Reviews in this issue:
- Vincenzo Ricca – The Roma Pro(g)ject
- Skyfox8 - It's Time Now To Be Inside All
- Diagonal - Second Mechanism
- The Dædalus Spirit Orchestra - Tabula Rasa
- InVertigo - Veritas
- Morse Portnoy George - Cover2Cover
- Consortium Project III – Terra Incognita
- Consortium Project IV – Children of Tomorrow
- Didbo – Global Pictures
- Jastreb - Jastreb
Vincenzo Ricca – The Roma Pro(g)ject
Tracklist: Prologue (1:49), ...April 21st 753 B.C. (6:13), Over 2000 Fountains (7:15), In and around the Colosseum (9:29), Monuments and Statues Everywhere (6:15), Down to the Domus Aurea (6:21), Caracalla's Dream (4:28), A Mankind Heritage (4:36), ...Towards the Future (5:38), The Mouth of Truth (3:10)
Vincenzi Ricca: Keyboards
David Jackson: Saxes and woodwinds
John Hackett and Jerry Cutilla: Flutes
Steve Hackett / Paulo Ricca / Frank Carducci / Mauro Montobbio: Electric and acoustic guitars
David Cross: Violin
Fabio Grema / Frank Carducci / Danilo Chiarella / Richard Sinclair: Bass
Nick Magnus: Keyboards
Luca Grosso / Maruzio Mirabelli: Drums
The Roma Pro(g)ject is the brain child of Vincenzo Ricca and represents a musical walk through the history and the places, the greatness and the beauty of the Eternal City of Rome.
Vincenzo's background is primarily in writing soundtracks for documentaries and production music in Italy and The Roma Pro(g)ject is his first foray into writing progressive rock, although he has been a big fan of the genre for many years. The album or the inspiration for it came from a conversation with Steve Hackett in Rome when Steve was considering a piece based around the many fountains scattered throughout and that decorate and bring such life and vibrancy to the city.
It is interesting then that this CD has a rather elegiac and almost pastoral feel to it, featuring as it does members of Genesis, King Crimson, VDGG and Caravan all of which adds to its prog credentials, and roots it's sound in the '70s.
The album opens with a brief Italian introduction, actually an except form Titus Livius's "Ab Urbe Condita" read by Francesca Di Giacomma of Banco Del Mutuo fame, before the musical journey commences. Apart from a further brief spoken section on the second track the album is entirely instrumental.
I'm always both incredibly impressed and also slightly nervous when I hear of an entirely self-funded and produced CD as sometimes the budget does not always match the vision and the results can fall short of their intended goal. Well I am very pleased to report that this is certainly not the case with The Roma Pro(g)ject - one can tell this has been a labour of love from Vincenzo and his colleagues but the results are both very credible and highly laudable and indeed very satisfying to hear.
The obvious comparison to this is Classic era Genesis as that is very close in sound and timbre to what is on offer here although this is no mere clone of that particular era rather it is a recreation of those very special and classic soundscapes using them as a basis to take this vision forward to the 21st century today.
The second track is where the music really begins featuring as it does a variety of keyboard sounds and textures over which is layered some very tasty guitar work. This track pretty much sets the scene for what follows; very articulately written and played classic progressive rock using modern production techniques and sounds to stunning effect.
Track three, Over 2000 Fountains showcases the soaring violin work of David Cross of King Crimson fame, rising above the orchestrated sounds of the keyboards to great effect. One of the best things about this disc is the use of some very memorable melodies that bring the music to life.
Track four, In and Around the Colosseum, has a very Steve Hackett sound to the guitar work but it's not him playing. Such is the standard that one could be forgiven for thinking it was, it has volume swells and long sustained notes and a very Tony Banks-type keyboard solo, as in very well structured and highly melodic, moving the song from one phase to another.
Track five, Monuments and Statues Everywhere, features John Hackett and Nick Magus (Steve Hackett collaborators) to great effect on a highly melodic yet jaunty piece again with keyboards very much to the fore before John's flute enters playing a plaintive melody against an acoustic guitar backdrop. Electric guitar leads the song back to its recurrent theme.
Track six, Down to the Domus Aurea, does feature Steve Hackett on guitar and it is a great moment on the disc. Against a marching rhythm Steve's guitar enters the soundscape, unmistakably him by the depth and breadth of the expression that he brings, playing counterpoint to the keyboards, each spurring the other onwards and upwards as the piece unfolds to a soaring climax.
Track seven, Carachalla's Dream, features one Richard Sinclair of Caravan on electric bass and is a very understated and gentle piece also featuring some fine flute work set along Richard's elegant and understated playing.
Track eight, A Mankind Heritage, showcases the saxes flutes and whistles of David Jackson of Van de Graaf Generator playing a suitably staccato melody ably supported by Vincenzo's keyboards. The piece picks up pace halfway through with the keyboards doubling the sax parts to good effect.
Track nine, Towards the Future, is the penultimate track and a good summation of what has preceded it featuring some very expressive keyboards and stirring guitar work.
Track ten, The Mouth of Truth, the final track fittingly features Steve Hackett on guitar, the man who was in part a very large inspiration in the making of this album, and it brings the entire disc to a most satisfying close.
This album is a beautifully conceived, executed and produced project that does evoke a certain classic period in the on-going history of progressive rock and its sounds and textures pay homage to that era in a fitting way using it as an inspiration to showcase a truly great set of material. If you enjoy well written, structured and performed music then this could very well be of great interest to you.
It is an album whose themes will enchant and entrance the listener and like most great albums it reveals its secrets as you listen to it again and again.
So I have absolutely no hesitation in giving this 9 out of 10 - it's a great album and one I shall return to often. See if you agree with me...
Very highly recommended indeed.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Skyfox 8 - It's Time Now To Be Inside All
Tracklist: Swamp Flower (7:19), Captain Absent Heart (5:44), It's Time Now To Be Inside All (4:40), Something Wrong In Cróquis Vilus (5:09), Gold In The Backyard (8:11), Midnight Train (4:58), Slipping Into Surprise (4:55), Suspects In Love (5:26), Change We Must (5:38), Tomorrow's Trick (7:43), A Fox Escaped To The Turquoise Sky (12:32)
Brazillians Skyfox 8 started life in 2001 when Renato Jardim (vocal, guitars, keys), Gastão Von Mühlen (bass & keys), Luciano Reis (lead guitar) and Daniel Fontoura (drums) came together to mould their take on prog fusing influences from art rock and other genres. They appear to have suffered a number of ups and downs along the way before producing their debut EP in 2008, gaining a new member in keyboardist Vinicius Moller prior to completing this debut album, It's Time Now To Be Inside All.
The music sounds like the band have indeed been together for a while as they are very together and tight. The album is well formed with good sound, self-produced as it is by three members of the band. They haven't done a bad job either; the bass may be a little too prominent at times at the expense of Renato's vocal and the drums are a bit 'sharp' but no matter, the results are good.
Most of the material is short and to the point but the band give themselves space to stretch out and appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves during the lengthier numbers:- the melodic opener Swamp Flower where Spock's Beard is invoked; Gold In The Backyard with hints of IQ, Jadis and a rocky section that brings Blue Öyster Cult to mind; Tomorrow's Trick with elements of The Flower Kings and IQ again; A Fox Escaped To The Turquoise Sky with echoes of Genesis and Yes.
There is an awful lot of music on this disc as it runs to over 70 minutes but it is all of a high quality and the playing is very good. Special mention to Captain Absent Heart which is excellent with a good chorus. The acoustic at the start sounds vaguely like Jon & Vangelis before the band kicks in with hints of Yes at their most straightforward. The acoustic feel seeps in all the way through which is very enjoyable, plus there's a Steve Howe-like guitar solo.
Elsewhere the title track has a Genesis Duke feel mixed with of Yes again. The vocals are not quite as convincing here but there is a nice Hackett/Banks guitar and keys section with choral effect vocals. Something Wrong In Cróquis Vilus is great; strong with a driving pace, funky bass and a breakdown reminiscent of Cardiacs but without getting too out there making for a nice fit. Renato's limitations come through again here and there but do not detract too much from the whole. Midnight Train is big and bold with an Americana feel and a touch of laid back Flower Kings perhaps.
Acoustic guitar again features on Slipping Into Surprise with splashes of percussion before the band pick up a good groove. Some Jon Anderson with Howe-like guitar but the track does not have an overly Yes feel. Nice bongos! And is that some '80s Camel in the guitar part? Suspects In Love features jangly acoustic and percussion with nice keys, as throughout the album, making for an interesting ballad with good harmony vocals and a nicely worked guitar solo.
Perhaps an unusual choice is the cover of Jon Anderson's Change We Must from a tribute video Skyfox 8 previously contributed to. I always liked this song and they do a good job with it. From the in concert images on their website there appears to be a lot in Renato's presentation that owes a debt to Anderson but his voice is not as ethereal and that is a bonus here as they put their own spin on the track. He does seem to be straining for some of the high notes though!
Renato Jardim is an engaging singer brimming with enthusiasm and the material moves around a lot ensuring that it doesn't get bogged down and samey. The exuberance of the band comes through easily and immediately gets the listener on side. These guys can certainly write an entertaining song and Skyfox 8 is a great discovery to start the year for me; light and accessible with melody to spare and the skills to effortlessly step things up for the more fiddly sections. There is no lyric sheet but the words seem to be a good fit, hard to tell what they are about though. The playing is top notch, Reis and Moller particularly noteworthy in producing fluid lead lines and melody, ably supported by a rhythm section that works particularly well.
The feeling you get throughout this album is uplifting and it just oozes positivity. Skyfox 8 successfully blend a lot of influences into their own sound and there is a great ensemble feel to the album which is pretty 'live' sounding.
Instantly likeable this is a very satisfying debut from a Brazillian band to watch. They've certainly got something here and will more than likely not only put a smile on your face but keep it there if the influences listed above float your boat.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Diagonal – Second Mechanism
Tracklist: Voyage/Paralysis (6:12), These Yellow Sands (7:59), Mitochondria (9:41), Hulks (10:46), Capsizing (9:10)
Back in 2008, after the astonishingly young Diagonal arrived fully formed seemingly out of nowhere...well, Brighton actually...gifting the world one the best prog debut albums of the noughties, reviewed favourably on this very site, the world seemed to be their oyster.
Unfortunately, as is the wont with bands who appeal to minority audiences, a derailing awaited around the corner. Two core members of the original seven-piece outfit left, and a whole album's worth of material was scrapped or re-rerecorded by the remaining 5 members, and 4 years later the result, Second Mechanism, is spinning in my CD player.
The sound is different from before, with a more open albeit darker feel. The old Crimson (early 70s version) and VdGG influence is still there only less prevalent, and I am put in mind of a more Scandinavian bent, particularly on opener Voyage/Paralysis, which would not sound out of place on a Gösta Berlings Saga album.
The old influences return on These Yellow Sands and Mitochondria, and we witness a modern take on the trusty VdGG/Crimson hybrid, which after a languorous start eventually drives along at pace, melding space rock with a jazzy vibe. Not quite the attention-grabbing stuff of the first album, but good nonetheless.
Just when you were wondering where the vocals credited on the CD cover appear, along comes Hulks, at nearly 11 minutes the longest track on the album. The Crimson comparison is enhanced by reed player Nicholas Whittaker's lead voice being uncannily similar to Gordon Haskell on the Lizard album. After a verse or two the song extrapolates into a dark and dense affair with some nice guitar buried in the no-doubt intended murk of the production. Played loud this song hits all the right buttons, and is worth the entry price alone. A pounding beat under a spinning cyclical riff and some syncopated reed blowing in the mid-section will have you nodding your head vigorously, methinks! Some nice and almost free-jazz squawking soon resolves itself into a calmer section as the song turns round and heads for the exit, Nicholas's voice returning for a menacing climatic ending featuring some fiery guitaring and doomy chanting. Very nice indeed.
It seems I've gone for a blow-by-blow description here for once, so it would be remiss of me to omit Capsizing which goes for a spacey vibe from the off, Luke Foster's clattering drums eventually anchoring a mid-tempo voyage with much sax. I notice that Robbie Wilson is credited as a guest on trumpet and flugelhorn, and together with Nicholas they make a good reeds 'n' brass combo, firing off one another with panache. Robbie and Luke also form half of that other Brighton band, the marvellously beguiling Autumn Chorus, who could not be more different from Diagonal. Damn, these are talented guys!
This record probably would have suffered somewhat in comparison with the wonderful debut had nothing changed line-up wise, but as it is, it is probably best to view this album as a second debut rather than a second album per se. Definitely worth a listen, I'd say.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
The Dædalus Spirit Orchestra - Tabula Rasa
Tracklist: Ven-Is (10:49), Echolalia the Blackest Tongue Has Spoken (3:27), 27 Heads Hydra (10:06), Think Tank (8:02), Pre-Eclampsie (1:15), Tabula Rasa (27:07)
Three years ago I had the pleasure of reviewing the debut album of Dædalus Spirit Orchestra, a French experimental eclectic prog band. Now again it is my pleasure to review their second full blown album.
The band has undergone a few changes between the release of their debut and Tabula Rasa. This time we see that Eric Lorcey has stepped down as a vocalist, this is now provided by D-Bunty. Another personnel change is their keyboard player, this duty now being the responsibility of Maxime Defossé but other than that the DSO is still the same.
What has stayed as well since their debut, Ampulla Magnifying, is the complexity of the music. In the review of that album I felt a strong resemblance with the Mars Volta, there still is, not only from a musical perspective but in the high energy levels and velocity found in the compositions of Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriques which can also be found in the musical works of Eric Lorcey.
Strange twists and hooks, as well as not all too commonly used instrumentation are a trademark of Daedalus Spirit Orchestra. A listening session is tough and drains your energy levels. The use of 'Spirit' in their name is very suited indeed.
Replacing the keyboard player has not done any harm to their musical performance which remains at a high level. D-Bounty on vocals has the same effect; he is more of a chanter than singer but the vocals suit nevertheless.
Tabula Rasa is 6 tracks long, equally divided between the title track, clocking in at a mere 27 minutes, and the other 5 songs. Because of the sometimes weird time signatures and complexity of the compositions it is very hard to really dig the music. With a song clocking 27 minutes I always wonder how and what was the thought behind it. Why not break it up into more easily manageable parts, difficult as it is to keep the listeners' attention for almost half an hour as it must really stay interesting all the way through. It is not just a matter of composing a piece and then throwing in twists and turns. Trust me, Tabula Rasa will keep you concentrated, listening to the music, sucking it up but in the meantime draining and exhausting you.
In the end the hour of listening pleasure is over before you know it. Dædalus Spirit Orchestra is not for your average Neo progressive fanatic. More for the more experimental prog lover. Leaning heavily towards experimental . King Crimson maybe but then again Gentle Giant or Gong or ... I really don't know what the best comparison is to give you all some pointers to where DSO are musically. My best shot stays Mars Volta, same complexity and energetic levels.
I really like this type of music although I need to feel up to a listening session. When and if it always is a pleasure, a roller coaster ride through music heaven.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
InVertigo - Veritas
Tracklist: Darkness (8:29), Lullaby (6:01), Waves (7:51), Dr. Ho (7:34), Suspicion (13:41), Truth (4:41), Memoirs Of A Mayfly (21:52)
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky". So spoke former United States President Bill Clinton at a press conference in 1998, in an effort to address allegations of sexual misconduct with the young White House intern. No lies though from German progsters InVertigo on Veritas, their sophomore release, which straight up gives lyrics on everything from aquatic insects to male hair loss. The aforementioned Clinton quote works its way into the action as an element of irony. (More on that later. Seriously, I promise)
InVertigo is made up of Sebastian Brennert on vocals and piano, Michael Kuchenbecker on keyboards, Carsten Dannert on drums and percussion, Matthias Hommel on bass and pedals, and Jacques Moch on guitars. Guest musicians include Marek Arnold playing saxophone on one track, Niels Loffler contributing a guitar solo on one track, and Hey Jo, a choir consisting of the simply named Bianca, Catherine, Julia, Lena, Michelle, Eileen, and Petra appearing on one track. Julia Gorzelanczyk provides additional vocals on three tracks.
The music, mostly heavy prog stuff somewhat in the vein of Porcupine Tree, was written by InVertigo, along with the lyrics.
And the words here are basic, nothing too eloquent, though they get a tad quirky on Dr. Ho, an ode to hair loss. I submit: "It's a well-known fact that men with a tonsure/Not too often make the cover of Vanity Fair/So most of them are likely to take on a bold venture/And invest more than they have in the regaining of their hair". Kuchenbecker's spacey synth style keyboards on this tune draw upon Abacab-era Genesis as a commonality, and a brief majestic section tends to point to Landmarq. Organ-style keyboards against a bluesy shuffle recall the keyboard flair of the late, great Jon Lord during his time in the reunion-era Mark II line-up of Deep Purple. Regrettably, Gorzelanczyk's additional vocals on Dr. Ho don't really add anything extra to the song.
Her vocals are much more helpful on Suspicion, which has a slightly macabre opening section and some funky keyboard dazzle from Kuchenbecker. This song also has part that briefly leans to to the title track from Marillion's This Strange Engine release. After a bit of a high-speed groove, things get all dark on us again with a bit of stirring piano from from Brennert and organ style keyboards from Kuchenbecker evoking Van Der Graaf Generator.
On Lullaby, Hey Jo's choir contribution sounds almost spiritual, with jazzy percussion from Dannert and fiery guitar from Moch sizzling things up. The overall heavy rock sound of this one strikes a paradox with the song's title.
The requisite epic, Memoirs Of A Mayfly, has some interesting moments, though as an almost twenty-two minute piece it may on some level overdo the conveying of its theme, the brief life of the mayfly. Apparently mayflies reproduce shortly before they die, and of course for this the opposite sex is required. In Memoirs Of A Mayfly, this is addressed in Chapter VIII: Seduction, with Gorzelanczyk singing the role of the seductive female mayfly. This is followed by Chapter IX: Mating Music, with Kuchenbecker's pipe organ element probably being the last type of instrument I would associate with mating, "pipe organ" joke notwithstanding. Arnold's sax conveys a rawness not unlike some of the work Dick Parry contributed to Pink Floyd. Elsewhere on the epic we have influences recalling The Tangent, Transatlantic, Icon and The Flyin' Ryan Brothers.
The sole instrumental track on the album, Truth, kind of recalls Catley's Ashes, the only studio track ever recorded by 21st Century Schizoid Band and again later recorded by Jakko M. Jakszyk. Dannert's drumming slams with conviction and Loffler's solo draws upon Joe Satriani as an influence. The quote from Clinton mentioned at the beginning of this review is cleverly, if not ironically, placed in the track alongside other samples of public figures not being truthful, including another former United States President, this one talking about weapons of mass destruction.
The CD is housed in a somewhat minimally designed digipack with an eight page booklet containing lyrics and credits, with a track listing on the back.
So all told, a competent offering from InVertigo. I think a great opportunity for this band with their next release is to focus on the strength of the lyrics, as everything else in their formula seems to be where it should be.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Morse Portnoy George - Cover2Cover
Tracklist: Lido Shuffle (Boz Scaggs) (4:15), I Saw The Light (Todd Rundgren) (3:26), Rikki Don't Lose That Number (Steely Dan) (4:03), Teacher (Jethro Tull) (4:35), Driven To Tears (The Police) (3:50), Come Sail Away (Styx) (6:09), Southern Man/Needle & the Damage Done/Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young) (10:18), Crazy Horses (The Osmonds) (3:35), Lemons Never Forget (The Bee Gees) (5:45), The Letter (Joe Cocker version) (4:16), (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love & Understanding (Elvis Costello) (4:42), Starless (King Crimson) (12:23)
Cover2Cover is the second cover album by Morse Portnoy George split into two sessions; tracks 1 - 7 are from the 2012 Momentum sessions & tracks 8 – 12 are the 2008 Lifeline sessions. The CD booklet is similar to the previous album with all 3 of the band pictured on the front cover, the first album was called Cover To Cover and came in the same format of recording sessions made during spare time while recording the previous albums One, Testimony and ?. Mike Portnoy again writes the notes and states in the booklet, like the first instalment of Cover To Cover, that the song choices are mainly rooted in the seventies & are songs/bands they grew up with, also stating that even after 28 songs so far recorded they will be starting a new list of covers for when they get together to record a new album, to be released on the next Cover to Cover album. The band is Neal Morse vocals, guitar and keyboards, Mike Portnoy drums and vocals on Crazy Horses, Randy George bass, with additional musicians Paul Gilbert guitar on Crazy Horses, Paul Bietatowicz guitar solo on Lemons Never Forget, Jim Hoke horns and Steve Royce with a fine piece of flute on The Teacher that sounds very Tull-ish. The album is produced by Neal Morse.
I own the first album of covers and really like it with three great musicians having fun playing and singing some great songs, so had no reservations on buying the second album. Three of the songs from the Lifeline sessions were originally on the bonus disc that came with the special edition of that album, these were Crazy Horses, Lemons Never Forget and The Letter, so not too many repeats if you own the Lifelines special edition. The album starts with Lido Shuffle, a great enjoyable opener nicely reproduced by the band and one of those songs that always goes down well at a party because everyone ends up singing along too it. The next two songs, I Saw The Light and Rikki Don't Lose That Number have great harmonies with the later having a nice guitar solo and sounding close to the original. Then we have The Teacher with some excellent flute playing and really rocking in parts and one of my favourite tracks on the album followed by Driven To Tears with great drums from Mike giving Stewart Copeland a run for his money. Next is a great remaking of Come Sail Away, the beautiful vocals from Neal a gentle start before Mike kicks in with some powerful heavy drums making another favourite on the album. The last of Momentum sessions is a Neil Young set of three songs flowing into each other.
Next is the Lifeline sessions starting with Crazy Horses with Mike on lead vocals with Neal singing The Osmonds harmonies and Paul Gilbert (Mr Big & Racer X) joining the trio on guitar. Following The Osmonds we have an early Bee Gees song, Lemons Never Forget featuring Paul Bielatowicz (Carl Palmer Band) playing a very good guitar solo. Next The Letter with a big horn sound played by Jim Hoke and backing vocals by Ivory Leonard and Danielle Spencer, the song really is in Joe Cocker style, followed by Nick Lowe's (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love & Understanding, which really rocks and Neal's voice sounds like a cross between Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen. Last but not least we have Starless as the highlight of the album and also my favourite track on the album. It doesn’t seem to matter how many versions I have of this I don’t get bored with it. Starless, which was only previously available to Inner Circle members, is a great cover of a great song, Randy's bass playing is excellent in a lovely John Wetton style, keys and guitar spot on from Neal with top notch drumming from Mike, very close to the original. Mike states in the linear notes that he sent a copy of Starless to Bill Bruford who gave it his seal of approval.
The album is a very good collection of songs, very well recorded with a laid back, fun feeling to it. Fans of Neal, Mike and Randy won't be disappointed as long as you remember it is a cover album and don't take it too seriously. Of course, some people will ask what's the point in buying a cover album, well the point is it's a very good cover album and slightly stronger and better than the first Cover To Cover album. I look forward to the next Cover To Cover release.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Consortium Project III - Terra Incognita
Consortium Project IV – Children of Tomorrow
Tracklist: A Sign of the Times (4:40), Nowhere Fast (4:37), Neverland (3:25), Shadows (4:37), Exodus (4:23), Made in Heaven (3:43), Let the Wind Carry You Home (3:46), Enigma (4:52), Mastermind (3:50), Path of Destruction (3:41), Children of Tomorrow (4:24)
Lion Music have deemed fit to re-release Ian Parry's epic Power Metal Sci-Fi rock opera a quadrilogy of albums that have been out of print for some time. Consortium Project III's Terra Incognito was reviewed back in its heyday of release, receiving 6.5 out of 10. The essence of what the reviewer stated about this album still stands today, there isn't anything I would add or detract from those statements. The draw for the album now is the addition of the two unreleased bonus tracks, Great Exploration (demo version) and Terra Incognita – The Undiscovered World.
Great Exploration is a well mastered slice of music that displays what was in the works before it came into its final construct, as does Terra Incognita – The Undiscovered World. The final album versions are far superior both sonically and in their presentation, as one would expect, but it is nice to hear the pieces before they had been tweaked and polished. Terra Incognita – The Undiscovered World is for me the better of the two tracks. Whether this is a big enough draw for those who already own the albums is debatable. What is for sure in my eyes is that the addition of these two songs doesn't really add anything to the album and is really aimed at the completist. Terra Incognita is technically impressive and an album that offers diversity, but alas this approach has been done better by others.
Consortium Project IV – Children of Tomorrow brings to a close the quadrilogy re-release. The final album of this pentology collection, released in 2011, was DPRP recommended.
This series of albums was recorded over a twelve year period; something that is evident in the musical approach. Children of Tomorrow has a heavier soundstage that has been constructed around short tracks where melody and power are the operative words. Ian Parry isn't one who is afraid to experiment with different approaches mixing things up, but in reality, thematically Children of Tomorrow doesn't stray too far off the mark of things passed.
Again we are offered an album that doesn't really have anything new to add to the genre. That's not to say though that this isn't an album worth investigating. Children of Tomorrow is built around slower, mid-paced guitar riffs that are at times rewarded by some rather fine lead breaks and some accessible melodic passages. The guitar and keyboard interactions develop and build on the albums atmospherics, creating moody and intriguing songs that are at times memorable. I would like to say that the backline's contributions are fantastic as they seriously hold everything together with pin-point accuracy, really punctuating and accentuating the music, magnifying the power and intensity.
At times though some of these approaches are slightly formulaic and generic detracting from the quality of the overall presentation. As a whole the album doesn't really have any real vibrancy and pulsating energy that the previous release did. I guess though, with the three previously passed albums broaching the concept, this would eventually become inevitable.
The mastering of the album is top notch and there are several standout moments such as Shadows, Exodus, the rather rapid and stunning Enigma and the grandeur of Mastermind, but alas not enough to hold your attention and save the day, which is a pity really.
So on balance what we have here is two very generic approached albums that bring nothing new to the table but do offer one or two nice little titbits.
Consortium Project III – Terra Incognita - 6.5 out of 10
Consortium Project IV – Children of Tomorrow - 6 out of 10
Didbo - Global Pictures
France has enjoyed a recent resurgence in prog, spearheaded in particular by the spectacular Lazuli, aided and abetted by Nemo who have also created some interesting prog.
On the other hand, Didier Bonin, otherwise known as Didbo, has more or less set himself up as France's answer to Vangelis or indeed, a successor to Jean-Michel Jarre, being a virtual one man prog band, keyboards and effects being his strongest musical suits. According to his biography, he is self-taught and plays guitar in open tuning. His previous compositions have been for theatre and contemporary dance.
Global Pictures took three years to record, according to the album sleeve, which features an array of buildings and other structures photographed at obtuse angles. We also learn it was both recorded and mixed between 2008 and 2011 at Quetigny on a Roland MV8000.
With whatever admirable intentions he went into producing this album, the result is an almost fey mixture of predominantly keyboard orientated tracks to which Ronny Heimdal adds lead and rhythm guitar on a couple of compositions.
Though it is good that people such as Didbo want to get their music "out there" as it were, as has been remarked upon by others reviewing albums of this genre, there is currently so much music being made in the name of prog, that albums like this are hardly likely to find themselves a big audience simply because it does not draw you and engage you.
He throws some very pretty musical shapes with his music starting with Rock, Snow and Ice with its acoustic guitar opening, close almost Moody Blues-ish vocal harmonies and the keyboards entering Tomita territory but only fleetingly. There are also hints of Starcastle in places and a built-in chilliness to the composition which does add an honesty to the track.
Heimdal is the star of People, his fluent guitar holding it all together as the samples evoke calling out the word "People" while Didbo makes some interesting noises around it, primarily on percussion and drums.
The title track, Global Pictures, was inspired by the string arrangements on a song, Nossun composed by Kit Watkins for an album entitled Crafty Hands by Happy The Man in 1978. This is the first song which conjures up the ghosts of early Pink Floyd in the delivery of the lyrics and the sonics with a touch of Steven Wilson added to the ingredients.
Tension comprises a thundering bassline overlaid by conversations between astronauts plus Heimdal's rhythm and lead guitar providing the melody line while Blue Light Lost At Sea returns to the acoustic guitar-led mood complete with strings, and vocal harmonies. It is pretty but totally undemanding of the listener.
Influenced again by early Pink Floyd sonics, Mœbius Ring offers some voice sampling this time and shows Didbo's potential for going into writing and recording music for films where some of the tracks from here would probably be best used.
And bringing it to a close is Gravity, again with lots of heavy keyboard noodling and sound effects, some cosmic lyrics, a good resonant piano ending it all on a relatively high note.
While not unpleasant, it is far from original and does not possess the 'wow' factor which could have been present if he had listened to a few more J-M Jarre albums to see how high his fellow countryman had set the bar in delivering brilliant keyboard dynamics that captured the imagination of the world.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Jastreb - Jastreb
Tracklist: Yggdrasil (36:42)
Croatian band Jastreb features members from the bands Seven That Spells and Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand. Their first relase, a 36-minute instrumental, is a turgid, mundane, laborious drone of unimaginative repetitive riffs that sucks the will to live out of the listener. Some may think this is meaningful music, I certainly don't fall into that category. The only positive thing about this release is that as it is a download only at least there has been no material wastage in generating a physical release.
Conclusion: 2 out of 10