ISSUE 2015-82

Reviews in this issue:

Barracuda Triangle - Electro Shock Therapy
Barracuda Triangle - Electro Shock Therapy
Country of Origin: Sweden/Germany
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 60:43
Links:
Track List:
Black Days (5:04), Tumoro (6:04), Acid Rain (7:16), Caressing the Moment in Tranquilized Exctacy (8:24), Tears in Blue Rain (3:18), Electro Shock (8:28), Too Much Therapy (8:54), Strom (7:35), The Last One (5:44)
The first thing that sprung to my mind when I read the band name Barracuda Triangle was heavy rain, stormy weather and ships going under. But really that is something different: that's the Bermuda Triangle. Then I read the information accompanying the CD which told me that the music I was about to listen too was referred to as 'Acid Prog'. So my first thoughts weren't that far off! If the music is supposed to be acid, it could get rough.

Knowing the above I was anxious to listen to this recording. Barracuda Triangle is Felix Lehrmann, Tomas Bodin and Jonas Reingold, all three members of the last edition of The Flower Kings that brought us Desolation Rose. This album is a spin-off from Desolation Rose tour, where the threesome discovered how nice it was to jam, and developed some music. Electro Shock Therapy is the result of these jam sessions and later fine-tuning of the music and sound.

According to the trio their music may be described as 'cinematic, dreamy, spacey, beautiful, ugly and dynamic with minimalistic elements and over-the-top full-blown soundscapes.'

"Add some King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Richard Strauss and impressionist Claude Debussy and you have a pretty good picture of what it´s all about," says bassist Jonas Reingold.

An all instrumental album clocking in just over 60 minutes, the acid prog the information spoke of I cannot really discover. The sound and music is heavy, sometimes a tiny bit psychedelic but for the better part neo progressive with some experimental edges. The trio have clearly made an effort to bring us interesting music.

This is an album for the fans of eclectic music, like a good but hard-to-grasp book. Starting out with Black Days we have a more heavy prog rock song, not unlike The Flower Kings. In the second track we hear a different style all together, with some jazz rock of very high standards. A track where virtuosity has the upper hand. A splendid, thriving bass by Jonas, with an overlay of remarkable keyboards in the way that only Tomas knows how to. In the meantime the drums of Felix complete the picture.

Track 3 starts with piano which after about one minute is accompanied by bass guitar, which slowly wanders onward until drums join the party. With the lack of the six-string, the lead instrument in this track is the bass guitar. A slow track that can hit a nerve while listening.

Caressing the Moment in Tranquilized Exctacy (cor) means something different to me than what I hear. I could have sworn that track three and four have had a mix-up in names. The 'exctacy' and 'caressing' I definitely heard in track 3. Track four sounds more Acid, somewhere in the middle I hear a piece that sounds very familiar but I really cannot place it. The song has some amazing bass and keyboards.

Tears in Blue Rain is almost ambient, peaceful, with a background drone and piano overlay. A point of rest halfway through the album.

With Electro Shock you really can get in a shock. I hear some hints towards Alan Parsons Project in the music. A really stunning bass starts the song which is more or less a compilation of multiple melody lines and various music styles.

After a lot of spins this album appeared to be a real grower. Although I must confess the album drains me too much, so I cannot listen to it from start to finish.
Conclusion:
Gert Hulshof: 8 out of 10

Duo Review
Comedy Of Errors - Spirit
Comedy Of Errors - Spirit
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 55:44
Links:
Track List:
Part 1 - Spirit: My Grief Lies All Within (5:21), Infinite Wisdom? (1:52), Spirit Shines/Spirit (4:26), Can This Be Happening?/Timeless (3:54), In Darkness Let Me Dwell (3:06), I Call And Cry To Thee (5:43), Set Your Spirit Free/Goodbye My Love Until We Meet Again (3:21), Ascension/ Et Resurrexit/Auferstehen/Arise In Love Sublime, Arise/Spirit (6:56), Into The Light (5:04), Above The Hills (5:19) Part 2 - Epiloque: This Is How It Has To Be (6:00), Spirit (Alternate Version) (4:42)
Alan Weston's Review
The death of a loved one is something that we all have or will encounter in our lives, and how each of us cope and come to terms with it will be different. Comedy of Errors (CoE)'s third album Spirit is a spiritual voyage in the aftermath and devastation of losing a very near and dear one.

The musical concept can be likened to a V where the journey slides from heartache, bitterness and betrayal until we can go no further, from where we can only slowly rise up and accept, cherish and believe that there is some greater reason as to why things have to be the way they are.

This is by no means a religious album, but a wonderful spiritual journey that takes the listener through a gauntlet of emotions, that can be uncomfortable at times, and where Joe Cairney delivers probably his finest vocals to date. From his questioning angst in My Grief Lies All Within, where lines such as: What the hell are You thinking are delivered with some venom, to his seraphic tones of the incredible title track Spirit Shines/Spirit with a melodic lyrical hook that sticks around long after the CD is back in its sleeve. A masterful vocal performance throughout the album.

The opening track, My Grief Lies All Within, has a surprising departure from what one expects from CoE. After a short synth intro, the song explodes with some hard-hitting, metal styles that Dream Theater would be proud of. This is short-lived, as the song then beds down to a simple, hypnotic bass-line groove that everything else fits around. The song finishes with the only real guitar solo in Part 1 of Spirit, and a superb guitar solo it is.

The turning point in the V journey occurs within the track I Call And Cry To Thee which features hard-hitting power chords that accompany some solid synth solo work, with Bruce Levick pounding out some wicked drumming. Towards the end of the song the solo synth bass and strings slowly descend down the keyboard, giving the sensation of someone falling into despair and hopelessness, until it's suddenly halted by a thunderous drum hit at the start of Set Your Spirit Free, signalling that rock-bottom has been reached.

The voyage back up the V begins with Set Your Spirit Free/Goodbye My Love Until We Meet Again, which is mainly an instrumental, featuring synths and keys that portray a sombre feeling of realisation and acceptance of what has happened. The track segues into Ascension where the music emits a sense of happiness and closure, synth bells chiming out in glorious fashion until the band comes in with a glorious reprise of Spirit. Great stuff.

The piece concludes with Part 2 Epilogue and the instrumental track, This Is How It Has To Be. Not a bad piece of music but for me Spirit should have finished with Above The Hills as I personally felt that the aural journey was complete. Maybe if the last song had some lyrics I may have formed a different view. As it stands, it's like music at the end of a film as the credits roll up the screen. Maybe that's the idea for this concluding piece.

The album features great guitar work from the two guitarists, Sam McCulloch and Mark Spalding that mesh excellently with the cornucopia of Jim Johnston's synth textures and sounds. However, for me I would have preferred a more liberal sprinkling of out-and-out guitar solos. The bass work from John Fitzgerald is rock solid and very inspiring in tracks like Spirit Shines. Bruce Levick once again delivers on all rhythmic fronts from behind the kit.

A great album and band.
Peter Swanson's Review
Comedy of Errors is a Scottish band from the Glasgow area that was formed in 1984 by Jim Johnston (keyboards) and Joe Cairney (vocals). After several changes in the line-up, it took until 2011 before the band released its debut album Disobey. After good response by the public and some nice reviews, they went on to make their follow-up entitled Fanfare & Fantasy in 2013. That album was the real breakthrough for this band and it led to an increasing amount of fans interested in their music.

Now in 2015 they have released Spirit, a very ambitious project. The album is really all about one track of 45 minutes divided into ten parts, and an epiloque that can be considered to be the second track. The closing track is a short alternate version of the first one.

At first I missed real killer tracks like The Cause, Something She Said and The Answer (from the album Fanfare & Fantasy) because this new album is entirely different. The long title track is like a symphony that tells a story, and I had to get used to that. I admit at first I was a little disappointed with this new album. But these guys have really won me over with lots of variety in the keyboard sounds and guitar, with some great vocals that at times sound a bit like Benoit David (ex-Mystery). The music reminds me of Yes and Glasshammer and sounds very melodious. It's an album that gets better after listening to it several times.

Perhaps adding the last alternate version of Spirit is a bit redundant, and ending after the epiloque would have been better, but it takes nothing away from the fact that COE have succeeded in making another great album that will find its way to the houses of many proggers all over the world. They are a force now to be reckoned with in British prog and I sincerely hope they will be going on for many years treating us with such beautiful music. I certainly recommend this album and advise all people to listen more than once.
Conclusion:
Alan Weston: 8.5 out of 10
Peter Swanson: 8.5 out of 10

Gentleman Surfer - Blalks
Gentleman Surfer - Blalks
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 36:05
Links:
Track List:
Clavv Stabh (2:28), Cry Catastrophe (3:13), Isle of Cats (4:41), Calm It (3:20), Placer Shufful (2:01), Baenu (3:14), Won Too (4:54), Keepe (4:30), Pain Staker (7:42)

Gentleman Surfer - Gold Man
Gentleman Surfer - Gold Man
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 38:56
Links:
Track List:
T THE T (1:52), Crewed Dunes (3:29), Abstraction Distraction (2:17), O.M.(2:04), Beef Peddler (4:31), Test Ends (2:09), Dark Masks (4:00), A.B.F.O.P.(2:52) , Mollusk Reading Room (2:00), Long Piece No 5 (2:12), Fried Right (2:32), Rust Man: Late Romantic Gold (5:29), Easy But Knot (3:27)
A band's name and music, as is the case in the two albums that are the subject of this review, can evoke all sorts of strange thoughts.

Dawn breaks to reveal a Californian sun forcibly winking through the curtain cracks. A silhouetted and shadowed male figure carefully unfolds a colourfully faded pair of swimming shorts. The autumn grey label says made in 2006. The swim wear was once pristine, spring like and no doubt loosely fashionable. Undeterred by the years that have left their mark; the man emerges from the room, bowler hatted, and umbrella in hand. Shorts tight, skin loose, he triumphantly waddles towards the shore. A welcoming wave beckons and the visitor is readily accepted into a throng of similarly clad gentlemen. In a ritualistic greeting their umbrellas are raised spear like, and are collectively unfurled to reveal the message 'Gentleman Surfer convention 2015'.

Gentleman Surfer are based in Sacramento California. The band is built around the talents of Jon Bafus on drums, keyboards and voice. The moniker Gentleman Surfer was originally used for Bafus' solo projects Thanksgiving with the Gentleman Surfer (2006) and Tales from the Clipped (2007).These initial works were homemade, limited releases. Gentleman Surfer's first official album Bountiful Ore was released in 2011, and their second release Blalks followed in 2013. The bands third and most recent album Gold Man was released in 2015.

For Blalks the band consisted of Bafus, Drew Walker, Bass, vocals and Barry McDaniel on guitar and vocals. The line- up for Gold Man was expanded to include Zack Bissell on keyboards and vocals. Gentleman Surfer has a unique sound which often discards traditional approaches to song structures and identifiable or accepted musical norms. Their music defies being categorised, or placed into any particular genre. It has an aggressive edge often associated with garage punk, but also contains many of the melodic attributes of music associated with Rock in Opposition.

Overall, Gentleman Surfers sound has some similarities to Ariel Pink's garage freak rock style. However, Gentleman Surfer do not display any of the accessible pop melodies that Ariel Pink occasionally summons up. Both bands nevertheless, arguably mine and channel aspects of Frank Zappa into their approach. In Gentleman Surfer's case the Zappa influence can be easily heard in some of the bizarre multi-faceted vocal arrangements and in the use of a vibraphone like keyboard effect in Isle of Cats on Blalks. The music also shares some of the rhythmic complexities and much of the avant garde unpredictability associated with Zappa. Gentleman Surfer's work hints at the methodical style of math rock, but combines that style with the freedom of musical expression usually associated with Zappa.

Gentleman Surfer's sound is seldom predictable and is characterised by a violent maelstrom of constantly shifting rhythms and timbres. Accessible, beautifully formed flowing melodies are rarely part of the bands vision. The band is at its most stimulating during the instrumental tracks. These are awash with a plethora of contrasting and sometimes conflicting ideas. Consequently, both albums reviewed are an intriguing listening experience.

Blalks consists of nine pieces and is probably the least satisfying of the two albums. It took some time to adjust to the keyboard effects used by Bafus .These at times sounded as if they belonged in a nineties computer game. Four of the pieces are instrumental and these are without doubt the most rewarding. The five other pieces feature vocals that are combined with intense instrumental passages, unconventional song structures and stop start riffs. These tunes are arranged in a manner that gives an impression that the message of the vocals may be significant. Unfortunately, the observational and possibly ironic natures of lyrics are buried in the overall mix. It would have been helpful if the packaging had included a lyric sheet so that the listener could have appreciated any acerbic wit contained in their work.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mesmerizing percussive effects prevalent in the charming instrumental Isle of Cats. It is a track that I will frequently return to. The most prominent feature of Won too is the incessant and powerful bass. The bottom end of this track has real muscle which unrelentingly clasps the listener in its sinewy grip. It is a piece that is steeped in the rigid textures of math rock style. Phrases are repeated and methodically and efficiently explored. Later, the piece develops imaginatively to become a captivating musical prism of alternating colours and mesmerising rhythms.

Gold Man is in many ways a much more satisfying experience. The band seems to have perfected their style and both the instrumental and the vocal pieces have an even greater intensity. As on Blalks, Gentleman Surfer do not rely on upon conventional song structures and this can make Gold Man difficult to listen to, enjoy, or appreciate. Gold Man opens with the histrionic vocal chaos and discordance of T the T. As on Blalks, any acerbic message conveyed in the vocal pieces were largely are lost as the words were for the most part indecipherable to my ears. As a consequence, the most rewarding pieces were once again the predominantly instrumental pieces. On Gold Man, the band has perfected the art of providing a manic instrumental soundtrack that would not have been out of place in a mid-90's video game.

Crewed Dunes offered much with its pumping math rock stylings and whirling synths and promised a great deal, but ultimately did not deliver. It failed to move sufficiently far from its strangely hypnotic grove and although enticing, was never totally satisfying. On the other hand, Beef Peddler was a heavy, disturbing and unsettling experience. Although structurally complex and often compelling, it is a track lacking in beauty. The whole piece is dominated by an incessant wash of pulsating rhythmic sounds. These shook the house and led to a mass exodus of wildlife in the garden.

The most melodic piece on the album was Mollusk Reading Room. In this short composition, Gentleman Surfer display their versatility and ability to adapt their style. Mollusk Reading Room is an impressive funky jazz based instrumental. The track contains many quality moments. The overall structure of the piece and choice of keyboard effects made me immediately draw comparisons with Weather Report. It is undoubtedly the standout track of Gold Man and is by far the most enjoyable piece on offer. Dark Matters is also an impressive piece. It surprisingly features a recurring guitar riff that would have not been out of place on a Led Zeppelin album, or as a part of Jimmy Page's stylistic repertoire. Dark Matters also contains a mélange of styles, including, a calypso beat, rock guitar and a steel band ambience that somehow successfully blend together to create a compelling experience.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to listen to Gentleman Surfer. I usually enjoy music that straddles genres and is unconventional in its scope and execution. I really strived to appreciate their music. I persevered with both albums and listened to them frequently over a period of many weeks. Nevertheless, even the prospect of donning a lurid pair of shorts, bowler hat and an umbrella was not enough to convince me, to hit the play button with any enthusiasm. Overall, I found little to enthuse about, but much that I felt compelled to listen to.

Sadly, I was not able to relate to, or connect to the majority of the band's music in any meaningful way. In truth; I did not know what to make of either album. I hope that many readers discover Gentleman Surfer's art and are able to appreciate their ability to produce music that proudly sits outside the norm.
Conclusion Owen Davies:
Blalks: 6 out of 10
Gold Man: 6.5 out of 10

Level Pi - This Burning Part Of Me EP
Level Pi - This Burning Part Of Me EP
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 32:00
Links:
Track List:
Silentium (4:03), Limit To Your Love (3:36), Abendhimmel (3:08), Mine (5:50), Voices In My Head (7:11), Two Worlds (4:15), Mine (instrumental reprise) (3:53)
Level Pi, the name under which multi-instrumentalist Uwe Cremer releases Krautrock-inspired music, returns after a four-year hiatus with an EP of new music. Mastered by none other than Krautrock legend Eroc, and for the first time featuring Timothy Smith on vocals, the EP encompasses a new sound for Cremer that, at times, is in complete contrast to other Level Pi releases or even the material he has produced in conjunction with Thomas Rydell, who contributes bass on Voices In My Head, or under the moniker Audio Cologne Project.

The most radical departures from previous releases are the three vocal tracks, which show a softer, more romantic side to Cremer's writing. This is most evident on Mine, a rather gorgeous ballad driven by bass guitar, and Two Worlds, a simple tune largely employing piano and acoustic guitar allowing the attention to focus on Smith's vocals, until the guitar solo which fits the song perfectly.

Limit To Your Love is somewhat different, being more up-beat and having an almost Goth vibe to it, indeed when I first heard it I was strongly reminded of early Sisters Of Mercy! Smith has a pleasing voice with a decent range which he uses particularly well on Two Worlds; the low notes he achieves causes lose objects to vibrate!

The instrumental tracks are more representative of Cremer's other work. Opener Silentium is more of a collage of sound effects that fit well with the subliminal background music that again focuses largely on the bass. It is an intriguing and interesting piece of music that draws one in.

Abendhimmel ('Evening Sky') is a good bridging piece between the vocal pieces, maintaining the Gothy vibe of Limit To Your Love whilst simultaneously providing the perfect introduction to Mine.

Voices In My Head is the standout piece with Rydell's bass driving the song along and Cremer's guitars providing the highlights. The violin layered over the top is a lovely addition, and although at times it sounds like the piece is going to descend into chaos, there is always just enough restraint to reel things back in. The EP concludes with the reprise of Mine which stands up well as an instrumental piece, not always the way, with tracks shorn of their vocals. However, it is a totally different arrangement to the earlier song, with additional musical sections and instruments taking the flavour of the piece, to expand and enhance the number.

The thing I like about Cremer is that you never really know what he is going to come up with next. Yes there is usually a nod to the Krautrock that he so obviously loves but it is the variation around the central theme, and where he takes his music, that is so exciting and progressive, for me.

This Burning Part Of Me succeeds in adding another string to his bow by introducing a vocal element to the music. The fact that it is done over a relatively short EP and over three songs is a clever move, as it enables the instrumental pieces to maintain a link to past releases, albeit in a slightly different direction. Available as both a physical CD and as a download from the Level Pi website, this is a fine addition to Cremer's catalogue.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 8 out of 10

Lucifer's Friend - Awakening
Lucifer's Friend - Awakening
Country of Origin: Germany / UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 47:30, 17:20
Links:
Track List:
CD1: Best Of: Ride The Sky (2:56), In The Time of Job (4:06), Keep Going (5:26), Toxic Shadows (7:00), Burning Ships (4:32), Fugitive (4:54), Moonshine Rider (4:47), Dirty Old Town (4:49), Fire And Rain (4:43), Hey Driver (4:12)
CD2: New songs: Pray (4:14), Riding High (5:00), Did You Ever (4:16), This Road (3:48)
The Lucifer's Friend story started when English vocalist John Lawton went to live in Germany in 1969 and a year later hooked up with four members of Electric Food - Peter Hecht (keyboards), Dieter Horns (bass), Peter Hesslein (guitar) and Joachim (Addi) Reitenbach (drums) - who had all been in the sixties beat group German Bonds.

Electric Food released two albums on the obscure Europa label in 1970 and were in the process of writing and recording their third album when they met up with Lawton and invited him to add vocals. The results were released under the name Asterix in late 1970. Shortly following its release the band decided to change their name to Lucifer's Friend releasing a self-titled début in 1971 followed by Where The Groupies Killed The Blues (1972), I'm Just A Rock And Roll Singer (1973), Banquet (1974) and Mind Exploding (1976).

In 1977 Lawton was invited to join Uriah Heep and Lucifer's Friend recruited ex Colosseum II vocalist Mike Stars as his replacement (drummer Reitenbach had been replaced by Herbert Bornholdt, from The James Last Orchestra [!] for the Banquet album). With Stars, Lucifer's Friend released two more commercial-sounding albums, Good Time Warrior (1978) and Sneak Me In (1980), following which the band backed Lawton on his post-Heep solo album Heartbeat (1980).

This resulted in Lawton rejoining the band who released a final album Mean Machine in 1981, before calling it a day. Hesslein and Lawton reunited in 1994 for a oneoff album, Sumo Grip, released under the name Lucifer's Friend II which was supposed to be the end of the story.

Although Lawton had always said the band would never reunite, they did just that in 2014 when Lawton, Hesslein and Horns reconvened without Hecht, who opted to remain living a quieter life, or Rietenbach who had sadly died in the intervening years. The reunited band, with Stephan Eggert occupying the drum stool, have so far recorded four new tracks, and rather than try to relaunch the band with a whole album of new music, they opted to include them on a compilation release of 'fan favourites' from the early years. Surprisingly, a 'best of' compilation of Lucifer's friend has never been released, and none of the albums seem to currently be widely available.

The first CD, unsurprisingly features tracks from the albums that Lawton sang on with the exception of
I'm Just a Rock & Roll Singer. The centrepoint of the band has to be Lawton's vocals which are powerful, melodic and a delight to listen to. The music is a mixture of straight forward rock with more progressive influences on the earlier songs.

The first four songs are from the début album and have a surprising similarity to early Uriah Heep, with lots of organ and guitar interplay, particularly on
Toxic Shadows. Burning Ships from the second album is an acoustic number and not really representative of the rest of Where The Groupies Killed The Blues which has some fine compositions on it. Dirty Old Town from Banquet is also in many ways an odd choice to take from the album, which was somewhat more experimental and featured lush orchestrations throughout. However, that is not to say the song is not worthy of inclusion, it is a fine ballad with an unobtrusive string arrangement.

Mind Exploding was a return to a heavier sound, and listening to Fugitive in particular it is easily understandably why Lawton got the Heep gig, the vocal arrangements are exactly the sound that Heep were aiming for at this time. Both this song and the following Moonshine Rider are strong tracks, even if the progressive elements have been left behind. Likewise, the Mean Machine album picks up on the resurgence of heavy rock in the early 80s and has a heavier, more guitar-based sound. Of the two songs included from this album, Hey Driver, is the more impressive, as Fire And Rain seems rather flat in comparison.

As for the second CD of new material, Lawton's vocals are still strong but naturally they have deepened somewhat over the 34 years since the
Mean Machine album. Musically it is unmistakeably Lucifer's Friend, although the similarities are somewhat driven by the characteristic vocals. Pray is a strong number with a driving rhythm and catchy chorus, Riding High is a welcome return to more proggy elements, and heralds an interesting direction that I hope the band will explore more if they head back into the studio.

Did You Ever is another strong song with a great chorus, and another more adventurous arrangement with a nice break in the middle. This Road is probably the poorest of the new material, overall being rather muddled and lacking direction, although in parts it does remind me of something akin to the Deep Purple reunion album Perfect Strangers.

Lucifer's Friend are somewhat of a forgotten band in prog circles, despite being signed to the Vertigo label. They certainly had their moments, particularly on their first album and although
Awakening_ is not the perfect introduction, there is certainly enough good material included from throughout their career to satisfy those that are curious. Lawton has always been a class vocalist and always delivers.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 6.5 out of 10

The Nerve Institute - Fictions
The Nerve Institute - Fictions
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 65:06
Links:
Track List:
The Confidence-Man (6:14), City of Narrows (6:23), Kniver of Winters / Coronation Days (7:22), Whistling Wire (4:38), Knives of Summer (10:19), Rayuela (4:42), With Joy We Espy the Sacrophagus (6:22), Grimoire (3:34), Abrazo y Caminando (4:11), Docile Bodies / In the Leprosarium (11:22)
The Nerve Institute is the one-man project of Texan multi-instrumentalist Mike S. Judge. He released an album under this moniker in 2011 called Architects of Flesh-Density. For reviewing purposes I decided to give that one a quick scan as well, and what immediately struck me was how much better that album sounds. I soon learned that this album Fictions was actually recorded before the 2011 album, but was given a re-release and remaster in 2015.

The music on this release can be described as avant-prog, done the King Crimson / Robert Fripp way with some slight, soft Opeth and Steven Wilson influences here and there. What makes this album remarkable is the huge African and Latin influence, and a big Canterbury-scene type of sound with lots of Mellotron and acoustic guitars.

The Confidence-Man and City of Narrows can qualify as being song-based, with the former sounding like a decent mix of Damnation-era Opeth and Greek-sounding, strummed guitars. The latter sounds a bit like a weirder version of The Pineapple Thief, but the vocals sound a bit weak. They're processed like the 'telephone voice' Steven Wilson often uses, but it just doesn't sound pleasant to my ears.

When the track derails into a jazz-fusion workout that doesn't go anywhere, I'm kind of lost as a listener. The remainder of the album continues in a mostly instrumental format, with one idea thrown in after another. Ironically, the longest song does have some redeeming qualities. It's definitely got the atonal King Crimson vibe down, and gives the listener enough breaks to catch a breath once in a while.

I have nothing against experimental music and I can definitely survive without an obvious verse-chorus structure, as long as the music is good. But no matter what kind of vocal or instrumental melody comes in, nothing seems to stick here. With all due respect for the talents of this multi-instrumentalist, I have to be plain honest and say that I didn't enjoy this release at all.

It's not bad per se, as Mike's jazz-fusion influenced guitar solos are pretty impressive, the world music influenced percussion is cool, and his bass lines are fluid. What's missing here is restraint, knowing when NOT to play. It's too much.

The drums sound really thin and muffled and the mix never seems to settle on a decent sounding combination of sounds. That doesn't help, but I can get past that if the songs are good.

That said, I'm sure there are people who might enjoy this album. Despite my low rating, this isn't an album created by someone who can't play. He can surely play and there are some decent ideas, but in my opinion there isn't a single front-to-back good song on the entire album.
Conclusion:
Karel Witte: 4 out of 10

OH. - Synemotion
OH. - Synemotion
Country of Origin: Greece
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 37:35
Links:
Track List:
Run Away (3:05), Rumpus (3:18), Subterfuge (3:54), Elegy (4:01), Deception (3:51), Reception (4:21), World of Warcraft (3:43), Beckoning (3:33), Synemotion (3:55), Synemotion (instr) (3:54)
OH., or Olivia Hadjiioannou, is a multi-instrumentalist musician and composer from Athens, Greece, where this album was recorded. It says on her Bandcamp page that she also lives in the USA.

Synemotion is a solo album in the true sense of the word. All music was written, composed and played by Olivia. It is not all that often we get to see (hear) a one woman band.

The music on Synemotion is of the heavier kind in prog. Progmetal would be a suitable word for the style. As OH. states, Synemotion is a journey through our emotions, divided into nine different tracks. For the most part, this is an instrumental album, with just one track having words added. Had I not have known better, I would have sworn OH. was a full band, where at least the instruments were played by different people.

Producing an album in a studio is of course different from playing it on stage. In the studio all instruments are recorded separately and the mixing and mastering does the rest. In my humble opinion this has been done marvellously well on Synemotion. I hear a great stereo sound and the instrumentation is very well arranged.

The length of the tracks is not spectacular; from just over three minutes to under five. Still the music is very entertaining. Olivia has been giving her best shot to compose the songs. Track one is a song that could well have been done by Joe Satriani if it were not that Satriani normally has more melodic lines.

Musically one could easily say that the music is thirteen in a dozen, but there is something to it that grabs your attention. I have been spinning the album for a while now and however it may seem, it has been a tremendous job to put any conclusions into a review. The music grabs me, and on the other side I say to myself that I haven't heard that before.

Olivia sure is a good musician and arranger. I really enjoyed this album from beginning to the end. The title track appears on the album twice, once as an instrumental and once with vocals. The lyrics for Synemotion have been written and spoke by Olivia in a sensual sounding voice, which suits the music very well.

All in all this is a very well made album, maybe a little short but that is made up for in the package as a double vinyl album. For all lovers and enthusiasts of guitar virtuosity, Olivia has made an album of international allure in heavy prog rock instrumentals. She plays rough, loud, peaceful and tranquil, but most of all she is a good musician who has already developed her own style.
Conclusion:
Gert Hulshof: 8 out of 10

Zion - 9P - Nove Pianeti
Zion - 9P - Nove Pianeti
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 40:38
Links:
Track List:
Plutone (5:30), Nettuno (3:12), Uranus (5:02), Saturno (3:27), Giove (4:46), Marte (3:18), Terra (3:15), Venere (4:26), Mercurio (7:32)
Zion is a progressive rock band from Naples, Italy and 9P - Nove Pianeti is their second full-length studio release. This album is made up of old school prog, very much in the style of early Emerson, Lake & Palmer. That comparison is not only about the impressive keyboard work by Michele Boggia, it is also quite apparent that bassist, Francesco Cimminiello and drummer, Mauro D'Ambrosio have definitely found their inner Greg Lake and Carl Palmer.

Though Zion won't win any awards for originality, there is a retro vibe to the album that is quite appealing. In fact, the band not only successfully emulates prog from the classic days, they do a good job of capturing some of the rough energy of that early period.

The Hammond and synth sounds are straight out of 1975 and it is a blast to hear them played with such enthusiasm. The instrumental moments on the album are easily the most effective. That is not a slight on singer, Vittorio Galdi, who does an admirable job. It just proves to be a tough task to compete with the entertainingly-excessive instrumentation. In fact, there are times when the band is a bit too excessive for their own good. Though D'Ambosio is a fine drummer, two drum solos on a studio album in 2015 is a bit much.

That said, it is also an example of how exuberantly over the top the band can be. The vocals, (all in Italian), tend to clash at times with the music. From an overall song writing perspective, I had the impression listening to this album, that Zion may actually be better suited as an instrumental band.

In fact, the reason that the album works as well as it does is all down to the instrumental passages and the performances of the band members. 9P - Nove Pianeti doesn't break any new barriers in prog, but it is a fun listen. Tracks like Plutone, Uranis, Glove and Terra, showcase a band that writes and plays with an appealing enthusiasm.

If they retain the vocals in the future, my recommendation would be to be more adventurous with the length of their songs. It would be great to hear these talented musicians really stretch out more and create some strong epic prog tracks. For now, it seems that they are going for more of a straightforward prog presence. That works, but they are all strong players. It seems likely that they could create an even stronger prog album in the future that focuses even more of their musical strengths if they push the limits a bit more.
Conclusion:
Patrick McAfee: 6.5 out of 10

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Published Thursday 12 November 2015

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