ISSUE 2016-47

Reviews in this issue:

Daymoon - Cruz Quebrada
Daymoon - Cruz Quebrada
Country of Origin: Portugal
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 71:05
Links:
Track List:
Cruz Quebrada (2:28), Fish Dissected (5:45), Where It Hurts Most (3:38), Shipwreck (8:26), Whalebone (8:07), Over The Cliff (1:36), Thyme (15:24), The River (25:36)
Just like a frail breeze on red-veined leaves, the opening piece of this album flutters lightly, casting dark, pressed shadows in the sunlight, and plaintive rustles in the moonlight. Cruz Quebrada is a concept album based upon the experiences of Daymoon's principal composer and guitarist Fred Leesing. The release deals with loss, and a journey to come to terms with life's changing events.

It is hardly surprising that an album that deals with death, widowhood, hope and resolution should contain a number of identifiable moods. These are reflected in the two distinct parts of the album. These are aptly entitled Out and In.

The lyrics and music of much of Out is vinegar-tongued and salt-fingered. By contrast, parts of In are sugar-lipped and honey-palmed. This combination creates a heartfelt story, that is an emotional and deeply moving listening experience.

All artist royalties for Cruz Quebrada will go to the pan-European cancer association Europacolon. Cruz Quebrada is a well performed and carefully constructed album. It has many facets that fans of classic bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and early King Crimson might enjoy.

The album contains eight tracks. The Out section has seven pieces of differing lengths and concludes with the 15-minute Thyme. The In section consists of a 25-minute suite that is entitled The River. The suite has eight linked tunes within it.

Although, I was touched by the album's tragic story, and enjoyed some aspects of the music, I found that as a whole it was not consistently satisfying. At first, I thought this was because of the challenging nature of the subject matter. After a number of listens, I realised that the difficulty was not with the subject, but rather was simply a matter of personal taste. In the final analysis, I felt that the music rarely faltered or moved far from a clearly defined stylistic path.

With the exception of the Fripp-toned ambience of Over The Cliff and Headlong, or the avant-garde freedom of expression that is to the fore during the instrumental break in Thyme ,the album mines a furrow of sounds, and treads a musical territory typical of a number of prog releases.

For many, this might add to Cruz Quebrada's overall appeal. Overall it is however pencil-thin and ruler-straight, and in my view might have benefited from greater amounts of adventurous girth and flamboyant curve.

The sleeve notes that accompany the album suggest that it should be listened to in its entirety, rather than dipped into. Certainly the album is much more effective when this approach to listening is observed.

There are many moments within the album that a variety of prog fans would enjoy. It is primarily song-based and with a detailed and often impressive lyrical content. The songs are structured in such a way as to give opportunities for solos to be taken, or for occasional extended instrumental sections to emerge. In this respect, the instrumental passages, which form a considerable section of the King Crimson-like ambience on Fish Dissected worked very well.

A number of tunes, including the long running Middle Eastern-tinged Thyme, contain some delightful vocal melodies and choruses. These memorable ear worm moments occur frequently throughout the album and are usually enjoyably accessible. They seem to exist as an antithesis to the dark subject matter that is being discussed, and provide some much needed lighter ear-tapping moments.

The sad, melodic chorus that is found in the darkly disturbing Whalebone is a clear example of this. This piece also has one of the most impressive guitar moments of the album. The solo that is unleashed in the midst of the song is restlessly absorbing and superbly executed.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the album was the use of wind and brass instruments. The album features some fine flute work by Fred Lessing, and the clarinet of Adriano Periera adds additional atmosphere on numerous occasions. However it is the work of guest trumpeter Luca Calabrese that is particularly eye-catching. His magnificent solo featured in Severance & Down Falls transforms the piece into one of the standout tracks. His contribution ensures that this piece has an atypical feel to the majority of the other tracks in the album. The unique and satisfying style of Severance & Down Falls means that its qualities transcend the majority of the song-based tunes that adorn this release.

There are many things to admire in Cruz Quebrada, not least because of the way in which it conveys its powerful message, that although loss can never be forgotten, despair can be overcome with love and support.

Just like a strong breeze on gold-veined leaves, the final piece of Cruz Quebrada flutters with gusto, casting bright, love-pressed shadows in the sunlight, and whispered rustles in the moonlight, which sweetly proclaim that love is the only answer.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 6.5 out of 10

Infinite Spectrum - Haunter Of The Dark
Infinite Spectrum - Haunter Of The Dark
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 58:10
Links:
Track List:
Intro - Prologue: Providence, Winter, 1934 (1:31), Federal Hill (5:19), The Calling (6:20), The Church (18:34), The Stranger Things I've Learned (4:43), Haunter Of The Dark (9:14), Fear (6:02), All That We See (7:11), 2:12 AM (10:09), Epilogue: Providence, Summer, 1935 (1:53)
It has been three years since Infinite Spectrum released their debut album, Misguided, which, in their own words, was just the beginning for things to come. Now they have reached the next level with their second album Haunter Of The Dark.

The Brooklyn-based band combines theatric elements with metal influences in their music. It tells a story, almost like a radio play that you listen to at night. They have taken a short story by legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft as a basis for their new album, and have given it new life.

It opens with a spoken monologue, Providence, Winter 1934, before the album really starts with Federal Hill, full of acoustic guitars and medieval atmospheres. The Calling shows the influence of some prog greats like Rush and Dream Theater or even Symphony X. It is the first time we hear these influences, and definitely not the last. The guitar playing also often reminds of Steve Vai, and the whole music has shades of Neal Morse and his numerous projects.

As is typical for a real prog band, there is a 19-minute suite called The Church, consisting of four parts. Apart from the intro and the outro, there is The Stranger Things I've Learned, which at less than five minutes is the shortest 'real' song on the record. The title track is another nine-minute epic, and all of the following songs (the heavy Fear, All That We See, and 2:12 AM) are all stereotypically long, but never overblown. The album ends as it started with the spoken epilogue Providence, Summer 1935.

The songs are well created and structured, the playing is performed with virtuosity, and the concept works. Not only the music and the concept, but also the artwork, remind me of Tales of Mystery and Imagination, the Alan Parson's Project album on Edgar Allen Poe. The artwork in general is full of images and motifs from Lovecraft's story. Like its predecessor, this album has been produced by Chris Theis, who really knows how to put the band's atmospheric sound on record. Infinite Spectrum takes the listener on a fantastic melodic journey, which will delight old and new progressive rock fans.
Conclusion:
Philipp Rƶttgers: 8 out of 10

Greg Lake - Greg Lake / Manoeuvres
Greg Lake - Greg Lake / Manoeuvres
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 1981 / 2016, 1983 / 2016
Time: 57:12, 48:44
Links:
Track List:
CD 1, Greg Lake: Nuclear Attack (4:31), Love You Too Much (5:28), It Hurts (4:29), Black and Blue (3:58), Retribution Drive (5:03), Long Goodbye (3:58), The Lie (4:44), Someone (4:11), Let Me Love You Once Before You Go (4:18), For Those Who Dare (3:48); bonus tracks: You Really Got a Hold on Me (4:52), You're Good With Your Love (3:02), Cold Side of a Woman (4:44)
CD 2, Manoeuvres: Manoeuvres (4:06), Too Young to Love (4:06), Paralysed (3:59), A Woman Like You (4:32), Don't Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight (3:56), Famous Last Words (3:06), Slave to Love (3:23), Haunted (4:54), I Don't Know Why I Still Love You (5:16), It's You, You Gotta Believe (7:11); bonus track: Hold Me (4:11)
If there was ever a man who needed no introduction then Greg Lake is he. Being an original member of King Crimson would have been enough to ensure prog immortality even without his third share of the legend of ELP. His immediately recognisable voice, fine acoustic guitar playing and production acumen is right up there amongst the best. However, once ELP whimpered to an end in 1978, Lake was at a loss at what to do and the future musical direction he should take. What, in hindsight, Lake admits was a mistake, he chose to abandon out and out progressive rock and take a less familiar path. His initial search for a new direction took him to Los Angeles and some sessions with musical support from Toto. Three tracks from these sessions, previously only available on the official bootleg From The Underground Volume 2, can be found as bonus tracks on the first CD of this set and do reveal someone looking for a direction. All three tracks are cover versions and sound like exactly what they are, a bunch of first rate musicians proving their mastery of studio recording, although not necessarily delivering anything with soul. Smokey Robinson's You Really Got a Hold on Me takes its arrangement from the version that The Beatles cut for their second album rather than the Motown original. You're Good With My Love, written by Eddie Schwartz who had penned hits for Pat Benetar amongst others, is a somewhat typical 80s pop-rock number with a clear Toto stamp on it. Best of the three is Cold Side of a Woman which is more in line with the material on the debut album and is more suited to Lake's singing style.

After the LA sojourn, Lake returned to the UK and his recently built home studio where a variety of musicians, including Lake's old Crimson colleague drummer Michael Giles, contributed to the slowly developing album. A core of musicians featuring ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore, ex-Sensational Alex Harvey Band keyboard player and drummer Tommy Eyre and Ted McKenna as well as bassist Tristram Margetts contributed to most of the album with Lake reverting back to his first instrument, guitar. The majority of the songs on the album were written by Lake, his then song writing partner Tony Benyon (these days more known as a cartoonist), and Tommy Eyre, with a couple of cover versions thrown in to complete the set. A previously unreleased Gary Moore song, Nuclear Attack, a version of which had already been recorded but not yet released by the guitarist kicked off the album and, as may be expected was rather guitar heavy. This was followed by another heavier number, Love You Too Much, the bones of which were given to Lake by Bob Dylan who told him he could finish it off, reportedly the first time Dylan had ever done such a thing. Needless to say it ended up sounding nothing like a Dylan song! A couple of good Lake solo ballads, It Hurts and Black and Blue will be familiar to those cognisant of Lake's solo side on Works Volume 1 with Black and Blue in particular being a song that would have easily slotted onto that album.

Retribution Drive is one of the standout rockers on the album with Moore shining throughout and is followed by the stylistically similar Long Goodbye. Although Moore did not contribute to the writing, the overall feel of these songs is very much akin to Moore solo material, melodic rock songs that generally eschew too many progressive influences. The Lie is slightly more ELP-ish, but from the Love Beach rather than Trilogy era and contains some nice ideas but lakes a certain succinctness and cohesion. Someone exemplifies Lake's search for a new direction being very different from the rest of the album having a greater emphasis on the piano with a rather sleazy solo from E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemmons. Not a bad song but it doesn't really fit with the rest of the album and would, in days gone, would probably have been restricted to the B-side of a single (which ironically it was, although also appearing on the album as well). The mish-mash of styles continues with the original album's two closing tracks. Let Me Love You Once is a coyingly sickly sweet ballad that is quite cheesy but very well sung, while For Those Who Dare is just a confused mess, with military snares kicking off the number and even a couple of pipers which, with apologies to our Scottish friends, is never really a good sound to add to a rock song.

The core band hit the road and came over better live than on the album largely because the set list heavily featured ELP and King Crimson numbers with only the rockier numbers performed from the album. Sales were not tremendous, although by today's standards shifting 200,000 copies was not bad going. Still, the label were happy to go ahead with a second album. This time round, with the exception of a couple of female backing vocalists, the only musicians featured were Lake, Moore, Eyre, Margetts and McKenna. The touring had allowed the band to become more familiar with each other which shows in the more cohesive performances on the album. The musical style is again mostly a mixture of rockers on the first side of the original LP and ballads on the second side. Again a cover version was included largely at the insistence of the record label as they didn't consider the self-penned material was commercial enough to release as a single who wanted to know why Lake couldn't have come up with another song like Lucky Man. So Famous Last Words (co-written by Andy Scott of Sweet fame) was shoe-horned in at the last moment and, of course, bombed when it was released as a single. Not really surprising as it is a bit limp and certainly no more commercial than some of the other material on the album. Having to include it is probably the reason why the quite decent ballad, Hold Me, included here as a bonus track, was bumped from the album, although it doesn't explain why it couldn't have been used as a B-side!

The rockier songs are the better numbers on the album with title track, Manoeuvres, stamped with co-writer Moore's stylistic leanings, although the limited vocoder snippets do date the song. Of the rest Too Young to Love, the album's out and out rock song, and the somewhat smoother Paralysed both feature some nice runs from Moore and although one would think they are more in the style of the guitarist's compositions were actually both Lake solo numbers. Moore did contribute one solo penned number, A Woman Like You, which will no doubt divide some people but I happen to love it! The reason for such admiration from this reviewer is that it sounds like something left off the self-titled album by Moore's short-lived band G-Force. Even hard-core Moore fans are divided by this album but it has been a guilty listening pleasure of mine ever since seeing the band support Whitesnake some 36 years ago! Moore also collaborates with Lake on Don't Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight, another relatively straight forward rocker.

Of the ballads Slave to Love (wrongly labelled as 'Someone' on the CD, poor proof reading there) blends acoustic and electric guitar nicely although the synth sounds haven't dated well but despite that is very much in the Lake milieu. The more sombre Haunted features the best singing on the album with Lake really giving it all on a very nice, if not particularly memorable, song. I Don't Know Why I Still Love You tries hard but doesn't succeed despite the lush string backing while original album closer It's You, You Gotta Believe has the makings of a great song, but the band did not deliver. The keyboards are far to wimpy, Emerson would have really taken the central organ motif completely over the top providing more vibrance and pomp.

Lake freely admits he was musically lost during the making of these albums and was experimenting in new areas rather than sticking to the prog he knew best. I guess he was trying to forge an identity away from ELP and strike out from the grandiosity and lengthy work outs associated with them. It is true he didn't succeed but the albums are not complete train wrecks, just so long as you are not expecting another Karn Evil 9. It is also true that the material is not within the progressive realm but then neither was a lot of ELP's material. But if you are a collector or completist or are just a fan of Lake's fine vocals then having these albums available again is a positive with sufficient quality music to justify the asking price.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 5 out of 10

Macroscream - Macroscream
Macroscream - Macroscream
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 59:13
Links:
Track List:
Mr. Why (12:52), Then it Goes Away (6:13), Unquiet (8:04), The Flying Gianpy (8:56), Goliath (10:51), Impenetrable Oak Bark (12:15)
I offer you screams of joy, screams of delight, and screams of excitement. In their impressive self-titled album, Macroscream have produced a highly accomplished collection of six lengthy compositions. From the introductory cacophony of air hub soundbites on Mr Why, to the final vocal flourishes of Impenetrable Oak Bark some 60 minutes later, there is much to be screamed about, to admire and to appreciate.

The compositions are varied in their instrumentation and breadth. Complex song structures are plentiful, and often feature superb expressive vocals, powerful riffing, unexpected shifts of tempo, and predictably some screaming, guitar work. It is an album that will entice and satisfy listeners who appreciate diversity within a single composition.

A number of the tunes include carefully constructed pastoral interludes. These have a deftness of approach, and exhibit a gentle finesse that work well as a point of reflection, and as a potent juxtaposition to the energised passages. Throughout this release, a thoughtful approach to dynamics, highlights and draws a clear distinction between the numerous acoustic and full-throttled moments.

Musical genres are set aside, as the band draws upon a number of different influences including rock, jazz and folk. This mixture creates a highly enjoyable album that is immediately accessible, but also has a rewarding after-glow. A spirit of exploration and willingness to experiment pervades much of the release. It is an album which is hallmarked in gold, and exhibits an overriding sense of quality and attention to detail.

Macroscream's identifiable sound and approach is firmly locked in the music of the seventies. There is even an impressive short call-and-response interlude in The Flying Gianpy, which although different in style and substance, brought back fond memories of the first time I witnessed the excitement of this technique in a live rock concert setting.

Misty-eyed and with thoughts of a long forgotten caftan encrusted time, I remembered Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick 1972 tour in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, where John Evan's organ, Ian Anderson's frantic flute and Martin Barre's blues-based riffing produced a well-rehearsed extended call and response passage in the midst of Gerald Bostock's artistic jottings.

Vocalist Luca Narconi even introduces a whimsical Canterbury vibe in the outstanding Than it Goes Away and at the beginning of Unquiet with some wordless scat vocals.

However, Macroscream's overall style is probably most comparable to the work of Gentle Giant. Macroscream's compositions exhibit a range of noticeable similarities and include the phrasing of the vocal arrangements, and a complex rhythmic approach to the numerous stop-start changes of tempo.

Gentle Giant, were known for their multi instrumental approach. Macroscream also use a wide range of instruments to bring their musical vision to life. These are provided by the six band members and also by an impressive roster of guest players.

The bulbous and expressive sound of the saxophone is used to good effect on a number of occasions, whilst the bass is prominent in the bold and clear, ear-bulging mix. The violin also has an important role to play in the band's overall quiltwork of sounds. It provides a successful and harmonious counterpoint to their keyboard-rich and guitar-filled soundscape. The array of keyboard sounds on display is inspiring and exciting. Keyboard player Davide Cirone deserves a place on a raised podium for his gold medal skill and inventiveness throughout the album. However, it is the collective voice of all the players that shines through.

To conclude, I am going to scream with gusto and scream with confidence that Macroscream's album will offer screams of joy, screams of delight, and screams of excitement. It is highly recommended. I urge you to hear this album and let the music scream for itself.
Conclusion:
Owen Davies: 8.5 out of 10

Duo Review
Nosound - Scintilla
Nosound - Scintilla
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 49:06
Links:
Track List:
Short Story (2:24), Last Lunch (7:00), Little Man (4:38), In Celebration Of Life (5:34), Sogno e Incendio (4:44), Emily (3:19), The Perfect Wife (7:27), Love Is Forever (2:51), Evil Smile (4:34), Scintilla (6:31)
Mark Hughes' Review
Nosound's fifth studio album, Scintilla, is being promoted as "a major departure" for the band, or more correctly Giancarlo Erra who assembles the cast of musicians to perform his music. The musical departure is not only a desire to get away from the more lush soundscapes of their previous releases, but is also reflective of a personal upheaval that Erra has been through in recent times. I don't know what it is in the human psyche that inspires the creation of beauty out of tragedy. Perhaps it is a form of survival mechanism, or as the motto of my university town states, "Out of darkness cometh light", but there definitely is a correlation.

Although previous Nosound albums couldn't be said to be replete with life's joys, being overall too wistful and melancholic, there is a deeper and more complex emotional bearing to Scintilla, which displays a soul-bearing honesty and directness. Yet despite an underlying sadness, the resulting album is a thing of beauty. There is a greater looseness to the music, more openness, and not such a feeling of precision, with each part having been meticulously crafted and regimented before recording.

This is immediately evident from the first bars of Short Story, an almost subliminal track that sets the tone for the whole album. Snatches of acoustic guitar and keyboards are overlaid by the prominent drum beat, to generate an overture leading into the first stab at brilliance, Last Lunch. The wonderful cellist Marianne De Chastelaine, whose open playing is all over this album, weaves a mournful air over gently-sung, confessional lyrics, and a bedrock of synths and some simple yet effective bass playing. However, it is the drumming that stands out on this piece. The inventive fills, and timing that is slightly off the beat, is just perfect. It shouldn't work, but it does.

The album features two guest vocalists, one who will be familiar to our readers and the other probably not so familiar. Taking the latter first, the renowned Italian singer Andrea Chimenti sings his own lyrical contribution on Sogno e Incendio which, being a non-Italian speaker, is the hardest of the songs to get into. However, the soaring electric guitar provides a dramatic lift to the song, as well as to the album.

Anathema's Vincent Cavenagh is the second guest and appears on a couple of tracks, both of which are highlights of the album. In Celebration Of Life again prominently features De Chastelaine's cello playing, particularly in the extended intro before the vocal refrain, that is just one-line repeated again and again as a hypnotic mantra to penetrate the brain. Cavenagh has more of a role on the wonderfully cynical and acerbic The Perfect Wife.

The lyrics are along the lines of: "I wonder if you wake up at night? If guilt was, for a moment, a feeling you had to fight? Are you proud of your destructive appetite? You now live your perfect life, redeeming yourself as the perfect wife". From the title, one would think that Love Is Forever promises to be of a somewhat more optimistic bent, but appearances can be deceptive. The Hammill-esque lyrics listing a series of voids takes a nice lyrical twist: "This song is for all you liars, and that fucking smile on your face, that sparkle in your eyes, blinding us from your demons inside..." Erra's singing is just pure pathos. It is impossible not to be moved.

Although I have specifically mentioned the tracks that are, to me, the absolute highlights of Scintilla, it doesn't mean the remaining songs are any less worthy. Evil Smile has traces of barely concealed bitterness, wrapped in harmony, whilst Little Man has echoes of early pseudo-psychedelic Porcupine Tree from the days before mega prog stardom, when Wilson was a one-man band. The title track is absolute class, as fine a piece of music ever to be released under the Nosound name. The concluding brass brings a final lift to the album, with a promise of better things to come.

Fans of the band may take a while to assimilate the musical change displayed on Scintilla into their mental categorisation of the, as it were, Nosound sound. But I am positive the changes will come to be seen as musically valid, artistically true and a pinnacle in this artist's catalogue. As to where Erra takes his music next, that is up to him to decide, but for me Nosound's Scintilla is this decade's equivalent to Peter Hammill's 1970s masterpiece Over, and in my book there is no higher praise.
Kevin Heckeler's Review
Another quality Kscope release for 2016. Scintilla means "spark" or "ember" and is Nosound's sixth studio album and its fourth on Kscope. Our pre-release copy didn't include lyrics, and none were available on their website at the time of this review. After several hours with the music, I believe it's a concept about a [lost] relationship.

The arrangements are mostly straight forward. That's not to say they don't wander and jam out a bit, the songs just seem to spend little time getting 'to the point' musically. The mood is mostly low key and reflective, which is consistent with much of their prior output. If you're already a fan, don't expect anything groundbreaking. If listening to Nosound for the first time, I'd consider this a good representation of their music.

Giancario Erra's vocals are pleasant and a good fit. He delivers the words in an honest tone and has the instincts to construct some excellent melodies. The remaining members are all very good musicians. I heard absolutely no missteps in the recording. Every note and drum hit had its place. The production quality is also top notch; very clear, balanced, and absent of overbearing compression at the mastering stage. I have no objection to turning up the volume during playback, if it means there's more dynamics in the final product. This way the harder and darker moments truly have impact.

Last Lunch, Evil Smile, and Emily are very ear-wormy and with an excellent use of cello. While somber, they never come across as morose. Exceptional pop, by means of a catchy melodic hook, is becoming a common attribute in the slower and softer progressive acts. It's very welcome when done as well as it is here. Last Lunch does drag near the end, repeating the chorus through a ghostly filter, while failing to add much, compositionally. The song is over before you know it, so at most, this is a minor complaint.

In Celebration of Life is a blissfully sad track, reminiscent of Anathema and later Porcupine Tree. The Perfect Wife is possibly the only song I've ever heard to successfully use a life/wife rhyme. It's a disturbing and insightful track, and in the depths of that dark introspection it manages to resolve beautifully in a sense of release. Love Is Forever picks up where The Perfect Wife ends, being equally unsettling, as a clinic on the eloquent use of four letter words not typically found in ballads.

The weakest song is the title track. The lyrics feel shoe-horned into the music, lacking any unifying melody. The start does have a great droning/atmospheric quality, but just isn't interesting enough to carry the song for four minutes. At the four-minute mark the piano throws a lifeline and things march out much better than they came in. It's really my only major gripe on the entire album.

Nosound manage to be subtle and poignant. Although they're not afraid to bust out a lead, they usually opt for a more restrained approach to song writing and demonstration of their skills. This can be an Achilles heel when presenting product to a progressive rock audience that champions playing a thousand notes a minute and operatic singing. The skill in Nosound's artistry is in their layering of instruments, the variety of instrumentation used, an excellent sense of melody, and the intuition for knowing exactly how to piece it together. On Scintilla these ingredients are all on the table.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 9 out of 10
Kevin Heckeler: 8 out of 10

Yossi Sassi Band - Roots and Roads
Yossi Sassi Band - Roots and Roads
Country of Origin: Isreal
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 55:02
Links:
Track List:
Wings (4:57), Palm Dance (4:51), Root Out (6:13), Mr. NoSoul (2:15), Madame Two Souls (4:02), The Religion of Music (4:52), Winter (8:20), Thundercloud (2:23), Road Less Traveled (5:36), Rizes Kai Dromoi (3:52), Bird Without a Tree (3:55), Stronger Than Ever (3:34)
It is not very often that I am able to relate quite so closely to an album cover. But the eye-catching image created to adorn the new album by self-styled oriental rock pioneer Yossi Sassi, is clearly inspired by a piece of sculpture that I laid my own hands upon three years ago.

In the old city of Jaffa can be found the "floating orange tree", a renowned environmental sculpture by the artist Ran Morin. In its historic setting, it is a piece that is wonderfully appealing in its own visual right, whilst within its context, it challenges the mind to unfold numerous possible symbolic meanings or messages.

A combination of nature and technology, could it represent the technology limits of nature, keeping us off the land? Or does technology offer new opportunities for a new lighter existence? Is it all about roots; the lack of them or the restriction of growing them? Is it highlighting the status of peoples and/or nature who no longer have a place to set out their roots, or who have been uprooted to a place that has no relevance or future?

I think it harnesses the idea that if you have set no roots in your life, it will always be simple to move (or be moved) from one place to another - just like a plant in a pot! That can be a negative or a positive.

Morin's 'growing sculptures' do not try to answer these questions. They rather seek to sow the seeds of a debate into man and nature's 'rooted - uprooted' state.

Roots and Roads, the third solo album from the Orphaned Land founder, offers a musical study of very similar ideas. A musical journey, where the music is rootless, taking inspiration from a multitude of cultures, genres and emotions. "The basic concept behind the songs," explains Sassi, "is that you are a unique blend of your roots and the choices that you make in life." A blend of where you started (childhood), and the choices you make and the roads you travel in adulthood.

"We are all travelling trees, searching for the balance between where we came from and the way that our heart beats, to find out who we really are."

That is a philosophy I can certainly buy into, but here the musical realisation of that concept is sadly under developed and unappealing.

The problem, I feel, is that Yossi's roots are simply spread out too widely. Along the journey through his twelve compositions, Yossi himself plays 12 different instruments. Then, in addition to his five band members, a 16-strong guest list adds everything from a Hammond organ to the Persian Ney and Diddley bow!

Of the songs, every single one seems to base its roots in a different musical genre. We have the English/American folk and swaying breeze flute of Bird Without A Tree, after the grinding Middle Eastern metal of Rizes Kai Dromoi. Earlier, the female-fronted prog rock of Root Out followed some guitar fusion on Palm Dance. The bluesy hard rock of Rainbow and Deep Purple are mixed with a latter day prog metal akin to Pain of Salvation on the enjoyable Religion of Music, which evolves into a great blend of folk and metal on the track Winter, which then blossoms into a guitar-led instrumental. Some of the songs are vocal-led, others are instrumental-led, and some are instrumental only.

In their own right, many of the songs are enjoyable vignettes. As a whole though, this album has the coherence of a somewhat wayward, random journey through life. Not the carefully assimilated one suggested by the concept.

Sure, people can take on a wide range of influences to create an original and true journey through their lives. Similarly musicians can assemble influences and sounds from a wide range of sources to create albums of honest creativity.

However, it is still only ever possible to travel along one actual road at a time. Here Yossi seems to want to take the high road, the low road and every path, track and tramp in between - all at the same time. The concept is sound. The journey is lacking a compass.
Conclusion:
Andy Read: 7 out of 10

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Published Thursday 8 September 2016

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