ISSUE 2016-016

Reviews in this issue:

Beekeepers - Beekeepers II
Beekeepers - Beekeepers II
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 35:38
Links:
Track List:
Rained Out Bullfight (1:00), TV Land (3:23), Work Related Issues (5:00), Parkings Lots (3:44), Distant Lands (4:40), Normal Dressed Man (3:49), Look at My Face (1:46), Billboards (4:07), Evil is Real (3:36), Dragon Priest (4:27)
It's a bright, rayed morning, the sun-struck flowers unfurl, the contented bees rumble and the beekeeper smiles. The unboxing begins. There is no slick cover to gaze at, no printed lyrics to ponder, and no unnecessary trimmings to be found. This album proudly proclaims its independence in the form of its hearty, home-spun packaging.

Can the beekeepers persuade the bees to beat their wings in time to their song?

It's a bright morning, petals are unfurling and Beekeepers II is droning low-fi on hi-fi. Silenced by dewdrop tears, grounded by despair, the bees look to their keeper for inspiration, but none can be found.

This is an album that is possibly so wonderful that it will become a little-known, sought-after classic in future years. On the other hand, it is possibly so ponderously composed, performed and recorded that it will be instantly forgotten. In the end it's all about opinions and I have struggled to decide if this is a work of brilliance, or is an abject failure, lacking in both quality control and creativity.

The Beekeepers are an American four-piece band based in Detroit. Patrick Robinson can be heard on bass guitar, guitar, and vocals. Drums are handled by Jeff Else. Brandon Robinson provides some swirling synthesiser parts. Pete Steffy makes a significant contribution on keys, and guest player Jeremy Franchi plays sax.

There are many things about the album that I found difficult to enjoy or appreciate, but there is much to respect in the band's uncompromising pursuit of their art.

Let's put it on the reviewing scales and weigh up its facets.

Beekeepers II channels a number of styles that will be familiar to progressive fans. The musicality of the band is disguised by their conscious decision to opt for a low hi-fi sound. The album was recorded at home in the basement and suitably catches the raw and spontaneous atmosphere that must have occurred during the performances. In this respect, there are some similarities with the approach of bands such as Pavement and Guided by Voices.

Their overall sound is akin to a curious mix of Ariel Pink as illustrated in TV lLnd and Parking Lots and early Soft Machine in the brief instrumental Rained Out Bullfighting. The Soft Machine influence is easily identifiable in the organ-induced cacophony and improvisation of Normal Dressed Man, which for good measure is also vocally-attired in a splendid, kaleidoscopic cloak of 60s psychedelia.

Different points of reference can also be found in a number of other tracks. For example, Distant Lands has a Doors vibe and reminded me of The End. It is dark, melancholy and somber and it is also one of the few tracks where the vocalist shows his true melodic abilities. Unfortunately, in the final analysis Distant Lands is let down by a series of uninspiring and ponderous rhyming lyrics such as: "In distant lands there's nothing but sand."

The album as a whole is dogged by a plethora of intentional vocal inconsistencies and disturbingly-twee lyrics. The repetitive vocal in the Dragon Priest channels Robert Wyatt, but contains little of the wit and emotionally engaging delivery that made the work of early Soft Machine so engaging and pleasurable.

Work Related Issues is probably the stand out piece of the album. It is beautifully sung and is strangely reminiscent of Beardfish's Into the Night, but with a further sprinkling of the spirit of Canterbury added for good measure. It is a finely-honed tune and if the other pieces on the album were so carefully spun, the overall quality of the album would have been excellent.

Unfortunately, many pieces on the album are blighted by such poor production values that it makes it difficult to look beyond the rough-and-ready nature of what is on offer. Several tracks, such as Evil Is Real, to not feel as if they have been fully composed, coming across as work in progress demos, rather than commercially available, finished product.

Billboards is a particularly ugly and ill-fitting track. Drenched in reverb and sporting a Black Sabbath name-that-tune riff, it luckily wears a Canterbury hat in its latter stages to protect it from further disdain.

Overall, there is something disarmingly charming and appealing about Beekeepers II but this is not enough to negate the many inadequacies of the album, illustrated by its production values, and more often than not inconsistent compositions.

It's a misty eyed morn where grateful flowers blush and gracefully sip. Beekeepers II has concluded. Silence reigns; no-fi on hi-fi. Satiated by nectar, emboldened by hope, the bees look to their keeper for a sign. Peace pervades the stillness and the whole hive smiles, as a thousand wings beat in unison; in time to nature's song.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 5 out of 10

Birdpen - In the Company of Imaginary Friends
Birdpen - In the Company of Imaginary Friends
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 54:02
Links:
Track List:
Like a Mountain (5:36), Somewhere (4:24), Into the Black Light (4:50), T.C.T.T.Y.A (6:22), Lost It (5:45), Lake's Demand for an Interlude (1:49), No Place Like Drone (9:41), Alive (4:18), Lifeline (4:48), Cell Song (2:51), Equal Parts Hope and Dread (3:36)
The euphoniously-christened Birdpen, named after the surnames of both band members' Mike Bird and Dave Pen, is a musical project that seems to have the clear purpose of summarising modern urban life and its trappings within its verses; that is, isolation, emptiness and paranoia.

After their 2009 debut, On/Off/Safety/Danger, and Global Lows from 2012, does their third outing succeed in this regard? Well, it definitely does soundwise, as the cold synthesisers and sparse guitars paint a landscape (soundscape?) of concrete desolation and digital alienation. It's a bit like the depiction of a business district at night.

On the other hand, it is in the composition department where I find this album to be lacking, as the songs strike me as being a bit monotonous and flat. Maybe this has to do with the concept of the album, but in any case it makes the whole thing a tad boring to my ears. To give you an idea of how it sounds, there are hints of Pink Floyd (Like a Mountain), Dead Can Dance (T.C.T.T.Y.A), Arcade Fire (on the nicely titled Equal Parts Hope and Dread) or Alan Parsons Project (Somewhere_). You might even hear some Coldplay and Depeche Mode as well.

Birdpen have found their sound, one that might as well be the perfect aural backdrop to 21st century life in the metropolis, a dystopia of darkness and doom. Now they just need to find the right songs.
Conclusion:
Héctor Gómez: 6 out of 10

Black Space Riders - Refugeeum
Black Space Riders - Refugeeum
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 59:30
Links:
Track List:
Vortex Sun (8:02), Universal Bloodlines (4:27), Born a Lion (Homeless) (3:44), The Lure (Come With Us) (4:03), Run to the Plains (10:46), Curtains Of Death (8:21), Melek's Lament (Yazidi Tears) (6:06), Walking Shades (4:33), Ritual Of Inner Strength (9:28)
2015 was the year that Germany told the world: "We can do it" with regards to taking refugees. That same year, and a young band from Germany took it upon themselves to release an album dealing with the backgrounds and various aspects of what refugees might encounter on their way. The band had released three albums previously, with the most recent one, D:REI, harvesting many a positive review.

The subject matter meant it was a brave task they set themselves. It is not the easiest subject at hand and one that could lead to very distinct opinions being expressed on the album's music and lyrics, and on the band as well. Clearly, JE on vocals and guitar, SEB on vocals, C.RIP on drums, SLI on guitar, SAQ and HEVO on bass decided there needed to be something more than just the mere clinical offer of housing for those seeking a refuge. To the band there was more to the matter than would meet the eye: not the economics of the Western world at stake, but people suffering terrible fates, seeking help. Why then not offer a welcome in true empathy?

Both JE and SEB sought to just let the music flow and find out in what direction that would lead them. The result is a total of nine tracks, with different points of view as to the lives of refugees. Whether a song depicts their background, (Vortex Sun), the people who sell the illegal trips by boat to western shores (The Lure) or the sad tale of the Yazidi (Melek's Lament), the band has brought together an impressive set of songs. Eastern-tinged psychedelia mixes with industrial, sometimes outright heavy, sometimes evoking the sound of early Pink Floyd, and sometimes ambient and peaceful music. The band has not only managed to put down suitable lyrics, they have also succeeded in penning just the right music for the album's themes.

It's not easy to give any references, as the band takes you on a rollercoaster ride of music. Even though one might sometimes hear a flash of David Bowie or Jaz Coleman in the vocals or the plain, industrial sounds, there's far more to this album and to this band. For those faint-of-heart or looking for classic prog, this is an album that will not suit you easily. Nevertheless, it won't hurt to open up to music you might not hear every day and just try to get what this album is about.

Black Space Riders have come up with an album that dares to open both eyes and ears in a way that very much befits the subject. It doesn't take too much imagination to relate to the drone the music sometimes has, which can be compared to certain aspects of life for a refugee. The repetitive chanting of The Lure, particularly the "Come With Us" part, just takes you to see the people making money by selling the not-quite-so-luxurious boat trips across the Mediteranean.

This is an album to really dive into. Yes, be open-minded, both as to the subject and to music. If you're willing to do so, you may just be about to discover a very interesting young German band that dares to choose. In this day and age, that makes for very impressive listening. Respectful and empathetic at the same time.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 8 out of 10

Cherry Five - Il Pozzo Dei Giganti
Cherry Five - Il Pozzo Dei Giganti
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 49:56
Links:
Track List:
Il Pozzo Dei Giganti (Inferno XXXI) (24:53), Manfredi (a) La Forza Del Guerriero, b) Il Tempo Del Destino, c) Terra Rossa, d) Un Mondo Tra Noi Due) (16:21), Dentro Della Cerchia Antica (Paradiso XVI) (8:41)
If, like me, you happen to be as big a fan of progressive rock as you are of Italian horror cinema, then you will be familiar with Goblin, the band behind the music of such iconic movies (and their matching albums) as Profondo Rosso, Suspiria or Dawn Of the Dead. With different incarnations of the band touring around the world simultaneously, and with other horror music icons such as John Carpenter and Fabio Frizzi on the bill of many festivals this summer, it is with perfect timing that Cherry Five release their comeback album.

Released in 1975, their self-titled debut featured an excellent mix of classic Yes and Genesis. But shortly after its release, the band replaced a few members and changed their name to Goblin. So this makes Il Pozzo Dei Giganti only their second official album in 40 years (thus making Peter Gabriel a prolific artist). Brought to you by the wonderful Black Widow, a label with a taste for obscure artists, this is an album that could have been released in the glory days of Italian prog, such is its "vintage" sound, in terms of both production and performance.

Featuring two original members, drummer Carlo Bordini and vocalist Tony Tartarini, the album also displays the remarkable talents of new recruits Pino Sallusti on bass, Ludovico Piccinini on guitars and the tasteful keyboards of Gianluca De Rossi. These three have the daunting task of replacing the legendary Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante and Claudio Simonetti respectively. Do they succeed? Well, Il Pozzo Dei Giganti brings nothing new to the table, but it is an undeniably entertaining slice of classic Italian prog, with top-notch performances from all involved and Divine Comedy-based lyrics (in Italian) to match the long instrumental passages.

Undeniably, the standout track is the 25-minute epic which gives its name to the album, and it's a pretty well-rounded affair. It starts with a slow build-up that bursts into keyboard heaven (Hammond CS3, Minimoog, Mellotron M400, Fender Rhodes and so on.), before delving into jazz fusion, hard rock and even sountrack-ish territories for its duration. In truth, the first 15 minutes are much better (they're very good) than the last 10 (not bad either).

In contrast, the second track, Manfredi, feels rather disjointed as it's made up of four different sections that do not work well together, although one of these, Il Tempo del Destino, is one of the best moments on the album. A beautiful and powerful ballad, it features the best vocals on the CD and a memorable melody which is one of the band's finest. To cap it all, Dentro la Cerchia Antica, is not a particularly brilliant track but does stand out as the song sounding closest to the band's debut, with its less ominous and more playful approach.

To add to the negatives, I'd say that Tony Tartarini's nasal voice is definitely an acquired taste. But here at least he sings in his native language instead of the thickly-accented English vocals on the debut album, which remains a lost gem whose charm and magic is probably impossible to recapture.
Conclusion:
Héctor Gómez: 7 out of 10

Emerald Lies - Different View Part 1: Life on Earth?
Emerald Lies - Different View Part 1: Life on Earth?
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2012
Time: 32:12
Links:
Track List:
G.O.D. (6:36), Waves (5:44), Gone Wrong (7:41), Lunar Escape (6:02), Dead End (6:49)
Emerald Lies is a three-piece band from Frankfurt, Germany who may well have escaped your awareness since their first release. It is the double-edged sword of the modern recording industry. You have the benefits of being able to write and release music on an independent basis, yet without the force of a label and distribution, it is possible to create something that goes almost entirely unnoticed. It's a shame, because talented artists such as Emerald Lies will always struggle to gain some of the recognition their talent deserves.

The first release from this melodic threesome goes all the way back to 2012 and immediately hints at the long game that this band intend to play. It may seem an ambitious move to title your first album Part One, but clearly this shows a desire to produce at least one more album, plus a wish to create something expansive and conceptual. It is nothing new in progressive terms, but not every band is capable of realising such ambitions.

Dipping in at just over the 32-minute mark, Different View - Part One, Life on Earth, has a short run time but has just the right amount of ingredients to give you an appetite for more. Five moderately-lengthy songs make up this debut effort, which flows and ebbs from the punchy opener G.O.D. to the grandiose epic finale Dead End.

The linking factor in the style of writing throughout the album, is the building of melodies. Using layers upon layers, the intensity is generated in the growth of the track to its conclusion. Rather than disappear off into a complex, virtuoso solo passage, the content of Emerald Lie's music relies on a more simplified, direct approach. This is not to say the music is basic. Far from it. G.O.D. is a mixture of rich, driving bass on hard-edged guitar riffs, which gives way to tranquil, delicate, delayed guitar, amidst effective vocal passages, tinged with folksiness and mystery. As a song, it starts as a likeable toe-tapper which very quickly captivates your interest.

Next we have a very different style, with a lush guitar sound reminiscent of Andy Summers or Alex Lifeson. Waves is perhaps the highlight of the album, rewarding the listener with a captivating, ascending chord melody and catchy vocal.

The looping Gone Wrong, with its hypnotic guitar beats amidst a rocking 70s sensibility and a slow, purposeful solo, mixes classic-sounding riffs with a sophisticated progressive sound. In stark contrast is the off-beat, chugging Lunar Escape, the only part of the album which doesn't feel successful. Hints of Tull in the vocals works very well, lifting the track from an over-used, workman-like guitar pattern.

Running this short but lean album to the end, is the excellent, Rush-tinged Dead End. This is a slow-building, climactic piece, ably demonstrating the way the band can construct power in their music to a rewarding climax. It isn't fussy or overly-worked in the way that some progressive rock can be.

There isn't anything particularly original or new about the sound of Emerald Lie's music, and it stays clear of using overly-long song structures with extended instrumental passages. Keeping it tight and memorable in their song writing, the band have produced a very likeable album that grows with each play, yet never overstays it's welcome, leaving the listener wanting more.
Conclusion:
Eric Perry: 7 out of 10

Emerald Lies - Different View Part 2: Green Turns Blue
Emerald Lies - Different View Part 2: Green Turns Blue
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 47:03
Links:
Track List:
Intro/Frizzling Death (9:28), Lies (4:07), Interlude I - On The Mountain (1:49), Cities (4:22), Grand Illusion (4:42), Mother Earth (5:44), Interlude II - On The Edge (1:52), U Turn (8:43), Requiem/Outro (6:04)
Returning with the second part of the Different View concept, Emerald Lies bring back the familiar flavours of their sound. Life on Earth part one (2012) was a underrated, polished album, that was engaging and enjoyable and which introduced us to this talented threesome from Germany (J. Karl on basses, T. Kuchenmeister on guitars and C.D. Weber on drums & vocals).

This time around the concept is longer, and constructed in a way that ensures the songs flow seamlessly together, in a better way than their first outing. Playing a little softer than their debut, it is also clearer that the influential roots of the band emanate from the second wave of prog, with hints of early Marillion in tracks such as Lies and Cities.

From-the-off though, the album is bigger and more ambitious. With a moving, cinematic voice-over, the stall is set for something grander. Frizzling Death begins gently and unfolds gradually, until the familiar chords from the debut track, Lunar Escape are echoed nicely in a way that cleverly ties both the first album and this one together. Kuchenmeister seems to stretch his legs on this track more than earlier numbers, with a brief, but powerfully-soaring solo that nods towards Steve Rothery in style.

Throughout the album, Weber seems more settled in his role as vocalist, delivering an accomplished effort. A little nasally Ian Anderson in tone, his performance is surprising. He sounds very UK-sounding for a German vocalist. Comparisons to Scotland's Crooked Mouth are evident too.

Emerald Lies prove again that they are capable of producing memorable, catchy numbers, and Grand Illusion is no exception. Like a lot of their work, it begins slow and folky, before giving way to a real sing-along chorus. For a three-piece, they combine very well to create a rich output.

There is clear progression in the development of this band and overall they have a sound which has a great deal of power and intensity over short numbers. They are capable of stretching towards the 10-minute mark, although their style of working with melody, more than instrumental passages, means they would struggle beyond that length of song. At times there feels like there is a little too much repetition in their sound but this can be overlooked due to the quality of the material on offer.

This is a band well worth checking out and if there is a starting point to be had, it may be this album by slim margin. However both efforts are of a high standard, and it is a mystery why they have not made more impact in the progressive rock genre of today.
Conclusion:
Eric Perry: 8 out of 10

Moron Police - Defenders of the Small Yard
Moron Police - Defenders of the Small Yard
Country of Origin: Norway
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 43:15
Links:
Track List:
T-Bag Your Grandma (3:06), It's Not Cool (3:02), Grand Theft Bovine (2:24), Black Woman (3:30), Steve Jobs Is Dead, But I'm Not (3:57), Prepopherous (This Prepophery, I Will Not Have It) (3:44), Another Song About California (1:53), Soul Train of the Damned (3:58), Go Home, Bitch! (3:40), Cabo (4:29), Welcome to the West (5:41), Stop that Goomba (3:51)
The realms of prog don't exist as a geographic entity, thus the music that fits within the realms of prog may take on many cultural forms. Whether it is all about the classic approach of the 70s, today's New Wave of Progressiveness, or the music made by this intriguing band from the land of the fjords, Moron Police. No, I'm not calling people silly names here or generally being rude, Moron Police is this name that Sondre Skollevoll (guitars, vocals, keys, banjo), Rune Stordahl (bass) and Thore Omland Pettersen on drums have decided to use for their colourful tribe.

Sometimes prog can seem difficult, just because the musicians involved are trying to impress. The men in Moron Police are accomplished musicians, but they don't seek fulfilment in any form of self-indulgence. The fulfilment this album brings, is carried by humour and by combining musical forms which no one on this planet has ever dreamt of combining before.

This lot probably think Primus and Faith No More are quite dull. Frank Zappa is most likely to be an utter bore. It is quite likely that they count these three acts among their influences though, where they sit nicely with the likes of Abba, Elvis Presley, Slipknot, The Proclaimers, several disco queens, MC Hammer and ye olde foundation of classical composers, and countless others.

Astounded to hear so many influences brought together, I couldn't deny myself a constant smile while listening to these Morons. They rip through disco and funky parts with utter ease, then just as simply switch back to sheer metal. In the way the band dares to experiment with the music they play, they are utterly progressive and daring.

Yes, they have it all, time signature changes, a great voice, technically-able players, lyrics with (ehm) meaning and they do know how to write (sort of) coherent songs. All-in-all I think the band have succeeded in making an album that is not just there for a one-off laugh, but never to be played again. Their hooks, riffs and melodies are too strong for that.

If the aforementioned Zappa, Primus and Faith No More, with parts of Michael JaAbba and Slipknot thrown-in to balance out the humour, are your cup of tea, this might be just for you. I have certainly let myself get pulled over by Moron Police. Check out the very impressive artwork and just give these Norwegians a spin or two. Yes, there is a chance you might turn away disappointed, yet, if their music suits you, this is one arresting album.

With more humour than Police Academy and Police Squad, Moron Police should be enforcing the Law of Prog all over the world.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10

Bruce Soord - Bruce Soord
Bruce Soord - Bruce Soord
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 40:34
Links:
Track List:
Black Smoke (3:27), Buried Here (4:20), The Odds (3:34), A Thousand Daggers (4:46), Willow Tree (5:14), Born in Delusion (4:10), Field Day Part 1 (3:15), Field Day Part 2 (1:44), Familiar Patterns (4:14), Leaves Leave Me (5:17)
Here's the question: What's more daunting? To compose an adventurous 20-minute epic, chock-full of musical and conceptual twists and turns, or to craft the perfect three minute pop song? Much as I (obviously) love the long-form pieces that our genre of choice is renowned for, and have nothing but praise and respect for the masters (everyone from Neal Morse to Tony Banks) of this particular science, I'd liken the pop songwriting as something closer to alchemy.

Bruce Soord has come a long way from the creator of extended pieces to the artisan of concise songs. This trend had already been progressively present in the most recent Pineapple Thief albums. From Someone Here is Missing (2010) to the most recent offering, Magnolia (2014), Soord had been refining his songwrting and trying to pack more punch into a smaller sonic space. However this journey has finally come to fruition on his first solo outing.

Soord's eponymous debut is a collection of expertly (and painfully) crafted tunes, with the right balance of melancholy, catchiness and experimentation. I won't go into a track-by-track analysis, as the album is a quite even and well-rounded affair. If I had to choose a standout track, Willow Tree would probably have the honor, with its intelligent change of pace halfway through and its wise use of a horn section. Other highlights include the catchy, potential hit single The Odds, the Porcupine Tree (circa Deadwing) sounding A Thousand Daggers, and Familiar Patterns, which will remind you of Blackfield.

Funnily enough, despite Soord being the guitarist in his band, and here also having the aid of Godsticks' Darran Charles on additional guitars, this is by no means a guitar-driven album, well at least not an electric guitar-driven one. The focus seems to be more on acoustic guitars, electronic effects and minimal percussion. In a way, I'd say this is the kind of solo album Radiohead fans would love Thom Yorke to be making.

This might not meet your average symphonic rock daily allowance, but it surely encapsulates what "progressive" truly means, and is a good representation of modern, intelligent rock. Call it alternative, independent, whatever you fancy: this is simply good music.
Conclusion:
Héctor Gómez: 7 out of 10

Syrinx Call - Wind in the Woods
Syrinx Call - Wind in the Woods
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 53:21
Links:
Track List:
When Worlds Unite (4:09), The Minstrels Song (4:12), Belle Ame (3:33), Magic Market (3:42), Des Kaisers Vermachtnis (4:08), The Castle (6:07), La Vie Oubliee (3:57), Libertines Dance (3:51), Requiem For A Dream (3:45), Syrinx Call (4:07), Both Sides of The Mirror (2:30), The Place Where We Will Meet (6:46)
When I read the publicity sheet for Syrinx Call's Wind in the Woods album, I was intrigued and immediately wanted to hear it. On the face of it, the album contains many of the ingredients that I find appealing. Firstly, it is largely instrumental, and for many years I have preferred the blank canvas of the imagination that instrumental music can offer. Secondly, it is an album that features the recorder as its predominant voice.

The flute has often been used by bands such as Gotic to embellish and enrich their sound, but the use of the recorder in prog is much less common, despite Eloy, Gentle Giant, Solaris and Attila Kollár having all used this instrument to great effect.

The principal player is Volkier Kuinke. His lyrical playing creates a multi-coloured, symphonic tapestry to enjoy. The album features 12 compositions written by Volkier and composer Jens Lueck. Their music displays a rich variety of styles that range from folk-inspired melodies to world music.

Wind in the Woods succeeds in creating a series of changing soundscapes for the mind to linger upon, and wonder through. In this respect, the pieces which feature guest vocalist Isgaard are particularly rich in atmosphere. Of these tracks, Belle Ame stands out. It is probably the most memorable and delicately-flavoured piece on the album.

It is an album that works best in a darkened room as some of images conjured up by its blissful tones are quite serene and beautiful. At times, there is a tendency for the music to be too twee and tightly-composed, and for me this is the most significant drawback of the album. If you think that you might enjoy pristinely-recorded cinematic music, embellished by a recorder and washed by waves of lush keyboards, then this album may well tick a number of boxes.

Despite, its fresh approach to the use of the recorder as a leading instrument, it is nonetheless a safely conservative album. It extols many of the tried and trusted traditions and structures of modern prog rock. Replete with familiar-sounding arrangements and a reassuring blend of styles, it rarely strays from a predictable and expected path.

The Castle is an example of the album's easy and widely-appealing style. Its structure is predictable and warmly familiar. It is a rock-hewn, slow-building epic, and it is safe in every respect. The whole piece stands sentinel-like, illuminated by prog rock shadows, resolutely defending its bastions against all attempts to infiltrate it with a progressive edge.

Wind in the Woods works best when the instrumentation is at its most sparse and when the evocative trilling of the recorder is given ample space to breathe and be heard, as in tracks such as Libertines Dance. Similarly, whenever, the music takes on a more traditional folk-influenced style, as in parts of the Minstrel's Song, the choice of using the recorder as the prominent instrument is particularly successful.

A number of tracks verge towards "muzak" and the sterility of what is on offer can be quite wearing for anyone longing for an edge-of-the-seat sonic experience. The tightly-arranged and clinically-overblown symphonic moments that abound, are not always interesting or successful, although Pink Floyd fans might enjoy the frequent references to the dark side of the moon in the homage to Floyd in Both Sides of The Mirror.

In the final analysis, I was left somewhat underwhelmed by the whole album. There is nothing to really dislike about Wind the Woods, but there was nothing about it that set the pulse racing, or fills me with an enthusiasm to repeatedly press the play button. It works superbly as background music and that is where the real quality of the album is to be found.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 6 out of 10

Tiebreaker - We Come From the Mountains
Tiebreaker - We Come From the Mountains
Country of Origin: Norway
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 39:41
Links:
Track List:
Early Morning Love Affair (4:24), Nicotine (4:24), Homebound Pt.1 (5:34), The Getaway (3:19), Where Can Love Go Wrong (3:59), El Macho Supreme (2:46), Trembling Son (3:44), Homebound Pt. 2 (5:07), Walk Away (6:14)
Sometimes there are bands that just have got that something. They know their blues from their rock, they know their riffs from their hooks and their solo's, and most likely they have a singer that makes a difference with swagger and their voice. I is even more of an asset when their songs have that certain something too. Tiebreaker is a band from Norway that ticks all these boxes. Well, nearly all the boxes!

It must be quite an experience to see and hear this band in concert, as not only does Thomas Espeland Karlsen have a voice to die for (both Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Alter Bridge's Myles Kennedy spring to mind), but both Elrik Wik Haug and Olav Vikingstad are powerful guitarists, Patrick Andersson underpins every track with great bass lines and Pal Gunnar Dale is a very steady drummer. Yet, even though the band has all of this going for them, the songs on this debut don't yet make too many waves nor create lasting memories.

It is not that the band doesn't know how to write decent songs, both the Homebound parts prove they can write more than plain rock 'n' roll of the heavier kind. These probably are the songs that warrent the band featuring on these prog pages, as the greater part of this album is all about rock 'n' roll. And no, not in a bad way. As for references: there is a hint of Danko Jones, just a sniff of Black Crowes, the odd moment ? la Thin Lizzy (in their younger days) and a shade of Lenny Kravitz. So, yes, it's not all painting by numbers, but if the band can learn how to make the most of their songwriting skills, the future for them is most likely to look as bright as can be. This is not prog, but still worth a listen.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 6.5 out of 10

The Tirith - Tales from the Tower
The Tirith - Tales from the Tower
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 64:34
Links:
Track List:
Farewell Fair Laurien (5:50), Gin Lil (6:59), Laurelae (4:40), Home from the Sea (6:58), The Daughter of the Water (6:46), The Quest (4:03), Gazing at Stars (5:31), The Tower (3:01), Song of All Ages (5:47), Pioneers of the Outer Arm (6:58), Lost (10:03)
Heed this, ye olde prog rockers, the merry men of The Tirith have travelled through the mists of time and have returned with a treasure trove of rock's proginess. By the charms of founder members Tim Cox and Richard Cory, the songs have found their way through today's production facilities and hence come to life on this very album.

Aye, this is not Dream Theater kicking in your door with as much versatile as selfindulgent sounds, neither does it resemble the ambient spheres that Anathema sometimes deliver. Nor does this bear any influences from young master Steven Wilson. However, all three of the bands and artists mentioned, might have sprung from the same influences, the same fountain of prog that The Tirith draws from. The songs could easily all have been written way back in the 70s and for the greater part, that is where they stem from. Yet the songs were not simply brought to this day and age. They did sometimes ask for rearrangements, and the adding of lyrics to be made suitable for today's 70s (prog) rock loving audience.

Way back, when it made perfect sense to combine both acoustic and electric guitars, when rock was more a part of pop culture than it is now, and when songs dared to tell a tale, even about myths and time travelling, an album like this would have fitted in very well. Today people might stare and wonder what The Tirith actually could be about. But those with a feel for the rock of old, would be enjoying the music.

It's all here. We have both pointy rock songs (The Tower and Song of All Ages) and tracks of a more epic nature, like The Daughter of the Water and Lost. The band provide eleven songs that tell stories, with a sense of magic and space. Richard Cory's voice comes across as an accomplished mix of Andy Latimer, Steve Hogarth and Nick Barrett, breathing life and emotion into the songs. Tim Cox's refined guitar playing is able to get into the finer details of the acoustic sections as well as being able to rock out in solos in a quite the majestic way. For sure, the roads The Tirith walks upon may have been trodden before, but The Tirith deliver with ease and with a real joy to their playing. All-in-all the ride they take us on here, particularly if your musical compass has a certain liking for those illustrious 70s, is very much worthwhile.
Conclusion:
Marcel Hartenberg: 7.5 out of 10

Previous Issue Next Issue

Published Thursday 5 May 2016

SEND FEEDBACK



© 1995 - 2017 : Dutch Progressive Rock Page