Issue 2016-031: A Not So Prog Issue
The Boogeymen - Between the Lines
Crux (3:51), Trickle Down (3:15), A lot can happen in 6000 years (4:18), Rare Earth (2:59), Prop (2:48), Elaborate Ruse (1:45), Risk outweighs reward (3:33), Maximum (2:36), Wrong Side (4:59)
There are some nice tunes on this album. Crux, the opening song, is a medium-tempo rock song, a bit REM-ish. Trickle Down is the best on the album, where a solid intro and powerful boogie-woogie bass and drums, break free in a swirling chorus. A lot can happen in 6000 years is a new wave-ish soft rock song, an excellent piece music wise, but the singing lets it down. Rare Earth is driven by a powerful synth bass, with Boston-like soaring guitars. Risk Outweighs Reward is a stadium rock band tune (Boston warming up to Rush's 2112) and on Prop the Drumming is interesting but a bit over the top, and otherwise a very 'poppy' song. The only prog-worthy song to me is Elaborate Ruse, a short 1.45 min instrumental piece that offers a clear wink to King Crimson's 80s albums. Overall, "nice" is the key-word. It's luke warm. No interesting chord sequences, modulations, licks or virtuoso solos or otherwise intriguing parts.
Most striking to me however (in a not so good way) are the singing parts. It's iffy on A lot can happen in 6000 years. Where's the melody going? It's going somewhere but I fear not in the right direction. Even worse is the low register singing on several tracks. This is not too bad on Trickle Down but on Risk Outweighs Reward, Maximum and Wrong Side, it's downright unpleasant. The adagium in modern singing was/is, to sing in the highest possible register. Here it seems the opposite. It's a bit like Kate Bush trying to sing in Lou Rawls's range.
In terms of the lyrics, on Prop we have "Alone in a crowded room" which is as clichéd as can be, and on Maximum, a frivolous intro winds down to "Shut up and listen" and "Sit your ass down and be submissive. Shut your trap". No doubt tongue in cheek (I hope) but when it's a straight kick in the balls such as it is, the subtlety of tongue in cheek kind of gets lost in translation. Wrong Side is a grocery list of rights and wrongs.
As mentioned before, I don't consider this album "prog worthy". The songs are short, basic cadence (chord progressions) type (rock) tunes with a variety of sonic characteristics. Then, why do the artists insists on calling it prog?
The Boogeymen by the way is multi-instrumentalist Kevin Heckeler and a couple of collaborators (David Meeks and Scott Watts on this album), who make computer based music using "The latest in home recording equipment". "Performances are often recorded independently with as many as three thousand miles separating the musicians. This is truly recording in the 21st Century!"
Personally, I'm rather apprehensive of computer-made music and (computer) multi instrumentalists. Prog music requires a certain high-level of musicianship. I think we all agree to that. It's one of the things I love about prog. By default a prog musician is someone with a distinctive playing style and character, virtuoso-ish abilities and a very clear and personal approach to music. I think it's fair to say 'prog' requires specialists and not generalists. Nowadays it seems that a new Mike Oldfield is born every week, but all too often it turns out to be Protools and the like, usually characterised by either bland-soundings drums with a lot of double kick drum patterns, meaningless root note bass parts or droning distorted guitar riffs. Poor singing and ditto lyrics are yet another clue.
In conclusion: The Boogeymen know their way around music and gear, that much is clear. But unfortunately a lot of the digital doom remarks apply. So, is this for the average prog purist? A big nay-nay. Is this for the average rock or in general music lover. I doubt it, but who knows. Most importantly though, you may also ask yourself: Is it human or computer witch craft? This question, and it's answer, may give a whole new meaning to 21st century schizoid man.
Andy Kiel: 5 out of 10
Downriver Dead Men Go - Tides
The Dying of the Light (4:08), Walking Away (5:10), Wake Up (5:23), Never Change (6:42), The Ghost of Caitlin (6:27), Tides (7:16), Undertow (5:45), Stone in My Heart (11:03), River (6:10)
If depressing, shoegaze crossover pop is your thing, this is for you. It starts out with crows and ambient keyboards, and it stays in that melancholic vein throughout. It's all rather well done, although it is an album that needs to be paid attention to, as it's rather easy for it to just drift by, and all of sudden it's over. That is with the exception of the bonus track, River, which is jarring, as it is an odd choice, being a pure pop song juxtaposed to the preceding 40 minutes.
If dark, depressing music can be beautiful, this is. There are moments when it reminds me of the astonishing and massively underrated album Sleeps With the Fishes, by former Clan of Xymox member Pieter Nooten, and Michael Brook. Other comparisons could be made to the more solemn moments from Lunatic Soul, or Nosound.
There's little variation to the music, it is quiet, contemplative, and calming. Well, except the bonus track. Perhaps it's meant to show that they can do something different? But, overall, it's an interesting and very well done release.
Jim Cornall: 7 out of 10
Habu - Infinite
Truth And Illusion (4:15), A Thing Called Evil (5:39), Dead Weight (4:40), Heavy Chains (4:53), Measure Of A Man (5:33), Eat The Sun! (2:58), Isn't This Where We Came In? (1:55), Grain By Grain (4:21), Infinite (8:06)
The conceptual theme for Infinite is that all that exists has always been, and will always be present - hence, the title. The CD opens with a tune, Truth and Illusion, that is emblematic of the CD as a whole. Like virtually all of the songs, it clocks in at approximately five minutes and follows a fairly typical pattern. Forceful guitar and mildly-edgy vocals drive a path forward, and the drumming is prominent. A brief, catchy guitar solo kicks in en route. Keyboards appear throughout the CD, but they play a secondary role. Think 1980s Rush on this one.
The standout track, A Thing Called Evil, follows. This one opens with soaring guitar, and all along, the guitar gives unexpected but welcome bursts of action that enhance the interest level. Here, the bass stretches out a bit, too. Again, it's like the hidden song that Rush kept off one its 1970s releases, perhaps because it wasn't as frenetic as was in vogue.
The listener's high dissipates promptly though, with the transition to Dead Weight, which, both musically and lyrically, is not in the same league as its predecessors. The repetitive singing of of the words "Dead Weight" lacks nuance and, in the end, creates an unpleasant earworm.
From there, though, the album is consistently good, with another highlight being the first of two consecutive instrumentals, Eat the Sun!. The tune manages to flow freely but retain the right boundaries. Portions of the later, Grain by Grain, smack of Pink Floyd, an unsurprising homage given that two of Habu's members play in a Pink Floyd cover band. The closer and title track, Infinite, showcases some serious shredding and is arguably the most progressive of the lot but, compositionally, doesn't sustain itself for its full eight-minute length.
Production values on the CD are thin and a bit characteristic of a garage band. Although this adds a retro effect that may have been intentional, the overall sound is too hollow for the genre.
DPRP labeled Habu's debut CD as "nice and worthy," and the band's new, sophomore release is likewise eminently listenable. Filling in the sonic portrait and adding further progressive elements (including the expanded use of keyboards) would enhance the music's immediate impact and make the music more memorable. This promising band is still young, so even better things may well be to come.
Joel Atlas: 7 out of 10
Clemens Krijger - Dream Chaser
Street (2:15), Angeli (3:56), Salto Mortale (2:34), Primavera (2:35), Hekate (4:08), Locked Up (1:02), Vaudeville (3:06), Three Faces (2:02), Tower (4:21), Gutless (3:20), How We Sleep (4:44), Verlorene Illusionen (3:34)
The album includes some bland euro pop compositions such as Tower and Gutless. It also contains a number of compositions which furnish the album with a sense of stylistic variety. Consequently, a wide range of emotions are depicted. These range from the whimsical humour of Vaudeville, to the darkly gothic arrangement of Hekate. Without doubt, Hekate is the most interesting piece on offer and is probably the standout track of the album.
Dream Chaser is beautifully packaged and the artwork hints at a much deeper concept than I was able to glean from either the music, or the lyrics. The quality of the recording is excellent and the album is adorned by an impressive variety of instruments including cello, harp and dulcimer.
The spoken word poetry featured in Street and How We Sleep seemed an ineffectual way to convey feeling within a musical composition. Repeated plays only emphasised how quickly, spoken recitations can become a tedious experience for a listener. I made an effort to focus on what lay beyond the immediacy and superficiality of the recited words. This approach did little to improve my overall impression of Street, but How We Sleep became much more interesting.
The most striking aspect of How We Sleep was the languidly impressive sound of the baritone sax. It proudly set its own mood, and hinted of a musical soundscape that stretched out far beyond the territory occupied by the vocal parts. Much like the sax and clarinet offered an extra dimension to John Greaves elegantly strange The Rose Sob, the sax parts of How We Sleep created a rich, emotional tapestry for the imagination to weave a vivid picture.
Music invariably creates a stream of images in my mind. When this happens, it usually signifies I have absorbed enough of the album to form an opinion. Slowly a picture dome of images associated with the compositions of Dream Chaser began to take hold. For example, the Latino flourishes of Primevera created imagery associated with market stalls and bustling transactions, whilst Vaudeville captured an intense picture of Manchester's Palace Theatre, bedecked in all its garish pomp and gilded glory.
However, it was the twin tracks of Hekate and Locked Up which proved to be most satisfying. These pieces provided a canvas of intense and lasting imagery.
The compositions of Dream Chaser contain vague pointers to other bands and artists. For example, I thought that I detected hints of the accessibility of Abba in the sweet blandness inherent in Angeli and Tower. Strangely, the arrangement of the vocal parts of the largely forgettable Tower, brought the work of Sparks to mind. The instrumental accompaniment of guitar, bassoon and cello in parts of the album, and particularly in Hekate, misleadingly evoked tear-dropped memories of Henry Cow.
Sadly, despite my best efforts, I was unable to establish a warm rapport with this album. However, I am confident that Dream Chaser has enough positive attributes to satisfy those listeners who appreciate female vocals, delivered enticingly within an accessible musical palette.
Owen Davies: 5 out of 10
Orymus - Miracles
End Of The World (4:19), Just One Minute (3:39), Carried Away (3:47), Testament Of A Simple Man (4:38), So Long (7:18), One's Last Breath (2:35), Never Again (3:17), Fountain Of Youth (3:29), Another Friend Of Mine (5:29), One's First Step (1:38)
End Of The World starts in a progressive way, a bit like Magnum. After the intro, the powerful rock kicks in and it turns into a very nice rock tune that sticks in your head with some powerful vocals by Daniel Brönniman, and nice, catchy guitar playing that reminds me a lot of Michael Schenker. This is especially good stuff for people who like the twin guitar sound, which is a trademark for Wishbone Ash and Iron Maiden. The Michael Schenker influence really comes alive in the next song, Just One Time. Carried Away is a ballad in the style of Mr. Big, whilst Testament Of A Simple Man is more bluesy and Deep Purple sounding.
The first half of the album has some very nice tracks, though Orymus makes it sound a bit more contemporary. So Long starts very heavy and sounds a lot more progressive. With over seven minutes, it is the longest song on the album and the most interesting for us progheads. Then we get into a part of the album with shorter songs.
One's Last Breath is an acoustic interlude. Never Again could be a filler on any Iron Maiden album, with nice twin guitars again. I really like that. Fountain Of Youth is a very instant, accessible rock song, a bit Scorpions like. I can really dig those eighties-sounding songs but Another Friend Of Mine does not do anything with me. It is a nice song but I usually skip directly to the excellent closing song of the album, One's First Step. It is a Magnum sounding song with more twin guitar sounds.
Orymus could be too mainstream rock for most DPRP readers but I know there are a lot of people who like this music and the twin guitar sound brings me back to the great music of those days. If you like the above mentioned bands and influences, then give Orymus a chance. This album is a very nice addition to my collection.
Edwin Roosjen: 7 out of 10