CD 1: The Lost Song Part 2 (6:39), Untouchable Part 1 (6:30), Untouchable Part 2 (6:25), Thin Air (6:45), Dreaming Light (6:23), Anathema (7:32), Ariel (6:08), Electricity (4:32)
CD 2: Temporary Peace (5:15), The Beginning and the End (5:22), Distant Satellites (8:04), Take Shelter (9:29), Internal Landscapes (7:03), A Natural Disaster (8:45), Fragile Dreams (7:31)
DVD: The Lost Song Part 2 (6:39), Untouchable Part 1 (6:30), Untouchable Part 2 (6:25), Thin Air (6:45), Dreaming Light (6:23), Anathema (7:32), Ariel (6:08), Electricity (4:32), Temporary Peace (5:15), The Beginning and the End (5:22), Distant Satellites (8:04), Take Shelter (9:29), Internal Landscapes (7:03), A Natural Disaster (8:45), Fragile Dreams (7:31)
Many of the acts reviewed by the DPRP range from the vaguely familiar to the downright obscure but that is no bad thing, some of the best music in recent years has come from relatively unknown quarters. Anathema, on the other hand, have a fairly high profile even if they are not exactly a household name. Since their formation 25 years ago their career trajectory has also involved a good deal of genre hopping from doom metal to alternative rock to prog to art rock.
The latest release, A Sort of Homecoming, borrows its name from a U2 song and is so called because it was recorded live in Anathema's hometown of Liverpool. This was on 7th March 2015 in the unusual setting of the city's Anglican cathedral where Rick Wakeman amongst others has trod the boards. It's available in various formats including vinyl and Blu-ray, but in front of me is the one that is most likely to find its way into Christmas stockings, the two CD and DVD set. Housed in a smart hardback digipak, it comes complete with a generous-sized booklet crammed with superb photos that capture the atmosphere of the event and venue.
Liverpool Cathedral is a grand, if a little austere, setting for a rock gig but it complements the music with everyone suitably dressed (all in black) for the occasion. The line-up of Vincent Cavanagh (vocals, guitar), Daniel Cavanagh (guitar, piano, vocals, loops), Lee Douglas (vocals), John Douglas (drums) and Jamie Cavanagh (bass) are joined by David Wesling (cello) and Anna Phoebe (violin). The setlist includes songs from the four most recent studio albums A Natural Disaster (2003), We're Here Because We're Here (2010), Weather Systems (2012) and Distant Satellites (2014) as well as the 1998 release Alternative 4.
Before continuing I should confess that until now Anathema have flown under my radar so I'm unable to compare the songs with the studio versions. The arrangements here have a distinct 'unplugged' feel where the instrumentation (to begin with at least) is acoustic guitars, piano and keyboard samples. This puts the emphasis on the vocals and thankfully Lee and Vincent are both very fine singers with heartfelt, crystal clear voices providing the perfect male and female counterpoint. When the rhythm section takes to the stage their playing is fittingly subtle with cello providing an effective 'orchestral' backing.
The songs themselves are often haunting and melancholic with love lost being a reoccurring theme (as in Untouchable and A Natural Disaster). Several songs including Thin Air, Anathema and Ariel build gradually to an emotional peak in anthemic U2 fashion before surrendering to a tranquil close. Guest Anna Phoebe's violin solo adds a graceful majesty to the aforementioned Anathema and the balladic Electricity features a rare lead vocal from Daniel.
The concert film, directed by Lasse Hoile, is as you would expect (given his recent history) very good indeed. The camera work is up-close and revealing with occasional long shots where the lighting of blues, greens and reds gives the cathedral nave the appearance of a huge stage backdrop. For the penultimate A Natural Disaster, Daniel invites the capacity audience to hold their mobile phones in the air (in my day it was cigarette lighters), which isn't startlingly original but visually effective nonetheless.
The video footage also reveals moments that would otherwise go unnoticed such as the look of apprehension on the faces of Lee, Daniel and Vincent as they open the show (not surprising given the imposing setting) and Daniel's creative input including the effective use of guitar loops (the music continues as they leave the stage during both Take Shelter and Fragile Dreams).
The DVD has nothing in the way of extras (which is no bad thing given the disposability of most bonus material) although the Blu-ray includes a 13-minute behind-the-scenes film entitled 'A Temporary Peace'. In both formats you get a choice of stereo, DTS and Dolby 5.1 surround sound, and the usual individual track selection.
I could wax lyrical for several more paragraphs extolling the virtues of this release but instead I'll close on a personal note. Above everything else I will remember A Sort of Homecoming as the album that opened my eyes to the excellence of Anathema and their songs. In fact, returning to my opening comments, it really is a surprise that Anathema do not have a much larger mainstream following.
Mayday Sister Mayday (4:39), Top Secret (2:27), Werkuken (4:51), Shaken Not Stirred (3:33), Thousand Miles (7:57), Still Flaky But Free (8:11), Spacecop Goodbad (2:40), Hope-song (2:51), An Ocean Full of Gold (1:42), Whitewash (8:25)
Another album from one of the most peculiar bands I've ever listened to. After An Eggspoiltation Movie, released in 2012, the Germans Chickencage Experience come back with Kamasutra Blackbelt.
'Weird' is the first word that comes mind if I try to describe this album. But be careful! It's weird in a positive way! Unique maybe, overall very interesting, but strange at the same time. And I love it!
We're dealing with a kind of space progressive rock, with strong psychedelic as well as jazz and fusion influences. You can certainly recognise the influence of many artists in this album, but still it's very difficult to deny that Kamasutra Blackbelt is original.
Quoting the album itself, 'this is a story so crude and insane', a voyage through psychedelic space adventures. Along this trip we encounter rock and prog rock riffs, orchestra arrangements, saxophone, wind and xylophone accompaniment, psychedelic atmospheres and virtuoso guitar solos. However, the most peculiar characteristic of this band is by far the vocals. Two female singers, Howling Mad Fishli and Michaela Flame, cross and overlap their wonderful voices over the whole album, enhancing the 'space effect' and conferring a taste of uniqueness to the band's music. It's seriously difficult to describe the strange (again in a positive way) effect of these vocals. You may be put off after what I'm about to say, but the first impression I had was this was like listening to King Crimson's music overlapped with some cartoon theme song. I'm not saying it is not good! It is VERY good! But it was insanely strange at the beginning. That night, Frank Zappa made a cameo appearance in my dreams.
The album takes the first step with Mayday Sister Mayday, a good way to express what's to be expected from the whole work; 20 seconds of psychedelic introduction and here we are with a super King Crimson part: 21st Century Schizoid Man is immediately followed by Red.
One of the interesting sides of this band lays in the fusion-style rhythm section permeating most of their music. I admit that I particularly appreciate the bass lines.
Beside the first song, the highlights of Kamasutra Blackbelt are for sure Thousand Miles and Still Flaky But Free. These songs are truly amazing. Impressive because of their expressive potential.
Synth atmospheres recall the classic 70s prog (Genesis, Yes and others) and build the foundations of Thousand Miles. This is probably the moment the 'sisters' reach the highest levels of expression. A sense of peace, stillness and a hint of sadness permeates the song.
On the other hand, Still Flaky But Free is the most proggy song on the album. It's half typical progressive rock, half funky and fusion. Superbly arranged, the first half of this eight-minute track is supported by effective and cool vocals, while the central part is an amazing instrumental piece letting you dream before the epic conclusion. This is my favourite song from the album.
However, there are some disappointments along the listening path. The worst one is the length of the songs. I'm not the kind of listener who judges a song from its length thinking that 'the longer the better'. I don't mind two- or three-minute songs. However, the problem here is that some songs end in the middle of nowhere and they abandon you. At that point, you can only ask yourself a question that will never be answered: Why? The song was just about to, potentially, enter an interesting part! I feel like when I watch the last episode of a series and I know I will wait forever before knowing how the story continues. Top Secret, Shaked Not Stirred and above all Werkuken are good examples.
On the other hand, a satisfying example of a short song is Spacecop Goodbad, a very odd track with three different sections. There is a refrain from a hypothetical cartoon theme song ('The Incredible Adventures of Spacecop Good and Bad'), a section shooting us somewhere deep in space (recalling the harmonised vocals of David Bowie's Space Oddity) and a section directly from Gentle Giant's heritage.
Finally, I'll make mention of the last song: Whitewash. This is a lovely and enjoyable instrumental psychedelic piece. However, if in the rest of the album we rejoice in the band's originality, here I cannot feel the same. Take Any Colour You Like by Pink Floyd, shake it and stir it together with the second part of Peel The Paint by Gentle Giant and you obtain Whitewash. Voilà!
The CD comes with lovely and funny cover art designed by Alex Kraus. I think I will print it and put it on my wall, even if I personally didn't get the connection to the album content. A vinyl edition is also available and distributed by Nasoni Records. I'm quite sad not to have the lyrics printed somewhere but I will probably survive without.
Concluding this interesting space trip, I can only suggest you listen to this peculiar band. There are clear influences coming from Frank Zappa, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and many other 70s bands. However, this German band's music is not limited to those references. It contains something more and overall I feel a strong personality and originality (and from the previous one, which I suggest as well). There is still much work to do, but, overall, I am satisfied.
CD 1: Aquarians (8:08), Many Words of Disapproval (5:10), This Dubious Honor (10:33), One Hundred Thousand Fools (4:10), Up to, But Not to Exceed...Whoa (8:37), You Are Obsolete (11:25), Tooth (Intro) (0:43), Absence of a Prominent Tooth (5:30), Brother Nature (3:40), 40% Gentleman, 60% Scholar (7:25)
CD 2: A Monument to Compromise (Faux Clarinet) (7:24), Ninjanuity (6:22), So Say We All I (5:11), So Say We All II (5:37), So Say We All III (5 :55), More Than You'll Never Know (7:32), I'll Fight for the Imp (6:52), White People Problems (7:56), Tsim Sha Tsui (7:29), You Are Disappearing (6:24)
Consider the Source is an instrumental trio from New York. The members are John Ferrara (bass), Gabriel Marin (guitars), and Jeff Mann (drums and percussion). I was not familiar with the band's music before listening to World War Trio (Parts II & III). It has been an enlightening experience and, over time, I have become increasingly more appreciative of the band's art. Consider the Source call their particular musical style Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion. As might be expected from this description, the album also features a range of ethnic instruments.
The band also proclaims that they used no keyboards during the recording of the album. Nevertheless, the extensive and excellent use of a synth guitar provides a smooth accompaniment whenever necessary and also offers embellishments that might otherwise have been provided by the use of keyboards.
Part 1 of the trilogy was released in 2014. I have yet to unravel the concept behind the disparate parts that make up World War Trio. That is not an issue though, as I normally do not derive a great deal of satisfaction from convoluted concepts in prog rock. I tend to consider the music in isolation and on its merits, irrespective of whether the concept behind the album is facile or even brilliant.
Musically, though, a pattern or theme can be identified throughout the album. A discernible Middle Eastern and Indian flavour runs through many of the rhythmic patterns woven by the band. This is particularly apparent in the compositions that begin each disc. Ethnic instruments, including the dutar, danbau and dombra, also play a leading part in creating a fascinating tapestry of multi-layered sounds. At first listen, the mix of styles might appear to be an unnatural melange of seemingly disparate and incongruous influences. Whilst some pieces gel better than others, what is on offer is always fascinating. The result is some of the most challenging and interesting fusion music I have heard for some time. There are numerous heavy and intense moments that are richly garlanded and sweetened by a colourful bouquet of world influences.
Like Jonas Hellborg, Consider the Source are able to successfully mesh together a wide range of ethnic flavours. If you enjoyed Hellborg's rich combination of jazz and world music in albums such as the Middle Eastern flavoured Aram of the Two Rivers and on the Indian influenced Good People in the times of Evil, then you will find much to enjoy in Consider the Source's latest release.
The album contains four tracks that predominantly feature acoustic instruments. These are the band's first acoustic compositions on an album since their Esperanto release. Indian and Middle Eastern scales and phrases dominate in pieces such as, One Hundred Thousand Fools, Brother Nature, More Than You'll Never Know and Tsim Sha Tsui. In these tracks, traditional acoustic instruments compete, strum and solo with gusto to create an infectious collective rhythmic energy. The closest points of reference for these acoustically based compositions would be the work of bands such as Trillian Green and Shakti.
The musicianship is totally absorbing. There were times when I was left in awe at the tone, speed, intensity and dexterity of guitarist Marin's expressive work. He manages to play with a style that is somewhat akin to the peerless expressionism of Al Di Meola and the nimble-fingered finesse of John McLaughlin. However, there are times when Marin's sound has a deep rawness, and on these ferocious occasions, he takes a cue from other technically agile yet raunchy players such as the late and great Shawn Lane.
The recording quality of the disc is excellent and sounds warm and vibrant in a variety of listening environments. However, it is transformed and comes fully alive when heard loud and proud through headphones. Its clear sonic range helps Ferrara showcase his mastery of an array of bass styles. Ferrara is a master of his chosen instrument and his rich tone and impressive set of skills was often reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius. Many of the tunes on the album feature prominent and finely-sculpted bass parts. In this respect, the bass parts in tunes such as White People Problems bear some resemblance to Brand X's style of fusion.
With over two hours of music spread over two discs, there is a vast amount of music for the listener to take in. The album undoubtedly works best when heard in small chunks. The complexity and intensity of what is on offer can easily bring on listener fatigue. It is difficult to pick out specific highlights from what is often an enthralling and impressive instrumental album. However, the So Say We All trilogy of tunes are particularly impressive. Each part represents a different facet of the band's compositional qualities and together highlights the players' considerable collective talents.
I'll Fight for the Imp is one of the album's highlights and is a fine piece of fusion that had me reaching for the repeat button. There are times when Consider the Source sounded like a harder-edged version of Return to Forever as in Up to, But Not to Exceed...Whoa. Apart from a fleeting similarity to RTF, the track is quite representative of what World War Trio (Parts II & III) is all about. It incorporates many changes of style and tempo, has some experimental moments and displays lots of interesting world influences. Over the course of the two discs I was also occasionally reminded of the blistering style and complexity of Fromuz.
Eventually, I recognised that trying to reference Consider the Source's art was futile. World War Trio (Parts II & III) is a totally compelling release. It is refreshingly different, richly inventive and above all utterly unique. I really enjoyed it!
The Main Hall (5:52), Sanctuary (7:46), Inciter (6:23), Unobserved I (1:19), Unobserved II (3:36), What You See as the End (3:21), Pishtaku (5:58), The Evil Clergyman (4:37), Timing Is Nothing (4:24)
Although the curiously-named The Hallucinant Telepherique are a relatively new band from Austin, Texas, their approach is distinctly retro. For one thing, this is a vinyl-only release (although individual tracks are available to download) and for another they favour acoustic instrumentation and analog keyboards.
The band is basically brothers Sergio Montoya (drums, guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals) and Gino Montoya (guitar) who until recently performed as a duo under the name Montoya, with four CDs to their credit.
Sergio is responsible for all compositions and production with the familiar thread of man's ecological impact running through the album. If the premise of a North American band with a French sounding name whose members are from South America conjures up all sorts of musical possibilities, it may come as a surprise to find that this (mainly) instrumental offering has its roots firmly planted in classic British progressive rock.
Take the opening cut The Main Hall and third track Inciter, for example, with syncopated rhythms, angular guitar and jazz-infused synth that harks back to King Crimson, Gentle Giant and the Canterbury scene.
Sanctuary, and the penultimate The Evil Clergyman, are mellower offerings with the former especially benefitting from acoustic guitar, Mellotron samples, synth and piano.
Pishtaku appears to be in a similar vein, opening with a capella wordless harmonies, but it soon gets into its rhythmic, vaguely experimental stride, bringing the tribal drum sequence from Yes' Ritual to mind, along with Van der Graaf Generator.
Due to the vagaries of vinyl, the thematically-connected Unobserved I and Unobserved II close side one and open side two respectively. Part one is as you would guess (given its modest length) a pastoral acoustic guitar interlude with (sampled) flute and whilst part two adds keys and lead guitar, both pieces are informed by the early, melodic style of Anthony Phillips and Genesis.
What You See as the End and the concluding Timing Is Nothing take a similar melodic path, although this time with a little more edge, evoking Camel, with the latter piece making particularly good use of electric piano, pipe organ and Mellotron as well as an Andy Latimer-esque guitar solo.
Absorbed By The Forest is certainly an engaging album, especially for lovers of old school prog, the musicianship is top drawer, and at 43 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome. Ultimately, however, I would be hard pressed to single out specific highlights even though every track has its moments and the influences are impeccable (as the name checks in this review testify). I'm certainly in favour of the current vogue for vinyl if only for the fact that as a consequence of this album I was left with a compelling urge to blow the dust off my old record collection.
Intricate Notion (3:57), Disturbing Glow (4:22), Case #1138 (5:14), Run, Mr Eldritch (4:52), Overexposed Sunday Photography (4:11), Atate (3:40), Transmundane Suite (10:08), You Were Saying (3:33), As Close as One Gets (5:06), Transmundane (6:21)
Transmundane is the work of Polish composer Kayanis (Lubomir Jedrasik). His last album was released in 2010 and was intriguingly titled Where Abandoned Pelicans Die. As the title suggests, Transmundane contains music that is at times reflective and has an aesthetic quality.
Transmundane is largely instrumental and is bedecked with layered orchestral arrangements created and performed by Kayanis in his studio. Kayanis' chosen palette of ambient keyboards and synthetic orchestral arrangements may not find great appeal with the majority of prog fans, but there are aspects of Transmundane that might interest those who enjoy well-recorded and well-crafted symphonic compositions.
The compositions that have the most appeal are undoubtedly the ones that feature the talents of the Academic Choir of the University of Gdańsk, conducted and led by Marcin Tomczak. In an album garnished with the use of technological wizardry, the two choral pieces Disturbing Glow and Transmundane add much necessary contrast. They have an essential role in providing warmth and human appeal to Kayanis' studio creations. The choral tracks ebb and flow and display an ability to create an emotive and intense atmosphere. The dramatic soundscape that the choral parts provide would not be out of place as a soundtrack to a film. As the pieces developed and the voices became more strident and insistent, I was reminded of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and Karl Jenkins' choral works.
The music in the instrumental tracks is well performed and composed, but did not connect with me. Nevertheless, there were numerous occasions when the vision, scale and grandeur of the compositions impressed. The opening of Case #1138 was particularly dramatic and the applied cello parts were hugely evocative. Overall, this piece and the album as a whole lacked the warmth and collective empathy that a group, or ensemble of musicians, can provide. On rare occasions, I was able to forget that this was the work of one musician. When this occurred, as in the delicately plaintive You Were Saying, I was swaddled by soothing melodies and warmed by the technological glow of an enticing orchestral sound.
Run Mr Eldritch has a beautiful melody. It is enjoyably mellow and is easily accessible, but after a number of plays this was not enough to disguise its artificial ambience. Similarly, Agate is furnished with some glorious flowing piano parts, but the whole piece is diminished by the inclusion of processed percussion and an arrangement more suited to the muzak of the supermarket.
Overall, the acoustic and choral parts of Transmundane are more successful than the applied orchestral and percussive parts. Transmundane_ is an album that undoubtedly has its place. It offered some welcome variety to the types of albums that I usually listen to. Unfortunately, it offered little that I found exciting. Sadly, I doubt that I will play it regularly.
CD 1: Wonderous Stories (3:51), Speechless (4:06), When We Were Young (4:10), I'm Alive (5:13), Call Me (4:57), King of the Skies (4:44), Lucky Man (4:34), Lemminkainen's Lament (4:26), The Lizard King (Single Mix) (5:11), Night and Day (4:18), Cold (5:19), Broken (4:09)
CD 2: The Visionary (2015 Mix) (6:11), Wonderous Stories (Acoustic Mix) (3:50), Speechless (Extended Mix) (7:49), Anger (5:55), Lucky Man (Extended Mix) (9:01), Sloth (String Mix) (10:08), The Lizard King (Acoustic Mix) (4:26), I'm Alive (Chimpan A Mix) (5:09), Demons (2015 Mix) (5:03), RAW (Classical Mix) (4:44), Sunshine Saviour (6:06), Opus 3 (Instrumental) (2:15)
Magenta conquered the progressive music world back in 2001 with their incredible strong debut Revolutions, which contained only epics divided over two discs. Their fame grew because of the high quality of the albums they produced, with 2013's The Twenty Seven Club convincing evidence of their presence high in the Premier League of prog bands. But although epic songs seemed to be their trademark they also released a sampler of shorter songs in 2007 under the name The Singles. That collection contained mostly songs that hadn't been included in either of their albums as yet as well as two epic songs from the Seven album. It was therefore an attractive release for their fans and it certainly ranks among my favourite Magenta albums.
With such a good compilation album already released, why bother to release another one a couple of years later that has a substantial overlap with the first compilation? Eight of the 12 tracks on disc one also featured on the former sampler. But listening to the opening track on the new The Singles Complete set, a daring version of Wonderous Stories proves that this may be another compilation album that is worth listening to. That classic Yes song, with its gentle 12-string guitar and the heavenly vocals by Jon Anderson, is quite a hard one to cover well. To open a new sampler with a new interpretation proves the confidence Magenta have in their rendition, and rightly so. And with Christina Booth's heavenly voice in the band, there is reason to be confident.
New on the first disc are the shortened single mix of The Lizard King, which is a weaker version compared to the original, the beautiful ballad When We Were Young, Night and Day but unfortunately not the duet with Annie Haslam, and another courageous cover, this time of ELP's Lucky Man. The latter is an almost romantic, quiet and modest version, dominated by Chris Fry's fragile acoustic guitar and Rob Reed's very subtle piano, which are backed by a gentle bass and congas (no information who played these instruments!). About half-way through, the full band comes in to make this a real Magenta song with a short fierce guitar solo. It is a warmer version than the original and therefore convinced me fully.
The second disc is more interesting as it contains the longer tracks, starting off with a new mix of 2006's The Visionary. The intro, the orchestration and the guitar solo are quite different from the original on the New York Suite album and make this already strong song even stronger. It sets the stage for more gems such as the epic rendition of Lucky Man. The song is stretched to more than nine minutes because the music is enriched with a full orchestral arrangement. This version opens with subtle keys and strings over which Christina Booth softly sings the lyrics we all know so well. After two minutes, drums and bass come in and the song evolves into a very well-crafted epic led by Reed's keys. At 3:10, the full band falls silent again; Christina's vocals are backed by acoustic guitar and mandolin, a sudden break that works extremely well. Some chimes come in at 4:30, the strings and the full band return and then Fry's guitar takes the lead in an extensive interplay with Reed's keys and Booth's vocals taking the listener slowly to the long fade-out.
The string version of Sloth is also brilliant. It is subtle yet thunderous, with piano and synths to the fore in the mix and a full orchestra and choir in the background. Really beautiful!
The classical mix of RAW sounds almost exactly as you'd expect, no bass or drums but just beautiful piano, strings and a full classical choir at the end. It's a great version of this song.
Not all new mixes are a success though. I found the Chimpan A Mix of I'm Alive spoiled by an irritating dominant electronic note that can be heard throughout the song. Maybe it is meant to be original or modern, but for me it turns out totally wrong. Fortunately, it's the only track that suffers from such a bad mix.
The new mixes for Wonderous Stories, Speechless, Demons and The Lizard King are nice but not ground-breaking. For those familiar with these songs they add something new and are, as such, worthwhile.
All in all this is an very attractive two-CD set that is interesting for devoted Magenta fans as it contains some very appealing new versions of beautiful songs. Yet, some criticism is justified: the package is far below par, with no information whatsoever on the tracks, the lyrics, the production, the orchestral arrangements, the orchestra or the other players. And it's very irritating that only Reed, Booth and Fry are being mentioned as being Magenta. Yes, they are the core of the band but they haven't done it alone. On The Singles album, Martin Bosser (guitars), Dan Fry (bass) and Alan Mason-Jones (drums) were also credited and as eight of the tracks are shared it is incomprehensible that the band doesn't credit the other musicians here. A real shame.
Another annoying thing is that the track list in Media Player doesn't give the right titles but gives the track list of The Singles album; that's weird!
Apart from these distractions, I can only recommend this great compilation of Magenta music.
Suoni Palle Stelle (1:41), Labyrinth of Doors (8:12), Marks of Time (6:49), The Alchemist (9:56), Emerald Tears (3:08), Sparks Within a Downpour (6:21), Gravity (2:49), La Fenice (5:52)
Shortest review ever: Italian heavy prog with English lyrics and female vocals. To be serious: From my point of view this album is somewhat typical of many of the more unknown bands of the prog scene. Good musicianship, a not so bad production, some great instrumental parts, but unfortunately not consistent throughout.
But I don't want to sound too negative. The album is quite varied. It opens with an intriguing "soundscape" prelude, followed by the challenging instrumental Labyrinth Of Doors, which is a really pleasurable listen (maybe the best track after all). The third song has a strong bassy intro. On the first listen, I was very surprised when the vocals came in, because at that point I was expecting a completely instrumental album. Francesca Pulverenti's voice is powerful and her performance is good, but not exceptional.
The biggest impression from the musicians is made by the bass player, Roberto Marano, likely not because he has better skills than his band colleagues, who all do a good job, but because the bass is very prominent in the mix and sometimes even very fat, especially in the intro of Marks Of Time. Unfortunately, after the powerful start the song becomes a little boring, but again there are some fine instrumental parts and solos (both guitar and synths) and (Ian Anderson fans beware!) some great flute playing.
The longest track, The Alchemist, starts with some atmospheric sounds and a short bass solo, before a metal riff sets the pace and the percussion adds an oriental touch to the arrangement. After a short, furious instrumental section, there follows a spacey part, which reminds me of Marillion's Grendel, and a vintage synth solo leads to another powerful drum/bass interlude. The song ends with a mix of harp and piano sounds. Just for the record, the keyboardist is female, which is a quite rare occurrence in prog.
Up to this point, I might have rated this album higher than I finally do. Emerald Tears is a moody, but unspectacular ballad with some nice piano. Sparks Within A Downpour really is more hard rock than prog, the riff/melody is not very inspired and the vocals are a little annoying here. There's a stirring synth solo in the second half, but that doesn't save the track. Gravity is a nice short instrumental piece, but would have been a strange ending for the album. So I'm a little confused by the fact that the last song is marked as a 'bonus track'. But indeed it is a little different from the rest and reminds me of The Gathering in their Mandylion period. It is a fine ending for the album, though the song itself ends rather suddenly. It also features the best and catchiest vocals.
The Irresistible Gravity is not really an attraction you can't resist (if you take the title by word).
Especially in the instrumental parts, this young band shows some promise, but the melodies and song structures don't seem fully matured to me. The sound is varied and often on the heavier side. Good comparisons sound-wise might be Pallas' XXV, or the debut from District 97. Lovers of heavy prog (not prog metal) or collectors of albums with female vocals might find some interesting music here. And if the band evolves their compositional skills, maybe there are better things to come.
The Great Unknown (5:51), Where I Want You (4:13), Bound (4:30), Trick of the Tongue (4:06), Toughest Love (4:30), Between the Lines (4:19)
Mile Marker Zero, hailing from New Haven in the U.S. state of Connecticut, formed around a decade ago and comprises of Dave Alley on vocals, John Tuohy on guitar, Mark Focarile on keyboards, with Tim Rykoski and Doug Alley rounding off the rhythm section on bass and drums respectively. They have had an exciting ride since meeting at university, from recording two EPs and an album, to touring with the likes of Periphery, Porcupine Tree and Spock's Beard to name a few. The fruits of their labour so far have resulted in this EP, Young Rust.
The EP is made up of six tracks, and is a good, solid, heavy rock album, complete with chugging riffs, intricate leads splashed across the songs, drums to nod your head with and vocals that are both aggressive and melodic. There is nothing hugely technical here, but the musicianship is skilled and interesting nonetheless, and helps bring the sound away from a standard rock album into a more progressive heavy-rock sound, almost like if Muse, Metallica and Alter Bridge formed a group together. The result is both harmonic and aggressive, and maintains a strong sense of melody throughout with some nice dark, prog sounds weaving through it all.
The sound on the EP is well produced with clean and crisp sounds on the drums and guitar, with the leads being at the perfect volume to increase enjoyment and not be overbearing. All in all, it fits in well.
Dave Alley has a good voice and makes full use of it, often incorporating distortion type effects, similar to the ones Matt Bellamy of Muse uses quite often. He can hit the high notes and the low ones and it complements the music well. Lyrically, it isn't anything to write home about, with there being little that is different from most other rock CDs. No quests deep into the human psyche appear here for example. However, the lyrics are still quite good and make good use of Dave's ability to sound quite dark at times. For example, in the song Bound, he sings the lines: "You make me feel like no other / when you take me over and over / tie me down like no other / take what you want / take what you want".
I would recommend these guys to any fans of Muse, Metallica, Tool, Coheed and Cambria and Alter Bridge.
My overall impression of the EP was that it is a fine collection of tracks, with plenty of hooks and catchy moments and one I will likely return to often. Time to go check out their other stuff!
Oceans Apart (4:03), My Lonely Heaven (4:58), Believing a Lie (4:46), Digging in the Dirt (4:33), My World Collides (feat. Amanda Somerville) (3:51), Spear of Fate (4:29), Serpents Smile (4:39), Silent Roaring (4:16), Haze of Nemesis (4:42), My Serenade (9:39), Soldier of Fortune (3:04)
Red Circuit, from Germany, are what can only be described as a power metal tour de force. Featuring members who have played in bands like Dark Sky, Civilization One and Mob Rules, and whose ex-members have played with Jean Michel Jarre, Ravage Fields and Vanden Plas, they have been described as a super group who produce stunning progressive power metal.
Their latest release, Haze of Nemesis, can best be described as a blistering whirlwind of progressive power metal. Symphonic, orchestral, elegant, powerful, heavy and intricate are all words to describe this album.
Opening track Oceans Apart starts with a short symphonic intro before the full band kicks you in the face with a heavy 4/4 beat of pure, unadulterated power prog. It features the rough powerful vocals of ex-Firewind vocalist Chitral "Chity" Somapala on top of the stunning twin attack of guitarist Christian Moser and keyboardist Markus Tesk, backed up by the tight grouping of the rhythm section (Tommy Schmitt on bass and Michael Stein on drums).
As is to be expected, after four tracks of heavy music to get the fists in the air, the half-way point of the album swaps the devil horns for lighters with a ballad. A sad piano melody sets the tone for the ballad, before the band all join in half-way through for the final chorus.
Following this it is back into the heavy, pounding metal. Spear of Hate and Serpents Smile in particular stand out to me as well written and produced metal. The songs are long enough for the band to show their talents and progressive songwriting abilities, but still keep them short enough to keep them interesting.
The album also contains a bonus track, a cover of Soldier of Fortune, originally by Deep Purple. I must confess I found this cover to be slightly lacking in the original feel of the song. It is slightly faster, with fewer instances where the notes are allowed to ring out before the next verse or chorus comes in. The solo also suffers from the same fate as many Dream Theater solos - a supremely talented guitarist who seems to have trouble playing slowly. However, the cover is not terrible and is a different take on a classic. They do it well, and I'm sure many people will love it, however it is not quite for me.
The lyrics are fairly typical of this genre, however, dealing with melancholic thoughts and facing inwards. However, the lyrics are not the focal point of the album. The hard-hitting music and gruff, yet melodic, vocals are what capture you and draw you in. With riffs reminiscent of Iron Maiden, keyboards that draw similarities to Dream Theater and a general heaviness of metal is what makes this album great.
The album itself isn't breaking any new ground, it is not revolutionary or unique. What it is, is a well-crafted and written chunk of progressive power metal. It is catchy, heavy and powerful, and it combines the best elements of the genre.
If you enjoy the musical stylings of Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Kamelot and other power bands such as Gloryhammer or Sabaton then this is one for you. It's a perfect mix of progressive and power metal, combined into a handy package. While this genre isn't typically my kind of thing, with death, black, doom and progressive metal being my music of choice, there is sometimes an album from the power metal side that grabs me and won't let go. This is one of those albums.
Synesthesia (6:00), The Chosen One (5:14), Outer Space (4:22), Space Out Pt. 1 (1:11), Glimpse Of Love (4:30), You're Near (0:59), Breath (3:39), V'uga (Blizzard) (2:48), The Reason Why (4:38), Follow Your Heart (8:01), Space Out Pt. 2 (3:33), Space Out Pt. 3 (2:09)
Synesthesia is the title of the sixth album of Antony Kalugin's project, Sunchild. You also might know this Ukrainian composer and musician from other projects such as Karfagen, Hoggwash and AKKO (Antony Kalugins Kinematics Orchestra). The difference between, for instance, Karfagen and Sunchild is that the music of Sunchild is maybe less progressive and more interesting for a broader audience because of the pop influences. Despite this being the fact, I think this release is still an album that progressive rock fans will love.
The line-up of the band has changed again since the fifth album, most importantly with John Sleeper joining the ranks as the new vocalist. He has a great voice and really lifts the music to a higher level. The rest of the musicians on this Sunchild project are: Antony Kalugin (keys, backing vocals, programming), Andrey Kobylyanskiy ( electric and acoustic guitars), Sergiy Balalayev (drums and percussion), Ivan Kondratov (bass), Olga Rostovskaya (backing vocals) and special guest
Sylvain Auclair (Karcius) (lead vocals on The Reason Why).
The album starts with the title track and it's an uptempo song with a catchy refrain and some nice melodies. On this track, the vocals remind me a bit of Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema). The Chosen One is a very nice ballad on which the lead vocals of Sleeper and the backing vocals of Kalugin and his wife Rostovskaya fit perfectly together.
Throughout the album, we are treated to some beautiful piano melodies by Kalugin. The track on which special guest Auclair takes charge of the vocal department, The Reason Why, shows some similarities with U2. The longest track, Follow Your Heart, reaches the eight-minute mark and builds up to a more heavy section with powerful riffs on guitar. The entire album is filled with beautiful melodies, excellent vocals and the recording sounds crystal clear. Maybe not an album that will blow you away, but music that's been made with such love and craftsmanship that it's worth listening to on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It might make your day a bit brighter.