ISSUE 2016-015

Reviews in this issue:

Amon Ra - We Never Said Goodbye
Amon Ra - We Never Said Goodbye
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 71:56
Links:
Track List:
Master of Strings (5:34), Time Will Come to Your Rescue (9:33), The Long Dark Road (4:55), Where When and Why (6:33), Until the Morning Comes (4:38), Rocket Man (3:32), Slipping Away (6:16), Karma Machine (5:51), Tango Mortale (7:05), Should Have Known Better (4:43), Dance of Duty (5:45), The Great Metronome (7:28)
Amon Ra was the Egyptian King of the Gods and also a band that brought out a critically acclaimed album Precarious Balance in 1998. A tour with SAGA followed but the second album never happened, even though many of the compositions had been written.

Fast forward a mere 17 years and the follow-up has eventually been released. They never officially broke up, so the ironically titled We Never Said Goodbye is a mixture of old work, with more modern material. All of its 73 minutes sound like they were recorded yesterday; very fresh and new.

Of the original group, only three (plus a few keyboards from Dierk Neldner) play on this slab of German American neo prog, and the first thing that hits you is how good the vocalist is. Scot Balaban has that quality that makes a band rise above the crowd. Lothar Hermann is a brilliant drummer, and the guitar playing of Thomas Wenzel is up there with the very best. The pizzicato effects are a good touch, imbuing many of the tracks, plus the lovely "waterfall" picking on Where When and Why. Where have this lot been hiding?

Master of Strings had me thinking of Vanden Plas with the crunchy guitar, big keys and soloing, with Time Will Come To Your Rescue continuing this collection of intelligent rock with very good melodies and athemic choruses. I know, it sounds a little clichéd, but it really does work. This song also introduces us to the piano, which is a dominant instrument throughout, especially on intros and middle eights.

Until The Morning Comes has a soft rock, almost Bon Jovi feel, with a very chart-friendly vibe to the song. I notice that a guest bassist, Sebastian Gieck, graces this one with a funkier groove, and it really should be picked up by radio stations, as it's a perfect rock number.

Like early Queen albums, there is variation in the tracks. We have the country rock of The Long Dark Road, to the story-telling of Rocket Man and Should Have Known Better, written after a dubious night out, it evokes the musical atmosphere of an art deco lounge bar. These kinds of inclusion might mark the album's score down for some people, but for me they add a point.

The Saga-like Dance of Duty firmly cements this collective's credentials. Then go back a bit and play Tango Mortale. A great slab of accordion-led tango rock with nods to Archie Bleyer's Hernando's Hideaway. From the ACT-style singing, to the middle section where a musical "Tango to the Death" battle ensues between Mexican bandits and the good guys, this song is just such a laugh and the only time on a record that you'll find the credit "Sivia Balaban - kidnapped village daughter".

The finale, The Great Metronome, initially disappointed me, as I guess I wanted a huge prog ending, but I was totally wrong. This a perfect song about time, that slowly takes the listener into the past, and to then reflect on what has been heard.

Amon Ra's second release is one of those records that should be given far more exposure and marketing. It is a superb and varied CD which should belong on all music-lover's shelves and played often, to unravel all the knots and fine stitching contained within.
Conclusion:
Andrew Halley: 9 out of 10

Sam Coulson - Electric Classical
Sam Coulson - Electric Classical
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 24:03
Links:
Track List:
Ave Maria (2:42), BWV 1007 Prelude (2:33), Op. 35 No. 22 (1:54), Recuerdos De La Alhambra (3:09), Vals Venezolano No. 2 (1:48), Op. 6 No. 11 (4:39), Moonlight Sonata Blues (3:03), BWV ANH 114 (1:07), Op. 35 No. 17 (1:21), Romance (1:47)
"Now then, wot's all this then?" is one of those lines from Monty Python that every now and then pushes itself to the centre of my thinking. That is exactly what happened after several spins of this album. Sam Coulson is Asia's guitarist, who was chosen by the band after being discovered on Youtube by Paul Gilbert.

What we have here are ten classical tracks all played on electric guitar, Fender Stratocasters to be more specific. Classical music is often played acoustically, yet here Sam is sharing with us electric renditions of, at least to some extent, well-known compositions. Sam's playing is nice on these tracks, for sure. But then again, the album being as short as it is, there is not much time to leave too much of an impression.

To have these tracks gathered together shows that Bach and Fernando Sor are amongst Sam's favourite composers, and it's good to have these tracks together. But it still puzzles me. Is it meant as a fairly short album with music particularly for the lovers of classical music, or an album for the Asia fans that fell in love with Sam's playing? It's not that I am saying music should be directed at markets, but here I find it hard to pinpoint who the album is aimed at.

Yes, I did gain respect for Sam as a guitarist, and for his skills in putting this album together. But then again, listening to him in Asia might have done the same trick.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 6 out of 10

Flor de Loto - Medusa – en vivo en Buenos Aires [CD + DVD]
Flor de Loto - Medusa – en vivo en Buenos Aires
Country of Origin: Peru
Year of Release: 2015
Time: CD: 70:57, DVD: 100:30
Links:
Track List:
CD: La Fortaleza (The fortress) (3:42), Nuevo Mesias (New Messiah) (4:29), Mosoj Pacha - Nuevo Mundo (New world) (5:07), Sombras En La Oscuridad (Shadows of the dark) (3:27), Espejo Del Alma (Soul mirror) (5:29), En Otro Lugar (In another place) (6:38), Volver A Nacer (Born again) (5:33), Hipnotizame (Hypnotise me) (7:06), Desapareciendo (Fading away) (5:09), Medusa (7:15), Imperio De Cristal (Empire of glass) (6:18), Hasta El Final (Until the end) (10:44)
DVD: La Fortaleza, Nuevo Mesias, Mosoj Pacha - Nuevo Mundo, Sombras En La Oscuridad, Espejo Del Alma, En Otro Lugar, Volver A Nacer, Hipnotizame, Desapareciendo, Medusa, Imperio De Cristal, Hasta El Final, Espejo Del Alma (video clip), En Otro Lugar (video clip), Rumbo a la Eternidad (live in Lima), Nuevo Mesias (live Contrafest), Espejo Del Alma (live 2015), Flor De Loto en Arequipa 2015
Prog-folk from the Andes sounds quite exciting, so I was curious what this set would offer. Would it mean a blend of traditional Andean music with modern prog? How would that sound? And towards what side of the spectrum would the music go? Acoustic, electric, metal, something inbetween?

Flor de Loto from Peru has been around since 1998 and has succeeded in establishing a solid fan base by recording a couple of high quality studio albums. Their debut originates from 2005, after which they recorded another five albums, none of which have previously been reviewed here on DPRP.net. Fortunately we now have their first live recording, comprising songs from five of the studio albums and coming to us as a live cd and dvd with bonus tracks.

Flor de Loto is a six-piece band formed around lead singer Alonso Herrera, who also plays the solo guitar. His voice reminds me of Jadis' Gary Chandler. It is not so expressive or strong, but quite pleasant to listen to. In this live recording he is not always right on tone but for me that adds to the authencity of a live recording. The other members are Ignacio Flores (guitar, backing vocals), Junior Pacora (traverse flute, quena, charango, backing vocals), David Lopez Gutierrez (synthesiser), Alejandro Jarrin (bass), Alvaro Escobar (drums) and Agustina Gonzalez Garcia who sings lead vocals on Desapareciendo and adds backing vocals to most other tracks. Her vocal contributions are mixed too much into the background, maybe because her lead vocals don't sound very convincing. Is it nerves because of being filmed or recorded? Looking at her performance on the DVD I tend to believe that she is not too comfortable on stage. Is it a serious drawback? Not really as the energetic natures of the music makes up for it.

During the first listen this band made a very pleasant impression on me and that feeling has grown with every spin. The gig starts energetically, with the short instrumental La Fortaleza in which the guitar and the Andean flute blend nicely. It's a perfect introduction for what is to come, for this band turns out to be able to rock energetically, whilst also slowing down at times and play the occasional nice ballad. What makes this band stand out is the Inca flavour in their music, played on Andean flute, charango and quena.

A standout track of the gig is Espejo del alma, which contains some traditional Andean folk music played on flute, superbly mingled with the main melody of the song. In other tracks the flutes are present in the full band sound, but on this one the folky flutes take the lead. Medusa is probably the most progressive of the 12 songs of the gig, with its long and intensive interplay between the folky flute and the heavy riffing guitars. The longest song of the gig, Hasta el final is a nice middle-tempo piece of music with extensive flute playing and nice variations in time signatures. In the last part of the song, the synthesiser, until then mostly in the background, plays a nice long solo, leading the way to a memorable end of the show.

Most of the music is played at high speed but there are some sudden drops in tempo. Throughout there are outbursts on solo guitar by Mr. Herrera but without too much showing off. The only slightly irritating thing, is the fact that he talks to the audience towards the end of a song while still playing.

The package comes with a DVD containing the film of the gig. It's quite grainy and dark, it is far from razor-sharp and it's filmed with only a limited number of (hand-held) cameras. That all makes the scenes rather predictable, most likely because of a limited budget. The DVD also contains some bonus live tracks of which the track Rumbo a la Eternidad wasn't included for the cd. There are also two promo clips and a documentary.

Taking into account the slight drawbacks, balanced by the high quality of the performance, I can only recommend it wholeheartedly. It's the great enthusiasm of the band on stage that makes all the difference, as well as the liveliness and cheerfulness of this exciting Inca-prog. It's not perfect but it's far from bad. It is just very well in between. The energy of the performance and the attractive melodies, in which Andean tradition is blended with modern-world progressive rock, makes this an album that's more than worth checking it out.
Conclusion:
Theo Verstrael: 8 out of 10

Habu - To The Stars
Habu - To The Stars
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 42:58
Links:
Track List:
SR-71 (7:20), It's Time (4:20), Silent Scream (5:12), Contact Light (5:57), The Vigil (4:52), Harvest 3:28), Android Warriors (4:43), To the Stars ((7:18)
Habu is a band that cites Rush, Blue Öyster Cult and Dream Theater as the main influences on their music at the time of recording this album. From the sound of this disc, the three musicians, Andy Clarke on guitar and vocals, Alex Body on bass, keyboards and vocals and Alex Dunbar on drums, most certainly seem to hold the Canadian band in high esteem. Their album could easily have been based on the Rush sound, especially their Permanent Waves era with the guitar firmly at the front. There are keyboards, but Habu use these to a far lesser extent than Rush did at the time.

As for the other influences, the Blue Öyster Cult might be in the way that the vocal harmonies are put forth, yet that is about all I can say about their sound being echoed. As for the Dream Theater influences? Well, I might have mistaken them for Rush influences with Dream Theater being influenced by Rush themselves, and Andy Clarke plays some fine solos, that are closer to what John Petrucci does, than Alex Lifeson. But overall it is about the music, not so much the influences and Habu has succeeded in writing an album that bridges the gap between the sounds of mid-era Rush and the studio possibilities these days.

What struck me, is that the band are competent at writing songs that have a clever build-up and that, for the greater part this is an album that knows how to capture you attention. Yet, there is something either in the production or in the way that the choruses fit in the songs, that they sometimes just miss that extra bit of something that would have you singing along with the choruses in no time at all. Yes, the songs can be catchy, but when it comes to choruses, the songs sometimes seem to lose momentum. That is most notable on It's Time and Silent Scream.

In Alex Body they have a confident and strong bass player and lead vocalist. Andy Clarke does a fine job on the guitar and takes on the lead vocals as well. Even though he is the singer who can reach the higher notes, his voice is not always as steady in the performance. Nothing major, yet it does sometimes divert your attention. Alex Dunbar does more than keeping time at the back, and provides a solid and dynamic rhythm. What I like about the band is that they do know how to write catchy, never too intricate songs in which they can add their chops on the various instruments without being too self-indulgent. The songs are never too long and the band has the vocalists that can add to the music as well. Production-wise there might be some points of attention to improve upon. As for the design of the album, that looks very nice with Loïs Cordelia doing more than a great job at the artwork.

Halu is currently working on their second album and it would be nice to see how they fare from one album to the next. A nice and worthy studio debut.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7 out of 10

Karmaflow - Karmaflow: The Original Soundtrack
Karmaflow - Karmaflow: The Original Soundtrack
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 44:53
Links:
Track List:
Main Theme (1:23), The Essence of Grief (1:22), The Muse and the Conductor (5:28), The Essence of Despair (1:57), The Guide (6:12), The Essence of Jealousy (1:18), The Bird Goddess (2:33), The Twins (5:32), The Essence of Greed (1:19), The Heart (6:13) The Creator and the Destroyer (8:21) The Sacrifice (3:10)
If the prospect of a rock opera based on a video game doesn't exactly float your boat, then you may well be pleasantly surprised (as I was) by this ambitious undertaking from Dutch composer Ivo van Dijk.

Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame is hailed as the world's first rock opera videogame with the game's story presented entirely in the form of a rock opera. The game itself is more of a 'puzzle platformer' than a 'shot em up' affair, and if the samples on the Karmaflow website and YouTube are anything to go by, then the graphics are an absolute delight. Karmaflow - The Original Soundtrack Album is described as "the physical album of a collection of the best music from Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame with a exclusive 24-page art booklet".

Unsurprisingly given the 'rock opera' tag, we're in symphonic metal territory with a cast of no less than 14 singers, backed by a full orchestra and a 10-piece band which includes members of Epica, Within Temptation and After Forever.

The instrumental Main Theme is a short but suitably majestic overture with lush orchestrations courtesy of the Grammy Award-winning Metropole Orkest. The Essence of Grief follows, introducing the angelic, crystal clear voice of Charlotte Wessels (Delain) as the narrator. Without wanting to distract from the other singers, her voice is a welcome presence throughout the album.

That said the album contains several fine performances, although for me the female voices fair better than their male counterparts. That's perhaps because the male singers often fall prey to metal clichés and in particular the intrusive death metal growls that feature prominently during key songs like The Muse and the Conductor, The Guide and The Heart.

Otherwise the arrangements are impressive. Fast and heavy guitar riffs and cinematic strings and brass prove to be a compelling combination, especially on songs like the infectious The Bird Goddess. The vocals are also more neutrally-balanced here, as they are on The Twins which features some fine, theatrical duetting, bringing Ayreon and the rock musicals of Clive Nolan to mind.

At eight-plus minutes, the penultimate The Creator and the Destroyer is the album's most expansive track, with strings to the fore and a rare (if short) guitar solo. Whilst Simone Simons (Epica) has a beautiful voice, the strangulated snarl of Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth) is less agreeable.

The concluding The Sacrifice is the token big ballad, convincingly performed by Lisette van den Berg. It brings the album full circle by incorporating the main theme, although for some it may stray a little too close to Disney-style sentimentality for comfort.

As can often be the case with 'soundtrack' albums, Karmaflow/ The Original Soundtrack is perhaps too episodic to fully succeed as a standalone piece of music but it certainly has its highs (and lows). And whilst composer/producer Ivo van Dijk remains faithful to the symphonic metal formula here, I have a sneaking feeling that his real ambition would be to score a big budget, Hollywood movie.
Conclusion:
Geoff Feakes: 7 out of 10

Kezia - The Dirty Affair
Kezia - The Dirty Affair
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 35:24
Links:
Track List:
Before I Leave (5:21), Ebola (4:01), The Dirty Affair (Between Pelican and Bear) (5:05), Sneakers (3:46), Barabba Son's Song (4:04), Quendo (5:28), Preludio (0:29), Treesome (7:07)
In the infinite realm of prog, this is none of the bands that may divide opinions. If you like your music to cross boundaries, if 'prog' for you is music that crosses borders back and forth, then you may have stumbled on a review of a soon-to-be-favourite EP. In all its variety, it is just over half an hour of music that Kezia dishes up on this small silver platter. Yet how varied the menu is!

Kezia decided that their music is best named "Prop Metal", as they clearly mix progressive elements and a stunning, refreshing heaviness, with a fine nose for pop leanings as well. The result balances between Rhapsody Of Fire, Queen, Mika and Dream Theater, all shot-through with a dose of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle. They have an incredible nose for songs that can both be poppy and catchy, while still maintaining their sense of prog and heaviness.

Kezia have stretched the borders of each and every genre until they have found themselves a piece of musical territory that is out-and-out Kezia. The band has no taboos in the subjects they write about. They easily mix the absurd with the serious, the angry with the loving. This mini album sounds as if the band have had a lot of fun in making it.

Antonio Manetti is an accomplished guitarist who knows to shred, play melodies and pull off all varieties of solos. Alberto Armanini weaves the greatest keyboard tapestries and solos with infinite ease. Michele Longhena is not only a solid drummer, but provides some dynamics for the band as well. Daniele Longhena is the bass player that makes sure the rhythm section operates with the finesse of a heart. Amidst all that, yet at the same time topping them all, there is the voice of Pierlenzo Molinari. With great ease he masters poppier parts with the progressive and heavy elements. His voice sounds like an amalgam of the late Freddie Mercury, Fabio Lione (for all his power), James La Brie (on a good day), Mika and Mike Patton, and even George Michael thrown in for the poppier parts. He really shines on this album, most certainly due to the ease with which he sings.

This is only the band's first release and what they have created is adventurous and in your face. It never gets bland but it does ask for the listener to be open-minded and willing to undergo a musical journey. Days after the first listen, it was great to still have their melodies in mind. This is not for the faint of heart. It is a disc for everybody with a passion for adventure, who dares to think out of the box.

A higher score would probably have been there if the release had been an entire album. It's hard to tell how consistent the whole of an album might be, no matter how much of a paradox that might be for music as complicated and diverse as theirs. A fine and aspiring band from Italy.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10

Marchesi Scamorza - Hypnophonia
Marchesi Scamorza - Hypnophonia
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 42:54
Links:
Track List:
1348 (4:58), Il Cammino delle Luci Erranti (13:52), Campi di Marte (4:24), L'uomo Col Fiore in Bocca (6:16), La via del Sognatore (13:23)
Founded in the north Italian town of Ferrara in 2009, Marchesi Scamorza is an Italian progressive rock band whose singer (and lyricist) Enrico Cazzola does so in his native tongue. Hypnophonia is the band's second full CD, after the more pastoral La Sposa Del Tempo which was released in 2012.

This band is new to me but I have always admired most of Italy's progressive rock output, particularly PFM and on this album we have a promising start with 1348. It has a very Steve Howe influenced guitar sound and a good mix of progressiveness. Now this album does highlight something I've touched upon before and that's how useless us Brits are with other languages. It's quite shameful really but I'm sure the lyrics are very good and poetic, but I haven't a clue what they are about. I know that in 1348 Italy suffered at the claws of the black death, so maybe the song is about that? Sorry Marchesi Scamorza but my ears are open, I promise!

Two long 14-minute tracks are the backbone of this recording, beginning with Il Cammino delle Luci Erranti. Analysing this track, the bass guitar is very competently played, but it is too clean. This kind of music needs a bit of distortion, think PFM's Chocolate Kings or the sound Steve Babb of Glass Hammer gives us. However the band is very good. I am really enjoying the guitar, and Enrico Cazzola's keyboards in the instrumental parts, but the voice is going to take time. It's got a monotonous tone that reminds me of traveling through France and listening to that nation's "finest" pop. Maybe it's a production thing and my desire for the band to dirty it up a bit.

This kind of thing can be very personal but, for example, PFM with Bernardo Lanzetti's singing was both interesting, controversial, but above all uplifting and interesting.

The L'uomo Col Fiore in Bocca instrumental section has hints of early Marillion, especially with the perfectly-executed piano playing, which morphs into the last long La via del Sognatore , which is certainly the reason to purchase this album. The musicianship is superb. Bassist Paolo Brini certainly know his chops, albeit with timbre reservations (for this type of music) and Lorenzo Romani's guitar fascinates throughout.

My thoughts on this production are too subjective to use in any point scoring system (as we are obliged to do), because as a recording of modern-day progressive rock it is faultless and recommended for lovers of the genre.

Well produced and played, this is a CD for others to make their own minds up about whether or not the overall picture works for them.
Conclusion:
Andrew Halley: 8 out of 10

Open Space Quartet - Claude Bolling: Suite Nr. 2 for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio
Open Space Quartet - Claude Bolling: Suite Nr. 2 for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 58:43
Links:
Track List:
Espiegle (11:27), Amoureuse (7:30), EntrAmis (6:33), Vagabonde (4:44), Pastorale (7:36), Affectueuse (4:51), Intime (6:42), Jazzy (9:26)
Numerous images flickered in and out of my thoughts. Most of these streamed by, but one resolutely refused to slip away. Time and time again the the melodic sound of a wafting piano and trilling flute created the same picture. It remained constant, fully coloured, stubbornly rejecting any suggestion of fading to grey.

Lush green meadows, patched with sun-dried cowpats; eager for their turn, fidgety flies flitter by. They take their chance; bucking to and fro to ride the thermals. Impassioned by the cud and suitably warmed by the vibrant tones of the gently ascending music, many more flies triumphed than failed.

Claude Bolling originally composed his Suite NR. 2 for Flute and Jazz Piano in 1984. It was intended as a follow-up to his critically acclaimed and commercially successful Suite NR. 1 for Flute and Jazz Piano recorded in 1974. Both recordings featured Jean -Pierre Rampal on flute.

Rampal had previously bridged jazz and progressive audiences in his two courageously different flute-based avant garde albums, Flutes Libres released in 1971 and Captain Tarthopom released in 1973. Bolling on the other hand, was trying to meld classical and traditional jazz influences into his suites and create something that would appeal to a wider audience.

Over the years, a number of artists have recorded their own interpretations of Bolling's classic suites for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio. The Open Space Quartet can now be added to this lengthy list. The quartet's line-up includes drummer Carlo Bordini, who was a founding member of Italian prog group Cherry Five.

The music is in many ways timeless, and it is that quality which shines through the Open Space's take on the original. Bolling's work was highly-spun and tightly-composed, leaving little room for any extended improvisation. It nonetheless, imaginatively displayed the tension between the baroque nature of a number of the pieces and the amalgamation of a standard jazz approach. This tension was largely overcome by the beautifully lyrical playing of Rampal, who was able to cross both classical and jazz-tinged styles with consummate ease.

If you like the work of ensembles such as the Project Trio who similarly have tried to create their own melange of classical and jazz music, then you will find a great deal to enjoy in Open Space's work. The Open Space Quartet is a group of highly skilled performers, and Bolling's work springs enthusiastically to life in their hands. They are able to effortlessly create a series of vivid soundscapes for the listener to contemplate upon and explore. However, whilst flautist Iolanda Zignani does an excellent job throughout the album, she does not totally achieve the versatile heights that Rampal was able to showcase on the original album.

There are a number of standout pieces. Amoureuse is absolutely captivating. It has the sort of contemplative allure, sense of fragility and deftness of touch that would make it a wonderful backdrop to a midnight tryst. Similarly, Pastorale is a stunning piece which contains an array of carefully-chosen musical textures that combine jazz and classical influences in a sumptuous manner. My favourite piece is Intime which has a slow, fused melody and possesses a colourful charm.

The Open Space Quartet has taken Bolling's work and has added their own touches and flourishes to the original compositions. This is particularly noticeable in the concluding piece, Jazzy. It features a number of elements not present in the original. For example, the Open Space rendition begins with a bass solo, has a number of percussive interludes and is not afraid to reinterpret the script. The result is a piece that brims with courageous originality, whilst still paying heed to the overall structure of Bolling's composition. Under the vision of Open Space, Jazzy has become transformed into something just as memorable, equally inspired and full of zest.

Nevertheless, the easily identifiable creative flourishes present in Jazzy appear to be the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, The Open Space Quartet keeps safely to the centre of Bolling's well-trodden path, only occasionally stepping to the side, and even more rarely taking their own distinct route. When the quartet finds their own path, the music flourishes; it discovers its own distinctive voice and the quartet find a clear way to express itself.

In this respect the music is wonderful, but I cannot avoid the feeling that the album as a whole is a missed opportunity. In my view, it does not contain enough of the jazz spirit of experiment and improvisation that could have radically altered and completely reinterpreted Bolling's original vision, to make this is an absolute must-have album. Frustratingly, it teases and merely hints at what is possible.

Nevertheless, just like the flies mentioned at the beginning of this review, the Open Space Quartet triumph far more times than they fail in their quest to ride the thermals of Bolling's majestic and beautiful creation.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 7 out of 10

Progeland - Gate to Fulfilled Fantasies
Progeland - Gate to Fulfilled Fantasies
Country of Origin: Finland
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 45:18
Links:
Track List:
The New Era (2:10), Dead Calm Waters (4:24), Solar Boats (8:16), Ocean (0:52), One Day I Will Be Your King (6:07), Under The Ancient Sky (7:47), So Silently (3:42), Angel (5:12), Solar Boat (Single) (6:48)
This Finnish band was formed back in 2007 as a one-man project by Petri Lindstrom, but by 2011 it had become a full band with the launch of their self-titled debut EP. Gate To Fulfilled Fantasies is their first full-length album and it is a good one.

Don´t expect something new, with virtuoso performances or incredible arrangements. It´s just music, and that´s a good thing. The album is conceptual, although each track can be enjoyed as an individual song without losing the mood of the album. I have tried these two options, and I recommend to play it from the beginning to the end, just like the band wants.

The album starts with the atmospheric The New Era that prepares you to enter the gates as if you were the child on the cover. Then the real sound of Progeland appears in the dynamic Dead Calm Waters which features tight guitar riffs, great organ playing and the theatrical voice of Tomi Murtomäki. When I first heard the music I didn´t expect a voice like that. I´m not saying that he is bad but it was a bit disappointing at the beginning. Maybe a little forced to me but I understand that it can be okay for those more used to hearing Uriah Heep for example. The longest song Solar Boats, has different tempos and a great guitar sound that makes you think of Deep Purple.

Ocean appears to be the interlude that reminds you are still inside the gates and gives way to the third full song One Day I Will Be Your King. The rhythm of the beginning is quite similar to The New Era but it decreases while all the guitar sounds suggest that Progeland is a big fan of the classic rock masters. Almost at the end of the song, a great guitar solo surprises you. The voice keeps in the same style.

Under The Ancient Sky is the next big song on the album and for me the most progressive and varied. Dramatic vocals, different rhythms and a well played guitar solo at the end. The quiet ballad So Silently could be a great song but again the vocals are too dramatic. The final song called Angel closes the album in a sad way. Not the end I was expecting.

Gate to Fulfilled Fantasies is a good album that could have been better. It has great ingredients and the mix between prog and classic rock sounds good in some songs. The vocals could be more natural and the end of the album can be a bit disappointing but there are plenty of good songs to interest those looking for some classic rock with progressive elements.
Conclusion:
Ignacio Bernaola: 6 out of 10

Sunrise Auranaut - The First Cosmic
Sunrise Auranaut - The First Cosmic
Country of Origin: Russia
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 60:35
Links:
Track List:
Amazing Universe (10:19), Incarnation Calls (3:24), Lost in Deep Space (8:12), The Cycle of Desires (3:54), We Will Meet at the Spaceport (5:13), Pristine Planet (3:49), Nonstop (3:04), Gravity (6:59), Atmosphere and Vacuum (5:23), The Threshold (6:46), The Wisdom of Mother Earth (3:27)
Sunrise Auranaut is an instrumental studio project put together by Russian guitarist and keyboard player Vitaly Kiselev. The First Cosmic is his third release and the first to be featured on DPRP. The album is keyboard-heavy, with acoustic and electric guitars adding inflections. Bass and drums are programmed, which is fine for the former but, as with most albums featuring programmable drums, the rhythmic quality is a bit bland. This is evident on, for example, the otherwise quite interesting Incarnation Calls, and can sometimes become a real distraction, as on The Cycle Of Desires. A real drummer would have definitely enhanced the feeling, although would no doubt have splashed cymbals all over the place, something that is largely absent on the album.

The space theme, obvious from the track titles even if one didn't understand the creationist artwork, means there are plenty of synthy swirls and cosmic sounds that are the norm for the genre. Melodies abound throughout the album, although there are perhaps too many changes, particularly in the longer numbers. Opener Amazing Universe is a good example of this, as it has a great beginning but then somehow seems to get lost within itself.

Similarly, Lost In Deep Space holds great promise from the opening few minutes but meanders on too long and fails to keep the attention throughout. Indeed, such could be said of the whole album where there is too much material, of too similar a nature, to really hold the attention. A lot of the guitar and keyboard sounds are repeated across the tracks, which is fine if the chosen sounds are pleasing to your ears, but didn't really strike me as being distinctive or harmonious enough to appease my tastes. I suppose it is symbolic that the track that most appealed was Pristine Planet, which mainly abandons the keyboards and clearly displays the writing and melodic skills of Kiselev.

All in all The First Cosmic is not an inherently poor album. There are bits and pieces that do stand out and some nice themes that could have been better developed outside of the somewhat restrictive cosmic space rock arena. Kiselev would undoubtedly benefit from the input of a producer and other musicians to add variety, to prevent the composer from overusing certain sounds, and to edit the longer pieces so they are more succinct and have a better flow.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 5 out of 10

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Published Sunday 1 May 2016

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