ISSUE 2014-71

Reviews in this issue:

Dawn - Darker
Dawn - Darker
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Format: CD/Download
Record Label: Lasers Edge
Catalogue #: LE1069
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 67:27
Info: Dawn
Samples: Dawn website
Track List:
Yesterday's Sorrow (2:26), Cold (9:43), Darker (10:57), Lullabies for Gutterflies (4:34), 8945 (18:59), Out of Control (7:44), Lost Anger (2:44), Endless (10:43)
Dawn is a band from Switzerland. With Darker they have released their second album. It has been more than 6 years since their debut album. That could be considered a long wait or just a thorough way of working. Dawn are a four-piece band making progressive rock, symphonic prog in the vein of the 70s. What is more, they do a splendid job at this. All the songs are literally laden with luscious keyboards and driven by a sturdy, steady rhythm section and great guitars. The only flaw may be in the vocals, but then again vocals in prog have, with some exceptions, never been very good.

Darker is an album you might overlook in stores because of the cover used. It is just not right to me. In my book, a cover should at least draw your attention to the album and invite you to listen. This one just does not. If however, you manage to go beyond the cover image and do listen, for whatever reason, you will find music that will blow you off your feet. The band consists of Manu Linder on drums, Julien Vuataz on bass guitar, Nicolas Gerber on keyboards and Rene Degoumois on guitars and vocals.

As I said before, the vocals are the weakest link. Otherwise the whole album is a magnificent work. We as listeners are taken back to the wonderful 70s when prog music was at its best, well, progressive rock as we like to hear it, that is. Dawn have created an album that is good, very good indeed. A good blend of long tracks and shorter pieces, never losing grip on the creativity you need to keep the listeners' attention (even when playing songs of nearly 20 minutes). I would love to hear more of the vintage sound of Dawn in the near future please; not wait around for six more years.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Gandalf's Fist - A Forest of Fey
Gandalf's Fist - A Forest of Fey
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Format: CD/download
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 51:12
Info: Gandalf's Fist
Samples: Click here!!!
Track List:
Childhood Ghosts (2:23), Gardens of the Lost (6:03), A Forest of Fey (Including Wisdom of the Reptile and the Lament for a Silent Verse) (8:34), The Figure Speaks (0:44), The World We Created (5:43), The Circus in the Clearing (Including the Fanfare for the Kings Tournament) (4:44), Blood for a Royal Pardon (1:37), Drifter on the Edge of Time (6:38), Forest Rose (Coming Home) (4:36), Return from the Tournament (2:05), Storied Old and Stories Told (of Children Brave and Children Bold) (6:05), A Poison Tree (2:38)
In the world of prog, to the casual viewer, the name of the band is sometimes as important as the music. Operating in this scene and calling your band Gandalf's Fist takes some balls, and not only that, you have to have the musical ability to follow-up on the name, otherwise you're lost.

Luckily, this powerful four-piece has got the musical balls to pull it off and create an intelligent and musically versatile album.

This is the band's first full-length album as a quartet. The addition of Stefan Hepe (drums) and Chris Ewen (bass) fleshes out the sound created by founding members Dean Marsh (guitar, vocals, keys) and Luke Severn (vocals). Hepe and Ewen have been part of the touring band for a couple of years and have built a musical rapport and intuition which informs the whole of this, the band's fifth album.

Based around a story about a little girl getting lost in a malevolent forest, the album features some wonderful guest turns from Troy Donockley, whose whistle enhances tracks like Garden of the Lost and The Circus in the Clearing.

Other guests include the guitarist's guitarist Matt Stevens, whose unique sound is evident on the haunting and atmospheric Drifter on the Edge of Town (which also includes Clive Nolan's unique and distinctive keyboards) and Stories Old and Stories Told (of Children Brave and Children Bold) which has John Mitchell lending his wonderful vocals to the album, whilst Melissa Hollick adds a wonderful counterpoint to Luke's vocals as their voices blend and soar.

The caliber of the guest artists on this epic, dark musical fairytale suggests that the album is a good one, and a good one it is, effortlessly mixing a harder rock edge with the complexity of contemporary prog and traditional folk sounds.

Gandalf's Fist flips between genres and styles tautly, tidily and with stellar musical performances from the quartet. The title track itself, A Forest of Fey (Including Wisdom of the Reptile and the Lament for a Silent Verse), is one of the prime examples of their pick-and-mix approach to music-making, with some wonderful heavy guitar, a fantastically catchy refrain, and Troy Donockley's low whistles adding to the sound as the riff builds up to a magnificent finale. This segues into the sinister The Figure Speaks, a dark piece of narration that launches into the heavy rocking The World we Created, with some fantastic guitar from Dean, vivid lyrics full of imagery and imagination, and the sound of the four-piece band firing on all cylinders.

The album's concept and story holds together coherently across all twelve songs as the album builds and develops with musical pieces as complex, exciting and wonderful as The Circus in the Clearing (Including Fanfare for the Kings Tournament) with its wonderful, multi-layered keyboard work and guitar riffs.

This is one of those albums that you need to immerse yourself in; to listen to from the opening of Childhood Ghosts, right to the end of A Poison Tree. You can't dip into, or half-listen to albums as great as this. This is a musical statement, one that needs the full 51 minutes to listen, enjoy and absorb.

This is the first time I've heard a Gandalf's Fist album, and rest assured, I shall be working my way back through their musical history as soon as possible.

If you like intelligent, well written, well performed prog, then this is the album for you. This is another contender for my album of the year.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10

Homínido - Estirpe Lítica
Homínido - Estirpe Lítica
Country of Origin: Chile
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 69:11
Info: Homínido
Samples: Homínido at Bandcamp
Track List:
Simún (6:05), Ciudades de Piedra (5:21), Insano Devenir (4:58), Desde las Cumbres al Mar (5:00), Shalagram Shilá (7:16), Eterno Retorno (8:44), Cabeza de Piedra (4:30), Mi Roca Interna (3:57), Adoquines Queretanos (5:12), Estirpe Lítica (6:35), Salar (3:31), Magma (8:26)
This is an album that I have been enjoying thoroughly since its release in the summer and it certainly has not received the wider attention that it deserves, despite being featured on the ProgStreaming website and garnering some very good reviews.

Homínido is likely to be as unfamiliar to most people, as the band from which it emerged, La Desooorden. This Chilean outfit released several albums, three of which were reviewed by myself for DPRP, combining a real fusion of styles and ideas that made for a fascinating listen. All of their music is worth hearing and it was very disappointing to discover that they had split around the time of the release of their final album El Andarín in 2012.

The rhythm section from La Desooorden, Rodrigo González Mera (drums and percussion) and Francisco Martín (bass), regrouped as Homínido with the addition of guitarist/keyboardist Pablo Cárcamo (who also plays with prog metal band Noniacorde) and vocalist Eliana Valenzuela. The sound is augmented with occasional guest performances from violinist Benjamín Ruz and trumpet/flugel horn player Cristopher Hernández.

At the core is a classic power trio, but the key to Homínido's sound is the combination of hard rock sounds (the guitar sometimes edging into metal territory) with jazz and indigenous rhythms, featuring a glorious mix of percussion and the acoustic instrumentation mentioned above.

Estirpe Lítica is based on the concept of man's ancestral relationship with stone and its use in homes, temples, river defences, roads, aquaducts, etc., a reflection of the importance that stones have had in human evolution. All the tracks are composed by Cárcamo and González Mera.

Simún starts in a low-key fashion with some lovely bass from Martín but soon heads off in all sorts of directions. There is a drive to the music from the complex rhythmic patterns, with the gritty guitar adding focus alongside Eliana's Spanish vocals, whilst the other instruments contribute softer and more organic elements. The overall sound is very engaging and beautifully realised.

The sounds and rhythms of South America are integrated to glittering effect, with González Mera's percussion adding new flavours to the compositions of energy and vitality. The songs are concise and focused as they flow beautifully through their phases, with vocals, strings and brass placed for maximum effect. The attention to detail directed towards Estirpe Litica, means that there is something new to hear every time you listen.

Indian sounds come through in the beautiful Shalagram Shilá. The way this song builds from an absorbing intro of tabla, violin, vocal, guitar and percussion into a blisteringly, muscular finale is just wonderful. This one will get inside your soul. Listen to it closely and you will be swept away by the primal rhythms that plug this often-complex music directly into the most primitive parts of the human psyche.

The self-produced recording is top quality. All of the parts leap out of the mix to grab the listener by the throat one minute, soothing them with a restful tranquility the next. The strings and brass add impressively to the whole, used sparingly to take the music in new directions and adding a variety that keeps the album on track as a fascinating listening experience throughout.

Invigorating and energetic, Insano Devenir is a fascinating slice of stop/start math-rock, the commanding presence of the vocals holding their own within the instrumental dexterity and giving the album continuity. Eliana's delivery is rich and full of South American emotion, utilising a more fragile edge when required.

The arrangements are superb, showing off the capabilities of the core trio but giving the pieces depth and definition, as in the instrumental Eterno Retorno, which is filled with South American textures and features a lead role for Hernández's trumpet. The sparkling drum and cymbal work is captivating, as the piece builds towards an intense climax. The textures conjured up by González Mera from his array of percussion, contribute greatly to the detail inherent throughout Estirpe Lítica.

Cabeza de Piedra starts with a metallic fury, the pace changing as the vocal appears, whilst maintaining a sinister edge as intense guitar couples with the rhythmic pulse. Adoquines Queretanos features Cárcamo's acoustic guitar, with this track evolving beautifully over insistent rhythms.

Eliana's performance on the more laid-back Mi Roca Interna is sublime, with percussion, violin and piano adding a wistful edge. The music may be founded on a jazz fusion power trio but the melodies, cadences and organic nature give it a characteristically Latin feel. The muscle from the central musicians is molded well with the acoustic textures.

The lengthy closer, Magma, draws together many elements of what has preceded it, before moving through an almost math-rock intro with more insistent rhythm and percussion, a haunting trumpet and a lovely vocal, before building the intensity as the rock trio re-emerges with bursts of metallic guitar, the whole thing building to a climax before fading.

Intensity and enthusiasm is at the heart of this music. There is energy throughout and all of the performances are noteworthy, but the importance of the songs remains paramount. The angrier parts are offset by the fragility of the other elements, to produce real depth.

This is a wonderfully satisfying album that deserves to be heard much more widely; a release of true quality produced by extremely talented musicians.

Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10

Kong - Stern
Kong - Stern
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: Kongenial Records
Catalogue #: KGR 104
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 58:52
Info: Kong
Samples: Kong website
Track List:
Fool's Engine (3:47), Rage8FA (3:33), Slant (4:45), Wide Awake (4:05), Perseverance (6:28), Surfing Narrative Waves (5:05), Stars & Tribes (2:19), Contenu Inconnu (6:38), Determine (2:29), Inflate Expand Release (6:10), Different Odds (2:52), NOZL (5:00), Feast Of Burden (5:21)
KONG is an Amsterdam-based quartet that has released its eighth studio album called Stern. They are a Dutch band. They do not hail from Germany, despite the album title (which means "star" in German). The album contains 13 (almost) instrumental tracks featuring elements from metal, prog, dance, industrial and ambient. Comparison with other well-known bands is quite difficult because of KONG's own distinctive style. My suggestion would be that KONG sounds musically like a combination of a less-proggy Galahad and less heavy Rammstein.

So, do you get the picture or is this even more confusing? On the album there are several guest appearances by musicians playing surf guitar, sabar and Hammond. The members of the current line-up are: David Kox (guitar, samples), Tijs Keverkamp (guitar), Oscar Alblas (drums, sabar) and Mark Drillich (bass, samples, additional guitar).

Normally I'm not a big fan of instrumental albums because after a while I start to get bored, but KONG manages to deliver an album that holds my attention for most part of the disc. They kick off with Fool's Engine, which has heavy progressive metal riffs and industrial beats. In Rage8FA and Wide Awake the band mix atmospheric, trance-like parts with the main riff.

I like the parts where the band blends its metal, techno and industrial aspects, as in NOZL, and where synths play a more dominant role. The last track, Feast Or Burden, adds electronic atmospheres within progressive metal. Surfing Narrative Waves is one of the highlights of the album with a thrilling intro and the track really taking off after about three minutes, eventually ending with a nice guitar solo.

The album is very much a group production. The music, the recording and the mixing is all done by the band. Even the artwork and design are done by two of the band members. It looks professional and clean.

The best way to end this review is with a quote from Rock Sound UK that for me is a perfect description of KONG's music. "A crazy, adventurous, groove-heavy journey of mind-blowing rock, samples and general whacked-outness!"
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

The Mighty Handful - Still Sitting in Danny's Car, Parts 1 and 2
The Mighty Handful - Still Sitting in Danny's Car, Parts 1 and 2
Country of Origin: UK
Format: cd
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 39:29
Info: The Mighty Handful
Track List:
Part 1 Once upon a Lifetime Once upon a Lifetime (2:09), Not a dry Glass in the House (3:35), So You're Death (4:51), Cavalier Spirit (3:40), Trip in the Light Fantastic (5:27), Part 2 The Beacon The Beacon (4:42), King of the Beacon (3:27), Hypothetically Speaking (5:16), Trip Reprise (2:50), Time Crash (3:32).
These South Londoners know a thing or two about rock and prog and have a vivid imagination as to how to combine these genres in their very own fashion.

Opening with a synthfest that transcends us in time back to the 80s, The Mighty Handful then have their singer Matt Howes putting on his best David Bowie as the Landmarq-like keys have just been silenced. The song almost gets a folk-like feel, yet then there is the party-feel that you sometimes get at funerals when a dear person is remembered fondly. Here you can feel the atmosphere of a pub after bidding farewell to the dearly departed and Matt puts a real effort in expressing the emotions, even if the story might already be taking a twist. As death enters the scene, the album reminds me of the Casino album by Clive Nolan and the late Geoff Mann. Sound effects abound with a daring approach to writing songs. Even though the story has a central role in the album, the band has tried to make the songs count, one by one.

The story continues in a deal to be made with death and switching parts with the hero of the story. Cavalier Spirit has a real 70s feel, with its hard rocking vibe and great guitar solo. The Casino feel also raises its head as Trip in the Light Fantastic starts. On closing your eyes, you could just imagine hearing Geoff Mann's voice. Yet here it is Matt Howes's voice again. His has a somewhat higher pitch and the way he knows how to express emotion particularly in this song, shows he has got a lot going for him. As to the music of the song, the band has succeeded in putting forward a song that builds mainly on a returning keyboard pattern and subtle bass lines.

The Beacon takes us back to the Bowie of the 70s again, yet as the song evolves, it could just as well be a Britpop song. King of the Beacon just breathes grandeur, as the choir of the opening lines make themselves heard. This song makes great use of the choirs that the band manages to pull-off within their own ranks. Matt is at the top of his singing again and there is great soloing by Tino Troy from Praying Mantis (NWOFBHM-legends).

Hypothetically Speaking reminds of Savatage yet it is very refreshing to hear a singing voice that doesn't express all aggression but more emotion in general. The guitars really shine on this track and there is great interplay between keys and guitar towards the end.

Just when you have figured out that these guys have written something that is great solely because of the story that is behind it, you realise that they also know how to play, as two great instrumental tracks are on their way.

True, one might be thinking of the words 'rock opera', yet there appears to be a lot more going on. There's always something to chew on. No matter what the background, The Mighty Handful has made an album that invites us to a strange and dark story; one that has them building their own way between prog and rock.

Instrumentally speaking, there might be the balance between keys and guitar that Demon are renowned for, yet these guys might just have added a wee bit more prog. No matter where the journey will take them, I for one look forward to the other parts of the story.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Ontologics - Something to Needle Over
Ontologics - Something to Needle Over
Country of Origin: USA
Format: CD
Record Label: Ontologicsmusic
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 51:46
Info: Ontologics
Samples: Ontologics at Bandcamp
Track List:
Storm the Gates (5:21), Hologram for the Hollow Man (4:28), Lions to Go (5:11), Something to Needle Over (4:47), The Clever Cat Kills Another Friend (3:35), From Then to Now (4:59), Dug Until the Rest Could Drink (7:33), Soundscape (4:11), Drained from the Head Sprain (4:10), DMT Overdose (2:40), SWFU (4:53)
"I tried to break the mold" - Storm the Gates

Ontologics is a multi-instrumentalist duo from the north eastern corner of the USA consisting of Ian Campopiano (lead vocals/lyrics, 2nd drum kit, programming, guitars, bass, Midi-Controllers, Roland Spds, Korg Wave Drum, Korg Synth) and Matthew Walshe (main drum kit, percussion, Korg Wave Drum). They were previously in a prog rock band called Moments of Imagination before forming Ontologics.

With their incarnation as Ontologics, the duo has tried to break the mould of what can be considered progressive rock. If you prefer prog that features mellotrons, with classical and jazz-influenced melodies, or the complex, fierce guitars of prog-metal, then this is probably not for you. But if your prog is defined as something ambitious, adventurous or a little off-the-wall and not afraid of stumbling, then maybe this is for you.

Something to Needle Over is an ambitious mix of jazzy trip-hop, post-rock, touches of psychedelia, experimental prog elements and - hold-on traditionalists - rapping.

Now, rap, with the limited amount I have listened to, has never really been my cup of warm cocoa. Ontologics use rap to keep the vocal melodies, and they do know their way around a melody, as speedy as Walshe's phenomenal drumming. After a few listens of this material, and a handy download of the pdf files of lyrics from the band website, the rapping begins to make sense artistically. Rapping is not used throughout but only when the songs demand it. There are also songs with well sung 'normal' vocals, as well as terrific instrumentals (The Clever Cat Kills Another Friend, Soundscape and DMT Overdose).

So to the music: the foundation of Ontologics' music is Matthew Walshe's phenomenal, hyperactive, but precise percussion; moving from the heavy (Storm the Gates, SWFU) to jazz-snare and rim-shots (Hologram for the Hollow Man, Dug Until the Rest Could Drink). We often have both styles within the same song. On this foundation, Ian Campopiano structures complex music, which mixes electronics with tuned percussion, bass pulses and guitar, synth washes and bleeps. The music moves from guitars which echo the sound of a horn section, to psychedelic eastern tinges.

All of it is highly structured, and has for me, the feel of the jazz-inflected work of Frank Zappa, where precision, mixes with a restless, fidgety approach to the melody and song structure.

With this wide variety of sounds and vocal techniques, some of the experimentation does not quite come off. The stop-start, almost world-music vibe of Lions to Go, gets interrupted by seemingly another song altogether. The attempt to weld the two together leaves the song feeling disjointed. Also the trip-hop meets reggae pulse of Drained from the Head Sprain, although enjoyably-complex rhythmically, is lower on the proggy invention side.

This album does work in the main, through its twisting, turning prog-jazz-trip-hop-hip-hop-art-rock fusion (and it is sometimes more hard-edged and angular that that description sounds). I can only encourage the adventurous-of-spirit to go to Ontologics' Bandcamp page and sample some of the delights that are to be found there for the listener who is prepared to persist. Start with Dug Until the Rest Could Drink, and follow that with Soundscape. Don't be afraid. Go on, you know you want to.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Schnauser - Protein For Everyone
Schnauser - Protein For Everyone
Country of Origin: UK
Format: cd
Record Label: Esoteric Antenna
Catalogue #: EANTCD 1036
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 46:21
Info: Schnauser
Track List:
Grey or Blue (5:50), Protein for Everyone (4:02), National Grid (6:23), The Reason they're Alive (4:16), Split (4:07), Buon Natale (5:04), Disposable Outcomes (16:34)
Schnauser is not your everyday painting-by-numbers prog band, if there ever exists such a thing. Having already released three albums, with the last one, Where Business meets Fashion only last year, Schnauser are no new kids in the ballpark known as prog.

The Bristol four have embraced quirkiness as part of their game and match that with a touch of Canterbury, a hint of XTC and an overall quintessential element of Britishness that shows throughout the seven songs.

They are masters at the game of fitting humour into their music and/or lyrics, never in a Zappa style, but much more in an XTC fashion. Quite astonishingly also that guitarist/singer Alan Strawbridge now has a guitar style with a feel not unlike Big Big Train's Dave Gregory (of former XTC fame). The same fluid playing, without being the flashy, guitar hero, whilst adding texture to the songs.

Schnauser do not play music to win you over at once. If you are willing to commit yourselves to listening to this album, you will find the four have conjured up a playful album that gradually shows its beauty.

Grey or Blue has one of those intro's that is built around a central theme and gives the guitar, keyboards, drums and bass the chance to shine. There is a lot happening in this song short of six minutes. We get the XTC side of the song just after two minutes, at least in the way it's sung. Just after the three minute mark, the song gets its instrumental part and here the band really draws you to their playing, as subtle as it is.

The title track starts off as a cabaret tune, with a referral, but slightly or so it seems, to the "Oompah" orchestra Rush introduced during the intermissions of one of their latest tours. That changes towards the full first minute mark as the band adds backing vocals, and a mix appears between the Beach Boys sound (just listen to Alan's high notes) and XTC. Get yourself lured to the Bristol fair where Alan Strawbridge (guitar, vocals), Duncan Gammon (keyboards, vocals), Holly McIntosh (bass, vocals) and Jasper Williams (drums) take you to. This is one trip you will not regret.

Alan Strawbridge has a way of telling his stories in songs. It is just great that what was once a feature of Canterbury music in the 70s, still works today. They truly know their roots, yet still manage to put-forth a Schnauser style which is noticeable in the way the vocals work together very well, in Holly's bass and in the great textures placed by Duncan Gammon (try Split to hear that) as well as Jasper's inventive drumming.

The balance between a Canterbury-influenced style of music, XTC-like vocals and the virtuosity that all the players have at their instruments, makes this a very entertaining and inspiring album that will bring sun to both autumn and winter ahead. Don't be fooled by the cover though; even though it seems that a cousin of Jim Carrey's Mask played a part in the holiday pics, there is more than, dare I say, meats the eye.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10

P.J. Shadowhawk - Land Of Dreams
P.J. Shadowhawk - Land Of Dreams
Country of Origin: US
Format: CD
Record Label: Dinosaur Records
Catalogue #: 884501343169
Year of Release: 2010
Time: 76:46
Info: P.J. Shadowhawk
Samples: P.J. Shadowshank on Facebook
Track List:
Seventh Age (8:25), Atlantis (5:19), Land of Dreams (5:20), Who Would Jesus Bomb (15:00), Alone (5:28), Two Sides (12:44), Shadowhawk Attacks (2:28), Apocalypse Part 1 (7:01), Apocalypse Part 2 (8:20), Carry Me Away (6:41)
Drummer P.J. Shadowhawk is best known for the time he was the drummer of Quasar. Quasar was a neo-prog band from the UK that was formed in the late seventies and P.J. Shadowhawk was a member from 2006 to 2009.

To my surprise no studio album was made by Quasar in that period. The only two Quasar studio albums date back to the early and late eighties. At the end of the eighties some Quasar members left and started LandMarq.

This is not a Quasar or Landmarq review, but the music of P.J. Shadowhawk is in the same style as those bands. P.J Shadowhawk also played in a band called Gabriel Bondage, not a Peter Gabriel cover band but the music here also has a lot of influences from the early Genesis period. Think neo-progressive symphonic rock with lengthy solos.

After returning to California, P.J. Shadowhawk started to compose and record his own material; therefore entering the daring path of the multi-instrument solo-artist of which several can be found within the progressive rock scene, with a variety of success.

Some songs here were written before he thought of going solo. Seventh Age and Atlantis together form a suite called Songs of Atlantis Suite, which was originally written as a song for a Quasar studio album. Seventh Age is completely instrumental with a lot of keyboards.

When I heard P.J.'s music for the first time I thought keyboard was his main instrument of choice instead of drums. The vocals are not excessive on this album and are the least interesting part. Not bad but it is obvious that the music is about the lengthy solos and instrumental parts.

There is some narrative and some vocals on Atlantis but besides that, the song is mainly instrumental. Land Of Dreams is not as lengthy and has more lyrics, starting with keyboards but it is mostly driven by heavier guitar riffs. A nicely balanced track, with a melodic bass-line.

Who Would Jesus Bomb is P.J.'s answer to the Quasar song Mission 14. A 15-minute track in which I hear a lot of Rush influences. The song is nicely split into five minutes with vocals, five minutes instrumental and then again five minutes with vocals. There area some nicely alternating time schemes that P.J. explains in the booklet.

Alone is in the same league as Land Of Dreams but does not reach the same level of interest as the title track. Two Sidesis another lengthy song, which starts with a lot of piano, slowly gaining intensity. The vocals remind me a lot of Peter Gabriel. The strange keyboard melodies increase the comparison with Genesis. This song is more dramatic with the many mellow parts alternating with more bombastic sections.

Shadow Hawk Attacks is a funny piano theme that P.J. probably uses as a gimmick. The bonus tracks show a more experimental side and are nice as a document to see where P.J. gets his inspiration. The sound is not as good as the rest of the album and I usually turn the CD off at this point. Now I understand the reason for a separate bonus CD.

Land Of Dreams does not reach the quality of the releases by Landmarq but will surely be entertaining enough for seventies and eighties neo prog fans. As a solo instrumentalist, P.J. Shadowhawk released a very nice album which for sure is interesting for Quasar fans.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10

P.J. Shadowhawk - NeverEverLand
P.J. Shadowhawk - NeverEverLand
Country of Origin: US
Format: CD
Record Label: Dinosaur Records
Catalogue #: 888295102520
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 61:59
Info: P.J. Shadowhawk
Samples: P.J. Shadowshank on Facebook
Track List:
Darkness Before The Dawn (9:52), A New Day Begins (10:12), NeverEverLand (9:16), Subsukkoth (11:33), Excalibur (8:56), Icarus (12:10)
For an introduction to former Quasar drummer, P.J. Shadowhawk, I would like to refer you to my review of his album Land Of Dreams on this same page.

There are again many great keyboard melodies on this old-fashioned neo-prog album. The first two songs here are just like on Land Of Dreams, a suite entitled The Only One Suite.

On Nevereverland P.J. Shadowhawk again sounds like a keyboard player instead of a multi-instrumental drummer. At the start of the second part of the suite, I could swear I hear old Marillion with Pointer on the drums. Among the lengthy instrumental parts, there is a great violin solo.

The title track starts with a piano melody but no lengthy melodic parts at the start. But after a few bars of 'normal' music the symphonic parts pick up again. For the second time the violin is embedded in the solo. That is one of the nicest elements on this album. I would have guessed the song would have some vocals at the end but it does not. The song is again mainly instrumental and the beautiful violin returns at the close.

Subsukkoth has melodic, swaying solo's that seem to go on forever. The vocal part in the middle is not that good, and at the end of the song P.J. loses it a bit.

Excalibur is completely instrumental and starts with a very nice tune. It is completely different from what comes before; a very easy listening album, even a bit poppy. It suddenly changes into a more chaotic, Italian-style prog with very crunchy, fiery guitar solos and a lot higher tempo.

Icarus starts again with the sparsely present lyrics but also on this song the voice of P.J. does not impress. The rest of the song is naturally mostly instrumental and just like the rest of this album filled with melodic solos and alternating stuff. At the end of the song there are some special effect vocals meant as a climax but it lacks that bombastic feeling.

NeverEverLand is neo-progressive symphonic album and that really sums up the whole deal. If I am in a right mood, then this a very pleasant listen with lengthy, melodic solos that alternate in style enough to make it an interesting album.

If you would ask me for a favourite song or instrumental part I would not know, therefore NeverEverLand is not distinct enough. You can step in any time and stop at any time during this album.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

Tacita Intesa - Tacita Intesa
Tacita Intesa - Tacita Intesa
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 32:00
Info: Tacita Intesa
Samples: Tacita Intesa at Bandcamp
Track List:
Ciutikutown (7:37), Daigo (1:31), Valzer della Morte (4:39), Portmanteau (1:18), Corona (7:14), Terzo Rigo, Quarta Parola (5:43), Periodo Refrattario (4:14)
From the Casentino Valley, in the province of Arezzo, emerges yet another very good Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI) band called Tacita Intesa (meaning Tacit Understanding).

Their self-released, eponymous debut has many 70s hues and colours but with a more modern take. From its incipience in 2012, the band was heading for a progressive edge to its music, aided and abetted by the Hammond playing of Daniele Stocchi, the guitar work by both Alessandro Granelli (vocals) and Filippo Colongo, bass pumping by Thomas Crocini and the drumming of Pasquale Balzano. Their hard work and endeavors have resulted in a fine, albeit very short, post-rock album of seven tracks.

The strangest thing that can be said about this band is their unique choice of venue for practicing: a truck! Apparently the truck is not mobile; a pity as they could pick different locations for rehearsing and get inspiration from different exterior surroundings.

Anyway, what about the music itself? There are clear signs of influences past and present from a wide spectrum, ranging from the 70s era (Genesis, Pink Floyd, Camel, PFM and Le Orme) to modern hints of The Flower Kings and The Watch. The album contains very competent clean guitars, not cluttered by fancy effects and over-indulgent reverb: almost an organic guitar sound, if that doesn't sound too pretentious.

The three-part Ciutikutown opens with harmonics and repeating guitar motifs before the rest of the band enters, followed by treated vocals to give edginess to the song. The second part of the song uses a great Hammond sound that underpins a very good vocal, followed by a melodic synth solo. The rest of the song includes a distorted bass solo followed by a guitar solo, all adding to the quality of the track.

I would challenge any progster who can't hear the Pink Floyd-esque sound in the intro of Corona. It's a clever homage to the great British band. However, the track throws up a few twists and turns, such that the Pink Floyd sound is left well behind and we get hard, punchy riffs with the odd reference towards Gentle Giant. There is also clear reminders of early PFM sprinkled throughout. This is a very good track and possibly the highlight of the album.

Terzo Rigo Quarta Parola is another excellent song and serves up plenty of post rock delights for any progster to digest. Catchy, repeating guitar motifs, quirky intro, stabbing Hammond chords and a decent vocal melody (sometimes reminding me of Wobbler). Also thrown in are some head-banging heavy riffs, a lovely, melodic synth solo and some great solo guitar work, that for whatever reason made me think of Steely Dan!

Periodo Refrattario is an instrumental track that has all the great elements that have come before on this album. Here we do catch glimpses of ELP with some of the keyboard work. Eerie noises and discordant guitar sounds add to the dramatic tension that provides a canvas for some excellent drumming.

The band definitely has something to offer musically but needs to develop the ideas further to create something more fulfilling and complete. For instance, the short track Daigo is a beautiful piano-led instrumental with accompanying acoustic guitar. It needed to go somewhere else. Imagine only having the piano entry to Genesis's Firth of Fifth and nothing else! The other short track is Portmanteau, which on the face of it appears to be the album's scherzo with its theatrical delivery, and does sound at odds with the rest of the album.

Putting aside the brevity of this release, it's a very good debut by this Italian band and worth checking out on Bandcamp. As to the old RPI-ometer, I give this a worthy 7 out of 10.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

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Published Sunday 14 December 2014

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