Issue 2015-077

Adimiron - Timelapse

Adimiron - Timelapse
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 43:53
Links:
Track List:
Collateral (4:45), State of Persistence (4:45), The Giant and the Cow (5:02), Timelapse (6:06), Liar's Paradox (4:26), The Burning of Methuselah (4:54), Redemption (4:50), The Furnace Creek (4:18), Ayahuasca (4:42)
Adimiron's Timelapse is a heavy progressive metal (djent) album. Comparisons to other djent artists like Gojira and Meshuggah are obvious, especially with regards to the throaty/screamy vocals, hefty layered guitars, and complex rapid fire drumming.

Let's start with what I didn't enjoy.

There's a degree of sameness between many of the tracks, mostly because of the dominating presence of the double-kick drumming and screamy vocals. There's a lot of "English is not our first language" lyrics and plenty of metal-friendly words (like 'sacrifice' and 'affliction'), with very little creativity or cunning in the message behind them. The quality of the mp3s provided was very poor, and even the bandcamp page sounds a bit like the cymbals are being sent through an "ocean waves" filter [this effect was markedly worse on the mp3s]. Hopefully, the higher quality digital download and CDs do not exhibit this issue. No lyrics were included, but I found them on bandcamp, where I spent most of my time listening to the album since the mp3s were so bad. Lastly, there were times I wished the lead guitar would have broken free, unrestrained.

I tried to not let these things sour my time with Timelapse. Over the past few years, I've become a fan of heavier music, thanks in part to Gojira's L'Enfant Sauvage, which fully opened my mind to the possibilities of creating progressive metal that was intelligent and appropriately aggressive. Since then, I've been making my way backwards in time. Timelapse appears to be the product of the same general course, at the exact point where metal style and progressive composition intersect.

The amount of talent in the band is evident in the first minutes of the album. Collateral, Timelapse, Liar's Paradox, and the Tool facsimile Ayahuasca are great examples of progressive metal. Lots of odd rhythm parts, alternating heavy to heavier sections, and unexpected changes whether from a blurp on a guitar or dropped beat. These are just the tracks that come to mind, there's elements of this in all the songs with different degrees of success. They also have a knack for saving a tasty bit of music for the very end of the track, one example being the final minute of The Burning of Methuselah.

If you like your progressive music on the edgier and heavier side, then check these guys out. Casual metal fans will be impressed with their gymnastic compositions but likely find their approach too heady and unpredictable (we wouldn't want them getting whiplash trying to bang their heads to this).

Progressive music fans will hear the exact opposite, the grinding guitars and pounding drums more inclined to turn them off than get them moshing. Were it not for the lacklustre vocals, absent high-energy lead guitar (when it seems necessary), mostly contrived lyrics, and broader musical similarity between tracks, my own opinion of this album would be much higher.
Conclusion:
Kevin Heckeler: 8 out of 10

Atmospheres - Atmospheres

Atmospheres - Atmospheres
Country of Origin: Belgium
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 42:26
Links:
Track List:
Voices (5:53), Spectacular Views (1:54), Beyond the Visible (6:07), Energy (6:35), Oxygen (6:21), Breathe (2:14), Seconds Before Collapse (4:58), From a Distance (7:32), The Last Beacon (1:44)
Being a prog fan often puts you in a place where you discover lots of new bands and music. And the prog universe is a great place to travel into the different realms of our beloved multi-dimensional genre. Having said that, I consider myself a seasoned listener and above-average prog fanatic. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the sound of (to me) unknown Belgium-based band Atmospheres. Their self-titled debut surprised me in a very positive way. The sound and dynamics really hit me. Right from the start, the album sucked me in and, after a little over 40 minutes, had me wanting more from this four-piece band. Now don't get me wrong. Their sound is not ground breaking or revolutionary. But I really love the songs, musicianship and production on their debut.

The way Atmospheres mix metal, ambient and prog is simply great. And the dynamics on this album make it work, at least for me.

From the start of Voices this album made me very curious as to what else there was to enjoy. The opening track starts off in an ambient way, but quickly evolves in a very riff-laden prog-stravaganza that lasts through the 40 minutes that follow. There is not a single weak song on this album. And every twist and turn the songs take, make the album more interesting. Other highlights are Beyond the Visible, which has a soaring solo from axe-man Karoly Alapi, Energy and Seconds Before Collapse.

Oh, did I mention this album is (almost) entirely instrumental? No? Well that is because the lack of vocals certainly doesn't take anything away from the power of the compositions on this album. Less is more in this case, and if you love bands such as Animals as Leaders or Scale the Summit, you should check this album out.

The band released this album in 2014 and a new album is coming our way on 27 November. Main writer and guitarist Stef Exelman and bass player Matt Rachmajda are back with their sophomore album. And I sure hope they can continue writing and releasing more great albums like their debut. Let's bring on the next one, boys!
Conclusion:
Arno Agterberg: 8 out of 10

Dave Bainbridge - Celestial Fire

Dave Bainbridge - Celestial Fire
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 74:10
Links:
Track List:
Heavenfield (1:05), Celestial Fire (15:18), See What I See (6:03), The First Autumn (4:03), For Such a Time as This (10:30), Innocence Found (5:51), Love Remains (13:03), In the Moment (14:23), Heavenfield Reprise (0:47), On the Edge of Glory (3:07)
Dave Bainbridge is best known as a co-founding member of the prog-folk band Iona. He plays several different instruments throughout this album, including 12-string electric and acoustic guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, piano, organ, keyboards, autoharp, and a variety of different percussion instruments. Helping him are a variety of different guest musicians, including Colin Leijenaar and Randy George, both known for their work with Neal Morse, on drums and bass respectively. There are also some guests handling vocals including Damian Wilson of Threshold fame, along with several female vocalists. This all provides for an impressive line-up that makes for a very professional and well-played album.

Of course, the genius of all this is Dave Bainbridge, who puts it all together and writes some incredible music for everybody to play. The result is a great album that has many Celtic and folk influences, similar to those in his main band, Iona. There is also a strong Yes influence in the epic scope of these musical pieces and in the instrumentation and sound. It provides for a very beautiful and ethereal blend that really reaches major heights.

The first major piece on the album, Celestial Fire is a great representation of all these elements. Thundering out of the gate with a strong guitar melody, synths, and pounding drums and bass, there is certainly an epic quality to the music. This provides a great introduction before it all slows down and focuses on an atmospheric backdrop with beautiful female vocals. The addition of tinkling 12-string guitars further brings the Yes comparison to mind.

Things continue from there with many twists and turns, never losing the celtic background, and containing an epic, grandiose feel. For Such A Time As This is another highlight, starting with impressive swirling piano and keyboard work with soaring guitar and pounding drums and bass. This piece then moves between parts more serene and pastoral and those more bright and energetic, creating a great mesh of different beautiful instrumental music (with some vocalisations). The guitar work, both acoustic and electric, is stunning and dripping with emotional power.

Love Remains is another long-form piece that is a stunner with its fiery piano and synth work among tricky drum patterns. This is exactly the kind of prog I enjoy, a perfect blend of complex instrumentation and playing with simple beauty and majesty. It is music that elicits both an emotional response as well as a feeling of childlike wonder at how these musicians are able to pull off such tricky instrumental sections with such apparent ease. It is a feast for both the emotional and intellectual part of my brain. I haven't mentioned yet the wonderful shorter tracks that balance out these epic pieces. The First Autumn, Innocence Found and On The Edge Of Glory provide beautiful interludes for the longer pieces and feature the more Celtic influence that Bainbridge has (with tin whistles, and uilleann pipes taking center stage), as well as some fantastic female vocals that are the epitome of delicate beauty.

Celestial Fire is the perfect name for this album because it describes the two parts of this album that blend to create such a beautiful piece of art. On one end you have the celestial, or the heaven-like quality that can be heard in the sweet acoustic guitar, aching Celtic instruments and transcendent angelic vocals. The fire comes in the passionate and intense instrumental workouts spread out on the longer epics of the album, featuring the swirling piano and synths, the soaring electric guitars and the fierce rhythm section.

The genius of this album comes from the seamless melding of these two qualities into one cohesive, majestic work of art. This music is uplifting, beautiful, challenging, thoughtful and otherworldly. I have been touched by this album, and hope others will feel touched by it as well.
Conclusion:
Nathan Waitman: 9.5 out of 10

Barren Earth - On Lonely Towers

Barren Earth - On Lonely Towers
Country of Origin: Finland
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 57:36
Links:
Track List:
From the Depths of Spring (1:25), Howl (5:39), Frozen Processions (4:51), A Shapeless Derelict (7:33), Set Alight (7:26), On Lonely Towers (11:52), Chaos, The Songs Within (7:43), The Vault (11:07)
The words 'progressive metal' have appeared together in countless reviews and articles, occasionally as an accurate definition of the music, but more often than not as a misleading tag, unfortunately being used to describe what's nothing more than elegant, "smart" heavy metal. The likes of Dream Theater, Symphony X or Pain Of Salvation surely deserved the label years ago, but these days if you want to find true adventurous and uncompromising sounds, then extreme metal is where interesting things are happening: Between The Buried & Me, Devin Townsend, Gojira, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Tesseract to name but a few.

So, where do Barren Earth stand? Extreme metal is what they do, that's for sure; you can trace their origins to such illustrious ambassadors of thrash and death as Kreator and Turisas. And their prog credentials? Well, Amorphis (as do Moonsorrow) also decorate their family tree.

Their third album (after 2010's Curse Of The Red River and The Devil's Resolve in 2012) On Lonely Towers opens with From The Depths Of Spring, a gentle, evocative prologue led by acoustic guitars and piano, with a few string embellishments and percussive flourishes. It might remind you of the kind of openers Opeth have included on some of their recent output, tracks such as Coil or Heritage. Opeth's shadow looms even larger on Howl, complete with death vocals, a doomy middle-section and even some blastbeats thrown in for good measure. On the other hand, Frozen Processions (a rather nice title) feels closer to straight heavy metal, although with clean vocals and proggy twists here and there.

The first long-ish track on the album, A Shapeless Derelict, begins with some creepy wind sound-effects and ominous strings to become a goth, atmospheric tune. My Dying Bride spring to mind, as Chuck Schuldiner's Death do; there are even some nice organ touches courtesy of Kasper Martenson on the somewhat 'Crimsonesque' instrumental passage. On the other hand, With Set Alight it's back to Mikael Akerfeldt's land. In fact, this would sit comfortably among the tunes on Deliverance or Blackwater Park; although I'm not sure if the spoken-word passages work.

The title track (and the longest) opens dramatically in bombastic Mastodon fashion, then acoustic guitars take the lead to submerge the song deep in languid doom complete with whispered vocals. Unfortunately, it goes on for a bit too long for its own good.

Chaos, The Songs Within brings back this band to where they seem to be most at ease, that is dramatic doom/death metal with some embellishments (here, a Mellotron pops up at around the five-minute mark) to make things more interesting.

The Vault wraps things up with beautiful acoustic guitars on the most melodic passage of the album; at around three-minutes a sneaky bassline introduces the proggiest (or trickiest) five minutes of the CD, complete with bouncy keyboards and an organ solo. It wouldn't feel out of place on a Dream Theater album, but it feels somehow forced here.

So, this is an excellently performed (hats off to Marko Tarvonen's powerful and technical drumming) and produced death metal album, one that will definitely appeal to those who enjoy 'classic era' (Still Life to Ghost Reveries so to speak) Opeth or the drama of My Dying Bride or Katatonia. However, it is also a band that has yet to find its personality and a more natural way to incorporate the progressive element into their sound.
Conclusion:
Héctor Gómez: 6.5 out of 10

Conqueror - Un' Altra Verità [CD + DVD]

Conqueror - Un' Altra Verità
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: CD 70:58, DVD 103 minutes
Links:
Track List:
Gina (11:13), Di Notte (7:25), False Idee (7:31), Un' Altra Realtà (6:29), Sigurtà (9:37), Pensieri Fragili (7:48), No Photo (6:44), La Strada del Graal (6:07), Cormorani (1:07), L'Ora del Parlare (6:58)
Conqueror were founded by drummer Natale Russo in Sicily in 1994. The band have undergone quite a few changes in their line-up since then, especially on bass and guitar, with Russo being the only constant member. Simona Rigano on vocals and keyboards joined in 2002 and thus has been present for the band's entire recording history, which started in 2003 with the album Istinto.

After five studio releases, one EP and participation in various compilations, the band decided that their music should appear on a live album and recorded/filmed a concert in the Teatro Communale in Giardini Naxos (not to be confused with the Greek island) on the occasion of their tour to promote the 2014 release Stems. The music on Un' Altra Verità consequently consists to a large extent of tracks from that album (the first five), plus songs from their previous records. Besides Russo and Rigano, the line-up is completed by Ture Pagano (guitars) and Peppe Papa (bass). The band's website, which is very informative, reveals that in the meantime, Papa has been replaced by Enzo Carinci - emphasising frequent line-up changes.

Personally, I am not that much of a fan of live recordings - especially if the music is played note by note as on the studio albums, something that many bands, including Conqueror, do (with noteworthy exceptions, for example Made in Japan by Deep Purple).

Consequently, I prefer listening to the studio recordings (often for better sound quality) or try to directly capture the live atmosphere by going to the concert itself (although that is sometimes not that easy if bands don't play in my area). On the other hand, a well-produced live album with a representative cross-section of a band's musical output is a good entry to their music without the necessity of trying out various albums. With respect to Un' Altra Verità, the latter argument certainly holds true.

The sound quality on the CD is excellent and the DVD is filmed in HD using five different cameras. The CD rather sounds like it was recorded live in the studio (comparable to what Museo Rosenbach recently did with its classic Zarathustra, coincidently, their music being somewhat similar in style). Thus, interactions with and reactions by the audience play a minor role, only being heard at the beginning and the end of each track, and the audience not being shown at all on the DVD.

The music is Italian symphonic progressive rock at its best. It is not overly complex, but varied enough to discover new aspects upon repetitive listening. The prevailing mood is a bit melancholic, with an emphasis on catchy melodies. This makes Conqueror's music very accessible. Intense keyboard passages nicely alternate with melodic guitar solos, and dreamy piano lines with rocky guitars.

Rigano's keyboards are omnipresent, but leave enough space for the guitar and also the bass to play their distinctive roles. Her voice is warm and mellow, and her versatile keyboard playing is never at the expense of her vocal performance (and vice versa). Musically, I hear some similarities to fellow Italian bands such as The Watch, La Maschera di Cera, Il Tempio delle Clessidre, and also to some extent to Banco (the music of which, however, I feel is more complex). Looking outside Italy, some of the melodies and especially the interplay between keyboards and bass remind me of the early work of Stern Combo Meissen. None of these bands having a female singer, though, making Conqueror's music unique in this respect. None of the 10 tracks (plus the additional one included on the DVD) falls off, the band is able to keep an even degree of high quality throughout the entire album. I particularly enjoyed False Idee because of its catchy refrain, Sigurta for its variety, and Pensieiri Fragili and the short Cormorani, because of their beautiful piano melodies.

The CD and DVD come in a nice digipack. The DVD also has excellent sound quality and captures the concentration and the devotion of the band to their music. There is no emphasis on gallery play, the stage decoration and the whole show being quite spartan. The DVD contains the entire CD, one additional track Echi di Verità (no idea why it is left off the CD) plus interviews with some of the band members as bonus material for a total time of approximately 103 minutes.

With this CD, one has different options: you are a big fan of the band in search of each of their releases, and like the music of the other references mentioned above: buy! You have their other CDs and expect new songs or new arrangements of existing ones: no definite need to own this album. You are into Rock Progressivo Italiano but haven't heard about Conqueror, would like to discover their music and are looking for a sort of 'best of' with excellent sound quality, maybe as a teaser for listening to their other albums: buy! I belong to the latter group, my appetite is whetted and I look forward to getting my hands on some of their previous albums.
Conclusion:
Thomas Otten: 8 out of 10

The Dystopian Project - Death Leaves an Echo [EP]

The Dystopian Project - Death Leaves an Echo
Country of Origin: Ireland
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 32:57
Links:
Track List:
Broken Reality (5:54), Delirium (4:00), Dystopian (9:05), Last Innocent Man (5:13), Winter's Hall (8:48)
The Dystopian Project is a new female-fronted melodic metal band from Ireland. This independently-released debut EP clocks in at a 30-plus minutes, so it is bordering on album-length.

The band serves up an entertaining mix of melodic heavy metal with semi-operatic female vocals. This basically means that you get chugging guitars, sad piano melodies, synthetic orchestral sounds and vocals which mostly convey a feeling of lost hope. On the whole I'm hearing Epica, Nightwish and similar bands, but with a good amount of variation.

Broken Reality's wall of guitars, Hammond organ and harmonised vocals almost feels like it's Uriah Heep doing a gothic metal song. Old-fashioned maybe, but it works. The guitar and synthesiser solos are great too, although they feel slightly tacked-on. Delirium on the other hand sounds more modern, akin to the nu-metal-flavoured gothic metal of Evanescence. The chorus here is particularly strong, and it seems as if that was definitely the focus for the band. By contrast, the verses fall a bit flat.

The longest track, Dystopian, is the most expansive and progressive song here. However, it feels like a normal gothic metal song, coupled to an overly long instrumental section that sounds pretty good on its own, but doesn't feel like it really belongs in the track. The sudden shift in time signature around the middle, really disrupts the flow of the track. Although it might be the most interesting track on the album, the songwriting does take a slight drop in quality; something which the band largely managed to avoid on the opening duo.

Now why would you want to end an album with two ballads in a row? Probably because Last Innocent Man and especially Winter's Hall are easily the weaker cuts on this EP, and feel like left-overs from an older, less-developed stage of the band's existence. It's wise to put the good songs first when you're on your first EP, and the band apparently knows this. The first two-and-a-half tracks do a good job at creating energy and an atmosphere to engage the listener, especially as the songs are a bit more concise.

I'm not complaining about the production either. It's nicely recorded and mixed for a debut release, even though the drums are a bit too mechanical-sounding.

Death Leaves an Echo is a promising start for The Dystopian Project. With some powerful riffs, strong choruses and good solos, there is plenty to enjoy. The music would still be a disaster if the vocals were bad, but fortunately Antonia Close's vocals are more than adequate.

The feeling that I get from this release is on something good, but not incredibly exciting. For that, the band must take time to develop a more cohesive style. But if the first half of this album is any indication, that shouldn't be a problem.
Conclusion:
Karel Witte: 6.5 out of 10

LVTVM - Adam

LVTVM - Adam
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 46:02
Links:
Track List:
Session 1 (3:52), Twalking (7:15), The Dreamer (6:14), Internal Disease (2:21), Tremorz (5:56), Gnosis (4:21), Hybros (5:14), Fthonos theos (7:26), Nemesis (3:23)
I don't know if you have ever wondered why you have never heard a band with two bass players and no guitarist. It's a prospect that has always intrigued me, as we have some very creative and expressive bassists in the prog world. Well finally I can lay that spectre to rest, as this album does just that.

It pitches two very separate bass players on opposing sides of the sound spectrum and unleashes an instrumental sonic sortie. Carlo Bellucci plays on the right channel and Isacco Bellini plays on the left channel, and the sound is augmented by the synths of Mike Marchionni and the thunderous beat of Alessandro Marchionni, who I can only assume are brothers.

So what does it sound like? The answer is like a bass-driven Metallica without guitars and vocals, although it's not thrash metal per say, nor is it prog metal. In fact it has a sound very heavy and low all of it's own, which is what makes it such an intriguing listen. It is not for the faint-hearted as it takes a lot of getting into, but within these tracks lie not just virtuosity but also intelligence, melody and a sense of bravery. This certainly is not commercial or even conventional in any manner. It is however extremely well concocted and has a lot to recommend it to the more adventerous.

Whilst sonically it is very dense sounding, at least there are no death metal type vocals that I finds so daft, and I have to say it sounds even better on headphones, as you get the spatuial separation better.

Trying to describe the sound is hard, but it's very riff-orientated and also very bass-propelled (unsurpringly) but there are some very elegant passages of contrasting tone and timbre especially on the longer pieces where each player has a chance to express themselves a little more. I also suspect one of the players is using a fuzz box and the other uses a fretless bass at times.

It really is a most unusual album and one that would probably appeal to fans of Bass Communion, VDGG or possibly even Rush. Quite where this band goes from here remains to be seen, but on the strength of this album I'm sure there is a dark corner of the prog/avant garde world that will welcome them with open arms and ears.
Conclusion:
John Wenlock-Smith: 6 out of 10

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog

Procol Harum - A Salty Dog
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015/1969
Time: 40:40, 48:24
Links:
Track List:
CD 1: A Salty Dog (4:39), The Milk of Human Kindness (3:46), Too Much Between Us (3:44), The Devil Came From Kansas (4:37), Boredom (4:34), Juicy John Pink (2:07), Wreck of the Hesperus (3:49); All This And More (3:51), Crucifiction Land (5:01), Pilgrims Progress (4:32)
CD 2: Skip Softly (My Moonbeams) (3:48), Wish Me Well (3:42), Long Gone Geek (2:43), Goin' Down Slow (7:49), Juicy John Pink (2:38), Crucifiction Lane (4:37), Skip Softly My Moonbeam/Also Sprach Zarathustra (5:26), The Milk of Human Kindness (3:40), Juicy John Pink (2:16), A Salty Dog (4:36), Long Gone Geek (3:11), The Milk of Human Kindness (3:58)
How to create a re-release.

Procol Harum have always been a little bit under the radar. Everyone knows A Whiter Shade of Pale, but their extremely varied output seems to have always paled in comparison to that single, massive song. Other bands from a similar era, such as The Moody Blues, seemed to fare much better in the prog/crossover realm in terms of sales and recognition.

A Salty Dog, originally released in 1969, was well received at the time, and is considered to be one of Procol's finest. Now, it has been given the 'Cherry Red' treatment, as the label continues to re-release quality vintage material. There is a remastered version on one CD, complemented by a further disc of rarities and live recordings. Five of the 12 tracks have never been released before. The fold-out digipak-style presentation also sits somewhere between lavish and enticing, with a mini-poster and informative booklet. It's a great example of how re-releases should be; a celebration of the original, alongside some bonus material that is actually of value to die-hard fans.

The title-track opens proceedings, and it's without a doubt one of Procol Harum's best ever pieces. Lyrically and melodically brilliant, it straddles the pop scene with classically-inspired prog, and is an early example of the perfect marriage of genres.

Throughout the album, Robin Trower's effortless and often searing guitar, and Gary Brooker's distinctive voice combine effortlessly, while Matthew Fisher's Hammond work is delightful, tasteful, appropriate and, at times, epic. That's not to diminish the contributions of bassist David Knights and B.J. Wilson on drums, both of whom contribute solidly to the sound.

Procol Harum can do it all. The Milk of Human Kindness is a straight-out rocker, Too Much Between Us follows, a gorgeous, quiet ballad. Juicy John Pink is head-on, unapologetic blues. Much of the rest is quality, quiet crossover prog. It's easy on the ear, well constructed, melodic, beautifully-played and every once in a while it's necessary to remember that this was released in 1969. It's a magnificent album, made even more precious by the second disc of rarities.

This second disc is taken from a variety of sources: a Radio 1 Top Gear session, some live material from the US in 1969, including a rendition of the classical heavyweight Also Sprach Zarathustra, the single version of A Salty Dog and the backing track, take one, of The Milk of Human Kindness. A few tracks are repeated, but such is the musical prowess of the band, that it's not overkill. Trower's guitar is magnificent throughout, the band races from crazed and heavy, to blues and to psychedelic. The quality rarely dips. This is a band that can play, and they know it.

For fans, it's clear that this is an essential purchase, even if they already have the vinyl, 8-track, cassette and original CD re-release. For everyone else, this is a glimpse into why the late 1960s and early 70s was such a vibrant and innovative time in music, and why the word 'progressive' truly fits then. Fortunately, A Salty Dog sounds just as good now as it did 46 (yes 46) years ago. Just four years to go for the 50th anniversary three-CD version, then...
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 8 out of 10

Procol Harum - Home

Procol Harum - Home
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015/1970
Time: 39:12, 42:51
Links:
Track List:
CD 1: Whisky Train (4:31), The Dead Man's Dream (4:46), Still There'll Be More (4:53), Nothing That I Didn't Know (3:37), About to Die (3:36), Barnyard Story (2:46), Piggy Pig Pig (4:48); Whaling Stories (7:06), Your Own Choice (3:09)
CD 2: Your Own Choice (2:38), Barnyard Story (2:51), The Dead Man's Dream (3:57), Still There'll Be More (5:00), Whaling Stories (7:17), About to Die (3:39), Your Own Choice (3:17), Piggy Pig Pig (5:27), Whisky Train (3:02), Your Own Choice (2:36), About to Die (3:07)
Home, which followed hot on the heels of the epic A Salty Dog, was Procol Harum's fourth release in three years.

With the departure of Matthew Fisher, Chris Copping took over on bass and organ, and he does a remarkably good and confident job. The playing is, as one would expect, first class and, after the opening blazing bluesy rocker, Whisky Train, the unmistakable Procol Harum sound and vocals return to restore a sense of familiarity. Still There'll Be More however, flips things around again, with Trower's searing guitar leading out another heavier piece with blues overtones and a bit of, dare one say it, American-influenced R&B.

The album didn't quite fare as well as its predecessors, which is a pity. Although this could, in part, be due to the distinctly odd (i.e. a bit rubbish) cover. While this new packaging, complete with poster/lyric sheet and booklet is wonderful, it's still tough to connect music and artwork.

Many of the lyrics on the album are somewhat depressing, and even death related, making it an album you'd not want to play for someone convalescing. However, musically, especially on the quieter songs, it's beautifully uplifting. About to Die lifts the tempo a little, but it's still a remarkably tight and well-constructed song. Piggy Pig Pig and Whaling Stories are also Procol songs from the top drawer of early prog. Both feature a delightful guitar solo, although the latter is certainly more "prog" as we know it. Both, of course, have many more virtues than simply great solos. Whaling Stories is simply magnificent.

As one would expect, Brooker's vocals are the tie that binds; that and the organ that underpins many of the tracks so clearly and so well.

Home is a supremely varied release that belies its age. It is mature, melodic, confident and consistent, perhaps a little more so than its predecessor, A Salty Dog.

The second disc of supplementary material features some demos, early takes, remixes, radio edits and a Radio 1 session. Yes, Radio 1, then still a toddler in the music airwaves world, did used to play music like this. Procol Harum fans will find it essential, but it's really that first disc that music lovers will go back to time and again for its timeless quality, and for the compositions and melodies. The second disc does, however, on the barer-sounding tracks, allow the individual performances and melodies to shine brightly through.

And a reminder - don't let the cover fool you - it's a magnificent album.

Procol Harum's studio output of 12 albums is sadly too small. Remarkably, most of them are very good indeed, and they are one of the rare prog bands whose quality hasn't really dipped significantly throughout their recordings. That said, the early Procol Harum albums are all worthwhile and consistent. Procol Harum might not ever have been considered quite as proggy as contemporaries like Genesis, King Crimson, ELP and Yes, however, they certainly deserve a place at the head table for their influence, especially on the basis of their early output.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 8 out of 10

Tom Slatter - Fit the Fourth

Tom Slatter - Fit the Fourth
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 54:24
Links:
Track List:
Some of the Creatures Have Broken the Locks on the Door To Lab 558 (7:29), The Steam Engine Murders and the Trial of Seven Bells John (10:22), Men of the World (7:14), So Far From the Shore (8:56), Seven Bells Redeemed (20:21)
"That was strange." Such was my first thought after previewing Tom Slatter's opening track Some Of The Creatures Have Broken The Locks On The Door To Lab 558 from his recent album Fit the Fourth. Having spent a lot of hours with Primus, Weird Al, and Zappa I figured an odd distraction would be welcome relief from my review queue. As I quickly learned, Tom writes much more than tongue-in-cheek, loosely humorous music. His character, Seven Bells John, occupies most of the time on this recording, a well-written murder mystery narrative capably-executed.

Setting aside the first, extraneous but enjoyable track, Fit the Fourth is a concept album chock-full of tasty, classic progressive music. The central character's plight is thoroughly explored lyrically, alongside music fitting of the scene. My digital copy included a PDF of the lyrics. There's no mention of this on the Bandcamp page. The vocals are clear enough most of the time so the written lyrics may not be entirely necessary, but it's a nice addition, that certainly makes getting absorbed by the music much easier.

The second track (the first of the concept tracks) is The Steam Engine Murders and the Trial of Seven Bells John , and it is a steam-punk-inspired, multi-faceted rock opera. It has some great synth work and establishes the lead guitar theme. Men of the World starts lightly musically, like a lost Jethro Tull track, before jumping onto a slightly sharper edge with the chorus. The lead guitar work near the end is the best on the album. The odd time signature of the song keeps the listener off balance throughout, much like trying to gain footing on a rocking boat. So Far From the Shore has a few cringe-worthy moments on vocals, otherwise it's well-crafted and performed.

Seven Bells Redeemed is the epic 20-minute finale. It's divided into nine parts (three of them instrumental). The widest ranging and most progressive music is found in these 20 minutes. Starting with the Emerson, Lake and Palmer sound-alike, semi-steam-punky organ work and bombastic composition of I. Flight From Black Water, we are sent crashing ashore to the pleasing II. Gods In Alleyways, before the waters are smoothed with the synoptic III. Hope for the Damned. We are then prosecuting on IV. Murderer, the reprising of V. Breath Slow, filling the empty space with VI. Clamouring Crowds, wrapping it up on VII. The Papers Say, more reprise when VIII. Seven Bells John Confesses, and the conclusion with IX. Gods In Alleyways.

The music and lyrics are well-crafted. There's a wit and cleverness in how the compositions are structured and in how the lyrical message is delivered. However, no amount of eloquence entirely makes up for the shortcomings. Without any outstanding musical moments and several sections of displeasing vocals, there isn't a reasonable way to put this near the top of the pile of great music available today. I wanted to like it, and some of it I do, but it just never comes together, and at the end it just felt like it never got off the ground. The ambition behind the recording shoulders the bulk of this review. It should be given a try, if only to experience it as the musical oddity it was intended to be.
Conclusion:
Kevin Heckeler: 7.5 out of 10