Metris Tsemär (Lestur's Spirit - Tïrupin - Spark of Creation - Realization - The Battle - Pelisage) (26:39), Break (2:09), Aubrey (4:05), The Mark (5:30), Tomahawk Man (8:15), Small Things (7:42)
Metris is the sophomore album from these young guys from Tennessee. When reviewing their debut, my fellow reviewer Patrick McAfee was full of good words, expecting that the band would blossom to great heights. But somehow that hasn't happened.
On this new offering, the boys are still striving for music of the past, but they miss the point of bringing in something individual. For my ears their songs are all some sort of exercise; an effort in trying to reproduce what has already existed. They've composed and produced songs of rock, pop, prog funk, and bar room piano and they have done that quite well. But it is all quite mediocre. On the entire album there is not one single moment of a unique style.
When it comes to the musicianship, the situation is pretty much the same. The instrumental skills are all quite basic. Just like the production, there is nothing wrong. All notes are quite in tune and played with care, and the tonal quality is good. It's just that there is nothing at all that would grab one's attention. In that scenario it doesn't help that the first track has a duration of 26 minutes, and is separated into six parts of different styles plus a narrator that tries to maintain the album's concept. Here, I find this rather pretentious.
But despite the harsh words from me (the prog police), the album is still a good one. Not one you'd sit down and listen to thoroughly, but it is a great disc to have when working on something complex, and needing some sonic texture in the background. I just can't praise it that much, when compared to other young bands who have recently created great debuts such as Umpfel and Meandering Mine, or when I think of such incredible young artists such as Conner Green of Haken, Baard Kolstad of Leprous or Jakub Zyteki of Disperse. With all these great, almost equally young artists in mind, I think there is much room for improvement in Arcane Atlantis.
I Due Minuti dell'Odio (2:49), 4 Aprile 1984 (1:58), Chi Controlla il Passato Controlla il Presente. Chi controlla il Presente Controlla il Passato (2:28), O'Brien (2:33), Bispensiero (3:49), La Ballata dei Prolet (2:42), L'Occhio del Teleschermo (3:07), Giulia (3:47), Lo Sguardo nel Quadro (2:15), Processo di Omologazione (12:35), La Stanza 101 (6:28), La Canzone del Castagno (4:21), Amava il Grande Fratello (6:37)
La Fabbrica dell'Assoluto started in Rome in 2007 as a cover band for classical Italian prog rock songs, under the name of Effetto Progressivo. Founding members Daniele Sopranzi (guitar), Michele Ricciardi (drums) and Marco Piloni (bass) were subsequently joined by Daniele Fuligni on keyboards and singer Claudio Cassio to become La Fabbrica dell'Assoluto, releasing their first album 1984: L'Ultimo Uomo d'Europa in 2015.
I have no clear evidence where the band took its name from, but I assume they borrowed it from the novel of the same name by Czech writer Karel Capek ("founder" of the word Robot), that was released in Italy for the first time in 1984. A coincidence with respect to the title of the album? In any case, the album, as its name would suggest, is based on George Orwell's novel 1984.
This was released on Black Widow Records, a label which does not stand for symphonic progressive rock bands playing music that is polished or accessible. Consequently being a typical representative of that style, this is an album which unveils itself to the listener only after repetitive spins.
Musically, this album has a bit of everything that makes progressive rock so varied: dark symphonic atmospheres, energetic outbursts, twists and turns, breaks and rhythmic changes, melodic singing, spacey and psychedelic passages and retro-sounding keyboards. On the latter point, just consider Daniele Fuligni's equipment mentioned in the sleeve notes: Hammond, Mini Moog, Mellotron, Logan Strings, Davolisint – everything that is very analogue and retro.
The album is made up of 13 songs, most of them being in the two to five minute range. However quite a few of the songs seamlessly merge into each other, creating the impression of a suite.
The intensive use of the Hammond is one distinctive factor of La Fabbrica dell'Assoluto's music. In principal, the music is on the heavier side, not unlike some of the other Black Widow bands such as Wicked Minds. As I have said, it is not very accessible upon a first listen. Getting used to a specific pattern or melody, and the many changes in mood, rhythm and atmosphere, requires constant flexibility in the listener. Heavy sections alternate with beautiful melodies, whilst doomy vibes and psychedelic parts are interspersed where the listener does not necessarily expect them. Is that incoherent and inconsistent? I call it varied, individual and particular.
The highlight in my opinion is the album's only long track, Processo di Omologazione, which has all the ingredients of a fully-fledged prog song. Driven by Daniele Fuligni's Hammond, it offers breaks, strong melodies, emotional singing, catchy soloing and lots of analogue-sounding keyboards. Reminiscences can be found with Le Orme, Banco and Il Balleto di Bronzo, especially with respect to this song.
The psychedelic, spacey element particularly comes across in Bispensiero. Coincidentally, having listened to Nektar's Journey to the Centre of the Eye shortly prior to writing this review, I found similarities with the song Warp Oversight.
If you like the melodic, gentle and poetic mood of PFM's music, then close your eyes and listen to La Ballata dei Prolet. But don't try to get used to that sound, because L'Occhio del Teleschermo follows just after 2:42. This is probably the rockiest, most airplay-suited song, with great Moog harmonies. But again this is replaced just three minutes later by Giulia, an almost cheesy and somewhat Procul Harum-sounding ballad.
Downers? The last track stops after a narration around the three-minute mark, only to resume 90 seconds later. I don't know why, but that's something I can forego easily. It does not trouble the overall positive impression, though.
Well, for this album I needed a bit of patience. It will appeal to fans of the bands mentioned above, plus Biglietto per l'Inferno, Museo Rosenbach, Abiogenesi or some of more recent bands such as Unreal City and La Coscienza di Zeno. Give it a try. It is varied, challenging and individual.
Sing (3:26), Snakes (3:19), How to Tear Your World from My Head (8:01), Mine (3:47), The Death (6:25), When I Come Back Down (7:02), This Broken Throne (2:53), Name (7:29), Hedfuzy (4:27)
A bass player, keyboardist and guitar player, Pat Byrne hails from Limerick, Ireland and has a voice to go along with all that. Apart from these assets, Pat also knows how to write songs. They may come with a definite pop and indie flavour, as opener Sing goes to show, and thus trick you into thinking that Pat and band are into Journey's softer tones. However as soon as the intro to Snakes makes itself known, the music show that it can weave intricate progressive and sometimes metallic structures or just spread a magical ambient feel. It is all here on this debut album.
Pat has a voice that is very accessible, which helps perfectly in the songs that just have more of a pop feel. But it's not all out pop on this album. With the help of some talented friends, guitarists Graham Keane (who plays guitar with The Vicious Head Society), Mike Moriarty and Cameron Allen and Ben Wanders (of Shardborne fame on drums) Pat has created something that shows off great skills in the guitar department, without ever being self-indulgent, and songs that offer a whole palette of variety. The songs in themselves have nice build-ups and there is a lot of really differing styles on the album. The pop elements were mentioned already, and there is a distinct prog metal flavour to some of the songs. And yes, we get ballads as well.
Quirky the songs may sometimes be, never relying on tradition very long, but this is an album that has you inviting it back to your cd player over and over again. Yes, it does reguire the listeners able to rock out with their prog, but if you are inclined to do so, Pat has prepared a fine menu that you can easily return to if you're in for more. Whether you like your prog poppy, GTR meets Cutting Crew style, or more meaty, Porcupine Tree meeting Mastodon light, it is all on display here. A fine debut from the man from Limerick.
Big Shift (1:12), Life (part I) (5:13), Ditching Fear (4:10), Mercury Retrograde (4:00), OMG (3:34), All You Are (4:06), Freedom (4:07), Mild Smile (4:48), Hometown (4:20), Full 180 (3:04), Flickering Heart (5:22), Homeless (4:18), Falling Down (10:37), Life (part II) (4:52), Lost (5:48)
Around the same time Profuna Ocean released their new album on this same record label (Freia Music), Sebas Honing also presented us his new album The Big Shift. For all the people who don't know him, Honing is a multi-instrumentalist from the town of Roosendaal in the Netherlands who plays guitar, bass and keyboards on this album. He also is lead vocalist but that's not his strong point. He excels mainly with his guitar playing. He actually is the co-owner of A Different Tune (together with his wife Petra) where he provides guitar lessons and builds guitars as well! His wife Petra is, by the way, also present on the album as a lead and backing vocalist. Another well known musician from the Dutch prog scene Christiaan Bruin (Sky Architect) was asked to play the drums on the album. The line-up is completed with Tessa Struijs as a backing vocalist.
As mentioned, Honing isn't a brilliant singer but his wife Petra, in her capacity as a professional singing teacher, has helped him to improve his vocal talents. The result is very acceptable and his voice never bothers me throughout the entire album.
The Big Shift is a concept album about change, and includes lyrics about leaving home, getting rid of fears, and the birth of Honing's daughter. Musically, as the title might suggest, the album shifts between different styles, ranging from metal, rock, prog and even pop. Is the album worth listening with all this variety? There are enough moments to enjoy, because everyone knows how to play their instruments. Honing seems to have a slight preference for metal sounds, but being a professional teacher he doesn't have any trouble playing acoustic guitar just as skillfully. Some people might find the fact that there is a lot of musical variety, the strong point about this album but personally I hope he decides to stick more to either prog metal or real prog, as after some tracks I am left thinking: "I want more of this." But then there is a change of style in the next song which you have to get used to. So for me, all this variety didn't really work for the entire 60 minutes and left me with mixed feelings.
Sebas Honing is certainly a musician to look out for in future because he's a man with many talents. The members of Minor Giant have meanwhile also recognised that talent and have enlisted him as guitarist on their new, yet to be released, album probably later this year. Until that time, enjoy this solo project.
Neither In Heaven (2:40), Synesthesia (13:09), Insane (5:48), Even Angels Sometimes Fall (5:29), Entering The Gallery (3:41), The Man On The Hill (7:44), The Red Gypsy (6:26), Memories (8:43), I Held (3:35), Nor On Earth (11:42)
Maybe just one word is enough to describe this album: BRILLIANT! The debut Huis offering, Despite Guardian Angels (2014), already deserved them a place in the Champions League of Prog, so any successor would have a hard task to match or even surpass that success. Their debut album was, at least lyrically, inspired by the Netherlands. In combination with the band name Huis ("house" in Dutch) it gave the impression we were dealing with a Dutch band. Many Dutch people would have liked them to be so, because that would have meant they already would have played several gigs in our country. That isn't the case, but there's good news because they are the first band announced for the Progdreams Festival in March 2017 at The Boerderij in Zoetermeer (NL). So, many prayers by European fans have already been answered.
On Neither In Heaven the only connection with the Netherlands is Gerben Klazinga, keyboard player of Knight Area who plays a minor but significant part with a blasting solo on Insane. Everyone who loves neo prog and bands such as IQ, Arena, Knight Area, Saga and of course Mystery, should run to their local record store or buy this album online (from the band). With the mention of the latter band, I've also come to the person who links the two bands, guitarist Michel St. Pere. On this album it almost seems that he feels liberated without the weight on his shoulders of writing all lyrics, music and studio work, like he does with Mystery. His soloing has always been impressive, but on this album his guitar work sounds more varied than ever. The best example of this is The Red Gypsy with an acoustic start that develops into a rocking track with some aggressive guitar riffs by Michel.
The main difference from Mystery is the more dominant role that the keyboards play for Huis. Responsible for some fantastic soloing on Synesthesia is keyboard player Johnny Maz, but there are lots of other magic moments on the album where the keyboards sound magnificent. One of the many highlights on the album is the track Memories that has everything we love about prog. The beautiful melodies, the brilliant soloing on keys and guitar, and the majestic vocals by Sylvain
Descoteaux, lead to an outstanding work of art that at times reminds me of Genesis.
Descoteaux also excels on the album. He's like a Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde vocally, and sings with lots of emotion. He changes easily from singing in a laid back way, to a more aggressive sound like on the track The Man On The Hill. This track could easily have been on one of the latest Arena albums.
All band members have contributed to this album, both lyrically as musically, so it really is a group performance. I also have to add the fact that lovers of creative and inventive drumming and bass playing will also enjoy listening to Michel Joncas (bass) and William Régnier (drums).
My only moment of slight irritation was the pause on the final track. Fortunately it was only for about 30 seconds but I'll probably never understand the need of having a silent break within a song. Can someone explain me why? I was quite happy that they got on with the rest of the song and that I didn't have to wait for minutes, like some other bands in the genre sometimes do. This is the only reason I didn't award this album with a 10+. It's a must-have album and I advise you to listen to it in full on Spotify or Progstreaming if you're still not convinced after reading this review. Certainly high on my list of top albums of 2016.
Like you (3:45), Ships of Dreams (1:42), Type 2 Error (2:13), Ballooning (1:16), Type 1 Error (1:38), Lighthouse (0:59), Legends of Mysterious Apes (6:43), The Gyre (10:26), Drownings (17:26), Black Sailed Unfamiliar (2:32)
This is the second Andy Jackson solo album in 18 months and is a big improvement on his earlier release Signal to Noise. This time around Andy has based a string of pieces conceptually around islands and once again the album is offered as a standalone CD or as a CD / DVD with 5.1 surround mix. As a highly-regarded sound engineer, the sound on these discs is massive yet crystal clear, with fantastic separation between instruments and voices. All of which is no less than one would expect from an engineer of his pedigree and calibre, but even so, it is a joy to hear such a well presented and sonically superior release.
The album has an array of shorter pieces and three lengthier ones. The longest is Drownings which features David Jackson from VDGG on saxophone and Anne Marie Helder from Panic Room on vocals, which adds greatly to the sonic effect being generated here. One cannot help but note the similarities to latter day Dave Gilmour and the Endless River by Pink Floyd, yet Andy is no mere Floyd copyist. Instead he uses the soundscapes he weaves to make his own definitive statements, although there is a lot of guitar and ethereal keyboards on here too.
This is a lovingly-crafted album and one that definitely reveals its hidden depths the more you play it. I strongly suggest playing the 5.1 mix with headphones, so you can capture the full magnificence of the sound, especially on those long tracks where it really comes to the fore with brilliant clarity and vibrancy.
This is a superb release and fans of Pink Floyd will find much to enjoy here, with the artwork and accompanying notes adding even greater depth to this wonderful album.
I Am The Walrus (6:57), A Theme From the Past(2:07), Into the Vortex (5:20), lazy Saturday (3:16), Disco Pirates (3:58), Whale Song (2:43), Blastoff (4:17), Child Planet (4:07), A Hymn For the Lonely People (2:23), Dancing Light (3:20), Universe (1:53), The Walrus State of Mind (2:24), A Theme For the Future (2:39)
This concept album is Finnish quartet Octopie's second release. In terms of the idea, it's ambitious, but regardless of how intricate or complicated a storyline is, it doesn't matter if it's a blockbuster movie waiting to be made (this isn't, by the way). It's how well it works musically that matters.
It's not giving the game away to reveal that the concept doesn't revolve around Tottenham striker Harry Kane, however.
The album starts off quietly, before getting a little quirky, musically. There are hints of The Flower Kings quirkiness, and throughout the album influences or similarities as diverse as Queen, Muse, or Klaatu (most specifically compared to their Hope album).
This is better musically, than it is vocally or lyrically. The first track, I Am the Walrus is a point in case, the repetitive lyrics and delivery don't work that well, but, having said that, they aren't the vocal low-point of the album. Quite how many times it's possible to sing the line: "I am the walrus, I come from sea," is not known, but Octopie give it a good go. And for Beatles fans, worry not, this is not a cover and there aren't any eggmen in sight. Unfortunately.
The vocals are best when they aren't so theatrical, as is the case on the decent, slow, melodic and poppy A Theme From the Past.
For some bands, vocal dexterity is a interesting plus. For others, it really doesn't work. And here, especially on Disco Pirates, it's all a bit embarrassing at times. Which is unfortunate, because musically, there's much to enjoy. And the vocals aren't always a distraction. A Hymn For the Lonely People, which segues into Dancing Light, is a cross between Anthony Phillips and Klaatu's So Said the Lighthouse Keeper. The vocals are understated and actually work well. The high, Muse-like vocals return again for The Walrus State of Mind, which again reminds me of the Klaatu album, Hope.
The melodies and playing are excellent. In all, it's a rather accomplished, quirky, prog album. Some will easily be able to overlook the vocals, others will be put off by them - or at least some of them. It's that inconsistency that makes this a tad frustrating, as it certainly shows potential.
1. On (1:49), 2. Running Through Time (4:22), 3. The Expectation Cell (3:13),4. Hypocrite (4:59), 5. Numb (4:41), 6. Overload (4:06), 7. Escape (3:42), 8. Delirious (5:53), 9. Stranded (3:45), 10. Erase (5:16), 11. Off: A New Beginning (4:21), 12. On (again) (7:51)
There is always something facinating about listening to the debut album of a band. You can go into it with absolutely no expectations and let the music take you where it will. In some cases, the album is the result of many years of writing and playing together and in other cases, it is a statement from a newly established group of musicians. Realitivity is the debut album from Projection. Originating from the Netherlands, they started as a well regarded covers band named LaRoque. Generally performing heavier material from groups like Dream Theater, they ultimately decided that they Wanted their own compositions to be heard. At that point, they changed their name to Projection and the initial results are contained in this album.
There is a heavier flare to their music at times, but I wouldn't at all classify them as a progressive metal band. In fact, at their hardest, there is more of a traditional hard rock vibe to the procedings. After the short instrumental opener, On, Running through time, sets a harder tone that I initially thought represented the overall sound and style of the band. I really could not have been more wrong. One of the positives of Realitivity is in its sheer variety. At times reminicent of harder rock of the 70's, while other moments are more reminicent of bands like Asia, Saga & Pink Floyd. There are a lot of styles thrown into the mix throughout the album, but thankfully, it always sounds quite fresh.
Instrumentally, each musician in the band is very strong. The performances are never flashy, but their musical abilities are always evident. After listening to the album several times, it occurred to me that no one band member really stood out. This is a testiment to how effectively they play together. Without being able to rely on showy performances, it is vitally important that the compositions are strong. I am happy to report that there no problems in that category. Tracks like Numb, Escape, Delirous and Erase are not only well performed, but contain melodies and hooks that are memorable. Two of the best songs on the album are the closers, Off: A New Beginning and On (Again). In some ways,these tracks display the band at their most accessible, but also, at their best.
One small gripe that I had with Realitivity was with some of the vocal performances and the spoken word sections didn't work much for me. Each band member sings at certain points throughout the album and some are stronger vocalists than others. The questionable moments are few and far between though and in no way damge the overall quality on display here. This is a strong debut album and one that certainly establishes Projection as a band to take note of.
Blink, blank, blunk (8:38), I95 (8:07), Vicious rebuttal (9:47), Big blue sky (for Eileen) (1:35), Melodious monk (6:17), Have @ it (12:20), The path (7:36), Forward motion (6:48), The last day... (8:35)
Remote Transmissions, the 2011 debut album from t2k was enthusiastically received by DPRP and as such we couldn't let the follow-up pass us by. So we bring you this belated review of Interplanetary Communications.
The album title, like that of the debut, alludes to the fact that the three members have never shared a studio together. Instead, the sound files were transmitted back and forth between Colorado and Connecticut via the internet. It's rather ironic then, that I could find no trace of a band website.
The trio responsible remain unchanged, namely Timmy C Pitschka (guitars), Kevin Gerety (Warr guitar) and Kevin St Clair (drums and percussion). If (like me) you are unfamiliar with the Warr guitar, it's used instead of a standard four-string bass and is played in a similar tapping fashion to a Chapman Stick.
t2k specialise in spacey, semi-improvised instrumentals where the trippy guitar histrionics, underpinned by a solid back beat, are reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. This is most apparent in the (conspicuously) longer tracks Blink, blank, blunk, I95, Vicious rebuttal and Have @ it. The shredding arpeggios of the latter two tracks, also bring the likes of Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen to mind.
Ironically however it's the shorter, more disciplined tracks that work best for me. At less than two minutes, the mellow Big blue sky has a captivating melody, whilst the aptly titled Melodious monk is a master class in guitar dynamics, effortlessly shifting from the restrained, to the soaring, without losing grip of the memorable theme.
Forward motion on the other hand is closer to King Crimson experimental territory, with St Clair's drum soling and Gerety's Warr punctuations complementing Pitschka's angular guitar pyrotechnics.
Whilst I cannot fault the inventive and impressive playing throughout the album, there is all too often a lack of uniformity between the guitar excesses and the tightly structured rhythm parts. This I believe is due to the way in which it was recorded. Perhaps one day the trio will overcome the 2,000 miles that separate them and share a studio. The end results could be quite formidable. I really liked the tasteful artwork by the way.
Reflection Of Day (6:08), All The While (4:38), Depletion Region (8:42), Future Memories (7:24), Illusionation (4:11), Wolos (2:13), Offlander (6:04), The Blasted Plain (7:54), May At Last (6:16), The Turne (4:07), Day Of Reflection (7:43)
Multi-instrumentalist Mark Harrell (aka Three Thirteen) hails from the town of Milbridge in Maine, USA and although he's a new name to both myself and DPRP, Depletion Region is by all accounts his twelfth CD release in a solo career spanning 15 years.
Before then, he was a drummer in various bands, although he expands his repertoire here to include nylon and steel string acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, keyboards and effects. The resulting instrumentals are often uplifting, sometimes mellow, although never once do they drift into ambient territory.
Mark's technique is pretty consistent throughout the 11 tracks. He invariably uses acoustic guitars to give substance to the rhythm, whilst electric guitar and occasionally piano, synth or nylon guitar, dance and play around what is often a fairly slight but still engaging melody.
The title track, Depletion Region, is surprisingly dark and moody with shades of Pink Floyd, although I'm not sure if it justifies its near nine-minute playing time. The breezy Future Memories on the other hand is like a breath of fresh air, whilst the chiming acoustic guitars of Wolos, and the pastoral May At Last, with sampled flute and strings, could have easily come from an Anthony Phillips album.
The stately, Offlander with piano, nylon guitar and symphonic keys is another highlight, although it's the more lively The Blasted Plain and The Turne that provide the album's main claim to proggy fame. With their never-ending twist and turns, they combine guitar harmonics and punchy rhythms to create a real sense of scale and drama.
Depletion Region is certainly a meticulously-crafted album and there is no doubt Mark Harrell is an extremely accomplished musician, his guitar playing in particular being most impressive. His recording experience also shows here, as this is without doubt one of the crispest sounding albums I've heard so far this year.