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2012 : VOLUME 02
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Anathema – Falling Deeper
Anathema – Falling Deeper
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Kscope
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:38:58
Info:Anathema
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Crestfallen (3:07), Sleep In Sanity (3:54), Kingdom (4:28), They Die (2:11), Everwake (3:09), J’ai Fait Une Promesse (4:24), Alone (7:17), We, The Gods (3:03), Sunset Of Age (7:41)

Jez Rowden's Review

Falling Deeper features predominantly acoustic re-interpretations of Anathema tracks originally released between 1992 and 2001, although many were written earlier, during their doom metal phase and is a follow-up to the highly recommended Hindsight album from 2008. This album benefits from the addition of a 26 piece string section that completely transforms the original material from its metallic origins into a beautiful and haunting new environment. The orchestral arrangements by prog legend Dave Stewart (Egg/Hatfield and the North/Bruford) are quite something and he nails what the original songs tried to convey in a different form. Stewart also worked with the band on their latest studio album We’re Here Because We’re Here.

I wonder how many of their original fans have stayed with them through the remarkable transition that Anathema have undergone over the last decade or more but those that have will no doubt see the original pieces in a new light. For those like myself who have not heard them prior to their transformation this is a gorgeous and lush album that will bear much repeat playing and fills me with interest as to what these tracks sounded like in their original setting.

While the source material comes from the albums Serenades and The Silent Enigma and EPs The Crestfallen and Pentecost III the acoustic nature of the re-workings are akin to much of Anathema’s recent output while the melancholy nature of the pieces is integral to everything the band have ever recorded. In fact Crestfallen was the first song written by Danny Cavanagh for the band and it appears here with simple piano intro before the strings and rhythm sweep in. Crestfallen segues into Sleep In Sanity which is all about the orchestral and vocal arrangements while the melodies throughout the album are powerful and emotional, truly shining in this setting.

Kingdom builds on a steady rhythm to quite a climax before ebbing away to almost nothing while They Die opens out from the sort of gorgeously melancholic piano that you’d expect to find on a Steven Wilson album, strings sweeping in an wrapping themselves around it.

The production by Danny and Vincent Cavanagh is exemplary, every nuance there to be heard in bleak and fragile epics that have a majestic sweep, their intertwining guitars mixed with solid rhythm from John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh, vocals provided by Vincent and Lee Douglas. Everwake features guest vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen, ex-The Gathering, who does a fine job wringing the emotion out of the lyrics and building the ethereal mood.

J’ai Fait Une Promesse is another sweeping instrumental with piano lead while Alone opens with guitar before moving through atmospheric sections with thunder storms and female vocal, a haunting electric guitar far off in the background. We, The Gods is featured in a drastically truncated form to make the most of the orchestral possibilities but comes across well as a downbeat ray of hope. Piano is central to the feel of Falling Deeper, guitars seldom straying from acoustic except in the closing Sunset Of The Age which is a more traditional rock track that utilises the strings more effectively than many such attempts. Pleading vocals set the scene, a whispered passage being particularly effective, followed by an extended electric guitar solo with string support that is a high point upon which to close.

This album seems to mark a kind of homecoming for the band, their origins becoming fully integrated into their current modus operandi. Dave Stewart’s contribution cannot be underestimated as he has helped what would have been a very good album become something really special. This album comes highly recommended to not only those who have a liking for Anathema’s music from whatever era but also those who appreciate powerful and emotional acoustic pieces that are given the space to breath and develop seemingly of their own accord.

Brian Watson's Review

For those of you unfamiliar with the band, I’ll let DPRP colleague Tom De Val fill in the blanks for you far better than I could from one of his earlier reviews:

"British outfit Anathema initially made a name for themselves as prime movers in the burgeoning UK gothic metal scene of the early 90’s, along with the likes of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. However, like PL, Anathema decided towards the end of the nineties that they’d taken this style as far as they could, and with 1998’s Alternative 4 album began a transformation that has seen them become one of Britain’s finest (if generally un-heralded) rock bands. They have managed to retain the haunting, epic sweep of their earlier material whilst almost completely changing their sound; the main influences that can be heard in Anathema’s music today are the likes of Radiohead, Muse, Porcupine Tree (who they supported on the Deadwing tour: Brian W) and a fairly hefty dose of late 70’s Pink Floyd. However, like the very best bands Anathema have managed to create a sound which is somehow uniquely their own."

2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here was one of the very best records of the year, and justifiably topped more than a few best of the year polls. We reviewed it in a Round Table and with the exception of Mark all the reviewers loved it and recommended it. Ed Sander describes the moment he first heard it thusly:

"It was one of those sunny mornings that seemed to promise a day full of hope and opportunities in our sometimes troubled lives. And We're Here Because We're Here proved to be the excellent soundtrack for it. Rarely have I heard an album that overflows with so much emotion and this one had a profound effect on me. At times my breath stopped short and it felt like someone had gripped my heart and twisted in 360 degrees."

He concluded that it was the Album of the Year, if not the decade! Gosh.

It does deserve, I have to say, a place in everyone’s record collection. And my fellow DPRP-ers seem to have a soft spot for the band:

2008’s Hindsight got a recommended review. As did A Natural Disaster in 2003 and the live DVD A Moment In Time.

The success of WHBWH gave the former doom metallers from Liverpool a huge fillip after 20 years of treading the boards, and an undeniable momentum, which, I’m guessing, neither they nor the record company wanted to go to waste.

So here we have some reworkings of some of their older material – Crestfallen for example was the very first song written, back in 1990 - in the ambient, orchestral and cinematic style that made We’re Here… so special. However part of the appeal of that album was, for me, the achingly poignant lyrics that combined in such a very special way with the lush musical soundscapes.

The melodies from those doom metal tunes, which were always there if you listened, still stand up however and you begin to realise just what good songwriters these lads are.

The title, if you were wondering, comes from the lyrics from Crestfallen, which were reproduced on the band’s first ever t-shirts.

They were going to do a Dreaming Light EP and revisit a few older songs as a b-side but once they got started they realised that more could be made of this idea and so Canterbury legend Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield & The North), who worked on We’re Here Because We’re Here, was once again drafted in to help work on the orchestral arrangements, using a full 26 piece string section.

Falling Deeper continues where Hindsight left off. The fresh musical and lyrical approach has transformed songs such as Crestfallen, Kingdom, Sunset Of Age and Everwake, which features the incredible voice of Anneke van Giersbergen (Devin Townsend, Ayreon). Vincent Cavanagh’s voice is simply wonderful, especially on final track Sunset Of Age that clocks in at around the 8-minute mark. All lush strings to start yet intricate, delicate, grandiose, cinematic and frankly - when the guitar kicks in - as good a song as you’ll hear all year.

If you want to hear for yourself the musical journey this band has embarked on then listen to this version of We The Gods then google it and listen to it (legally) in its original form and be amazed. Both are good, but I’ll leave you to decide which is better. The rating below reflects my thoughts on the matter – excellent, recommended to all.

Conclusions:

JEZ ROWDEN 9 out of 10
BRIAN WATSON 8 out of 10



Yes – In The Present ~ Live From Lyon
Yes – In The Present ~ Live From Lyon
Country of Origin:UK
Format:2CD/DVD
Record Label:Frontiers Records
Catalogue #:FR CDVD 537
Year of Release:2011
Time:CD 1 76:10
CD 2 62:59
DVD
55:00
Info:Yes
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

CD 1: Siberian Khatru (10:40), I’ve Seen All Good People (7:17), Tempus Fugit (6:06), Onward (4:39), Astral Traveller (8:49), Yours Is No Disgrace (13:23), And You And I (11:27), Corkscrew [Acoustic Solo] (3:49)

CD 2: Owner Of A Lonely Heart (6:06), Southside Of The Sky (10:44), Machine Messiah (11:42), Heart Of The Sunrise (11:44), Roundabout (9:35), Starship Trooper (13:08)

DVD: Interviews, Excerpts from the Live Show, Roundabout, Machine Messiah

In the timeline of Yes releases this is a bit of an odd one. Since this was recorded in December 2009 the band have undergone yet another significant line up change, and have written, recorded, released and toured last year’s Fly From Here, so the first part of this album title is a bit of a misnomer!

According to the press release, Yes are "...the most…ground-breaking progressive rock ‘n’ roll band in history". You can almost see the writer of that statement grinning mischievously when he wrote that! However it cannot be denied that Yes are the kind of band that appears on the CD shelves of all prog fans regardless of their sub-genre of choice, and indeed they probably appear too on the shelves most straight rock fans’ of a certain age, their deserved place in rock’s rich tapestry being undeniable.

The tracklist here then will be at least largely familiar, but as is inevitable with the ongoing soap opera that is Yes, let’s first indulge in a bit of gossip.

The "In The Present Tour" began in November 2008 with Benoit David replacing an ailing Jon Anderson, and featuring Oliver Wakeman on keyboards. By the time they got to Lyon on 1st December 2009, a recovered Anderson had been sacked by default, and depending on which story you believe it may have been partly due to his refusal to sing the songs that were recorded with the “Buggles” line up, now part of the set. It had taken until October 2009 for an official statement confirming David and Wakeman as permanent members of the new line up, and you can see why Anderson felt somewhat left in limbo by his long-time colleagues’ treatment of him especially as he had just gone through a serious illness.

What is it with rock bands and their lack of diplomacy? This heavy handed approach was repeated in Spring 2011 when Wakeman suffered a keyboard coup d’état at the hands of Geoff Downes, all the more galling for Wakeman as Downes would be touring the recently completed album Fly From Here. The Yes HR department won’t be winning any awards this or any other year!

Anyway, on to the music. After a somewhat hesitant start Siberian Khatru does eventually manage to get off the ground, and two hours of classic Yes is largely what follows. David shows he knows his way around a harmony on the intro to I’ve Seen All Good People, him and Chris Squire giving the prog classic a belting vocal tour-de-force. In fact David’s performance throughout is faultless and on a purely sonic level he is a more than capable replacement for the diminutive Lancastrian. I’ve not seen this line up of Yes live myself so I cannot comment on how well or not he fills the gap left by Anderson’s doubtless stage presence, a fan debate that has been going on since David first appeared with the band.

The first CD gets interesting with its choice of songs in the middle section, the first being Drama's Tempus Fugit followed by the little heard Onward from Tormato and a great version of the 1970 vintage Astral Traveller, including as it does here Alan White’s short but energetic drum solo. As you no doubt know, this song is from Time And A Word, in my opinion an often overlooked gem of an LP in the Yes canon. That song sequence might read a bit odd on paper, but it works well and it all fits together surprisingly seamlessly.

Steve Howe is on great form throughout, especially on his playful messing about with the main figure of Yours Is No Disgrace, and ends CD 1 with one of his trademark workouts of acoustic wizardry, Corkscrew from his captivating 2008 solo album Motif. Earlier in the tour Asia had been the support act, Howe playing an hour with them before continuing with the headliners, not bad for a bloke in his 60s! Chris Squire’s bass-as-lead playing is as instantly recognisable as ever, and him and White mesh together like a rhythm combo that has been together for what seems like forever, as they should. A mention here for Oliver Wakeman whose keyboards do the necessary but without the "flash" of his Dad, and without the takeaway curry too! One wonders if the seeds of Wakeman’s usurping were sown during the Yes/Asia section of the tour?

CD 2 has an interesting opening choice of songs too, if you lost interest in Yes the first time round after Going For The One like yours truly. How about this – Owner Of A Lonely Heart from 90125, the least “Yes” album in my opinion, with Steve doing his best Trevor Rabin impression, but failing to raise the song above the rather uninspired rendition given here. Probably the only let down moment on the album though, and it’s not “bad” per sé, I just don’t think it works too well that’s all. Following this is South Side Of The Sky from Fragile (yep, no problem!), with some nice piano flourishes and synth work from Wakeman, and Machine Messiah from Drama, an album I’ll freely admit passed me by at the time. This latter song is far better than I assumed it might be, and again fits in perfectly. Maybe I’ll have to give Drama a listen after all. The CD closes with three Yes classics all given storming treatments, much to the delight of the rowdy French crowd.

Oh, and the sound is really good, even on my download version, so the physical CDs must be bonza! For lovers of ye olde vinyl there’s a 3-LP version too, the Roger Dean artwork should be worth the entry fee alone.

As our review copy was a audio only download, I’m unable to comment on the accompanying unseen DVD but I’m sure the fans would love it, as it “…contain(s) excerpts from the live performance, candid interviews and behind the scenes footage” according to the press release.

For younger fans of the band whose Dads took them to see Yes on the Fly From Here Tour, this album serves as a decent introduction to the band in a live setting, covering as it does songs from across the spectrum. For the rest of us this is a pleasant reminder that there is in fact a band called Yes still out there, and when they get it right make the current slew of copyists look rather silly.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Arabs In Aspic - Strange Frame Of Mind
Arabs In Aspic - Strange Frame Of Mind
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD, LP
Record Label:Black Widow
Catalogue #:BWRCD 133-2
Year of Release:2010
Time:44:05
Info:Arabs In Aspic
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Aspic Temple (0:56), The Flying Norseman (4:15), Dive (1:07), Into My Eye (3:18), Mørket (4:33), Fall Til Marken (7:15), TV (4:52), Strange Frame Of Mind (3:35), Have You Ever Seen The Rain, Pt 2 (2:46), Arabide (7:39), Hocus Pocus (3:55)

With a naughty band title, and an even naughtier album cover, Norwegian group Arabs In Aspic deliver a deliciously indulgent yet light-hearted album which is sure to win over the hearts of prog fans everywhere. Arabs In Aspic are: Jostein Smeby (guitar/vocals), Eskil Nyhus (drums), Erik Paulsen (bass/vocals) and Stig A. Jørgensen (organ/keyboards/vocals).

The music on this disc is a wonderful concoction of retro-eclectic progressive influences, played in an almost 'train of thought' way. There are epic parts and rocky parts, but overall this seems to be quite a psychedelic affair. The property of being light-hearted makes it so. Don't let the short track lengths put you off, as quite often the songs segue into each other, forming a pseudo-suite.

It's quite difficult to describe this album precisely without depicting some of the songs. The opening track Aspic Temple is a brief, airy instrumental with the sound of Mellotrons in the background. This drifts directly into The Flying Norseman, a more self-contained track which gives us a truly progressive kick up the bum with a brisk 7/8 intro. After just a couple of catchy, powerful verses, it's an instrumental ride to the end of the song, a feature which would make Camel proud.

After another brief instrumental, Into My Eye possesses some Genesis-like qualities: a slow rhythm and guitar sound that reminds me of the song Afterglow. Next up, the heavy crashing riff of Mørket marks another twist in the sound of this band. Influences such as Uriah Heep and King Crimson are worn on the sleeve here. Indeed, this track bears some resemblance to 21st Century Schizoid Man with an energetic instrumental making up the bulk of the song.

By now you should have a good idea of how eclectic the band can be. Of the remaining tracks, Fall Til Marken and Arabide are the two 'epic' pieces of the album, both clocking in at over seven minutes. Of these, Arabide is the most remarkable as it appears to lift a riff directly from Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. TV provides us with some satirical lyrics: "Everybody is on TV, except Frank Zappa and me!" The icing on the cake is the cover of the legendary track Hocus Pocus by Focus. The band add little new to the song besides their own keyboard effects, and some modified yodeling, but this is a welcome bonus track nonetheless.

In short, this album is quite flawless. I can't say I've ever mentioned so many artist influences in a review before, but the effects really show. Each track on the album is fun to rock out to, and wonderfully composed without being too complex or overbearing. This is the perfect lightweight album, with epic sounds and brilliant tunes. This isn't an album that you need to hear, but it's a great addition to your collection.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

BASIL FRANCIS



Various Artists – The Electric Garden Progressive Rock Festival
Various Artists – The Electric Garden Progressive Rock Festival [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD
Record Label:Screen Edge
Catalogue #:JE312D
Year of Release:2011
Time:165:00
Info:Electric Garden
Festival
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Matt Stevens Rusty, Burning Bandstands, 8.19, Also Eden Think of the Children, A Widows Eyes, Credo Round & Round, Dropshard A Cold Morning, Again, Changing Colours, Nerve Toy Trio The Riddle Of Anything, Handy Nerve Toy, The Watch Medley Sirence, One Day, Earthling Society Child Of The Harvest, SeYes Close To The Edge, Godsticks Put Seven In Bold, IT Killing Me, Stay Tuned, Abel Ganz Rain Again, The Tangent Where Are They Now?

In May 2011 Ken Foster showcased a new festival in the north west of England called The Electric Garden Progressive Rock Festival in Blackpool, which was highly entertaining. Fortunately for those in attendance and for those who were not, Ken had the foresight to record the event which has now been released on DVD. The disk captures the occasion perfectly, being packed with some of the highlights from this event. I’m not going to go into details of the performances as the review for the festival can be found HERE.

For me the most interesting thing about this release is that it really does showcase what prog is about, musicians of the highest order plying their trade, musicians that don’t have massive household names, although some of them should, without the need of the wanton extravagance of massive stage/light shows or egos, musicians who just let music do the talking, music that flows and builds its own resonance and character in its own natural state.

The song selections that has been chosen by those involved, something which couldn’t have been easy, especially when so many great songs had been played over the three days, really captures the essence of the events proceedings. On top of that the DVD has a very good sound production and the only downside here is that there is at times some slight colour bleed due to the basic lighting at the venue, which doesn’t detract from the overall object of the exercise and in all honesty does add character to the whole proceedings.

For those who were unable to attend for whatever reason, this DVD release serves as a window into the festivals world allowing you to voyeuristically participate in the happiness that was created throughout, capturing the power and prowess of the participating artists. For those of us that did attend this really is a nice memento to own, a time capsule that never gets dull with repeated viewing.

Whether you are a fan of or you are familiar with of some or all of these artists, one thing that is for sure is that this release has been created by a fan for fans of this genre which is what makes it worth your while putting your hand into your pocket and purchasing a copy.

A little birdie tells me that 2012’s Electric Garden Progressive Rock Festival 2 is in the process of being put together and in all honesty if it is half as good as 2011’s then the operative word will be ELECTRIC. You have been warned so don’t miss out...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Paul Cusick – P’dice
Paul Cusick – P’dice
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:QRock
Catalogue #:Q60002
Year of Release:2012
Time:58:18
Info:Paul Cusick
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Everything (5:01), God, Paper, Scissors (5:24), Borderlines (11:36), Tears (6:24), You Know (7:06), Hindsight (4:44), Feel This Way (5:07), When It Rains (4:28), Waiting (6:32)

I like to think that advertising never sucks me in, as in “I am an individual, not a number”, and probably you all think that way too. Now take a look around your home, how many things are there because you’re familiar with them, a familiarity reinforced through endless advertising. And how many things are there because you thought “that might be good” having seen something that caught the eye on TV or Facebook or wherever.

Such a thing, if he doesn’t mind being called a “thing” is Paul Cusick who I’ll admit first caught my eye with a Facebook advert a couple of years ago along the lines of “If you like Porcupine Tree you’ll like this”, and as his first album was available then as a free download, what did I have to lose? That first album Focal Point was indeed heavily influenced by Mr Wilson’s combo, and by Pink Floyd but showed enough promise for me and a few hundred others to pay up front for the recording of this his second album.

P’dice, short for The Personal Possession Of A Random Prejudice, is a nice progression from Focal Point although the Floyd/PT influence is still there, as you would expect. With drum duties shared between Marco Minneman and Gavin Harrison it is hardly surprising that the PT and Steven Wilson influences are writ large although there is now undoubtedly a Paul Cusick sound developing that is taking its own path.

Opener Everything rocks out and is the most upbeat song on the album, Marco’s pounding rhythm propelling the thing along at a pace, before slowing to end with what will become the trademark modern atmospherics. Tears is a ballad that could be sad but is actually uplifting and puts me in mind of Peter Gabriel, until the guitar solo lifts the thing into stadium rock territory. When It Rains also has the Gabriel influence as it tells its tale of emotional loss and pain. Hindsight is a personal favourite, the three verses of personal regret being sung to a minimal background at the end of a four and a half minute song that has previously built up a cinematic atmosphere of edgy melancholia, quite a clever piece of writing indeed. A dark place is visited on Waiting as Paul and guest singer Sammi Lee sing a plaintive torch ballad about struggling to come to terms with cancer, and its terminal outcome, sending a shiver down my spine.

Paul plays everything apart from the drums, and as can be the case with one-man band style productions there are moments that lack a bit of clarity but overall the sound is well managed and suitably modernistic. Should Paul ever be able to take this on the road it will be worth a visit that’s for sure.

The straightforward lyrics deal with love, regret and pain, and a nagging dissatisfaction at the way we live in the West, be it railing at capitalism, or the lack of spirituality, or bemoaning prejudice, which is where the album title comes in. Paul has made various announcements through his judicious use of social networking media over the past year or so as to the progress of his work throughout its gestation in order to keep us sub payers up to date. All through this process I always assumed that P’dice was simply a working title as it sounds a bit naff if I’m being honest, but this was the title he ran with. A minor gripe I suppose!

Whatever, Paul is a shining example of how to use modern social communication methods to not only promote, but also to self-finance an album release, and new bands and artists could do worse than follow his example, or at the least ask for his advice. The clincher is will I be paying up front for the third album, should he choose to go that route again? On this evidence why not, as Paul shows a growing maturity in his song craft and is forging his own sound, a sound that fans of mid-period Floyd and lovers of the Kscope bands should have no problems getting into. In fact, Paul recently announced that modern independent music distributor Burning Shed will be promoting P’dice, and a more fitting home for Paul’s music would be hard to imagine. All he needs now is a contract from main Burning Shed suppliers Kscope as that label is probably where he would feel most at home, so if anyone at Kscope Towers reads this, do give P’dice a listen!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Paidarion – Behind The Curtains
Paidarion – Behind The Curtains
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Seacrest Oy
Catalogue #:SCR-1005
Year of Release:2011
Time:59:56
Info:Paidarion
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Behind The Curtains [A Song For Michael] (5:15), A Small Wish (7:08), Trapeze (4:32), A Springtime Meadow (3:28), A Vertical Rope (9:58), A Leap Into The Unknown (6:59), A Rose In The Sun (4:09), Paidarion (6:24), The Magician's Departure (3:15), The Final Show (8:48)

A release that almost slipped through the DPRP’s net in the latter part of 2011 is Behind The Curtains, the second album from Finnish prog practitioners Paidarion. Their 2009 debut Hauras Silta received a positive review from our own Bob Mulvey which, coupled with the band’s connections with compatriots Mist Season (personal favourites of this reviewer), ensured that this particular release would not go unnoticed. Formed in March 2006 with a sizeable line-up that included members of Mist Season and Progression, Paidarion have developed into a more streamlined sextet comprising Jaan Jaanson (guitars), Jan-Olof Strandberg (basses), Kimmo Pörsti (drums), Elina Hautakoski (vocals), Kimmo Tapanainen (keyboards) and Risto Salmi (saxophones).

In attaching the prog label to Paidarion I’m mindful that their eclectic range, which combines songs and instrumentals in equal measures, makes them difficult to pigeonhole. Fusion is an obvious part of their musical makeup for sure with tracks like Trapeze, A Vertical Rope and The Final Show benefitting from superb, free flowing jazz elements. Particularly noteworthy throughout is Strandberg’s stunning fretless style bass work and Pörsti’s articulate drumming. Their partnership during the lively title track Paidarion is especially impressive whilst A Leap Into The Unknown reveals a fat, jazzy, bass style that brings Jonas Reingold to mind.

The lead work is equally impressive. In addition to his fine piano and synth contributions, Tapanainen opens the diverse A Leap Into The Unknown with a stunning Bach flavoured church organ solo whilst Jaanson embarks on histrionic guitar flights during A Small Wish and The Final Show whatever sounding self-indulgent. During the bright and breezy A Small Wish the band even manage to inject a jazz-funk vibe with Salmi’s dynamic sax riff making its mark. Unsurprisingly it’s his raunchy tenor sax playing that gives the music its most obvious jazz swing.

There is also a mellow side to the band’s sound and this is where vocalist Elina really comes into her own. Her wondrous soulful jazz singing during the appropriately titled Cole Porterish A Springtime Meadow and the aforementioned A Vertical Rope has to be heard to be believed, displaying a warmth and maturity that belies her youthful looks. The band can also sound equally ambient and moody with tranquil, acoustic playing to match her performance. The atmospheric soprano sax playing during such moments is a particular delight, enriched by lyrical violin and flute support from guests Steve Unruh and Olli Jaakkola respectively.

Although the compositional credits are shared between several band members and associates there is a concept that binds the album. It’s a fairly simple premise where the circus/stage is presented as an analogy for life. At times however the music is perhaps not as unified as it could be with tracks like A Leap Into The Unknown and The Final Show squeezing in a multitude of changes to ensure each musician is able to do their own thing. That said, in a genre that’s no stranger to excellent musicianship it’s the stunning individual performances (a quality they share with Mist Season) that ensures Paidarion standout from the crowd.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



John Gilmour Smith - The Story We've Been Sold
John Gilmour Smith - The Story We've Been Sold
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Aquarian Nation
Catalogue #:AN012
Year of Release:2011
Time:49:28
Info:John Gilmour
Smith
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Story We've Been Sold (5:50), If I Was God (4:00), Smile (4:40), The Politics Of Life (5:22), Nobody People (4:54), Untethered (5:04), Wouldn't Get Out Of Bed [For Anyone But You] (5:20), 1000 Days (5:06), Get Over It (5:49), The Devil's Best Friend (3:20)

The Story We've Been Sold is the debut album by songwriter, singer and guitarist John Gilmour Smith. The album can almost be considered a collaboration with Francis Dunnery who co-wrote half of the material with Smith, plays guitar, keyboards and sings throughout, did all the programming, produced, mixed and mastered the songs (accompanied by Echolyn's Brett Kull on the mixing and mastering) and released the whole thing on his Aquarian Nation label. Also appearing on the album are duo John & Wayne (Dunnery and Wilkinson, respectively; Cumbrian carpenters who have also released a couple of album's on Aquarian Nation - yes, he is related!) who add some backing vocals, Malcolm Button and Murdoch MacDonald on drums, Graeme Carswell on bass and Allan Watson on additional guitar. Despite the Dunnery input, The Story We've Been Sold maintains a distance and individuality from anything the more well-known musician is more commonly associated with.

The album is definitely what one used to call a 'grower' as I was quite underwhelmed when I first played received it direct from the DPRP pipeline. But perseverance and repeated exposure paid off and the tunes and melodies gradually became ingrained in my musical conscious. Typical is the title track which, although ostensibly very simple, requires several listen before one appreciates just how much is going on within the song. It is the little flourishes, like Dunnery's wild and brief guitar flicks and the down-right funky bass line that entices. If I Was God is lyrically quite paradoxical, describing how if the singer was God he would send plagues and pestilence and put the blame on his enemy the devil before finally admitting that he himself doesn't actually exist. Accompanying this enigma is a musical backdrop that is largely painted by keyboards and other machines; nice impassioned vocal outburst in the middle of the song as well. The synth experiments continue with the first smith solo composition, Smile which was a bit too one dimensional throughout for my tastes. Better is The Politics Of Life, an angry rant which again features some interesting stabs of sound tempered by an acoustic refrain of a more sumptuous melody. However I remain undecided about the diversion to Jupiter that takes place two-thirds of the way through, the whimsy distracting from the more serious message that the song seems to be trying to impart.

Nobody People is a more straight forward acoustic ballad where the backing vocals of John and Wayne are used to good effect. Nice enough if not particularly outstanding. The second solo composition, Untethered, is another number based largely on keyboards, strange since there are three guitarists amongst the credited musicians. However, the strength of the song is its simplicity, the haunting keyboard line and the intriguing lyrics. Dunnery's final compositional input comes with Wouldn't Get Out Of Bed [For Anyone But You] which has an opening riff that is eerily reminiscent of What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor (apologies if that is too oblique an English reference!) and incorporates a synth line that is right out of the Gary Numan / Tubeway Army songbook. Accordingly it is rather a confused number and to my mind the weakest of the five collaborative efforts. In contrast, Smith's 1000 Days, despite the rather naff spoken sections reiterating the title, is rather delightful but one does wonder what people will make of the broad Scottish Brogue vocals!

The final two songs close out the album in style. Get Over It is my second favourite of the Smith solo pieces. Once again a jaunty synth line underplays the bulk of the song but cleverly crafted backing vocals, rhythms and, as ever, interesting lyrics, offers up a lot to be discovered with each listening. For a walk down a different avenue, The Devil's Best Friend is just voice and acoustic guitar and is simply wonderful. Shows, that all the technology in the world can be utilised but when it comes down to it one can create marvels with just the basics.

There is no doubt that Dunnery has had a big influence on this album and it is evident that the more interesting numbers are the one where he has had an input into the composition. However, that is not to dismiss smith as he is more than capable of holding his own and bringing forth musical endeavours to match to his lyrical eloquence. A solid and interesting debut album that marks out smith as someone who may have a promising future.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Joseph Magazine – Night Of The Red Sky
Joseph Magazine – Night Of The Red Sky
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:58:35
Info:Joseph Magazine
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Beginning (2:12), Vision (5:33), Self-Examination (4:37), Liquid Dream (5:30), Holy Land (7:27), Wormwood (4:27), Tower (6:54), Heremit (5:40), Reflection (2:21), Flashback (1:06), Night Of The Red Sky (8:10), Thorn Piece Of The Sky (4:38)

I wouldn’t usually go for something described as ‘an instrumental-only progressive metal album’. However this debut effort from yet another new Polish band has received positive comments from several respected friends, so I’ve given it a try.

I love progressive metal, but usually some thoughtful lyrics and quality vocals are necessary ingredients to add the necessary audio flavours. There are spoken introductions to three of the ‘songs’ and the final track does feature Bartosz Struszczyk who is credited on the sleeve as being the band’s vocalist.

This album does succeed in the superb technicality and musicianship within each track. There are plenty of clever arrangements and interesting patches and changes of rhythm that maintained my interest. However there are numerous passages where the band appears happy to coast along, instead of developing a fresh melody, groove or mood. Here my attention does tend to go walkabout.

Each time I listen to this, I do end up wondering what it would have sounded like with a decent singer laying some vocal lines over the top.

There does appear to be a concept around the music. The CD booklet contains thoughts on personal journeys to self discovery. Personally I struggle to find too many links between the text and the music. I’d prefer one or the other. If you’re not going to have the emotions and emphasis of a singer, then just leave the words out of it. Allow the individual listener to take what they wish from the music.

For those who are more easily tempted to explore some technical instrumental progressive metal then there are undoubtedly many charms to enjoy within the 12 songs offered here.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

ANDY READ



James Byrd's Atlantis Rising - Beyond The Pillars
James Byrd's Atlantis Rising - Beyond The Pillars
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC304
Year of Release:2011
Time:59:00
Info:James Byrd's
Atlantis Rising
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Chasing The Shadows Away (5:25), Fallen Warrior (4:57), I Don't Believe In Love (Falling In Lust) (3:26), Fly To The Sun (3:56), On My Mind (4:26), Waiting In The Shadows (4:22), Remember Love (4:12), Angel Of Mercy (4:37), After The Fire (4:11), The Eye Of The Storm (3:44), Stranger Of The Night (4:15), Let It Out (4:45), Got To Find You (3:48), Requiem Atlantis (2:54)

James Byrd is one of the most distinguished guitarist in the genre of 'symphonic metal'. Leaving the band Fifth Angel to pursue a solo career in 1987. Songwriting already had begun for the next Fifth Angel when Byrd decided to part ways. He began to work with Freddy Krumins (drummer with Denny Laine & Howard Leese) and seven of the songs would appear in a re-recorded version on the debut album by J.B.A.R. Atlantis Rising but the other recordings were forgotten until early 2011, when Krumins found the original master tapes. The result is this album filled with melodic rock-music from 1987/1988 by a young American band playing in the style of bands like Europe, Whitesnake, UFO among others.

Fourteen original compositions by Byrd defining a new genre now called power metal. Although some of songs can be considered AOR (Fallen Warrior, I Don't Believe In Love, On My Mind, Remember Love, After The Fire), others like Fly To The Sun, The Eye Of The Storm are more or less in the vein of the hard rock of bands like Black Sabbath and later Whitesnake. The ballad Waiting In The Shadows is vocally the most challenging track for Krumins and the keyboards provide a symphonic touch. The ballad Angel Of Mercy reminds me of the Deep Purple song Soldier Of Fortune (Stormbringer) and Krumins' vocals resemble David Coverdale's quite closely. Stranger Of The Night could have been a song on a Rainbow album (with Joe Lynn Turner) just like the guitar driven up tempo track Let It Out. Another ballad, nicely orchestrated by Krumins, is Got To Find You. Also a majestic slow song is the instrumental Requiem Atlantis, a very melodic symphonic track with stunning guitar playing by Byrd, on this track influenced by Uli Jon Roth.

So yes, one might say the sound is somewhat outdated, but personally I have come across many albums of recent years lacking the impact, the energy or the really impressive virtuosity of a guitarist like James Byrd on this album. Another positive point is the length of the album in relations to the quality of the songs, because in my opinion there are no crappy tunes or bootleg quality recordings on it. I like Krumins' singing best when he is within the boundaries of his normal range and especially when he sings ballads. When he has to reach for the higher notes, it begins to sound unnatural and it seems to feel a bit uncomfortable then. Drummer Ken Mary, also from Fifth Angel can be heard on this album next to several other drummers, as well as bassists Tim Wolf. This album showcases the talents of a band that could have been world famous if they would been promoted and supported by the right people in the music industry. Production-wise the album sounds form the late eighties. The compositions are from the early stages of Byrd's efforts and most of them are pretty straight forward although there are certainly many highly enjoyable moments, even for progressive ears.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Elias Viljanen – Taking The Lead
Elias Viljanen – Taking The Lead
Country of Origin:Finland
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC306
Year of Release:2011
Time:43:16
Info:Elias Viljanen
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Evoke The Spirit (0:37), Evil Rock (3:36), The Axemaster (4:47), I Go Solo (4:14), Northern Breeze (3:21), Beyond Twilight (4:09), Taking The Lead (4:05), A Dream Come True (3:34), Hyper Boogie (3:30), Written In Stars (1:56), Passion Glory (5:17), Speed Of The Devil (4:05)

Axe master Elias Viljanen of Sonata Arctica fame has re-released his debut album Taking The Lead and what a stunner it is too. This is an album that features twelve rather adept instrumental compositions. From beginning to end this is an album that has coherence and force seeing Elias work every note out of his guitar, which adds to the whole feel.

Make no mistake the approach taken by this shredder will most definitely appeal to fans of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai as well as long standing Sonata Arctica fans. For those not in the know Mr. Viljanen just might become one of your favourite guitarists. Importantly we must not forget his band of brothers that worked along side him, Rami Herckmann (bass), Tomi Ylonen (drums) and the two keyboards players who contribute on various tracks Tero Ylonen and Jani Kemppinen as they are major players too.

Across the featured twelve tracks Elias’ modem operandi is to entertain his fans both new and old to the highest standard, something that seems to be an essential ingredient for artists on the Lion Music label. As each track starts you just know that you are in for the ride of your life and here time and time again you are rewarded with his virtuosity and flash guitar tones. Even when you scratch under the surface the stunning guitar work and basic musical passages are just enveloped in majestic class.

Cleverly the meter of the music delivered takes various forms from the high fuel injected Evil Rock, the majestic I Go Solo, the sedate The Axemaster or Beyond Twilight and the suave, sophisticated and fun Speed Of The Devil. Each track is built on a solid foundation as Elias adds his craftsmanship, the ornate décor that separates him from others and proves ultimately that this guy isn’t messing about and these are really only the starting points of what is on offer here as he lays bare his soul.

The fun doesn’t stop here because as you progress play by play the rewards get richer seeing every one of the forty three minute plus being filled with quality which doesn’t happen that often on guitar orientated albums, which is why albums like this are essential and should be relished.

By all accounts this special re-release does come with a professionally shot live DVD which contains material from his second solo outing, but unfortunately I wasn’t privy to that, DAMN... an opportunity to witness first hand this shredders formidable techniques missed. Based on what I have heard though throughout this inclusion can only be a real bonus.

As a footnote Elias only started playing guitar because his father forced him and he wanted to sound like KISS. Thank god for pushy parents and people who dream!

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE



Consortium Project I – Criminals & Kings
Consortium Project I – Criminals & Kings
Country of Origin:International
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC314
Year of Release:1999/2011
Time:55:10
Info:Ian Parry
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: House Of Cards (4:17), Banquet For Thieves (5:34), Evilworld (3:41), Garden Of Eden (4:18), The Eternity [Instrumental] (2:41), Change Breeds Contempt (4:15), A Miracle Is All We Need (4:47), The Snake (3:20), Criminals & Kings (4:10), Chain Of Fear (5:21), Pandora’s Box (3:56), A Miracle is All We Need [bonus acoustic version feat. Patrick Rondat] (5:03), Evilworld [bonus demo version feat. Arjen Lucassen on bass] (3:52)

Originally released in 1999, Consortium Project I has been remastered and re-issued (2011) with additional bonus material following the completion of the 5-part series. This project is an outcropping of Elegy, a band Ian has been singing for since the mid ‘90s. Joining Ian for this project are fellow Elegy members Dirk Bruinenberg (drums) and Patrick Rondat (guitar). Other guitarists include such notables as Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot), and Tamas Szekeres. Bassists Barend Courbois, Martin Helmantel, and Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) round out the expansive pool of talent.

This pentalogy begins with lyrics that describe the events following the Kennedy Assassination and the eventual shift in the balance of power to build the New World Order. The story’s plot thickens whereby the power elite hijacks social networking technology to further their nefarious goal of totalitarianism. The medium of heavy metal has been particularly suited to this genre and furthered by the likes of Arjen Lucassen through Ayreon and Star One with the space metal motif where Consortium Project V eventually ends up.

The music really reminds me of the Red Circuit project both through the vocals and the melodic metal subset. The style is consistent with the time it originally came out and could even pass for a forward-looking ‘80s metal release.

After listening to the original version this remaster is a welcome adjustment. I have heard many different remastered albums that have a “remaster” sound to it, but this one was done very well.

The album is quite busy and heavy while remaining well within the classification of “melodic” due to the way Ian’s voice carries. The song writing and mix reminds me of how Vanden Plas sounds where the music is somewhat aggressive but is tempered by the delivery. This production delivers a very heavy drumbeat at the expense of clarity. I guess the effect carries the day for this style of metal where some in-your-face deep hard-hitting bass takes precedence.

The vocals do get a bit samey after a while. I don’t mind Ian’s voice and it is perfect for metal, but I like vocalists that display a wider range and the myriad of harmonies detract from his performance. However, this album is action packed, good driving metal. Not a prog lover’s paradise, but good solid metal that hearkens back a ways without sounding like a rehash. After hearing the newer material in this series, I would say this was a great start to an overall very good project.

The bonus material is good, but not enough to justify rebuying if you already have the original (unless you hate the mix, of course.) I will keep this album close as I complete the pentalogy not because it breaks any new ground or makes a statement, but because it is shamelessly enjoyable despite the dated trappings of the metal of a bygone era that still haunt us today.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

BRENDAN BOWEN



Consortium Project II – Continuum In Extremis
Consortium Project 2 – Continuum In Extremis
Country of Origin:International
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC316
Year of Release:2001/2011
Time:66:00
Info:Ian Parry
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Continuum [In Extremis] (5:33), Asylum Seekers (5:10), The Catalyst (4:10), Intrusions Of Madness (5:06), [Momentary] Lapse Of Reason (5:32), Mirror Image (5:00), Sentiment In Sanctuary (6:43), What You Sow, You Reap (4:36), Asphyxia (5:59), Collide-O-Scope [When Past And Present Collide] (6:47), Poetic Justice (3:57), Intrusions Of Madness [bonus demo] (5:09), Poetic Justice [bonus demo] (3:58)

Continuing the remaster/re-release comes Consortium Project IIContinuum In Extremis. Originally released in 2001 this remaster has an updated production and still holds its own as a potent power metal piece with just enough prog sprinkled in to keep it interesting.

Ian Parry’s project spanning a dozen years and five concept albums was definitely worth the remaster release series to celebrate the final instalment – Species. This one follows the vein already established in part one and maintains the energetic keyboard laced metal riffs that you would expect from Ian’s other band, Elegy.

We have some returning veterans Dirk Bruinenberg (Adagio), Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot), and Patrick Rondat (Elegy), along with some additional musicians jumping in and out various songs. The song writing is shared, but Ian is the conceptualizer and storyteller.

While this release doesn’t contain particularly memorable melodies, it does make a forceful statement for this genre and puts on a nice display of the superior musicians’ craft. Many collaborations of this sort don’t deliver as one would expect, but as I have mentioned in the previous review>, this project is a fun and entertaining bit of metal. However, this project has separated itself from others of this ilk with a full and abundant sound that takes no breaks from delivering detail and turns incessantly – with a short break in the middle.

Two bonus songs were included this go-around. Both are good, but are just that, a bonus. They are essentially alternate versions of songs that are already in this album that use more synth for the demo, but ended up as guitar riffs in the final version. I would like to hear Ian put together a synth heavy Sci-fi album sometime, now that we have a small taste.

The storyline continues in the Sci-fi realm with a divine feminine (called Neofems here) aspect to it that develops more beyond this instalment. The falling apart of humanity is a theme that dominates this series and makes for interesting lore – each successive album taking another step in the concept.

So far the albums increase in complexity and quality in the order of release. Any fan of power metal should welcome not only this album but also the pentalogy altogether. For me this falls into the category of good escapist entertainment value without a critical ear. Not to be taken too seriously, just enjoy.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

BRENDAN BOWEN



Tides From Nebula - Earthshine
Tides From Nebula - Earthshine
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:CD
Record Label:Mystic Productions
Catalogue #:MYSTCD 165
Year of Release:2011
Time:53:03
Info:Tides From Nebula
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: These Days, Glory Days (6:44), The Fall Of Leviathan(8:29), Waiting For The World To Turn Back (3:05), Caravans (9:59), White Gardens (6:13), Hypothermia (2:39), Siberia (10:03), Cemetery Of Frozen Ships (5:48)

Earthshine is the second album by Polish post rockers Tides From Nebula. Post rock? It's hard to imagine why there are all these different genres for music. Is there really a need for these differences and the various categories music is labelled with? There will never be an answer satisfactory enough for all of us to this question.

Anyway a lot of music in the post-rock genre is of an instrumental nature, very often where a theme or a melody is played and then played differently once again. Meaning in post rock an average tune will be more than six minutes in length. For many instrumentals based on a single theme with no vocals can be interesting, so much depends on the creativity and skill of the musicians involved. This especially goes for the longer tunes.

I for one have a liking for the instrumental music as I find them very relaxing and imaginative, however the title and ideas behind the songs need to be coherent in a way, so that there is an ability for the listener to make his own images to the music. In a way the song needs to breath the thought. Bringing these thoughts to Tides From Nebula CD Earthshine are reflected in the titles and all the titles, apart from the first one These Days, Glory Days, have something mystical or dark and cold about them.

Starting the album with the more cheerful atmosphere in These Days, Glory Days. Not in abundance but still on the more happier side, the music brings some joy and happiness with a strong melody line and long intense notes on the almost howling guitar sound. Whereas in The Fall Of Leviathan things get darker so as to speak, a mystical atmosphere is created where one can imagine the struggle of Leviathan to rise above and conquer but eventually going under. A fierce and heavy song, full of emotion, with the weeping guitar sounds and angry basses.

Waiting For The World To Turn Back is a track done completely on keyboards, or more precisely on piano - very sad, very emotional, but with a strong tune. You can almost picture the wait for the change and the return to happen.

Caravans then continues where WFTWTTB ends - ambient, floating, peaceful and tranquil, but yet very intense, floating away. The drums set the tempo at which the piece will continue, yet in our minds we are allowed to wander off, what will happen what will be next. The track grows stronger and more intense, building towards a climax...

We have reached the tranquil haven of the White Gardens. How peaceful can things become. Low humming bass and very mellow clean guitar played with high emotion and set to melodic lines playfully set on top of lush keyboards. The tranquillity comes pouring out of this mindsoothing tune. After 2/3 of the song has elapsed it becomes more fiercesome and there is a darker side to the White Garden... The crying sounds of Hypothermia sends shivers through your marrow and bone - the sheer noise and sound gives me the creeps.

Siberia, the longest of all, not surprisingly puts us somwhere in the Siberian landscape, with the cold atmosphere that is created by the keyboards. The dark bass and drums make sure that we will remain where we are. The melody line, played by guitar, is spun out and amply conveys the icy cold Siberian winter.

For the last track on the CD Cemetery Of Frozen Ships, we again remain with the desolate frozen theme. Very clean and intense - fiercesome but tranquil. An absolute joy to listen to and enjoy the spheres created.

I started this review by wondering why we have so many "categories" in music, well I haven’t found the answer yet, but I have heard a stunning album by Tides From Nebula. Although I have not heard their first effort as yet, I sure need to go and buy it.

Tides From Nebula have exsisted since 2008 and their line up is Adam Waleszyński (guitars, Maciej Karbowski (guitar, keys & piano), Przemek Węgłowski (bass) and Tomasz Stołowski (drums). And if you want some pointers to categorize them then by all means put them amongst the ranks of: God Is An Astronaut, Long Distance Calling, Explosions In The Sky and Caspian...

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF



Graal - Legends Never Die
Graal - Legends Never Die
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:BloodRock Records
Catalogue #:BRRCD 006
Year of Release:2011
Time:53:57
Info:Graal
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Il Ballo Di Caterina (0:55), Gods Of War (4:46), Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe One Day (5:06), Keep On Movin' (4:20), Across This Land (3:12), The Sky Over Dublin (to Miriam) (4:52), Stickin' With You (4:33), I'll Find A Way (5:03), Time To Die (5:48), Ocean's Tides (5:44), Stay (5:52), Winter Song (3:52)

In a day when prog fans are constantly bombarded with neo-prog in some form or another, it's difficult to find an album that has that old fashioned feel. This is where Graal come in, although due to their relatively obscure status, it's still going to be difficult to find this album anyway. Legends Never Die, released last February, is the third album by the Italian quintet after 2005's Realm Of Fantasy and 2007's Tales Untold. The band consists of Andrea Ciccomartino (vocals, guitar), Michele Raspanti (bass guitar), Danilo Petrelli (keyboards), Francesco Zagarese (guitar) and Alex Guiliani (drums).

The album begins with a brief acoustic guitar instrumental Il Ballo Di Caterina, before diving right into hard rock, in the style of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. In general the band give just a slight progressive hint to this music, with the keyboards mimicking Hammond organs and other 70s effects frequently. Extended instrumentals are kept to a minimum, though there are a couple of notable exceptions. A few times, direct tributes to songs seem to occur, for example there are a few similarities between Ocean's Tides and Kansas's Icarus, and the opening to the haunting Winter Song precisely mirrors the piano notes at the beginning of Camel's Spirit Of The Water.

However, this album isn't simply choc full of hard rock numbers. Graal include a couple of folky numbers to break up the album and show a different side of the band. Along with the album opener, Across This Land and Winter Song use no percussion and rely heavily upon the acoustic guitar. In themselves, these songs are nothing out of the ordinary, but their very presence makes the album easier to listen to. After all, fifty minutes of continuous hard rock would surely get samey and boring after a while.

Along with the folky numbers, Graal also include a full-length instrumental entitled The Sky Over Dublin around a third of the way into the album. Played entirely in 6/8, this track is bursting with power chords and soaring guitars; a blissful musical interlude.

For me however, the best track on the record is the rocky, upbeat Keep On Movin', the deliberate apostrophe paying homage to many great hard rock bands of the past. As well as being a great running song (with its apt title and strong tempo), this particular track appears to be the lone song with a significant instrumental, which incidentally dominates the piece. In this instrumental, there is a cool guitar/keyboard battle before the band break the piece down and subsequently build it up again. This track is very reminiscent of bands like Kansas, who in their classic era would usually add such epic instrumentals to even their shorter songs.

The only bizarre thing about this album is the incessant double tracking of vocals. There appears to be no reason for this particular vocal effect, and more often than not it renders some of the lyrics (which are incidentally all in English) inaudible. The power of an unaltered voice seems to have been underestimated here, a mistake I coincidentally feel Genesis made on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.

Nevertheless, Graal are evidently a band who are happy and prosperous in their chosen niche genre, and I applaud them for this. Firmly embracing hard rock, there's little here to excite the progressive areas of ones mind, although this is easily forgivable as the band don't advertise themselves as a progressive band. With this fun, digestible album Graal have contributed in their own little way to an age old genre with many fans. I wholly recommend this album to those with a taste for Uriah Heep and Deep Purple.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10 (though this would almost certainly be higher on a hard rock website)

BASIL FRANCIS



From Oceans To Autumn - The Flood/The Fall [EP]
From Oceans To Autumn - The Flood/The Fall [EP]
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Silber Music
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2011
Time:18:08
Info:From Oceans
To Autumn
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Flood (8:50), The Fall (9:18)

From Oceans To Autumn span the genres between shoegaze, post-rock and heavy metal, at least that is what it says in the press release accompanying this EP. Generally the band fits into the post-rock category performing lengthy, atmospheric instrumental pieces. Formed in 2006 by Brandon Helms (guitars, samples) and Allen Knight (bass) who had previously been in the band Autumn Is Forever, the duo recruited Eddie McDaniel (drums) and Jodi Haas (guitar) and proceeded to record debut album Calmed by the Tide in 2007. Following a couple of EPs a second full length album, On Earth As It Is... was released in 2010. In advance of their latest long player, this two track EP has been issued, available for free download from their Bandcamp page.

The post-rock genre encompasses a wide variety of bands of varying infamy and notoriety. Although there is justifiable criticism that a lot of the music can sound very similar, there is no doubt that the music lends itself to the dramatic and can be a very enlightening and entertaining experience. The two tracks on offer here don't, in my opinion, offer the best of what From Oceans To Autumn have previously displayed on their two albums to date and tend to be on the heavier side without so much of the light and shade associated with other post-rock bands. This heavier attitude seems to be the direction the group favours, but I have to admit that despite the similarity of the two pieces on this EP, they are a big improvement on 2010's Equanimity EP, also available for free download at Bandcamp.

Although not yet of the calibre of bands such as Mogwai, Mono, Explosions In The Sky or Godspeed You Black Emperor (which themselves cover a wide base of different styles), From Oceans To Autumn do offer up a different slant on things and if you are remotely interested in the post-rock scene or want to check out some new and different music then you could do worse than downloading the EP for a listen, after all it is free!

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES


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