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2012 : VOLUME 22
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Galahad – Battle Scars
Galahad – Battle Scars
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Avalon Records
Catalogue #:GHCD10
Year of Release:2012
Time:57:44
Info:Galahad
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Battle Scars (7:04), Reach For The Sun (3:54), Singularity (7:32), Bitter And Twisted (6:58), Suspended Animation (4:05), Beyond The Barbed Wire (5:30), Seize The Day (8:34) Bonus Track: Sleepers 2012 (14:07)

Alison Henderson's Review

It takes a very special courage for a band to record and issue new works in the full knowledge that one of its number will be continuing to contribute for only a finite period. Queen achieved this with The Miracle and Innuendo, Freddie Mercury’s rapidly deteriorating health only giving them a limited amount of time to commit both masterpieces to record.

It was against a similar backdrop that Galahad has also achieved something rather special with Battle Scars at a time last year when the band’s bass player Neil Pepper was battling with cancer and ultimately lost his fight last September.

This is the first of two albums due to be released this year – the second being Beyond The Realms Of Euphoria – on which Neil plays and much of the lyrical content is a reflection of where the band was at when it faced such a critical crossroads in its musical career last year.

From the opening orchestrated overture to Battle Scars, there is something wholly dignified and majestic about the entire album. It is a microcosm of life as viewed by way of singer Stu Nicholson’s lyrics and interpreted through the searing intense musicality of Pepper, guitarist Roy Keyworth, keyboards player Dean Baker and drummer Spencer Luckman.

Battle Scars immediately puts you in mind of Muse and also has shades of PallasXXV but even so, it is a unique rallying cry which twists and turns through the lush orchestration, smoking guitar licks and Nicholson’s strong, clear expressive vocals which assume command especially during the repetitions of the song title without them swamping the overall effect.

Straight into Reach For The Sun, a full-on power prog work-out with Keyworth galloping along at breakneck speed with some tasty licks driven by Luckman’s drums and Pepper’s bass. This is also the first taster of Baker’s spacey, dancey keyboards which punctuate the whole album.

On to the downbeat intro to Singularity with Keyworth adding jangling guitar before breaking out into another monster riff underlined by Baker’s smooth keyboards before Nicholson enters singing in a higher register. The lyrics this time mirror Pepper’s predicament going onward into eternity and being at “one with my universe”, which makes the song all the more poignant.

It is then headlong into the trancey keyboard lines of Bitter And Twisted which has one of the most satisfying melodies of the whole album along with the most vituperative lyrics. I would not want to cross Nicholson if this was him being personal about someone in particular! The contemporary keyboard sounds are its unique selling point giving it a real edge and added bite while proving the band is not afraid to try out something new – and succeeding in this instance.

Another huge riff and organ blast Suspended Animation in an instant orbit somewhere between land and sky and there is nowhere else on the album that Pepper’s brooding bass lines can be better heard. Particularly effective too are the echo effects at the end of some of Nicholson’s verses.

Much more restrained is the almost acoustic start to Beyond The Barbed Wire but not for long. After the first verse, it suddenly explodes into a cacophony of sound followed by a full on angry chorus with big guitar licks and a great upfront vocal from Nicholson.

And finally, it all ends on a more positive note with Seize The Day, the intro shot with lots of shuddering sound which builds into another keyboards dance line from Baker with some piano on the side. It then explodes into a wonderful contemporary swirl of synthy keyboards joined by a huge riff and big drums with Nicholson gloriously proclaiming that all is not lost and to value every moment we have down here. It all ends with a huge orchestral flourish accompanying the myriad other sounds happening in the mix thus bringing about a genuinely hopeful and positive conclusion to the official end of the album.

But wait, there is more to come with an updated, revamped version of Sleepers, first released in 1995 which is an acknowledgement of the band’s long and distinguished past. And what a total joy it is – 14 minutes of epic prog story telling with manic voices, instrumental flights of fancy and givng a quite vigorous nod of acknowledgement to fellow neo-proggers like Twelfth Night with whom they now share a working relationship.

Karl Groom, the guitarist with Threshold, has done a fine job of co-producing with the band this terrifically upfront, direct and thoroughly absorbing album. It grabs you by the lapels from the outset and demands to be heard throughout. Above all, it re-establishes Galahad as a huge force within the current prog space. Warrior by name, the band has been strong enough collectively to soldier on through the recent upheavals and happily, Battle Scars sees them emerge victorious.

Geoff Feakes' Review

An album that impressed me mightily in 2007 and still features regularly in my playlist is Galahad’s Empires Never Last. It took 5 years for Empires to follow on from their previous studio offering Year Zero and likewise a further 5 years separates Empires from their latest and equally impressive Battle Scars. Within that time frame bass player Neil Pepper rejoined the band and then sadly passed away although not before making a significant contribution to Battle Scars. The remaining band members Stuart Nicholson (vocals), Roy Keyworth (guitars), Spencer Luckman (drums) and Dean Baker (keyboards) wisely continued and together with the imitable Karl Groom on recording, engineering and mixing duties they’ve produced arguably their strongest work to date.

The album begins with the suitably epic title track with a symphonic (albeit synthetic but still splendid) fanfare of strings, brass, woodwind and massed choir. The song itself is a bold and powerful opening statement that could have easily been lifted from Clive Nolan’s prog opera She. Nicholson has never sounded better and let there be no mistake, he is blessed with one of the finest voices in progressive rock. Reach For The Sun is a fast and furious exercise in metallic shredding with the sparse vocal content linking it to the proceeding track. With its atmospheric synth backdrop, the Pepper penned Singularity continues at a more measured pace with the heavenly chorus “I’m Lost in infinity, I’ve reached Singularity, you can’t catch me now, I’m at one in my universe” proving to be a fitting epitaph for the late, great bass man.

The appropriately titled and Dream Theaterish Bitter And Twisted bristles with nervous energy with another memorable choral hook whilst the supercharged Suspended Animation offsets Keyworth’s monumental riff and Pepper’s upfront bass lines with a melodic guitar hook and lush harmony voices. Beyond The Barbed Wire begins in deceptively tranquil mood before launching into the menacing but anthemic chorus underpinned by Groom’s trademark punchy guitar and crisp drum sound, all the ingredients for an instant Galahad classic.

In a recent interview with our very own Alison Henderson, Nicholson confirms that the album has been criticised for sounding too modern. I’m pretty sure the naysayers must have had the penultimate Seize The Day in mind which in my humble opinion is one of the best ever recorded by the band. If there’s a dark cynicism that pervades much of Battle Scars then Seize The Day turns things around with its infectious optimism. The haunting intro of piano, keys and reflective vocals gives little hint of what’s to follow and before you know it Luckman’s pounding drums and Baker’s frantic techno synth are driving the triumphant choral line before concluding on a strident proggy high. Never before has modern dance and prog been so seamlessly blended although there have been promising experiments in the 2006 Chimpan A album and Mike Oldfield’s The Millennium Bell from 1999.

As the title suggests, the bonus track Sleepers 2012 sees Galahad revisiting their 1995 classic. Despite the modern makeover their neo-prog roots are evident in the lyrical Hackett-esque guitar, theatrical Fish style vocals, flowery Lewis Carroll by way of Peter Gabriel lyrics, orchestral keys flourishes and a bombastic Genesis/ELP influenced finale.

Battle Scars sees Galahad taking a leaf out of the Muse, Radiohead, and Coldplay book of rock by blurring the prog/contemporary rock boundaries, spiked with a metal edge courtesy of Karl Groom’s authoritative production stamp. Picking up from where Empires Never Last left off, it takes Galahad into a bolder, brighter future which promises to continue on their next release Beyond Realms Of Euphoria due out in September. As the late Leonard Bernstein once said (he was referring to Beethoven but the saying is equally apt here) the music of Galahad is “accessible but never ever ordinary”.

Conclusions:

ALISON HENDERSON 8.5 out of 10
GEOFF FEAKES 8.5 out of 10



North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric
North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Kscope
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2012
Time:47:46
Info:North Atlantic
Oscillation
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Soft Coda (4:20), Chirality (4:04), Mirador (4:35), Empire Waste (5:45), Savage With Barometer (5:32), Interval (4:04), Expert With Altimeter (5:15), The Receiver (5:47), Downhill (3:54), Theory Of Tides (4:16)

The music of North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) bears very little resemblance to the excellent Cardiacs but while listening to the songs on Fog Electric I couldn’t help but think about Cardiacs. Now every opportunity to name this band in a review should be taken. The thing that NAO share with that band is the use of intriguing and unexpected chord progressions. The ability to change direction completely a couple of times during one song and still be able to make it sound completely logical. Listen for instance to the end of album opener Soft Coda. Excellent, thrilling stuff. This Coda is a very good start of their second album.

I was very positive about their debut album Grappling Hooks but I can safely say that this second album is even better. Because Sam Healy (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, synths, sax, percussion), Ben Martin (drums, percussion, programming) and Chris Howard (bass, synth bass, vocals) show an incredible growth on this new album. The songs are better and they sound better and that might have something to do with the fact that they used Tony Doogan (Super Furry Animals, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, Belle & Sebastian) to record and produce Fog Electric, giving the band members the time to focus on the songs. To surprise their listeners with unexpected twists and turns like the almost bizarre changes in Chirality. Or the sudden change from hectic electronics to acoustic guitar parts on Empire Waste. To work on a perfect balance between euphoric bliss and experimenting. It all results on Fog Electric in a completely unique sound and style that is entirely their own (like Cardiacs had their unique sound).

Sam Healy has a very nice, high voice. By layering his voice with almost Beach Boys like harmonies can be heard throughout the album. However these pastoral vocals find their counterpart is the often loud guitars and drums (Savage With Barometer). So worth mentioning here, if you are looking for progressive work outs, long solo’s and technical musical chops; NAO is not for you. Every instrument has to serve the songs. It’s difficult to name highlights because the quality level is so high throughout the album. The earlier mentioned Chirality is a personal favourite because of its anthem like ending. Mirador has a chorus where the vocals almost drown in the synths and its beautiful. On this song and even more on Empire Waste the American band The Receiver comes to mind. And although the album suffers from a slight dip in the middle with Interval, which doesn’t seem to go anywhere, they immediately pick the high level of quality up again with a couple of quieter tracks at the end of the album. On these tracks like The Receiver (a beautiful ballad) and Downhill the electronic wizardry is pushed back a bit in favour of acoustic instruments like clarinet, piano, flugelhorn and trombone.

You might read this review and think; “Leo, this isn’t very helpful” but NAO are not making music to be helpful. They want to surprise you, pull your leg and awe you with their modern take on progressive rock. With the emphasis on the word progressive.

Fog Electric is a very powerful and self assured album that comes highly recommended!

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

LEO KOPERDRAAT



Sebastian Hardie - Blueprint
Sebastian Hardie - Blueprint
Country of Origin:Australia
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2012
Time:40:36
Info:Sebastian Hardie
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: I Wish (7:43), Vuja De (8:21), Art Of Life (6:22), I Remember (7:36), Another String (7:09), Shame (3:22)

Sebastian Hardie is not, as one might assume, an individual person, but one of those most rare musical incarnations, an Australian symphonic progressive rock band. Indeed, the Australian symphonic progressive rock band! This reputation was bought about by a couple of albums, Four Moments (1975) and Wind Chase (1976) which at the time went largely unnoticed outside of their native Australia but have become highly sought after in the collectors market. The first formation of the group were formed in the late 1960s gaining a reputation as a solid covers band and playing widely around Sydney. However, by 1971 the members decided to take a break to concentrate on their university studies or, in the case of the vocalist, join the Aussie production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Reuniting just over a year later, the group, while remaining mostly a cover band (including a 20-minute rearrangement of Tubular Bells) starting composing their own compositions taking them in a more experimental and progressive direction. By 1974, following a couple of line-up changes, the band had settled into a stable unit of drummer Alex Plavsic, bassist Peter Plavsic, keyboard player Toivo Pilt and guitarist/vocalist Mario Millo. Within a year the band's growing fan base and live repute was recognised by Polygram who requested their signatures on a recording contract.

Despite two critically lauded albums and attention grabbing support slots to major artists touring down under, by 1976 things seemed to be over. Record company indifference and inept management combined with the frustrations of the group members alongside disagreements on future musical directions put paid to the band who went their separate ways at the end of the year. And there it might have ended, a mere footnote in the histories of progressive rock if it hadn't been for the organisers of Progfest '94 bravely seeking out the members and asking if they cared to reform especially for an appearance at the festival. Surprisingly, after 18 years of inactivity, the band not only agreed but delivered a fine set with their appearance on the festival's compilation CD gaining enough attention to warrant the eventual release of the band's full set. There was talk of a permanent reunion but with the band members now living 1000s of kilometres apart, and each having family and work commitments, particularly Millo who was in high demand as a composer for film and television, the opportunities passed and enthusiasm soon wavered. Nine years passed when the Japanese breathed life back into the band, with an offer of three reunion concerts. The performances benchmarked how good the material and group were, so much so that when Yes played in Sydney and Melbourne at the end of 2003 they specifically requested that Sebastian Hardie were the support act. This time round the band decided that the opportunity to see what new music they could create was ripe and, despite the logistical difficulties, remained in touch, got together whenever possible, rehearsed, jammed, composed and, eventually, recorded a new album.

Which brings us up to date, with the new album Blueprint and six tracks of prime Aussie prog. I Wish is a perfect opening number starting with some excellent guitar and keyboard interplay to a solid riff. Halfway through the instrumental foreplay gives way to the vocals (by guest singer Dave Wilkins) and I am immediately reminded of the excellent eponymous first album by Box Of Frogs with the treated harmonica and Wilkins even sounding like Frogs vocalist John Fiddler. Vuja De is next up which begins with slow, almost melancholic keyboard washes and a somewhat sedate melody, although this is not to last as with a flourish of drums the guitar picks up, and speeds up, the melody line driving things along. Millo uses a rich rounded tone with a slight echo on the well structured solo which transitions nicely via a couple of unusual chords into Pilt's keyboard solo before both instruments combine for a reprise of the main riff. Of course, it wouldn't be prog without a tempo change or two, so a slower section gives breathing space before the rousing ending. Art Of Life is firmly in the autobiographical camp as can be heard in the opening lyric: "Well here we are, we haven't really changed just older now, I never thought we'd do it all again but we're here somehow, we'll all smiling, this time it's just for fun". Pilt restrains himself to providing thick Hammond chords and Mellotron strings leaving Millo to concentrate on the melodic guitar passages.

Like I Wish, I Remember has an instrumental preface with a strong vocal section. With an excellent melody and delightful vocals this is the mellowest song on the album, although that doesn't prevent Millo kicking up a storm with his solo. In contrast, Another String... is a faster paced rocker with solos aplenty! The addition of female backing vocals in what vocals sections there are adds another dimension and the use of different guitar tones and keyboards expands the musical pallet. This number is not only exciting to listen to but it is obvious that the band had fun recording it, just a shame that it ends on a bit of a whimper. Closing instrumental Shame brings shades of Camel into play, although I may be so bold as to suggest that it is a stronger composition than anything on the last couple of Camel albums, which is saying something as I am huge fan of Andy Latimer's work. Given the nature of the music, being rather more reaffirming than shameful, the title is rather a misnomer, although it may be because it is musically or thematically related to Millo's soundtrack to the 1986 cult film of the same name. Or it might that they just liked the title and the two things are completely unrelated!

All in all, Blueprint is an exceptionally good album that manages to sound fresh and contemporary yet be firmly rooted in the finest traditions of classic symphonic prog. This is no mean feat given the eight or so years gestation of the music. Hopefully, this release will catch the attention of the prog audience who will be encouraged to check out the bands two previous albums and help put Aussie prog back on the map.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Inner Ear Brigade - Rainbro
Inner Ear Brigade - Rainbro
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:AltrOck
Catalogue #:ALT025
Year of Release:2012
Time:52:41
Info:Inner Ear
Brigade
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Knee (5:05), Oom Pah (5:09), Missing The Train (3:41), Rainbro (5:02), Too Good To Be True (4:11), Somnambulist Subversion (4:34), Nut Job (3:12), Forgotten Planet (6:00), Dirty Spoons (5:12), 25 Miles To Freedom (10:30)

Hailing from the Oakland, California, and continuing in the tradition of modern American RIO and avant-prog, Inner Ear Brigade have crafted a fine album that has its roots in Latin-tinged jazz, and will serve as a gentle introduction to those of you who are tempted by the strange offerings of this particularly esoteric brand of progressive music but have yet to take the plunge.

Not as scarily intellectual as Thinking Plague or as wilfully angular as Hamster Theatre, IEB take definite influence from those two but temper their peers’ sometimes difficult tendencies with a tuneful playfulness that shines through on songs such as opener Knee. Leading from the front with her clear and full range vocal chords is Melody Ferris, giving her contemporaries Elaine di Falco and Deborah Perry a run for their money. Melody is ably supported by band leader Bill Wolter on guitars, keyboards and electronics, who also composed all the songs here and is no slouch at a complex but simultaneously infectious and melodic arrangement. The rest of the band contributes all manner of keyboards, electronics, vibraphone and a trumpet, as well as bass and drums.

Bill’s spiky guitar fills occasionally show their heads above the parapet, but this is not an ensemble that needs or wants to focus on one member unnecessarily, the onus being firmly placed on intricate ensemble playing. Dense complexity and odd time signatures abound but do not frighten as the music retains its accessible nature throughout. As one listens after repeated plays one realises that that there are many styles making their presence felt, Too Good To Be True starting with a new wave-ish guitar figure The Cars would have been proud of. Highlighting the melding of styles, the same song has a guitar solo straight from the Canterbury school, Phil Miller springing to mind. The Cars and Canterbury are a combination that sounds wrong on paper, but one that actually works well, such is Bill’s compositional flair.

The clever and almost cut’n’paste lyrics nod in the direction of the avant-garde and reveal a sense of Zappaesque humour too, something sometimes lacking in other bands of the American RIO scene. The lyrics can also be insightful without being perversely wordy for their own sake, some great couplets like “Wayward longing leaves turn falling, something inside leaves me balling” being a fine case in point on Somnambulist Subversion.

The final track 25 Miles To Freedom features a different line-up, retaining only Bill, Melody and Ivor Holloway (saxes and clarinet) from the preceding songs, and has a more Canterbury feel than what has gone before while still being recognisably IEB.

Unusually for an AltrOck release there is no sign of involvement by either Paolo Botta in the graphics department or of Udi Koomran in the mastering, not that Jasper Thomas or Bill Wolter and Zack Lewinter are slouches in those respective departments. As is the wont of avant-prog there is a lot going on sonically and the clear mix does the fine work put in by the band full justice.

Not outstaying its welcome at a comfortable 52 minutes, Rainbro is a really enjoyable album that will have you humming along in no time, and appetite whetted may well lead you into the more challenging waters of the American RIO scene, for which I can only commend it to you, dear reader. Follow this with the utterly lovely Immeasurable Currents by Dave Willey and a whole new world awaits you.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH



Vaiping – Industrial Workers Of The World
Vaiping – Industrial Workers Of The World
Country of Origin:Norway
Format:CD
Record Label:Karisma Records
Catalogue #:KAR048
Year of Release:2011
Time:38:23
Info:Vaiping
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Land For Sale (1:17), Street Talk (0:20), IWW (4:10), Transatlantik (4:43), Wind Will Blow (4:18), Listen Up (3:48), Victory (5:54), The Blue Ribbon (3:32), Salvation Army (0:57), High Hopes (4:33), Pie In The Sky (4:21)

The second album from Norwegian quartet Vaiping follows on from their debut, The Great Polar Expedition, and builds on a mechanised landscape with another concept, this one based around the Second Industrial Revolution of the early 20th century. Apparently the album was released in Norway in 2009 but has taken a couple of years to get a worldwide release.

Industrial Workers Of The World is an enjoyable slice of experimental beat music with metallic heaviness, atmosphere and sophisticated trip hop and techno influences that give the album drive and keep it interesting. Tool, Leftfield, Massive Attack and Depeche Mode can all be heard, pounding rhythms and jagged guitar are accompanied by various synth sounds and melodies with occasional lyrics predominantly in English. The band apparently follow through on their industrial sound by performing live in oil stained boiler suits.

A couple of brief pieces of mechanised rhythms and talk of revolution set the scene before IWW properly starts things off with a jagged guitar line, shouts and crowd noises forming images of industrial dispute and unrest. Synths add a Kraftwerk feel which is extended into Transatlantik with its spoken German vocal akin to a railway announcement. Listen Up features more chanting crowds demanding action while Wind Will Blow has an almost punk/new wave feel with thumping bass and distorted guitar. Victory chugs massively with a particularly catchy Kraftwerk keyboard melody moving on into the slower The Blue Ribbon which has some dub influence. The rhythms are relentless and de-humanised giving a sense of heavy industry and factory production, the only break from which comes in the form of the brief synth piece, Salvation Army. High Hopes varies the sound with a lovely, ethereal female voice to counterbalance the mechanical rhythms making it one of the best tracks while Pie In The Sky is a freewheeling and upbeat way to finish, a straight vocal track bookending a mid-section of acoustic guitar and synths.

Industrial Workers Of The World is a well put together album that is direct and to the point, keeping up the interest despite the grindingly relentless rhythms. These are wisely varied here and there with a couple of changes of pace and the result is a very listenable album that conjures up images of hard work and poor conditions with light at the end of the tunnel. The refreshingly short running time is to its advantage as the listener is not likely to lose interest in the relentless nature of the music but this will not be one for everybody. If you like any of the bands mentioned above it is certainly worth giving the samples a listen.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

JEZ ROWDEN



Incidense - Incarcerated
Incidense - Incarcerated
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:SCR-1006
Year of Release:2011
Time:39:24
Info:Incidense
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ultimate Sin (5:23), Silence Must Break (6:55), Tribulations (6:00), Remnants Of The Past (8:04), Nothing Left (3:19), Abeyance (9:43)

Independent debut albums from Dutch progressive bands are always something to look forward to. When I opened it I immediately noticed the professional appearance of the package. Independent debut albums come in a variety of cases, this one looks good. But of course it is all about the music. Progressive rock/metal is stated on their website and I agree with that completely. It is hard to compare their sound but at times I heard S.O.T.E. and some Enchant.

Incidense consists of three founding members, Lucas Kruiswijk (keyboard/vocals), François Koopmans (guitar) and Rob van Nieuwenhuijzen (drum). The band have had several bass players and recently Rich Huybens was added to the line-up.

The opening song is the first impression and Ultimate Sin does not grab me, even after some spins it is still the weakest song on the album, they just sound a common rock/jam band. One, two, three, go and steady on, nothing fancy. Silence Must Break starts so much different, some frantic dialogue in the first minute and then a nice guitar riff. Although the not so good production that I noticed in the first song is also present in this song and I am afraid that this will be the weakest link on this album. Silence Must Break is a good complex song with many breaks, the solos by guitar and keyboard are excellent. This song is structured so much better than the first song. On Tribulations the pace is taken down, a pounding rock song, which during the vocal sections bends more towards the first song - not bad but a erring towards garage rock jamming. In the instrumental parts Incidense sounds much more interesting and what do we get next, the only completely instrumental song.

Remnants Of The Past is by far the best piece on the album, which at just over eight minutes is a bit too long though as they repeat themselves a bit too much. Many complex parts, great solos and guitar/keyboard tandem playing (not as over the top as Dream Theater though). Nothing Left is a small acoustic piece and the mellow-ness from this piece continues in Abeyance - but not for long. It is the longest song on the album which means of course many complex structures and changes, but because the vocals are not mixed in perfectly Abeyance is a good second choice, Silence Must Break remains the best song on this album.

Incarcerated is a nice debut album but the weakest link is the production. A bit more time behind the knobs could have made this a much better album. With a good sound I think they will be a good live band. Silence Must Break makes up for the not so good start to the album and Incidense are a promising band that will remain on my radar.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

EDWIN ROOSJEN



Timescape - Until Then
Timescape - Until Then
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Time:64:01
Info:Timescape
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Until Then (10:49), Close (5:36), Sunboy (3:40), One Dimensional Wound (5:50), Maybe (7:04), Bleeding Salt (5:54), Time To Breathe (9:03), End Of Innocence (5:11), Until Forever (10:51)

The progressive metal genre has moved on in leaps and bounds in the past decade exploring a veritable plethora of new musical horizons. Little surprise therefore that this third album from Swedish prog-metallers Timescape sounds rather dated.

Following a demo, the band put out a debut album, Two Worlds, in 1997 followed by Strange three years later. This third effort was recorded between 2001-2 but only released in 2010.

Very little background I can add as this isn’t a band I’ve ever heard before and information about them either online or in print is very limited. According to songwriter and one of two guitarists in the band, Johan Berlin this was written ‘under the influence of various substances’ and seems to have only seen the light of day thanks to the efforts of his brother Anders.

As I said; anyone like me who has gone with the flow of heavy progressive music in the past decade will probably consider this too old skool. It is however very well done with some great musicianship and a competent if rather anonymous singer. The lyrics are great if rather dark, probably reflecting the place where Johan was in his mind at the time.

The arrangements combine extended instrumental sections with a keen eye on melody. The band seems to throw in frequent melodic hard rock influences from the bands of the previous decade. I guess a tamer early Dream Theater mixed with some of those Scandinavian melodic metal bands that had names such as Narnia and Stormwind would be a reasonable comparison as would ‘competently accessible text book ProgMetal from the early 90s’.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ANDY READ



MaterDea - Satyricon
MaterDea - Satyricon
Country of Origin:Italy
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2012
Time:53:14
Info:MaterDea
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Satyricon (6:41), Lady of Inverness (5:19), The Green Man (5:28), Benandantes, Malandantes (7:20), Awareness (5:16), Broomoon (3:46), Castle Of Baux [Il Signore di Baux] (4:36), Children Of The Gods (5:49), The Little Diviner (6:07), Between The Temple’s Walls (3:51)

Someone within MaterDea has a passion for the Gods and music; I guess that would be band leader and guitarist Marco Strega; here he has managed to marry these two elements together coming up with Satyricon, their second album. As a band they are an unknown quantity in my book and looking at the artwork had me somewhat intrigued.

Sextet MaterDea consist of Simon Papa (vocals), Elisabetta Bosio (fiddle), Elena Crolle (piano and keyboards), Marco Strega (guitars), Morgan Devirgilis (bass) and Marco Cutrufo (drums) offer up an album that is full of a Celtic rock/folk that at times reminded me of Mago de Oz, but without the force and power.

As an album I would definitely say that the impact is not immediate, in fact this is for me an album and concept, well maybe more little vignettes, which you really need to buy into, if you are going to get any reward.

In mythology Satyrs were a group of male companions of Pan and Dionysus, with a goat like appearance, being often associated with pipe-playing. They would roam to the music of the pipe, bagpipes, cymbals and castanets performing their special dance called sikinnis.

The vocals of Simon Papa, offer a sedate structure as she builds the mythical stories, whilst the band weave and dance about her; one could imagine that as they play their music they are performing their own sikinnis. The opening narration on the album really confirms everything, as the band create their story telling world, a world where we encounter marvellous creatures based in another dimension.

It is for me though the faster passages like The Green Man, Broomoon with it catchy hook and the atmospheric Children Of The Gods, where the band work the best as they step out of the realms of the twee. Although, in saying that when you hear the ballad Awareness or the beautiful and atmospheric album closer Between The Temple’s Walls where Crolle’s keyboard interactions really compliment Papa’s passionate vocals, you realise that the band do have more to offer, but in all honesty for these ears as a package it never gets any better than being average. Don’t get me wrong, during the albums ethereal and magical journey there are some really enjoyable musical moments where the band really comes together, unfortunately these moments aren’t frequent enough, which is a bit of a shame really, as the band do have some interesting ideas.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

JOHN O'BOYLE


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