity (7:47), Lock And Key (3:43), Heard Instinct (6:37), Dakota Gumbo (4:41), Blues For Arnie (6:17), Numbers (4:30)
Bruce Arnold is an American based guitarist & composer. He is also a guitar teacher and a Berklee College of Music graduate. He has been teaching in several music academies and universities through the years, has written over 60 instruction books and loves using the 12 tone scale as well as the hexatonic scale. He played with a number of jazz greats like Joe Pass, Stuart Hamm and Stanley Clarke.
This instrumental album features Arnold on the guitars, Andy Galore on the bass and Kirk Driscoll on drums. The music on this album is mainly jazz orientated with some blues influences. One couldn't possibly call it progressive so a review for DPRP seemed a bit disputable to me. Still I'd like to try.
With a trio the opportunities to improvise are obvious and listening to these tracks I'd say there is a fair bit of improvisation on this album. Mainly jazz harmonies, sometimes a very prominent role for Galore on his bass while Driscoll excels with all his subtle fills. The first track 12 Tone Boogie is a rather slow one with several different rhythms patterns. The slightly distorted guitar plays both melodies as well as solos. The music is somewhat jazzy but has got a blues feel mainly. In Multiplicity there are an awesome combination of rock, blues and jazz. The sound of the guitar being distorted again, is rocking hard while drums & bass are playing in a jazzy style. My feeling is the solos have been an improvisation. In the second part of the track the drums are still jazzy while bass and guitar are playing rock more in a 'metal' style.
Lock And Key is a very jazzy track with only the same distorted guitar sound reminding of rock music. In the vein of soft jazz like Bruce's colleague Lee Ritenour uses to play is the next track Heard Instinct, slow and subtle. In the second part of this track an impressive bass solo by Galore. In Dakota Gumbo there's a part with experimental jazz music, while another part is a bluesy theme with some great soloing by Arnold. In Blues For Arnie the blues component doesn't seem that obvious to me, foremost jazz and a bit of fusion. Again nice bass playing by Galore who has a solo spot in this track as well. In the last track Numbers the distortion of the guitar sound goes even further, the bass is sounding almost like a bass synth and most of the guitar is played with a sound similar to the Trevor Rabin solo in Yes' Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
In conclusion I would say this is not the ordinary guitar album. It's a rather short album but this way the listener doesn't have the time to get bored! It will appeal to music lovers with a feel for jazz, fusion and blues music but also to guitar freaks because of the fact the guitar is the lead instrument. Unusual harmonies and rhythm patterns make the sound slightly experimental while the soloing seems improvised most of the time. To be honest, not my cup of tea unfortunately and Heavy Mental is neither 'symphonic' nor 'progressive' - but a daring guitar album it is!
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Igayon – To Go
Tracklist: Balls (4:13), Peace and Serenity (4:31), To Go (6:08), Swallows (10:09), Vortex (6:28), Man (4:48), Grow (4:48), Layers (4:07)
Igayon are one of only a few progressive rock bands that have risen from the Middle Eastern country of Israel. Last year we had Orphaned Land, the year before that Amaseffer and now I am listening to four-piece Igayon. I have to say though that the music here is completely unlike the two aforementioned bands as Igayon's music moves more in the direction of Blackfield or Porcupine Tree - with the more ambient influence of earlier Porcupine Tree being present all over.
Igayon is Hebrew for "Nonsense" or "Island Of Sense". Coming from a land in the Middle East, no doubt, some of the ethnic atmosphere is present in the album and luckily for me Igayon have include a booklet with their CD. I forgot to mention that everything is sung in Hebrew which makes the presence of a booklet, with English translated lyrics, a necessary addition to the album.
I already mentioned that Igayon is a four piece band but I did not reveal their identities. Well here goes: Nir Otmazgin plays guitar & vocals; Itay Oren is responsible for piano, keyboards & vocals; Avishai Roet plays bass guitar & vocals and Yaron Lazerman plays guitars. A few guest musicians are also present on To Go - two of these guests take care of drums. Two of our former world leaders Rabin and Ghandi also get their say in one of the songs. I can’t say the song needs that, or is improved without it. It is just a nice addition.
The music on To Go is as I stated fairly easy going with Igayon trying to build you a landscape in which it is easy to relax and wander off into the music. Once they start playing it’s not likely they are willing to stop with To Go being a continuing story of lush melodies with twists and hooks, some riffing, great piano play I must say, but also present some very, very familiar sounding tunes - although I still have not placed them.
I would not go for the album instantly, the music is good, but not that good. As an item for your collection with Yiddish text it might be a good addition. Just go and listen for yourself and decide if you like the lush and dreamy music Igayon produce.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Matthew Anderson – Uncaged
Tracklist: I Let Her Go (4:03), Paper Ships, (4:15), Her Thoughts Like A Watershed (6:19), Uncaged (14:20)
Back in 2010 when I reviewed Merciless Ocean, the debut commercially released full-length CD/Download from Matthew Anderson, I suggested that the young American multi-instrumentalist upgrade the studio production quality of his sound. This has not happened with sophomore download EP Uncaged. The release of Uncaged is intended by Anderson as a precursor for limited run sophomore full-length CD Noble Dust, which has been put out so far as a download (and of which a promotional CD copy at the time of this writing has not been received by DPRP). Outside of these works, Matthew Anderson’s discography also includes an initial full-length recording that was never released and a now-out–of-print debut experimental EP.
Even if the production quality on Uncaged was crystalline, it does not save the EP from being a regrettable affair.
On the EP, Matthew Anderson sings and plays acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic piano, drums, synth bass and samples. His brother and partner in the indie-math-prog band Albatross, George Anderson, plays bass guitar on two tracks.
I did not have a positive outlook on listening to the CD when pressing the “play” button on my CD player. I had to crank up the volume knob all the way to, like, the other side of the planet and leave it there to listen to the under modulated recording. And this of course tragically caused the bass elements to over modulate. Here are my observations on each of the EP’s four tracks.
The ballad I Let Her Go starts with piano and harmony vocals from Matthew and some wandering (and that over modulated) bass guitar from his bro. The tune does become stronger and more proggy towards the end, trailing off in a bit of piano.
Paper Ships is another ballad-style tune, with some harmony vocals and piano leads from Matthew. Not unlike the first track and thus somewhat generic, but with a layer of carefree acoustic guitar hoisting it along.
Her Thoughts Like A Watershed is yet another piece of balladry showcasing electric guitar from Matthew sounding somewhat crudely “edited” in places, like the work of a razor-blade-wielding one-beer-too-many-drinking college kid editing reel-to-reel tape at a college radio station back in the eighties. Overdubbed acoustic guitar works its way into the picture with its plugged in cousin, and this somewhat recycled tune is rescued not a moment too soon by some catchy drumming from Anderson and bass guitar from rhythm section sibling George.
The closing and title track is fourteen-plus minutes of tortuous ambient drivel starting out with synth bass darkness and some odd, almost banjo-like sounds from Matthew. Vocal elements and layers of screeching guitar get in on the action on a track which, in all of its hideous nature, is admittedly a daring one for Matthew to commit to recording.
So if you are as daring as Anderson, you can download the EP at Matthew Anderson's bandcamp (follow Samples link above). This website and the press release for the promotional CD show cover art, although no booklet or cover came with the promo copy.
So to suggest again, the biggest area of opportunity I see for Matthew Anderson to improve his output is to upgrade the production quality of his music and to pump up those VU levels. With that said I understand that he is an independent artist, and that budgetary constraints can often get in the way of such things as improved studio quality. DIY or die, as a local musician friend of mine often says.
Fans of acoustic based ballad style music may warm up to this CD. If you are seeking something rockier or dance-inducing, this isn’t it.
So to sum up, an honest effort from Anderson, but with unfortunately recycled and under produced fare that leads to my critical rating. Merciless Ocean is a much stronger release, and I hope Anderson returns to work of this calibre in the future.
Conclusion: 4.5 out of 10