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Reviews in this issue:
Addyction - Wonderful Delusion
This is a one-man project created by Polish guitarist Adam Muszynski. Known locally as a member of metal bands Divine Insanity and Hornad, Adam has been working on this project since 2007, led by a "fascination for more complex, progressive music".
Addiction (5:20), Bridges Left to Burn (4:17), Lost Control & Kneeling (Nocturnal Desires) (4:46), Abandoned (5:18), The Interlude of Pain (1:36), Wonderful Delusion (6:34), Apoptosis (5:14), Filled With Void (4:59), Journey of a Lifetime (5:44), Until We Meet Again... (5:01)
Wonderful Delusion is a guitar-led instrumental album on which Adam has created and manipulated everything that you see and hear. He also mixed and mastered the whole thing.
I have total admiration for any musician, indeed anyone, who manages to bring their dreams to reality. On this album Adam covers a lot of styles, with metal, blues and jazz being the most notable.
The variety is not so much within each song but across the album as a whole, with each track sticking to its selected genre. It offers a good showcase for Adam's undoubted technique and ability, with plenty of opportunities to showcase his clear influence from the likes of Steve Vai.
For a prog audience this is not complex music, nor does it push the boundaries in any way, and the limitations of the one-man-band format means the drumming, bass and keyboards add little to the mix. The drum (machine) production and playing is of a low standard.
An enjoyable listen for fans of guitar instrumental rock/metal albums, and Adam would be a great asset to any bands looking to augment their line-ups.
Echo Us - II:XII, A Priori Memoriae
II:XII, A Priori Memoriae is the final album in a trilogy by Echo Us. Based in Portland, Oregon, Echo Us is the recording name of multi-instrumentalist Ethan Matthews. He plays everything on the album except flute, oboe and harp.
Vestige (3:28), 'A' DATA: i. Exordium (Apologue) (11:06), ii. Solum Vobis (Only You) (3:32), iii. Inventionem Memoriam (Chrysalis) (2:41), iv. Residuum (Remainder) (3:41), Nightlight (4:22), Memento (1:44). 'B' DATA: i. Codicillus (From Far Away) (9:52), ii. Restituendo (Where We Dream to Go) (4:53), iii.Viseretque (We Always Knew) (10:30), iv. Denique in Perpetuum (Beyond the Blue Horizon) (6:05)
The album features two long-form, multi-part suits called 'A' DATA and 'B' DATA, and a couple of other, very much related pieces. Piano and synthesiser structures go along with sparse percussion and ethereal choral chanting, and this gives the overall album unity. Added to the instruments already mentioned, it is in these compositions that Matthews plays some delicious guitar.
His electric guitar playing puts me in mind of Mike Oldfield whilst his acoustic, classical guitar reminds me of Steve Hackett. Along with the guitars, the use of oboe, flute and harp give a great deal of warmth and organic colour to the new-age ambience of the album.
There is some idiosyncratic meandering in the opening two tracks, which never seem to settle into the symphonic structures found on the rest of the album. The album benefits from close attention. It is a contemplative, atmospheric work where the ambient side does not dominate. It has a number of fine, almost pop melodies, and its instrumental passages are sometimes breathtaking, especially with Matthews' impressionistic, gliding, guitar work.
My only caveat would be Matthews' singing. It is a little characterless and is put into stark relief when guest vocalist Henta sings, especially on the charming Nightlight. Overall though, a fine album that mixes Vangelis-style keyboards with the Oldfield of Ommadawn or Hergest Ridge. If you thought that Oldfield's last album was a tad disappointing, then try this.
Eyevory - Hope
Eyevory is a progressive folk rock band from Bremen, Germany. Their music is a colorful mixture,
combining joyful flute melodies, two female voices, and catchy hooks with hard rocking guitar
riffs. For two years in a row the band won the German rock and pop award (Deutscher Rock &
Pop Preis) as the best progressive band. The current line-up is: Jana Frank (vocals, bass),
Kaja Fischer (vocals, flute and keyboards) and the only male in the band, David Merz (guitar, trigger pedals).
The Perfect Empire (5:05), Sorry (4:20), Hope (4:31), Bonus tracks(live): Hope (4:57), Requiem Aeternam (9:02)
The band released their first EP The True Bequest in 2012 with Frank Bornemann (Eloy) in the
legendary Horus Sound Studio in Hannover. Eyevory released their debut album Euphobia
worldwide in April 2013 and started to tour.
In 2014 they started a European tour with Saga, after which the Saga drummer Mike Thorne
decided to record an EP with them, which was released on November 28th 2014.
This EP contains three tracks, with a limited edition CD having two live bonus tracks. The first track is a powerful heavy rock song with a catchy tune and some fierce
drumming Mike Thorne. Together with guitarist David Merz he dominates this track. The
style reminds me a bit of Starship (We built this city).
The track Sorry is a nice, radio-friendly rock song and the final studio track entitled Hope
is a piano-based ballad with some nice string parts by guest musicians.
The vocals by both women don't really do it for me. They're not bad, but sound a bit flat (they sound better live!). Jana Frank is an admirer of Dutch female singer Anouk but she
really doesn't reach that standard.
One of the live bonus tracks Requiem Aeternam is the most interesting because it really shows the
potential of this German band. It's a very bombastic, almost mini-symphony with some
great guitar work by Merz and nice flute by Fischer.
So the conclusion is that this EP has its ups and downs. However the live tracks tell us that
this is a band we should keep an eye(vory) on!
Freeway Jam - Piccoli Mondi
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Finding information on this band has not been easy. There was no press release with the CD and searching the internet led to sites that had not been updated in ages or were under construction. There was even no mention of the band on the record label site. However, persistence unearthed that this Italian version of Freeway Jam, a very common band name it would seem, hail from the Lombardy region of Italy. This is either their second or third album.
Testa di pazzo (3:55), Son do Mar (6:18), Der blaue Reiter (8:18), Sur (8:18), Istanbul City (4:18), El Bailarino Bebado do Rio (4:55), Piccoli Mondi (17:18), Danny's Land (6:01), Maruboto in Hollywood (5:06)
They play a highly enjoyable, light jazz fusion, mostly instrumental, that becomes deeply soulful on the few occasions when singer Silvia Dalla Noce adds her dulcet tones. The band features a traditional keys/guitar/rhythm section line-up, and are led by guitar player Luca Gramignoli.
As the band has had a largely unchanged line-up, sincethe year 2000, they play with the confidence and ease that comes with the long association. The songs, as their band name implies, are structured for improvised soloing from Luca and keys player Davide Pavesi, but it never gets rambling or aimless, there is always a tight rhythm from drummer Renzo Marchetti and bassist Danilo somenzi.
Fusion is the base, but the Latin-Italian flavour often shines through, both in the music and the percussion, making this a sunny little record. The title track, translating as "Small World", is an epic of over 17 minutes, in five movements that languidly sashays and shimmies its way through its defined sections, into a glorious sunset over Lake Como.
This is an album for those of you who like your fusion not too heavy or complex. Fans of Snarky Puppy should love this, for although Freeway Jam are coming from a slightly different place, the vibe is vey similar, and it should be a winner for fans of jam bands as well. It's just a shame the band seem to have a rather low profile in an age where information demand is instantly gratified for fear that the searcher loses interest.
Fright Pig - Out of the Barnyard
An astounding and bizarre name and concept, yet somehow being utterly compelling, this is the independent, debut release from Fright Pig. Imagine a mix of your favourite harder-edged prog bands, embellished with a myriad of keyboards and some fret-melting guitar work in the vein of Malmsteem, Satriani, and Vai. Then add to that heady brew, a huge slice of humour, in both the concept and execution. In essence that is what Fright Pig bring to the table, lying somewhere close to prog metal, yet replete with subtle and delicate overtones.
Re- Creation (6:37), Incident at Pembroke (5:06), The Meaning of Dreams (6:26), Barque at the Lune (4:32), Darkest of Fears (8:28), Presumido (4:36), The Claustrophobia of Time (8:28)
These seven songs will take you on an epic journey into the darkness of the barnyard. I'm not talking Orwell's Animal Farm here, rather the tale of a man descending into madness. So whilst the subject matter may be dark and somewhat somber, it doesn't take itself too seriously. Rather it uses intelligence, throwing in a few curves along the way, to keep you guessing.
We have moments such as the dueling banjo-style mandolins on Incident at Pembroke. A stunning instrumental piece, which one could easily associate with a certain Ritchie Blackmore, if he still played "rock" rather than the medieval music that he trots out nowadays. The songs are split between four vocal pieces and three instrumentals, these three being the ones which tend to portray the humour Fright Pig hold dear.
In addition, the entire concept is backed up by some astounding artwork from Ed Unitsky (The Tangent, UPF and many more). This is a visual treat that works in tandem with the music, to create something really rather special and substantially grandiose.
Whilst it may fail to last for 45 minutes, it's a rollicking, roller-coaster three quarters of an hour, that is well worthy of your investment. Musically this is excellent with some great players and a guitarist who can shred with the best of them. Vocally these songs are also very strong, being sung with a clear voice with some superlative harmonies in the mix too.
So whoever Fright Pig is/are (and he/they can be discovered but I won't give the game away here, you can do your own digging if interested) they are certainly on my wavelength here. Touches of ELP and Deep Purple abound, yet this is no mere cloning exercise. Rather these classic artists serve as reference points for the fertile imagination and the mystery that is Fright Pig.
A live DVD from Rosfest 2014 is currently being developed. I've really enjoyed listening to this one and recommend it, especially to those who like the heavier end of progressive rock, as there is a plethora of fine music to enjoy here.
As always with the best albums, it needs a few spins to let the concept grab you, but this is one hog roast you don't want to miss out on. A very accomplished debut indeed.
Andreas Hack - Pieces
Have you ever heard of the German band Frequency Drift? If the answer is 'yes', then it is quite likely that you have also heard of Andreas Hack.
Abandoned (8:01), Before the Fall (7:17), Lonely (4:16), Sand (5:48), Hashima (6:44), Ghostly (4:37), Barcode (5:58), Spacesport (4:26), Under the Ice (7:24)
Mr Hack is one of the thriving persons behind Frequency Drift, and Pieces is his first full-length solo album. Andreas recorded and performed nine different pieces of music for this outing, forming nearly an hour's worth of electronic, ambient, chamber music.
In the cinematic style of Frequency Drift, Andreas has composed and performed the nine songs with incredible perfection in terms of the sound. If you let it, each will grab and hold you, and take you on a journey of thought beyond your imagination.
Pieces is a work for the music lovers among us, who appreciate mellow and emotional music. In the case of Andreas, add 'cinematic', just because this is how he composes his songs.
Frequency Drift can become more rock-orientated, so be prepared to listen to and enjoy the softer side of yourself, and of course music. Various soundscapes and lush moments that at times hint towards Klaus Schulze and other more electronic and ambient music.
This album has been growing and growing on me ever since I first heard it. I specifically like it when the softer acoustic piano pieces are played, it really makes me relax, with an easy, tranquill feeling, drifting to far away places in the land of ....
Mater Thallium - Abandoned by the Sun
Doom-burdened prog from Norway, with a storyline about the disappearance of a young girl. If you've had a bad day/week/month at the office/bookies/sports field, then this is certainly not an album to lift your mood. Please judge this album by its cover.
Mycobacterium (5:23), Anhedonia (6:51), She Killed All of Them (8:54), Tumour of Dysphoria (7:40), Your Dying Day (2:10), Emily Is Dead (6:14), Life Before Death (6:02)
Abandoned .. is the second offering from a quartet out of Trondheim which boasts two of the most sublime, hat-topped mullets ever to grace a band photo. Musically it is not so much of a Rock Opera, more a Doom Opera. The storytelling is actually very good. It unveils different perspectives of the girl's disappearance, from those associated with the child and the event, most of whom come to their own sticky end. There is a nice twist in the open-ending, which I shall not spoil.
The music twists between scene-setting for the story (a forlorn church choir for example bookends one song), to a steady timbre of softer and heavier moments.
The longer-mid-range length of the songs, allows for enough variety and for each track to 'progress'. The Black Sabbath and King Crimson influences boom at you. It is relentlessly bleak. The exhortatory organ adds the gothic quota. The playing isn't complex at all. The 'prog' is more to do with the blending of influences and story-telling styles.
It is certainly interesting and there are some musical moments to admire, but this is an album Abandoned By The (product)Sun. My appalling pun is equal to the quality of the drum sound. The out-of-tune guitar and heavy distortion every time the vocals and riffage exceeds 'gentle', may be intentional but it just sounds crap. The mix and levels are all over the place, which just distracts from everything else. Sloppy sounding albums are a no-no for me.
Fans of doom-laden prog who see my negatives as positives, may wish to add a few extra points to my score and explore further. But everyone else would be better looking on the brighter side of life.
Red Jasper - The Great and Secret Show
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||Angel Air Records
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Red Jasper started out as part of the 80s neo-prog scene and released four studio albums, the last of which was Anagramary back in 1997. They folded soon after, when lead vocalist Davey Dodds left to pursue his business interests. The reissue of their back catalogue in 2012, and renewed interest prompted the band to reform and record this latest CD, their first in 17 years.
The Great and Secret Show (8:03), An Hour of Time (5:43), The Time is Right (7:04), Ray of Darkness (6:02), New Man (3:55), Bonds Beyond Reason (5:54), Living the Life (6:10)
Dodds doesn't figure in the reformed line-up, so following in the footsteps of Genesis and Spock's Beard, drummer and backing vocalist David Clifford has stepped up to the microphone, assuming the role of lead singer. Anyone that's heard Clive Nolan's excellent musical Alchemy will already be familiar with Clifford's fine voice. Taking his place on the drum stool for this album is Nick Harredance, on loan from Shadowland, although new man Florin Werner will be a more permanent replacement. Otherwise it's business as usual, with Robin Harrison (guitars), Lloyd George (keyboards) and Jon Thornton on bass.
The 17-year hiatus doesn't seem to have affected the band's sound, which remains resolutely neo-prog, with the song and the melody being all important. The Great and Secret Show takes its inspiration (or its title at least) from the 1989 fantasy novel of the same-name written by author and film director Clive Barker.
Opening with a haunting flute theme, the title song is awash with Mellotron samples, synth and piano, underpinning Clifford's warm and expressive vocal. Fish-era Marillion comes to mind, reinforced by Harrison's melodic guitar lines and Harredance's marching drums, that propel An Hour of Time.
The spacious The Time is Right allows more room for soloing, with saxophone from guest Pat D'Arcy and a showy guitar break from Harrison sharing the honours. Bassist Thornton shines during the intro to the heartfelt Ray of Darkness, which is very ballad-like in tone and mood, whilst the bluesy guitar solo at the heart of New Man brings Pink Floyd to the table.
An offbeat, staccato riff adds a rhythmic quality to the penultimate Bonds Beyond Reason, which also benefits from the presence of Soheila Clifford sharing lead vocal duties. Like her father, Soheila appeared in the stage version of Alchemy. The concluding Living the Life, an uncompromising tale of life on the road, has a retro 80s sound, complete with swirling synths that could have been lifted from Toyah's 1981 UK hit It's A Mystery.
This is a solid and entertaining release from Red Jasper, and the fact that the songs linger in the memory long after the CD has stopped spinning is a testimony to their quality. True, the music is not overly complex and the arrangements relatively fuss-free, but that only adds to the appeal.
Alberto Rigoni - Overloaded
The fanbase of Italian bass player composer Alberto Rigoni is growing very fast.
And this is no wonder if you listen to the man's albums.
What's On Your Mind (1:39), Overloaded (7:53), Chron (5:13), Floating Capsule (3:28), Corruption (5:37), Ubick (5:20), Multitasking (1:49), Liberation (5:40), Glory of Life (3:49)
He starts the album by asking the listener "What's on your mind", tapping away on his bass guitar kicking off the album.
Really exploding in sound on track two, a genuine heavy progressive rock song with a melodic bass not completely at the front of the sound at first but amply present. Around the 2 minute mark the bass clearly is the leading instrument on the album.
Throughout the entire album Alberto Rigoni displays that he is a cunning and virtuoso bass player.
Heavy melodic bass one moment, fuzzy bass the next and then again fluid and very clear bass in Floating Capsule. Continuously surprising the listener. Alberto's bass is, quoting Forrest Gump, "like a Box of Chocolates, you never know what your gonna get".
For the album Alberto has had the assistance of guitarists Marco Sfogli (Overloaded), Fabrizio Leo (Liberation), Simone Mularoni (Corruption and Ubick). Overloaded is a must have album for anyone playing bass themselves. With this album Alberto Rigoni firmly places himselves among the top of the worlds bass players of today.
Published Sunday 10 May 2015