Reviews in this issue:
- Sound Of Contact - Dimensionaut
- Fish - A Feast of Consequences
- Disperse - Living Mirrors
- Verbal Delirium - From The Small Hours Of Weakness
- Dino Fiore - Fleur Folia
- Garden - Garden [EP]
Sound Of Contact - Dimensionaut
Simon Collins - vocals, drums
Dave Kerzner - keyboards, vocals
Kelly Nordstrom - guitars, bass
Matt Dorsey - guitars, bass
Hannah Stobart - guest vocalist
It's taken a while to get to this album for various reasons, none of which I will bore you with here but I have to say that this one has most definitely been worth the wait. The album came out some six months back in May 2013 when Sound of Contact were supporting on the Spock's Beard's Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep 2013 European Tour.
Sound of Contact are a new band/project assembled by Simon Collins (yes, he is Phil Collin's drumming son) in conjunction with Dave Kerzner (formerly with Kevin Gilbert) and unsurprisingly there is a distinct Collins era Genesis nod on show here but we are talking the more epic lengthy and progressive element rather than Invisible Touch in the main.
The album is conceptual in its narrative, telling the tale of Dimo who is on a mission to expand the boundaries of the human experience and this takes us through a variety of soundscapes, themes and emotions.
The album opens with a filmic soundscape cunningly entitled Sound Of Contact before heading off into the more traditionally progressive sounding Cosmic Distance Ladder. Together these two instrumental tracks lay down the credentials of this fine album by showcasing some seriously good music and some very tasteful playing from all concerned. To these ears there is an almost Steve Hackett-type lyricism in the guitar lines and echoes of early Genesis, and Yes even, in the music, these being more reference points than blatant recreation but they do form an excellent bedrock on which the albums unveils its treasures, of which there are many.
Pale Blue Dot is that rare thing on a progressive rock album, a short concise song that has huge crossover appeal. No one is really bothered with singles in today's download age however this would make a perfect song for the more discerning listener as it encapsulates melody, harmony, a great vocal and a hook driven song in a near perfect balance. It is quite simply a fantastic song by any standard, that this is on their debut album shows the craft and skill that these guys have and can harness when needed.
I am Dimensionaut follows with a simple plaintive vocal of "I Am" and this does have a touch of Mr. Collins, Snr about the vocal but the song itself builds gradually into a driving powerful stride again. This is another great song, in fact the album is full of really strong melodies and songs and some inspired vocal performances. Special mention must be made of the fantastic keyboards of Dave Kerzner who underpins everything so completely and when you add Simon's powerhouse drumming it makes for a very full and expansive sound indeed, I especially like the way in which this piece changes tempo and intensity. It's highly effective and memorable.
Not Coming Down has a more organic acoustic feel to the opening part and it's a more gentle song but blessed with a great chorus and some great instrumentation to pull the song along, all this with another great vocal from Simon.
Beyond Illumination features the gracious vocals of Hannah Stobart (The Wishing Tree) echoing the main voice to sublime effect in the verses, it's almost Eastern sounding in parts, and all the better for it to these ears, before in the middle section Hannah's sublime voice is allowed free reign to shine. Another fine piece.
Only Breathing Out is another mid-tempo driving song that alternates between quieter and more strident sections with some tasteful guitar work in the background from Kelly Nordstrom. I have to say there is a degree of quality to these songs that sets this release above, it is an album that merits listening to both repeatedly and also in one sitting for maximum effect and impact. That said it is an album of depth and meaning and it will take time for its veiled treasures to surface.
Closer to You is a gentler piece opening with piano and keyboards and an emotive vocal from Simon underpinned by some deft bass playing as well before picking up a rhythm stride. The Collins-era Genesis influence is apparent but again it's a nod, not an imitation but this is a fine song with some nice sustained and restrained guitar lurking in the background to add to the colour of the song. It also features a wonderfully simple yet effective guitar solo which adds to the songs majesty making it another standout track to these ears.
Omega Point by contrast is a rhythmic feast with a more "treated" vocal refrain layered over the top of the ever shifting music being played. Again this has a fantastic instrumental section in the middle with everyone going full tilt and sounding fantastic.
Which leads us to the 4 part epic, Mobius Slip. Opening with almost sci-fi sound effects, this track is over 19 minutes in length and you just know it's going to be a worthy epic by what has gone before and it doesn't disappoint in any way whatsoever being both a fine summation and conclusion and also an excellent piece in its own right. Opening segment In the Difference Engine is wholly instrumental and lasts around five minutes. Second phase, Perihelion Continuum, lasts around eight and a half minutes opening with some choppy guitar chords before Simon's treated vocal comes in again. This piece features a very delicate acoustic guitar interlude that sounds magnificent in its context before the riff is picked up by the whole band in a far heavier vein this time around.
Section three, Salvation Found opens with Simon's voice telling us how he has travelled all this time and now recognizes who he was and who he is now. It is a brief song but tells it's story simply enough which then leads into the final segment of All Worlds All Times which is wholly instrumental again picking up the themes and neatly concluding the whole album with some very effective and excellent ensemble playing. Again Dave Kerzner's keyboards feature heavily and to fine effect.
So that's it. In conclusion I must say that this is a disc that shows tremendous promise for this young outfit. Seasoned musicians as they may be it's still a very impressive disc with some great songs, sounds and textures and it's one I would urge any lovers of Spock's Beard, Genesis, Yes or the like to give space to as the album gels well on so many levels and as such I would not hesitate to recommend it.
One of the better releases I've heard this year in what has been a vintage year already. Certainly well worth investigating.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Sound Of Contact Live Reviews:-
|"...I mostly enjoyed Dave Kerzner playing the keyboard and Porcupine Tree’s John Wesley on guitar."|
(André De Boer)
|Night Of The Prog VIII Festival, Germany|
|"...I am truly sorry to say that the band did not really make that much of an impression on me."|
Fish - A Feast of Consequences
Fish - lead vocals
Robin Boult - guitars
Steve Vantsis - bass
Foss Paterson - keyboards
Gavin Griffiths - drums
Elisabeth Troy Antwi - backing vocals
It has been six years since the last Fish album and A Feast of Consequences is the tenth studio album of his career if you include the covers album Songs From the Mirror. This new album has taken time to put together with Fish wanting to make sure that it was top notch both lyrically and musically but also in the illustrations and design. A while ago I spoke briefly to Steve Vantsis asking what it was like writing and recording with Fish, Steve said "Fish doesn't play any instruments. He knows what he wants, but its hard sometimes to get it across...Sometimes I wish he had a USB port in the back of his head then I could just plug in a USB and get exactly what he is looking for."
Fish spent a weekend at The Somme with Simon Moston, a volunteer guide to the First World War battlefields, and this inspired him to write The High Wood suite. Moston also later took Mark & Julie Wilkinson which enabled them to take photos that helped them develop the illustrations and artwork for the album.
The album has benefited from some of the material being played live previously, some of which can be found in a more raw form on Fish's last live album recorded in Leamington Spa at the 2012 weekend Convention, the Sunday being available as a 2CD/DVD set with Saturday available as a download from his website. Fish also did a short electric tour in May this year, again playing material from the new album which was well received at the gigs I attended.
The album starts with sampled pipes, very atmospheric with acoustic guitar and a gentle beat that gradually builds into the great opener, The Perfume River, with the half spoken, half sung vocals fitting Fish's voice perfectly. At the seven minute mark of this just short of 11 minute track the pace changes and turns into a catchy rock number that really sticks in your head and it becomes apparent that this going to be a special album.
Next we have All Loved Up, a pop rock number about one of Fish's, and a lot of other people's including myself, hates - X Factor style shows that can make you a short lived star without having paid any dues or having any real talent. The lyrics are good and to the point but for me this is the weakest track on the album although it is a rocker that is always well received live and gets the crowd going. This is followed by the beautiful and moving acoustic Blind To The Beautiful about global warming featuring some nice violin playing from Aidan O'Rourke.
The title track to A Feast Of Consequences is a bitter break-up rock song reminding me of The Who in parts.
The centrepiece and main highlight of the album is the five-part suite, The High Wood which uses as its backdrop the First World War where both of Fish's grandfathers' fought and is also inspired by Fish's visit to The Somme. The story telling lyrics are powerful and moving; this is not meant to be easy listening, the music with its twists and turns during the individual parts fits perfectly with only a slight musical weakness at the start of The Gathering which just doesn't sound right to me. The High Wood suite has to be one of Fish's strongest projects musically and lyrically, a subject which is never going to be easy to cover but Fish has done a fine job.
And so we come to the last two tracks on the album, the first being The Other Side Of Me, another beautiful soulful acoustic ballad which acts as a moving and welcome relief from the battle of The High Wood, featuring an excellent guitar solo from Robin Boult and lovely background vocals from Elisabeth Troy Antwi. The last song, The Great Unravelling, is a fitting end to an excellent album, again featuring Elisabeth Troy Antwi (it would be lovely to see her touring again with Fish) who has such a great voice that fits perfectly when entwined with that of Fish, a song that builds and then gently ends.
The musicianship is of a high calibre as is the writing, both lyrically and musically. Also Julie and Mark Wilkinson's photos and illustrations are of a high standard. Fish has toured extensively over the last couple of years and this has been a plus not only to fans but also to himself giving a new confidence to a voice that has changed over the years resulting in an album with vocals that are really suited to the songs and show no weakness.
I must point out that I am a big Fish fan but please don't read too much into this as A Feast Of Consequences is an album that I highly recommend as long as you are prepared to sit down and listen to it. As stated earlier, parts are tough and meant be but it will grow on you. The process was made slightly easier for me as I'd heard parts of it played live, but still it's growing on me and that's another thing that makes this a excellent album. This is going to be a hard album for Fish to follow due to the high standard achieved. Will we have to wait another six years or, indeed will this album be his last? Who knows and only time will tell. If you get a chance check out Fish live, you won't be disappointed.
[The album is available as a download, standard single CD or a deluxe edition complete with DVD and a 100-page colour booklet with exclusive artwork, a forward from Fish and 24-bit FLAC which is only available from Fish's Website.]
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Recommended Fish CD & DVD Reviews:-
|Vigil In The Wilderness of Mirrors|
|"If there's one Fish album which should definitely be present in your collection than it's without a doubt this one."|
(Ed Sander, 9.5/10)
|"If you enjoy the old Marillion stuff and the Vigil songs, you should definitely check out this disc."|
(Ed Sander, 8.5/10)
|"The album contains many 'live rarities' you won't find on other live albums and the enthusiastic audience and fantastic production adds a lot to the atmosphere."|
(Ed Sander, 9-/10)
|Sunsets On Empire|
|"Fish is angry at the world around him again! And that's the mood which has always created the best material."|
(Ed Sander, 9/10)
|Fortunes of War|
|"If you like Fish and acoustic sets, this one is definitely recommended."|
(Ed Sander, 8/10)
|Raingods With Zippo|
|"A highly recommended album. Although I wouldn't call this the best album since Vigil... - it's too unbalanced."|
(Ed Sander, 8.5/10)
|Complete BBC Sessions|
|"All in all, this album is a joy to listen to."|
(Jan-Jaap De Haan, 8/10)
|Sunsets On Empire [DVD]|
|"If you're only ever going to buy one Fish DVD, this is the one to buy. Excellent stuff."|
(Bart Jan van der Vorst, 8.5/10)
|Field Of Crows|
|"There's a consistent feel and idea to all tracks on the album and most of the tracks are just plain good compositions."|
(Dries Dokter, 8.5/10)
|"this isn't the best Fish album, but it certainly is one of his better albums."|
(Ed Sander, 8.5/10)
|Other CD & DVD Reviews:-|
|Internal Exile||Uncle Fish & the Crypt Creepers||Songs from the Mirror|
|Derek Dick & his Amazing...||For Whom the Bells Toll||Suits|
|Krakow||Tales From the Big Bus||Kettle Of Fish|
|Haddington Convention 1998||Issue 30 CD||Acoustic Sessions|
|Candlelight In Fog||Fellini Days||Sashimi|
|Fools Company [DVD]||Mixed Company||Bouillabaisse|
|Return To Childhood||Return To Childhood [DVD]|
|Previous Fish Live Reviews:-|
|1997:-||Eindhoven, The Netherlands||Amsterdam, The Netherlands|
|1999:-||The Netherlands||Haddington, Scotland|
|Dutch leg of the "Raingods" tour|
|2006:-||Night Of The Prog, Germany|
|2008:-||Amsterdam, The Netherlands||Zoetermeer, The Netherlands|
|2009:-||Haarlem, The Netherlands|
|Previous Fish Interviews:-||with Bart-Jan van der Vorst, Derk van Mourik & Remco Schoenmakers (1999)|
with Jan-Jaap de Haan (2001)
with Martien Koolen, Dries Dokter and Bart Jan van der Vorst (2004)
Disperse - Living Mirrors
In December 2007 Marcin Kicyk (bass), Jakub Żytecki (guitar) and Rafal Biernacki (vocals, keys) met to form Disperse, a band with huge influences from artrock, fusion, metal and jazz. In 2010 they released their first record, Journey Through the Hidden Gardens, and with this second album they consolidate their style as what I call a Prog-Fusion band in which they combine atmospheric sounds, Prog Metal arrangements and complex rhythms to reach a perfect balance and a very interesting and passionate music.
I almost cannot feel the passing between one track and another, which I consider a very important fact, because they make you so focused on the music to the point that you don't notice when a song finishes. This is the kind of music that would never disappoint and because it has been carefully conceived, isn't boring.
Dancing with Endless Love is the opening track, an instrumental song beautifully conceived with an atmospheric ambience in which the arrangements are focused on acoustic guitars and piano to kick off with an explosive riff in which the lead and rhythm guitars have the main role. A very balanced song and one of my favourites from this album that merges with the second track, Enigma of Abode, which is a more jazz-fusion oriented song, with strong riffs and guitar arrangements combined with harmonies that demonstrate Żytecki's skills combined with the fills and rhythms of Przemek Nycz on drums. Profane the Ground starts with an off tempo arrangement that results in a lighter and more guitar-oriented song that changes into a heavier rhythm at the end.
Prana is the first of some shorter tracks that bridge the whole album, an electronic-arranged song combined with keyboards and electronic drumming, perhaps this track serves as an intro for Message from Atlantis in which the fusion influence is less strong, this is a song that passes in a more relaxed way ending with a looping riff and a guitar solo fading away. Wow! is another short track but with an ambience that reminds me early Porcupine Tree with some distorted voices. Universal Love has some interesting drum work in the background and is a very jazzy song, in which the guitar solos have the main role, with an ambient bridge in the middle of the track.
Be Afraid of Nothing is an acoustic guitar solo whose sound reminded me immediately of Franco Mussida from PFM and, combined with Latin percussion, this is the perfect intro for Unbroken Shiver where powerful riffs are again combined with atmospheric background sounds and a more melodic vocal by Rafal Biernacki mixed with sound effects. This is another highlight from the album, I like the way the guitar and piano are blended in this song but unfortunately the bass is almost imperceptible here and more bass slapping is required, without any doubt. Touching the Golden Cloud is the first slow number, but with the complex rhythms of the previous songs. It acts to cool down the listener but with a powerful guitar arrangement and tapping at the end. Butoh is a beautiful jazz instrumental, very nice and the song that demonstrate the versatility of this band in playing music from other genres. Finally we have the first fretless bass solo! Choices Over Me brings us back to the powerful sound, but with a more relaxed and ambient mood.
Aum is the perfect finale for the album. The longest song, it reveals the way the band can handle the balance between fusion and heavy progressive arrangements. Not an epic song but at the same time has all the ingredients to keep you listening until the atmospheric fade out.
A great Prog-Fusion album where fine musicians demonstrate their skills through all of the songs with a fresh and different musical approach. I recommend it to our readers without any hesitation. Enjoy it!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Verbal Delirium - From The Small Hours Of Weakness
"Hey Dries, listen to this and then give me your honest opinion", accompanied with a link on bandcamp. That is how I was introduced to Verbal Delirium. My honest opinion is pretty clear: Verbal Delirium is a superb band. And From The Small Hours of Weakness is a very good album.
Other than Aphrodite's Child, Vangelis, Akritas and Axis, I knew of no Greek bands (and the last 2 only on hearsay). If Verbal Delirium is any kind of measure for the quality of the Greek music scene, I need to get more acquainted with it. Recently we also reviewed, Methexis, an album by one of the members of Verbal Delirium.
From the first tones of 10.000 Roses it is clear that Verbal Delirium is not trying to make music just to please people. Verbal Delirium follow their own path by creating genuine, original and honest music. And it is for exactly that reason that this is such fine music. Verbal Delirium is referencing a number of bands without actually copying any of them. It makes their music familiar and original at the same time, no small feat. Throughout the album one name does jump out: Phideaux, if Verbal Delirium is to be compared with any band it is that one. In their bio Verbal Delirium mention sounding like: Peter Hammill, Genesis, Radiohead, Anathema, Muse. The first three I can understand and agree with, the last two I have a hard time finding, but then again, the Anathema reference was made in the DPRP review of their previous album, So Close & Yet So Far Away, so it might be just me. This 6 piece band clearly have their roots in '70s progressive rock.
10.000 Roses builds from drums, whispering vocals to flute. From there the opening track builds up nice and softly, with a guitar breaking out every now and then, climaxing into a more up-tempo and electronic ending. Desire starts off with a soothing piano, calm guitar sounds and the excellent voice of Jargon. Erebus' incoherent saxophone sounds deliver a haunting feeling that leads straight into Dance Of The Dead , a track that extends the haunting feeling by piano loops and the sudden rhythmic interruptions, calming down into excellent guitar sounds before returning to the haunting rhythms. One can actually picture the dead dancing. The Losing Game again has a leading role for Jargon's superb voice (but he does need to work on his English pronunciation). Deintegration is an alternative rock track with a typical wobbly English sound (like Franz Ferdinand), but interlaced with a '70s kind of prog rock. Dance Of The Dead (reprise) is just that, a reprise, that introduces the best track of the album: Sudden Winter. Brilliant piano music, guitars, excellent vocals, Mellotrons - soothing, sophisticated and subtle. The album is closed by Aeons (Part 1 & 2), almost 13 minutes long with electronics, guitars, a lazy atmosphere halfway that comes to a stop and fades out towards the end...
Verbal Delirium will be playing ProgPower Europe 2013 and even if it weren't for all the other bands, that alone would be a good reason to go. I hope they can deliver the same quality live. It is hard to write catchy, original, complicated and genuine music, but Verbal Delirium do just that, big time! Just listen to their album on Bandcamp, hopefully you will then be tempted to buy it as this Greek band so richly deserves it.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Verbal Delirium CD Reviews:-
|So Close & Yet So Far Away|
|"...this album is one of this year's great discoveries. Though the lyrics do tend to stray perhaps a little too far into 'lunatic/madness' territory at times, the depth of melody and quality of musicality more than compensates."|
(Alison Henderson, 8/10)
Dino Fiore - Fleur Folia
Dino Fiore, bassist of Italian progressive-rock outfit Castello di Atlante, has released a solo CD that is more abstract and jazzy than progressive. Along with a core band consisting of a keyboard player (Beppe Crovella), drummer (Mattia Garimanno) and pianist (Luigi Ranghino), Fiore is joined by guests on sax (Andrea Buffa), guitar (Jacopo Garimanno) and vocals (Iano Nicolo). The CD is a collection of experimental, mostly electronic, music, along with some free-wheeling, still somewhat avant-garde, jazz.
The majority of the tracks are spacey, synthesizer-based soundscapes. These experimental and sometimes ominous pieces are a mixed bag: while a few are somewhat interesting in parts, others lack much originality and fail to inspire any musical journey.
Superior to the experimental pieces are the more-traditional pieces that loosely fall into the jazz genre. The range of these pieces is certainly broad, however: some are rambling excursions in which the musicians stretch out and interact only minimally; some include cacophonous segments reminiscent of a New Orleans street party while others feature more conventional jazz lines. The quality of the piano and sax playing stands out.
Surprisingly, although it is Fiore's CD, the bass rarely attracts the limelight here. Rather, Fiore seems content to have the light cast on his band and guests. Thus, although the bass is surely a presence, bass lovers will probably not find much of special interest.
In the end, the quality of the music on Fleur Folia, while sometimes strong, is inconsistent. The jazzier songs have real strengths, but the experimental segments take up too much space and would have worked better as occasional, rather than regular, interludes. In short, there is some good music to be heard here, but it takes patience to find it.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Garden - Garden [EP]
Garden are a young Scottish band centred around composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Samuel Bradley. On this self titled debut EP he is joined by a host of musicians including Patrick Jamieson (guitars & backing vocals), Jamie Pettinger (piano), Jamie Crowther (violin), Chris Grieve (cello), Jack Webb (saxophone & backing vocals), Olivia Goodman (clarinet) and Lauren Bain (flute). On the band's Facebook page they describe themselves as:
"Garden is a progressive metal band from Scotland, drawing on influences from a range of metal and progressive styles as well as classical and folk music."
Truth be known, it was probably the latter part of that statement that made me listen further. Not that I have an issue with progressive metal, but in this somewhat over saturated market it certainly requires a distinctive 'voice' to raise it above the rest. So do Garden have this distinctive voice I hear you ask? Well not yet, as to all intents and purposes the Garden EP is, and comes across very much like, a demo. Look, this isn't meant as a dig, there are some good ideas and some interesting playing on these tracks. What they don't have is the necessary production values to bring such complex arrangements and instrumentation together. In reality the driving rhythm and punch required for any metal music, just isn't here. The result is a confused and often tiring sound.
But it is bold and often daring, so enough of the downsides. What is good about this EP is that Garden haven't just stumped for the oddly metered, cliché ridden, rifferama that so often invade the genre. They've brought other elements to the table through the instrumentation and influences. The end result is quite interesting - whether this is by design or accident remains to be seen, I'm hoping for the former. I'm also hoping that they forge ahead with the folkier and chamber elements of the music - there could well be a niche market for Folkgressive Metal? Or Chamber Metal? I jest...
As an opening statement the Garden EP speaks volumes for the band who are currently working on a follow up EP, Somewhere Else, scheduled for release towards the end of September 2013. As for their debut, there are some interesting ideas to be heard and this is certainly a band to keep an eye open for. I sincerely hope for their second release the band are able to look more closely at the production values. That said it would be a bold producer indeed to take on this project - so I certainly think the guys have their work cut out.
I've not offered a numeric conclusion as it didn't feel appropriate here.