I think I should start by saying that I generally have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with metal music. On one hand, some of my favorite albums of all time are metal, but it took a lot
of time and effort to find them over the ones that I didn't like. The prospect of finding another Cynic (Focus) or Opeth (Ghost Reveries) is enough to keep me coming back for more. Although
I do like parts of Altered States of Consciousness, overall it unfortunately belongs on the large pile of "doesn't do it for me" albums.
The first track, Distortions of Perception, starts out very similar to older Symphony X with sweep picking over a heavy guitar backdrop. While it does eventually settle into a slower, more
melodic guitar and bass duet, it wastes no time jumping back into the main opening riff. The constant sweep picking becomes kind of fatiguing after a while. In fact, it almost reminds
me of something that you would hear from a CD in a guitar technique book.
The next track, Nocturnal Haven has two versions; one with vocals from Between the Buried and Me's Tommy Rogers and one without. What I find odd about this is that both tracks are included on the main
album. This would make sense if one was a bonus track. Being the longest track on the album, this definitely has the most variety. The opening, sounds like it could have been lifted directly off
Meshuggah's Nothing album. I have never actually heard Between the Buried Me before, so this is the first time I have heard Tommy Rogers sing. He has a great voice that fits very well with the slower parts
of the music, although, I'm not sure I really I like the guttural, screaming parts.
Blindsight and Delusions follow in a similar manner to the first track. I really like the use of harmonised guitar on these songs, it adds a very futuristic feel. My biggest complaint here is
that it becomes apparent pretty quickly that the songs are following a very similar pattern. Because of this, I had a hard time listening through the album in one sitting. The guitar playing is
good, but there is absolutely no variation or experimentation whatsoever. The same arpeggio's are beaten to death over and over.
Synesthesia is mostly a solo bass and clean guitar duet with some short bursts of heaviness thrown in. I think the dynamics between soft and heavy are great in this and wish there was more of it.
There's also some great bass playing on this track. The final number, Subliminal Perception, also follows in a similar vein, although it is a little a little more on the spacey side.
I couldn't find anything related to this on their website, but it appears that the song titles follow very similarly to concepts in Peter Watts' science fiction book Blindsight. I wonder if this
is just a coincidence?
As a (not so very good) guitar player, I understand the dedication and focus it takes to compose, learn and play this type of music. So, right off the bat, they get my respect. However, I don't
think this really adds anything new or exciting to instrumental/shred music. Although, if you already are fans of this type of music you may enjoy this.
Smell Of Prey (7:58), In Good Faith (7:22), Woe Is Me (6:32), Paradigm (12:12), Staring At The Sun (7:29), Fisheye Love (7:25)
Hailing from Kiel in northern Germany, Ailing Sun is a four-piece progressive rock act that uses elements from classic rock, prog-metal and folk in their sound. This is their follow-up to their 2013 debut release Transient Passengers. Ailing Sun use the classic rock line-up of two guitars, bass and drums but with a progressive twist.
The album opens with forest noises (birdsong and running water) that is soon joined by haunting didgeridoo and slow-building tribal drumming. Then comes the sit-up moment, as in crashes the electricity. Finely honed riffs propel Smell of Prey from this acoustic opening into Riverside-like prog rock and metal territory. There is a terrific melody here, fleshed out by Marian Klein's vocals. He is a very engaging vocalist with a wonderfully, dark-hued tone. The use of a riff-based electric guitar solo gives it a sublime quality. Ailing Sun set their stall out right from the off, and it turns out to be a great stall.
The album continues with a consistent set of melodic and lyrically interesting progressive songs, mixing-up riffs and extended solo guitar lines, subtle bass and drum work. The classic rock influence on In Good Faith is given a proper prog make-over with a rolling drum pattern, and a lovely, extended guitar line to drive the melody. It would not be out of place on John Wesley's excellent Disconnect album.
With the fierce and epic Paradigm the band moves into a full-on prog-metal workout, which is only spoilt by a rather extended coda. This coda is used as a contrast to the more folk influenced Staring At The Sun. Introduced by acoustic guitar it features an exquisite violin solo from guest artist Sophie Sommerfeld. She then goes on to spar with Moritz Punke's lead guitar in the album's moment of absolute beauty. The album closes with the heavy prog and chunky guitars of Fisheye Love.
The lyrics on this album seem to have a rough concept running through them, concerning our treatment of the environment. This is echoed in the cover art's photo of a dead or dying tree. Mind you, any band that can get the word 'firmament' into a lyric, is already one-up in my book.
There are delights to be found on every track on Men Among Ruins, and Ailing Sun possesses a satisfying identity of their own. Anyone impatiently awaiting (as I am) the new Riverside album, or anyone who thought that Australian prog-metallers Voyager's last album V had a bit too much of a pop influence to it, should check out this very good release.
Fourth Secret (4:51), Imagery (5:58), Perception (6:14), Start the War (4:02), The Rain (5:47), Show me (3.37), Stranger (4:44), Last (8.13)
Imagery were founded in 2008 by three friends from Londrina, which is in the south of Brazil not too far (by Brazilian standards) from
Sao Paulo. The band consists of Jocier Bertoni (vocals and guitar), Ricardo Fanucchi (bass) and Bruno Pamplona (drums). The line-up on the
album does not include an official keyboard player, but it is mentioned in the inner sleeves that keyboards have been recorded by Henrique
Loureiro. Although some of the photos on the band's website show somebody playing keyboards, it appears to me that on this album, the
keyboards have been added upon completion, at least for some of the songs. In three of them, however, Henrique Loureiro is mentioned as
The Inner Journey, released in 2012, is Imagery's first and only album so far. On the album, drums are played by Luciano
Neves, who left the band shortly after the release and was replaced by Bruno Pamplona. If I understand the info on the website correctly,
keyboardist Henrique Loureiro has since been made a permanent member of the band. That certainly will do the music good.
Information on the band is a bit scarce as their website (of course) is in Portuguese, a language I don't know much about. What is easily
understandable is that there are the number of influencing musicians and bands listed, including names such as The Beatles,
Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, BB King, Rush, Dream Theater; Pain of Salvation, Metallica, Genesis and Flying Colors.
Some of these influences (especially the two latter ones) seem to have been neglected a bit on this album, whilst other ones, especially
those from the prog metal and metal scene, are much more evident.
The album contains eight songs ranging from three-something to eight-something minutes. The lyrics are based upon the individual feelings and sentiments
of the musicians; imaginations, perception of tragedy and misery, rain that washes doubts away, struggling with insecurity and so on.
The band labels its music as prog metal, but there is much more in it than just that. Influences comprise punk, hardcore, metal, fusion
and even jazz and bossa nova. The metal/hard rock element, though, is the most prominent. Don't expect catchy melodies on this album or
melodic singing. The prevailing mood is rough and dynamic. The singing at times comes close to shouting.
All three band members (plus the
occasional keyboardist) show great musical skills. Imagery's music is not very predictable but I shall leave it up to you to consider whether this is
a positive or negative. Whilst being varied, it however sometimes lacks cohesion. The rhythms and moods of the tracks change too unexpectedly, mostly before the leitmotiv (love that expression from my mother tongue) of each track becomes fully apparent.
The good quality of the band's performance is somewhat subdued by the production, which has slight room for improvement.
I tried with two different sets of speakers and found the sound to be somewhat dampened, the singing not to be clear enough and the guitar
too dominant (okay, it's guitar-oriented music, but nevertheless...). With ear-/headphones on, things are a little better.
I racked my brains to find out who to compare Imagery's music with. The riffing, especially the guitar runs played in staccato sixteenth
notes, are not unlike the instrumental parts in Dream Theater's music, whilst there is a borrowing of Deep Purple's most
famous intro riff in the song Stranger. I also hear some similarities with bands such as Papa Roach, System of a Down and in parts
Billy Talent. The closest band they come to is a three-piece band without/with little keyboards, is early Rush, except
for the singing.
There is good potential in this band. For the forthcoming album, I hope for a bit more of cohesion in the songs, a stronger role for the
keyboards (something that hopefully will be warranted by having made Henrique Loureiro a fully-fledged member of the band) and a
production which showcases the band's excellent musical talent more adequately and puts it in its true light. If they continue along these
lines, they'll be a band to keep an eye (and ear) on.
Kommuna Ra (14:09), Dyatly [Woodpeckers] (17:37), Bela Dama (14:35), Just The Wind (16:47), Veni, Vidi, Vici (3:53)
This latest recording by the St Petersburg-based Ole Lukkoye is an attempt by the band to capture their live sound in the studio, with only additional percussion and the vocal lines being added afterwards. As far as the sound of this CD is concerned, it is full of verve and has a live acoustic that makes me feel that they have achieved their stated aim. On this evidence I would really like to see them in a live setting.
Each of these four long tracks has an individual mood and some lovely touches that repay close listening. The music is a mixture of full-ahead space rock and psychedelia. The songs build to circular, hypnotic grooves employing chanted and characterful dual male and female vocals. It is all underpinned by looping, dub-like bass and inventive percussion. The use of bassoon gives a warm and organic tone above the underlying, pulsing electronics. It is as if Hawkwind, Ozric Tentacles, Jah Wobble and Magma decided to get up and jam together.
Ole Lukkoye push the music way past any ambient wallpaperiness, into a shamanistic, whirling ethno-trance dance music. My wife defines prog as "music you can't dance to" but on this particular branch of the prog tree you most certainly could.
The only criticisms to be made are that as a whole the full 67 minute experience does get a bit breathless and a little wearing. Whilst the closing track Veni, Vidi, Vici is a piece of ambience with tinkling water, hummed vocals and burbling synth, which seems unformed and out of place compared to the other tracks. This is an album I will return to play individual tracks in isolation, and I will end up dancing around the kitchen. It is for this reason that this album just misses out on a DPRP recommendation.
We Are the Ocean (1:17), The Battle of Paridas (4:31), Disciples of the Sun (3:54), Back for More (4:22), Genetic Process (4:58), Fearless (5:23), Perfectly Imperfect (4:52), Unveil (5:15), Hope Springs Eternal (5:40), Exposure (5:11), When Black Turns to White (4:35) Photograph (2:43)
Some albums demand detailed description to convey their worth. Some simply inspire rivers of delightful prose to flow from a reviewer's heart. Others require minimal use of one's adjectival vocabulary.
After a seven-year hiatus, the fourth album from this seasoned Danish power metal collective, falls firmly into the latter category. Long gone are the layered vocal harmonies of Lance King (ex-Balance of Power) which characterised the compelling prog-power style of the band's first two efforts, (Melancholy Beast) and (Legend of the Bone Carver). Gone too is his successor, former Iced Earth frontman Matt Barlow, who brought a metallic bent to album number three, Immortal. Gone too are other founder members Michael Kammeyer (guitars) and bassist Niels Kvist plus ex-Tad Morose and Bloodbound singer Urban Breed who never actually released anything with the band.
The latest incarnation features the little-known, yet very impressive mid-range vocals of Terje Haroy plus the very familiar guitar of well-known producer Jacob Hansen.
The result is a compelling collection of 11 power metal anthems where hooks are very much to the fore and any progresssive adventuring is very much an after-thought - if indeed any thought is even given in that direction. Musically the sound reminds me a lot of Hansen's other band, Anubus Gate; a bit thicker in the riffage and with none of that band's progressive incursions.
The songs all clock-in around the five-minute mark, the guitars are to the fore, with the keyboards adding depth and colour, and the drums and bass delivering tried and trusted rhythms. There is absolutely nothing of a risk-taking-nature here. What you do have is probably one of the most addictive riff and hook-laden power metal albums that you will be able to buy in 2015. For fans of melodic power metal, this is simply a stunner.
Shockwave Supernova (3:49), Crazy Joey (3:40), Lost in a Memory (4:12), In My Pocket (4:12), On Peregrine Wings (5:26), Cataclysmic (5:02), San Francisco Blue (3:19), Keep on Movin (4:23), All of My Life (4:02), A Phase I'm Going Through (3:59), Scarborough Stomp (3:59), Butterfly and Zebra (1:47), If There Is No Heaven (5:07), Stars Race Across the Sky (4:45), Goodbye Supernova (5:46)
This is Joe Satriani's 15th album under his own moniker. He has and does, of course, play and has played on countless recordings and is currently a member of Van Halen dropouts, Chickenfoot. In fact statistics are very much a part of this man, not just counting the number of notes he can probably play in a second, he is also the second most Grammy Award nominated musician - not to win!
I guess the category is "Best instrumental rock", so based on this new album Shockwave Supernova that legacy might just change for the better. Another bracket, in said ceremony, could be "most restrained guitar playing by a guitar god", that one he would win hands down with this latest offering.
The album was conceived after Satriani found himself playing guitar with his teeth a lot during the Unstoppable Momentum tour, and had a daydream about an alter ego, "Shockwave Supernova", making him do it. I reckon his dentist was delighted at all the extra work required, but by the last track Goodbye Supernova I guess he welcomed the return of the humble plectrum.
The first thing that strikes you is how well produced this CD of all no-vocal rock music is (Joe himself along with old mucker John Cuniberti), with support by former Zappa member Mike Keneally (on keyboards and occasional second guitar), with Aristocrats' Marco Minnemann and Bryan Beller providing a solid backbone to the whole. Other tracks have Vinnie Colaiuta and Janes' Addiction's Chris Chaney. There is also a couple of percussion players which certainly soften the hard rock aspect and by All of My Life we are almost in Santana territory.
Crazy Joe mixes AC/DC with a hint of reggae and it works a treat. Scarborough Stomp literally clumps along with a 60's style Hammond and even manages a small baroque section. In My Pocket and especially San Francisco Blue are Southern fried blues numbers, the type that always work so well played in a sleazy bar - really enjoyable stuff. There is light and shade with Stars Across the Sky feeling Larry Carlton has walked in the room and the slow sensitive Butterfly and Zebra simply depicting that colourful insect's wispiness.
Don't get me wrong, though, this is for fans of rock music played with tremendous gusto by a brilliant band.
The drumming, bass playing, and keyboards perfectly compliment the slightly upfront electric guitaring by this great master, it sounds like a "group" playing and not a backing band, the surprising synth solo and string stabs in the last track are a joy to behold.
This is an album of by a guitar player that has matured beyond earlier experiments and presented the world with the instrumental album of the year.
Scene No. 1 (0:38), Astronomer (7:16), Scene No. 2 (0:37), Philosopher (11:44), Scene No. 3 (0:39), Mathematician (4:24), Scene No. 4 (0:25), Teacher (6:57), Scene No. 5 (0:29), The Burning of the Library of Alexandria (11:37), Scene No. 6 (0:39), Scapegoat (2:55), Scene No. 7 (1:05), Murder (9:30), Scene No. 8 (1:04), Martyr (3:12), Scene No.9 (0:27)
Having tackled musical interpretations of Biblical tales and a New Hampshire witch, multi-instrumentalist Robert McClung has turned his attention to a female philosopher, from around 350 - 415 AD, who looked after the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Her name was Hypatia and is the title of this third album performed by his band of many minstrels collectively known as Telergy
The lady in question was a Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer and was one of the most important neo-Platonist of her time. The philosophy of science was at logger heads with the new fangled Christian religion and so in the time hououred manner, she was killed for her heresy. The magnificent Library was razed to the ground, and most of her books and writing were lost forever.
All sounds rather familiar doesn't it? Priceless works destroyed in the name of religion? Just turn on the TV News. As Douglas Adams once said in his book "Last Chance to See", "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
So a concept album with a surprisingly modern theme, mankindâs continued obsession with the fight between the scared and the secular.
In keeping with his other albums the music is interspersed with spoken narrative scenes imbuing a theatrical feel, albeit in an "amateur dramatics" kind of way, with an almost Disneyesq presentation. The "pit orchestra" includes Oliver Wakeman, David Ragsdale's inspired violin, Esthema's Mac Ritchey wrestling some old string things, plus a vast galaxy of very talented guest musicians.
There are eight pieces of powerfully played symphonic rock with the huge pounding drumming of a metal band, the orchestral "Animato" from a battle score, occasional "Lento" sections usually accompanied by a Floydian Sax, The Burning of the Library of Alexandria ,or the soprano version of that instrument on Murder, but mostly orotund and bombastic music. Despite the titles chronologically depicting Hypatia's rise and fall, the music is all-instrumental and without any lyrics to listen or indeed read, the pace does become somewhat wearing and laboured.
To that end, despite the recommendation that the performance should be listened to "in one go", I preferred this album by listening to individual tracks, as a sort of occasional "blast". The 11:44 of Philosopher with what sounds like Wakeman junior on the mini moog is great, but is more than enough for one day. Only the string quartet ending of Martyr works without words, as it is clearly a lament for the sad passing of our heroine.
So, a fine oeuvre of it's type - best picked over and probably ignoring the talky bits. Some great playing is in there and will bring smiling faces to anyone who needs a prog metal "in your face" pick me up. There are hints of later English Rock Ensemble and Royal Hunt, so you get the picture. A guest singer to help tell the story would have been appreciated but that's not what the man wanted.
All Proceeds from the album's sale are going to the Cross Roads House Homeless Shelter in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. So if you worry about throwing a few coins into a charity bucket, contribute to this worthy cause and behold a slice of modern and err... ancient history.
Lie Detector (3:48), Put Down The Gun (4:45), Radio (5:28), Logotherapy (3:30), Universal Mind (4:32), Intensive Care (1:39), Wake Up (1:02), I Play Debussey (4:22), Johnny Tragic (4:17), Karma Camera (4:59), Season of Light (8:38), Finale (1:18)
This Oceanic Feeling is a new band consisting of Chris Braide (The Producers, DBA), Ash Soan (The Producers) and Lee Pomeroy (It Bites, Steve Hackett). Braide assembled the group with a want to create a recording similar in style to 80s albums such as Yes's90125 and The Police's, Ghost in the Machine. As Braide himself puts it: 'Big Shiny Pop Records'. There is an absolute pop-prog flair to Universal Mind that harkens back to these and other albums of the past. There is also a modern, stripped-down punch that keeps it from sounding redundant or dated.
Melodic and absorbing, the opening track, Lie Detector quickly establishes this as no run-of-the-mill pop rock album. Lyrically the song is very simple, but the sum of its parts is much more dynamic, and that is the beauty of Universal Mind. Compositionally, Chris Braide can write an indelible chorus with the best of them, but it is clear that he and his bandmates are reaching for something more complex. Certainly not background music, this is an album that demands and rewards attention. Yes, Braide's gift for writing memorable melodies is in abundance here, but the richness of the compositions and the thought-provoking lyrics move this far beyond the standard pop fare. The musical performances are of note as well, with top notch work by all three members.
Radio is one of the highlights of the album. It is a perfect example of how the band never strays too far away from a solid, accessible melody, whilst still creating something more elaborate than you would hear on the radio. As previously mentioned, there are several nods to great bands of the past, but only one occurrence where things fall into the category of respectful imitation.
Logotherapy is a clear homage to The Police, from the Stewart Copeland-style drumming, to Braide's uncanny Sting impersonation. Aside from its tribute-like qualities, the song truly stands on its own.
Though Universal Mind is not a concept album in the traditional sense, it does play like one. There is an intriguing theme around dualism running throughout, and interspersed between the longer songs, are shorter tracks that carry the "concept" forward. These brief interludes are not filler by any stretch, as they fit perfectly into the established flow. There is not a mediocre track to be found and the second half of the album is especially strong. Karma Camera and Seasons of Light are examples of the band at their finest, and the instrumental closer, Finale only disappoints with its length. Running at just over a minute, I would have been more than happy for this song to continue for much longer. Simply put, the high level of songwriting and the musical talent displayed on debut album is impressive to say the least.
There is a commercial-sounding core to the entire album, but the accompanying progressive elements are where it finds its depth. The songs are intricate and like good albums will often do, repeated listens reveal multiple layers. It is no small feat to create music that is this accessible, yet so intelligent and entertaining. In a more diverse mainstream music scene, this is an album that would and should sell many copies.
Much like the classic recordings it aims to emulate, Universal Mind has the ingredients to appeal to many different types of music fans. This is not prog rock with multiple chord changes, but it is a different and equally compelling example of progressive music. It is also one of the best albums of 2015.
CD 1: The Circle Of St. Giles (2:04), The Last Thing On My Mind (3:49), Hold Me Now (5:59), Where Do We Go From Here (3:21), Another Twist Of The Knife (4:31), I've Come To Take You Home (4:41), I Can't Lie Anymore (4:13), Lost For Words (4:57), Battle Lines (5:25), Caught In The Crossfire (4:56), Arkangel (4:17), Right Where I Wanted To Be (4:55), Nothing's Gonna Stand In Our Way (5:36), Second Best (4:01), Woman (4:32), Real World (2:41)
CD 2: Heart Of Darkness (4:51), Say It Ain't So (3:57), Cold Is The Night (5:19), You're not The Only One (5:06), Raised In Captivity (6:06), Steffi's Ring (2:35), Walking On Air (3:11), Take Me To The Waterline (6:09), Silently (3:56), Battle Lines (Acoustic) (5:27), I Lay Down (4:05), Rock Of Faith (3:58), Who Will Light A Candle? (3:43), You Against The World (4:00), Emma (3:02), After All (4:14)
At the age of 66 it seems John Wetton thinks it's time to look back at his impressive career in
the prog scene. Although Wetton has been a bass player and lead vocalist with numerous prog legends such as King Crimson,
UK and Asia, he has also made a fair number of solo albums during the years.
First of them was the album Caught In The Crossfire which was released in 1980. His second album Battle
Lines (1994) is probably the most successful one. This album was produced by Ron Nevison known for
producing albums with mainly AOR bands in the USA (Heart, Jefferson Starship, The Babys). Steve
Lukather (Toto) is one of the guest musicians on guitar. It was that album which brought the stand-out tracks such
as the title track, Right Where I Wanted To Be, Hold me now, Walking On Air and You're
Not The Only One.
On the album Sinister (2001) he is accompanied by John Mitchell (Arena), Gary Chandler (Jadis) and Martin
Orford (ex-IQ), and on the album Rock Of Faith (2003) Clive Nolan joins in. So Wetton has been joined by lots
of great musicians over the years and has left us with a nice collection of songs from his solo career. His final
statement (until now) is Raised In Captivity (2011).
This double album is a great overview of Wetton's solo career with songs taken from all of these albums. It's probably more
AOR-style than prog but there are real gems on this compilation which totals 32 songs. This is John Wetton at his best
with a strong, powerful voice and some catchy tracks. If you don't have the solo albums but do like his voice, then this
is the must-have double album. You'll never hear him sing better.
Do It Again (4:04), What's Going On (4:14), God Only Knows (3:40), Can't Find My Way Home (3:21), All Along The Watchtower (4:05), New York Minute (4:59), Lady Madonna (2:26), Heat Of The Moment (4:48), Battle Lines (5:53)
Without hesitation I would say that John Wetton is a prog icon. He has been a member of numerous illustrious
bands like King Crimson, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, UK, Wishbone Ash and Asia. This release
is a live recording from a gig at The Iridium in New York on the 14th October 2013. It's a collection
of real pop/rock classics made famous by other artists, with exception of the last two tracks which Wetton
wrote with fellow composers. It was a special gig with tracks that are among is favourites and were performed by Wetton to give people more awareness of prostate and testicular cancer.
Of course that is a very commendable cause, but what about the music on this album? The tracks are all unplugged versions
of well-known numbers and played in a somewhat jazzy style. Unfortunately it's painfully clear that Wetton's
voice isn't the powerful and strong one we know from the above-mentioned bands. Sometimes it's almost sad to
listen to how some of these classic songs are sung by Wetton. Steely Dan'sDo It Again, Jimi Hendrix'sAll Along The Watchtower (composed by Bob Dylan) and Don Henley'sNew York Minute are examples of songs
that are better listened to in their original versions. Even his "own songs" don't sound very convincing.
One of his best tracks ever Battle Lines doesn't get the best vocal performance by Wetton due to a lack of
This is an album for the die-hard Wetton fan to complete the collection. If you really want to hear this
icon at his best, I would suggest you purchase Anthology that is reviewed in this same edition. That's how we want to remember him!