Advent - Silent Sentinel
In Illo Tempore (3:18), To Dunsinane (4:24), On the Wings of an Ant (verse 1) (2:15), Voices from California (7:34), The Uncharted Path (6:22), Reloj de Sol (2:35), On the Wings of an Ant (verse 2) (2:20), The Silent Sentinel (19:11), 12/12/2015 (2:38), Sentinel's Reprise: The Exit Interview (5:12), Second Thoughts (2:21), On the Wings of an Ant (verse 3) (2:24), Full Moon and Empty Hours (1:59), Riptide in Aeternum (2:45), Romanitas (12:02)
The old songs really do inspire on Silent Sentinel, taking the multiple vocal parts and keyboard heavy arrangements from Gentle Giant, the guitars owe a debt to Steve Hackett's solo work and from his tenancy with Genesis. There are influences from Procol Harum and also Anthony Phillips' pastoral charms. They wear their obvious love of prog's classic era proudly on their sleeves.
The audiophile download provided for review was exemplary in its production and mix. It allows you to pick out the intricacies of what is, effectively, a six-part prog orchestra and its delicate and complex arrangements. Advent are a keyboard-led prog band of the old school.
So, having said all that, how does the music stack up? The opening two tracks run seamlessly into each other on the download and they are a great opening to the album. The instrumental opener In Illo Tempore (roughly, In That Time) introduces the loose concept that binds the album together, that of time and its passing. Advent's ambitions are shown on the aforementioned To Dunsinane, which retells part of Shakespeare's Macbeth with multi-layered harmonies and a baroque style melody. If you are going to be obviously in debt to your influences then this is the how to use those influences.
The album mixes up songs, such as the wonderful Spock's Beard-like Voices from California (which has a terrific organ-led extended bridge) with classical guitar instrumentals, and a three-part setting of a poem by a friend of the band, On the Wings of an Ant (verses 1, 2 and 3).
The centrepiece of the album is formed by the epic title track, along with an acoustic interlude (12/12) and a reprise (Sentinel's Reprise: The Exit Interview). I thinks it is right to take these three pieces as a whole, as they share thematic elements. With a harpsichord chiming clock-like this journey begins, a quiet opening followed by a full on prog song; the lead vocalist has a nice darkly-honeyed tone and is ably supported by harmony voices as the track builds momentum. There is a long instrumental section where they almost lose their way, but it is saved by a splendid guitar part. The vocal returns just in time as the song was in danger of petering out. The following classical acoustic guitar interlude has that lovely Hackett touch to it before the reprise kicks in. The Sentinel's Reprise, with its overlapping vocal lines and keyboard drive, is a peach of a track.
The album ends with a very good instrumental in the shape of Romanitas, a medieval or Renaissance style melody spread across organs, guitars, harpsichord and a choir like a more electric Gryphon, it closes the album strongly.
There are, to my ears, a couple of problems with the album. The first is the instrumental acoustic guitar interludes, along with the best of these (12/12), there are another three and they tend to interrupt the musical flow somewhat. The other problem is the three-part poetry setting, On the Wings of an Ant. Presenting these as separate and separated tracks takes away from their artistry. They tend, in isolation, especially Verse 1, to suffer in comparison to what came before. I feel it would have been better to amalgamate these three tracks together along with the instrumental outro to Verse 3 (the tracks labelled Full Moon and Empty Hours and Riptide in Aeternum that all run seamlessly on the download), as this would have made it much stronger and would have given it room to breathe.
There is some excellent classic prog on Silent Sentinel. Is it fresh and original or just a retro-prog tribute? I think that's open to debate. What's not open to debate is that it is brilliantly played, sung and executed, and that some of these songs easily match those originals that have proved so influential to Advent's sound.
Martin Burns: 8 out of 10
Agent Fresco - Destrier
Let Them See Us (3:45), Dark Water (3:38), Pyre (3:42), Destrier (3:34), Wait For Me (2:20), Howls (3:03), The Autumn Red (4:48), Citadel (1:29), See Hell (4:20), Let Fall The Curtain (2:41), Bemoan (4:00), Angst (1:36), Death Rattle (4:55), Mono No Aware (7:02)
From the stark artwork, and song titles such as Howls, Death Rattle and See Hell, it is clear that songwriter-in-chief Arnór Dan is again exorcising some pretty deeply-ingrained demons.
"The emotional trigger for this album was a disgusting encounter with violence that I had three years ago," he remembers. "Two guys attacked me very late one night and I was left behind with a broken eye socket, a cut to the eyebrow and a concussion. This changed me. I decided to let the anger and angst intensify and I kept them animated throughout the entire writing process, to feed off of these raw emotions."
That's why the album is called Destrier. "A destrier (pronounced DES-treer) was a medieval warhorse, born and raised for battle. I found this to be a beautiful, mysterious and muscular companion for the songs and a perfect concept for the album," he adds.
The song writing template on show here is from the stable of djent-elmen. The sharp, staccato, off-beat, off-kilter riffing pervades almost every track. But it is for the most-part tempered by that very Icelandic sound inspired by that country's vast solitude and space. The use of electronica is very well done across the album and the vocals are superb. A metallic version of Bjork or Sigur Ros would be another fair description.
I can see this album appealing to a wide cross-section of music lovers as it dips into many different pools for its inspiration and impact. For me, there are many moments where the raw beauty of the songs shine through the darkness. There are equally as many moments where I find that grating, repetitive djent guitar style too over-bearing for my tastes. It is not helped by the production struggling to channel the bottom end, distorted guitar sounds.
I shall probably lift a few songs onto a playlist, especially the melodic See Hell, the strong opener Let Them See Us, and after an annoying beginning, the stark-vulnerability-mixed-with-confident-melody of Wait For Me. However Destrier is not a disc that I am likely to return to as a whole, and even at just 90 seconds, the bizarre foray into death metal territory with Angst is unbearable.
Andy Read: 7.5 out of 10
Hands - Caviar Bobsled
The Last Song (8:20), Heavy Lifting (6:19), Discourse On Method (5:38), Drum Roe (1:06), Halfway to Salem (7:36), Still Life (7:00), Talking Points (3:51), Like Me (6:18), Into the Night (2:20), Shards (3:16), Alis Volat Propiis (4:47), This and That (4:22), Busy Signal (11:31)
Two of those previous four albums were reviewed by DPRP and received a recommendation.
The music of Hands is like a lot of bands that originated in the 70s; the sound can be compared with Gentle Giant, Kansas and Camel. Of the more recent artists, I would add Phideax to the list.
The music is coloured with many different instruments. The members of Hands use of cello, Warr guitar and several wind instruments mould together into a very warm sound. The dreamy voice of Erin Myers is technically not perfect but fits the music pretty well.
Caviar Bobsled is a very long album, over 70 minutes, and the first part contains some very good songs. The second part is not as good, and contains some parts that might not appeal. All of the first half is listenable, but during the latter section, I have to skip some stuff.
The drum solo Drum Roe and the classical Into The Night and the somewhat dull This And That are skippers for me. The closing song, Busy Signal, is not interesting for the whole 11-plus minutes but, overall, there is still enough music to pick parts of interest.
Overall, Caviar Bobsled is a very likeable album. The melodies and the variety in the use of instruments set this album apart from other progressive rock albums.
Caviar Bobsled is nice as background music but as you listen you find this album slowly takes a hold of you. Melodies keep repeating inside your head.
Definitely worthy of another recommendation.
Edwin Roosjen: 8 out of 10
Personal Signet - Fundamental Human Instinct
Give Me Reason (5:25), Slave For Nothing (7:07), Prisoned Mind (5:52), Out of the World (8:54), Wires (5:28), Man in the Shadows (9:13), Heroine (6:16), Paranoya (4:46)
Lately, I have done several reviews on albums from bands that do not have an English website. This is also the case for Personal Signet. Even their Facebook site is all in Czech. Usually this is the case with bands who sing in their native tongue and have mainly local followers. All the songs on Fundamental Human Instinct are in English and the vocals are almost without foreign accent. I had to double check to see if they were really from the Czech Republic. So my tip to the guys is to provide more information in English.
The quality of the music is good. It is progressive metal with a heavy feel to it. The drummer is technically skilled but he is not overdoing it. There are very interesting heavy passages glued together with some keyboard sounds for a more progressive outlook. During the second part of the album, I get the feeling they ran out of ideas, some tricks and tunes sound like I heard them in previous tracks. However, it is still very enjoyable stuff.
I stepped in to Fundamental Human Instinct with an open view and I got a positive feel about this album. There are enough different ideas to keep it interesting for progressive ears though during the second part of the album some ideas felt revisited. Personal Signet is a nice band and if they want exposure out of the Czech Republic they should provide more information in English - and if they find a box full of new ideas, they could make a very good next album.
Edwin Roosjen: 7 out of 10
Phi - Waves Over Vienna, Live at Das Bach, 30-04-2015 [CD/DVD]
Intro (1:20), Cashflow Prayer Answering Machine (4:33), Welcome Tomorrow (8:22), Tune in, Zone Out ((4:30), Revolution by Design (5:52), Behind a Veil of Snow (5:01), Manager of the Year (7:30), Wintersong (6:43), A Clear View (6:55), Exile (5:33), Clouds (3:02), Now the Waves of Sound Remain (13:12), The Beginning of the End (7:22)
But it is not all about being heavy as the wonderful Wintersong and Behind a Veil of Snow clearly demonstrate, but in this live setting they do dare to put their feet down on the distortion pedals and let it rip. Don't expect anything near to thrash metal, not at all, they are probably not even as heavy as Amplifier, where on the other hand, there is a resemblance in the way both bands have a compact sound to several of their songs. Where Amplifier has gone for a rather direct approach in their most recent albums, the tracks by Phi appear to be more complex. I would say, of the two, Amplifier is the heavier band, but I could well see both bands sharing a bill together.
Then again, this review is not to compare bands, but to give an impression of this album. It was recorded in a rather intimate setting and the band, as the DVD goes to show, clearly feel at home on the stage. Markus Bratusa knows very well the strengths and limitations of his voice and I must admit I have come to like the combination of Phi's music with Marcus' voice. It is a bit gritty and his voice is not that dissimilar to Mark Lanegan's, yet the latter is far grittier, but perhaps that does give a bit of an indication. Gabe Cresnar on drums and Arthur Damhofer-Demar, both on backing vocals as well, are a fine rhythm section that provides the ideal background for Marcus' guitar playing and the programmed sounds.
Modern rock influences abound, either from classic rock, prog rock and post rock, and there is the slightest hint of new wave music. Phi make music that feels like an experience. Yes, it does rock, but it's not all about plugging in and just raving on the stage. There are too many textural and tempo changes, and lyrics that have something to say. There is plenty to enjoy here, both on CD and DVD. Even though the DVD doesn't provide any extras and the sound is in stereo, it does give you an impression of how it was in what undoubtedly was a sweaty arena. Even though their sound may have heavier parts, if you can handle either Amplifier, Rush, Porcupine Tree or King Crimson, even King's X in some parts come to mind, as well as Explosions in the Sky, then I suggest you check out the links. I, for one, would definitely go and see them in concert.
Marcel Hartenberg: 8.5 out of 10
Profusion - Phersu
Snooze (5:48), Free Fall (6:03), Forgetful Hero (5:20), Wrinkled Maiden (2:33), Nomen (6:17), Infinite (4:03), Masquerade (4:42), Veteran (4:33), Vanity Fair (4:16), Forbidden (4:38)
It is a rather different musical concoction, yet one still fitting with their very eclectic song-writing formula, which seeks to fuse fusion, prog metal, classical prog and pop.
It is definitely an album that you need to give time to, and for those who enjoy albums that freely genre-hop, then I am sure that this will be a grower.
Phersu does have numerous musical highlights - but they are very scattered.
The opening two songs are filled with rhythmically interesting guitar riffs in a Dream Theater style, and some decent melodies. I use 'melody' as opposed to 'hooks' as, despite repeated plays, they don't sink in as well as they could. The riffs then totally disappear for three tracks as we engage with folk, theatre, opera, pop rock and middle eastern vibes.
However 'hook' is most definitely the correct word to use for the chorus of Veteran, which despite another wayward fusion solo, is my favourite track on this disc.
Where I struggle, is to find a coherence in the song-writing that I can follow and sink into a groove with. We shift between pop, fusion, symphonic and metal, but the shifts are sudden. We may have a prog metal opening, but then suddenly change to a fusion solo section and then a pop break. But rarely is there anything held from one part and developed into the next. Only here and there do the different stylings overlap and blend, such as on Masquerade, which works well as Circus Maximus with a big band vibe. It is all too random.
Despite its good nature (all proceeds going to an Alzheimer's charity) the short track Wrinkled Maiden is a theatrical ballad featuring famed opera singer Anita Rachvelishvili and is totally out of place on this album. It may have made a bonus track, but putting such an alien-style song halfway through this album, makes no musical sense at all.
Luca Latini's characteristic vocal delivery, is another challenge. In places, he sounds superb, but in others his melodic patterns go down too many cul-de-sacs. There are definitely keys and a range that suit his voice better than others. In future, the band needs to play much more to his strengths, and to find a way to blend their various influences into a more cohesive whole.
Andy Read: 7 out of 10
Stefano Orlando Puracchio - Progressive Rock 2, Boundary Lines [book]
Whereas you would think it common that writers seek out the bands known to the general public, Stefano does not do so as a modus operandi. Yes, he does dwell shortly on a few famous bands, such as Pink Floyd, Marillion and Kansas, but that is not the nucleus of the book. He sort of takes the backroads, so to speak, and brings us in contact with inhabitants of the prog universe that are not so often shown on big screens, play stadiums or are internationally big for that matter. He talks about and with bands from Hungary, Italy and other countries and does so with the greatest respect for all of the musicians he addresses.
In his book, his quest is to determine what progressive rock is to these musicians, if they see any boundaries and how they consider their music to relate to the term progressive rock. To find the diversity of artists like Stefano did must have been quite the venture, and he writes about it almost playfully. He takes readers in, like friends and, in a way, is not unlike Sir Walter Scott, the novelist who brought us Ivanhoe. No, no, there are no knights in this book, but just like Scott extensively wrote about surroundings, so does Stefano write quite specifically about what happens when he goes to a concert, what the weather was like and such. Yes, that does give a feeling that you get to know the writer. On the other hand, it made me wonder whether or not he did that on purpose. After all, prog and its boundaries are the subject of the book.
The book, on one hand, is built up from interviews with musicians, on the other hand from interviews with other 'cognoscenti' of prog. And sometimes, Stefano gives us own thoughts. Yes, you can distinguish between these parts but that sometimes is not all too easy. Perhaps that could do with a little more refinement in who is stating what every now and then.
To me, the book was a nice introduction to bands from different countries and Stefano does rightfully point out that it is best to read while listening to the bands he mentioned. I guess that surely enhances the experience. A book for people who are already aware of what prog is, for sure. Still, a fine read that encourages an exploration of music, and for his previous book as well.
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10
PyT - Mon grand amer
Fast mourir semble toujours faux (5:30), Nulle part ailleurs (4:21), Mon lointain amour (4:01), Crois en toi (3:20), Ma vraie prophétie (5:02), Dingue de toi (3:19), Looks Piled Like Newspapers (4:28), La beat du gets (2:36), Valeureux (3:12), Respire (1:57), Qu'est-ce qui due (4:11), Eu comme you (3:52), Les bruits courent (4:37), Le mal parle mal (Arpège d'avril) (4:57), Il en rest (2:47), Madame tu l'aimes (2:22), Faut lassoer parlour le coeur (2:56), Un gamin pas si sale (3:30), Vers où vaunt mess aïeux (7:11), Et tout s'évanouit... (3:23)
PyT plays progressive rock with some nice accessible melodies and not overdoing it on the complexities. Some songs do have more complex structures, some are almost French chansons, while other songs are a variety in between. Some songs are in English, however, my conclusion is that I like the French songs better. I cannot understand the French lyrics, but you can hear the singer is singing in his native tongue. The English lyrics sound forced and, to be honest, do not sound like English. It is only when I read the booklet that I can tell it is in English.
The most progressive sound comes from the guitar solos. They are not lengthy, but melodic and in balance with the rest of the music. I really like the song writing of PyT, they know that progressive rock is more than playing very well but also writing some good songs.
Mon grand amer is a nice album with good music and nicely crafted songs. It is mostly progressive rock but this album can easily be put in the French pop section. They really should stick to French songs, the English parts are not appealing.
I like listening to PyT and their music is for progressive rockers who speak French or do not mind using a dictionary to understand the lyrics.
Edwin Roosjen: 7 out of 10
Scarlet Stories - Resurrection
Dance of Narcissism (5:42), The Tell-Tale Heart (7:35), Nostalgia In A Closed Mind (6:01), Resurrection (8:51)
Resurrection starts with a brief, clean intro before some heavy, almost Tool-styled guitars and drums kick in with Van Der Berg's voice on top. It sets the tone for the EP, with plenty of heavy guitars and catchy, melodic riffs and vocals. It weaves between dark and melodic sections, before bursting into heavy riffs that get your head banging along with the beat. The band utilises the vocals for both power and atmosphere, and Kuper's tremendous skill behind the drum kit, to make the opening of this EP a track to be respected.
The EP carries on in much the same way, with the songs sounding similar enough to make it sound like the EP is one long song, broken into different sections. However, it is different enough for each be a stand-alone hit. The music is catchy, elegant, heavy, ambient, relaxing and energising at the same time.
The clean guitars throughout the EP are reminiscent of Alcest; dark, melancholic and melodic, while the overall tone features an interesting progressive metal feel. Lyrical themes deal with melancholic thoughts, which fit perfectly when intertwined with the music.
In a rare instance for metal music, the band is both fronted by a female, and has a female on guitars. This is a welcome breath of fresh air in an otherwise male-dominated genre, as generally the only metal bands that have women in them are of the symphonic metal genre (such as Nightwish). From listening to this, it is difficult to see why, as the voice adds so much to the music, making it impossible to imagine it with any other vocalist.
Scarlet Stories is a band confident in its ability to produce extremely well-crafted progressive metal, and I feel they are well placed to become forerunners in the resurgence of heavier progressive music alongside the likes of Klone and Gojira.
If you are a fan of female-fronted prog, or of Tool, Haken or Anathema, then this is an EP for you. Definitely a band I will be following.
Calum Gibson: 8 out of 10
Wrupk Urei - Kõik Saab Korda
Kõik Saab Korda (6:19), Termiitide Tervitus (2:10), Veenuse Koopas (3:44), Kriminaalne Venemaa (4:36), Tagasi Tulevikku.. Tagasi (3:00), Sai Ju Räägitud! (4:34), Valteri Ohtlik Elu (4:31), Vähemalt 500 Nõukogude Tanki (5:28), Algiers - New York - Luunja (5:43), Konstruktor (3:40), Spirituaal (3:17)
Wrupk Urei is an Estonian six-piece band and this is their debut album from 2012, reissued in 2014 by Italian great label Altrock (I recommend taking a look to their catalogue). Their label describes their sound as avant progressive jazz rock, referencing the Canterbury sound, and psychedelic.
It really doesn't matter.
Kõik Saab Korda includes very well executed songs, great players having fun playing many different styles, from progressive to jazz, groovy rhythms and more in a modern and catchy way. This could be a boon for Umphrey's McGee fans.
The fun is contagious. As the songs go by, you will find yourself almost dancing while hearing the beautiful mix of instruments and tunes. Just from the cover art of the album you realise it's going to be a different instrumental album. It's hard to describe but it reflects the spirit of their music. Also you will hear strange sirens, dog barks, whistles and more - it's all part of the show, part of the fun.
Think of the type of music that makes you move your foot trying to follow the rhythm without noticing it, or having fun while driving hoping the trip lasts one more hour.
Of course, you should also give a chance to their second album, Teahupoo, from 2013 if you want to keep having fun.
I don't like instrumental albums... or maybe I do.
Ignacio Bernaola: 9 out of 10