Reviews in this issue:
- Panzerpappa - Astromalist
- ARZ - Turn Of The Tide
- My Sleeping Karma - Soma
- Acelsia - Don't Go Where I Can't Follow
- Various Artists - Dutch Exposure
- Magnum - On The 13th Day
- Fish On Friday - Airborne
- Pete Laramee - 7 String Cinematoid
- Fire On Dawson - 7 Billion and a Nameless Somebody
- Lest - Odysseus
- Sumo Elevator - Breakfast
- Crowned In Earth - A Vortex Of Earthly Chimes
Panzerpappa - Astromalist
Tracklist: Bati La Takton! (5:34), Anomia (4:12), Femtende Marsj (4:02), Ugler I Moseboka (7:37), Satam (7:40), Astromalist (5:05), Knute På Tråden (9:14)
In late 2012 with Astromalist, Norwegian band Panzerpappa gave the world their first album in six years, and their fifth to date. The band lists all manner of instrumentation including such unfathomable delights as Akai EWI, Korg Kaossilator, and Tronofon in addition to the more usual things to pluck, play, hit, and program. Guesting on the title track is Michel Berckmans of Univers Zero with his bassoon and English horn, and scattered across the album several other guests contribute flute, additional keyboards, xylophone and vibraphone, cello, violin and viola.
The album was recorded over a period in excess of two and a half years at various locations in the band's homeland, and has been assembled with great care and a finely tuned ear for detail; the project being given the expected amount of sonic clarity by the avant-omnipresent Udi Koomran. Udi also contributes "additional noises" to Satam, probably the most angular tune on the album, a tune that launches exploratory skirmishes over the border and into Zeuhl territory, with some success it has to be said. The uninitiated can be grateful that this experiment is minus the operatic histrionics that can make that particular musical branch line an intimidating route down which to travel for the unprepared.
The music of Panzerpappa may be described as light avant-prog, there is nothing here that sets out to scare the neighbours. Odd time signatures abound, but while that particular avant trademark may have some more conservatively-inclined prog fans running for the exits, the rush to leave is soon tempered by some great melodic touches, fine ensemble playing and an ear for a memorable arrangement. There is a natural warmth to these compositions, an element sometimes missing from the more dryly academic end of this particular left-field spectrum.
The juxtaposition of a charming melody and a not-so-obvious time signature is evident from the start, Bati La Takton! (see sample link above) sounding almost lounge-jazz to begin with until it soars away in 5/4 on the wings of some fine Hatfield-like playing. Growing darker by the minute the tune ends in a place entirely different from where the listener may have expected from the opening bars.
The Canterbury influence also shines through on the title track, infused with a melancholic air by Berckmans' bassoon and horn. Given that Richard Sinclair guested on their last album, the band's love of that scene is quite apparent, fused as it is with a Northern European vibe, the resulting stew tasting unsurprisingly like an electrified mix of the chamber rock of Univers Zero and the whimsical sensibilities of Caravan, sometimes within the same song, as in Femtende Marsj (Fifteenth Cruising), which has the all the epic proportions of an imagined movie soundtrack.
On the closing mini-epic that is Knute På Tråden, the listener gets a nice surprise in the form of a full-on fret-mangling guitar break of near mathematical proportions. The tune starts off quietly but it's gently pulling at a leash, the tension building slowly, slowly, the theme being played by various instrumental combinations. There's a sort of tango-come-quick step section in the middle before the guitar takes over and soars and swoops all over and around the melody through sundry key changes; all very nice indeedy! Resolving itself into a piano led end section around the theme, the tune is compact, complete and never noodles for the sake of it.
I would heartily recommend Astromalist to anyone wanting to dip their toes into the strange waters of avant-prog, as it will satisfy but not exhaust the curious listener, and on that basis it gets...
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
ARZ - Turn Of The Tide
Tracklist: Arz Nova (1:27), Birth Of A Hero (8:22), Shadow On The Wall (6:37), Hope And Glory (16:40), My Friend (6:43), To The Better Man (6:55), Turn Of The Tide (12:57), Lost Lake (3:43), Twilight (11:28)
ARZ are a progressive rock duo from Portland Oregon, namely Steve Adams (guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals) and Merill Hale (drums, percussion), who first played together in a Yes tribute band called All Good People. Turn Of The Tide is the fifth album to be released under the ARZ name, although the first three, Serai, The Magi, and The Last Kingdom (we dropped the bat and missed reviewing that one!) were solo works by Adams with Hale coming on board for two of the tracks on the last album Solomon's Key back in 2009. Since then, the duo have signed to Canadian label Unicorn Digital with the new album being the first to feature vocals and a return to the more melodic and symphonic style that was slightly deviated from on the heavier, more metal inclined Solomon's Key.
The addition of vocals adds a new dimension to the music with Adams having a voice that at times sounds rather like Echolyn's Ray Weston, particularly on Shadow On The Wall which would fit well amongst an Echolyn set list! Hale is an impressive drummer, particularly on the longer numbers - Hope And Glory for instance has Hale driving things along at a frantic pace, even though some of the vocal sections are delivered at a completely different, more relaxed, time signature. The style of the writing on this track shows the pair's early fondness for Yes and ELP, not that the song sounds much like either of those bands (although the timpani is a definite nod to Carl Palmer), it is the scope and style of the pieces that draw the comparisons to mind. Hard to explain but listen and I'm sure you'll see my point! Adams still likes to deliver the goods on his guitar, dashing off solos like there is no tomorrow and he does seem to have developed and delivered more of his own sound on this album while not displaying his influences so overtly on his sleeve.
A more mellow approach is taken with My Friend although perhaps a simpler approach to the drumming could have been taken as at times the percussive elements can overpower the more gentle nature of the song. No such complaints with To The Better Man, favourite track on the album for me. A marvellous song containing a dash of early Rush, a lovely melodic chorus and some stylish playing from both musicians. Whereas Hope And Glory and to an extent To The Better Man showcase the heavier side of ARZ's musical approach, the two other long-form compositions contain extra layers of subtlety and are more akin to the epic prog of bygone days. The title track, Turn Of The Tide, has a lengthy keyboard introduction prior to a couple of Steve Howe-ish sounding pedal steel swoops taking things into a louder section. The mixing of moods throughout the rest of the track again displays some Yes-like elements, although nothing too overt. Final track Twilight is again prefaced by a lengthy keyboard introduction with drum rolls pushed right back to sound like distant thunder that evokes an atmosphere that is maintained throughout the whole eleven and a half minutes of the suitably epic and comparatively gentle piece whose strength lies in its relative simplicity, and further reference to Yes-style atmospherics, no bad thing in my book. Oh, if one assumes that Adams is only interested in the electric guitar then take heed of Lost Lake, a lovely acoustic instrumental which would simply be very lazy reviewing to compare with Steve Hackett (but hey, I just did!).
The deal with Unicorn Digital has meant that there is a budget for art work which the band has put to good use with a stunning sleeve (although most likely generated on a computer I retain the right to hold out hope that it has been lovingly carved into an ancient and well matured piece of timber) and a booklet with some great photographic images to accompany the lyrics. Turn Of The Tide holds up well with previous releases and in certain aspects surpasses them. Definitely worthy of attention.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
My Sleeping Karma - Soma
Tracklist: Pachyclada (9:01), Interlude (1:39), Ephedra (7:25), Interlude (2:36), Eleusine coracana (7:50), Interlude (2:09), Saumya (7:01), Interlude (1:17), Somalatha (7:06), Interlude (2:17), Psilocybe (8:11)
Psychedelic Space rock? Post Rock? What's in a name? My Sleeping Karma certainly falls into category one: Psychedelic rock music. Instrumental with long tunes in a Post rock sense played concisely and with precision like a math rock band.
Spiritual in nature, heavy rocking melodic rock with sturdy, steady bass patterns. Music for the soul but not for everyone due to the intonation that the music reaches deep into your consciousness, freeing your soul and tampering with your mind.
The name of the band is very well chosen; well, maybe we could leave out the 'sleeping' part because that is absolutely not the case.
Soma is already My Sleeping Karma's fourth album and so far through all of their albums they have progressed forward compositionally and musically. They have jumped forward this time, not failing to impress me with this release. Like in all previous releases the track titles give away the spirituality of the songs.
The album title itself means, Land, Body and many other things, when I searched for a meaning I literally got five pages of possible options.
'Soma' is all about relieving and releasing yourself, giving your body and mind food.
My Sleeping Karma is a four-piece German band going by their first names, maybe nicknames, only - Matte (bass), Seppi (guitar), Steffen (drums) and Norman (soundboard) - thus giving away that we are actually dealing with a three-piece band and a sound engineer responsible for the extra effects in the sound loops and whatever else.
Bass lines can be melodic and lead bass plays an important role in this music really making sure that the music enters your spirit. All the songs are highly melodic with sometimes long spun out melody lines, the hard riffing always leaning on a heavily present backing sound.
Soma is a very energetic album, on one hand giving energy by easing your mind, on the other hand drawing all energy from within as it is a heavy psychic musical journey. Not overly complex but certainly well composed and arranged.
The superb sound makes Soma a wonderful listening experience due to the energetic nature of the songs. It's not going to be everybody's choice in music but I believe it is a must try. Between all the songs rest points in the form of 'Interludes' make space before a new session of Psychedelia crawls upon the listener. Well chosen and another step forward for this excellent band.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Acelsia - Don't Go Where I Can't Follow
Malene Markussen (piano and vocals) and Odd Henning Skyllingstad (guitars, bass, programming and percussions) have cooked up an absolute storm with Don't Go Where I Can't Follow. In 2011 I reviewed their Quietude EP scoring it an impressive 7 out of 10. I remember giving it a big thumbs up, stating that I was seriously looking forward to hearing their debut album. Well that time has arrived, the day of judgement so to speak. The band, or should that be duo, have really hit the nail firmly on the head delivering a precise, melodic, addictive and infectious album that is full of emotion, an album that is perfect in its presentation. If I was asked to describe the perfect album that was melodic, melancholic, that had slight progressive tendencies and metal leanings that would appeal to a wide audience then, people, this is the album. This album has the potential to have massive commercial success given the right promotion and airing. I'm not too sure what they put in the water in the Nordic regions but whatever it is I would like a pint of it.
The presentation still calls to mind The Cranberries but with more musical masculinity without losing fragility; Shellyz Raven but with more class and Evanescence but with more style. In fact if you took all the best parts of those said artists and added a hint of Buffy Sainte Marie then you would be somewhere in the ballpark. Acelsia don't emulate those artists or offer homage, they definitely have a style of their own and can also write stunning songs; here they deliver an album that is full of killers and absolutely no fillers, eleven immaculately composed and presented songs that offer diversity, one minute powerful, the next sedate and ethereal, a perfect recipe.
Again Malene has covered what appears to be personal and intimate explorations and yearnings as she did on the EP, a world she seems very comfortable to inhabit. Her vocal phrasings are passionate, fragile and haunting an approach that is matched by Skyllingstad's musical prowess as his guitar work offers mood and atmospherics, a prime example of this being the opening songs Roads and Stitches. Interestingly, the stunning guitar tones are never too far away, a theme that runs throughout the whole album and something that adds to the whole excitement. Even when the duo moves onto the more sedate album closer Left Alone one can still absorb their creative juices as you are continually entertained to the highest order. This is an album that will have you singing along in no time, repeatedly pressing play and going through the motion again. This is an album that does not lack imagination; in fact this is an album that has style, edge and personality. What more could one ask for?
As debut albums go, they don't come much better than this. Yet again Acelsia has rewarded their listeners, this time with their fantastic debut album, a presentation that has allowed them to show the world what they are about. Based on what is here, the world really is their oyster. This is an album that can proudly sit with its head held high.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Various Artists - Dutch Exposure
Dutch Exposure is the result of a competition staged by the re-launched Freia Music label to select Dutch bands to participate in a progressive rock compilation. With the support of iO Pages magazine, the ProgWereld website and the promoter Progmotion, a total of 32 bands entered from which 8 were selected. To maximise the playing time of a CD (and in this case a double LP) they were invited to submit around 9 minutes 45 seconds of new music each. The end product is available as a combined double vinyl album and CD package with a promotional version of the latter providing the basis for this review.
Several bands like Gallico unsurprisingly elected to put forward a single piece (this is a prog album after all) while others such as Armed Cloud spread their allotted time across two tracks. Some of the bands (Profuna Ocean, Sylvium and Incidense) have been previously reviewed by the DPRP whilst the rest are new to these pages. More importantly all eight bands are new to this reviewer ensuring the whole enterprise could be approached with an open mind. I've dedicated a paragraph to each band and included Freia's description in brackets although descriptions can often be misleading.
Gallico (vintage sympfo). I'm guessing that the band take their name from Paul Gallico author of 'The Snow Goose'. If that's true then there lies a clue because it's Camel (along with Focus) that influences the symphonic, all instrumental The Parallel Universe Of Gallico. With a stately Andy Latimer flavoured guitar melody, celestial organ and flute it's suitably sweeping and lush although the aggressive ending is closer to King Crimson, clocking in at just two seconds short of the prescribed time limit.
Profuna Ocean (contemporary prog). In contrast with the opening track, Waiting For The Fall sounds bang up to date in a Porcupine Tree, Riverside and Gazpacho kind of way. Without venturing into prog-metal territory, the band really knows how to rock with hyperactive guitar histrionics over an infectious riff. The vocals are warmly confident with an understated delivery that complements the band's otherwise brash delivery.
Armed Cloud (male fronted gothic metal). Despite the clunky name, this is a band with an assured, cutting sound showcasing the singer's distinctive delivery that brings the late Billy Mackenzie (of '80s synth-pop band The Associates fame) to mind. Destructible runs headlong at a breathless pace whilst Got Her By... is dark and moody with powerful guitar rhythms and spacious keyboards a feature of both.
Sylvium (ambient prog). True Images begins promisingly with an engaging guitar and piano melody in a sea of swirling synths. Sadly for me however it runs out of steam about a third of the way in, degenerating into a spaced out, tuneless dirge with grungy guitar that harks back to the stoner, psychedelic rock of the late '60s.
Trip Trigger (alternative prog metal). With its crunching riffs and wailing synth, News Feed is by-the-numbers prog-metal although the vocalists strained delivery has a certain charm. Wave Away is marginally more restrained with a brief but welcome synth break towards the end.
Thirteen (female fronted prog). Before I Die begins in attention grabbing fashion with a bombastic fanfare before acoustic guitar and symphonic keys heralds what is easily the albums catchiest song. This coupled with the appealing female lead vocal invites comparisons with Mostly Autumn and Magenta which the romantic ballad Just Leave with its wistful piano and stirring guitar effectively underlines.
Incidense (progressive metal). Spacey synth, chugging riffs, rhythmic organ and mellotron samples gives Reality Check a decidedly vintage feel. With a grinding, repetitive riff punctuated by sharp and tricky instrumental dynamics, for me it's not so much prog-metal but rather Black Sabbath meets PFM if you can imagine such a beast.
Summer Breeze Project (neo-progressive rock). Concrete is an impassioned song about lost love but this is by no means a sentimental ballad. Despite the mid-tempo pace it has a nervous, relentless energy driven by superb bass and drums and an edgy lead vocal that's perfectly suited to the biting lyrics.
Call me biased but in my opinion, along with the U.K. and Sweden, the Netherlands is a centre of excellence when it comes to progressive rock and this compilation maintains that fine tradition. Whilst not every band here is strictly to my tastes (with more metallic riffs than I would normally feel comfortable with on any one album) they all have their merits. The production is a tad flat in places, but overall this collection scores highly on the basis of introducing me to bands like Gallico, Profuna Ocean and Thirteen.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Magnum - On The 13th Day
If you've ever been touched by them, it's impossible not to like Magnum. Ever since they first appeared on the scene with their debut album, the still marvellous-sounding Kingdom of Madness, they have consistently produced melodic, catchy, riff-driven rock that, by virtue of some often clever arrangements, flirts with the progressive rock fan. Genre-wise, I suppose that Magnum fit neatly into the "art-rock" definition: they are neither heavy enough - nor progressive enough - to break into "progressive metal". After a near-10 year hiatus after 1994's appropriately entitled Rock Art, they returned to full-time activity in 2002 with the Breath of Life album, and they have released a studio album every two years on average since that time. Of the five albums since their return to activity (before this one), three have been reviewed by DPRP: however, Brand New Morning is the only one to have received a recommendation-level score.
So, what then can one say about the latest Magnum opus? After all, if you're a fan then you'll have already bought it and formed your own opinion. Many of you have done that already: On the 13th Day has reached the highest chart position of any Magnum album for twenty years, since 1992's Sleepwalking. Many hardcore Magnum fans think this is one of their best albums. This review must therefore be addressed to those who have either never heard Magnum, or who are not ardent fans and consider each purchase carefully, swayed by reviews. It is for this audience that the following is aimed.
Frankly, listening to On the 13th Day a number of times through "progressive ears", one comes to the conclusion that there are many better Magnum albums, even from the 21st century. In my opinion, the band have been on a "hot" streak of fine new music, starting with 2007's Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow, through Into the Valley of the Moonking and The Visitation. Despite its healthy sales - clearly the band's hard work and regular touring have reaped dividends by amassing a fresh dedicated following - this current album has halted that "hot" streak. On the 13th Day suffers from excessive repetition: there is a tendency for each track to sound very much like the last. Of course, that very repetitiveness can be a bonus, if you happen to get into the groove of the sound, but it can become dulling for "progressive ears"; in particular those that have become attuned to that golden run of three albums I've just mentioned.
There are high points on the album. There always are with Magnum; one of their great skills is writing catchy, arena-pleasing hooks and delivering them in a rock format. And so it is that On the 13th Day delivers a couple of huge, crowd-pleasing numbers. Listen to So Let It Rain and I bet that you will be singing it in your mind for days to come: it's a great rock anthem, of relevance to many of us rock fans who are now into our fifties. The following track, Dance of the Black Tattoo boasts a great opening riff which, when it plays off a catchy chorus, provides the other highlight. Before and after this, however, although there is nothing unpleasant about the music, there is also nothing to get excited about, neither from the perspective of a progressive rock fan or from Magnum's history.
So, if you are new to the band, or someone who is interested without being an ardent fan, my recommendation is that there are better Magnum albums with which to start, or develop your collection.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Fish On Friday – Airborne
William Beckers - Keyboards, Percussion
Frank Van Bogaert – Keyboards, Acoustic guitars, Vocals
Marcus Waymaere - Drums
Bert Embrechts – Bass
Marty Townsend – Guitar
Danny Caen and Chantal Kashala – Backing Vocals
Nick Beggs – Bass on Welcome
Frank Deruytter, Nico Schepers and Carlo Mertens – Horns on Welcome
Airborne is the second album of the collaboration of William Beckers and Fran Van Bogaert coming roughly a year or so after their debut disc, Shoot the Moon, a CD that I had the pleasure of reviewing during the summer of 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed. This new CD pretty much carries on from where that disc left off, which in many ways is no bad thing.
The Fish on Friday sound is a fairly laid back one for most of this album but let's start at the beginning. The first thing that strikes you is the fabulous artwork, looking like something that Hipgnosis would have delivered back in the '70s, it's striking and sets a great tone for what follows. Welcome is a great opener taking just a short intro before it hits a majorly strident groove with Nick Beggs' bass chugging along and underpinning a great song lifted by the punchy horn section that gives the song its drive and urgency.
She's Going Crazy follows and it's back to the more even paced Fish on Friday sound and pace, multi-layered and actually pretty funky for a progressive rock style song. The thing about this band is that they know the importance of a great chorus in their songs and this one doesn't disappoint.
I still think a good reference point for this group is the mid '80s Alan Parson's Project albums which are a pretty good sound to aim for. Again on this album there is a good but sparse mix with plenty of room for all the instruments to be clearly defined and heard.
This Cruel World features some lovely rippling piano before the plaintive vocal comes in backed up by some gentle acoustic guitar, it's a great song too.
Maybe This Is The Blues follows and starts out with an acoustic motif before Frank's voice enters singing some really dark and miserable lyrics to a fairly cheerful melody with a chorus that is equally as morbid. It sounds wrong on paper but somehow it works and aided by some fine keyboards it's an interesting piece.
Airborne - the album's title track - almost appears to open with a similar soundscape to that of 9.1 Surround off the Shoot the Moon CD before a muscular bass riff picks up the melody and readies it for Frank's voice singing 'Today's a great day', again this song has a fab chorus and hung on that chugging bass part it sounds really good and memorable.
I must say that most of the songs on this album are really quite bleak in their tone and in their lyricism, miserable in fact at times, but even so it's still a fine CD to listen to and much like its predecessor it does take several listens for the music to take a hold and sink in, which for me at least is always a good sign as I prefer my music to reveal its intricacies slowly and over time as one can become bored of the "Wow!" type music fairly quickly.
I'm An Island is a fine example of their craft in that it makes Roger Waters sound positively cheerful yet the music that accompanies the song is strident and bold rather than mellow and introspective.
Angels Never Die is another class FoF song opening with a fine bass part and having a great chorus, it's almost happy and has some excellent slide guitar in it too; again this song has an addictive groove and midway through an acoustic guitar strummed to great effect.
Then comes This Is Not A Sad Song, which is about a relationship that has soured and gone bad and whilst I understand the sentiments it portrays, the song for me at least is ruined by excessive use of the F-word. For me the song is not bettered by this, rather it is lessened which is a real shame as musically it is a great song, one of the more strident and upfront songs on the whole album and in my opinion it just didn't need so much profanity.
Alien City talks about what happens after the show has ended and everyone has gone home. It's a very short song in reality but it has a great mid-section with some fine ensemble playing of keyboards, guitars and voices all working together to create a great sounding collage with some nice Pink Floyd style guitar at the end.
The final track, Here We Stand, opens with the sound of rain against a gentle piano part. It's actually a very gentle and emotive song talking of facing life's struggles together. It's a fitting close to an album of varied moods and textures, the end of the song features Williams' gentle piano bringing the disc to a graceful close.
So what do I think of this album? Well I certainly enjoyed it apart from my reservations about ...Not A Sad Song but I think I preferred their first album although that said there are some great songs on here too like Welcome and I'm An Island which stand up equally as well as anything on Shoot the Moon.
This is a CD that I will play again throughout the year without fail, it's a good, well produced and well-crafted disc but I've got to be honest they still need to raise the bar a tad more but it's worth a listen if you like Alan Parsons, Keats or the like - I'm happy to give it 7 out of 10 and look forward to the next instalment of the Fish on Friday story.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Pete Laramee - 7 String Cinematoid
Tracklist: Sedagive!?!? (5:04), You Talkin' To Me? (4:44), The Hanson Brothers (4:01), Chased By Reavers (4:20), Frank The Tank (3:41), Keyser Soze (6:00), El Guapo (2:58), A Certain Moral Flexibility (3:28), Pork Chop Express (3:37), Fargin Bastages (4:07), Cliffs Of Insanity (4:09)
Pete Laramee was born in Burlington, Vermont to a non-musical family, but upon hearing Van Halen decided he had to buy a guitar. Pete also got into David Gilmour, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Steve Morse to name a few. In college his musical tastes expanded to Jazz and Fusion and he played in both a heavy metal cover band and the school jazz ensemble. In 1990 Pete graduated with a B.S. in Communications and a minor in music.
Over the next few years Pete played in various different bands and projects. In 1994 Pete moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he formed Kurgans Bane a progressive hard rock project which he is still involved with. In 2006 Pete picked up a seven string guitar and fell in love with it. During his spare time Pete has been writing music that didn't really fit in with Kurgans Bane, resulting in the recording of three solo instrumental albums so far, the latest being 7 String Cinematoid inspired by some of his favourite movies.
On the album Pete plays guitar and keyboards, his brother Jeff plays drums, bass duties being shared by Luis Nasser and Michael Passen, with additional keyboards by Bobby Winston. Jeff and Luis are also members of Kurgans Bane so are no strangers to playing with Pete.
My copy of 7 String Cinematoid is in digipak format which has photos on the inside of equipment and instruments etc, the back of the album cover lists tracks and who plays on what and listing who plays bass on which tracks. The album is self-released with all the music written and produced by Pete Laramee.
7 String Cinematoid is based around movies which I am unable to comment on, the titles linking to which film. Due to there being no lyrics and not being a movie buff, I have read that the songs are based on films such as Taxi Driver, Big Trouble in Little China, Grosse Pointe Blank with Keyser Soze being based on a character in The Usual Suspects, but if you know and like movies I am sure you will know some of the links. The music on the album is modern progressive rock instrumentals with the exception of El Guapo, a lovely acoustic number that is fresh and flexible. Most of the music comes across as a power trio of guitar, bass and drums with now and again keyboards. The musicianship is very good, especially the guitar playing and I really enjoyed Keyser Soze which has some really good strange instrumental sounds mixed with Jazz fusion and featuring excellent bass. When the track Pork Chop Express starts it immediately reminds me of Frankenstein by The Edger Winter Group.
The album may well appeal to guitarists and also fans of instrumental rock albums, the only drawback I can see is some of it gets a bit samey and at times, I found it hard to keep my attention on the music. Even after several plays it didn't quite click for me, leaving me thinking something is missing. This being Pete's third album of instrumentals, I haven't heard the first two but believe they are in the same musical style, I feel that if Pete decides to record a fourth solo album, and I hope he does as he is clearly a very talented guitar player, maybe it's time for a new direction or the addition of some lyrics as this could well be a benefit.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Fire on Dawson – 7 Billion and a Nameless Somebody
Tracklist: We Are Vain (5:36), Pseudo Christ (2:23), The Code (2:55), Steal the Show (3:43), Synthetic Pt.1 (7:13), Debris (3:51), God of the Lost (6:30), Syria (4:35), Willow (3:22), Synthetic Pt.2 (3:47)
Fire On Dawson is a band comprising Indian vocalist Ankur Batra with German musicians Markus Stricker on guitar, Martin Sonntag on bass and Max Siegmund on drums. They released their debut album, Prognative, in 2010 which topped both the German and Indian Myspace rock charts. It also made it into progressive rock charts of Eastern Europe and South America.
The success of the album resulted in them touring the Indian sub-continent twice and also appearing in Asia's biggest cultural festival with Katatonia the same year.
7 Billion and a Nameless Somebody is its follow-up, mastered by American award-winning engineer Stephen Marsh, though they did also issue an EP called Seven Symptoms.
This is an intriguing album because so many influences pour out, most notably Metallica and Pearl Jam but their songs do manage to stay on the prog side of the dividing line. Although their full-on prog metal vibe is not quite aligned to my own personal musical sensibilities, they do have a very compelling sound. The Code is a good example with its very strong Rush vibe especially coming through in the bass department courtesy of Sonntag.
Batra has a very hard-edged and compelling voice which is ideally suited for the range of songs here. His is very much an experimental approach which means he can take on full-on belters such as Syria in which he sounds very much like James Hetfield in places and the sweeter sounding Willow with its beautiful rounded guitar from Stricker.
There are hard rock and grunge influences throughout but of all the songs here Synthetic Pt.1 stands head and shoulders above the rest with its acoustic-guitar driven intro which leads into a dreamy, sparse and spacey passage which recalls Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam.
They are an interesting amalgam musically and this album has some fine moments experimentally, but there is not enough originality here to keep me wanting to go back for more.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Lest – Odysseus
Tracklist: Light Fantastic (9:32), Odysseus (10:48), Sir Knight (7:39), The Day (8:01), Birth (1:19), Innocence & Experience (8:19), Ways (8:17)
Lest is a progressive rock band from France, originally founded back in 1995. Their path to fame and recording an album has been very long and filled with incidents and problems. However, just recently they finally found themselves in the position to record an album when Artists Station Records gave the trio a break, and so it happened that their debut album saw the light back in 2011.
It has taken ages for me to really get a hold of the album and make a review; I'll give away a bit of the result right now. I have found the album quite enjoyable indeed and a worthy debut.
The band is Sebastien Mauve (lead vocals, synths, guitars), Kickers (drums, synths) and Pascal Rameix (bass, synths) and their efforts in creating a good debut album have succeeded. Seven compositions long, each and every song as strong as the last, compositionally strong with some amazing arrangements, heavy prog going through to almost classical.
That Odysseus is the debut release of a possibly great prog act is clear. The sound may not be perfect but the search for a sound of their own is firmly present. As a French band it also might have been an advantage to sing in their native tongue rather than English. Sebastien Mauve has an clearly present French accent; too bad really, French is a terrific language in prog, Just listen to Nemo and Lazuli. Their playing style is already French so just add the language.
Lest mention that they have been heavily influenced by the big names of the seventies and eighties. This can certainly be heard in all of the songs, you can absolutely hear the bombastic sound of Queen, the complexity of a King Crimson, melodic sound of Camel and so on and so forth.
As I have already said, they are searching for their own distinct sound, who knows how this will develop on their next release but we can already hear a sound of their own.
So far Odysseus is a strong debut album suited for a broad base within the progressive rock community. Plenty of melody and, yes, the songs average in length over 7:30 minutes. If you like to listen to longer tracks here's your chance. Also people that like Nemo, and old '70s and '80s prog might want to check Lest. It is worth a try.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Sumo Elevator - Breakfast
Tracklist: Overhead (4:41), Ksyushing (4:12), Laundry (5:20), Pedal Horse (5:25), Additional Weight-2 (5:14), Patamushta (6:22), Track 07 (4:50), Best Retards (4:08), Dust Soap (5:14)
First off, this is probably not a disc that I should be reviewing but as this would likely be the case with whoever on the DPRP team gave it a listen I got the short straw. Sadly, I don't think that I'd be alone in not getting Sumo Elevator and I suspect that this Breakfast won't sit well in the stomachs of a number of listeners.
There are certainly some interesting elements involved but the whole is ultimately a quite frustrating experience; an instrumental mix of various rock styles with dance music beats, spacey swooping and swooshing sounds and occassional jazz.
The main problem with Breakfast is the overuse of dance rhythms, bleeps and drones. Simply put, there is far too much Techno on this album and not enough prog. It may have all worked a bit better as a fusion if the dance elements were used more sparingly and, indeed, some of the songs do benefit when it takes a step into the background, but overall there is too much of it for my tastes and it grows in stature as the album progresses until it is almost unbearable.
I'd be interested to hear what a dance music fan thinks of this as I imagine that it just falls far too clearly between the two stools of prog/rock and dance and is unlikely to garner any huge enthusiasm from either camp. Prog fans are, on the whole, sceptical to say the least of dance music and this album, although it might have been aimed at bringing the two worlds closer together, is unlikely to do anything other than underline the issues that each side has with the other's chosen musical style.
Described as "Instrumental Electronic Post-Rock", there are some tasty guitar sections here and there from Yevgeny Kushnir. Overhead couples it with an almost Mellotron backing, the wheeziness giving the song a proggy setting, but the bleeps, drones and scratching effects come and go throughout. There is a change of pace in the mid-section and things slow down. In my pre-review scribbling I noted that the bleeps got on my tits after a while - a situation which is unlikely to change anytime soon - but the track ends with some disonant guitar and what we're left with is, overall, a strange but not bad opener.
The next few tracks are OK too. Kyushing has Oleg Szumski's driving, live-sounding drums and splashing cymbals. The guitar uses a picking style that I like and the pace is bright. There is some interesting stuff involved here. LP-style crackles and the poetry of Robert Frost start Laundry, scratching and odd keyboard sounds continue and get more epic in statue. Pedal Horse opens with a keyboard drone and driving rhythm, picked guitar, loads of bleeps and some Hawkwind/Ozrics influence although the outcome is quite different. I also like the repetive guitar figures which have a hint of Fripp about them.
From here on things take a turn for the worse. Additional Weight-2 is atmospheric with languid guitar, the 'tune' taken up by electronic devices and it all gets rather odd with a bleeps and drones explosion. Things start getting RIGHT out of hand here and this track quickly becomes a skipper. It's like 5 minutes in a particularly hectic video game arcade. Things calm down again towards the end but the bloody beats just won't quit. By track 6, Patamushta, the over reliance on bleeps is getting on my nerves.
It's like a DJ overseeing a beginners Casio organ class. A tune briefly swings by to say 'hello' but we're soon back to bleedin' bleepery. There's a vast improvement towards the end when a sweeping theme comes in with nice guitar support. Oh, then the bleeps reappear. This is the longest track on the album and, too be honest, I'd have been much happier if it was the shortest.
I'm annoyed now and with track 7, amusingly entitled Track 07, we get spacey, staticy bleeps with Drum 'n' Bass elements and, Oh God, a distorted Casio tune with video game effects.
Best Retards isn't bad, featuring smoother beats and drums - Lounge Techno anyone? - the track becomes bass-led later on with whistley cracks and, yes, bleeps. I do like the bass, the feel of the track heading towards film soundtrack territory. With beats, obviously.
The much more enjoyable Dust Soap finishes things off; keys sweep in, the beats are positioned slightly more in the background (probably on the Naughty Step), the driving drums are more subdued and there is a nice guitar part. I can dig this. From my perspective if the whole album had been in this vein I would say that Sumo Elevator were onto something.
Too late, in the end I was just glad that it had finished. And I still went back and played it a number of times with much the same result as above.
It's certainly a brave and potentially interesting amalgam of worlds that don't usually go together but this is ultimately music to go insane and start smashing shit up too.
This breakfast left me with indigestion.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Crowned In Earth – A Vortex Of Earthly Chimes
Tracklist: Ride The Storm (12:20), Watch The Waves (11:30), World Spins Out Of Key (5:50), Winter Slumber (6:10), Given Time (11:26)
Fresh from their tour of minor witches' covens supporting Black Widow, bedroom metal duo Crowned In Earth receive a phone call, rudely interrupting their enjoyment of that new fangled Monty Python comedy show on the guitarist's mum's black and white TV. The only problem is the telephone in question is in a red-windowed box down on the corner of the street. The guitarist's younger brother who has been paid two bob to watch said phone box, which also passes as the band's "office", rushes in and shouts "Some geezer called Eye-Ommi wants a word with you".
Our leather and denim clad duo look at each other and simultaneously drop their tankards of Watney's Party Seven. "Feck me" one of them shouts as they get stuck in the frame of the front doorway vying with each other to be first to the phone box down the road. Yes, our heroes have landed a support slot with theirs. Only problem is they'd better write some songs sharpish, as Mr. Eye-Ommi might not be too pleased at their playing cover versions from his band's first album...
The result was A Vortex Of Earthly Chimes, recently unearthed during an archaeological dig in a car park in Leicester. Oddly this invaluable artefact was overlooked by circling TV news crews in favour of the bones of some ancient hunch-backed king, can't think why.
Back in the here and now...if you happened to have just beamed down from a planet that is more than 42 light years away and have a penchant for patchouli, chugging industrial doom riffing and the sound of metal forges banging away, then you may well dig this a lot. The rest of us have all heard Black Sabbath's marvellous first three albums.
Funnily enough I quite enjoy this album as a nostalgia trip, as way back when I started going to gigs regularly the only one of us who could drive was a metal fan, so I was steeped in the Sabs and their like from an early age. Most of that scene I found risible, even then, but the Sabs were something else entirely, like Neanderthals with guitars.
I don't quite know how this CD ended up on a progressive rock review site, as its only prog rock credentials appear to be fleeting appearances from a mellotron. Otherwise this is an old (very old) school metal album with no prog pointers whatsoever, be they in the literal sense of the word "progressive", or in the modern stylised sense of the word "prog", so...