ISSUE 2015-569

Reviews in this issue:

Abstrakt - Limbosis
Abstrakt - Limbosis
Country of Origin: Poland
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 73:45
Links:
Track List:
Teratoma (10:34), The Bus (8:55), Clockhouse (7:37), Wolf (10:23), Bloody Mary! (10:40), Liars Symphony (6:32), Greatnot (8:47), Journey (10:17)
"Imagine the world where the gloom, dread and heaviness clashes with the beauty of melodies and sounds. In the darkness, where the stage is illuminated by visualisations. Abstrakt will take you to the world you have never been to..."

This sentence opens the web-presence of Abstrakt, in dependence of their psychedelic stage shows. And when I listen to their debut album and try to compare it to Tool and their show which I have experienced, I believe that Abstrakt's self-esteem is not wrong.

Limbosis is a dark, yet sinister psychedelic concept album of an individual on a journey through his own consciousness and understandings, and thereby gets hi-jacked by a white-eyed bus driver. This should make clear, what drugs are suspected to be involved in the making of the album.

The music consists of tapestries, woven of guitar and bass riffs and grooves, and mainly combines the vibes of Riverside with those of Tool, adding spacey textures in the vein of early Pink Floyd and mid-era Eloy. Also the music of Indukti and Tenebris comes to mind. But, most intriguing, Abstrakt never bring the key-attributes of said bands to their mix. For example, when a Riverside resemblance comes up, it just sounds as epic as Riverside, but without the warm and friendly signature. Tool-ish parts are of the same psychedelic matter, but without the insane drumming and mad time signatures. When it comes to a touch of Eloy's Ocean, it just sounds as spacey, but without the impressive bass-lines that Ocean became known for.

That way we are taken on a psychedelic trip through sinister stories and horror-movie fragments through the unknown, all with a homelike feel to it. The vocalist adds to that, as he doesn't sing melodies, and neither does he grunt. He finds a good balance as a master of ceremonies and someone who accuses somebody (or the world) for all the pain he has to endure. This sort of vocal fits well into the scenery, but it is also a bit of a down-side for me, as I feel it could have better phrasing and a more melodic attitude. It feels like the vocalist is always almost there, but not yet to the point.

It took me a couple of listens to gain access to this world (mainly because of the vocals), but the more often I visit it, the more I find it thrilling to re-explore this whole cabinet of doom.

Fans of Riverside and Tool should give this album a chance, as well as all who enjoy psychedelic music in general.
Conclusion:
Raimond Fischbach: 7.5 out of 10

Gekko Projekt - Reya of Titan
Gekko Projekt - Reya of Titan
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 50:26
Links:
Track List:
Elegy (1:26), Snow White (4:06), Radio Earth Interlude (0:53), Grains of Sand (5:16), Jovian Belt (3:27), North of Titan (5:22), Frienda (3:50), This Is Now Our Home - Realization, Descent, Planetscape, Founding, Creation, Reprise (10:29), 24 Years of Solitude (4:16), Queen of Titan (4:32), Escape from Titan's Mines (2:16), Radio Titan Interlude (0:35), Sing for Me (3:51)
It has been three years since Gekko Projekt released their first album, Electric Forest which arrived shortly after guitarist Peter Matuchniak had unleashed his début solo album Uncover Me. So I guess it should come as no surprise that this second group album follows hot on the heels of Matuchniak's second solo release Destiny. This time the four male Gekkos, Matuchniak on guitar and vocals, Vance Gloster on keyboards, stick and vocals, Rick Meadows and bass and vocals and Alan Smith on drums and vocals, are joined by a female recruit, lead vocalist Jojo Razor.

The album is a concept set in the year 2084 following the eventful life of Reya, whose new career choice results in her being stranded on Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Whilst the story is all very cosmic, the music is classic progressive rock.

With three studio engineers in the band, one can be guaranteed a superior sound quality, and with the group members all being established and experienced musicians, the playing is from the top drawer. The addition of a lead vocalist has added a new dimension to the band but it is interesting that each of the other band members takes a lead vocal on one track. This not only adds variety but also helps drive along the story by introducing different characters and viewpoints.

It is hard to fault any of the performances: Matuchniak comes to life as part of the band and plays the most exciting lead electric guitar I have ever heard him commit to a recording. Smith's drums are quite prominent in the mix but his rhythmic patterns are always interesting, while bassist Meadows holds things together well at the bottom end, even taking a lead role on Frienda and the surprisingly different closer Sing For Me.

Gloster, who remains the main composer despite greater contributions from the other musicians compared with the first album, utilises a wide range of different keyboards to vary the mood, from the typical spacey sounds on Elegy and Grains of Sand to the jazzy solo on North Of Titan right through to the organ on Frienda and Escape From Titan's Mines. Everyone gets to shine on This Is Now Our Home with its six component sections each having its own unique identity and culminating in a rather nice, harmonised Reprise. However, it is Queen of Titan that is the most satisfying song for me.

Overall, Reya Of Titan is a fine collection of songs which are diverse enough to enable them to stand alone, but linked through the narrative to keep the concept fans happy. I just wonder if back in the early 1980s when Matuchniak was selling cassettes containing a side of music each by his first bands Janysium and Mach One, he ever contemplated that 30 years later he would be producing the best music of his life, not only with a band but also as a solo artist?

Reya of Titan may not compete with the big boys of the genre in terms of sales but is well worth getting hold of it for its joyful variety of modern progressive rock.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 8 out of 10

The Mercury Tree - Countenance
The Mercury Tree - Countenance
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 57:13
Links:
Track List:
Pitchless Tone (5:27), Vestigial (5:30), Otoliths (10:55), Mazz Jathy (6:47), To Serve Man (5:28), The Ellsberg Cycle (5:12), False Meaning (4:29), Artifracture (4:05), Jazz Hands of Doom (6:04), Rappel (3:26)
To get an idea of what this band is all about, one need only read the quote that shows up on their website; "If a space dragon got together with Sigur Ros' cousin, and they had a baby that liked to explore the emotional and cinematic dynamics of Stanley Kubrick's films while incredibly sleep deprived... then that baby might grow up to be a metaphor for the music of The Mercury Tree."

Although maybe not giving a full picture of this band's sound, this shows the band's humour and sense of fun, which is an important aspect of this album. This is a special album. There is something fresh, exciting and fun about the music on display. It is some crazy hybrid of King Crimson, Tool, and The Mars Volta. The band have a strong sense of melody, and although there are definitely some crazy, quirky instrumental sections, the melody is never lost. There is a very modern feel to the music, taking the best qualities from alternative rock and math rock, and infusing it with some jazz and classic progressive influences for a very pleasant musical stew. This is a very enjoyable listen and recommended to all who love modern progressive rock, especially that of Tool and Steven Wilson's most recent releases.

Pitchless Tone starts with a very intricate pattern of guitar, drums and bass before Ben Spees' super clear vocals come in to the mix with a great melody. There are also fantastic harmonies throughout the track, reminiscent of some of the best of latter-day Porcupine Tree. Vestigial is a fascinating track, with a very quirky keyboard tone throughout. There is a fascinating balance between heavy, almost screaming sections and the more spacey, psychedelic sections, all throughout a five-and-a-half minute track. It is an impressive feat to include so much variety in such a short space of time. That is one of the major talents of this band.

Otoliths is the longest track on the album, and, as expected, contains a lot of variety and creativity. There are some great instrumental sections, with great vintage keyboard sounds amidst heavier, pounding guitar and drum beats. There is a sense of controlled chaos, where the band gets a little crazy, but always manages to bring it back into control when needed.

The album continues in this fashion with several more-varied and interesting tracks. Mazz Jathy is a wonderful instrumental, which, as may be guessed from the title, involves a lot of jazz influence, especially with the keyboards. The Ellsberg Cycle is a good showcase for the darker mood that permeates this entire album. Although a more laid-back track in instrumentation, including acoustic guitar and a clever bass pattern, there is a dark, cinematic vibe that floats throughout the piece, culminating in a very intense ending.

Despite some screaming vocals that aren't particularly my thing, Artifracture is one of the highlights of the album with some intricate playing on the guitar, a great chorus, and some keyboard soloing toward the end of the song. This leads into a fantastic jazzy instrumental, Jazz Hands of Doom with a focus on vintage keyboard. Rappel is a beautiful closer that balances acoustic and electric guitar expertly, with Ben Spees' clear tone especially beautiful.

All in all, this is a fantastic album by a band I had never heard of before. I am extremely impressed by the fresh and modern sound on display. It can sometimes be refreshing to listen to something that doesn't just sound like a throwback to older musical times, but sounds current and relevant in the modern musical landscape. This is a band that deserves attention in the progressive rock community. I see great things coming from them and they join the ranks of many other talented young bands that demonstrate how healthy this genre is right now. This music is exciting, fresh and bleeds mood and emotion. I recommend it heartily.
Conclusion:
Nathan Waitman: 9 out of 10

Overview Effect - Tundra
Overview Effect - Tundra
Country of Origin: Australia
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 39:45
Links:
Track List:
Untitled 1 (1:26), Inertia (15:18), Untitled 2 (5:39), Untitled 3 (1:27), Tundra (15:55)
The first thing I thought when I moved to Australia from Italy was that it is really incredible how far this place can be from the rest of the world. Problems afflicting the world seem to be happening on another planet, people have got a different mentality, and in terms of the music ... well, music seems to be stuck in the 90s for some reason. You walk around the streets and you listen to pop songs your subconscious has long been trying to erase from your memory. In this scenario, I was surprised and delighted when I listened for the first time to Tundra by the Australian prog rock band Overview Effect.

This is the first EP published by this young band based in Adelaide, most probably home-recorded with wonderful results. However as I walked through the EP, my enthusiasm decreased and left some place for delusion, which inevitably remained despite the many times I played and listened to their music.

The opening track, Untitled 1, is simply leading the way to the second long-lasting song, called Inertia. I personally appreciated this choice in order to introduce an EP which sounds permeated by a sense of solitude and desolation. And that's how the real music begins: with a delicious delay guitar immediately followed by an essential bass and keyboards line. But it's when Felicia Tassone starts overlapping her angelic vocals that we reach the most expressive (and impressive) atmosphere, somehow answering the question of what would happen if Sigur Ros suddenly realised they're completely lost in the middle of Iceland.

Unfortunately, as you can expect from a 15-minute song, this moment has to leave and be replaced by a constantly developing sound. And here we are with a Tool-style bass guitar leading to a crescendo that you'll definitely appreciate if you're an A-note-lover. But frankly I personally find a little bit annoying this tendency of the vocal melody to repeat the same note every couple of bars for more or less four minutes. That's why this promising climax turns out to be the first disappointing note of the EP.

Meanwhile, a metal riff borrowed from Lateralus (by Tool) adds its contribution to the crescendo, which surprisingly ends with a growl overlapping the last of Felicia's high notes. This part was preparing the field for the following 7/8 powerful riff recalling Porcupine Tree's The Incident and, remarkably, the typical overlapping of Felicia's vocals are now dissonant, generating a sense of anxiety which is the best conclusion of this section.

So just one minute after I was thinking that this band was nothing special and that they were not bringing any originality in this world, here I am again loving them for their expressivity and non-banal ideas. I'm kinda confused but I go on, with the calm after the storm being the perfect ending for this track.

The next two tracks are Untitled 2 and Untitled 3 which are probably supposed to guide the listener during the EP's travel across isolation and desolation, both physical and psychological. What I am wondering is whether it is worthwhile to create a sort of "concept EP", or if it's maybe better to keep these ideas for a longer album, where more than eight minutes of noises can be better diluted; not feeling like an easy way to make a release as long as possible at any cost.

Anyway, even if I lost some of the enthusiasm I had at the beginning, somehow we arrive at the fifth track, another 15-plus-minute piece which gives the name to the whole EP.

And now I'm excited again, for the atmosphere of the first part is awesome, the bass line is amazing and the vocals are celestial once again. Then all of a sudden there's an abrupt change and the song continues on the same 6/8, but this time with higher bpm and with a more involving bass riff, soon joined by the other instruments, before becoming even more pressing on the 11/8 that concludes this section. It follows what I guess is meant to be the conclusion of the whole EP, before the last three minutes of silence. No wait! If you listen carefully you can hear the same vocals from the beginning of Inertia repeating again and again at a very low volume. I can only imagine that the metaphysical desolation described until this point is meant to repeat again and again.

Obviously, this is just my free interpretation, but just being able to say "this is my interpretation" means that you can get something from this EP and maybe you can even stop thinking about the content of the Overview Effect's work wondering what they wish to tell you and if you agree or not with what you think they are suggesting. This is something that should be really appreciated in 21st century progressive rock, where there is still an approximately infinite number of other bands still dealing with elves and mythological goblins.

I can only conclude by saying that it is very difficult to review a "concept EP" where I can find wonderful and brilliant ideas next to definitely not appreciated ones, personal and original sounds next to copied ones, and wonderful vocal melodies next to annoying ones.

Nevertheless, I'm positive about this young and promising band, which should be able to find a way to express its talent by filling the gaps and correcting the mistakes before their next release. Conscious of the limits of a first release, I'm happy to suggest that you listen to this band.
Conclusion:
Alessandro Danzi: 6 out of 10

Saelig Oya - [Chaos - Chaos]
Saelig Oya - [Chaos - Chaos]
Country of Origin: France
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 38:03
Links:
Track List:
Visceral (6:21), He Walks (6:47), Remember Each Day (6:38), Dancing Queen (3:42), La Vieille Au Pas Lent (6:21), Chaos - Chaos (8:14)
The prog bug has clearly not limited itself to the UK, US, Poland, Scandinavia and Germany. I guess it has hit about everywhere, including France! A recent pick in our Something for the Weekend feature, Saelig Oya are beginning to gain recognition for their eclectic combination of rock, metal and hauntingly beautiful vocals. Centered in the city of Le Mans, the band is made up of five members: Hélène Péan (vocals), Nicolas Fournier (guitar), Dimitri Even (guitar), Adrien Rogowski (bass), and Elie Chéron (drums). Fully understanding the popularity of progressive rock in the English speaking world, Saelig Oya chose to include songs both in French and in English on their debut album, [Chaos-Chaos].

Despite having studied a fair amount of French, my ability to understand the lyrics is limited. Much like watching a French movie without subtitles (for the CD does not contain written lyrics), it can be very difficult to understand themes and specific phrases. However, the same goes for screamo, and Hélène's voice is far more beautiful than any screamo vocalist I have ever heard. Even the band's description of the album is quite vague, although I believe the main theme relates to the difficulty we, as humans, have with relating to time and space, in addition to the violence of nature hitting us when we least expect it. In the end, the band writes that the album describes an explosion of events that signals the beginning of things, rather than the end. I sincerely hope I have not lost too much in translation. All I can say is, it is a very French concept, reminding me of my confusion in reading Albert Camus' works (in French) for the first time. The English lyrics to He Walks are very much in the vein of Camus, especially with the repetition of He goes, he walks, he walks, he's dead at the end of the song. Yeah, very French.

Despite the likely confusion in understanding the concept, the music sounds good. It touches on quieter prog, but it also leans on the shoulder of prog's often angry brother, prog metal. The music is driven primarily by Hélène Péan's vocals and the guitar work, which is often reminiscent of the quieter electric guitar work of Steve Hackett, although distorted metal guitar is also present. Hélène's voice reminds me of Lacey Sturm, the original singer for Christian metal band, Flyleaf. I have always thought that prog rock needs more female vocalists, so Saelig Oya gets a plus in that department.

While Hélène's voice is definitely a high point for Saelig Oya, the guitars, drums, and bass are also quite good. I particularly enjoy the subtle bass lines throughout, even in the quieter songs. The music often has more in common with alt rock and prog than it does with metal, but it remains guitar-driven throughout. The album is bookended with heavier songs, with both Visceral and Chaos - Chaos becoming heavy at points. There is a particularly nice guitar solo towards the end of the last song.

A short comment on the song Dancing Queen. Don't worry, it is not a cover of the ABBA song. I was worried too when I first saw the track list.

Overall, the audio quality of the music could be better, but the band is on a limited budget, which is understandable, considering this was their first album. Furthermore, they have offered the album as a free download through their Bandcamp page, so the band is relying on the generosity of their listeners.

At first notice, it seems that Saelig Oya may only appeal to French speakers, but the band manages to avoid that limitation by including English songs in their repertoire. Fans of strong female vocals, leading guitars, and alternative/prog rock mixed with a splash of metal should enjoy Saelig Oya. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this French band, as well as the future of prog in France.
Conclusion:
Bryan Morey: 7 out of 10

Spring - Spring
Spring - Spring
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015 / 1971
Time: 39:28, 56:52
Links:
Track List:
CD 1: Original album: The Prisoner (5:34), Grail (6:33), Boats (1:48), Shipwrecked Soldier (5:13), Golden Fleece (7:00), Inside Out (4:49), Song To Absent Friends (The Island) (2:42), Gazing (5:47).
CD 2: Demos and additional recordings: Devil's Bandits (Jack & Jim) (5:20), Hendre Mews (first version) (4:34), World Full Of Whispers (3:46), Painted Ship (4:02), High Horses (5:44), Fernleigh Avenue (3:57), Blackbird (Helping The Helpless) (4:21), Beautiful Losers (3:57), Flying Is An Easy Speed (Get My Share) (3:36), Fool's Gold (6:25), Hendre Mews (extended version) (7:08), World Full Of Whispers (alternative version) (3:56)
Spring is another of those bands that in an alternative reality went on to become household names following the massive success of their début album. However, in this reality they only released a single album and were then relegated to the department of long-forgotten artists whose original albums are highly sought by collectors and connoisseurs, but who remain unknown and unheard by the majority. This is a great shame, as Spring's début album, newly remastered and expanded by Esoteric Records, is worthy of wider acclaim.

The roots of the band extend back to late 1965 when then drummer Pat Moran, later to become a much sought after engineer and producer, formed a band called Sleepy John's Opus with some Leicester school friends. Over the next five years the group underwent a multitude of changes in personnel and a couple of changes of name, but by the start of 1970 had stabilised on a line-up of Moran, who had vacated the drum stool to become lead singer and occasional Mellotron player, Ray Martinez on guitars and Mellotron, Adrian Maloney on bass, Pick Withers (yes, the same Mr Withers as played with Dire Straits) on drums and Kips Brown on piano, organ and Mellotron.

The music is, as you would expect, typical of the era, with plenty of the progressive nuances we love and expect from this classic period. Overall the style is pretty mellow but very melodic and engaging, with plenty of Mellotron for aficionados of that most prog of instruments.

There is no doubt that Spring was a class act. The album, expertly produced by Gus Dudgeon, was recorded live with only acoustic guitars overdubbed later. As all but two of the songs, the short pieces Boats and Song To Absent Friends (The Island) which consist of Moran essentially backed by an acoustic guitar and a piano, respectively, formed the basis of the band's live set, there was no need for extensive use of studio wizardry or overdubbing. There is an inherent beauty in the songs, ranging from the rather melancholic The Prison (Eight By Ten), to the superb keyboard-driven Golden Fleece and the electric guitar-driven Gazing.

Strangely, the band's label RCA did not really promote the album, only pressing up 2000 copies despite releasing it in a ground-breaking triple fold-out sleeve. The band did their best by undertaking extensive touring commitments following the album's release, securing support slots to quite a few major names of the time, including a rather mismatched gig with The Velvet Underground. However, with limited availability of the album, no amount of touring would secure large numbers of sales.

The second CD of this set contains previously unreleased (apart from in Japan and on some bootlegs) demos and additional recordings which also stem from 1971. Again the quality of the pieces are beyond doubt and it is somewhat of a surprise that RCA took the decision to drop the band without giving the new material a chance to turn the band's fortunes around.

The music is not that different from that on the first album, although the arrangements are more involved and generally more up-beat. The inclusion of horns on Devil's Bandits (Jack & Jim) and High Horses, as well as flute and keyboard strings on the first version of Hendre Mews (which also features a piano solo that strongly resembles something Keith Emerson would be proud of) show more adventure and a growing willingness to experiment. I doubt if these tracks were recorded completely live!

Incidentally the second, extended version of Hendre Mews is completely different and is essentially a different song altogether featuring a lot more guitar. And guitar is the order of the day on Fools's Gold which would undoubtedly have been the focal point of the second album, with excellent drumming and keyboard work in addition to the six-string workouts.

Although the second album would have been a big step forward from the first, the original album retains a lot of charm and deserves it's reputation as a high quality album that is well worthy of hearing. Perhaps not quite falling into classic album territory (a much over-used term) it is still a great addition to the collections of 70s prog, and this remastered, expanded edition is a fine addition to the Esoteric catalogue.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 7 out of 10

Unreal City - Il paese del tramonto
Unreal City - Il paese del tramonto
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 70:16
Links:
Track List:
Ouverture: Obscurus Fio (5:01), Oniromanzia (9:01), Caligari (10:05), La Meccanica dell'ombra (9:16), Il Nome di Lei (8:25), Lo Schermo di Pietra (Kenosis) (7:54), Ex Tenebrae Lux (20:34)
Unreal City is a young progressive rock band from Italy and they wear their influences very prominantly on their sleeves. Courtesy of keyboardist Emanuele Tarasconi, there is not only a strong Keith Emerson / Jurgen Fritz vibe, but also a very respectful nod to the great italian prog bands of the 70's. It is easy to assume that these musicians of this band spent many hours listening to bands such as Goblin and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Emanuele is also an accomplished vocalist. The lyrics, all in Italian, are performed with a commendable amount of emotion and range.

The entire band presents themselves well, playing some extremely complex material. It is refreshing to hear such young musicians creating music of this kind with such apparant comittment. Plus, this is no exercise in just replicating past glories by long ago established bands. The album, their second, displays a brazen and enthusiastic take on an old school formula. There is a definite retro quality to each track, but the band displays an edge at times that is unmistakably modern.

The instrumental album opener, Ouverture sets the appropriate tone for what's to come with its solo piano beginnings leading to an extravagant keyboard symphony of sorts. Oniromanzia covers a sizable amount of musical ground and the track ebbs and flows effortlessly from soothing to chaotic. Caligari is the most modern sounding track on the album with the band focusing more on mood then swirling keyboards and multiple chord changes. They are there, but are not as apparent. II Norme Di Lei also moves away from the retro sounding keyboard work to present a focus on guitar with some excellent work from Francesca Zanetta. There is an early Pink Floyd feel to sections of the song and is a nice alternative to the more grandiose nature of the other tracks. The album epic, Ex Tenebrae Lux, starts slowly but builds effectively to its grand and dramatic close.

Unreal City proves themselves to be a band to take note of with IL PAESE DEL TRAMONTO. Their music is heavily instrumental and gloriously bombastic. There isn't a ton of variety on the album and it definitely isn't the most original work that you will hear this year. That said, the band writes and performs with admirable gusto. It will be interesting to see where they go from here but this is a fun and entertaining example of classic sounding prog.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 7 out of 10

Vespero - Fitful Slumber Until 5 AM
Vespero - Fitful Slumber Until 5 AM
Country of Origin: Russia
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 69:36
Links:
Track List:
Vision 1. Ogni Fuoco (11:57), Vision 2. Outer Planting (8:14), Vision 3. Kamzas Red Sands (7:05), Vision 4. 1507 (12:22), Vision 5. Ezel (6:55), Vision 6. Atil (14:18), Vision 7. Kidish Hail (8:45)
Russia band Vespero's new CD, Fitful Slumber Until 5 AM, is the band's sixth studio release. Two of the previous releases, debut Rito, and 2010's By the Waters of Tomorrow, were recommended by DPRP, and all were received well.

The band blends elements of space rock, Kraut rock, acid jazz, and even Middle Eastern sounds. There are also faint references to early Canterbury music (circa Egg). The music on the newest CD is instrumental (except for the odd spurts of yelling) and mostly electric, although some acoustic sounds are intermingled. The music rolls on and on seamlessly between songs, styles and time changes, creating a powerful dose of road-trip music for progressive spaceheads. The overall sound bears a resemblance to that of Finnish band Moonwagon, although Vespero's music is somewhat rougher and more abstract.

The playing itself is of good quality throughout, and the chemistry among the musicians is clear. Most of the songs, to the extent that it's fair to praise them, work well. The standout track is 1507, which is bold, usually sprightly and even catchy. It's the one most likely to be returned to. The jazzy Ogni Fuoco is also creative with the flute meshing surprisingly well with the electric atmosphere. On the downside, Kamzas Red Sands is a bit harsh, but the raunchy guitar fits well. Overall, there's no clunker in the batch.

In the end, Fitful Slumber Until 5 A.M. is solid but not shattering. Fans of the band's previous efforts and fans of experimental, eclectic and spacey instrumental progressive music will certainly want to join this journey.
Conclusion:
Joel Atlas: 6.5 out of 10

Voiciano - Everflow
Voiciano - Everflow
Country of Origin: Austria
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 44:41
Links:
Track List:
Change (3:47), This One Is for You (4:25), Island of the Gods (5:05), Hourglass (6:01), Until the End of Time (4:34), Interlude No. 1 (1:44), Losing You (5:15), Inner Child (4:47), Everflow (7:05), Afterglow (1:43)
Voiciano is a side project from Lanvall and Sabine Edelsbacher of the symphonic metal band, Edenbridge. The theatrical side of that band is carried over to this project sans the metal. In many ways, this album occasionally has the feel of a broadway musical, but there are also elements that are similar to the pop material of Mike Oldfield and bands like Renaissance. There is also an acoustic Steve Hackett-like flair to some of the material. I wouldn't classify this as a prog album per say, but there are a number of different musical styles covered. Plus, there is a sweeping and atmospheric quality to the music that is often exciting.

The musical performances are strong and Sabine is a truly excellent singer. She exudes emotion with every note and it is absolutely impossible to not be impressed with her talent. Lanvall does a very notable job as well with the instrumentation and is joined by guests Karl Groom from Threshold, Arjen Lucassen from Ayreon and Gandalf. Quite interestingly, Jim Peterik from the band Survivor also lends some acoustic guitar to two tracks. From a prog perspective, the guitar work by all involved is probably the highlight of the album. The playing is often intricate and definitely skilful. Island of the Gods in particular contains some excellent Spanish guitar work that swirls along with Sabine's emotive vocals.

The guest list continues with Erik Martensson from the band Eclipse performing an effective duet with Sabine on the song Until the end of Time. At times the song borders on the style of one of those 80s soft rock duets, but it is heartfelt and ultimately works quite well.

Lyrically, the album is compelling and the song, Inner Child is especially moving. The title track, Everflow is the highlight of the album. With its multitude of guest acoustic guitar players and the mandolin accompaniment of Arjen Lucassen, it impresses with its showcasing of virtuosos. The song builds effectively to its acoustic guitar-laden conclusion. This leads to the short, but alluring album closer Afterglow.

As previously mentioned, I wouldn't categorize Everflow as a traditional prog album, It does however contain impressive musicianship and there is an epic-like quality on display throughout. There is an orchestral and majestic nature to both the compositions and the performances. Whatever genre it falls under, it is an impressive work. Think some of Sarah Brightman's material accompanied acoustically by a group of extremely talented musicians and you will have a good idea of what to expect from this album. There is some truly beautiful music to be found on Everflow.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 7 out of 10

Zaria - Po Poti zivljenja
Zaria - Po Poti zivljenja
Country of Origin: Slovenia
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 46:25
Links:
Track List:
Po Poti Življenja (1:41), Glas Srca (5:40), Divja jaga (4:44), Spomin Tisocerih Dni (4:22), Temnina (6:35), Nov Zacetek (4:32), Pozabljeni Svet (4:03), Moc Brez Imena (5:30), Na Odprto Morje (4:55), Sledi Zvezdi (4:02), Spev Zmagoslavja (2:21)
Zaria is a folk metal band from Slovenia and Po Poti zivljenja (Upon The Trail Of Life) is their full length debut album. The folk elements (as well as the prog leanings) come mainly from the impressive flute playing of vocalist, Inez Osina and the operatic, sometimes nordic flair contained in their music. There are times that the band can touch on the style of bands like Jethro Tull or early Camel but those moments are relatively brief. The short opening instrumental title track is a good example of this and it is enjoyable start to the album. It makes one wish that the band had continued forward in this manner. The next track, Gias srca is more indicative of the predominant style of the album. Crunching speed metal guitar over operatic like vocals with folk infused melodies. Inez is a good vocalist, but the style in which she sings is quite melodramatic. The music demands it though, so she brings exactly what is needed to the table. There are also male vocals, but the album information doesn't note which band member is singing. These vocals are not strong and I found them to be more of a distraction than anything else. Lyrically, the album is sung in the band's native tongue.

There are a few reprieves from the heavy guitar laden material and Spomin tisocerih dni is one such track. The dramatic elements are still there, but the overall vibe of the track is mellower. That said, these moments are the exception, but do bring some variety to the proceedings. Therein lies one of the challenges of Po Poti zivljenja. There is a general sameness to much of the album. One track leads to the next without a lot of variance in the style. All of the musicians are skilled and there are some effective moments, but the band displays a penchant for pulling from the same well per say.

Overall, this album lost me for the most part. In fairness though, I would say that the mix of speed guitar and Nordic folk didn't really grab me. The vocals were another part of the challenge. It is apparent that Inez Osina has a lot of range, but the performances are often way over the top. That would describe the album as a whole for me. It just has an extremely melodramatic feel that is exceedingly extravagant. Taking my explanation of the music into consideration and listening to the samples above, your mileage of Zaria may vary. I found Po Poti zivljenja to be well performed, but lacking in variety and substance.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 4 out of 10

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Published Thursday 17 September 2015

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