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2014 : VOLUME 20
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:



Glass Hammer - Ode To Echo
Glass Hammer - Ode To Echo
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Arion Records
Catalogue #:SR3324
Year of Release:2014
Time:53:46
Info:Glass Hammer
Samples:n/a
Tracklist: Garden of Hedon (6:57), Misantrog (10:00), Crowbone (7:22), I Am I (8:15), The Grey Hills (4:47), Porpoise Song (3:37), Panegyric (4:11), Ozymandias (8:12)

Ode to Echo relates to the song sung by Achilles in Philostratus's Heroicus. The Ode or poem is a lament to Echo who was the talkative Nymph, punished by Hera who removed her voice so that she could only 'echo' the words of others. The words of the poem also echo Homer, immortalizing him who in turn will inevitably do the same of Achilles the warrior.

The idea of the warrior Achilles as a musician and singer is somewhat of a contradiction to the idea of the slayer of Hector, a mighty, fearless warrior who is in fact a poet when he isn't besieging cities. It's a song of reflection and death that was sung ironically before his own death. The echo seems to imply many things but on one level it looks at circularity, perpetuality and immortality.

The central part of Echo's existence was the part played in the tale of Narcissus who killed himself, destroyed by the echo of his voice from the cursed Nymph and his obsession with his own beauty as he stared into a pool. It appears that this element is prominent in the album, the danger of an uncontrollable obsession with oneself - "a malignant narcissism."

The themes are typical of the self-confessed inspiration that Glass Hammer draw from their love of classical literature, mythology and Tolkien. In the 21st century, this kind of inspiration is almost seen as heretical and has contemporary reviewers and some fans running to hills in fear of the old prog dinosaurs returning.

Musically the album feels equally as complex as its subject matter and combined with the initial view this could be a case of 'buyer beware'. The improvised Jazz-rock that runs dominantly through the album is demanding and seems to have a detrimental effect of breaking the flow of some of the more melodic or moving passages making the listening experience disjointed and a little frustrating at times.

This factor is evident at the start of I am I which has a powerful, brooding, sometimes menacing purpose to it that somehow disappears in the middle to a clean guitar jazz ramble which at times seems discordant and almost tuneless. Several listens in and the effect still impacts the listener. It all seems to be a contradiction in itself. How can a band who are clearly such talented songwriters and musicians manage to get lost in their own superior abilities and create work that is too clever for its own good?

It's not entirely this way from start to finish, to be fair there are some moments to be enjoyed whenever the melody and composition are more consistent and even throughout the song. Panegyric has a haunting piano and guitar texture that flows nicely resulting in a classical-inspired, delicate number. Panegyric - meaning lofty praise through lyrics - ties in with Achilles' aforementioned poem through the motif of circularity as he sings of Homer who in turn does the same for Achilles.

The track comes on the back of the Harrison-inspired, Beatles-esq Porpoise Song. It's a sweet moment on the album that feels warming and familiar without its obvious derivative style spoiling the party. The chorus is by far the catchiest moment over the eight tracks. It does lack a little punch at the end, relying on a lengthy fade-out instead, but overall it's a welcome break from the jazz-rock.

Far and away the most successful composition on the album is the superb Crowbone which manages to retain a mixture of controlled histrionics with melody that is easy enough to keep a grip on. It does hold an unashamedly Yes-like candle up in places but as with the rest of the album this is much less so than recent releases from the band.

Crowbone is a character of medieval times, a freed slave from the imagination of writer Robert Low, who leads a band of chosen men on a quest to regain what is his - the rightful crown of Norway. It's a suitably epic song for an epic theme. The Gaelic melody that underlines the track evokes the Scottish coast, a feature of the books, and delightfully brings a vivid colour to the tale before a marching war-like segment takes control in the last third to great effect, finally resolving to a heroic, truly Prog ending. It's a neat fit in the theme of heroes and songs to the gods.

Completing the theme and the album is the song Ozmydias which is the alternative name for Ramesses II, the Egyptian Pharaoh. The character of Ramesses is, like that of many Pharaoh's, self-obsessed and narcissistic, but so much more than his ancestors. Ramesses ordered the carvings of his name in the Temple in Luxor to be deeper than any before him, thus ensuring his immortality through words as well.

As albums go, Ode to Echo will keep opening up its intricacies slowly to the patient listener; the emphasis is however on patience. Like their previous works, the songs only gel with a big commitment to attention and repeated plays. Does it reward the listener? On the whole, yes, and maybe more so with this album than Perilous or Cor Cordium. If you found these previous albums tough going, Ode to Echo will appear the same for a few plays at least. Its most challenging aspects may, however, keep only the core fan base onboard this time around.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

ERIC PERRY

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Glass Hammer CD/DVD Reviews:-
Chronometree
(2000)
"One of the best albums of the year, highly recommended to enthusiasts of symphonic rock, this CD might well prove to stand the test of time to be included among the favourites in the genre."
(Mark Sander, 9/10)
Lex Rex
(2002)
"The music and arrangements come at you fast and furious, no protracted chord sequences to fill in the gaps, just cleverly arranged and written music."
(Bob Mulvey, 8.5/10)
Shadowlands
(2004)
"Glass Hammer seem to be really growing in confidence and settling into their own style..."
(Dave Sissons, 8.5/10)
Live At NEARfest
(2004)
"I canít think of any group currently producing symphonic rock of a higher quality than this..."
(Dave Sissons, 9.5/10)
Lex Live [DVD]
(2004)
"...a highly enjoyable experience, enhanced by some well thought out extras, and is an essential purchase for GH fans..."
(Dave Sissons, 9/10)
The Inconsolable Secret
(2005)
"...this is a stylish and attractive package, which must surely be The symphonic album of the year."
(Dave Sissons, 9/10)
The Inconsolable Secret
[Three Disc Deluxe Edition]

(2005)
"If...you missed out on The Inconsolable Secret the first time around then you have another chance to acquaint yourself with one of the finest progressive rock albums of the 21st century."
(Geoff Feakes, 9/10)
Live At Belmont [DVD]
(2006)
"...the concert itself is every bit as good, if not better than the Lex Live show..."
(Dave Sissons, 8.5/10)
Culture Of Ascent
(2007)
"This CD has been my constant companion over the past few weeks, at home, in the car and at the computer and I never tire of playing it."
(Geoff Feakes, 9/10)
Live At The Tivoli [DVD]
(2008)
"...the no frills approach also extends to the lacklustre camerawork which fails to do the ambitious staging justice."
(Geoff Feakes, 7.5/10)
Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted
(2009)
"Gone are the fussy, sometimes cluttered arrangements of before, replaced with a more direct, no frills approach."
(Geoff Feakes, 7/10)
If
(2010)
"...it has grown and grown and grown on me and I know itís not finished with me yet, there is still so much to explore and come to know."
(Jon Bradshaw, 9/10)
Cor Cordium
(2011)
"That, then, is my review. Itís excellent."
(Brian Watson, 9/10)
Perilous
(2012)
"This is without doubt a great album but my enjoyment of it is slightly tempered unfortunately. That said it is still more than worthy of a hearty recommendation."
(Jez Rowden, 8.5/10)
Previous Glass Hammer Interviews:-
Steve Babb & Fred Schendel talking to Brian Watson (2010)
Steve Babb & Fred Schendel talking to Brian Watson (2011)



Sky Architect - A Billion Years Of Solitude (Duo Review)
Sky Architect - A Billion Years Of Solitude (Duo Review)
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Galileo Records
Catalogue #:GR036
Year of Release:2013
Time:61:15
Info:Sky Architect
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: The Curious One (18:06), Wormholes (The Inevitable Collapse Of The Large Hadron Collider) (5:52), Tides (3:24), Elegy Of A Solitary Giant (10:43), Jim's Ride To Hell (2:24), Revolutions (8:00), Traveller's Last Candle (12:37)

Geoff Feakes' Review

Sky Architect is such an inspired name it was almost a disappointment to learn that it was partly inspired by the fact that the five band members are all qualified architects. That said, there's nothing remotely conventional or mundane about the music they make with their third album, A Billion Years Of Solitude being a welcome exercise in complex, sometimes experimental progressive rock.

There is also plenty for the classic rock and prog traditionalists to enjoy here, especially the 18-minute extravaganza The Curious One which opens the album and encompasses everything that is good (and off the wall) about Sky Architect. A drum roll and bombastic crescendo launches the piece in true Spinal Tap Stonehenge fashion followed by ear-piercing electronic effects worthy of Hawkwind in their space-rock prime. From an array of analogue instruments, keyboardist Rik van Honk replicates the eerie Theremin sound associated with 1950's sci-fi 'B' movies and also a dead ringer for the intro to Ayreon's The Fifth Extinction. A spikey instrumental break reveals lead guitarist Wabe Wieringa's King Crimson influences before unexpected and engaging harmonies make way for a frantic Hammond solo. A serene piano solo lulls the listener into a false sense of security before bassist Guus van Mierlo's lead lines sets the scene for an unconventional but truly inspired guitar coda that spirals out of control into a cacophonic finale.

A superb start to proceedings and if they don't quite sustain this level of power and intensity for the whole album then they come pretty close.

With its heavy-rock intro, Wormholes is more riff driven than the opening track and also reveals vague vocal similarities between singer/guitarist Tom Luchies and Sting whilst Tides contains more of those dark, angular guitar lines that once again bring KC to mind.

The 10-minute plus Elegy Of A Solitary Giant is another opportunity for the band to extend their musical vocabulary beginning with a full throttle (and impressively executed) guitar/keys workout underpinned by a swathe of gothic Mellotron that echoes the density of Van der Graaf Generator. A mellow vocal melody takes an unexpected turn into Ennio Morricone territory complete with twangy guitar and flugelhorn. A surprisingly romantic grand piano interlude at the halfway mark is swamped by a metallic guitar onslaught where again they walk a fine line between pure melody and all out instrumental mayhem. Whilst the vocals are sparingly used they have an almost unnatural lushness rather like the harmonies that grace The Enid's very wonderful Malacandra from Journey's End.

The aptly titled Jim's Ride To Hell is introduced by wind effects and an alien drone that brings War Of The Worlds to mind (that's Spielberg's film version, not Jeff Wayne's musical). Otherwise this short instrumental is a solid piece of old school, head banging heavy-metal with drummer Christiaan Bruin pounding the skins for all he's worth.

Revolutions, on the other hand, opts for '80s style Moog textures overlaid by a tricky stop-start guitar pattern and some fine Hammond playing. A lazy electric piano and vocal interlude nods its head in the direction of Canterbury (by way of The Tangent) before a jagged guitar and scat vocal theme bring Gentle Giant to the party for a ridiculously fast and frenzied finale.

Sky Architect bow out with another near epic length piece, Traveller's Last Candle although for the most part it recycles several ideas that have gone before. The restless, stop-start vocal section and lengthy guitar instrumental (supported by synth and Mellotron) sound all too familiar but it does however hit its stride around the halfway mark. A scorching guitar solo and another impressive GG vocal sequence make their mark before playing out with an apocalyptic coda that's in danger of flying off into the stratosphere before being brought back down to earth in the midst of an electronic maelstrom.

Although Sky Architect are a relatively young and technically gifted group of individuals perhaps their most impressive ability is the effortless shift between disparate styles and tempos in the space of a single song. Sweet and subtle one moment, loud and discordant the next, their music can very easily wrong foot the uninitiated listener. Also, be wary of certain comparisons you may have read elsewhere, I detected little of Porcupine Tree or Genesis for example and despite their loud and brash sound Sky Architect are refreshingly free of any prog-metal pretensions or clichés. Overall they are fresh and inventive with a free spirit that may be an indicator of the future of progressive rock. Time will surely tell.

Marcel Hartenberg's Review

A distant rumble, a guitar piercing the night, the whole of the band in full swing as we dive into the spacial voids created by Sky Architect. As we drift past the black hole of Cygnus X-1, avoiding at all cost to get too close to Zurgon, we have our brains melted away by the cinematographic trip that is The Curious One. Tom Luchies (vocals, guitar, effect pedals), Rik van Honk (keys, trumpet and Flugelhorn, backing vocals), Wade Wieringa (guitar and effect pedals), Guus van Horn (bass and effect pedals) and Christiaan Bruin (drums and backing vocals) have succeeded in writing and performing a very diverse opening track, even while being a full 18 minutes. Whereas it seemingly starts as a very bombastic track, the way it winds ands spins show there is a lot more to the opening song than just a plain bombastic space trip, if ever there was any. Describing all the curves and swerves the song takes would completely fill up the space designed for the whole of the review, so that would be just too much. If there is one song you ought to listen to on this album, then it is this one. Daring you to sit back and enjoy the ride, with just as much as Porcupine Tree influences as there are of more traditional prog. Steven Wilson would have been proud! Tom's voice fits the music just great and getting to the chorus, there again is a distinct resemblance to Porcupine Tree. The instrumental workout after that, well, it puts in its Gentle Giant/Spock's Beard influences as well, yet the rocky edge here remains solely Sky Architect. Add some Waters further on in the track and you may realize something special is going on on this album.

Wormholes had me thinking of Todd Rundgren's Utopia with a drop of Dream Theater added to spice up the track. Wade leads the song nicely with his guitar and, for the greater part, there is a feeling of relaxation to the song. Yet, at two occasions the band rock out and out. The last time they do so, they end the song in a mixture of Spock's Beard, Primus and Pain Of Salvation. Strange rhythms, heavy drumming, all in a couple of minutes - be sure to be wearing your safety belt. You wouldn't want to drop out of this space craft at the speed and height we reach with these Architects.

Tides brings heaviness Porcupine Tree-style with Christiaan Bruin showing that a more relaxed feel in drum patterns can go well together with hard-hitting. Here's to the balance that Christiaan manages very well and I have enjoyed his drumming on the album as a whole.

Elegy Of A Solitary Giant is one of the other epics on the album and, like The Curious One, it feels like a trip through space. Both tracks show the versatility of all the band members as both the subtle parts and the firm and heavy (King Crimson meets Dream Theater) are performed with great ease or so it seems. Good to hear the Flugelhorn make its entrance. Talking about bombast progstyle: here is what we might call the zenith of that. Yet it all is there to make us visualize what is happening. As the riff at the end of the song starts, you wish for that to last for at least half an hour or so. Heavy and beautiful, all at once. Jimís Ride To Hell is a short instrumental that slowly builds its momentum and when it does, it rages like a bull. Spacey as it may be, it is also very heavy. In case Metallica might ever consider covering a prog song, this might be the one. Mind you, there are two more songs left and I assure you they're as good as any on this album. Oh just to listen to Traveller's Last Candle again with its Uli Jon Roth-like solo at the end. A good, good thing!

Sky Architect have delivered. A Billion Years Of Solitude is their third album and this is one that surpasses their previous efforts by far. Is it all a matter of balance? This time Sky Architect may have added more heaviness than in their earlier releases and have succeeded in creating more demanding songs, not only to perform but to listen to as well. They have gone where not many band have gone before, to stay in sci-fi terms, the main theme of the album being just that. May the Force be with them and grant them a billion years in gratitude. This is one great album by a band that can soon be a standard of its own.

Conclusions:

GEOFF FEAKES : 8 out of 10
MARCEL HARTENBERG : 9 out of 10


From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Sky Architect CD Reviews:-
Excavations Of The Mind
(2010)
"A spectacularly solid debut then, and given the relative Ďyouthí of the band, there is so much promise here. Rarely does one encounter a band that could potentially shape a new niche in the genre..."
(Jon Bradshaw, 8/10)
A Dying Man's Hymn
(2011)
"For me, Sky Architect are developing into one of the most exciting modern prog acts around and this work envelops and endures."
(Jon Bradshaw, 9/10)
Previous Sky Architect Live Reviews:-
2010:-Helmond, The Netherlands
2011:-Night of the Prog VI, GermanyVerviers, Belgium



Machine Mass - Inti
Machine Mass - Inti
Country of Origin:Belgium/U.S.A.
Format:CD
Record Label:Moonjune Records
Catalogue #:MJR060
Year of Release:2014
Time:60:15
Info:Machine Mass
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Inti (7:07), Centipede (4:41), Lloyd (6:24), In A Silent Way (6:29), A Sight (6:37), Utoma (6:09), The Secret Place (4:33), Elisabeth (12:46), Voice (4:53)

Three years since 2011's superb As Real As Thinking, multi-national progressive jazz band Machine Mass Trio are back, but without reeds player Jordi Grognard. In his place, and hopefully for the foreseeable future, they have recruited highly regarded sax and flute player Dave Liebman, who most notably amongst many other things was once part of Miles Davis' band.

The band is now simply Machine Mass, and the intuitive improvisational understanding that flows back and forth between this new trio is apparent from the start. The title track Inti strides confidently down a free jazz street on the back of an unobvious electronic bass part, with lyrical sax playing from Dave taking the lead, drummer Tony Bianco dancing around the beat. Guitarist Michel Delville joins the party with some coruscating playing that seems to hang on the edge of the tune like a gateway to elsewhere. This gives the cue to Dave's soprano sax to let rip, making for a marvellous musical conversation and a fabulous start to the album.

Dave Liebman's spacious phrasing and free flowing improvisations make this record sound like a modern Miles Davis record with his saxes replacing the legendary trumpet. His sense of space and timing lends the album an open and airy feel, and this is exemplified on Utoma, where Tony's delicate percussive touch perfectly compliments the labyrinthine journey undertaken by the saxophone. These two have played together recently with improvisational saxophonist Evan Parker, and Inti rekindles their innate musical empathy.

Michel Delville's signature guitar fills raise hairs on the back of the neck in many places on Inti. Often angular and almost avant in nature they go to places you cannot predict, and the sheer emotional excitement in his playing is there for all to see. As if to complete the sonic circle there are also guitar lines of fluid and quiet introspection. The circle will not be unbroken.

The clever electronic faux double-bass part in tandem with Michel's soaring solo on Centipede charges along like a runaway train, chased by a blast of furious saxophone from Dave. In his mid-sixties, Dave plays like a man half his age, it's exhausting just sitting here listening to it.

Tunes formed out of improvisations over Tony's abnormally long rhythmic loops, some up to 100 bars long, result in the listener not being aware that looping is even occurring. This culminates in some of the most natural sounding electronica you are likely to hear. Electronic atmospherics are added by Michel, and the two techno-wizards and Dave then play over the top. The live feel of the record is given credence by the astonishing fact that these tracks were recorded in a single afternoon, the three musicians manipulating the electronica while playing their instruments. The collision of opposites apparent in that statement; the discipline of the playing, against the free-flowing improvisational spirit is what makes this thing so hot damn special. Michel tells us in the liner notes that this is what Machine Mass sound like on stage; there is little difference between the studio and live sound. In which case I really need to see this live, ASAP!

Yet another highlight is the spooky eastern feel given to their re-imagination of Joe Zawinul's version of In A Silent Way, where Michel's looped ambient sitar and Dave's wood flute combine to produce a respectful and meditative interpretation of a fusion classic that in lesser hands may have sounded kitsch.

In keeping with what will hopefully become a tradition of including female vocals on his albums, and following on from Susan Clynes' wonderful performance on The Wrong Object's Glass Cubes from last year, Michel indulges us here with the smokier tones of Saba Tewelde, who leads us gently by the hand to The Secret Place, drifting dreamily along. Accompanied only by the light touches of Michel's guitar and low key electronica, Saba sings a wistful story of mystery and imagination that ends abruptly, and all too soon.

The perfect distillation of the collision of left-field electronica and inspirational playing is found on Elisabeth, a tune that highlights all three players' exceptional skills; Tony's "tight but loose" scattergun drumming, Michel's fiery guitar blasts, and Dave's alternately soulful and searing sax playing. A tribute to Michel's wife, Elisabeth is also a fitting celebration of intuitive and inspirational ensemble playing.

A unique aspect of this album is Tony and Michel's deft touch on computer keyboard, and with a suite of software called Ableton Live. I'll let Michel explain:

"Tony generated all the computer bass lines on the album, except for the bass line on Blindsight (which became A Sight on the album), where I use a randomizing and warping effect on Ableton Live, which creates gaps and inflections that sound like there is a bassist playing in real time. Our task is to respond to the unpredictable computer inflections...the randomizing functions on Albeton produces changes and inflections that are never the same, making each performance different, and exiting."

I have to emphasise that although the computer technology plays a significant part on Inti, it does so seamlessly and at no time does it swamp the tangible human emotion of the record, and is, in effect, a team player.

Inti marks a real leap forward from As Real As Thinking; it is a true progressive music gem, as uncategorisable as can be. As Dave puts it, Inti is "post-everything", and it will definitely feature in my best of 2014 list for sure.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10

ROGER TRENWITH


65daysofstatic - Wild Light
65daysofstatic - Wild Light
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:50:18
Info:65daysofstatic
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Heat Death Infinity Splitter (5:07), Prisms (5:58), The Undertow (6:32), Blackspots (7:30), Sleepwalk City (6:54), Taipei (6:00), Unmake The Wild light (6:24), Safe Passage (5:58)

Drone. Static. Electronic. The music of 65daysofstatic has evolved through their entire career, growing more and more towards Electronic drone, massively influenced by the Post rock scene which in its entirety seems to be leaning more towards the electronic side these days.

As is always the case when listening to instrumental music, you need to picture your own story within the music. The album kicks off with a more traditional, if we can speak as such, Post/Math Rock song with longer sounds created on the guitar. Heavy, dark, almost sinister music, an atmosphere is created of infinite and unavoidable death that comes to us all sooner or later. Post Math rock is not of the dreamy ambient type of music, but more intrusive into your mind.

Prisms directly goes more electronic and given the keyboards the sound becomes less heavy and rough around the edges. Not exactly ambient but nearing that genre pretty closely. Once the guitar steps back in the ambient feeling makes way for the heavier post/math rock sound, throwing the listener from one side to another in the nicely shaped musical Prisms.

Have you ever felt as if the world was flowing away from under you? No, not from doing drugs, listen to The Undertow and let the music take you away, on or under the waves. Freeing your soul, The Undertow has a great melodic line and is a fine example of how you can mix the electronic and math/postrock genres. Half way in there is a nice interlude of fine piano and in the meantime you are flowing as The Undertow takes you off to faraway places, emptying your mind and clearing the soul.

And then you are in for a completely different approach. Blackspots is a more highly paced and energetic tune where once again the keyboards take a prominent role within the setting of the tune, complete with a drone sound as a back layer. Next to that there is good collaboration between guitar and keyboards where the pace of the tune is concerned, yet more electronic.

Sleepwalk City dives even further into the electronic soundscapes. We could continue to describe what 65DOS with each track but here's just a few facts: Average track length - 6:17 minutes; 8 tracks; lots of electronic sounds and great melody lines.

Post/Math/electronic rock. Fans of the genre will either already possess this album or need to go out and buy it as Wild Light is an album that must not be missed. Comes highly recommended for fans of God is an Astonaut, Maybe She Will and Godspeed You, Black Emperor.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF


John Bassett - Unearth
John Bassett - Unearth
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Stereohead
Catalogue #:JOHNBCD01
Year of Release:2014
Time:45:59
Info:John Bassett
Samples:Click Here

Tracklist: Stay Away From The Dark (4:10), Survival Rate (4:49), Nothing Sacred (3:37), Unearth (3:44), Pantomime (5:44), Kylerhea (4:43), TV Is God (3:46), Keep Dear (4:06), Something That's More Worthwhile (7:44), Comedian (3:31)

After seven albums with KingBathmat, the singer/songwriter, producer and creator of that increasingly fine band of musicians is stepping out with his first release under his own name. In many ways, Unearth harks back to the earliest albums under the KingBathmat banner where, as on Unearth, John Bassett is responsible for all of the instrumentation, except for some of the drumming which on the current album is shared with Nathan A Summers.

There is an underlying acoustic foundation to the ten tracks on Unearth, which possess an overall melancholic vibe. Ever the man for a melody, Bassett has imbued each of the songs with multiple layers of harmony, both in the vocals and the instruments. What sets the album aside is the embellishments that are added throughout. This is no stark singer-songwriter fair, but fully fleshed out songs, albeit ones whose arrangements are sympathetic to the core of the number and don't overawe the underlying essence. Yes, there are obvious similarities in the tone and general vibe, but the essential character of each number is inherently different.

Opening number Stay Away From The Dark suitably sets the tone with a lovely double-tracked acoustic guitar, a rather curious lyric ("With your certificate you are qualified to shovel dirt") and an achingly gorgeous chorus. The title track is itself a triumph, very simply arranged: double tracked vocals, acoustic guitar, swathes of subliminal organ and hints of electric piano, very simple but totally effective. There are dashes of light psychedelia, particularly on Pantomime with its crazy background keyboard antics, a delightful instrumental Kylerhea, and the wonderfully quirky TV Is God.

Something That's More Worthwhile, is the longest track on the album and builds slowly from a rather normal beginning to a great interplay between the instrumentation that draws on the progressive nature of the KingBathmat sound. However, the best is saved for last with Comedian, the bitter-sweet apogee, the culmination of some excellent songwriting from an artist who continues to develop and mature. Unearth is a fine solo album that both compliments the KingBathmat releases and establishes Barrett as an independent musical figurehead in his own right.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

MARK HUGHES


Silent Bishop - The Motivational Speaker [EP]
Silent Bishop - The Motivational Speaker [EP]
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:21:05
Info:Silent Bishop
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Reverie (3:35), If Only (4:10), Shove (3:32), Not My Dog (3:59), Lullaby (5:50)

The Motivational Speaker is the debut from Silent Bishop, a Stoner/progressive rock outfit from the north east of the Netherlands with a simple but effective line-up consisting of only three musicians and instruments. Let me introduce these guys to you' Jan Wessel Hovingh plays the bass guitar, Herman Kuis plays drums and Kerwin Pauptit plays guitar and takes care of the better part of the vocals.

Musically you could place Silent Bishop amongst bands such as The Grand Astoria, they might well be a little less intense and loud but musically they are on the same track. The debut EP is made up of 5 tracks and just 21 minutes but in that time we hear the sheer joy and enthusiasm with which the band play.

Heavy bass and drums lay down a layer so well known in the krautrock and stoner rock. The music is mostly straight forward and does not contain many changes in rhythm, in that way it isn't what we would call progressive yet the influence of heavy prog drips from all the tracks. Firmly based in blues rock characteristics, Silent Bishop have given us a nice debut that rocks from start to finish.

Silent Bishop are a band certainly worth checking out, I bet their show is one to see. Steaming Rock.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

GERT HULSHOF


Trion - Funfair Fantasy
Trion - Funfair Fantasy
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:OSKAR
Catalogue #:OSKAR 1057 CD
Year of Release:2013
Time:53:18
Info:Flamborough Head
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Ampelmännchen (6:38), Gananoque (2:29), Scotland (11:30), In the Distance (5:43), Wandering (2:16), Towers (4:19), Sealth (3:00), Meat Prizes (4:56), Song for Canada (5:23), Secret Matter (7:05)

Trion was never supposed to be a band as such as all members had their own bands at the time they came together as a trio. Keyboardist Edo Spanninga and guitarist Eddie Mulder played in Flamborough Head while drummer Menno Boomsma hit the cymbals and drums in Odyssice. All was well within these bands so no need to change, but with their first album, Tortoise, they got such a warm welcome that their enthusiasm was unleashed to be and play in Trion. That led to their second outing, Pilgrim, which also proved to be successful. Several collaborations in other projects followed and having experienced the joy of playing together again when contributing to the Finnish Colossus Project Decameron album the trio were inspired to enter the studio again and record what ultimately germinated into this third all instrumental album, Funfair Fantasy. And yes, it has taken us a while to publish a review of it but, dear colleague Geoff, this album has not gone unnoticed!

The fine artwork is the first thing that strikes you when you lay your hands upon the new album. As with both former Trion albums a lot of devotion, effort and quality has been laid in the drawings and the photographs, this time by Polish artist Rafal Paluszek. The booklet takes the reader into very different landscapes that most of the time are coloured in some kind of autumnal red or winterish white. One of the pages is very reminiscent of Marillion's Somewhere Else album cover. In the end the booklet presents the third chapter of Jemetrion's story, the tortoise the band introduced on their first album. Very nicely done, attractive and artistic, and a good way to make a real album far more preferable over a download or stream. Therefore it is a bit annoying that the reference to Trion's website is stated wrongly; look at the link above and you'll have it correct! Strangely enough the tracklist is also not readable in my Media Player while the CD itself plays perfectly.

But of course it's the music that counts, and honestly, Trion doesn't do the listener a favour with their opener Ampelmännchen. The song opens a bit bluntly with a strong guitar riff after which numerous rhythm changes occur during the first 2 minutes. Then a very quiet, beautiful 'flute' interlude (which isn't a flute, it's all Mellotron folks!) with piano follows, slowly building up to a bass and electric piano driven jazzy section with a nice laidback feeling. Then the guitar takes over again with Mellotron in the background, yet another rhythm with organ and drums and strong guitars. All nice and good and typically Trion...until things go terribly wrong. The last part of the song is a "La la la" vocal section that sounds absolutely horrible, both in style, atmosphere and performance. That little section of music takes you into one of those smelly, filthy and smoke filled bars you most certainly don't want to be seen in. The band states that they wanted to incorporate some more experiment into Trion's music on this album. Well, so much for this experiment! Fortunately the song fades out quickly so the listener can take a breath and try to enjoy the rest of the album. Or will this horrible end section of the song introduce other similarly unexpected and ugly experiments?

The answer is clearly 'No' and that is a big relief. For Gananoque (which appears to be a small town in the 1000 islands area in eastern Canada...) is a nice, small piece based on the interplay between organ and guitar that fades out a bit too soon.

Scotland opens with slow Mellotron 'flute' supported by strings in the background. This leads, after some three minutes, to extensive and very nice guitar soloing for the rest of the song. Drums and bass are vital here, leading to many different time signatures. All in all a very nice track although it lacks a bit of a real Scottish feel; no whistles, no bagpipes.

In the Distance opens as Moody Blues' Nights in White Satin but quickly takes a totally different direction into a slow bluesy guitar solo. It sounds like a beautiful slow waltz, supported by organ and drums.

Wandering is an all acoustic guitar piece in the vein of the classical Steve Hackett or Steve Howe, with a nice and slow melody impeccably played by Eddie Mulder.

Towers is again full of mixed moods, signature changes, quite up-tempo and with a strong role for Spanninga's keyboards that produce a dazzling number of different sounds. The end section is guitar dominated and reminds me of Nick Barrett (Pendragon) or Andy Latimer (Camel). It all sounds fluent but the disadvantage of these kind of rather short but varied pieces is that you can never get 'into' the song as such because there's always something else happening.

Sealth picks up where Wandering ends. There is a lot of acoustic guitar but now with long chords on the Mellotron. It makes this a very symphonic song.

Looking at the song titles, Meat Prizes is quite a strange one. Yet the music fits perfectly within the album albeit that it is slightly more up-tempo. But with no real raw edges or blood-stained guitar riffing, it all stays within Trion's realm with a calm Mellotron and some jazzy drumming with a sniff of Henry Mancini's famous Pink Panther theme which makes you wonder where the inspiration for the song or its title came from...

Trion's reminiscence to Camel is particularly apparent in Song for Canada, a splendid, slow guitar solo with loads of Mellotron. Songs like Ice or Sahara come to mind, not bad as an inspiration!

Actually the album could have ended here. The last song, Secret Matter, does not add anything new to the album. It has an inconspicuous melody, a jazzy-light feel, some time signature changes and a non-creative fade-out but all this has been better done in the preceding songs. With its length of just over 7 minutes it should have offered more challenges to the listener but it fails to do so completely. Therefore it could really have been missed.

That leads to the remarkable conclusion that this nice album has an opening and a closing song that rank as the weakest songs of the collection. In between Funfair Fantasy is a very listenable record that underpins Trion's status as an attractive instrumental band. But it could have been better...

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

THEO VERSTRAEL

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Trion CD Reviews:-
Tortoise
(2003)
"One of the best albums of the year, highly recommended to enthusiasts of symphonic rock, this CD might well prove to stand the test of time to be included among the favourites in the genre."
(Mark Sander, 9/10)
Pilgrim
(2007)
"The music and arrangements come at you fast and furious, no protracted chord sequences to fill in the gaps, just cleverly arranged and written music."
(Bob Mulvey, 8.5/10)
Tortoise [10th Anniversary Edition]
(2003/2013)
"The music and arrangements come at you fast and furious, no protracted chord sequences to fill in the gaps, just cleverly arranged and written music."
(Bob Mulvey, 8.5/10)



Book Of Reflections - Relentless Fighter
Book Of Reflections - Relentless Fighter
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC323
Year of Release:2012
Time:50:14
Info:Book Of Reflections
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Until The Day (4:47), Dance With The Devil (5:11), Angel Shed A Tear (4:15), Bleeding Dry (5:37), Rise Up! (4:44), Crashing Through (4:14), Somewhere Else To Be (5:31), Gates To Oblivion (6:30), Keep Us Afloat (4:48), Without My Angel (4:46)

Scandinavian guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson is no stranger to the DPRP with four albums by his namesake project Mattsson covered in these pages since 2001 although reviews were mixed. Whilst this review marks the first appearance of his other project, Book Of Reflections he's released two previous albums under this name, Book Of Reflections (2004) and Chapter II: Unfold The Future (2006).

Whilst I can't speak for any of Mattsson's previous offerings, Relentless Fighter, as the title might suggest, is unadulterated power metal that takes its lead from Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest, Metallica and just about any band you care to mention from the early 1980s NWOBHM. Every track is a showcase for Mattsson's histrionic guitar shredding and overall it covers just about every metal cliché in the book. In addition to guitar, the multi-instrumentalist Mattsson is also responsible for bass and keyboards and he's more than competent in every department. One Christer Jansson provides the drums whilst the vocals are shared between Carsten "Lizard" Schulz (Evidence) and Markku Kuikka (Status Minor). Schulz and Kuikka are both very capable singers although their formulaic delivery brings to mind several of the genre's frontmen with Schulz's warbling in the style of Bruce Dickinson (and occasionally Jon Bon Jovi) whilst Kuikka's grittier rasp is closer to Metallica's James Hetfield. Their alternating voices do at least give the songs some degree of individuality otherwise lacking in Mattsson's one dimensional song writing and guitar playing.

Virtually every song is delivered at a fast, unrelenting tempo originally established by Deep Purple amongst others in the early 1970s and copied by every heavy metal band since. Within this context, and despite the vocal presence, Mattsson indulges in lengthy and aimless histrionic guitar posturing often devoid of any melodic content or discernable hook. Occasionally, as in Angel Shed A Tear and the otherwise tedious instrumental Gates To Oblivion, he'll throw in a superb Jon Lord inspired organ solo or even a noodly synth break (Bleeding Dry and Rise Up!) but these keyboard excursions although very welcome are few and far between.

Track number 7, Somewhere Else To Be does at least bring a change of pace with a ponderous, grinding riff that echoes early Black Sabbath whilst the acoustic Without My Angel is an attempt at a sincere ballad although again the self-indulgent, over blown guitar that concludes tramples everything in its path. Although, as I stated earlier, it's technically very well performed, Relentless Fighter is mostly predictable and lacks inspiration. On the plus side it's well produced with a big spacious sound although the all-important and relentless kick drumming is reduced to an irritating click throughout. There's no doubt that this would compare favourably with a good deal of the metal albums that came out of the U.K. and America in the eighties, the problem is in terms of originality Mattsson has missed the boat by almost 30 years.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Book Of Reflections CD Reviews:-
Chapter II: Unfold The Future
(2006)
"Even though Tritonium is a very interesting effort, full of constantly excellent instrumental work with some genuinely riveting moments, its appeal to "mainstream" prog fans is rather limited."
(Raffaella Berry, 7/10)



Sages's Recital - Sages's Recital
Sage's Recital - Sages's Recital
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2013
Time:53:02
Info:Sage's Recital
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: The Power Within (3:57), You Hold the Key (4:42), The Last Unicorn (3:50), Council of Dragons (6:39), Immortal Flame (9:28), The Dead of Winter (8:58), The Last Battle (15:28)

I suppose all reviewers of art struggle with the tension between "I like/dislike it" and "It's good/bad". If I subjectively like or dislike an artist's creation, is it then objectively good or bad? My suspicion is that there's no Platonic norm for aesthetic assessment: in other words, there is no "good" or "bad", there is only the floating whimsy of "I like it/I don't like it". Any reviewer's assessment is sheer opinion, with no claim to mathematical exactitude or logical rigor. The heart enjoys what it enjoys and beauty is wholly in the eye of the beholder. I'd like to think that all musicians submitting a release to DPRP for review understand this well, since they truly make themselves vulnerable when soliciting an allegedly unbiased appraisal.

A necessary preamble? Indeed, because whatever merit Sage's Recital's eponymous debut may hold, still, I found it (with few exceptions) wretched.

Let me try for fairness, though.

Sage's Recital is the brainchild of Sweden's Niels Vejlyt (guitars and orchestrations). By admission, the album is intended as "the most intense over the top Neo Classical and Symphonic metal". And it is, indubitably (although I'll bracket "most"). The band is rounded out by Jakob Vand (drums) and vocalist John West (Artension, Royal Hunt). Contributors include Franck Hermanny, Henrik Brockmann, Jesper Nielsen (guitar, vocals) and Jonathan Arnesen (lead vocals). Sage's Recital was initiated in 2012 as a journey into a "magical realm of wizards and Dragons". And the Misty Mountain hop begins...

In short, the debut is a blend of Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force and Dio; a pinch of Iron Maiden; a smidgeon of Dream Theater; and a whole bouillon of Europe and Asia (the bands). That's pretty much it.

The musicianship is certainly strong. Everyone involved can play and the chops aren't lacking. Throughout Sage's Recital, the vocals are spot on, even beautiful at times - there's no getting around that fact. The presentation of the music is professional and tidy. Even if the type of music rubs me wrongly, it's still of the highest caliber.

All that said, I found the album ridiculous. Sure, I like The Lord of the Rings and I played D&D in high school. And, I'll confess, I thought Kiss' Music from "The Elder" was cool back in the day. But I eventually cast aside the juvenilia and paid attention to music that was relevant to my existence and the human story. Probably nothing more than a preference...but I still couldn't take anything on this debut seriously. As a 2013 release, it's competing with Bowie's The Next Day and The Flaming Lips' The Terror: a very long row to hoe.

I kept hoping for some irony, some double entendre, anything to make me understand that the surface value wasn't the real value. I was disappointed in that hopefulness. An album like Tull's Broadsword and the Beast works well because the lyrics play with symbolism and levels of meaning ó with humor and cleverness ó to discuss heartfelt considerations about love, separation, exploitation, wonder and the general human commotion. Sage's Recital is simply a very trite, devil's dash RPG set to music. I can only be so accepting of lyrics like "Never trust a dragon". You likely shouldn't but...why would I need the warning?

It's not all terrible, sure. Within the bombast and melodrama, there are some admirable moments. The Council of Dragons is a rollicking instrumental and it held my interest with some juxtaposed variation and ferocity. I also enjoyed the female vocalist (uncredited?) on Immortal Flame: a pristine, powerful, emotive voice.

Otherwise, tackiness, datedness, silly overplaying and pomposity. Overblown wankery, to be blunt. It seems Mr. Vejlyt was aiming for just such an album and he has succeeded marvelously.

I can't recommend Sage's Recital and I'm not even sure to whom it could be fittingly recommended. I guess if you absolutely adore Rising Force and Dio, and the hair metal posturing of Europe et al., this debut might tickle your fancy. Is Sage's Recital "bad"? I can't say. I disliked it from start-to-finish, which is all I can offer. For me, it's a one-and-done. Maybe the addition of a hobbit, an ogre mage or a basilisk would've brought me into the fold. Or not.

Conclusion: 3 out of 10

JOHN SHANNON


Nik Turner - Space Gypsy
Nik Turner - Space Gypsy
Country of Origin:U.K.
Format:CD
Record Label:Purple Pyramid
Catalogue #:CLP 0666
Year of Release:2013
Time:50:38
Info:Nik Turner
Samples:Click Here
Tracklist: Fallen Angel STS-51-L (4:56), Joker's Song (3:50), Time Crypt (5:31), Galaxy Rise (4:07), Coming Of The Maya (8:23), We Ride The Timewinds (3:42), Eternity (3:58), Anti-matter (4:57), The Visitor (7:07), Something's Not Right (4:03)

Space Gypsy creates a bit of a dilemma for this reviewer as on the one hand it could almost be a lost Hawkwind album from the seminal 1971-1975 period and on the other it is akin to a Hawkwind cover band who have honed their act to give a perfect representation of the band's sound of that era yet play all their own material! So original music of little originality, if that makes any sense. The good news is that the band accompanying the 74-year-old Turner on his first album in 12 years are very, very good at what they do and fans of the 'Wind who prefer their space rock with lots of spacey sounds, manic saxes, swirling ambiences and cosmic indulgences will surely lap this up. Truth be said, the album does contain some very strong material and if it had been released by Hawkwind at any point in the past 40-odd years it would be hailed as a classic or a return to form. However, there is always the niggling thought at the back of one's mind that it is not Hawkwind, just one of a whole host of ex-members who, admittedly, did co-write a couple of the band's most enduring numbers, among which can be listed Brainstorm and Master Of The Universe. On this album, Turner gets a co-writing credit on five of the ten numbers although it is impossible to know the extent of his involvement. Accompanying Turner on the album is a rather eclectic cast who wouldn't immediately be associated with psychedelic space rock including a couple of punk rockers - the original Chelsea bassist Jeff Piccinini (aka Geoff Myles) and guitarist Nicky Garratt, a founding member of UK Subs. Jürgen Engler from the German industrial outfit Die Krupps also contributes guitar as well as all the synths and Mellotrons whilst the drum stool is occupied by Jason Willer who has played in numerous bands including the current UK Subs line-up. Another Hawkwind alumni, Simon House, plays violin on a couple of tracks, Chris Leitz, also a member of Die Krupps, adds additional Mellotron and even Steve Hillage has been lured away from the realms of ambient techno to add suitably cosmic six-string to one number.

Considering the background of the musicians there is a very consistent sound to the album, all the more surprising given that each member of the band has had a hand in writing material - Willer and Piccinini contribute one track each, Garratt has three solo compositions and two co-writes with Turner, and the remaining three songs were jointly composed by Turner, Engler and Leitz. It does seems somewhat pointless reviewing the album track by track as all that needs to be said is that the characteristic elements of the Hawkwind sound are all included within the fifty or so minutes of the album. All present to a greater or lesser extent are echoes of Robert Calvert's vocal style, some acoustic guitar that harks back to the earliest years of the band, the relentless riffing of the Space Ritual era, the spacey synths, the insane sax lines and so on, all wrapped up in a sleeve that is of an easily recognisable style to many a release by the band with whom Turner first made his name.

So how does one rate this album? Impossible to say really. As a long-standing Hawkwind fan I, and I suspect many others, will see Space Gypsy as a fine album that continues the classic sound of the space rock pioneers and for such people the album is recommended as probably the last throw of the dice for an album of this nature performed by musicians who were present and participated in creating the original template. For others, it will be seen as derivative and even possibly plagiaristic, taking the past glories of another band and recycling under another name. I do wonder if the sole reason I like the album so much (and I really do!) is because it reminds me so much of my favourite period of Hawkwind's history and there are so many immediately obvious reference points? Because of this, for people who are not familiar with Hawkwind I would have to recommend they check out that band's own output first, starting with last year's reissue of the excellent Warrior On The Edge Of Time.

Conclusion: Unrated

MARK HUGHES

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Published 8th April 2014

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