ISSUE 2015-564

Reviews in this issue:

Duo Review
3RDegree - Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1
3RDegree - Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 50:36
Links:
Track List:
Hello, World! (0:15), The Gravity (7:50), This Is the Future (4:28), Life (2:38), The Best & Brightest (of the Dimmest Bulbs) (4:05), Circuit Court (5:10), Life at Any Cost (7:58), What It Means to Be Human (5:30), We Regret to Inform You (5:22), More Life (5:33)
André de Boer's Review
What we have here is Pure American Prog from this upper class band 3RDegree. Ones & Zeros: Volume 1 tells a near future story of the possibility to almost live forever without getting ill. Of course this is all about money really, set up by a company called 'Valhalla Biotech'. Although this really is a dark story, the music generally sounds positive and cheerful. The fantastic lyrics will show the other side of the storyline.

The eight-minute second track The Gravity outlines the compositions and concept in one epic song perfectly. I can already imagine myself fully emerging into this song when listening to it live later this year.

The next song This Is the Future sets off with some lovely riffing until, again jolly, vocals and harmonies kick in. Sounding positive but with a dark side. Life (reminding me of Moon Safari) and The Best & Brightest soothes our ears until Circuit Court directs us to a groovy mood. A wonderful, wonderful song.

Live At Any Costs again holds some superb keys by George Dobbs, excellent riffing by Bryan Ziegler and Eric Pseja, plus delightful vocals by all. When we get to What It Means To Be Human the composition becomes more heavy and dark, any cheerfulness has disappeared completely, despite the lovely British glamrock bits and pieces. The penultimate track We Regret To Inform You has some The Tubes elements, and brings some semi peace of mind while More Life, with the superb bass of Robert James Pashman, concludes a perfectly balanced mix of different musical styles.

So, Pure American Prog here from this upper class band. In total this is the band's fifth album, and their third from the reinstatement of 3RDegree with the fantastic 2008 album Narrow-Caster (DPRP recommended 9/10).

This Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1 album was preceded by The Long Division (recommended 9/10 and 9.5/10). Those marks have risen my expectations a bit. The writing of the songs is a tad deviated from before, and it is a bit different too because this is a full concept album. In the meantime the band has grown to a six-piece.

This album is the work of genius and is perfectly crafted in every aspect. Highly recommended. A 'volume 2' is on its way for 2016, presumably to score 10 out of 10. Ones & Zeros: Volume 1 is accessible from first spin but will need time to see all of its quality and uniqueness. There's no other way. If you do give this album some time, you will discover its sheer musical beauty and will uncover its many secrets.

There is an American and European tour coming soon, so visit the band's website for a venue close to you and check them out live. Please, for the love of music.
Raimond Fischbach's Review
Ones and Zeros really got me by surprise. Even though DPRP has rated 3RDegree's previous albums quite highly, I never warmed to the band. Until now.

This new album displays an arsenal of styles that never expected from the band. Their Yes and Genesis influences are held in contrast with vocal harmonies in the good tradition of The Beatles and Beach Boys. Guitar arpeggios in soul-ish Toto style lead into easy-listening choruses, or, at another moment, get accompanied by Saga-esque keyboard textures. We also learn that arrangements à la Zappa can coexist in harmony with the soul of Stevie Wonder. That even runs well when a Scandinavian folk melody is added to the mix. It's also thrilling how the band manages to open a song in contemporary classical mode and let the tune become heavy, then do a transition into a guitar solo that sounds like Camel, only to let the song end as a happy pop song. The way they melt all their influences together, reminds me a lot of Echolyn.

I could write down maybe 500 more words in that style to describe the album, as so much is going on there All the tunes go in totally unpredictable ways and the variety in every single track is so great, that you're surprised during every minute of the album. After several listens I am still exploring dozens of new nuances, and I guess it will take quite a lot more to decypher the album entirely.

On the downside, I am a little annoyed by the concept of the album, which focusses on the bad side of how digitalisation has changed our daily routines. As if there were not good aspects to this facet of modern living – such as the existence of DPRP!

Also, there is much room left to improve the production. Instruments have been played and melodies sung, it was all recorded and faders were put in position, but that was it. I do miss the notion here of great musicians tweaking every little bit to squeeze the best tone out of their instruments and terrorising the mixing console's equalizers to achieve the best polish.

But nevertheless I will listen to this album quite a lot in the near future, because it's muscial landscape is way too joyous to be neglected.
Conclusion:
André de Boer: 9 out of 10
Raimond Fischbach: 8.5 out of 10

Defying - Nexus Artificial
Defying - Nexus Artificial
Country of Origin: Poland
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 50:00
Links:
Track List:
Demiourgós (2:19), Newborn Sun (9:36), Portraits (7:32), Prayers (5:50), Mismatch (5:16), Imitation (7:10), Ningma (0:44), Anaesthesia (4:24), Suppression (6:13), Ab Originis (0:54)
Polish band Defying aim high with their debut album Nexus Artificial. Thoughtful songwriting, melodic riffage galore, and stellar drumming easily hoists them above the din of the many metal and darker prog bands hitting the scene. Receiving a quality, signed boxed limited edition CD was a prelude to caliber of music that was on tap.

The musical blueprints from Tool's Lateralus or Opeth's Blackwater Park are evident on many of the tracks. Missing are Maynard's sometimes delicate, often menacing, but otherwise screamy vocalisations. Instead Defying have opted to go full-on cookie monster. This is a common mechanism for heavier artists to deliver their lyrics, but it's an element to the music that will unfortunately turn away many prog purists long before they ever realise the value in the rest of the package. Other notable comparisons can be made with djent artists like Gojira, TesseracT, and Meshuggah. What is very obvious is that they have done their progressive metal homework and crafted music that runs the gamut of that sub-genre.

The vocal performance is adequate and is generally fitting for the music. I'd be interested to hear what they could do if they went the direction of what Mikael Akerfeldt did with Opeth, either mixing-in or transitioning entirely to a more traditional vocal style. The ultimate question they would be asking themselves is whether they are aiming to be a metal band or a prog band.

Missing are flamboyant, virtuosic guitar leads. The lead playing is more supportive of the hook than it is to showboat, contributing to the melodic sensibility of the song similar to modern Rush and, of course, Adam Jones's work with Tool. In contrast, there's a plethora of fantastic drumming on every track. It could even be considered a defining element of their sound, much in the way Danny Carey seemingly carries Tool's most renowned songs.

The album opens with a very Tool-esque two minutes of ambient noise, which transitions nicely into the very strong nine-plus minute, similarly Tool-inspired song Newborn Sun. Although sparse, the lyrics are concisely crafted like a dagger: "Glorious incantation / Before the empty eyes / They cannot see / The Sunrise ... Tempting smell of incense spreads / Bemuses and devours / So it starts the time of / Newborn Sun". Even though there's hints of 'English is not our first language,' they do a respectable job in both the signing and writing of lyrics that are as good as any band from an English speaking country.

Prayers, Mismatch, and Imitation are noteworthy songs, executed with proficiency and poise. Sludgy and daunting. The last minute of Mismatch stealing its identity straight from... you guessed it, Tool's Right in Two finale. Suppression winds its way through several 'moments', culminating in impeccably harmonised guitars.

Defying come out firing with this album. There's no shortage of great music here for any metal fan, and arguably plenty here for even the casual prog metal fan. It seems silly to even write more about it when I could be spending that time listening to the album. I can't think of many metal albums I've enjoyed more over the years, which is why they're receiving the highest rating I've given in my short time doing reviews for DPRP. Now I suggest you head over to their bandcamp page and give the album a spin.
Conclusion:
Kevin Heckeler: 9.5 out of 10

Delirium I.P.G. - L'Era della Menzogna
Delirium I.P.G. - L'Era della Menzogna
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 52:01
Links:
Track List:
L'Inganno del Potere (6:28), Il Nodo (6:35), L'Angelo del Fango (3:45), Fuorilegge (4:16), La Deriva (3:54), L'Era della Menzogna (6:57), La Voce dell'Anima (3:33), Basta (5:19), Il Castello del Mago Merlino - Come un Tempo (11:29)
Delirium look back to a long musical history. Lead singer and flutist Ivano Fossati, together with guitarist Mimmo di Martino, brought the band into being in Genoa in 1970 by renaming a band called I Sagittari, in which they had been active since 1962. Delirium were definitely one of the numerous "2nd level prog bands" in Italy, which whilst not reaching the awareness level of the "big ones" (PFM, Banco and Le Orme) were able to make their mark at least in the national music scene. Delirium gained a high profile in Italy with a hit single in 1971 and a decent performance at the 1972 San Remo Music Festival with the song Jesahel, from their first album Dolce Aqua, released in 1971. Why am I saying this? Because it shows that Delirium have always included some pop elements in their music.

Ivano Fossati left in 1972 being replaced by Englishman Martin Grice on flute, sax and vocals. The band thus continuing without a real lead singer. Delirium produced two more albums before they split up in 1975.

Only 32 years later, original members Martin Grice, Ettore Vigo and Peppino Di Santo reformed Delirium, added I.P.G.. (International Progressive Group) to the band's name (I don't know why, maybe at the request of their new Black Widow record company, to avoid any mix-up with any bands of the same name). They released the live album, Live – Vibrazione Notturne, followed by Il Nome del Vento in 2009.

The current line-up on L'Era della Menzogna(The Era of Untruth) consists of original Delirium members Ettore Vigo (keyboards, backing vocals), and Martin Grice (saxophone, flute, backing vocals), plus Fabio Chighini, who joined in 2009 (bass, ukulele, backing vocals), together with the new ones Alfredo Vandresi (drums, percussion, synths), Alessandro Corvaglia, having joined from La Maschera di Cera (lead vocals) and Michele Cusato (guitar). They are supported by a number of guest musicians.

What does their music sound like? Having listened to the first two tracks, I thought that this was great, sounding like a cross between Jethro Tull and VDGG, plus some influences from 70s Italian bands such as Osanna and Latte e Miele. Tight, melodic and complex, but not overloaded; Keyboards and guitar complement each other nicely with some fluid bass playing, plus Martin Grice's flute and sax adding a slight jazzy mood to the music.

However, the music does not continue in the same vein, at least not for my prog-accustomed (and prog-longing) ears. With the two succeeding songs, the band goes on a foray onto pop/rock territory, rather reminding me of what fellow countrymen Zucchero and Eros Ramazzotti are doing. Both are highly respectable and well-known names in the Italian (and international) music scene, but not necessarily connected with progressive rock. Especially with L'Angelo del Fango, a somewhat cheesy ballad, the band probably would stand a good chance to repeat the 1972 good performance at today's San Remo Music Festival. Don't get me wrong, it is decent stuff, but not necessarily prog.

The same holds true for La Voce dell'Anima, an upbeat, danceable track with a great sax solo by Martin Grice. The songs L'Era della Menzogna, Basta (nice synthesiser melodies) and especially the only long track, Il Castello del Mago Merlino, are more progressive by nature. In the latter song, reminiscences to La Maschera di Cera are notable, due to Alessandro Corvaglia's fervent singing style, coupled with some neo-prog guitar playing, lush keyboards and the use of the saxophone as the lead instrument. I personally had expected a bit more energy from that song (it is rather mid-tempo), but it certainly constitutes a worthy ending to what is overall a really enjoyable album.

Who will this album appeal to? Certainly to fans of the bands and musicians mentioned above. Whether you will like it or not depends how you approach this album. If one is not too dogmatic about what prog is or should be, the pop elements are easily tolerable and the album is fun to listen to. People looking for very accessible prog interspersed with pop/rock elements, a very solid production (taken care of by drummer Alfredo Vandresi), melodic singing in Italian, variety without undue complexity, good musicianship without too strong a dominance of a particular instrument, and a well-dosed use of flute and sax will be attracted by Delirium's release. It will certainly get further spins in my CD player, and I hope the band will not take another 6 years to release the successor.
Conclusion:
Thomas Otten: 7 out of 10

Kamelot - Haven
Kamelot - Haven
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 54:00
Links:
Track List:
Fallen Star (4:39), Insomnia (4:14), Citizen Zero (5:50), Veil of Elysium (3:55), Under Grey Skies (4:53), My Therapy (4:26), Ecclesia (0:44), End of Innocence (3:50), Beautiful Apocalypse (4:26), Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy) (5:55), Here's to the Fall (4:05), Revolution (4:49), Haven (2:14)
After two years, American power metal band Kamelot is striking back with their new album called Haven to face a huge double challenge: to keep the high standard reached by their previous release Silverthorne and to confirm Tommy Karevik's status as singer and frontman. To spoil the surprise right now: all expectations have been met! The band have managed their major line-up change very well and kept their trademark sound and musical style intact, even better than before. Haven also made a wonderful debut on Billboard charts and reached the first #1 position on Hard Rock Album Chart, making it the most successful album in the history of the band. Other categories in which the band appeared when Haven debuted: Top 200 Billboard Chart: #75, Top Hard Music Chart: #3, Top Current Album Chart: #40, Top Internet Chart: #19, Top Indie Current Album Chart: #6.

Overall, I have to say that Kamelot have reached a higher level and raised their own musical standards with this album. Thomas Youngblood stated: "The album has an undertone of a world going insane. There is a grey cloud that is forming over our world. We are here to find that silver lining with an album that is both dark and melancholy yet uplifting and giving the listener a Haven in a world gone mad." The band maintained their mixture between power metal and symphonic metal as their major musical style but this time I've felt a more remarkable progressive metal influence in their arrangements, sound and effects.

I consider this album a perfect balance between power, melancholy, and aggressive arrangements amalgamated into a single timeline, the listener will never be bored as the tracks are played, is like a good storytelling that have your full attention. We have powerful and fast rhythms in songs like Insomnia and Veil of Elysium, great trademark tracks like Fallen Star, End of Innocence, and My Therapy, and the melancholy in songs like the beautiful Under Grey Skies and, my highlight of the album, Here´s to the Fall.

I feel like the band is a more integrated unit, like on some kind of clock working with on intense feeling. Thomas Youngblood and Oliver Palotai are exploring new sounds on guitars and keyboards respectively, which gives to this album a more progressive approach but keeping all their power and fast rhythms. Casey Grillo states himself as an amazing drummer, fast, precise and doing impressive fills and changing timings and rhythms. Karevik's voice gives its own personality to every single song of this album, he demonstrates his great versatility and felling as the great singer he is and stating that Khan's era is finally over. Without a doubt, Kamelot is the place where Karevik's has to be.

Haven also features remarkable guest appearances by Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist, Arch Enemy) on vocals and growls, Charlotte Wessels (Delain) on vocals and Troy Donockley (Nightwish) on Tin whistles, Sascha Paeth is again in the producer spot. Stefan Heilemann and Gustavo Sazes are the men behind the artwork of this album, graphic design finely crafted, elegant and continuing with the graphic and photographic style created since The Black Halo.

I particularly enjoyed this album very much. I have to admit that Silverthorn remains an album very hard to beat, but if this is the path the band will walk from now on they will have too much surprises for us in a future. A very well crafted album, beautifully produced. The vinyl edition has a bonus track called At First Light and a limited edition have a bonus CD which includes the full instrumental version of Haven.

I strongly recommend this album to our kind readers, one of the best releases by far on this year. Now it's up to you!
Conclusion:
Guille Palladino: 9.5 out of 10

Néodyme - La Signature du Temps
Néodyme - La Signature du Temps
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 50:43
Links:
Track List:
Fuite d'Attention (Attention Leak) (4:53), L'invasion (The Invasion) (9:01), Le Jour de la Nuit (The Day of the Night) (7:23), Effet Domino (Domino Effect) (8:18), Dans L'oubli (Forgotten) (6:18), En Orbite (In Orbit) (14:50)
Néodyme is a (mostly) instrumental band from Canada. If I could describe their music in a few words it would be something resembling a mixture of Änglagård and Jethro Tull with some early Dream Theater influences as well.

The first track, Fuite d'Attention, starts off with heavy guitar and organ, and with the exception of a brief section of piano, doesn't really let up until the end. This is actually a good opening track, but it does lack a lot of the dynamics evident in the rest of the album and doesn't really set the stage for what follows.

The next two tracks, L'invasion (The Invasion) and Le Jour de la Nuit (The Day of the Night) are definitely more representative of the band's overall sound and style. This is where I'm starting to hear the influences of the bands mentioned previously. The song structures from here follow a pattern of alternating, soft acoustic guitar, flute and piano (with some occasional trumpet) and heavy guitar and synth. While I really like how dynamic the music is, my one complaint is that a lot of the transitions seem sudden and often clash with each other. Although this really isn't something that detracts a whole lot from my enjoyment, and if you are already a fan of progressive rock, this is probably something that you have become used to.

Effet Domino (Domino Effect) is my favorite track. It starts out with some fairly heavy guitar and keyboards before turning into a Spanish influenced shuffle, and finally settling into an atmospheric piano, guitar and flute section. Parts of this wouldn't be out of place on Epilog. I think of all of the tracks on the album, this one feels the most coherent.

Dans L'oubli (Forgotten) is the most mellow track and also the only one to feature vocals. The lyrics seem to be about dealing with death, which is an interesting subject, but there are a few times where the delivery seems a forced and melodramatic. I like the dark and sombre piano playing, it really adds to the feel of the song.

The final 14-minute track, En Orbite (In Orbit), has a lot going on in it. While it follows the same pattern as the previous songs, ideas seem to be greater in number and occur with more frequency. I kind of wish instead of the rapid fire transition between parts, they were expanded and fleshed-out a little more. For example, the guitar/flute/piano section starting at around 5:43 has a really cool vibe to it, but it just ends about a minute later and goes into something else unrelated.

While there are a few things that don't quite sit well with me (transitions mostly), I really enjoyed this album and would like to hear more from this band in the future. Recommended for fans of instrumental rock/metal.
Conclusion:
Chris Jackson: 7 out of 10

Marco Ragni - Mother from the Sun
Marco Ragni - Mother from the Sun
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 52:29, 41:39
Links:
Track List:
Disc 1, The Rise and Fall of Human Heart: Into the Wheel of Time (9:13), Sea of Vibes (15:15), Panting (1:03), Heaven of Marble (17:45), Faint Memory (4:40), The Light Is Burning (2:22), Get Out of Here (2:10)
Disc 2, The Awakening of Consciousness: Far Beyond The Line (22:05), The First Time I Saw the Sun (1:19), Skies Painted by the Wind (7:31), In the Air (3:13), Breathing (1:18), Northern Light (4:00), Mother from the Sun (2:12)
Marco Ragni has been a working musician since the late 80s. After playing in a number of bands, he started his solo career in 2010 with the release of the album, In My Eyes. In the five years since, Marco has proven himself to be quite prolific, with Mother from the Sun being his seventh solo release. To further emphasise the level of his output, this is a double album!

Marco is a multi-instrumentalist and he effectivly handles the bulk of the keyboard, guitar and drum duties. Regrettably, much if not all of the drumming is programmed. This doesn't prove to be detrimental to the songs, but it does create more of a demo feel at times. Aside from that shortcoming, the other musical performances are impressive. There is a heavy Pink Floyd vibe introduced right from the start, which remains consistent throughout the length of the album. The David Gilmour-influenced guitar solos can be fun, but the album does beg for a bit more diversity as it progresses. Regardless, Into the Wheels of Time is an impressive opening track. Reminicent of 80s era Floyd, the song is entertaining and contains some skillful guitar work from Marco. Though he does a fine job instrumentally, Marco often seems to stretch the limits of his vocal range. For that reason, the material would benefit from the acquisition of another singer or the use of guest vocalists. There are moments where his voice sounds fine, but more often than not, his singing creates a negative distraction.

Three long form songs define the core of Mother from the Sun. The first of which, Sea of Vibes, offers up a variety of moods throughout its 16-minute length. From its mellow, acoustic opening, to the aggressive closing guitar solo, the song shifts through several different musical styles. Some are more successful than others, but ultimately it is one of the highlights of the album. The same cannot be said for the next epic track, Haven of Marble. Again, a lot of musical ground is covered and the Pink Floyd influence continues, this time with the inclusion of spoken word moments similar to those found on The Wall. The results aren't as satisfying as the previous epic and a second half shift towards ambiance proves to be misplaced. This track also stands as one of the key showcases of Marco's vocal limitations. The last epic on the album, Far Beyond The Line is a mix of early Mike Oldfield and Meddle-era Pink Floyd. Heavy on strong instrumental passages, the vocal sections again prove to be a hindrance. Overall the track has some standout moments.

Built around these longer tracks are more concise songs that are acoustic in nature and occassionally instrumental. They are often effective, but really serve as transitional pieces rather than fleshed-out compositions. In the Air, Northern Light and the album closing title track are relatively successful attempts at more straightforward rock songs.

All things considered, Mother From The Sun is well performed, but also flawed. In the end, it faces the same challenges as other double albums by needing to justify its length. Had it focused on the epics and a few of the shorter tracks, it could have made a more effective single disc. As it stands though, it seems padded. It is also one of those albums that is expertly performed, but somehow just doesn't quite jell. The centerpiece epics don't fully come together compositionally and the simpler tracks don't often rise above average. The previously mentioned vocal challenges do the album no favors. Regardless, Marco Ragni is clearly talented and there is enough on display to indicate that there is possibly a great album in him. If you like your prog heavy on Pink Floyd influnces, there is a lot to enjoy here. Mother from the Sun does contains some recommendable moments, but overall it just misses the mark.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 5 out of 10

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Published Sunday 30 August 2015

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