The Keith Emerson Trio - The Keith Emerson Trio
You Say You Care (4:51), There Will Never Be Another You (3:51), Teenies Blues (3:21), Winkle Picker Stamp (2:31), 56 Blues (3:06), You Came a Long Way from Saint Louis (2:06), Soul Station (4:54)
Released for the first time in early 2015 as a vinyl limited edition, this seven-track recording is now available on CD (and download). Recorded at Keith's parents' home in the town of Worthing in the south of England, it features a 19-year-old Emerson on piano, Godfrey Sheppard on upright bass, and David Keene on drums.
Not surprisingly (given Emerson's early influences and aspirations), the majority of the pieces are jazz covers originally performed by the likes of John Coltrane, George Shearing and Floyd Cramer, with two original compositions credited to Emerson.
This CD is particularly recommended to fans of his piano work who may be surprised at just how accomplished the teenage Emerson was. His playing is more disciplined than his solo performances during later live sets with The Nice and ELP, as a tasteful interpretation of the standard There Will Never Be Another You testifies. His own tunes, Winkle Picker Stamp and 56 Blues, are more in the boogie woogie, rock 'n' roll tradition and his rousing performances of both border on classic Emerson.
Given the history (and the impressive performance by a young Emerson) it would be churlish to criticise these recordings and therefore will go unrated. As you would expect, these tracks have been re-mastered and, given their origins and the fact that they were recorded on a Phillips reel-to-reel tape machine, the sound quality is pretty good.
If you're wondering what became of the members of The Keith Emerson Trio, bassist Sheppard continues to gig on the south of England jazz circuit whereas drummer Keene dropped off the musical radar altogether. As for pianist Emerson, apparently he went on to make a name for himself performing and recording a curious musical hybrid called 'progressive rock'. But that's another story.
Geoff Feakes: Unrated out of 10
Field Of Vision - The Vicissitudes of Life
Sand (6:38), If Tomorrow Comes (I. Merely Players, II. Out of Chaos Comes...?, III. Darkest Before Dawn) (10:09)
Over the years, lots of guitarists and bassists came and went. Many gigs were warmly received and, in 1990, a cassette-only single, Lessons In Predictability/How Are Things In Moscow was released. This didn't lead to a breakthrough in the world of prog, and eventually non-musical careers and family life took over.
The sabbatical lasted until 2013 when FOV was reborn - this time as a trio - with Haggarty on vocals and guitar, Holley on keys, bass and guitar, and MacDonald on drums and lead guitar. This line-up is responsible for the release in November 2014 of this EP, The Vicissitudes Of Life. But promotion of the EP wasn't possible due to misfortune that struck with both Haggarty & Holley. Family crises and their "day jobs" disappearing caused a lot of problems and made the future of the band uncertain. However, with some support from friends, family and fans, they managed to regroup.
In May 2015, the EP was relaunched and hopefully this will lead to a bright future in prog rock for this trio. It contains two tracks, the first, Sand, is a neo-prog song. It has a nice guitar solo by guest musician David Porter. The music is in the vein of Abel Ganz, Credo and Also Eden. The second track, If Tomorrow Comes, consists of three parts with the first in the same style as the first track, the second part is jazzy and the third is Floydian, with an important role for female guest vocalist Holly Blair.
It's a good thing these guys didn't throw in the towel after all this misfortune in their lives and have released this EP. It is a nice teaser of their music that deserves some attention from a larger audience. If they stay together and manage to release a full album in the (near) future, that might happen.
Peter Swanson: 7.5 out of 10
The Group 309 - The Keeper of an Hourglass
Осенний вечер (The Autumn Evening) (7:33), Хранитель песочных часов (The Keeper of an Hourglass) (4:57), Исповедь колдуньи (The Confession of a Witch) (6:55), Ты спишь (You Sleep) (5:19), Можно, я себе нарисую крылья... (May I Draw Wings For Myself?) (6:55), Как здорово всё придумано (Everything Has Been Thought Up So Well) (4:28), Одна под зонтом (One Under the Umbrella) (4:43), Тени прошлого (The Shades of the Past) (5:45), Тихо и тревожно (Tranquilly and Uneasily) (3:50), Нашей судьбы колесо... (The Wheel of our Fate) (5:03), Следуй дорогой птиц... (Follow the Way of Birds...) (4:30)
Musically, this Russian band are superb. It's neo-prog, with wonderful guitar work - the riff on the title track is wonderful, for example - but pointing out specific instruments given the compositions is a tad unnecessary given the high quality. Occasionally, it's in modern It Bites or Frost territory, or perhaps Unitopia. And the instrumental passages are, at times, as good. But oh, the vocals. At times, it's simply the phrasing that sounds awkward. At times, it's the delivery. This is emphasised by the female vocalist, Irina Surina, who sings on only two tracks, but carries them off very well. There are times when the vocals really aren't that bad, it's just that, juxtaposed with the music, it's not in the same league.
Take the strangely titled May I Draw Wings For Myself?. It starts out with a killer prog riff that wouldn't sound out of place on any top neo-prog album. But then, with the vocals, it loses its way. Then when the vocals subside, it's absolutely magnificent. It's hard to take, because it creates such emotional troughs and peaks of elation and frustration.
It's hard to think of another album where the music is so incredibly good and the vocals so - at best - ordinary. It makes for a difficult decision giving marks out of 10. For the music, nine is accurate, but the passages with vocals are - generously - a six.
It would, however, be sad if this band wasn't heard, so good is the music, so here's to hoping that they can address the vocals, regardless of which tongue it's in, and keep producing ridiculously good music. If they do, the frustration and listening turmoil will be gone, and they'll be right up there with the best of today's prog bands. Perhaps they can re-release this with a bonus disc of instrumental mixes...
Jim Cornall: 8 out of 10
Greg Lake & Geoff Downes - Ride the Tiger
Money Talks (3:36), Love Under Fire (5:22), Affairs Of The Heart (4:05), Street War (5:26), Check It Out (4:44), Blue Light (4:08), Love Under Fire – Alt. Mix (4:57)
It wasn't until September 1989, however, that the pair regrouped in Lake's London studio along with original King Crimson drummer Michael Giles to record a collection of songs that had been individually and collectively composed by Lake and Downes. The sessions continued until April the following year, but the results have only now been officially released under the original working title Ride The Tiger.
The songs and performances are very much a product of their time, typified by the opening track Money Talks, where Downes' bombastic Keith Emerson style keyboard sound provides a missing link between the Emerson, Lake & Powell album (1986) and the reformed ELP album Black Moon (1992). For me, Love Under Fire is the most successful song here thanks to Downes' engaging and catchy keyboard theme, whilst the stately ballad, Affairs Of The Heart, has also stood the test of time. The remaining songs, Street War, Check It Out and the AOR influenced Blue Light have not fared so well despite Lake's spirited performance. Check It Out, in particular, with its excruciatingly Americanised title and choral hook ensures it remains firmly grounded in the 1980s. The CD concludes with an "alternate mix" of Love Under Fire, which is little more than filler material.
Given that Ride The Tiger was never fully realised (the six original songs clock in at a meagre 27 minutes) I was anticipating demo quality recordings but the sound is remarkably polished, which is perhaps not surprising given the combined production talents of Lake and Downes. A disappointment, however, is the fat bass and splashy drum sound, which may have worked in the early 80s for pop acts like Dollar and ABC (both produced by Downes' former Buggles and Yes colleague Trevor Horn) but had dated by the end of the decade. The drum sound in particular is so synthetic it's hard to believe a respected musician like Michael Giles was responsible.
Lake resurrected Affairs Of The Heart (with a different keyboard arrangement) for the aforementioned and pretty good ELP album Black Moon, whilst Street War ended up on the pretty bad follow-up, In The Hot Seat (1994). For his part, Downes rerecorded Love Under Fire for the fourth Asia album Aqua (1992), with a very different vocal by the band's then new singer and bassist John Payne. For the record, the Downes and Payne partnership, in my opinion, was responsible for some of Asia's best albums.
Given that these songs have been previously available (several tracks have also surfaced on the Greg Lake anthology's From the Beginning (1997) and From the Underground II (2003)) this CD is hardly essential, unless you are an ELP or Asia completist, that is. Had it been released first time around then it may have made an impact of sorts but, 25 years on, it remains little more than a curio and a relic of its time.
Geoff Feakes: 6 out of 10
Malrun - Oblivion Awaits
The Underworld (4:03), Oblivion Awaits (4:17), The Wilderness of Pain (4:05), Cold (5:24), Black Rain (5:04), Breaking the Illusion (4:06)
Their new release kicks off with a heavy and melodic opener, The Underworld, which not only grabs you by the neck and pulls you in, it keeps you hostage until the end of the disc. An insanely strong opening track by a supremely talented band sets the stage for the rest of the album.
And, thankfully, they are not a one-hit wonder. The next five tracks are equal juggernauts of technical ability and incredible song writing. Catchy, intricate riffs set a background for the power metal style 'epic' vocals and a perfect balcony for the growled vocals to lean from and assault your ears (in a good way!).
My personal stand-out track would be Cold. It has a wonderful mix of near death metal at points, mixed with technical riffs and an incredible tight playing between Patrick Nybroe and Mads Ingermann. However, it should be noted this is not an easy choice to make.
The album is a fantastic display of catchy vocals for those who want to sing along, melodic harmonies and fast-paced riffs for the technically minded, and elements of progressive metal mixed with occasional heavier moments.
Vocally and musically, the album to me essentially sounds how James Labrie's last album (Impermanent Resonance) could have.
A simple way to describe them would be if Dream Theater and Gojira had a child who started a family with Voyager.
Calum Gibson: 8 out of 10
Necromonkey - Show Me Where It Hertz
Entering the Sublevels of Necroplex (11:00), Everybody Likes Hornets But Nobody Likes Hornet Egg (5:00), The Rage Within the Clouds (10:43), The Electric Rectum Electoral (7:06), Like Fun You Are (7:05), The Current Beneath the Squarewave (5:54)
It's an electronic album, certainly a departure from their generally electic prog. The explanation is that it was recorded live, and it is presented here in its original form.
The first couple of tracks are basically electronic meanderings. The opener is very Kraftwerk oriented, albeit at a slower pace. Everybody Likes Hornets But Nobody Likes Hornet Egg is much more slowed down ambient, more in a Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze vein.
The Rage Within the Clouds is a bit more melodic, again reminiscent of Tangerine Dream. The horrendously titled The Electric Rectum Electoral is, sadly because of its name, the standout track on the album, especially the more menacing ending. It evokes a bit of TD, a hint of Jean Michel Jarre, with another close comparison being Cluster.
Like Fun You Are isn't bad, either, it's quite experimental, a bit like Stockhausen trying to be melodic, or something akin to the more experimental works by Vangelis (such as on Beaubourg or The Mask). The final track, also slips by relatively unnoticed.
It's interesting electronica, and a brave departure for a genuinely innovative band not renowned for this style of music. But there's not really anything here that hasn't already been done before. Decent, and listenable, but neither new nor spectacular.
Jim Cornall: 6 out of 10
Rendezvous Point - Solar Storm
Through the Solar Storm (4:50), Wasteland (4:59), Para (6:23), The Hunger (7:15), Mirrors (10:18), The Conclusion pt. 1 (4:48), The Conclusion pt. 2 (5:54)
I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of this album. As it progresses, it reminds me more and more of Haken, and that is definitely a good thing.
The musicians here are very good, particularly the drummer, Baard Kolstad, who many might know from his work with Leprous. I'm not familiar with Leprous, but after hearing Kolstad's drumming, I will certainly need to check them out. He is phenomenal, and his playing is clearly a high point for Rendezvous Point.
The other musicians are Geirmund Hansen on vocals, Peter Hallaråker on guitar, Nicolai Tangen Svennæs on keyboards, and Gunn-Hilde Erstad on bass. It is quite rare to see a female bassist, and she is very good. In fact, everyone here is excellent. The band members met while studying music at the University of Agder, in Kristiansand, Norway. I always appreciate when musicians put in the time and effort to study their craft at a higher level. Their hard work is evident.
Rendezvous Point could be compared to several prog metal bands, but the most fitting is Haken. I will venture to say that they are the next Haken, for they have every ability to create music of that quality. The first few songs are good, but not brilliant. The vocals sound a bit off, and the music does not mesh quite as well as the last four songs. With that said, the songs all build off of each other, with each song better than the previous one.
The Hunger makes good use of Dream Theater's tactic of layering spoken tracks lightly over quieter musical sections. DT often use news and movie clips or special recordings to do so, and it appears that Rendezvous Point have done the same here. It is not overdone, and it adds a level of maturity to their sound. Mirrors is just awesome on every level. It is wonderfully heavy, with Hansen's voice perfectly complementing the music. Hansen's vocals sound progressively better as the album moves along, with his voice reaching the high notes at just the right places. He has a greater range than one would first expect, and he proves this throughout.
One of the key elements that sets Rendezvous Point apart from other prog metal bands that are just starting out is the depth to their music. The keyboards add a terrific sense of depth and detail to the music. Sometimes it is from the symphonic overtones, and other times it is from the piano chords that Svennæs is playing. In addition, the guitar and bass do a wonderful job of driving the music in an upbeat fashion.
The music is not depressing to listen to, like a lot of metal these days. I'm not a musician myself, so I can't tell you about the musical theory behind their work, but to my untrained ears, I hear a lot of odd time signatures and time signature shifts throughout the album. They are clearly masters of their instruments.
After a 25-date tour with Leprous back in October, Rendezvous Point have gained excellent on-the-road experience that will serve them well when they go to write their next album. I honestly believe that they have a very high ceiling as a band, much like Haken. The future looks bright for Rendezvous Point.
Bryan Morey: 8 out of 10
Sea Vine - Król i Królowa
Transformacja (9:34), Mind Confusion (3:43), Modliszka (5:35), Król i Królowa (7:15), [Improv] Miłość (6:04), [Improv] Podróż (9:07)
Sea Vine's style of music is mostly of the dark, avant-garde variety with a bit of inspiration gleaned from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's Brain Salad Surgery album. Before the fifth and final track on the album, an SBB cover, the four preceding tracks present themselves to the devoted proggie as sharing one theme and they flow seamlessly for 27 minutes, though not creating a single unified concept.
On opening track Transformacja, Cywiński's keyboards evoke a dark Mellotron-style vibe not unlike that of early King Crimson. This then kicks into some fat analogue bass-heavy synth with Szymańska's otherworldly female native-language vocal delivery and Warmijak's drumming action way upfront in the mix, overpinning more of the Mellotron macabre. Spacey synth soloing leads to a mid-tempo groove, evoking a little bit of 70s-era Genesis and opening things up to minimal droning synth action overlapping a little gossamer Fender Rhodes-flavoured jazziness. The Genesis-like vibe returns abruptly, changing to a frenzied rhythmic drive for a bit. It then cascades into quieter Mellotron style territory with more of the Rhodes, along with some cosmic electronic percussion elements.
The aptly-titled Mind Confusion offers up some spacey, implosive electronic percussion echo-bubbles, some quirky bass synth ingredients and a whimsical vocal delivery from Szymańska. Her evoking of the lunacy of Syd Barrett is even more accented by some hideously cheesy synths that explode into an industrial-funk groove. Tubeway Army is recalled here and this commonality ends the tune with some rambling drumming craziness. On Modliszka, The Fender Rhodes sees itself bounced along by some pretty thick synths that again draw upon Tubeway Army. No bassist is needed on this album. Cywiński more than compensates for any bass guitar via the skilful navigation of the lower end of his keyboards. Szymańska picks things up with her vocals dramatically bringing the tune into some Passengers-style sonic territory via a touch of trip-hop rhythm. Her vocals then drastically carry things up to a frenetic velocity, along with some fine synth excursions. Things gradually slow down and trail off in some windswept synth elements.
The title track starts with a lilting jittery piano-flavoured black sheen, drawing upon Nine Inch Nails and Black Tape for a Blue Girl as influences. This then kicks into a gloomy rocking rave-up paralleling VDGG territory with generous synth leads and Fender Rhodes accents. Jazzy darkness evoking Flags-era Moraz/Bruford meanders on for a bit and ends up in an appendage of more dark minimal piano.
Sea Vine is a triumvirate of talent that have created a brilliant if not challenging sophomore release. Inspiration for the album came from the works of Polish visual artist Zdzisław Beksiński. If the man himself were alive today, I have no doubt in my mind that he would be enthusiastically grooving to the sounds of this band while at work in his studio. You might also, if you're into avant-garde music with lots of keyboards.
Note! Since DPRP first received a review copy of Król i Królowa, the album has since been re-issued with the SBB cover removed from the track listing. In its place are two improvisational pieces, parts of a one-and-a-half hour of improvised music recorded live in The Polish Chamber Philharmonic Sopot Concert Hall.
Jim Corcoran: 7 out of 10
Tijad - Cognitave Dissonance
Mister Black (7:18), Demons (5:39), Dropout (9:36), Hiatus (5:43), It's On Me (5:19), A Growing Sense of Displacement (3:44), The Police Report (feat. Sander Pastoor) (4:26), Duet With the Dead (feat. Hanneke Rolloos) (5:45), Cognitive Dissonance (4:54)
The album follows a narrative based around, essentially, a modern day story of Orpheus, with a rather bleak protagonist falling in love with a girl in school, who then drops out. The protagonist then enters a world of drink and lucid dreams about her and he eventually finds this girl in the red light district and, as described by Tijad, 'the little sanity still left in his mind quickly vanishes'.
From that description of the storyline, it is easy to tell that musically, and lyrically, this is not a happy album, so do not listen to it expecting sunshine and daisies. However, personally, I think it is an incredible piece of music. The vocal delivery combines perfectly with the tone and musicality of the album, creating images of bleak and windswept, rainy lands and dark skies. For someone who has been a fan of bands like Katatonia, The Loveless (the Danish band, not the American one) and Paradise Lost for a long time, this album slots perfectly into my collection.
The album is on the gothic/doom side of progressive metal. Vocals are all clean sung; both sorrowful and lamenting as befitting the lyrical content, while the music sounds like it would suit a goth's funeral. Low, slow and heavy guitars are present throughout the album, along with fantastic acoustic leads backed up by a rhythm section that adds to the sad and lonely feel of the main character. The heavy use of acoustic guitars in the writing of the album adds so much to the tone of the music, with it being played as a lead almost, rather than the other way round as would normally happen.
A good example of the diverse talents of Tijad and the range of music found on this album would be the third track on the album, Dropout. This starts out with a beautiful piece of music, piano intertwining with guitars to create a lovely, relaxed sound that could easily be heard in a fancy restaurant, but this does not last. Shortly after, the song takes a turn down the doom path before it kicks the speed up a notch around the six-and-a-half minute mark, switching from doom-laden epic to a fast-paced progressive metal track.
However, The Police Report, changes the tone of the album; just for this one track, all notion of clean and sorrowful vocals and music are thrown out of the window for what can only be described as a healthy dose of progressive sounding doom/death metal. Sander Pastoor (vocalist and bassist of Libertha with Tijad) provides some heavy vocals, growing and snarling over the heavy riffs and crushing drumming. For this track, think old school Opeth with added doom. For me, truly a magnificent track. One of the stand outs on the album (although I am finding it extremely difficult to pick any favourites).
All in all, this album is, I believe, a future unsung hero of depressive progressive metal. I would heartily recommend it to any fan of Katatonia, Paradise Lost, Opeth or Aoria. In my view, it is a masterpiece of melancholy and doom, mixed with a perfect blend of progressive metal.
Calum Gibson: 9 out of 10
Vermilion - Sentience
Alien Sun Pt 1 (10:13), Uncanny Valley (4:56), Phantom Frequency (5:24), Helios Prelude (1:26), Syntax (6:38), The Descent (8:58), Revolt (1:41), Alien Sun Pt 2 (8:10), Gost Track Tom (6:24)
Vermilion's music is a careening, sharp-edged deployment of instrumental tech-metal and their sound draws much upon modern-era King Crimson, more specifically that band's The Power to Believe period.
The Vermilion creature pounces on us right out of the gate with the first track on their album, a concept release entitled Sentience. On Alien Sun Pt 1, soundscapes fade in courtesy of drummer Tom Vansteenkiste, then guitarist Timmy Segers jumps in on the action with some melodic flair evoking Marillion and Dire Straits. A combustible groove section abruptly shows up via the fire cast off by Vansteenkiste and bassist Tom Everaert, the latter's sound rising in intensity like a tsunami of opaque poison and joined with an equal level of monstrosity from Segers' guitars and Penson's spine-tingling keyboard navigation. The kinetics here are racing on infinite pistons and Vermilion knowingly rules over the mayhem, out of a prior place of blackness. Things then shift to much safer, brighter, lighter territory with a mellow jazz feel evoking The Aristocrats and a warm, edgy guitar solo from Segers, tipping the hat to Joe Satriani as a commonality. The brilliance quickly shadows down to a cloudy filter of gray, and the modern Crimson influence attacks once again via some punchy, false ending filled diversion peppered with Hammond elements and a wild synth solo detour from Penson. We are then thrown by Vermilion back to the dark void of noise and physics, before a resounding final flash of fury, and a waterfall to silence.
The absence of lyrics on Sentience empowers the listener to more freely interpret the concept while listening to the music, which should not be a difficult task as there is a lot of exciting, dynamic interplay happening here that is as dramatic as the conceptual story created by Segers which goes along with the album.
Just one of many examples of excitement on Sentience can be found in Phantom Frequency- another great piece of music on the album which launches dark rhythm sectional ordnance of evil crunch fired alongside Seger's driven wall of guitar. The piece takes some rubbery bounces back and forth, before descending into softer, welcoming territory over Penson's gossamer Mellotron stylings. The fortress of noise then builds itself again, with that rubber bounce lending to the unknown. The mellow feel again returns, throwing us for a loop into vertigo like so many boomerangs of velvet striking our heads. More Satriani referential viscosity sheens off the pick, strings, neck, frets and muse of Segers. After a dramatic stop, Penson's fuzzy Hammond elements grow a bit in volume as if to invade us, with the rest of the band joining in with quick stabs of sonic aggression. Vansteenskiste in particular goes crazy behind the drum kit on this one.
He's on fire as well on Syntax, as if practically crawling like an alien spider all over the drum kit. Not in any way, though, that detracts our tormented prog rock souls from the capable participation of Segers and Everaert. At this juncture Vansteenkiste briefly harnesses Syntax with some soundscapes, diverting the tune into far-off galactic regions. The Vermilion creature then attacks from the other side, with abrasive walls of guitar constructed by the mighty Segers, his melancholy fading afterthought strums evoking Hemispheres-era Rush.
Although across Sentience the band's complex time signatures and triple-barrel drumming/bass/guitar deployments tend to get a tad overdone, as a whole this album is bursting with musicianship and there are enough sojourns into more conservative territory to create a variety of structures, neutralizing any overkill at the path of destruction. The album is well-produced, and Vansteenkiste approaches the use of his soundscapes, samples and electronica with a responsible level of ethical judgement.
The CD is housed in a nice, well-presented three-way gatefold package with the graphic design and brilliant artwork courtesy of Segers, along with the text of his clever story that accompanies the instrumental album's theme (no spoilers).
This CD will most likely appeal to purveyors of tech-metal. if you require lyrics and vocals with your music, you won't find that here.
Other than perhaps toning down a bit on the complex key signatures and perhaps going for a more basic 4/4 approach in the future, I cannot not think of any improvement needed by this fine band.
Jim Corcoran: 7 out of 10