ISSUE 2015-585

Reviews in this issue:

Annot Rhül - Leviathan
Annot Rhül - Leviathan
Country of Origin: Norway
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 48:36
Links:
Track List:
Leviathan Suite (i. The Traveller, part I, ii. The Sailors, part I, iii. In Limbo at 5000 Fathoms, iv. Maybe They Sailed out Too Far?, v. Between Scylla and Charybdis, vi. The Sailors, part II, vii. Interstellar Foe) (13:54), The Colour out of Space (7:04), Surya (4:46), Distant Star (3:27), The Mountains of Madness (7:18), R'Lyeh (i. The Elder Ones, ii. 47°9 S 126°43 W, iii. Every Man For Himself, iv. In the Wake of Cthulhu, v. The Traveller, part II) (12:05)
Let me directly jump to the conclusion, if you will allow me: I have heard many new albums this year and this album is one of the best. I think that's mainly because this album surprised me, overwhelmed me even and just grabbed me; it just stood out. Not that this album stands out so much from other albums in the same genre. Even the style it's catalogued under, psychedelic space rock, is not even one if my favourite genres. But this album hit the right chord with me!

Sorry to have spoiled the conclusion of this review already for you at this early stage, but I just had to mention this right away, since this way my first reaction to this album. After several spins this album still doesn't bore me in any way - another remarkable fact - even though the surprise elements have faded away and I have comprehended the music better.

The strange band name is not some ancient mystic Norwegian expression, just the band's driving force, guitarist and keyboard player Sigurd Lühr Tonna's name spelled backwards.

It's been a while since Annot Rhül's last release which was in 2007 when the album Lost In The Woods was released. By their own saying the band was in cryostasis but are now back with a progressive smorgasbord released on the Italian label Black Widow Records. The info does not mention a proper band line-up so I can't tell whether this is a real band indeed or a project by Sigurd Lühr Tonna with the help of many other musicians. The many musicians are mentioned in the booklet with a long array of instruments (mainly keyboards) with which they contributed to this album. This album is truly one for key lovers - loads of mellotron, moog, mini-moog, synthesizers, hammond and other keyboards!

Theme of the album seems to be the sea and its mythical creatures, maybe aliens, clearly depicted by the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired front cover of the mythical sea creature Leviathan grabbing a ship with one of his many legs. It's a mainly instrumental album. I was surprised when I read some lyrics in the booklet since I had hardly noticed them when listening to the music. Only The Mountains of Madness is a more vocal driven song.

The main reason why I don't have a connection with psychedelic and space rock is that in my opinion you need to be in some kind of woozy mental state to really enjoy the music. Even though being Dutch I never use any kind of drugs and even alcohol barely passes my esophagus, so I'm probably too sober to fully enjoy most psychedelic and space rock. But this album is different. It's not so dreamy or ambient or relying on endless hypnotising repetitive tunes; it's melodical, varied and a full blast of keys right in your face, just the way I like it. Cranking up the volume of my stereo makes me fully digest this music, being flooded by terrific waves of key dominated sounds that make me feel like swimming in a warm bath of cushions.

First track of the album is the biggest highlight of the album to me. The Leviathan Suite consists of seven pieces that are knitted together in such a way that I hardly noticed the various segments. Even though the album doesn't contain a weak moment, this track still stands out a bit. Almost 14 minutes long without 1 dull moment; the song reminds me of Pink Floyd's Shine on You Crazy Diamond, but then with some added power. Not in a way that it resembles that song, plus its intro is much shorter, but in the way it has an impressive impact on me and keeps fascinating me every time I listen to it, the whole lenghty way through. Ending with a powerful and bombastic climax this song blows me away every time again. The clearly present mellotron also brings back memories to the first King Crimson album on which it also played a significant role. Some traces of Jean-Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield can also be found on this album. As a modern reference Carptree comes to mind.

The shorter tracks that follow are a bit more song orientated songs, but stick to the same magical, powerful and room-filling atmosphere that was introduced by the starting track. The closing track R'lyen, consisting of five pieces, again craftily woven into a single large piece, really has 'climax' written all over it and has a truly spacey ending attached to it. My love for bombastic and full-force wall-of-keyboards-sounds is very satisfactory served here again.

The aforementioned Pink Floyd is really a good reference for the music of Annot Rhül, especially the older, psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd. But then with lots of power, tempo, extra keys and modern sounds added to it. Annot Rhül sounds like the old Pink Floyd on speed and a great desire to completely blow you off your socks, literally.

Anyone that was disappointed with the almost ambient sounds of the latest Pink Floyd should listen to this album. Anyone interested in space rock, but not liking the spacey and psychedelic repetitive drones should listen to this album. Anyone that likes fat layers of keys resulting in a bombastic, but not totally dense, sound should listen to this album. Actually I could sum it up in saying: anyone who likes excellent, keys orientated, powerful prog should listen to this album!
Conclusion:
Joris Donkel: 9 out of 10

Halo Tora - Omni\One
Halo Tora - Omni\One
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 54:02
Links:
Track List:
Trans/Zero (2:04), Permanent Revolution (3:45), Ruins (5:44), The Bones That Rock the Cradle (5:37), Tonight (4:57), Hangman (4:01), Under the Surface (6:15), Needles (6:06), Age of Terror (5:38), The Executioner (3:32), Red X is Mandatory (0:46), Omni\One (5:33)
It's sometimes difficult to be positive about an album that does not appeal, but I will try and highlight aspects of Halo Tora's debut release Omni\One that others might enjoy.

You may recall my neighbour Mr Addfwyn Cyllell who featured in the review of Gentle Knife's self- titled debut. You may remember his unflinching attitude to life and to music. His willingness to embrace other forms of progressive music has now regressed somewhat. Addfwyn's allegiance to the tender cut and inventive style of Gentle Knife is unfortunately, a long faded memory. Our shared brick work resounds and vibrates to another band's tune.

The recent sounds emanating from his house leave me with little desire to put my empty glass against the wall in order to hear more. His enthusiasm for his favourite band of the moment is constant and unyielding. His desire to share his new found discovery is infectious.

He screams "Halo" to me whenever he sees me. Recently, he has begun to add the word Tora to his greeting. At first, I thought it was just another of the pet names he had given me, but when I met him yesterday the truth was unveiled. I smiled at him in recognition of his neighbourly affection. Addfwyn quickly grabbed his opportunity. He grinned and said "Halo Tora" I nodded in a perplexed manner and replied "Hello Addfwyn". He smiled again and said "Halo Tora". I then noticed that his stubby fingers clutched a CD case. Before I realised, it was too late. His plan had been sprung. I was entwined! Addfwyn took his chance and said "Halo Tora. Take this CD; it's great! You like prog don't you?"

Scottish band Halo Tora, have created a powerful debut that is full of the characteristics that has made this style of rock attractive to Addfwyn Cyllell and so many listeners. Locked in a post grunge time capsule; emotive vocals strike out a conveyor belt of heart felt verses and a plethora of ear friendly sing a long choruses. There are twelve songs to hum along to. They are all well – constructed and each one glows with low lit appeal. Vocal peaks are supported by layered vocal harmonies. These emphasise the points that the band, no doubt considers to be, the pinnacle parts of their art. The bands clear artistic vision is set against a back drop of grungy guitars and choppy drums. Instrumental sections break up the proceedings with regulation regularity and display an absorbing attention to detail. No pebble is left unturned in the bands efforts to create music that is easy on the ear, yet filled with joyful angst.

Halo Tora's uncomplicated pull and earnest attempt to capture a wide range of emotive energies will no doubt find appeal with those who enjoy slow burning tunes with distinctive and prominent vocals. The release never strays too far from a well- trodden path. It is the sort of album that will either greatly appeal or will induce feelings of indifference.

Omni\One sails comfortably within its predictably tranquil and sheltered harbour. Never venturing far from the protected shore of familiarity, unexpected moments are imagined rather than experienced. As Omni\One's voyage unfolds, musical currents ripple listlessly against its weathered hull. The crew ride upon a slow moving tide that is far removed from the swell generated by prog rock's distant craggy shore. Beyond the horizon, shrouded in mist and secrecy the dashingly inventive and crested waves of progressive music wait in forlorn hope.

If you like repetition, then you may find much to enjoy in Halo Tora's debut release. If you enjoy repetitive choruses then you should find the lyrical content of this album reassuringly familiar. If you enjoy traditional repetitive song structures of verse a chorus and a middle eight, then this release will probably have you consistently reaching for the play or repeat button.

The album is also weighed down by predictably trite lyrics, which are loaded with dubious philosophical content. My favourite saying in the release was undoubtedly "Hang a heavy weight around your neck. This isn't no way to gain respect."

Did I mention that Addfwyn used to wear a tightly clasped gold medallion? He thought that the emotive message was a plea for medallion wearers to free themselves of their chains. Addfwyn has not worn his medallion since! He really should have noticed that the song was entitled Hangman!

Omni\One will no doubt be welcomed with a gleeful smile by those whose penchant for music is touched by an appreciation of what is familiar. If you allow the bands musical tide to gently take you towards the safe harbour where Omni\One sails, then you may even be impressed.

Addfwyn knocked on my door today. He greeted me with the words, "Halo Tora, how was it for you?"
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 5 out of 10

Kalisantrope - Anatomy of the World
Kalisantrope - Anatomy of the World
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 25:49
Links:
Track List:
Varroa Destructor (4:33), Hypophysis (3:46), Holodomor (4:23), Concept Fading (4:55), She (8:12)
An Italian instrumental three-piece, Kalisantrope features drums, bass and keyboards. Anatomy of the World is a short EP, but it's tight and punchy Italian progressive rock, with classical and jazz overtones.

All three can play their instruments, that's clear.

The album kicks off with drums and bass, suggesting, dare it be said, a more sedate introduction to the 1960s classic instrumental Wipe Out. However, worry not, prog fans, as normal service is resumed as it does become a prog track as driving keyboards enter the mix.

At times, such as on the introduction to Holodomor, it's ethereal and ambient, but this is merely a stalling tactic. As the keyboards crackle and cymbals wash, the piece builds with an improvisation that stutters and changes, before finding its way with a pulsing keyboard jazz-fusion riff that again slows before taking off once more. It's pleasant, and has some interesting keyboard sounds, but at times it's a bit aimless as it plods along.

It's definitely well at home in the Italian prog vein (RPI), and at times reminds of Le Orme. The modern keyboard sounds do, however, give it a different dimension, and the dynamic is certainly altered by the constant changes.

There's a good amount of improv, some quirkiness, some full-on moments - such as when Hypophysis explodes into action, but all too often, that groove is interrupted by a slowing of the pace. Nothing wrong with that, but it's hard to get a feel for exactly where they are going. Just when it gets good, it's off in a different direction, usually slower. Especially when the very same piece, which starts promisingly in a phrenetic 70s vein, winds up again, without notice, only this time with a keyboard section that sounds like early Marillion.

Concept Fading is more improvisational, with some classical piano leanings. There are sporadic bursts of greatness on show, before it gets a bit heavier, almost ELP or UK-like, but then it all gets a bit lost again.

The closer and three-part mini-epic, She, starts with a classical organ, a la Widor's Toccata, then heads into jazz, then back to classical. And then jazz. It's all a bit stop-start, and never really takes off to anywhere meaningful.

The constant changes, and the fact that a few of the transitions are more than a bit awkward, leave the impression that this is a band with tons of diverse ideas, but not a lot of self-editing at this point. But, that could change over time, and as a debut, it's definitely promising.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 5 out of 10

Maat Lander - The Birth of Maat's Galaxy
Maat Lander - The Birth of Maat's Galaxy
Country of Origin: Russia
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 74:21
Links:
Track List:
The Comet Rider (5:37), Alnilam (7:55), Spiral Arms (6:05), To Johannes Kepler (9:24), Aquarius (7:09), Gliese 581 (6:06), Lunar Rocket (6:36), Two Keys To The Sky (6:35), Coma Berenices (9:10), The Birth Of Maat's Galaxy (9:44)
Maat Lander is a psychedelic/space-rock instrumental trio from Russia. And to say they are accomplished would be a bit of an understatement.

The first piece, The Comet Rider, is an all-out assault, a la Ozric Tentacles. There are hints of Djam Karet, even a touch of Hawkwind. At times, there are even passages that wouldn't be out of place in the interesting world of The Orb.

But it's on the second track where it really gets interesting. On Alnilam, there's a pulsing Asian beat in the background, subtle synths, ethnic music and instruments, and it bubbles along beautifully. There's so much going on, even though it's at a much quieter pace. It evolves, almost morphing into Tangerine Dream territory, with fleeting glimpses of Pink Floyd's Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.

Spiral Arms kicks the pace up to 11 again, while To Johannes Kepler is much more ambient, more in Steve Roach soundscape territory, at least for the first half of the piece. The latter half returns to a more psychedelic space-rock zone.

And so it continues. Two Keys from the Sky features a more recent David Gilmour-like Pink Floyd guitar sound, but it's certainly a galaxy more aligned to the Ozrics throughout the 70-plus-minute disc.

Competent, well played, and no doubt good live, but it's that journey to space via southern Asia on Alnilam that really steals the show and suggests this is a band to keep a cosmic eye on.
Conclusion:
Jim Cornall: 7 out of 10

Moraz Alban Project - MAP
Moraz Alban Project - MAP
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 46:42
Links:
Track List:
Jungle Aliens (5:38), Strictly Organic (5:20), Canyon Afternoon (4:33), Jazz in the Night (3:53), He Drums Also Solo (4:32), The Real Feel (5:50), Alien Intelligence (5:07), Mumbai Mantra (6:09), Alien Species (5:40)
Renowned keyboard player Patrick Moraz is, of course, fondly remembered as Rick Wakeman's replacement in Yes for the 1974 Relayer album and for his tenure in The Moody Blues. Solo albums have abounded too, with his very first The Story of I being a personal favourite and with collaborations with Bill Bruford, the idea of a keys and drum undertaking has been done before.

Fast forward then to 2015, himself and tub thumping chum, Greg Alban have combined forces in the Moraz Alban Project making the acronym MAP as it's title. Fine jazz bass player, John Avila and occassional sax from Dave VanSuch inbue this recording with a distinctive American feel.

In fact if you're aware of records by Fourplay, Bob James, and Joe Sample you'll get the picture as to the type of sound presented here. I'm also reminded of Billy Cobham's Powerplay period, but it's the inclusion of percussionist to the famous, Lenny Castro, that really lifts the fidelity - very well recorded and played on nearly all of the tracks.

Thick modern synths and piano over rock / jazz crossover performances are the order of the day, with Moraz's player assured and enjoyable in equal measures and should appeal to a wide audience, but not neccessrily a prog one though. Mumbai Mantra hints at his earlier world experimentation, whislt ending piece Alien Speicies bucks the trend with nearly six minutes of Ambient chords and cymbol whooshing that could be the soundtrack to the international space station.

I personally liked this and would say that if you are familiar with the American musicians previosly mentioned, then you'll love this - but be warned The Gates of Delirium are no where to be found on this particular map.
Conclusion:
Andrew Halley: 7 out of 10

Mystery - Delusion Rain
Mystery - Delusion Rain
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 61:46
Links:
Track List:
Delusion Rain (10:04), If You See Her (6:11), The Last Glass of Wine (6:47), The Willow Tree (19:30), Wall Street King (6:39), A Song for You (12:35)
The 17th of October was a date that many Mystery fansin the Netherlands will not forget easily. The expectations were high and the band proved them right that evening at the Boerderij in Zoetermeer. Would they also play songs from their fortcoming new album Delusion Rain? Yes, they played two new songs and they sounded great! The whole concert was a huge success and the audience couldn't stop cheering and clapping after the final encore. It was their final gig of the European tour and in every country (UK, Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands) they impressed the audience and enlarged their fan base immensely. Enough dwelling on the past, now about the future.

I think that's looking very bright for these French Canadian guys after the release of Delusion Rain. Composer, guitarist and artistic leader Michel St. Pere seems to have gathered the right musicians around him at the moment. It's the debut album of lead vocalist Jean Pageau who replaced Benoit David and he sounds very convincing with his beautiful and powerful voice which I would compare with a mixture of the voices of Dennis De Young (Styx), Geddy Lee (Rush), Steve Perry (Journey) but also with his predecessor in this band.

Reading all those names of above mentioned singers you might expect a more AOR-orientated album and it's true that there are elements of AOR in Mystery's music that's mixed into a fine blend of progressive and symphonic rock. The opening track Delusion Rain starts very dynamic with powerful riffs on guitar and the pounding drums of Jean- Sébastien "The Animal" Goyette before it calms down with later on the return of the heavy guitar riffs by St Pere and fellow guitarist Sylvain Moineau. Some of the soloing on guitar even sounds Gilmouresque and the drumming is impressive as well. Goyette really is among the best prog drummers in the world in my opinion. He is very powerful and energetic but also manages to play complex rhythms with ease, so nothing wrong with his technical abilities!

The Last Glass of Wine is the track where bass player Francois Fournier gets his moment of glory with some solid bass playing from start to finish. The longest track The Willow Tree is the epic on this album and has a nice built up to a heavy eruption of guitar, drums and the keyboards of Benoit Dupuis. At the end of the track guest musician Sylvain Descoteaux (of Huis) joins in on piano and Michel St. Pere plays another Gilmour-styled solo on guitar.

The final track A Song for You is another long track of over twelve minutes and you can hear Jean Pageau playing flute. The song has a beautiful melody and is a great closing track with an awesome guitar solo towards the end. Another highlight on an album without weaknesses. Mystery in my opinion have now joined The Champions League of Prog with an album that has an incredible level of quality and it confirms that they have maintained the high standard they set after their last two albums One Among the Living (2010) and The World Is a Game (2012). This album could be high on many end of year lists and for sure on mine. Need I say I recommend this album to all DPRP readers?
Conclusion:
Peter Swanson: 10 out of 10

Napier's Bones - Tregeagles Choice
Napier's Bones - Tregeagles Choice
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 56:19
Links:
Track List:
Hear the Tale (1;44) Schooldays (6:36) Wearily (5:04) Tregeagles Choice (9:05) Vox Pupili (2:42) Halcyon Days: Ecce Homo (8:14) Best of Times? (5:05) Tempus Fugit (4:28) Eleventh Hour (14:01)
This is UK prog duo Napier's Bones' second album. Nathan Jon Tillett and Gordon Midgley have a definite vision of storytelling that fits comfortably in the classic prog mould, with the album being the story of Jan Tregeagle, the Demon of Cornish legend and how he went from being a man to a monster.

With its roots in Cornish Folklore and its dark morality tale, the album has lots in common with folk rock operas like Fairport Convention's Babbacombe Lee or Peter Bellamy's The Transports whilst fitting into the prog storytelling genre occupied by artists like Ayreon or Rick Wakeman. The epic musical scope throughout this album draws to mind early 70s Pink Floyd. One musical passage soars and flies with beautiful guitar and keyboard interplay and calls to mind Fragile era Yes, when Howe and Wakeman would push each other to musical highs. This isn't to say that Napiers Bones are copyists, oh no, they fit nicely into this genre and are continuing to fly the flag for progressive storytelling. To be capable of such musical magnificence is tribute to Midgley and Tillet's vision.

The mood from start to finish mirrors the story, as it mixes folk themes with the gamut of classical prog. There are some fantastical musical highs such as on the heavier guitar-based tracks like the epic Eleventh Hour which has some wonderful guitar and keyboard interplay. This track also has a beautiful piece of guitar soloing over some of the most atmospheric keyboards I have heard for a long, long time. The vocals are impassioned and powerful throughout. As the story drives the music, and as the songs are performed rather than sung, I think that this epic performance would work wonders as a musical (similar to Clive Nolan's recent foray into theatre).

There is no bad track on this album. The way the music, the story and the honest, impassioned and powerful vocals pull you into the record are a testament to the vision of Napiers Bones, and both Tillet and Midgley should rightly be proud of this musical achievement.

If this is only their second album I for one cannot wait to see where there musical journey takes them next.
Conclusion:
James R Turner: 8 out of 10

Oceanwake - Sunless
Oceanwake - Sunless
Country of Origin: Finland
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 43:40
Links:
Track List:
The Lay of a Coming Storm (15:37), Parhelion (9:18), Avanturine (8:03), Ephemeral (10:26)
This album by Oceanwake begins with promises of Black Sabbath with the low grunge of distorted guitar and bass, but then a horrible growling vocal rips through your speakers like a cheese grater to the brain. "Salvation dies by the weight of oceans / deliverrance lies under desolation" the lyric page translates from the opening 15:37 track, The Lay of a Coming Storm. Err quite.

The "prog" bits, I guess, come from the brief resbites of simple and ambient guitar with some almost Floydian drum work but soon the descent into hell more than takes its toll. And that's how the album rolls. By Ephemeral, I'm exhausted.

Sunless is the title of this recording and it couldn't be more apt. It's a lot like trying to review a chainsaw in "What Butter Knife" magazine: "...and in conclusion this device must lose a few stars due to its uncanny ability to ignore the toast and jam and simply slice through the table and my leg...", etc.

Also, I'm really not sure if this album belongs on this site, this is surely the kind of modern beat combo that's called Death Metal? - I signed up due to my love of symphonic rock or lovely whimsical dittes, not the soundtracks to Danté's inferno.

However,there must be hundreds out there who would love this work, maybe listening to it as some full on slaughtering takes place? But this just isn't my cup of tea.

I'm sure they're a smashing bunch of lads, so good luck with the record, you know your audience. Time to put the kettle on.
Conclusion:
Andrew Halley: 4 out of 10

Pictures for an Exhibition (Картинки к выставки) - Red Yellow Green (красный желтый зеленый)
Pictures for an Exhibition (Картинки к выставки) - Red Yellow Green (красный желтый зеленый)
Country of Origin: Russia
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 55:54
Links:
Track List:
English translations: Field Road (4:52), Special People (5:56), Sea (4:20), To the Wild North (2:41), Red, Yellow, Green (5:16), Robin Hood and the Forest Visitors (3:54), Be Awake Shortly (6:17), Dreamer (3:38), Green Lower Field (3:31), Ocean (9:41), Walking Human (5:48)
Reading Russian while being non-Russian nor familiar with the Cyrillic script is quite a challenge. Understanding Russian even more so. And then there is an album sung in Russian with all texts on the cd package in Cyrillic. How to review it? Fortunately the wife of my father-in-law is from Russia and she helped me out perfectly with the sleeve texts. So now I know what the song titles are which offers at least some idea of what this cd is dealing with.

This band called Pictures for an Exhibition consists of no less than eight musicians. Leading man seems to be Stas Barabanow (keys, acoustic guitar), supported by Pavel Pisotski (drums and percussion), Evgeni Georgijewski (bass), Andrej Dubrowski (keys), Alexei Nadtotsi (guitar), Alexei Sorokin (drums) and brothers Valentin and Andrej Akulinin (bass). There's no indication who is singing, unfortunately. The album comes in a cardbox sleeve with a simple but effective graphic design by Kiril Kolpatjikow showing all (?) the information you need (I think). The album is distributed by Silence Records Company from St. Petersburg but their site www.silence-records.ru doesn't mention the artist nor the album. What is evident though is that neither the band nor this album have anything to do with Mussorgsky's classical masterpiece or its well-known interpretation by ELP.

So the music should tell us all. Album opener Field Road is a varied song, starting with gentle, classical piano and guitar exhibiting three tempo variations in the first minute. The vocals are nice, cheerful, backed by a festive sounding piano. The musical interlude is piano led accompanied by guitar and mellow synths all played in a totally different time signature than the up-tempo vocal part. It all ends with a swirling piano. So much is happening in the song that it sounds like a little symphony in itself. Being the opening track it should set the stage for the rest of the album but alas, this high level of music will not be reached again, by far.

Special People is built upon a really nice bluesy guitar and has an almost Caribbean rhythm. The very laid-back vocal melody gives this song an appealing jazzy feeling. Totally different from the opener but still nice.

Then things start to deteriorate. Both Sea and To the Wild North are cabaretesque, lounge-like songs, sounding as if a masculine Astrud Gilberto is singing some Russian folk song. They are quite slow, simple songs, mediocre and totally out-of-place. With the title track Red, Yellow, Green, the album regains some momentum. It's again a slow song with piano as the dominant instrument but the laziness of the former two tracks is completely gone. The electric piano solo sounds a bit like Supertramp's Lazy with driving bass and drums and nice guitar riffing on the background.

Robin Hood is another strange song, sounding as if our mystic distinguished English gangleader is cheerfully debating with, well, somebody. It sounds like a Shakespearean play put to music and it doesn't work out for me at all. With the driving Be Awake Shortly, the electric piano and guitar riffs come back that build up a proggy musical finale in the song in which keys and guitar interplay well. Together with the opener and the title track, this ranks among the best tracks of the album. Green Lower Field is a nice ballad with romantic acoustic guitar and melancholic synths and violin (played by Kira Sjulaleva) over which an attractive vocal melody is sung.

The longest track Ocean opens quietly with synths and guitar to speed up after a minute towards an up-tempo piano-driven song. It has the atmosphere of The The's Uncertain smile but the guitar solo at the end gives the song more power. That solo is a pleasant surprise; it's the first guitar solo on the album, showing the band can rock if they want. The harmony vocals are particularly noteworthy here because they express more emotion than any vocals on the rest of the songs. The last track features the piano again in an easy-listening ballad ending in an extensive instrumental coda with piano and guitar.

All in all this band of musicians shows that it is capable of making music in a variety of styles, yet it fails to produce a coherent sounding album. The different styles fall apart. It's not progressive but also not jazz. It's not lounge but most certainly also not rock. It touches on blues, cabaret, and Carribean. That may be an achievement in just over 55 minutes of music, but it also makes this album something you can't simply 'just be in the mood for'. The songs may not be bad as such, but they are not very good either. Since it will be extremely hard to lay your hands on this album, I shouldn't take too much trouble to search for it.
Conclusion:
Theo Verstrael: 5 out of 10

The Secret Sits - Growings
The Secret Sits - Growings
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 43:18
Links:
Track List:
Close Up (4:22), Sun/Son (3:56), Advice (4:17), Capital (5:05), Mirror (4:41), Colombine (4:17), Run (2:56), Bird's Eye (3:42), Home (3:58), The Secret Sits (6:07)
Wonderful, fresh, and tasty! I'm really impressed by this debut album by The Secret Sits.

These four German guys previously released an EP called Worlds (2013), from which they extracted the single Loose. This also represents an interesting work, where the band was able to express its own style within 5 tracks. The new album, Growings (2015), confirms this young quartet as one of the most promising ones in today's panorama. What's more, with respect of the previous EP, this time they're able to converge at best what is their own style, finding a proper mixture between originality, easy listening and complexity.

Their music is a pop rock which avoids banality embracing interesting sounds and effects on often unusual time signatures. Effective vocals able to remain stuck in your mind, powerful rhythms kept strong by incisive drums and bass, and cool insertions of electronic music. This is what you can expect from The Secret Sits.

As probably 90% of the bands in the last two decades, they claim to draw inspiration from bands like Radiohead. And certainly did that English band extend its influence on this German quartet. However, I'd rather make a comparison with an hypothetical band formed by mixing The Pineapple Thief with the X&Y's Coldplay.

The album opens straight with the most effective track, which also represents the second single of the band: Close Up. An as essential as powerful drums and bass guitar riff opens this song laying on a soft keyboards carpet. This is the main motif accompanying us throughout the whole opening track. We taste it on its own only once. That's enough. Immediately after that we're distracted by the debut of Julian Schneid's wonderful voice in the album. Impressive! In between one refrain and the other, synths and electronic effects are strongly supporting to the end an almost 70's dance music-style rhythmic section. Overall, at first it may appear as an easy listening pop-rock song, but it is definitely much more than that. I really appreciate the choice of the overlapping sound effects and the global arrangements. Moreover, the whole song theme is based on a non-standard pattern made of a 4/4 and 6/4 rather than of a 5/4. I personally love it and you can find many other examples listening to their music (Bird's Eye is another cool one).

Unfortunately, the second track Sun/Son at first killed much of my excitement, since I find it quite redundant. However, it fortunately appears to be just a misstep as we listen at the third song, Advice. This is another very interesting and elaborated piece to be enjoyed. I don't know if it was done on purpose, but I find quite funny the fact that in the middle of the song a The Who-style chorus is asking "who am I?". I'd also like to highlight the strong Capital and the impressive Home. There's also space for a couple of almost punk songs such as the second half of Colombine and Run, even if I won't place them among my favourite pieces.

However, the most impressive track of the album is probably the last one: The Secret Sits. It is for sure the less easy listening song as well as the more elaborated. The typical rhythm we experienced during the whole album suddenly disappears and we remain with a more fragmented theme. Furthermore, this theme from time to time dissolves at all, leaving only a highly effected vocal line. These are the parts I personally love most in the whole album. The song (and the album itself) closes with Milan Fey's guitar experiencing a cool solo over an highly expressive drums, bass and synth base. The drums and guitar in this last part remind a lot of some Pink Floyd's solos in songs like Echoes and Atom Heart Mother (there's a similar solo in the first half of the both of them).

Far from being a masterpiece, Growings does contain songs which are better than others and it is an highly enjoyable album, full of interesting ideas which are splashed in an effective and incisive style of music. It could certainly attract superficial as well as experienced listeners.

The music comes in a very interesting album cover created by Dustin Leenen. Although not highly original, I appreciated the artistic approach of having the lyrics written directly on the cover in capital letters and without any space between them. The drawback of that approach is that it makes it quite difficult to read them! However the lyrics themselves are not particularly original, touching themes linked with introspection, love, and with our place in society. Still, they are enjoyable and perhaps they give you a fuller idea of what to expect from this kind of music.

Concluding, I will definitely check out The Secret Sits' future works and maybe (why not?) I will check out their gigs in Germany or somewhere close to Italy. Well done Secret Sits! Keep going!
Conclusion:
Ale Dunzie: 8 out of 10

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Published Sunday 22 November 2015

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