Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe - Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
CD 1: Themes: a. Sound, b. Second Attention, c. Soul Warrior (5:58), Fist of Fire (3:27), Brother of Mine: a. The Big Dream, b. Nothing Can Come Between Us, c. Long Lost Brother of Mine (10:18), Birthright (6:02), The Meeting (4:21), Quartet: a. I Wanna Learn, b. She Gives Me Love, c. Who Was the First, d. I'm Alive (9:22), Teakbois (7:39), Order of the Universe: a. Order Theme, b. Rock Gives Courage, c. It's So Hard to Grow, d. The Universe (9:02), Let's Pretend (2:56)
CD 2: Order of the Universe (long edit) (6:00), Brother of Mine (long edit) (6:30), Vultures in the City (5:50), Quartet (I'm Alive) (single edit) (3:15), Order of the Universe (short edit) (4:51), Brother of Mine (short edit) (3:22)
CD 2: Order of the Universe (long edit) (6:00), Brother of Mine (long edit) (6:30), Vultures in the City (5:50), Quartet (I'm Alive) (single edit) (3:15), Order of the Universe (short edit) (4:51), Brother of Mine (short edit) (3:22)
But 1989? Hissless recording with digital dynamics were commonplace then, especially if you dial in the other factor that the Anderson Wakeman Bruford Howe debut (and only album) was mostly put together in George Martins' Montserrat studios which was (before it was literally blown away), "state of the art" personified.
Esoteric has given us a new booklet and a second CD with one new track Vultures in the City and various edits for promotional purposes and the occassional single etc. I'm afraid I'm going to almost ignore CD 2 because besides the relative pleasantness of the new piece, I don't think that any of us are looking for shortend versions of longer tracks. It is, however, of historical note that "Gonzo / Voiceprint" also brought out a 2CD version of this album in 2011 but with live tracks and two minutes of what was called "Rick Wakeman's Intro" which was destined for an aborted second album. So by that standard, this 2014 pressing does seem to short change the buyer.
Therefore the best and optimistic approach to reviewing this is to listen to it with new ears and appraise it as a stand alone body of work. So what we have is a "newly remastered" (sounds the same to me) version of the album that Jon Anderson hoped would restore the Yes sound that had been missing (in his opinion) during the Trevor Rabin era, i.e. 90125 and Big Generator. The inclusion of Bill Bruford from the glory years and a return to Roger Deans' Art work all tantalised fans who probably agreed with Anderson's disillusionment at that time.
Despite the title implying a quarternion, the album began life as a series of sessions that had already been recorded with other musicians who, as a rule, are still part of the recording. Guitarist Milton McDonald and keyboard player Matt Clifford had already laid down their stuff which was then augmented by Bruford, Wakeman, and Anderson at said tropically placed facility whilst Steve Howe decided to add his parts in London.
For political reasons, Chris Squire would not be part of this and King Crimson mate (of Brufords') Tony Levin was brought in to provide the bass. Various backing singers including the very curious inclusion of one Frances Dunnery would add a certain gospel feel to the vocals. Talking of which, the first concern that becomes obvious is the lack of Squire's harmony contributions, essential to any Yes record and sadly missed here. Levin is probably one of the best and certainly most versatile bass players in the world, but here it appears that he was given a note to sound a bit Squirey (I think I detect a plectrum?) but because it isn't "him" he is kept down in the mix, or maybe just drowned out by the drums (more of that later).
Themes starts preceedings with it's three separate parts, and it's an uplifting piece with some classic Howe fills and 80s' sounding keyboard bits but the main suprise/shock is the electronic drum sound, especially the snare, that divided opinion then and to my mind now as well. One of my top 10 albums of all time is One of a Kind by Bruford, I never stop playing it's cross over jazz/prog/fusion melange, with it's great drum sound. It wasn't until I saw a video of one of Brufords' college shows that I saw that the kit consisted of (amongst the usual) that small "doink" snare and three roto-toms - fantastic. Now that was 1979, ten years earlier, and it's a timeless recording. It's a lot like any car that is designed to look futuristic instantly looks dated. The percussive experiments on Bill Bruford's Earthwork projects are tempered and refined, here...well call me old fashioned, er 25 years ago..
However, I like this album but I guess I've never had the chance to talk about it and apologises for anything negative, but the music now starts to win through.
After, the shorter Fist of Fire we get the first of the longer tracks in Brother of Mine, another three parter. Here the original Milton McDonald rhythm guitar is a a great bed for Howe to twiddle over with a truly classic Yes sound from Jon Anderson with Rick Wakeman back on home territory.
Birthright is a rare politically inspired song about nuclear testing in Austrailia and it's much better than I remember it from the first time round. Here,everyone is enjoying themselves and even the electronic drum tom tom lines work very well, mind you that snare isn't here, which helps.
The Meeting is Jon and Rick showing their sensitive side before we get Quartet, a four part piece which for me is the highlight here, the nearest we'll get to Fragile probably because it name checks most it's songs. Part two has the same piano led back bone as Long Distance Runaround and the oboe sounding key lines are plain lovely. This is also a track where the bass line really could have been mixed higher and it's a missed oppertunity for this "new" version.
Teakbois has later Jon Anderson solo written through it like a stick of Brighton rock (citation needed for none UK Viewers), the fact that they were ensconced in the Bahamas whilst recording this might have helped. All Caribbean rhythms and oil drum percussion, I have learned to really like this song and the feel of this was kind of revisited on Lighting Strikes from The Ladder.
Next, the albums' rock track. Order of the Universe has everything and the kitchen sink thrown at it and it's the first time the "space age" drums come into their own. Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe are sparring partners dodging a military barrage from Bill Bruford's armoury before the backing singer ensemble "do the timewarp" with Rocky Horror show stagemanship. That huge mallet on a skip snare dominates whist Jon Anderson has never sounded more like a rock star. After all 200 triggered drum pads are launched on an unsuspecting planet, it codas into a gong strewn void of a black hole....phew! it's then that the album closes with the Vangelis and Anderson penned Let's Pretend to get our breath back.
The concerts promoting this album were really good and emotional shows, I remember Jon Anderson walking through the crowd doing a medly of classic Yes numbers all to a lone acoustic guitar. But Yes have always delivered live and this always encouraged me to buy whatever they brought out and many completists would have bought this album because we all knew it was Yes really.
So Andreson Wakeman Bruford Howe is a curio that would morph into Union and begin a gentle downhill slide that moved further away from the point of this collaboration, gathered singers and keyboard players along the way, and finally bottoming out at Heaven and Earth.
If your original CD is scratched or got stuck in your then bang up to date six CD changer, then you can now get a replacement. Still an 8 out of 10 recommendation for the album, really don't know about this reissue.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Dyscordia - Twin Symbiosis
Dreamcather Tree (1:47), The Empty Room (6:39), From Sight To Black (4:39), Rise To Perception (4:26), Ache Of Hearts (5:45), The Loser's Game (5:48), In Solitude (5:25), Locked Within (4:53), Black Clown (4:54), Twin Symbiosis (5:42), My Devotion (7:54)
The first tones of the album might be a little deceptive because you hear the lovely sounds of a music box. It's repeated in the final minutes of the last track. Everything in between however, is real heavy power metal with lots of grunting. The compositions are all dominated by heavy guitar sounds produced by lead guitarist Guy Commeene who is supported by two other members that also play the same instrument. Together with the pounding drums by Wouter Debonnetthey produce a massive sound. Lead vocalist Piet Overstijns doesn't have a bad voice and I suspect Stefan Segers is the guy who takes care of the grunting?
It's an album that will be loved by real metalheads but I don't expect many progfans will put this album on their "end of year list" of favourites! Readers of magazines like Aardschok (NL) or Metalhammer will probably already have discovered this band. I think the music will appeal to fans of Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian. For me it lacks the variation that I like in the music of progmetal bands such as Dream Theater, Threshold and Headspace. Listen to some samples to judge for yourself but this one is not for me!
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Enchant - The Great Divide - Duo Review
Circles (8:00), Within an Inch (7:35), The Great Divide (9:05), All Mixed Up (4:12), Transparent Man (6:21), Life in a Shadow (5:01), Deserve to Feel (8:02), Here and Now (7:32)
John Wenlock-Smith's ReviewWell I have to say, this is the first album of Enchant's that i have had the pleasure of hearing, and it is a good one too. In fact this is their first release in over a decade, their last being Tug of War from 2003, this being their eigth overall from their debut A Blueprint of the World from 1993. So no a highly prolific band for the last decade but then this is possibly worth that long wait.
Times have changed and so have the circumstances surrounding Enchant in that various members have been otherwise preocuppied with other careers, new families or just life even, so it's good that they are back together, renergized and ready to deliver a powerful and eloquent release such as this one.
The cover is striking in itself, which to me is always a bonus, and it shows that thought has gone into how the album looks as well as how it sounds. Many a fine album has been saddled with a cover so dire that one can't bear to look at it and vice versa many an album has looked great but the sonics somehow haven't matched the visuals. Well I'm happy to report that is not the case here. In this instance both sound and visuals combine to offer you dear listener a valid and worthwhile investment of an hour of your time. So lets begin, shall we?
Opening with the mid-paced Circles, this being a strong opener and showing the influence of bands like Kansas Spocks Beard and their ilk. Ted Leonard sounding not unlike vintage Steve Walsh even, again another plus for me. With lots of swirling keyboards from Bill Jenkins, Ted's impassioned vocals all prolled along by Ed Platt's excellent and sympathetic bass playing, the tight rhythmic drums of Sean Flanegan, and the guitar pyrotechnics of Doug Ott combining to make this an excellent opener and setting the album up well for what is to follow.
Title track The Great Divide starts with a flurry of bass notes similar in sound to parts of Relayer by Yes and then throughout the next nine minutes takes you on a twisting turning sonic roller coaster ride of differing passages, it really is an excellent song with some exemplary musicianship and some great ideas alongside a great theme of loss and with some fine lyrics, it's a song that warrants repeat plays to catch its nuances and to appreciate it's crafting.
What I do like about this album is the way in which the keyboards not only support, bringing out the textures of the songs but also at times how they lead the songs into pastures new. It's great to hear such versitality and how this adds rather than subtracts from what's going on musically and when working in tandem with the guitar the results are pretty interesting.
Transparent Man is another key song on this album with a great organ sound and some great and subtle guitar work from Doug Ott and a great chorus to boot. There is an intelligence and challenge in this music that draws the listener in. Yes, you can see their influences, but they are by no means carbon clones. Rather those musical references are a springboard for their own flights of fancy and invention.
Most of the album is fairly light in tone and timbre, apart from the rather more derivative All Mixed Up. Enchant manage to take an average song length of 8 minutes and make those minutes count by filling them with ideas, concepts themes, strong melodies musicianship and harmonies. To these ears it's an appealling mix for sure and a definate pointer that this reviewer needs to delve back into their back catalogue further.
Life in a Shadow is another shorter track but it's a higly energized one, with another great chorus and some great harmonies. In fact throughout the album the vocals are very strong and also very clear with every word enuciated clearly and to great effect.
Deserve to Feel opens aggressively before settling into a steady groove. I really do like the bass work throughout this album and the interplay between the band is wonderful to hear. This is a complex and embracing sound and yet within there is sufficient space for subtle musical moments and touches that sound simply fabulous, with great work from both Ott and Jenkins.
Here and Now begins with a clock being wound before atmospheric keyboards and guitar setting a delicate setting and stage for Ted Leonard's fine vocal. This is a gentle opening to a sound that gathers momentum and intensity with a great dual solo section between Ott and Jenkins before a guitar break that climbs, reaching dizzying heights before a final vocal section and chorus before an eloquent bass closes the track out.
Overall this is both a strong and a fine album that certainly continues to enhance Enchant's reputation as a purveyor of finely crafted, intelligent progressive rock and for that alone this reviewer is grateful. This is an album I will return to and I recommend it to lovers of bands like Spocks Beard, Kansas, or Transatlantic as you will find much to enjoy here. A well crafted release!
Nathan Waitman's ReviewIn 2004, I was very excited to be going to my first progressive rock music festival. My life had been revolutionized the previous year when I discovered progressive rock music from my dad when he showed me all his old Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant albums that were his favorites when he was my age. I went on the internet to find out if there were any modern groups making this kind of music, and what I found led me to a lifelong passion for music. Living in Southern California, there weren't many opportunities to see live shows from progressive bands, but I found out about an upcoming music festival called CalProg, and I had to go. My dad and I had front row seats and we bought albums from the bands that would be performing to prepare ourselves. One of those bands was Enchant, and we purchased Juggling 9 or Dropping 10 and the most current album at that time Tug of War. We were hooked by the bands modern style infused with influences from old school prog bands such as Yes, Kansas and Rush. They performed an incredible show that night, and I immediately bought all their remaining albums at the merch table at the concert venue.
Sorry for getting somewhat nostalgic, but I couldn't review this band without thinking of the memory of my early days exploring progressive rock. Their previous album, Tug Of War, came out in 2003, and it was a long 11 year wait for their next studio album. The most prominent thought in the minds of fans was probably first, what took them so long, and second, would the new album be worth the wait? To the second question, I would say it certainly was. For fans of the band, this is a great album that manages to both nod to their epic past, and also add something new and special. At times, I feel like I'm listening to one of their early albums. At other times, I am impressed with the new direction they are heading with an almost more progressive sound. I have always felt that within the spectrum of progressive rock, Enchant is more mainstream, with a modern hard rock sound with prog rock flourishes. I don't know if it is Ted Leonard's involvement in "Spock's Beard or a band maturing and changing, but I think the changes are for the better overall.
The album opens with Circles, that immediately has a sense of familiarity and an old-school Enchant sound. For a band that has been largely absent for over 10 years, I think it is a great way to open and brings you right in as if the band never left. There is some great guitar work from Douglas Ott in the middle section of the song. He always manages to shine within Enchant's music. On this album I am struck by the great playing of Bill Jenkins on keyboard. His keyboards add a rich warmth to the music, and he gets many chances to shine throughout the album too with various solos and strong sections. Within an Inch includes one of Jenkins best moments with a wonderful solo halfway through the song, followed up by some wonderful almost jazzy playing over Ted Leonard's wonderful vocals. I can never say enough about Ted Leonard, I think he is one of the best frontmen in prog, a true triple threat of incredible vocalist, song-writer, and instrumentalist.
The Great Divide might be my new all-time favorite Enchant track and strong contender for favorite song of the year so far. The guitar melody that starts the track and recurs throughout is truly excellent and stays in my head for days. The song continues to weave through various sections, both energetic and soft. This track perfectly shows the band respecting their past sound, but also adding something new with some of the more quirky instrumental sections. All Mixed Up is a heavier song, with some great funky bass playing from Ed Platt. Transparent Man is a fantastic bouncy track with a fantastic anthemic chorus. It is a light and fun song. Life In A Shadow is excellent as well with one of my favorite vocal melodies of the album. It is another great throwback to what this band did so well on albums like Blink Of An Eye and Juggling 9 Or Dropping 10.
The album ends with two really fantastic, progressive tracks. Deserve To Feel starts out deceptively simple with a poppy chorus, before some great instrumental workouts with a special spotlight on Doug Ott and Bill Jenkins as they trade solos. This shows what makes this band special. They are able to seamlessly combine more straightforward poppy music with some progressive rock embellishments, making the music both catchy and complex. Here and Now is a truly fantastic closer with some very serious lyrical content. I am struck by the message of how short life can be, and how we have to cherish every moment so we don't have regrets or waste any precious time. I love Bill Jenkins keyboard work, full of passion and vigor, matching Ted Leonard's impassioned vocals. This all leads to the epic finale as Ted Leonard repeats the words of the title over thundering drums, soaring synth, and passionate piano playing.
This is a fantastic return for a band that has always been close to my heart in the world of progressive music. They always manage to find the perfect balance between catchy melodies and hooks and complex progressive rock workouts. They sound perfectly modern, but influences from prog bands of the seventies are definitely laying beneath the surface. This all combines to create something truly special. The Great Divide is a perfect bridge between the bands 11 year gap between albums. They manage to hearken back to their old style, while still showing musical and emotional growth as musicians and people. This album will definitely be embraced by the band's fanbase, and hopefully can manage to win over some new fans as well. As the frontman of this band and Spock's Beard, playing a supporting role to Transatlantic on their recent tour, as well as being involved in a host of other progressive rock groups, Ted Leonard is starting to become a strong presence in the progressive rock world. It is well deserved as he is clearly a man of many talents. He is a strong ingredient to what makes this band work so well, along with the talented playing and song-writing of Doug Ott, the fantastic moods and solos Bill Jenkins contributes on keyboards, and the strong backbeat of Ed Platt and Sean Flanegan on bass and drums respectively. I hope the wait for the next Enchant record is considerably less than 11 years.
Evergrey - Hymns for the Broken
The Awakening (1:40), King of Errors (5:41), A New Dawn (4:36), Wake a Change (4:49), Archaic Rage (6:27), Barricades (4:58), Black Undertow (5:01), The Fire (4:10), Hymns for the Broken (4:57), Missing You (3:25), The Grand Collapse (7:47), The Aftermath (7:25)
While the band possess instrumental prowess in spades and have lots of progressive complexity in their music, they definitely don't emphasize those qualities. It has always been about the song writing first and foremost, while keeping a tight regime on the instrumental workouts so that bandleader Tom S. Englund's unique vocals can take center stage. However, the most exciting thing about the band is that these two 'worlds' (prog metal fireworks and genuinely emotional songs) co-exist and enhance each other harmoniously. That, I think, is the 'secret' of the Evergrey formula, and hence, there aren't many bands quite like them.
Evergrey made quite a name for themselves throughout the early-to-mid 00s with concept albums like In Search of Truth, Recreation Day and The Inner Circle. These albums saw the band taking their gothic-infused take on progressive/melodic metal to incredible heights, showing huge artistic growth from album to album. Since then, the band went on to streamline their sound a bit, going for a more immediate approach. However, latest outing Glorious Collision marked a return to a more 'classic' Evergrey sound.
While some fans were appreciative because of that, the album didn't do too well for the band. I don't know if that has to do with missing some 'key' members or the sub-par production quality, but fact of the matter is that lead singer Tom S. Englund at one point almost decided to call it a day.
But now, by a twist of fate there's a new record. Not only that, even old members Henrik Danhage (guitars) and Jonas Ekdahl (drums) are back, and needless to say they're delivering a top performance on this record, as does the rest of the band. One only needs to listen to lead single King of Errors to hear that the spirit of the band is back. The song has already become one of the bands 'hits', and even the video for the song is actually.. good! Something you don't see all too often in this genre. The band and director Patric Ullaeus have done an outstanding job on this one.
What does this album have to offer as a whole? Well, one of the most remarkable qualities of the album is its huge, clear production. Every song is expertly mixed by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Epica) and this is something that has really paid off. I would've liked some more dynamic range, but I'm not really complaining: this sounds way better and more professional than most of their records.
Musically, for those expecting another The Inner Circle type of record after hearing the lead single: this isn't such an album. I'd say this album combines some of their 'progressive' old style with the better parts of their streamlined new style, while carefully adding some new influences here and there. Another good thing about the album are Tom's vocals, as he's sounding better than he has in years. I wouldn't go as far as to say this is the performance of his career (that honour belongs to The Inner Circle in my book), but he comes very close and after Glorious Collision, I didn't know the man still had it like this. His characteristic, deep, raw voice and his bluesy, emotional delivery is definitely the main attraction here. But then again, has it ever been any different with this band? As far as Rikard Zander's keyboards go, he doesn't have a lot of solos but he's omnipresent. His choice of sounds is more tasteful than ever, avoiding cheesy sounds and often going for either a real 'modern' synth sound or just a nice piano sound. Above all, he brings multiple instrumental themes to the table that serve as effective anchors for the songs.
Going into this album after having listened to the album trailers and the aforementioned King of Errors, I expected it to be a very heavy album. That turned out to be only partly true. When the band choose to rock, it really rocks. Heavy, progressive-tinged tracks like A New Dawn and The Fire feature those one-note syncopated riffs that the band is so good at. These songs all have a distinct identity. A New Dawn is set apart by its heavy, down-tuned guitar riffs and Tom and Henrik deliver some of the best solos of their career on this one. Not only that, the momentum for these solos is constructed in the outstanding bridge section, which contains a beautiful piano solo by Rikard Zander, while the guitars vanish for a while. When they return, the effect is devastating. The Fire has those jackhammer riffs fans have come to love, and the children's choir part early in the song adds a sinister vibe that works very well for the song.
Elsewhere, there are multiple (heavy) ballads in Wake a Change, Archaic Rage and title track Hymns For The Broken. While none of them are bad songs, I feel Wake a Change doesn't offer all that much apart from the nice ending guitar solo. The chorus is only mildly satisfying, and in true power ballad fashion there's even a modulation at the end. It doesn't really fit the band's style, and there are other artists that do this kind of thing better, I think. Archaic Rage does a lot better in that regard, despite being very similar to the previous track in tone and tempo. The track changes gears in the middle, giving way to an exciting progressive-tinged bridge where Henrik and Tom really get to shine with their dual guitar attack, while Jonas Ekdahl and Johan Niemann (bass guitar) pound out numerous bottom-heavy grooves.
The title track is one of the band's most commercial sounding songs to date, but don't let that scare you. The chorus will definitely strike a chord in many listeners, and the arena-sized guitar leads are something to behold. The one criticism I have applies to the very first verse. The 'pro tooled' vocal cuts and auto-tune are a bit too obvious here. (Did somebody say auto-tune in a prog review?) Yes, a lot of bands do it. I feel it's no shame when it makes a song sound better. It just sounds a bit unnatural here.
So we have some bangers and some ballads on this disc, but where this album really comes to life is the 'new' type of influence I was talking about earlier. Black Undertow starts out as James Blake taking a shot at a Nine Inch Nails song. The beats are very atmospheric here, with Tom's vocals reaching the lowest regions of his voice. The chorus, which gets varied multiple times throughout the song, almost sounds like Peter Gabriel, even though the music is typical Evergrey. The bridge is notable as well, with its restrained less-is-more guitar solo and the choir sounds that follow. All in all, one of the best songs of this album and a career highlight for sure. This one will be very popular when they play it live. Barricades brings a nice stylistic shift when it comes to the guitars, with its bluesy guitar tones and solos. And by that I mean full-on blues rock Fender-style leads. The song as a whole succeeds as well, with a chorus that distinguishes itself from the rest of the album with its longer, labyrinth-like structure. Stylistically, the song switches between the aforementioned bluesy vibes and a modern, cutting edge attack of heavy guitars and abrasive synths, akin towards old Linkin Park or even Deftones, a band that Evergrey even cite as a big influence.
After an impressive 40+ minutes, this album makes a truly satisfying final statement with the last three songs, displaying different qualities on each. Missing You stands out because of its minimalism. Driven by highly expressive grand piano and Tom's voice loud and clear, this is one of their most beautiful, emotional ballads yet. Tom delivers a very authentic performance here. This is someone who has every right to be called a vocalist.
The 8-minute epic The Grand Collapse will please fans of the notorious track When The Walls Go Down, although this one does have vocals by Tom. Making an impressive contrast with the gentle Missing You, the band lays down some of their meanest grooves yet. The piano motif that the song starts off with develops into the most powerful wordless vocal hymn later on in the song. The bridge section features heavy riffs with percussion and military sounds, to dramatic effect. When the song ends with the 'hymn' fading and the sound of a chopper lifting off, you just know this is one of their greatest achievements laid to tape. This song delivers all of the emotional darkness, heaviness and atmospherics that many old fans crave for.
The last song, The Aftermath which is nearly as long, serves as a final goodbye, the calm after the storm. The slide guitar melody and complementing piano are very atypical for the band, reminding me of Pink Floyd's High Hopes. The vocal melodies and harmonies on the song are beautiful, as is the rest of the song. Nothing too heavy or too light, just a really beautiful, satisfying conclusion to the album.
As a whole, this album is arguably a bit more commercial than we're used to with the band, but the range of styles and the execution is top notch. Lots of memorable song writing and just enough heaviness and progressive touches to keep almost any fan hooked. The high budget production can at times come off as a bit artificial, but its strengths outweigh the weaknesses as the band's vision truly comes to life on this album.
In terms of flow, the album loses some steam about a quarter in with a few ballad-like tracks that are a bit similar, but just in time the band remember where the gas pedal is. From there on, it's just one good song after another. Although the album is musically simpler than their 'golden era' records, it's so good it actually doesn't matter at all. Though I certainly wouldn't mind another more progressive record, should they decide to continue recording.
With Hymns For The Broken Evergrey release their finest album since The Inner Circle. One of their best, highly recommended!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Kevin Martinelli - Unpronounceable
Cautions in Transmission (4:12), Heavy Above a Promise (4:11), Salt in the Zeros (4:12), Pacific (4:05), Louisiana Hex Perimeter (4:14), Airless Choice (3:50), Twentieth Island (4:40), Below the Grass (3:16), Venture Fish (4:09), Sleeping Stone (4:14), Demonstrated Assembly (3:50), Anti-theory (4:29), Lotus in a Fool Day (4:13), Side Case Skips (4:12)
Salt in the Zeros wanders into King Crimson territory. It is a bit more uptempo than it's predecessors and presents more of a band oriented sound. Pacific sounds like a pretty pastoral guitar instrumental. It is simple and uncluttered. A melodic change of pace from what has gone before it. Louisiana Hex Perimeter returns to a riffy Crimson-like territory. It is driving and hypnotic riff that is encircled by rambling bits of piano. Airless Choice opens with a piano and synth drone. Percussion is introduced and the sounds ebb and flow. This is a track where Martinelli's repetitive riffs drew me in to his music. When it works his style can be compelling but when it doesn't work, it can remind one of an artist who's busily, rearranging furniture.
Twentieth Island sports a bigger sound and a somewhat Asian feel.This is another track that might benefit from a full band treatment. Below the Glass opens quietly, with synthesizer and electronic percussion. Eventually, it features multiple riffs weaving in and out and playing against each other. Nice! Venture Fish has a strong band feel to it and a strong guitar-like sound. It is aggressive and atmospheric. Kevin Martinelli at his best. Sleeping Stone is reflective and relaxing. A momentary stopping off point for the musical traveler.
Demonstrated Assembly sets percussive rhythms against each other in a spirited dance of destiny. In my opinion, it was the best use of electronic percussion on the album. Anti-theory is another driving up tempo number with a Crimson feel to it. Lotus in a Fool Day whispers of the orient with its percussion and string effects. Side Case Skips closes out the album on a curious note. It is a jittery collage of piano, electronic percussion, and sounds. It has a vaguely classical feel to it until it tumbles into an almost metallic wash. The track is full of ideas and suggests a number of avenues for Kevin to pursue, in the future.
In summation, this is an album that drew me in at times even though my personal tastes run elsewhere. It is Kevin Martinelli's personal journey and hopefully he will continue to follow his muse wherever it may lead. Maybe one day he will find musicians who are capable of giving his compositions, just a bit more color and shading.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Le Mur - Silentia Nova
O.m.e.n. - A Decision of Despair (3:54), Technical Progress and Other Suicide Stuff (2:59), Ghost Track II (3:32), Die Nacht der Lemuren (Teil II) (9:14), Sun (6:23), Silentia Nova (9:39), O.m.e.n. - Creation of a New Silence (6:31)
Due to problems with an English label delaying the release of the band's first album In Tenebris, Silentia Nova, despite being the second album, came out first last year. The band were rescued by the Tribal Stomp label. August this year saw the eventual release of In Tenebris, also on Tribal Stomp. Both albums were recorded at the same time, and In Tenebris continues the trip. Indeed, as both albums were recorded at the same time, the distinction between first and second is pretty much irrelevant anyway. For the most part this likeable record, the first 500 of which were on lurid pink vinyl no less, consists of rarefied psychedelic rock of a kind familiar to fans of cult 70s bands like Dark, and other now expensive vinyl obscurities, along with the Krautrock influence of the likes of Out of Focus. Then there is the addition of an intriguing form of dub rock (Die Nacht der Lemuren (Teil II)) that exists in a parallel universe where what would otherwise have turned into dub reggae is played by white men who are completely unaware of the form.
The title track is led along by Matthias Graef's heavy fuzz guitar, and the aforementioned Die Nacht der Lemuren (Teil II) also features his saxophone. Technical Progress and Other Suicide Stuff varies from the acid rock template, and is a Gothic synthesiser romp that mixes Hawkwind vibes with an early 80s' English Gothic feel. Occasional declamatory vocals add to the psychedelic swirl, and the whole package is a delightful slab of retro acid rock that encourages the synapses to recall the waft of that most prevalent of scents of the era, the ever-present patchouli.
The band are currently working on a third album which will form the final part of a trilogy, and should make for an enjoyable listen. Don that ancient leather jacket you have kept all those years for nostalgic reasons; you know, the one your wife is forever wanting you to throw out, and drift off to another place in space and time. With any luck, it should still hold that scent!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Neronia - Limnotapes
Darkland Intro (2:54), Sleep My Child (6:15), Only Sometimes (5:15), Clouds of Tears (3:37), Journey's End (6:19), Go This Way (6:06), Watching TV (4:13), Marching On (5:25), Another Year (6:18), Open Space (1:57)
The members formed the band in 2002 and, for a time, parted ways, but they have released two previous CDs: Nerotica (1994), which failed to garner recommended status from DPRP, and Blue Circles (2008). The newest CD, Limnotapes, was years in the making, in part due to the loss of equipment from a studio break-in.
My impression of Limnotapes was favourable from the first listen: the tunes are tightly composed, and both the ensemble work and the soloing are solid. The vocals, which play a substantial role, are mostly a positive, although they are notably hard to peg. At times hinting marginally at Phideaux Xavier (although at a higher octave) and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan (although without the sarcastic tinge), distinctive singer Falk Ullmann displays an impressive vocal range (particularly on the high end) and real passion, despite an inconsistent tone quality.
The introductory tune, Darkland Intro, is more sinister than most of what's to come. Among the highlight tracks is Journey's End, a genre-bending piece full of twists and turns and featuring slick vocals, punchy bass licks, a soothing synthesizer segment, and a tasty, somewhat jazzy, guitar solo. It's a keeper. Clouds of Tears, a ballad with challenging vocals and crying guitar leads, also hits the spot. Mention should also be made of the fine Watching TV, a tune with largely prosaic lyrics but an atmospheric finale. The brief instrumental closer, Open Space, which skillfully blends acoustic and electric sounds, serves as an ethereal goodbye. Weaker tunes include Go This Way, which, unfortunately, doesn't really go any particular way, the too repetitive Marching On, and Another Year, which, despite a strong keyboard solo, is diminished by quirky vocals. On the whole, the lighter pieces work best.
Neronia should be lauded for having the tenacity to complete this CD despite the setback. The inclusion of an "epic" piece would have helped make the CD stand out, but, even as is, this is carefully constructed and well-played music that merits hearing.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Qui - Life, Water, Living...
Kicked Out of Mime College (2:39), Life, Water, Living (3:56), Mucho Sex in America (2:19), Awkward Human Interest (3:24), You're a Girl (2:26), Boogie Down Disappointment (3:09), Whateryadoin? (4:01), Songbirds (3:28) Proof of Bass (3:53), The Kind of Jazz This Is (2:33), Ham Spray (3:57)
One glance at the track titles and it's apparent that Christensen and Cronk have a cynical view on life (and American culture in particular) with a welcome hint of black humour. They have more to offer than a bunch of smart and witty song titles however. Dig deeper and you will find abstract lyrics partnered with music that transcends traditional boundaries. Avant-garde, experimental rock, call it what you will, fragile and often beautiful vocal duets are accompanied by sparse arrangements (with drums usually prominent) and occasionally abrasive playing.
Although each of the 11 songs average a little over 3 minutes, on first hearing they actually seem longer, not a particularly promising start. After several plays however you begin to appreciate just where Qui are coming from although that still doesn't necessarily make it a comfortable listen. Mucho Sex in America for example is an uncompromising punk thrash with equally manic vocals whilst You're a Girl (the only instrumental) is a full frontal guitar assault with a touch of King Crimson at their rawest circa the Red album. In contrast Boogie Down Disappointment is a rather dreary affair that mostly lives up to its name. Similarly, the two opening tracks Kicked Out of Mime College and Life, Water, Living are surprisingly dull with an incongruous combination of sugary singing and raw instrumentation.
Stay with it however and there are some rather good tunes here that transcend the albums self-inflicted handicaps. In fact their best songs reveal a magical side to Qui that had me wishing there was more of the same. This includes probably the most accessible offering Awkward Human Interest with an engaging vocal melody whilst Songbirds boasts inventive a-cappella counterpoint harmonies reminiscent of Gentle Giant in their prime. Proof of Bass on the other hand, despite its title, is dominated by a clattering drum workout and a potent one-word vocal hook "Now" that's majestically Yes-like in delivery.
The rest are a pretty diverse bunch including Whateryadoin? featuring a funky bass line, pounding piano and finger click rhythm not unlike Queen's Another One Bites the Dust. Living up to its name, The Kind of Jazz This Is features intricate guitar dynamics and scat vocals that somehow bring Talking Heads to mind. As for the final track Ham Spray, the jury's still out for me on this one. Underpinned by distorted guitar, the unease created by a male voice ranting "You big fat fk" is sweetened by a heavenly female choir delivering the hypnotic choral payoff. Despite the erratic shifts in tone and minimalist arrangements there is nothing random or improvised here, Qui clearly take their art (or art-rock to be more precise) very seriously. This is borne out by the excellent production which if anything renders their uncompromising musical stance even more transparent.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Threshold - For the Journey - Duo Review
Watchtower on the Moon (5:32), Unforgiven (5:37), The Box (11:59), Turned to Dust (4:19), Lost in Your Memory (4:36), Autumn Red (5:41), The Mystery Show (5:37), Siren Sky (6:06)
Nathan Waitman's ReviewI have heard Threshold described as UK's answer to Dream Theater. Perhaps this is too simplistic of a comparison, but I can see some similarities in their progressive metal style and instrumentation. The difference though, from my point of view, is that Dream Theater seem to focus on complex instrumental passages in differing time signatures, while Threshold focus on catchy hooks and melodies within a well defined structure. I enjoy both equally, so I'm able to find an appreciation to both of these approaches. What strikes me when listening to Threshold's For the Journey is sing-along anthemic choruses and well structured compact songs that stick in my head. I love singer Damian Wilson's voice which is able to add a lot of character and dramatic flair to the music on display. All the musicians are clearly great on their chosen instruments and all get moments to shine throughout the album.
My only critique of the album is that sometimes I feel that everything sounds too clean and perfect. Sometimes I feel this approach can cause the music to lose its soul a little bit. It is as if everything is over-produced, even the vocal harmonies feel almost robotic in their presentation. Sometimes, especially with heavier music, it is good to have a little bit of roughness and rawness around the edges to give the music warmth and a more human touch. Don't get me wrong, I really like records to have good sound quality, but sometimes an over-produced record can lose the spirit of the music just a little. I don't want it to sound like my music is being created by machines. But, really this is a minor complaint and I only feel it in places. For contrast, I feel that Opeth's latest album, Pale Communion does a good job of sounding good, but having a organic feel where I can actually imagine the band playing the music in the room together.
Watchtower on the Moon is a good start to the album, making a clear statement of what this band is all about. The chorus has an undeniably catchy melody and I love the chugging electric guitars in the verses. There is also a great instrumental section in the middle where guitarist Karl Groom and keyboardist Richard West trade off soloing. This is perhaps the highlight of the album, where all the different elements of the band work perfectly together. Unforgiven continues in a similar vein, except perhaps not as heavy as the opener. There is a fantastic section in the middle where the music gets softer and there are fantastic vocal harmonies sounding almost like Queen. The Box is the albums longest song at almost twelve minutes, and it is perhaps the most progressive track on the album. It begins in dramatic fashion with keyboards and Damian Wilson's soulful vocals. When the guitars come in, things get heavier and quirkier with a lot of guitar and keyboard interplay. Once again, there is a great anthemic chorus, sung triumphantly by Damian Wilson, that continues to stick in my head. This is a great track that includes a little bit of everything that this band is capable of.
Turned to Dust is another good compact hard-rocker. Lost in Your Memory is one of the more interesting tracks that reminds me of classic and 1980s rock bands like Queen, Kansas and even Journey. It is a welcome break from the heaviness that has proceeded it and gives another chance for Damian Wilson to shine with a great vocal and harmonies. Autumn Red is another solid track much in the vein of the other shorter hard rocking tracks on this album. The Mystery Show is an interesting juxtaposition between a darker, psychedelic verse and an uplifting anthemic chorus. This is one of the more interesting tracks, which once again references Queen with soaring guitars and harmony vocals. Closer Siren Sky is solid, and keeps in the same vein that has been heard throughout the album. It is nothing earth-shattering, but leaves the listener with a sense of comfortability and satisfaction.
There is no doubt that the music on display on For the Journey is well-played and enjoyable for those who enjoy this style. My main complaint is that the album can start to all blend together and make the music feel a little stale by the end. With the exceptions of The Box and perhaps Lost In Your Memory, the other songs have a similar style and feel. I would probably have a difficult time telling them apart. I do think the album has grown on me over time and that has helped me to be able to distinguish between tracks, but there is still a little bit of listener fatigue by the end of the record. But, fans of Threshold will be very happy with this album. It is definitely very solid and includes a strong showing of performances from all of the musicians involved. I also appreciate their approach to focusing on writing well-structured songs and not just complex instrumental passages to show off their chops. For the Journey is perhaps not as much of a journey as I hoped, but there is definitely much here for progressive metal fans to enjoy.
Guillermo Palladino's ReviewThrough the years, Threshold have become one of my favorite bands since I've heard them for the first time in 2004 with the wonderful Subsurface. They've been through important changes in their line up, and suffered the subsequent tragic death of their previous singer Andrew McDermott after he left the band, but have remained making awesome music all this time. Now we have a completely integrated band, both studio and live, which keeps the same line up in two consecutive albums, with the addition of early singer Damian Wilson and Pete Morten as guitarist.
The band has reached a peak in their career. They've evolved and they have a trademark sound, combining progressive metal with digital sound sampling and powerful guitars and keyboard arrangements and solos. I've seen them on Sweden Rock Festival 2013 and their performance was awesome. They've also reached a very high technical skill level playing on stage that makes them an act worthwhile watch live.
Actually Threshold are more than progressive metal. We are at the beginning of a more personal approach of it where one can listen to heavy songs at the same way as proggie power ballads. Another important aspect is the effort taken in the vocal harmonies in the choruses and backing up Wilson's singing style, which is wonderful throughout the album, he's in excellent shape. Production by Richard West and Karl Groom gives a very particular sound to this record, powerful but sometimes more soft and intimate. They've covered all possible details to deliver a definitive album to all of us.
The key topics for this album are mainly science, politics, environment, everyday life, exposed in the same way as on their previous albums Dead Reckoning and March of Progress. About this, Richard West says: "We're older and mellow and less prone to ranting about injustices. Rather than pointing our fingers at the world we're asking questions of ourselves. On this album you'll find songs about honesty, perseverance and forgiveness. That's where the title comes from; it's songs for the journey of life."
Overall, I feel this album being more close and personal than the previous ones, with a colorful mix of rhythms. So, let's have a closer look on this. One of Threshold's trademarks is the opening theme, which quickly turns into one of the most important of each of their albums. Like Mission Profile or Ashes, Watchtower on the Moon is not the exception and surprised me much, a song to maintain the usual rhythmic structure of the band, powerful riffs, bridge, guitar and keyboard duo and a stunning guitar solo at the end. This is a wonderful opening song which talks about getting over the troubles even if you have lost everything. Unforgiven offers us a change of cadence which makes it dense, the bass lines provided by Steve Anderson are strong in the background but with his fretless style at the middle of the song combined with the guitar riffs and keyboard handled choruses. Richard says: "It deals with how hard it can be to forgive or to admit you're wrong although those things are crucial to move forward."
The Box is the longest track of this album, which is another trademark of the band since Subsurface, the acoustic guitar and piano at the beginning instantly reminded me Pilot in the Sky of Dreams. It quickly changes into a heavier song with a little influence of earlier Dream Theater mainly in the bass lines combined with organ effects and some rhythmic passages like Arena and coming back to a piano leaded closing section. The sample used at the end of the song are the final sounds from Soyuz 1 after cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died when the capsule crashed into ground. Turned to Dust is a song about compromise and how important is the word spoken to other people, a melodic song with an excellent work done by Groom and Morten in the guitars.
The mixture between piano and bass lines became more present in this album compared with the previous ones and marks the cadence in this song. Lost in your Memory is for me the way Threshold gives to us what I call a "prog metal ballad". A very nice song. Autumn Red have an excellent work done by Johannes James on the drums. It is a heavier song with the perfect balance between powerful rhythms and more melodic arrangements and samples. An interesting fact is provided again by West: "This is unofficially the fourth part of our suite The Uncertainty of Autumn, of which the other three parts were Flags and Footprints, Static, and Hollow."
Another dark song comes in with The Mystery Show. It is like a dark ballad lead by Anderson in the bass playing and piano and has a very nice middle section, like some mysterious video game soundtrack. A nice song but not remarkable. Finally, my other favorite song from this album and the one I consider the perfect ending theme to it. No other song would fit here as well as Siren Sky, with electronic soundscapes, some orchestral parts and wonderful riffs and drumming this is more than a power ballad is what you hear when you finally reach a goal successfully, it inspires you. A song that talks about to solve your issues in the right way instead of ignoring them, amazing! And like West said: "With a wonderful cinematic feel".
Special edition comes with a bonus track written by James (who also has a wonderful voice) named I Wish I Could. It is a colourful song because have too many changes in its structure as the minutes passes by, if you know well the band you can feel the compositional difference of this song, but totally amalgamated with the style they've been working on during all this time. Additionally they have released a double vinyl edition in which we can also find an acoustic version of Lost in your Memory.
To all our kind readers: enjoy this until the last second, you won't regret to follow this recommended one.
Tin Spirits - Scorch
1. Carnivore (4:41), Summer Now (6:08), Old Hands (7:12), Binary Man (5:19), Little Eyes (8:26), Wrapped and Tied (5:28), She Moves Among Us (3:16), Garden State (15:00)
Being progressive with a quirky psychedelic twist whilst using guitars to do what might have been keyboard parts, this band really stand out as being very original purveyors of this genre with maybe comparisons to Big Big Train in Summer Now and maybe It Bites with Binary Man and Wrapped And Tied only being mentioned here so you know what amazing music this lot have produced on second album Scorch.
The guitar playing is superb and a joy to listen to, combine that with excellent singing from bass player Mark Kilminster, 2nd guitar from Daneil Steinhardt, and inimitable sticksmanship from Douglas Mussard, this is a record that can do no wrong.
With Dave Gregory's distinctive guitar already gracing recordings by afore mentioned Big Big Train and of course collaborations with Peter Gabriel, his lineage must have been a godsend to this group.
Once opening instrumental Carnivore has dispensed with the scorching fire effects it powers out of the speakers with a compulsive vigor that sets the stage for the rest of the show and a feast of aural delights take us through to She Moves Among Us, a beautiful double acoustic guitar precursor to the final fifteen minutes of Garden State, a modern version of what gave Wishbone Ash such a massive fan base, intertwining guitars with tempo changing acoustic breaks, forlorn tinged optimism in the vocals, effortless playing all with that unmistakable soloing.
With this latest release all tracks are original compositions tearing down the "differcult second album" tag and replacing it with expresions like "excellent follow-up" and "one's to watch". Throw in a great prodction by Paul Stacey, this album will sound as fresh in twenty years time as it would have had if it was on the radio in the 1960's, a rare fete indeed. Tin Spirits have managed to conjure up something that sounds comfortingly nostalgic with a futuristic edge, thoroughly recommended.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10