ISSUE 2014-446

Reviews in this issue:

Adeia - Hourglass
Adeia - Hourglass
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: Layered reality Productions
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 44:04
Info: Adeia
Samples: Adeia
Track List:
Cordycerps (7:50), Providence (5:49), Hourglass (10:03), Filling the Void (6:14), Inheritance (14:08)
7 piece Netherlands based band Adeia, describe themselves on their website as a band that might have the qualities to be a band who create a mix of something that is adventurous and different. Sadly on the evidence here, on this their debut album, they've a way to go yet before they are anywhere near that pinnacle.

On paper they look a formidable prospect, a 7 piece band with the traditional rock base of Wabe Wieringa (guitar), Dennis Burgemeester (bass) Christiaan Bruin (drums) Franc Timmerman (vocals) then we get the exciting additions of Wendy Heuvelmans (synths) Ruben van Kruistum (Cello) and Laura ten Voorde (violin and vocals). In fact the band was formed by Ruben and Laura fusing their classical training with symphonic metal to create a mighty sound.

Musically the band are pretty good, with some taut performances particularly on Filling the Void and the opener Cordyceps, as the violin and cello spars with the electric guitar and synth. However the musical adventorous does somtimes drift into prog metal by numbers, particularly on Providence, where it seems like I've heard it all before. Laura is also a superb vocalist and where she harmonises with Franc Timmerman, the sound their voices make together is great. Tracks like the epic closing Inheritance work so well, as the blend of rock and classical influences work to great effect, with some storming hammond organ.

However, and here is my biggest bugbear with symphonic prog metal, when you have a great track rocketing along like the sublime Hourglass, it makes no sense at all to ruin it with shouted growling vocals, that make the lyrics indeciphirable and remind me nothing more of the incoherent ramblings of a drunken tramp shouted down a megaphone. Unfortunatly this crime is perpetuated throughout the album, where the beautifully performed and wonderfully written songs are spoiled by the sub neaderthal shouting, Franc Timmerman your vocal range is superb, the harmonies you do with Laura are fantastic, this record doesn't need the shouty vocals. It makes you sound like every other prog metal band out there, and ruins several great tracks. Shouty vocals sho a lack of imagination, and yet musically this band have a lot of potential and musically great things going for them.

If they focus on the strengths, the musical dexterity and the superb edge that the violin and cello gives to the music, and throw away the prog metal by numbers, the roaring shouty vocals and some of the cliched guitar riffs then their next album will be superb.
Conclusion: 5/10 out of 10

Cheeto's Magazine - Boiling Fowls
Cheeto's Magazine - Boiling Fowls
Country of Origin: Spain
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 64:11
Info: Cheeto's Magazine on Bandcamp
Samples: Cheeto's Magazine on Bandcamp
Track List:
Nova America (25:24), The Driver And The Cat (2:29), Volcano Burger (4:50), Teddy Bears (5:16), Four Guitars (3:08), Octopus Soup (6:52), Fat Frosties (6:14), Naughty Boy (7:10), Driver French (2:48)
I can't remember a time I have had more fun listening to a new release than when I first listened to Boiling Fowls by Cheeto's Magazine after hearing about the album on a popular progressive rock forum. I was grinning ear to ear the entire time as the band's humor and quirkiness washed over me. I am admittedly a huge classic Spock's Beard fan, and this album, at least the opening epic, can best be described as Spock's Beard on steroids. The band don't hold anything back on their debut release, and the shorter tracks that follow the epic show some interesting sides to an eclectic band. I have already been hooked by this young band and can't wait to see where they go from here.

The opening epic, Nova America, takes its structure from Neal Morse's many epics. There are sections of this track that I felt could almost be written by the former Spock's Beard front man. The band holds nothing back as they move from section to section. The epic starts off with a bouncy melody held together by the keyboards of Esteban Navarro. It sounds like Spock's Beard circa Beware of Darkness with its positivity and playfulness. After the first section comes another Spock's Beard trademark, the counterpoint vocal section, also reminiscent of Gentle Giant's vocal work. Then comes a heavy metal type section that is maybe more reminiscent of Haken, another quirky progressive band. Things slow down for a slower section, much like Neal Morse likes to do in his epics. There is more introspection and the vocals are more heartfelt and emotional. The vocals on this album are very interesting, sometimes a little harsh and silly, at other times beautiful and clear. The band does an excellent job of morphing to the particularly style they are playing in. The epic ends in grand fashion, repeating the big themes from the beginning and ending with a bang. This is a top notch epic and is frankly one of my new favorite epics of all time. It is a melting pot of styles and emotions, and is captivating to listen to for its entire running length.

The remainder of the album is quite varied in nature and shows that there is much more to this band than their Spock's Beard-esque style that permeates their opening epic. The Driver And The Cat begins with an instrumental counterpoint much like what Gentle Giant did in their heyday as it starts with keyboards and builds with acoustic guitar and bass. Then, the song morphs into a '80s style pop song with abundant synths, harmonized vocals and interesting beats. It is a unique blend and I imagine it might be what Gentle Giant could have sounded like had they lasted well into the '80s. Volcano Burger starts with a variety of quirky keyboard sounds before drums come in, for a very pleasing symphonic instrumental. Teddy Bears perhaps owes a bit to the sound of Frank Zappa with soaring guitars and keyboards and a quirky vocal chant with nonsensical lyrics.

Octopus Soup manages to blend several different sounds, including a section with sound effects and electronic beats with a saxophone melody on top of it. After this comes a silly chant that sounds like it could be part of an Irish drinking song. This band is certainly original! Fat Frosties is just a whole lot of fun through its variety of instrumental passages, showing further that keyboardist Esteban Navarro isn't afraid to use a variety of quirky, almost cheesy sounds in his style. Naughty Boy is fun and catchy with an interesting jazzy middle section that really swings. Driver French is another song in the vein of The Driver And The Cat with catchy '80s synths amongst electronic sounding drums and auto-tuned vocals. It may sound strange for a progressive rock release, but this band makes it work.

What we have here is a band that isn't afraid to be strange and quirky. This sets them apart from a large portion of progressive rock bands that take themselves a little too seriously. This band embraces their sense of humor and leaves it all out on display for the listener. This could turn some listeners off, but for me this makes the album refreshing and fun to listen to over and over again. I never tire of this album and laugh in glee at all the craziness that is on display. This is definitely one of the best debut albums I've ever heard, and I believe it is one of the strongest albums of the year. This album is for those looking for something different, with a healthy amount of humor and variety. I can't wait to see what these guys pull off next.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10

Eden Shadow - Phases
Eden Shadow - Phases
Country of Origin: UK
Format: cd
Record Label: White Knight Records
Catalogue #: CDWK0801
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 60:19
Info: Eden Shadow
Samples: Eden Shadow on Soundcloud
Track List:
First Phase (6:16), Restlessness (7:26), Hallucinogen (10:04), Hope You're Happy (5:58), Imagination (featuring Nik Turner) (6:30), The Stars Unfold (8:28), Elgon (11:12), True Grace (4:12)
Is it really so strange? is not only a title by The Smiths yet it is also the question I asked myself while listening to Phases for the umptieth time. Yes, yes, I admit it: this is one album I really have come to love. Albeit, put in perspective. Here we have the first full length album by British youngsters Eden Shadow. Having been discovered by White Knight Records'Will Mackie and Rob Reed (of, to name but a few, Cyan, Magenta and Kompendium fame), Alex Broben, Tom Burgess and creative mastermind behind Eden Shadow, Ryan Elliott released a debut ep in 2012 entitled Hail. Most of the songs written back in 2009 when Ryan Elliott was still only 16. And, ladies and gents, from that same period, date the origins of this album, yet still being at students at the Academy of Contemporary Music, it took from 2012 on till now to record and produce the album.

What is there to love about this album, you might ask, even more so as there are reviews out there that compare this release to those of already somewhat established bands like Porcupine Tree and Rush and have a hard time then to come to the conclusion that Eden Shadow does not -yet- live up to standards set by those whom we but worship as gods of prog. True, Eden Shadow is not on top of the prog-Olympus yet. Yet, let the release just speak for itself. Forget about a strict comparison and listen to the album for what it's worth.

That will put things into perspective quite differently. First Phase opens quite calm, we don't hear too much except for keyboards coming in like rolling clouds followed by an open, David Gilmourlike guitar pattern. Are we headed for something not unlike Pink Floyd then? The first three minutes surely seem to flow in that direction and it is only after the 3:30 mark that the sung harmonies get overruled by an almost imperial riff and a Ryan Elliott's guitar in an inspiring and great solo to return to the main theme of the song again. "Pleased to meet you!", I thought as this song immediately grabbed my attention and had me hooked.

Darn! Restlessness opens in good old '80's Rush fashion, yet as the song gets underway, there is a way more modern feel to it, riffage not unlike more recent Rush, perhaps a bit more in the vein of Enchant and Tiles particularly taking the vocal lines into account. The song truly expresses restlessness as Ryan again delivers a great solo and the rhythm section get to show they hold their own in all this guitar shredding violence. The song then settles down a bit after which even a funky vibe slips in, just like that and something like rapping even and Ryan shines once more. Riffheavy and with the rhythm section giving it their all, the song then ends.

Hallucinogen is just what the title promises to be. It starts off rather calm yet the distuingished energy at the background provided by Tom Burgess'steady drumming and Alex Broben's solid bassplaying. Various sections, this instrumental has and it is not hard to imagine that these might all reflect parts of a trip even induced by the sheer beauty of the track itself. Sure, Porcupine Tree and Rush come to mind when listening to the track, yet that is more because of the feel of the song then just simply making any comparison. Amplifier comes to mind as well as the three spread energy just like Amplifier did on the Octopus album.

Hope You're Happy is the type of merry love-/hatesong you don't get too much. Oh, the young romantic and hurt soul that must be hiding in Ryan's chest! Well, whether or not the song is autobiographical or not, the song is a resting point on the album and has a nice and open guitar sound. This song doesn't go without one of Ryan's solo's and again, this one works well within the context of the song. Did I say Gilmourlike? It sort of is.

Nik Turner of Hawkwind fame features on flute on Imagination, and it indeed is another beauty on this album yet Eden Shadow don't even need celebrity added to have their album honoured for what it is: a brave endeavour by three young men that wear their love for music and a passion to play on their sleeves. Yes, you may think there can still be improvements as to the vocals, lyrics or perhaps productionwise but if you regard this album as what it is as well: the first full length album by a still very young band, you can only admire the drive and, mind you, the quality that already goes to show in the musical capabilities and the songwriting as well. If you are only to listen to one track on the album to get to understand the feel of the album, why not play Elgon? It is balanced between the heavy and the melodic which are qualities Eden Shadow both possess and has a terrific guitar solo by Ryan. Goosebumps! Morrissey's answer to the question put forward in the first line of this review? "I say no, you say yes, but you will change your mind." Love it!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Ellis - Riding on the Crest of a Slump / Why Not...?
Ellis - Riding on the Crest of a Slump
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #: ECLEC 2447
Year of Release: 1972/2014
Time: 39:00
Info: Ellis on Cherry Red
Ellis - Why Not...?
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #: ECLEC 2450
Year of Release: 1973/2014
Time: 36:00
Info: Ellis on Cherry Red
Track List:
Riding on the Crest of a Slump: Good to Be Alive (3:28), El Doomo (5:12), You're the Only Reason (3:40), Tune for Brownie (3:06), Your Game (4:24), Three Times Corner (3:59), Morning Paper (3:24), Wish I Was Back Home (3:44), Angela (7:32)
Why Not...?: Goodbye Boredom (4:27), Opus 17 (4:30), Future Passed (4:00), Loud & Lazy Love Songs (3:46), Open Road (2:47), All Before (5:52), Leaving in the Morning (2:44), Mighty Mystic Lady (3:39), We Need the Money Too (3:54), Gyrupp (0:06)
The Love Affair was a pop group in the 1960's that produced top hits including Everlasting Love and wedding reception favourite Bring on Back the Good Times. In 1968 only The Beatles sold more singles, so this was a very succesful outfit. One of their main attractions was the "white soul" voice that graced these severn inches of black vinyl as well as a production that was considered Britain's answer to Motown.

This group broke up in 1969. Singer Steve Ellis, with renowned keyboard player Zoot Money, collaborated with a view to "going in a more rock direction" to form Ellis. On board was excellent German guitarist Andy Gee (who had played on both Pete Barden solo albums, him from Camel), ex Fat Matress bass player Jim Leverton (nowadays four stringing for Caravan) and drummer Dave Lutton from The Grease Band. Steve Ellis's vocals were now given full reign to prove what an excellent rock / bues / soul singer he was (and is),by making two albums in 1972 and 1973.

Both Riding on the Crest of a Slump and Why Not...? have been reissued and remastered by those praiseworthy chaps at Esoteric Recordings and are now availble to enjoy once again.

The Who's Roger Daltry was "the organic" producer of the first one and the music within ranges from bar room boogie, Good to be Alive (a paean for the weekend - we can all relate to that!), and Your Game, through the folky soft rock of Tune for Brownie and El Doomo ( a hit for Serbian band "Smak"), with Billy Joel-esq story telling on Three Times Corner. Stand out track is the last, called Angela which is 7:32 of Hendrix style wah wah, Hammond Organ (played by guest Mick Weaver), soulful harmonica coutesy of T-Bones' Gary Farr, and great crossover rock / soul lung work.

Next Album was produced by Mike Vernon who then was known for his Blue Horizon record label and was blues to the heart. When you listen to Why Not...? straight after Riding on the Crest of a Slump the change in production quality really hits home. I wish modern records could sound like this, it's full, clear as a bell, and totally uncompressed. The Ante was certainly raised on this one, especially the first three songs which are superb and probably of interest to readers of this website more than any other tracks here. Goodbye Boredom has a great rocking vibe with choppy rhythum guitar sparring with his own lead, very well played bass (with new man Nick South), and right on the button steady drumming, but then we get Opus 17¾. At only 4:30 this packed and syncopated number is reminiscent of Family (Roger Chapman sings backing vocals on this album) or some of the more adventurous sides of The Small Faces. In fact Steve Marriot's voice is very similar to Steve Ellis's and excellent it is too. Future Passed is very Zeppelin like with it's sliding Dobro guitar and acoustic plucking added to atmospheric multi tracked voices with gongs and tympani all thrown in here. More Pub rock then on track six, All Before, we get a grand piano introduced Jimmy Page style slow blues ditty with Andy Gee's guitar up there with the best. This player also excels on with his instrument sounding like Focus's Jan Akkerman. Mike Vernon went on to produce that Dutch combo and I wonder whether the guitar sound on this album inspired what "he did next"? Mighty Mystic lady gives us some Little Feat style funk before it's back to the beers for the ending.

File next to The Faces, The Small Faces, Fearless era Family, maybe Little Feat and one of my previous reviewed bands Sassafras and you start to get the picture. This music came from a time when genres weren't used and bands played thier instruments like they were parts of thier own bodies. Here we have soul / rock / blues and dare I say it, a hint of prog on the second album here.

I'm so pleased to have these CD's in my collection. I am recommending both of these old recordings to anyone who likes good old fashioned rocking music. Apparently the success rate wasn't that high on first release, but that can be changed now that these once forgotten gems have been polished up and presented into a world of lack lustre pebbles.
Conclusion Riding on the Crest of a Slump: 7 out of 10
Conclusion Why Not...?: 8 out of 10

Fem - Sulla Bolla di Sapone
Fem - Sulla Bolla di Sapone
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: Fading Records
Catalogue #: FAD-014
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 60:23
Info: Fem
Samples: Fem on Highsite
Track List:
Il Giardino delle Consuetudini (5:12), Microgen (2:47), Microgen (Parte 2) (3:05), Il Mondo Bianco Opaco (2:32), Consapevolezza (2:41), Incontro con i Saponiani (2:06), Nella Città (6:15), Il Signore dei Pensanti (5:25), Processo alla Verità (5:18), Riflessioni (2:55), Il Peso della Conoscenza (4:56), Un Viaggio Lungo un Istante (4:02), Reviviscenza (2:51), Ritorno al Giardino (5:57), E il Mondo Scoppierà (4:13)
With a name like Fem, I was expecting an all female band, but no, Fem are five young chaps. The band began seven or eight years ago in Meda in Italy, a prime location just south of the Italian lake district and not far from Milan. Sulla Bolla di Sapone (On the Soap Bubble) is a concept album based around a novel by German polymath Kurd Lasswitz, who I'll admit is a new name to me. Research tells me he was regarded as "the father of German science fiction", so a Teutonic H G Wells if you will! Additionally, the band name in its expanded form is "Forza Elettromotrice" (Electromotive force), so one can expect grandeur all round.

Given my dislike of regressive rock, I find the mission statement on their website slightly off-putting: "...to rediscover the sound of progressive rock of the 70s and to bring it back on the present music scene" it says; no doubt some of you will take that as a seal of quality, but there are way too many bands doing that already in my not-so-humble opinion. Anyway, let's have a listen before we get a downer on it, eh?

Il Giardino Delle Consuetudini sets the scene. Translated as The Customs Garden in the English translation of the lyrics, but probably a more meaningful translation is The Garden of Customs (as in "traditions"). The template is charging keyboard-led prog with bags of synth, giving a nod to to PFM and even more so to Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, for this is RPI in the classic sense. There is an energy and dynamism at work here, and the story-concept plays out over fifteen relatively short tracks in an hour, with only three lasting over five minutes. There are no gaps between the tracks; they run into one another, giving a "chapter" effect.

With the emphasis on tight ensemble playing, that and the short length of the tracks leaves little room for displays of noodling, and the album is all the better for that. The lyrics obviously link closely to the story, including quotes from the book that will not mean that much to the uninitiated. Realising this, in a helpful move the band provide a link on their website where you can download the novel.

The dense and immaculately produced sound and the intense pace are relieved on Il Mondo Bianco Opaco, a romantic classical piano interlude that Banco would have been proud of. There is also a more than a helping of Genesis influence throughout, particularly on Consapevolezza (Consciousness), where singer Massimo Sabbatini atypically displays a resemblance to Phil Collins, and on Ritorno Al Giardino (you can work that one out, I'd guess!) which sounds like a Trick/Wuthering epic to these ancient ears.

The array of instrumentation on display is impressive. Alberto Citterio plays a range of keyboards and synths, and a Mellotron – of course! Guitarist Paolo Columbo, not to be outdone, has a big spread of guitar stands holding up all manner of six and twelve stringers. The bassist and drummer chip in with many related additions to their "bass" and "drums" as one would expect of any self-respecting prog crew.

On the lurching first half of the instrumental Il Signore Dei Pensanti (The Lord Of Thinking) the band show they can do "heavy" too, and at over five minutes Il Signore... almost constitutes an epic as far as this record is concerned. Paolo gets to show off a bit without being excessive, and his soloing is clean but with an aggressive edge. Halfway in the track changes tack to a symphonic Enid-like epic, and for me this is the highlight of the album.

Classic prog synth sounds are threaded through the album like chocolate whorls in a cappuccino mocha, and a tune like Un Viaggo Lungo Un Istante illustrates this perfectly, but it is all a bit too "Tony Banks-cheesy" for me.

While Sulla Bolla Di Sapone is not necessarily my thing, it is certainly a high quality production with a lot of skill in the songwriting and arrangements, and the band is as tight as a nut. I can recognise quality when I hear it, even if it is not to my peculiar taste, and I highly recommended it to fans of full-on epic symphonic prog. So, from a purely objective point of view it has to be an 8 out of 10!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Flash - Flash
Flash - Flash
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Purple Pyramid
Catalogue #: CLP 0339
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 58:49
Info: Psychosync
Track List:
Night Vision (6:31), Hurt (9:30), Something So Dark (7:16), Manhattan Morning (5:50), Into The Sun (8:23), Grand Canyon (8:19). Morpheum (4:57), 10,000 Movies (4:54), Richerd Of Venice (3:28)
After a mere 40 years, Ray Bennett (lead guitars, keyboards, bass, vocals) and Colin Carter (vocals, rhythm guitar) have decided to resurrect the band with whom they achieved their greatest success, Flash. Of course, the band originally came in prominence as Peter Banks' response to being fired from Yes, achieving a modicum of success, largely in the US, particularly with their first two albums. However, the band were more than a vehicle for Banks as both Bennett and Carter were fairly established writers and performers and contributed a fair chunk of the material. Apparently recording of the new album took place over a period of three years although it is not clear if either Carter or Bennett were involved with the rumoured Flash Concert project that Banks was working on at the time of his premature death in early 2013, although considering London resident Banks is not mentioned at all on the album, which was recorded in Las Vegas, it seems doubtful. Completing the line up on this release is Rick Daugherty (keyboards), Mark Pardy (drums) and Paul Pace (drums). The group has ventured back on to the stage featuring a rhythm section of Pardy and Wayne Carver (bass).

Night Vision kicks off the album in fine style and it is like the past 40 years never happened! Instantly recognisable as a Flash song, Bennett handles the lead guitar with aplomb, mixing electric and acoustic instruments with style and the two main protagonists harmonising well on the vocals. The addition of keyboards provides a greater depth and warmth with an organ break that one could take as a nod to Tony Kaye's guest contributions to the first Flash album. Daugherty also contributes to the writing of one of the two instrumentals on the album, the closing track Richerd of Venice on which he displays his piano skills which are the prominent instrument on the track nicely augmented by some great filler guitar parts. Morpheum, the other instrumental, is in a similar vein but with greater emphasis on the guitar. Both are high quality pieces of music with plenty of atmosphere and style; on this basis the band could produce a very engaging instrumental album.

For the first time in their recorded career, the band have taken on a cover version, that of Nine Inch Nails Hurt. At 30 seconds shy of ten minutes the song is given a full prog makeover giving it a totally different feel from both the original and the famous Johnny Cash version. Whether it is intentional or not, Carter's vocals sound quite frail, but that shouldn't detract from the instrumental prowess displayed by the band throughout. Manhattan Morning is a self-referential piece, having first appeared on the third Flash album Out of our Hands. The new arrangement is much more laid back than the original and, in fact, is largely unrecognisable as the same song! The acoustic setting with some lovely fretless bass lines, gives a more melancholic twist to the piece which compliment the vocal delivery. Both Night Vision and Manhattan Morning are Carter compositions with his only other sole composer credit going to 10,000 Movies, a more up-beat number that in itself is a decent enough song but lacks that certain spark to set it going. There are moments when it begins to take on a more exciting direction but the band pull back from leaping into the more unpredictable, something one suspects that the original group with Banks at the helm would have leapt upon. But hey, as The Monkees sang, that was then, this is now!

Aside from the two instrumentals, Bennett's song contributions are Something So Dark and Into the Sun. The first of these has a great introduction and middle eight although the vocal sections don't sync so well and it may have been a better ploy to have included this piece as a shorter instrumental piece. Better is Into the Sun which has a somewhat darker and more menacing feel than the rest of the album with the vocals not sounding so out of place. The only time the two writers collaborate is on Grand Canyon and on the basis of this song they should do so more often! Combining Carter's more melodic sensibilities and Bennett's instrumental insights the song structure is very accomplished, even if the song is not the best on the album. Still, it has some nice moments.

Overall, no arguments that the Flash sound has been maintained and the new album is a nice addition to the band's small catalogue even if it doesn't quite reach the levels of, the 70s albums, particularly the first two.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10

Thomas Glönkler - Goldstadt
Thomas Glönkler - Goldstadt
Country of Origin: Germany
Format: CD
Record Label: Quixote
Catalogue #: CWELT 005
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 63:30
Info: Thomas Glönkler
Samples: Thomas Glönkler on MySpace
Track List:
Goldstadt Intro (1:09), Fliederblütenduft Teil 1 (1:09), Inferno (17:36), Zeit, Die Bleibt (4:17), Abgeräumt (1:46), Ödland (3:38), Mahnung (5:48), Der Sturm Bricht Los (3:39), Spuren (7:23), Fliederblütenduft Teil 2 (1:13), Fliederblütentraum (4:10), Aus Gold (2:24), 194-200 (2:49), Goldstadt (3:37), Requiem (2:46)
Thomas Glönkler is a teacher from the small town of Gechingen in Germany. During the 1990s he was a member of prog band ICU with whom he released four albums. With his solo output so far being 2005's Auszeit, a guitar and flute album, and the latest release Goldstadt, a concept album about the destruction of the city of Pforzheim towards the end of the second world war which almost completely destroyed the city and resulted in the death of nearly a third of its population. The album features Glönkler on guitar, bass and keyboards, Ralf Großmann on vocals, Patrick Fiedler on drums, Eva-Maria Baumann on flute with Christoph Wieland adding a couple of guitar solos.

A mixture of instrumentals and songs, all sung in German, the album is nicely paced with each track flowing into each other and providing a variety of styles, from acoustic ballads to more out-and-out progressive rock arrangements. It is the instrumentals that catch the ear as they feature some hauntingly beautiful melodies, particularly the shorter pieces such as piano piece Abgeräumt and the acoustic guitar and flute Fliederblütenduft Teil 2, which if any indication of the style of Auszeit would make that album well worth checking out. The songs are also quite engaging even if, to my language-impeded English ears, German has never been a language that sits entirely comfortably with rock (or pop) songs, although Glönkler does manage to string some nice vocal and melody lines together, particularly on Zeit, Die Bleibt, a rather upbeat and driving song. Wieland's two solo spots, on Fliederblütentraum and 194-200, are finely constructed and played, fitting in very well with the feel of the pieces and album as a whole.

Of course, I can't escape mentioning the centre-piece of the album Inferno which starts with an oral reflection on Pforzheim (by Karl Baumann, whom I am presuming is a survivor of the air raid) leading into a lovely flute interlude with sweeping orchestral backing all building to a meaty chunk of prog rock which bears some resemblance to Grobschnitt before they went lame. On the whole, Goldstadt is a fine, and admirable, piece of work. The booklet is well presented with historical photographs and the various musical styles included provide lots of contrast. Although not an album that I would be drawn to regularly, there certainly is a lot to be cherished, particularly amongst the instrumental sections.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10

Neal Morse - Songs from November
Neal Morse - Songs from November
Country of Origin: USA
Format: download
Record Label: Radiant Records
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 47:42
Info: Neal Morse
Samples: Radiant Records
Track List:
Whatever Days (4:47), Heaven Smiled (4:15), Flowers In A Vase (4:16), Love Shot An Arrow (4:18), Song For The Free (4:27), Tell Me Annabelle (4:22), My Time Of Dying (4:37), When Things Slow Down (3:24), Daddy's Daughter (4:44), Wear The Chains (4:05), The Way Of Love (4:31)
Neal Morse should be a familiar name to all who follow the current progressive rock scene. He has an impressive back catalog of music under his former band Spock's Beard, the supergroup Transatlantic and his own solo albums. Since 2003, with his release of Testimony, Neal Morse's music has had an undeniable religious message matching his conversion to Christianity. Although I've read many complaints about his lyrics being too in your face with their religious message, I've found his songwriting skills have only gotten stronger over time. Neal Morse writes about the subject he is most passionate about and this only invigorates the music. Neal Morse pours his heart and soul into his music, and I connect with this outpouring of emotion, despite my personal feelings about his subject matter. The combination of Neal's emotion, strong musicianship, and ability to craft a undeniably catchy hook, are what makes him, in my opinion, one of the best modern-day songwriters around right now.

Neal got the progressive rock out of his system with the excellent Kaleidoscope by Transatlantic. The proggy bits Neal is known for are noticeably absent for this solo album. Instead we have a singer-songwriter album, full of wonderfully crafted and executed pop-rock songs, similar to his original self-titled solo album and follow-up It's Not Too Late. According to Neal, he received a ton of musical ideas in November, 2013 and wrote a bunch of these pop-rock songs and even recorded all of them with a group of studio musicians in Nashville. He sent all 21 songs out to various people, and with their help, picked the 11 songs that would be included on this album. This method has allowed for a very strong set of songs that never outstay their welcome. Sometimes certain prog musicians, Neal included, can tend to release a massive amount of music on one album that is almost too much to absorb in one sitting. One of this albums greatest strengths is that there is no excess- every song is important and never outstays its welcome. It is a refreshing album that has been an awesome companion to my summer so far.

Another interesting point about this album is that it is definitely not as overtly religious in its lyrical content. If you are one of those that loves Neal's music but are turned off by his religious lyrics, this is the album for you. The themes are more about family, life, and love without much, if any, mention of God. The album is very personal, as is all of Neal's recent work, and has a refreshing honesty about it. I feel uplifted when I listen to this album. The opener, Whatever Days, is a high energy rocker complete with a horn section. Heaven Smiled is a lovely ballad with acoustic guitar and a backing of a gospel choir. This is perhaps the most religious the album gets. Flowers In A Vase shows Neal's Nashville influence. It is almost a country song complete with steel guitar. Love Shot An Arrow is a piano ballad complete with strings and an incredibly emotional vocal performance from Neal. You can tell that Neal is pouring his whole heart and soul into this music.

Song For The Free is wonderfully upbeat and catchy. This song is very much in the vein of the track King Jesus from the bonus CD of One. It almost sounds like U2 at their best. Tell Me Annabelle is probably the darkest song lyrically, but it is beautiful in its execution. It sounds like it could have been on his prior solo album It's Not Too Late. My Time Of Dying is one of my favorite tracks on the album with it's sweet strings, harmony vocals, and passioned lyrics. It is a wonderful folk song. When Things Slow Down is another track with a slight country influence and a beautiful message. Daddy's Daughter is a sweet ode to Neal's daughter, Jayda. It is so honest and earnest regarding the feelings of Fatherhood, that I can't help but have a tear come to my eye. Neal is a rare artist that can make me feel that way. Wear The Chains and The Way Of Love end the album in an upbeat, positive manner, the latter owing itself to late Beatles with a return of the glorious horn section.

This is a beautiful record. It is a difficult one to rate, however, since it really does not fit the description of progressive rock. But, the songwriting is so superb, I can't help but recommend it to all- including progressive rock fans. Anyone who loves Neal Morse like I do will fall in love with this album. Good songwriting is good songwriting, despite what genre that music may fall into. Neal Morse has managed to yet again pour his heart and soul into his music and uplift all those who listen to it. Anybody who has complained about Neal's lyrical content or who feels his progressive rock style is too similar from record to record should listen to this album. Let the joy and honesty of these powerful songs infect you, like it has me.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Narcotic Daffodils - Cellex
The Narcotic Daffodils - Cellex
Country of Origin: Belgium
Format: CD
Record Label: MusicBrussels
Catalogue #: MUBRU2014001
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 48:55
Info: The Narcotic Daffodils
Samples: The Narcotic Daffodils on Soundcloud
Track List:
Light Dry Gordon (4:38), Surfer Boy (3:56), Million Dollar Baby (3:38), Weathered (4:04), The Barber (7:58), Sun for the Rest (4:15), Go Love Yourself (4:57), Shout (4:31), The Sewer (3:53), Jolyne (7:04)
Back in 2012 I reviewed a rather good psych rock sampler entitled Psychedelic World Music - Discovery. (Review here.) One of the tracks was The Crazy Dwarf, by Brussels band The Narcotic Daffodils, a nine minute spacerock trip in the mode of Øresund Space Collective. The band sent me their album Cellex earlier this year, and a right little belter it is too. The enjoyable but rather familiar spacerock stylings of two years ago have been replaced by a fun filled charge through pop-psych influenced alt-rock with a punky edge.

Singer Irène Csordas, whose accented English lends the already obliquely worded songs a suitably mysterious air, has the kind of louche sexy slur that makes your imagination insist she should be wearing a girl biker jacket at all times, while hanging off the mike stand with an inviting look. Almost, as the video below reveals, but hey, that is in a studio after all! Million Dollar Baby says "Kick your ass, I'm gonna kick your ass, you're a movie star, million dollar baby"... or that's what my ears grasp at. You could fall in love with that!

The interstellar waltz that is Weathered signals a slowing of the tempo, and next up is the centrepiece of the record. The eight minute The Barber sees the band take a turn for the gothic end of the psych spectrum, pinned down by a marching bass riff, before the tune slows to a near stop as Irène's dramatic vocals invoke the feel of that superb prog-punk outfit Magazine. A great guitar break from Hakim Rahmouni straight out of the John McGeogh songbook ramps up the tune, and there be synths and dramatic intonations in this here monster too. Great stuff!

There is a fine pop sensibility and an economy of arrangement running through the record that means one's attention never wanders. Sun for the Rest has an irrestible little tune that hooks in the memory after one listen, unlike the pale meandering fare offered by a certain name prog band recently, tunes from whose dreary album I can thankfully not recall at all only a month or so down the line. Sadly, that complacent pile of leftovers will shift thousands of times more units than this delightful thing, such is the unadventurous nature of the so-called non-commercial music fan.

Go Love Yourself gets all wistful on us as it sashays across the floor, all Euro-pop and dreamy wonderings. Shout stomps through the reverie and is not a million miles from something Goldfrapp might have come up with, but from a psych rather than disco perspective; it would make a great single. A word here for the rest of the band; Simon Rigot on economic 60s sounding keyboards adds the right kind of mirrorball glitzerama. He plays a sitar too, naturally! The rhythm section of Merlin Fourmois on the drums and Phillipe de Clercq on bass provide suitably punchy and direct backing, and Merlin Fourmois has the best name I've seen in a band for quite a while!

The closing Jolyne is the closest the band get to prog on the record. Commencing with an almost acapella close harmony choral section, the tune meanders on in a splendidly pastoral fashion, plucked and reverbed guitar lazily summoning Irène's sleepy vocal admidst cymbal brushes. The tune drifts on downstream in an old rowng boat, oars hanging unused, the river becalmed on a warm late summer afternoon. The vocals call on distant memories of a lost love (possibly, for it is not too easy to tell), and suddenly it is all over.

A rather fine record that anyone with an ear for decent tune, prog or otherwise, should fall for. It's all in that voice!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Pervy Perkin - Ink
Pervy Perkin - Ink
Country of Origin: Spain
Format: 2CD, Free Download
Record Label: Rock CD Records
Catalogue #: RCDR157
Year of Release: 2014
Time: CD 1: 72:59
CD 2: 64:22
Info: Pervy Perkin
Samples: Pervy Perkins on Bandcamp
Track List:
CD 1: Opening Credits (5:08), Of Echoes and Reflections (12:04), New Dawn (5:41), The Tree in the Sky (4:47), Peanut Butterfly (5:33), The End of the Beginning (8:01), Falling from Earth (5:23), Morphosis (26:22)
CD 2: Memories of the water (11:14), Asleep in a Wormhole (4:14), Shades Under a Lamppost (5:53), Far Away Crusade Defending the Colonies of Satellite A.T.L.A.S. (4:03), 3:11 A.M. (The Crystal Clock), S!urm (8:02), T.I.M.E., Pt. 3 (20:53), Epilogue (3:51)
There's a lot of colossal offerings in the prog rock world, and it usually ends up being one of two things: either a huge and overly long boring fest of repetitiveness, or a piece of work full of great ideas, innovative passages and variation. Luckily, Pervy Perkin's first release, Ink, falls into the latter category.

From the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly inspired opening intro track, to the jazzy passages scattered here and there, to prog metal riffs and symphonic rock compositions, Ink has a lot to offer. And it's not a hyperbole, as this record is comprised of two CDs, both breaking the one hour mark.

Usually such long endeavours are difficult to enjoy from beginning to end, mostly due to the day to day time constraints we all endure. But in this case both CDs can also be ingested separately, since they could have worked as individual releases.

The first disc, titled Book of Equinox opens with the aforementioned Ennio Morricone inspired instrumental and follows swiftly after with a twelve minute epic that showcases some Dream Theater and some Rush influences. The following three tracks display a great deal of variety in the compositions. New Dawn, the third track, throws some ethnic tunes, and is a good representation of what the band has to offer. The Tree in the Sky and Peanut Butterfly are two completely different instrumental tracks: the first one is an acoustic piece, while the second one brings the tone back to prog metal territory, and it includes ragtime, rockabilly, jazz and even an arabic section. Not only is there a lot of quantity here, but a great deal of quality too.

The other long epic, Morphosis, ends the CD on a high note with over 25 minutes of well differentiated ideas. The 2:20 intro alone displays almost ten distinguishable sections, without repetition. In trying to write down all the changes that occur throughout the duration of the song, I started running out of "definitions" to discern all the parts.

Not only is this a well crafted prog epic, it never seems to just glue two completely different tracks together, like so many other 25 minute long tracks do. Every idea seems to flow into the next one, as if following a defined train of thought. A mix of soft, clean guitar driven passages with heavier tunes, odd time signatures, metal riffs and even some tunes closer to symphonic rock, the band seems to play around with ideas, taking different stylistic approaches at every turn. There's even a bass line underneath all the prog that is a direct quote from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which might not sound so great in theory, but it's one of those weird proggy turns that actually work like a charm.

Even though production-wise the sound could use a little polish, the first band that comes to mind after listening to Pervy Perkin is Haken. Not only do they seem to go in a similar music direction -and don't get the comparison wrong: they share a common ground but, at the same time, are perfectly distinguishable from one another-, but the originality presented here reminds me a lot of Aquarium. All of this is even more remarkable when you consider the fact that most of Pervy Perkin's members are barely twenty years old.

The second CD, Book of Solstice, is closer to prog rock and deviates -albeit not completely- from the first disc, which is definitely heavier, even though they are both sonically similar. It kicks off with the darker Memories of the Water, reminiscent of Opeth at times -more specifically, Heritage Opeth- and veers off later into an instrumental organ-lead section that wouldn't have been out of place in a Deep Purple record.

The following track would have been perfect on an Oysterhead record (if only they'd released more than one) and is followed by the melancholic 3:11 A.M. (The Crystal Clock). S!urm is a strange track, mostly lead by prog rock influences, but including some elements that seem mainstream oriented, such as the poppy first couple of verses to the rap filled groove that irrupts around the middle of the track.

T.I.M.E., Pt. 3 is the long 20 minute epic on the second disc, and it runs through all kinds of moods and styles. Although it is in essence darker than Morphosis (and perhaps a little less dynamic), both are comparable in terms of musical development and variation.

The epilogue, aptly titled -ahem- Epilogue, stars clean guitars for the most part, with some very 70's keyboard sounds and even digital effects. It's a superb ending to such an overload of prog madness, and, even though Ink comfortably surpasses the two hour mark, it left me curious about where the band might go next. I wanted to "read one more paragraph".

Instrumentally, the album sounds great, with all the pieces sounding in place. Production wise, the overall sound feels right, although my prog metal ears would have enjoyed a little more oomph on the heavy sections.

All this doesn't mean that Ink is without flaws, which is more than understandable with it being a first release. The vocals can sometimes sound a bit off, as if some of the higher bits were too forced, but mostly hit the spot.

All in all, Pervy Perkin have set a high standard for themselves, especially since the minor blemishes are trampled by the overall quality and variety they manage to display on this record.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10

Røsenkreütz - Back to the Stars
Røsenkreütz - Back to the Stars
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: Andromeda Relix
Catalogue #: AND 037 / OPAL 001
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 56:32
Info: Røsenkreutz
Samples: Røsenkreutz
Track List:
Signals in the Water (7:19), Sitting on the Edge of Heaven (8:09), Conditioning (4:25), Nothing More in You (5:20), Childish Reaction (6:51), I Am the Walrus (6:56), Back to the Stars (17:32)
The press release for Back to the Stars claims that it "creates a virtual bridge between the golden years of prog (the seventies) and the current world". Give this debut CD from Røsenkreütz a spin however and it's soon apparent from the bombastic opening chords of Signals in the Water that the claim is a tad misleading. The 1980s would be a more apt point of reference, especially the AOR friendly prog-rock by the likes of Asia, Yes-West, GTR, Emerson Lake & Powell and 3. As far as current bands go, American outfit Cryptic Vision is one that readily comes to mind.

Røsenkreütz is in reality a solo project by Italian multi-instrumentalist and producer Fabio Serra who developed the album over several years with the initial recordings dating back to 2006. Along the way he recruited Gianni Brunelli (drums, percussion), Gianni Sabbioni (bass) and Massimo Piubelli (vocals, backing vocals) who provided the nucleolus augmented by several supporting players. Ironically during the early 90's (a time in which this album could have easily been recorded) Serra was in the Genesis tribute band Yellow Plastic Shoobedo devoted to classic early 70's material.

The key to this style of music is striking a happy medium between dumbed-down AOR and adventurous prog which the aforementioned Signals in the Water does reasonably well balancing the anthemic chorus with engaging guitar and keyboard interludes. Massimo Piubelli certainly has all the right vocal moves sitting somewhere between Steve Walsh and Chris Thompson. The introduction by violinist Gabrielle Amadei takes Sitting on the Edge of Heaven into Kansas territory with strident organ and synth whilst the acapella interlude tips its hat to Gentle Giant by way of Spock's Beard. The basic riff and heavy-handed chorus however is not really my cup of prog. Similarly Conditioning relies too heavily on its pounding drums and tediously repetitive choral hook despite the presence of Cristiano Roversi (Moongarden, Mangala Vallis) on Chapman Stick.

Female vocalist Angela Merlin adds a rock-chick twist to Nothing More in You whilst Childish Reaction could have easily been a product of the 80's with big riffs, big hooks and a big chorus (all that's missing is the big hair and shoulder pads). To emphasis the fact, the Geoff Downes style keyboard fanfare is a virtual note for note rehash of Asia's Here Comes The Feeling. As for The Beatles cover, it's difficult to understand what Serra was trying to achieve here. Although skilfully executed, I Am the Walrus lacks the charm of the original whilst adding nothing other than a long winded guitar break at the end.

Thankfully Serra gets his prog act together for the near 18 minute title piece Back to the Stars. In 7-parts, it opens with a nostalgic piano ballad against a symphonic backdrop whilst the lively staccato organ and guitar theme that follows nods its head to Yes' Yours Is No Disgrace. A catchy vocal section gives way to a gutsy instrumental part with Brunelli laying down a shuffle drum pattern not unlike Genesis' Cinema Show. A rippling piano solo (tastefully played by guest Carlo Soliman) builds to a majestic vocal melody hitting a peak around the 11 minute mark. The noodly synth and shredding guitar solos seem out of place but from here it climbs majestically to a satisfying finish. Easily the albums best track if not quite the epic it would like to be.

On reflection this is an album that begins promisingly, ends well but disappoints for around half its length. That said there's no denying Serra's talents as a musician whilst his in-your-face production techniques result in a sound that's hard to ignore and so typically eighties. Unfortunately for me however, with the exception of the title track, it recalls a period in time when progressive rock was at its lowest creative ebb although thankfully neo-prog was just around the corner.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10

Telergy - The Legend of Goody Cole
Telergy - The Legend of Goody Cole
Country of Origin: USA
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #:
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 54:04
Info: Telergy
Samples: Telergy
Track List:
Meeting House Green Pt. 1 (1:21), Rumors (10:08), Accusations (9:18), Meeting House Green Pt. 2, 3 & 4 (5:22), Verdict (3:03), Incarceration (2:36), Voyage (2:57), Meeting House Green Pt. 5 (0:27), Ghost (10:25), Exoneration (4:49); tracks 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, and 15 are spoken word narrative scenes
Robert McClung is a multi-multi instrumentalist from the U.S.A. On the album he plays guitar, keyboards, bass, violin, mandolin, percussion and many more instruments. Despite the fact he can play almost every musical instrument himself, he has invited several members of bands such as Porcupine Tree, Spock's Beard, King's X, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Hawkwind, Magellan, Comedy of Errors and Twisted Sister to join him. Among them are: Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Ryo Okumoto (Spock's Beard), Ty Tabor (King's X), Trent Gardner (Magellan) and Joe Cairney (Comedy of Errors). It's inevitably that musically there can go nothing wrong on this album with musicians of that calibre.

The story of this album is about Eunice "Goody" Cole who was convicted of witchcraftin the small New England town of Hampton, New Hampshire in the year 1656. She and her husband, William, were amongst the first wave of British colonist to settle in America. After serving the better part of fifteen years in a Boston Jail, Eunice returned to Hampton to find that William had died and the town had seized their farm. Frail and elderly, she was given a small shack on the marshland outside of town to live out her final days. Upon her death she was hurriedly buried in a shallow, unmarked grave, with a stake through her heart to keep the evil spirits from escaping. Her ghost has been reported to wander the town at night searching for her grave stone.

In 1938, during the town's 300th anniversary, a ceremony was held to publicly exonerate Goody of any wrongdoing and restore her as a citizen in good standing. An unmarked memorial stone in her honor was erected in 1963.

It took me quite a while to have the patiece to listen to the entire album because there's a lot happening musically and lyrically. I'm not a big fan of spoken word narrative scenes on albums and that makes it very annoying that a CD-booklet with lyrics is missing so I'm unable to follow the story of the album. In my opinion albums like this one can't do without the lyrics. There's a nice variation of styles to be heard on the album including metal, progressive, classical, jazz and folk. The guest musicians produce some awesome guitar and keyboard solo's and members of The Boston Symphony Orchestra deliver us the more bombastic, orchestral parts.

Sometimes in the more heavy parts the music reminds me of Rhapsody (of Fire) or Symphony X but for me it's all a bit artificial. There is too much show and too little music that really grabs me.

It's not an album that will get much playing time in my CD-player but every now and then, it's certainly no punishment to listen to!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10

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Published Sunday 31 August 2014

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