ISSUE 2015-518

Reviews in this issue:

Franck Carducci - Torn Apart
Franck Carducci - Torn Apart
Country of Origin: France
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 65:47
Info: Franck Carducci
Samples: Franck Carducci website
Track List:
Torn Apart (10:17), Closer to Irreversible (4:49), Journey through the Mind (8:00), Artificial Love (2:09), A Brief Tale of Time (12:36), Girlfriend for a Day (1:52), Mr. Hyde & Dr. Jekyll, Artificial Paradises (14:09), School (5:40)
When Franck Carducci released his début album Oddity back in 2011 ( review here) it was clear to all those who listened, that he had the Prog X factor. The album was a wonderful little gem, replete with songs that spin in your head long after you first heard them. One might wonder about beginner's luck, and if the quality could be maintained over a second album. Carducci didn't rush things, that's for sure, but has managed to maintain the musical spirit and unleash it on Torn Apart. But do the results pass muster? I am happy to say he has far surpassed it.

Carducci is every bit the multi-instrumentalist, handling bass, vocals, Mellotron, sitar, Moog, piano, organ and guitar, but he keeps good company with his collaborators. Cristophe Obadia and Mathieu Spaeter handle the lead guitars as if they had been understudies for the likes of Jan Akkerman, Mark Knopfler, Tommy Bolin, Michael Schenker, Andy Latimer and Steve Hackett. Without specifically resembling the playing of any of those formidable artists, they create a genuine feel of a classic rock album that takes you right back to the days of yore, when guitars and guitarists ruled the world. (Well, to some they did).

The title track storms out of the gates as if Akkerman was leading Focus through a crazed intro to Hocus Pocus, and then slows down to a rhythm, perhaps more suited to the Allman Brothers than you would expect in a voyage through progressive territory. Still, this song is an adventure in its own right and if you love to be carried away by seventies' sounds, then this is just something for you. Featuring lovely organ by both Olivier Castan and Richard Vecchi, this is one track that just entraps you. Featuring many different colours, you just have to experience it yourself, and you can by following the YouTube link below.

There is a lot of variety and the album and it is obvious that Carducci is not going for the 'prog' tag per se. That doesn't mean you should immediately stop reading and forget about this album. I mean you wouldn't simply be satisfied with a prog-by-numbers album would you? This might be one of the most varied albums you have come across in a long time. For example, second track Closer to Irreversible has a definite blues vibe to it, with Carducci's singing being very rich and full of emotion, at times bearing a slight resemblance to Steve Hogarth. There is a jaw dropping and very inspired solo by a certain Steve Hackett on this track, which soars and really lifts it. A contender for 'the song that is always kept at hand on the car stereo award'. If such an award exists!

I could easily go on and write a full song-by-song account of the album, but that would be little more than a 'Rough Guide to ..'. To reassure the out-and-out proggers, Journey Through the Mind is a seventies' prog dream, bringing flute to the fore and featuring fine vocal harmonies by Franck and Mary Renaud. However, the real treasure of the album is that Carducci has crafted a collection of songs that provides a journey through the world of classic and prog rock, without ever sounding like a pastiche of something that has come before. All is helped along by his innate sense for melodies, instrumental arrangements and quality production. Sure, there are inevitably some influences that show through, yet as with Journey Through the Mind the experience is its own musical journey.

Even the artwork somehow touched me, in its slight resemblance to the artwork by the great, late Geoff Mann, and it contributed to the joy that I felt on listening to this album. Even if the artwork was in no way intended to be a tribute to Geoff, the effect was that it evoked a warm feeling in me and so felt as a tribute anyway.

As the last part of the last song is on its way, I stare out into the dimly lit room and let the music take me on yet another amazing journey. Do yourself a favour and check this one out. Torn Apart has a lot going for it. It could well do without the bonus track, the cover of Supertramp's School. Still, the homage is executed very well.

All in all, I have found this record to be one of ever-increasing beauty.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 8.5 out of 10

Census Of Hallucinations - Spirit Of Yellow
Census Of Hallucinations - Spirit Of Yellow
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Stone Premonitions
Catalogue #: SPCD074
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 58:15
Info: Census Of Hallucinations
Samples: Census Of Hallucinations website
Track List:
Forest (5:32), More Than Ashes (3:18), Church (4:43), Riding The War (4:09), Infra Red Parts 1 & 2 (6:07), Ephemeral Fire (5:18), Mountain climbing (4:03), Lie Again (4:39), Sara Jane (3:10), Hieronymus (5:10), Blood On My Shoes (3:43), Free Yourself (3:48), Orion (4:31)
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Since Tim Jones reactivated the good ship Census of Hallucinations after a five-year hiatus in 2012 with the release of Dragonian Days (review here) this highly productive band has released no fewer than three full albums, an EP and a double CD-R compilation of instrumentals.

The first focus of this mini CoH special is 2013's Spirit Of Yellow, the first of the three newly-recorded works since Dragonian Days, and the first of a loosely connected trilogy of albums (on Tim's label Stone Premonitions).

There have always been two pivotal aspects to the music of founder members Tim Jones and Terri-B: lysergically enhanced space rock journeys, and idiosyncratic songwriting. Spirit Of Yellow takes up the mantle of songwriting, with reinterpretations of songs from across Tim Jones' long career, as a member of CoH, in other bands and solo. Tim took the chance with this album to re-record old songs with the benefit of up-to-date production techniques, and the result is a well-rounded and highly enjoyable album. Tim wrote all the music on here, and all the lyrics, apart from those for tracks 2, 4, 6, and 9.

A nice blast from the past is the inclusion in this revived line-up of guitarist John Simms, who as a mere 18-year-old back in 1970 was part of seminal and legendary psych-metal band Clear Blue Sky, a name that will be familiar to any record collector. In their early but sadly short-lived incarnation, they were damned good too! Joining Tim and John, is co-founder Terri-B on lead vocals and David Hendry on keyboards, who joined the band for the Dragonian Days album. Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hodge provides bass guitar and drums, as well as electric guitar and percussion.

These five are more than competent, and provide organic acid-rock with a touch of prog atmospherics, the latter particularly so on Church. Folk-psych protest is present and correct on Riding The War, and John Simms gets to add his own newly composed Bill Nelson-esque guitar and atmospherics with the Part 2 conclusion to the dream-pop of Infra Red.

Good as their possibly more well-known spacerock side is, Ephemeral Fire is a lovely slice of West Coast-influenced psych-folk that CSN & Y would have been proud of, and shows how diverse this band is. The guitar flourishes of John Simms add a neat psychedelic edge to the langourous folk-blues of Mountain Climbing, and Hieronymus is a medieval waltz in space, with a swoon-some arrangement of pure class.

This is a great introduction to the "song" side of Census Of Hallucinations and I recommend it highly. My only regret is they didn't attempt a re-working of the barking-mad rug-cutter Charlatan Express from their debut album of 15 years ago.
Conclusion:
Roger Trenwith: 8 out of 10

Census Of Hallucinations - Coming Of The Unicorn
Census Of Hallucinations - Coming Of The Unicorn
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Stone Premonitions
Catalogue #: SPCD075
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 50:26
Info: Census Of Hallucinations
Samples: Census Of Hallucinations website
Track List:
Something That Affects All People (3:55), Only Time Will Tell (4:12), As Within So Without (4:08). Put The Head On (4:28), The Unicorn Is Coming (3:31), Stars (8:26), Miracle (3:29), Electroid (1:28), Crystal Spheres Of Light (6:04), UFO Over Penrith (2:01), Love You True (2:45), Existential Vertigo (1:40), As Within So Without (Slight Return) (4:19)
Arriving a mere four months after Spirit Of Yellow, Coming Of The Unicorn is a full-on journey to the outer reaches of the cosmos, on the back of a horned horse. The title is, one suspects and indeed hopes, ironic in the best progtastic sense!

The line-up has shifted, as is the wont of this amorphous collective. Gone is David Hendry, replaced on keyboards by Steve Ellis, and joining Terri-B on vocals is Maxine Marten. Drums on this album are by Paddi, back after the Dragonian Days album, and he shares the drum stool with Dave Pipkin. Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hodge is replaced on bass, mostly by John Simms. Also present is Michael Steadman contributing keyboards and programming and Kingsley Burn on bass on Miracle. Confused? Yep, that's the way with this merry band of musical travelers.

Something That Affects All People commences proceedings with a statement of intent. We have caught the solar wind in our starsails and we are drifting far, far away from gravity's pull, arriving at a floating reggae tent somewhere on an obscure tendril of the Orion Nebula, Only Time Will Tell, as they say. It's time to turn on and chill out people, chords of marvellous space guitar woozily meander through the heady mix as the band stretch out with the very Hillage-like As Within So Without. While undoubtedly Kosmische, the sharp acid guitar of maestro John Simms give things an edge of clarity, bringing it all into focus.

Kraftwerk-like sequencers bubble through the title track, accompanied by a disembodied voice announcing the coming of the horned horse (heheh), with John and Tim's fabulous, lyrical twin guitar taking the song over the bridge and away.

The centrepiece of the album is the eight minute ride through the birth of a galaxy that is Stars, which includes a re-working of their spacerock minor classic My God It's Full Of Stars. John (presumably?) gets to make his guitar sound like a souped-up sitar as he "glids" forever, the tune spinning on an unseen axis. It is all quite mesmerising. John Simms' marvellous acid-dropped guitar is all over this album, as you've probably guessed, and on Crystal Spheres Of Light he takes us back to Steve Hillage and the land of Green, and a lovely trip it is too.
Conclusion:
Roger Trenwith: 7 out of 10

Census of Hallucinations - The Nine
Census of Hallucinations - The Nine
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Stone Premonitions
Catalogue #: SPCD076
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 39:31
Info: Census of Hallucinations
Samples: Census of Hallucinations website
Track List:
Signature (4:51), The Emperor (4:41), Delivering the Goods (4:47), All About Harry (2:43), Cold as Trout (4:48), Timelessness (2:57), The Crunch (5:27), A Most Remarkable Number (3:42), The Truth Inverted (5:33)
Onwards to last spring, and the final installment of the trilogy arrives, fittingly it is an album wrapped-up in the mythological and magical significance of numbers. The Nine is a set of questioning lyrics from Tim Jones, set to a group-composed, soulful musical dreamscape, from an idea by the returning Kevin Hodge, who this time contributes just acoustic guitar to the record. Joining Kevin and singer Tim, is the now permanent fixture of John Simms on guitar, guitar synth and keyboards, along with Mark Dunn on bass, Paddi on drums, and finally Maxine Marten on backing vocals.

Opener Signature languidly ascends on the back of a simple piano line and John's arpeggio guitar. "To be truly famous, you have to be truly misunderstood" sings Tim at his most contemplative, as he takes us on a long trip that would seem to be a plea for a lost spirituality, a reference to the loss of connection with nature in this modern age. "The mind is a matter, as a matter of fact. While the bees die we are glued to our screens," is one of many clever and thought-provoking lines.

Days split into numbered segments, "defender of regular hours", The Emperor hip-sways through the consciousness, almost metronomic, the song cleverly repeats the formula again and again. Time stands still while moving. This is songcraft at its best. In his best Dickensian fashion, Tim, as a cosmic Uriah Heep, narrates a tale of troubled souls, trapped in a world of corruption, intolerance and greed on Delivering The Goods "to the high and mighty".

This is an album where the music, good as it is, finds itself secondary to Tim's psychedelically politicised and acerbic wordplay. Following a comical and almost music hall diversion about our ginger No.2-in-line (Prince Harry – for non-UK readers –Ed) and pre-destination, and then a thoroughly nasty scenario of druggy oblivion set to a contrasting, woozy backing, replete with lots of "ooos" and "aahhs" from Maxine, we have Timelessness, a poetic treatise against our control by the so-called freedoms of capitalist society, ending with another great line or two from John.

The numbers theme returns on The Crunch, the protagonist saying: "I won't live by numbers", being alternately "magnetised", "hypnotised" or "suffocated" by numbers, and all ending with "death by numbers". Given what I do in the "real" world, that makes me smile.

Nine, of course is A Most Remarkable Number, and this cinematic sashay, with some lovely, sonorous bass from Mark Dunn, gives Tim the chance to extrapolate on the remarkable properties of the number 9.

We end with The Truth Inverted, which reprises the musical theme from the beginning, Tim letting us know in a "Dickens does the narrator from Joe's Garage" style, that although the "truth is out there somewhere", it is in a "bleak and desolate place". Another fine short solo from John, raises the song from the slough of despond, and Tim ends with the declaration of a thoroughly malevolent God, who must have gotten out the wrong side of the bed that day!

This is not a particularly joyful or hopeful album, but as we get older, the optimism of youth is often subsumed by the "shitstem" (®John Lydon). However, overall this album is a fine example of great, if somewhat downer lyricism, topped off with some fine playing from the band.
Conclusion:
Roger Trenwith: 8 out of 10

Census of Hallucinations - Imagine John Lennon
Census of Hallucinations - Imagine John Lennon
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Stone Premonitions
Catalogue #: SPCD077
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 29:01
Info: Census of Hallucinations
Samples: Census of Hallucinations website
Track List:
Part 1: In Ruins (7:07) , Part 2: Conspiracy of Silence (5:41) , Part 3: Faculty of Mirrors (7:06) , Part 4: He Who Can Manage Camels (9:06)
This is effectively an addendum to the trilogy above. Imagine John Lennon came out in November last year, and is a plea to the masses to take on the "lies and deceit" that we are faced with every day, contrasted with and inspired by the Beatle's idealism. That's how it starts anyway, but Tim doesn't take long to lead this thing down his singularly peculiar, surreal and idiosyncratic back alley.

The same band as The Nine are augmented by Terri-B on backing vocals, James Jones narrating his poem Lost In The Lakes, and adding another wash of colour to the already kaleidoscopic sonic palette, Barry Lamb with his saxophone, synth and Mellotron on Part 1.

Musically and vocally intricate, this EP shows that CoH are as sophisticated as any polished prog band, and it is an aural delight to behold. The EP is a conceptual song-cycle, and according to the PR sheet, will be part of a full-length album to be released this year. Me, I can't wait. Census of Hallucinations are far, far more than a band of spacerockers cut from the free festival "crusty" template, and I urge you to give them a try.
Conclusion:
Roger Trenwith: 8 out of 10

The Enid - En Concert à Crescendo
The Enid - En Concert à Crescendo
Country of Origin: UK
Format: DVD/Blu-ray
Record Label: Skop Art Films in association with Enid Live
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 85:00
Info: The Enid
Track List:
Judgement Day, One And The Many, Leviticus, Childe Roland, Who Created Me, Witch Hunt, Summer, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dark Hydraulic, Mockingbird.
If there was a special award in prog for the art of reinvention, then The Enid would win it by a country mile. Founded more than 30 years ago by the iconoclastic Robert John Godfrey, the band has undergone a complete transformation over the past five years, and the result is here for all to see.

The filming for the DVD took place at the Crescendo Festival in France last August, an independent progressive rock event which has been running since 2000 in the south west coastal town of Saint-Palais-Sur-Mer, attracting a stellar cast of international bands and fans each year. The band was totally unaware of the filming at the time, but they saw the rushes afterwards and, not surprisingly, they were, in their own words, "blown away" by the film's quality – and rightly so. By a stroke of luck, the band were using a newly-acquired self-monitoring system to enable them to undertake multi-track recordings of their live shows, so they were able to marry the two together in the production of the DVD. This is the first live concert DVD since Birmingham Town Hall in 2010 and this film is long overdue, if only to contrast and compare how far they have come in the intervening period.

The advances are due in no small part to the arrival four years ago of the charismatic vocalist and EWI (electronic wind instrument) player Joe Payne. However, he is not the latest recruit, that honour falls to bassist and percussionist Dom Tofield. The one important thing to know about The Enid, is they do not warrant comparison to any other band, past or present, operating in the prog arena. They blend the most delicious, lush symphonic progressive rock, with innate theatrical elements. The end result, as witnessed here, is an all-consuming and totally unique experience. The filming offers a front row seat to this dazzling performance in France. You can almost feel the warm sea breeze blowing through the coastal setting as The Enid work their magic.

The fact that the band were unaware of the filming, works in their favour, as it's a truly natural and heartfelt show throughout. From the opening bars of Judgement Day, it is Payne's presence which dominates the stage, but that probably suits Godfrey, Tofield, guitarist Jason Ducker, long time drummer Dave Storey and guitarist, vocalist, keyboard player and engineer, Max Read, allowing them to get on with the business of making their exquisite music.

Most of the songs come from their highly acclaimed 2014 album Invicta, and gives notice from the start of the magnitude of Payne's vocal range, from choirboy-like alto, to Freddie Mercury note-bending showmanship. It's very difficult to keep your eyes off the front man, who oozes physical sensuality and expression, especially during Who Created Me, when he turns on his considerable acting abilities in the deliverance of this rock operaesque song.

However, it is Witch Hunt which is the pivotal piece, with the full-on lighting effects perfectly accompanying its winding, weaving nature. Equally compelling is their slightly sinister standard, Dark Hydraulic, on which the metronome drumming of Storey, and Ducker's incisive guitar playing is very much in evidence. The gorgeous, classically-rooted instrumental, Childe Roland, offers a showcase for Godfrey's piano virtuosity. There is not a single moment on this DVD that does not raise the spirit or stir the senses. The band are totally in simpatico and this only enhances the whole performance.

Currently, they are touring the UK with The Bridge show. Be sure to catch them at HRH Prog in Wales, but there are also chances to see them at Prog Dreams IV at the Boerderij in the Netherlands and Night of the Prog at Loreley in Germany. If you have not yet seen this current incarnation of The Enid, let this breathtaking DVD be your touchstone and get along to one of their live shows. Nobody currently does it better.

(You can also read the DPRP review of the whole, three day Crescendo Festival here
Conclusion:
Alison Henderson: 9.5 out of 10

Sebas Honing - Songs of Seas and Oceans
Sebas Honing - Songs of Seas and Oceans
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: Freia Music
Catalogue #: THOR10CD
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 55:37
Info: Sebas Honing
Track List:
Intro (2:03), Full Waves (8:41), Aquarial (2:51), The Big Wave (9:09), Coral (8:02), How Deep? (5:13), Beauty on the Beach (4:28), The Sea Life (8:12), Entrance to Atlantis (2:24), Under the Moon (4:36), Outro (1:55)
"That was the river. This is the sea." A famous line from a famous track by The Waterboys. From what Sebas Honing has realised with this album, he could proudly reveal himself as an all out waterboy. Mind you, his music has nothing at all to do with the Waterboys as to the musical genre, yet there is a shared appreciation, so to speak, of all watery things. Sebas has written this album in the key of C, yes, intentionally so, and the songs all have a connection to water. Now I hear you say, that might be an easy idea, but there is more than merely writing an album in the adequate key and having titles referring to watery surroundings or phenomena.

What Sebas Honing has succeeded in doing, is writing an album that actually breathes the salty air near the sea. After quite a calm Intro, Full Waves does come on like waves rolling in, closing in on you. You hear the sound of waves coming in and then a slow guitar riff takes off, letting grunge meet doom. Almost, yet not quite. Before we might consider metal's Prince of Darkness joining in with his head-in-a-trashcan vocal approach, the music quiets down a bit and we hear Sebas singing. Easier on the ear than the man who bites bats for fun, and as the song continues, it is clear that the dark riffs are only there to paint the picture of walls of waves rolling on and on. Sebas may not be the greatest singer out there, yet his voice fits the song perfectly.

Aquarial with its sounds of water falling, lightly streaming, is very compelling because of the underwater world it tells about. The lovely acoustic guitar parts and the vocal lines fit even better here. This song is quite the contrast to what happens next. It's riff time, ladies and gents. Sebas proves he can very much hold his own in writing riffs that directly get your attention. This is a song that can easily rock your shoes off. Some of the vocal lines remind me of Joe Satriani, where others bring German singer Nena to mind. If you have your mind set on prog, yet also love to rock out, then this is for you. The solo that Sebas lays down, unleashes thoughts of the aforementioned Joe Satriani and of John Sykes on Thin Lizzy's Thunder and Lightning album. Inspiring, melodiously fast, yet always within the context of the song. The song isn't quite over, when the solo has been played, for after that Sebas treats us to an atmospheric section that has lush keyboard parts and fine acoustic guitar.

A moment to sit back and ponder this release: Sebas wrote it himself. He also played all the instruments. Yes ladies and gents, this is not a band playing and yes, a drum computer does the drumming. Would you have guessed so? Except for the female vocals on the album, he sang each and every line as well. The album may not be all-and-out prog, as there are heavier elements and poppier elements as well. However, any progger who dares to listen without prejudice and, most certainly, if great guitar work is your cup of whatever hot drink you prefer, then this might be right up your alley.

Whether Sebas is playing the wonderful instrumental Coral , the darker yet still gentle How Deep?, or whether he just handles the fret board of his guitar for heavy riffing, he knows how to surprise and impress. He may have a background in playing in a Van Halen cover band (5150) and be the guitarist for prog metal band Equisa, but here he has left his marks on a very promising debut.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 8 out of 10

Sebas Honing - From Middle to East
Sebas Honing - From Middle to East
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Format: CD
Record Label: Freia Music
Catalogue #: THOR15CD
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 48:14
Info: Sebas Honing
Track List:
The Moon Decides (Turkey) (6:22), Escape from Arabia (Turkey-India) (3:03), Ode to the Sun (India) (6:56), Ramayana (India-Indonesia) (7:54), Perang Popoetan (Indonesia) (6:17), Ode to the Sun (single edit) (4:51), The Big Wave (single edit) (4:03), The Sea Life (single edit) (4:38), Under the Moon (single edit) (4:18)
To have one travelling trough the depths of his mind, was probably never the intention Sebas Honing had when releasing his second album in a year. Having his debut album, Songs of Seas and Oceans, being a very watery affair subject-wise, (certainly not watery in terms of quality), this album also is based on a concept. Where water ran through each and every pore of the debut album from this young Dutch multi-instrumentalist, this one is all based on journeying.

Our journeyman takes us, together with his partner Petra Honing who is also the singer in Equisa - the progressive metal band they also are both in. Here again, Sebas took it upon himself to write a complete album and play it himself, and as he didn't have much else to do (apart from Equisa, playing in a Van Halen cover band, having a singer/songwriter project with his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Honey, and teaching guitar and producing) it could all be done within a year of releasing his debut. For sure, as this is only the beginning of his career, bright days lay ahead. Sebas has created a nice follow-up that shows even more diversity as to the guitarist he is.

In choosing a theme about travels in the Orient, you might expect Sebas to carry that concept through the whole of the album. As far as the new tracks are concerned, that is the case up to and including Perang Popoetan, he surely succeeds in that mission. It is not just an ebb and flow, with song titles. It is making the concept of the album his own, and reflecting that in his music. It is what he does best, or so it seems.

Back to the mind-travelling Sebas started me off on. The first track starts off easy, and then draws you in, with its middle-eastern flavor and metal-injected approach. It is in this track that thoughts start to race. Riffing does evoke memories of both Orphaned Land and Symphony X, whereas Sebas' voice here does, even if ever so slightly, resemble Orphaned Land's Kobi Farhi. Then, as soon as Petra Honing joins her husband, she really takes center stage, or so it seems. Her voice is strong and clear and, to these ears, leans more towards Anneke van Giersbergen than it would to Sharon den Adel. May I be so bold as to remark, that is no small feat.

In Escape from Arabia we have Dream Theater meeting up with Symphony X, which is not that strange given Sebas' background. The comparison might even be more Symphony X, as the song is quite compact and up-tempo, which is something that can be found more with the X-men, than with those dreamy types.

Ode to the Sun is one of those tracks with a slow build, in which Sebas treats us to a whole variation of instruments, both percussive and string. His solo in the track is subtle and beautiful. It is not always necessary to lose yourself in long and impressive solos. It does add to the atmosphere.

Gamelan-like sounds kick off Ramayana. Let's say this song is a model for the album. What then can be said about the album as a whole? If music for you is like traveling to different places, different times and different atmospheres, then Ramayana as a song, and From Middle to East as an album, can impress even further, for a journey in a musical perspective was what Sebas Honing set out to do. He has made the first progressive metal-meets-world music travel guide to the Orient.

Had Sebas spent more time on travelling and henceforth on translating his experience to music, this would have become an album that would impress even more. Great to see that he has again succeeded in creating this on his own. I would however be curious as to what would be possible if Sebas would have worked this out within a band. Perhaps, on the other hand, that is just the reason why he has done it like this.

As the mind travels have now come to rest and I have the feeling of just wanting to get carried away, I take my leave back to Turkey and give this musical guide another spin.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 8 out of 10

Qirsh - Sola Andata
Qirsh - Sola Andata
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD
Record Label: Lizard Records
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 47:45
Info: Qirsh
Samples: Qirsh website
Track List:
Artico (8:20), Mercato Ghardaia (5:30), Mayflower (3:10), Figli del piccolo padre - I mostri di Rostov (8:25), 5A, finestrino (3:45), Rianimazione (5:50), Malaria (3:40), Vento delle isole (4:05), La nebbia (5:00).
"Well, here we go!" This is what Qirsh members must have thought back in 1992 when they decided to get together and start playing versions of Queen, U2 and Nirvana in the suburbs of Savona, Italy. It was the beginning of a long and eventful journey that has led them to publish their great debut album, Sola Andata (One Way).

Those early years served to cement a group of friends formed by Leonardo Digilio (keyboards), Pasquale Aricò (keyboards and vocals), Michele Torello (guitars), Danielle Olia (guitars and vocals), Marco Fazio (drums) and Andrea Torello (bass and vocals). A concert by Pink Floyd in 1994 shifted the group's outlook on music, and marked a 'before and after' in its playing and presentation. They were still very young and without sufficient musical technique, but the ideas were beginning to appear and, after many years of problems, concerts and new lives of its members', finally in 2013 Sola Andata got released.

As they explain, the whole album revolves around the idea of traveling. Even the CD cover reflects and reinforces that idea, although each song references a different journey. This concept is captured perfectly in the songs, with a totally progressive environment that makes you part of the "journey", partly due to the electronic atmospheres that accompany each song.

I could name the classic progressive influences of the great figures of Italian progressive music, but the members of Qirsh intend to step forward and bring new life to the Italian scene. Of course Mediterranean textures and shades are always present. We are talking about an Italian band after all.

The journey begins with Arctic and its first sounds introduce us into the atmosphere that Qirsh proposes, all conjugated to a clean and distant guitar chord and a changing rhythm that will accompany us throughout the disc. These same acoustic guitars present Mercato Ghardaia, but with a more positive tone and a faster pace, as if to remind us of a market in the town of Ghardaia, Algeria. A solo guitar is the perfect closure to this trip.

The next stage is Mayflower, an instrumental song with synthesisers and a triumphant pace, as the song progresses to end as it began. On the longest song on the album, Figli del piccolo padre - I mostri di Rostov, synthesisers and keyboards again tear, but now with a more rock rhythm. A good set of voices and percussion divide the topic, to finish again with power thanks to the mix of guitars and space sounds.

After the tour in Rostov we find another instrumental track, 5A, finestrino. This is slower, maybe as an interlude, but it fits perfectly within the disc thanks to the smoothness with which it starts. Of course it maintains the spatial and mysterious atmosphere of the entire album, whilst the introduction of a violin and soft guitar throughout the song, further accentuates the Mediterranean Qirsh sound.

Rianimazione serves to awaken the pause. The electro pop rhythm makes the feeling of a journey remain in our minds, while the dark tone and the distant sounds suggests those atmospheres that only Pink Floyd could create. If anyone is interested in the lyrics, you will notice that the issue is about an ambulance journey...

Following a similar sound line, we find the magnificent Malaria, another almost-instrumental with an electronic and futuristic rhythmic base, plus a guitar that comes and takes centre-stage while processed voices are accompanying. Let me say this song could be the Mediterranean Pure Reason Revolution new song.

In Vento delle isole Qirsh returns to recover more classic sounds. On the album's final step, La nebbia we find the perfect ending, with a more melancholy and deliberate sound. At times it seems that Steven Wilson could have an Italian cousin. The song is gaining in power and rage, maintaining that dense, dark environment to the finish, disappearing as low volume. Seeing the trajectory of the disc, some will think that this song should end in another way, but for me this is a perfect song to end the trip.

In Sola Andata Qirsh has gathered the good influences of classic Italian prog, plus European ambient sounds, adapting to today and getting a very interesting and very well-executed mix. It is a great album to listen while traveling and recommended if you want to hear something beautiful and different.
Conclusion:
Ignacio Bernaola: 8 out of 10

Kevin Serra - Mirage Reflection
Kevin Serra - Mirage Reflection
Country of Origin: Poland
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #:
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 25:47
Info: Kevin Serra
Track List:
Honour The Brave(5:07),Rising Aura(4:49),Mirage Reflection(5:20),Acid Dream(5:07),Optic Red(5:24)
Kevin Serra is a left handed Italian guitarist who now resides in Poland. Mirage Reflection is his first solo release, a five-song instrumental EP that reveals him to be a player with impressive technique. Serra's style incorporates the usual metal, Prog and jazz elements but he has developed taste that goes well with his impressive technique. The recording is nicely produced and the backing musicians led by drummer James Carta, provide their leader with excellent support.

Honour The Brave kicks things off with both power and flash. The rhythm section thunders mightily, while Kevin and co -guitarist Andrea Maccianti,trade incendiary solos. It is an exhilarating guitar romp that bodes well for what is to follow.

Rising Aura is heavier and riffier, with Serra winging his way through some well thought out soloing. Mirage Reflection has a bit more of a Prog/fusion feel to it and features some impressive drumming from James Carta. Acid Dream shows off some attractive guitar interplay plus some additional guitar soloing from William Stravato. It is probably my favorite track on the ep and a strong melding of Prog and jazz influences. Optic Red closes out the ep with the chatter of voices, the sound of breaking glass and more attractive soloing from Serra. He is clearly an impressive player who is headed for bigger things. My only reservation about Mirage Reflection is that the five instrumental tracks had a certain uniformity to them. I kept waiting for a change of pace, a knockout punch that would show a different side to Kevin's playing. That will have to wait until his next release.

In summation, Mirage Reflection is a very impressive solo debut that points to even greater things in Kevin's future. Mr Serra you may count me as a fan.
Conclusion:
Rick Collins: 7 out of 10

Times Up - Sea Of Schemes
Times Up - Sea Of Schemes
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Anmist Music
Catalogue #: GMTU004
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 49:59
Info: Times Up
Samples: Times Up website
Track List:
Chasing Ghosts (4:50), Meat On Bone: i. Meat On Bone ii. Betwixt Extremes iii. For Whom The Bell Tolls iv. Be Prepared For A Change (11:37), When Kings Fall i. My Liege In Decline ii. When Kings Fall iii. When I'm Dead And Free (9:50), Snakes And Ladders i.Lunar Disturbance ii. In My Desolate Dreams iii. Snakes And ladders (8:28), Sea Of Schemes i. Have Faith In Adam ii. Total Immersion iii. Sea Of Schemes iv. An Interval Of Brief Alignment v. Sea Witch (8:48), Let The North Wind Blow (6:26)
Time's Up are a new band to me, despite having formed in 2006 and having released two previous albums, Storm Coming In (2006) and Snow Queen in 2012. Sea Of Schemes is the first album written and recorded without the band's co-founder and vocalist Geoff Smith. After Smith's departure, a decision was made to make instrumental music. However that decision was overturned as the writing progressed, and a dedicated vocalist was bought into the band. Adding new blood also gave the band an opportunity to expand their line-up to a seven-piece to enable the achievement of a fuller sound and give them additional musical options.

The current line up is: Linda Barnes (vocals), Andy Gibbon (bass, rhythm guitars. vocals), Mike Hagland (lead guitar, slide guitar, banjo), Richard Lawton (saxophone, flute, keyboards, vocals), Steve Leman (drums, percussion), Ron Rogers (keyboards, percussion) and Bob Teague (keyboards, vocals, narration).

The album consists of four multi-part epics, top and tailed by two shorter tracks. Chasing Ghosts takes the role of something of a scene setter/overture and, although nicely sung, didn't really drag me in and demand that I sit up and pay attention to what was to follow. The choral sections are a nice addition, but the freaky electronic sounds were a bit confusing. I have to say though, the clarity is quite sublime; one of the benefits of having the album mastered at Abbey Road Studios.

Meat On Bone really kicks things off with a real blend of styles, something the band consciously decided to develop when writing the material. They wanted to let any musical ideas be incorporated, regardless of genre or how incongruous a mixture it may be, just so long as it got the 'juices flowing'. Consequently, this, and the other long tracks duck and dive, twist and turn, ebb and flow, and any other suitable popular expressions you can think of.

This could have resulted in a real uncoordinated mish mash, but actually it all seems to fit together very well. The album's original intention of being instrumental has ensured that the basic structures are coherent and work well together. The extended line-up means that there are plenty of different sounds on display, which are never truly dominated by any individual instrument. The vocal blend of male and female leads, works particularly well, and it is great to hear this type of approach being utilized. It is a style which seems to have gone out of fashion in recent years.

The musical style is undeniably progressive but forges a new way through familiarly-trodden paths, only occasionally getting lost or taking a wrong path. The second and titular part of When Kings Fall is a bit overblown and repetitive, but they end up on the right road in the end. Snakes And Ladders makes full use of the extended instrumental abilities of the band. Sax and banjo parts are entwined throughout, as well as some more of the delightful twin-lead vocals.

The opening to Sea Of Schemes is completely wonderful and a masterpiece of arranging. Without doubt this track should have opened the album, as it is exactly what is needed to entice the listener. However, it is not just the opening that is worthy of mention. The weird sounds from the intro, sort of similar to electronic whale calls, are more in context as a part of this piece, and even the dreaded 'narration' is not really a narration, but a whispered set of lines that add to the overall tone.

The final track Let The North Wind Blow, provides continuity with the band's last album, as it originates from the period that that album was recorded and does emphasise the change that the band has undergone in the past couple of years.

This is a nice effort with some very encouraging signs and flashes of excellence. Not quite mixing with the top tier of current prog acts, but certainly providing a solid enough performance to suggest they are promotion hopefuls.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 6 out of 10

ZDP - ZDP
ZDP - ZDP
Country of Origin: Portugal
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 21:36
Info: n/a
Samples: ZDP on Soundcloud
Track List:
Confused Gigolo (4:21), Brain Storm (5:58) , Bipolar (5:43) , Smell Of Light (5:33)
ZDP are a Portuguese fusion trio, who play tight, intricate and enjoyable jazz-rock in the tradition of Holdsworth and Isotope, with a nod to prog stylings in places. This is their first EP, but unfortunately I cannot find any info on how to obtain it apart from via the Soundcloud page linked above as a download. The CD version seems to be out of print.

There is nothing particularly original about the fusion on display here, but I can say that it is very well performed, with ensemble playing as tight as a nut, topped off with some fine riffage and soloing from guitarist Gustavo Zagonel. I suggest you contact him through his Facebook page if you want to find out more.
Conclusion:
Roger Trenwith: 6 out of 10

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Published Thursday 12 March 2015

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