Round Table Review
Last month we tried something a little different, with a DPRP Duo review of the most recent Progstravaganza compilation.
Created three years ago by Prog-Sphere - a website and agency promoting up-and-coming bands from around the world - the review offered thoughts on all 76 new bands included in the 13th edition of the Progstravaganza series. Wasting no time, Prog-Sphere has now released Progstravaganza 14 with the working title Timeshift. Such was the positive response from bands and readers to our previous review, we have decided to do it all again. This time it features music from 38 bands. The compilation is accompanied by the official Progstravaganza website where all the artists have profiles plus interviews and reviews of their releases.
There is over four hours of music, therefore the aim of this "review" is not to provide a detailed analysis of each track but a brief comment to signpost songs which may be worth further investigation.
This time, to widen the range of opinions offered, we've made it a review threesome. Joining Andy Read and André de Boer, we have the DPRP's Roger Trenwith giving his view on each song. To make it more of a challenge - they have to do it in no more than a paragraph!
Where available we've also added a link to the band's most recent DPRP album review.
You can stream individual tracks of interest from the Progstravaganza 14 Bandcamp page whilst you read through the comments. You can also download the entire "album" via Bandcamp in the usual different audio formats under the "pay what you want" format.
Alessandro Bertoni - Megas Alexandros Pt. 3: To the Ends of the Earth (4:44)
Andy Read (AR): Classic heavy ProgFusion instrumental. Nothing new but very listenable.
Roger Trenwith (RT): Highly-polished fusion with a stellar supporting cast. The drums are a tad over-loud.
André de Boer (AdB): Nice proggy instrumental. Not too innovative.
Circle of Illusion - New Age (8:08)
AR: This classy concept disc is getting a lot of love in progressive circles. For those who enjoy a more ProgMetal version of Ayreon.
RT: Epic symphonic metal from a sprawling concept album. Ambitious stuff!
AdB: Simple and poppy female-fronted song with a riff every now and then. Emotionless.
Humble Grumble - Kurt's Casino Vooruit (15:17)
[Guzzle It Up (2013)]
AR: Extended live jazzy prog workout from Belgian band. Singer needs to keep within his range. Bit repetitive after 8mins.
RT: From an album reviewed by me for DPRP, so I'll leave the comments to the others.
AdB: Skip! What's this doing here?
Samuel Hällkvist - Chord (3:40)
AR: A study in rhythmic overlays.
RT: According to the Progstravaganza info links, this guy has played with everybody. Unfortunately this track is one of those that, taken out of its album setting, does not really go anywhere. Euro-synth melody prevails, but I somehow doubt that's what the album sounds like.
AdB: And what's this doing here? Sounds made to bore.
Le Maschere di Clara - Se Questo è un Uomo (7:16)
AR: Not to be confused with La Maschera di Cera, these are also accomplished Italian purveyors of eccentric prog. Would love it more without spoken vocals and muddy guitars.
RT: Eclectic, modern RPI. Interesting!
AdB: 'PROGstravaganza?' is the reaction to the first few minutes of aria. Then it turns out to be some Italian EXTravaganza adventure!
Simon McKechnie - The Emigrant (6:50)
[Clocks and Dark Clouds (2013)]
AR: Pastoral Prog. Don't like the sound from the guitars or keys. Pleasant if not compelling.
RT: A "one man band" production that, unlike many of its kind, is actually very good indeed. Spiky but thoughtful guitar prog. Another one that got the DPRP thumbs-up.
AdB: Serious song this. No shock and awe but beautiful eighties based progressive rock.
Chris Picha - Tree of Tricks (5:16)
AR: Great grooves to this ProgMetal instrumental. This is crying out for a vocalist.
RT: American ProgMetal by guitarist Picha, with none other than Derek Sherinian on keys and production duties. Say no more!
AdB: High class Prog / ProgMetal instrumental. Both keyboards and production by Derek Sherinian.
Tadashi Goto - The Cycle of Suffering (5:38)
AR: Speedy fretwork and keys with vocal samples amidst a jazzy fusiony vibe. Pass.
RT: Japanese ProgMetal. Rather generic, but well produced.
AdB: Pay attention, great ProgMetal track. Steroids of Tony Levin and Randy George included.
Kettlespider - Inevitable (5:53)
AR: A series of rhythms seeking a singer.
RT: New single from Australian proggers with a metal tinge. Plodding, and I've heard those riffs far too many times. The keyboards make it more interesting than it has any right to be.
AdB: Strong ProgMetal Haken lookalike from Australia.
Burak Ozmucur - The Departure (4:28)
AR: Finally a real song and real singers. Real good. Turkish-born songwriter sitting in Porcupine Tree, Marillion and Coldplay territory. If you like this track then the whole album is a free download from his Bandcamp page.
RT: More lumpen metal riffing. I need a break.
AdB: Mainstream ProgMetal from Turkey with an eclectic start.
Art Rock Circus - Russian Spy (6:52)
AR: The quirky meets the schizophrenic in this instrumental Prog.
RT: This is more like it, someone must have heard me! All sorts of prog influences in this, from a multi-national band, as far as I can gather. Their band name will also serve as a musical description.
AdB: John Miner already did three albums. This song is progressive psychedelical fun.
Children in Paradise - The Battle (7:46)
AR: Beautiful voice over a Celtic-themed soundtrack complete with Uilleann pipes and whistle. The heavier second part needs more adventurous riffing.
RT: Female-fronted crossover prog from France with a folky vibe, ends up charging along. A nice departure from what's gone before on this album.
AdB: Err... FFPM slow starter followed by endless bag pipes. Rather boring.
Kneel - Amend (3:37)
AR: Viscious riffing + thunderous drums + screamo vocals = skip button.
RT: Punky speed metal with much barbed wire gargling. At least it doesn't plod.
AdB: High-paced, neither progressive nor interesting metal.
Les Fradkin - Presto Variationi (4:03)
[One Link Between Them (2008)]
AR: One for Vangelis fans.
RT: Neo-classical prog with MIDI guitar.
AdB: Take a Bach song and use electronic instruments and drum. Does that work? Blah.
Jesus Cures the Blind Man - Aquarium (4:12)
AR: Short, sharp, modern, light rock song with Prog touches and accented singer.
RT: Slightly jazzy and atmospheric pop rock from Italy. Classy stuff.
AdB: Prog and blues mixed the Italian way. Interesting though not highly original.
The Shell Collector - Le Blue Prince (4:36)
AR: Melodic blues-based rock in the vein of Black Stone Cherry with a Genesis deviation.
RT: Hard rocking confection, again from Italy, where Prog moves mix with Kaiser Chiefs riffage.
AdB: This is raw and basic rock and in that way very enjoyable!
Greenwall - Superpezzi (3:02)
AR: Italian acapella. More suited to a Christmas carol compilation than a Prog one. Yuk!
RT: More Italians, this time singing in the round, acapella style. Probably needs to be heard in context, but a nice change from the norm.
AdB: Skip. Should not have been on this sampler.
Oneironaut - Ethereal Wizard (4:46)
AR: Stop here for a collection of percussive sound effects. Not my thing.
RT: Looped ambience and quite spooky, with found sounds and distant riffs occasionally poking their heads above the parapet...I would like to hear an album's worth.
AdB.: No comment. Should not have been on this sampler either.
Suns of the Morning Star - Everything is Mine (4:50)
AR: Grungy guitars. Growly vocals. No Prog. Pass.
RT: Floridian "progressive sludge metal" with a cookie monster. Not for me, unsurprisingly.
AdB: Uncomplicated Progressive Metal that doesn't bring anything new. Vocals are good.
Sophie's Earthquake - La Ira de Los Tres (9:00)
AR: Very long acoustic and guitar intro to extended guitar solo. The earth didn't move for me.
RT: Darkly melodic and atmospheric, with a touch of hypnotics, featuring some nice slabs of psychedelic guitar.
AdB: Great guitar play on this beautiful instrumental build up to a wall of sound.
Øresund Space Collective - Carlos on the Moon (16:58)
[West, Space and Love (2012)]
AR: This Scandinavian space rock collective has done some great stuff. This track takes a very long time to go nowhere.
RT: Lovely ethereal spacerock from somewhere on The Bridge. Previous albums given the thumbs up from moi. Essentially more of what you would expect, and that's fine by me!
AdB: A long track by a long-existing, ambient spacerock collective. Great stuff.
Master Experience Multitude of Solitude (4:08)
AR: Great sounding, groove-orientated progressive rock with hints of metal. Not totally convinced by the singer on this one track, but worth further investigation.
RT: Porcupine Tree-flavoured Prog Metal from Italy.
AdB: Some nice prog metal from Italy, Fates Warning direction. Worthwhile listening.
Castillion - Shattered (5:29)
AR: Melodic metal that'd really benefit from more adventurous guitars and some keys. Great singer. No Prog but I liked it.
RT: Melodic metal - is it prog?
AdB: Uninteresting Swedish metal made some years ago and sounds like decades ago.
Acid Death - Eidolon (6:39)
AR: As the band name suggests...no flute or mellotron here!
RT: Their name tells you all you need to know.
AdB: These are experienced metallists but the song really lacks originality in spite of the break two-thirds through.
Foolsbane - The Time Traveller (18:37)
AR: A paucity of ideas leaves this 19 minute ProgMetal epic rather flat.
RT: The longest track on the compilation is a widescreen hoped-for epic from Idahoans Foolsbane, that could have done without the rather forced vocals, that occsionally sound like they've been Autotuned. Heresy! Then, the cookie monster cometh. It's all a bit of a mess.
AdB: Extremely long track, almost 19 mins, of U.S. prog rock. Slow burner without surprises but with mediocre vocals.
Pandora - Né Titolo Né Parole (7:31)
AR: Pandora opened her box and found lots of Celtic 'Laas' and 'Naas', sweeping strings, a guitar, a keyboard and a Wurlitzer organ, so she decided to make a song out of it.
RT: Soaring RPI, with a Celtic feel, like a beefed-up Clannad. Quite nice!
AdB: Interesting Italian Prog with a little help of Arjen Lucassen. Lovely mix of different styles and instruments keeps you involved all the way.
LoreWeaveR - Angry Tears (8:54)
AR: This song is a perfect showcase for the diverse music created by this Italian, female-fronted ProgMetallers, much loved by the DPRP's Jon O'Boyle.
RT: This band are Italian, and the PR blurb states they are "five brutally different characters"! Out of the bearpit comes a fresh take on ProgMetal, that two minutes-in morphs into dramatic female-fronted rock balladry.
AdB: Very strong song by these Italian proggers who I was already familiar with. Best of this sampler. And, yes, usually I'm not fond on female fronted bands at all!
ifsounds - New World Order (5:24)
[Red Apple (2012)]
AR: Jazz fusion noodling over a fake presidential address.
RT: More music from Italy, this time a modern jazzy instrumental with an American voiceover from a titular speech. I would have liked to have heard the music unencumbered as it sounds quite interesting. The ending is very odd indeed!
AdB: Strange or even weird Crossover Prog? To me it is just sounds, too weird...
Jonas Lindberg & the Other Side - The Other Side (5:25)
AR: Someone likes Asia, Phil Collins-period Genesis and Yes and sings like Jeff Cannata. If you love big, keyboard-fronted Prog you're likely to me amenable to this.
RT: Neo-prog synth led music from Sweden. More vox that sound like they've been Autotuned...aaargghhh...
AdB: Typical AOR song, beautifully brought from Sweden with great vocals.
A Cosmic Trail - InErtia (9:26)
AR: Listenable cinematic instrumental that could be a soundtrack for a documentary on scientific discoveries.
RT: German band that fuses many styles, out of which comes a post-rock-prog mix that shows promise in the parts not dominated by the somewhat bombastic guitar.
AdB: Case of near-perfect German, instrumental PowerProg. Great listen.
Shepherds of Cassini - Eyelid (18:20)
AR: See 25 but worse. Even on fast forward this was too long.
RT: Blimey - another epic! This time it's "space metal from New Zealand". Right from the opening sludge riffage, I wonder if they can maintain my attention over nearly 20 minutes. The answer is: just about, which after how ever many hours I've been at this thing, is some achievement! Nothing startlingly new, but surprisingly good use of space and time.
AdB: Yet another 18 mins plus progressive epic. This one's from down under with both an eclectic and a metal edge. Take the time, it's well worth it.
Persona Grata - Ace (5:48)
AR: Great guitar, a somewhat unusual vocal, stellar production, massive musical variety and inventiveness. Whole disc can currently be heard on Progstreaming. Go listen! Now!
RT: Slovakian prog, full of melody and a big Dream Theater influence.
AdB: Up to date Progressive Metal from Bratislava. Good stuff, like it a lot!
Anxtron - Skyscraper (4:32)
AR: A high-paced, riff-based instrumental which fails to reach new heights.
RT: Powerful instrumental prog from Brazil that dovetails with the previous track nicely.
AdB: Brazilian instrumental ProgMetal with lots of wonderful solo riffing.
One Second Hotel - The Sun Pt. I (8:36)
AR: High-energy anthemic melodic rock with hints of electronica and rap and more ideas than most bands of this ilk. Rather good if they can focus their ideas a bit more. Not Prog though.
RT: More Slovakians, this time coming on strong with the generic prog metal moves.
AdB: Light version of progmetal from Slovakia full off beeps and solo riffs.
Relinquished - Beyond Anguishes (7:21)
AR: Poor production doesn't endear me to the growly vocals, dingy guitars, whispered mellow sections and a bit of acoustica.
RT: Is this doom metal? Whatever, its funereal pace and growling are not for me, despite parts of it putting me in mind of a morbidly fixated Wishbone Ash!
AdB: Enter only if you like good grunts!
Dead End Space - Hundred Years of Dust (7:43)
[Distortion of Senses (2013)]
AR: These Rush influenced Swedes provided the best track on the last ProgStravaganza collection and this is my favoutoite track this time. Top5 album of 2013 for me.
RT: From the Swede's Distortion Of Senses album, raved about by our very own Andy Read. Far better than average prog metal it has to be said. Doesn't really sound "metal" to me, but what do I know? Must be why I quite like it.
AdB: Fantastic melodic ProgMetal. Think Fates Warning but even better.
Philhelmon - Golden Days (4:52)
AR: Early Tull with extra keyboards. Too close to plagarism for me.
RT: Prog from Holland, with flute. Does it sound like Focus? Not really, but it has a classic prog meets new wave feel. Quite bonkers and different.
AdB: Remarkable pop/prog from the Dutch mountains. Lovely.
Mirror of Dreams - Inside the Silver Pearl (5:31)
AR: Sounds to elevate yourselves to.
RT: The end, at last! A rather nice piece of synth-ambient music not that far removed from the abstract section of Close To The Edge.
AdB: Save you time and don't listen to this boring, ambient electronic soundscape.
Andy Read: The statistics: Of the 38 bands on this compilation, I'd only heard of four of them before. DPRP itself has only ever reviewed 9 of these bands.
Prog-Sphere again acts as a Prog Introduction Agency. In a similar way to (I guess!) an online dating agency, they have narrowed down the search a little. However there are still a lot of unsuitables to plough through to find a possible diamond.
After our grumbles about the sheer scale of the task in getting through almost 10 hours of music on the last Progstravagaza compilation, this time the list of candidates has thankfully been halved.
I still feel that this is still a lot for anyone to sample in one go. Some tighter quality-control would be welcome. Those clearly having not a semi-quaver of progressive influences in their music could be advised to seek soulmates elsewhere.
However as before, kudos to Prog-Sphere for helping me hunt out at least six new prospects for further investigation. I'd challenge anyone to work through this compilation and not find at least one new musical love. Great fun too!
Roger Trenwith: The problem with these sprawling compilations is always going to be quality control, or lack of it, but there are certainly a few good things here, and it's free. so what have you got to lose?
Nick at Prog Sphere has recently put out a "Best Of" of all the Progstravagnazas and every track is a corker, thus proving the theory that if you throw enough mud some of it will stick!
Once again, it's free and this time, you need to hear it all.
André de Boer: Again a sampler with some questionable tracks. I agree that the spectrum of Prog is wide, but it does have borders! Anyway, this sampler also allows us to find some new gems and bands to investigate.
This is the second time we've done a mini review in only a few words that might even be "Skip this" only. This time with three instead of two reviewers, to make it be easier for you to take a pick!
You can see my choice of best songs below. Enjoy!
Top 5 Recommendations
Hundred Years Of Dust
Megas Alexandros Pt. 3
Carlos on the Moon
Hundred Years Of Dust
Megas Alexandros Pt. 3
Carlos on the Moon
The Cycle of Suffering
Multitude of Solitude
La Ira de Los Tres