ISSUE 2017-047

Reviews in this issue:

Deep Imagination - Carefully Kept Secrets
Deep Imagination - Carefully Kept Secrets
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 60:02
Links:
Track List:
Carefully Kept Secrets (5:35), Paradise In Space (3:04), Wings To Fly (16:47), Before Thousand Of Years (6:17), Deeper Than Trance (7:11), Dancing With Ghosts (8:32), Awake From A Dream (5:26), Paradise In Space (reprise) (2:15), Underneath The Waves (4:24)
"Atmospheric - Floydian - Cinematic". So proclaims the banner on the Deep Imagination website. And really that is all of the description required for this, the fourth album from the solo project of Art Of Infinity founder Thorsten Sudler-Mainz.

This is my sixth attempt (one a month) to follow some new musical pathways, under the guise of my New Year's Resolution to expand my reviewing repertoire in 2017. (Read the story so far, in my review, last month, of Mike Keneally's wonderful Scambot 2.)

I have listened to some Art Of Infinity albums and I have a handful of albums that I would categorise as ambient/new age that I occasionally relax into, should the mood take me. But this is my first review of any such album and my first encounter with Deep Imagination.

On Carefully Kept Secrets Sudler-Mainz is joined by guitarist Günter Kaufmann, who contributes Floydian sounds and solos, as well as US-percussionist Byron Metcalf, whose gently drifting rhythms often have a tribal, ethnic groove. The dainty voice of singer Ann Kareen Mainz reinforces the ambient atmosphere.

The obvious comparisons would be to reference to Pink Floyd's last (instrumental) album The Endless River, especially when Kaufman's excellent guitar playing gives a heavy nod of respect to David Gilmour. Another similarity, especially in terms of the repetitive, soft trance rhythms and melodies, would be Enya and Clannad.

One could easily listen to this while meditating and there is also an obvious appeal to a large palette of music fans seeking some easy-going background music of a non-obvious nature.

As pure background music when some older relatives pay a visit, I could see this working for me. Also there are undoubtedly some beautiful moments to be found here, especially the opening title track and _Dancing With Ghosts. Thus I will probably select a few tracks to spread amidst a varied playlist and that would work very well. However stretching out for around an hour, this is just too one-paced and repetitive a collection for me to listen to wholeheartedly in one go.
Conclusions:
Andy Read: 7.5 out of 10

Drifting Sun - On The Rebound
Drifting Sun - On The Rebound
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 1999/2016
Time: 64:42
Links:
Track List:
The Charade (13:08), Swan Song (6:40), Drifting Sun (7:05), Long Nights (10:28), Heaven's Eyes (5:29), Minstrel (10:24), Mon Masque (11:29)
After the first tones of The Charade, I am thinking to myself have I heard this before? I do not recall, nor can I find anywhere in my vast and still growing music collection, a CD nor digital version of Drifting Sun. Yet after just a few seconds, the music is already grabbing and it doesn't let go. This continues throughout the entire CD. Why haven't I heard this band before.

It seems that On the Rebound was originally released in 1999 so just before the turn of the century. After a little research I find the band have only released four full length albums: a self-titled debut in 1996, this one in 1999, and then after a long break, 2015's digital-only Trip The Life Fantastic (review here) and last year's Safe Asylum (review here). This album has now been remixed and remastered and re-released and thankfully I am listening to music that can easily withstand the test of time.

After the break the band returned with the slightly different line-up of today, but for this recording we had that classic neo-prog formation of Tobin Bryant on drums, Chris Martini on vocals, Manu Michael on bass, Pat Sanders on keyboards and John Spearman on guitars. As with all self-respecting neo-prog acts, Sanders' highly melodic keyboards dominate. With the music displayed here, Drifting Sun belong in the line of bands with Arena, Twelfth Night, IQ, Pendragon, and Marillion. The band definitely has its own characteristic in its music, yet at moments it could easily be one of the aforementioned bands playing.

Lyrically I hear similarities to the poetic lines that were always present in the music of Twelfth Night and Arena. The keyboardery sometimes reminds me of the Clive Nolan way of playing. The remastering has given this an overall amazing sound. Clocking in at just over an hour, the album is of standard length, yet with only seven tracks the average song length is around nine minutes. It cannot be long enough and crazy enough for us progheads.

I reckon and hope that the rebounding Drifting Sun is here to stay, as now that I have discovered them, it would be a waste if there were not more music to follow.
Conclusions:
Gert Hulshof: 7.5 out of 10

Son Of Man - Son Of Man
Son Of Man - Son Of Man
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 57:26
Links:
Track List:
Son of Man (6:00), Death of the Ego (3:28), The Circe (5:17), Guiding Hand (4:22), Otherside (5:30), A Glimpse of You (5:51), Pale Rider (4:36), Crazy (5:03), Soul to the Road (6:20), My Only Friend (4:58), Short Sharp Shock (6:01)
This band was born out of tragic circumstances which I will not go into; two bands paying tribute to the legendary Welsh band Man, then becoming one, Son of Man.

Son of Man is to some degree a homage to the legacy of Man, however, the band has made it known that it is not just emulating past glories and riding on shirt tails, but about moving forward and keeping the music and memories alive.

Their eponymous debut album has been lovingly crafted, and is a mix of ideas, old and new. What really stands out with this album is that, intelligently, the band members have spent time honing these songs; you can bathe in the passion and emotion of the music as it fills the room. I dare you to listen, close your eyes and not have a wide grin on your face as the album moves forward. There is no mistaking that these songs have been well tested, before they were recorded, ensuring that they do exactly what they say they do on the tin. You are not going to find a whole new musical experience here; however, what you will find is music which will entertain you to the highest standard. Back in the day, this album would have had the potential to have been massive.

We all know that it could have been quite easy for the band, like other bands, to have rushed in and created a lesser product. I tip my hat to these guys for not doing that, as what we have here is corker of an album, a classic rock album that I highly recommend.

Musically, the album is well balanced, seeing the band members symbiotically plying their trades to great effect, ensuring that they get the most out of each song, and more importantly ensuring that each song does not overstay its welcome.

As a music lover, I am always looking for new music to investigate and listen too. This is not genre dependent, as in all honesty, good music is good music. In saying this, as do others, I do have my go-back-to points, those proverbial comfort foods which cleanse the palate; Son of Man more than satiates this approach.

I have had this album for review for a period of time before committing my fingers to the keyboard, to ensure that I was not just rushing in, being caught up in the moment. I think this has been a wise move. What I have found, is that I continue to love this album as much as I did the first time I heard it, which reinforces the above statements.

Son of Man have definitely caught the spirit and essences of Man and have done so with class. Obviously, if you are a fan of Man, this is an album you need to own.
Conclusions:
John O'Boyle: 8 out of 10

Steve Thorne - Island Of The Imbeciles
Steve Thorne - Island Of The Imbeciles
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 50:17
Links:
Track List:
In The Frame (5:11), Animal (6:31), Colours Of Torment (4:44), Don't Fear Tomorrow (3:46), Island Of Imbeciles (3:40), Dear Mother Earth (3:25), Let Me Down (4:48), Ancestors (4:35), Ashes (6:49), They Are Flesh (6:48)
Steve Thorne is a well-versed singer-songwriter in the field where progressive rock and pop sensibilities meet. With lyrics inspired by the social and political situation in the United Kingdom, Steve seems to set course away from the country where he was born. His criticism is broad and targets almost everything, from a nation still very much based on differences in class, wealth and religion, and where the world has developed into a society based on capitalism and where the urge of ongoing development is one of the driving powers of each and every day. Where does that leave humanity, empathy and compassion?

Steve Thorne has released four albums previously, all of which have been reviewed favourably here on DPRP. Here again is an album that has Steve working together with drummer par excellence Nick D'Virgilio, and bass player extraordinaire Tony Levin, whilst on guitar on several tracks is Cosmograf's Robin Armstrong. Apart from those musicians, Steve plays all the other instruments himself. And yes, he took care of production duties as well.

What this album brings, are ten tracks that nearly all have a focus on life and all its facets. The songwriting is great, as we have come to expect from the previous albums by Steve. For those who don't yet know him, his voice is somewhere between Peter Gabriel, Paul Menel and Andy Sears. Maybe even the late Paul Young. Steve doesn't seek the perspective of the progressive epic, his message is all neatly delivered in pure songs, and they all work quite fine. This is an album that mixes great songwriting in a setting not so full of bombast and grandeur, moreover tracks that would not have felt out of place amongst the more compact IQ songs of the Menel era, bridged with a feel of Mike And The Mechanics (if the latter's music and lyrics would have been deeper). That just goes to show the somewhat pop feel of the album.

This disc has delightful playing throughout its ten tracks, whether it is the quality of the guests or just Steve's capabilities, like in In The Frame, Animal, the title track and the closing track, They Are Flesh. Steve is not a happy bunny and never set out to be one. It is said that this may well have been his last album ever. Yet if an album is as meaningful as this one, there is no need to rest on any laurels yet. More of Steve's music, please. Excellent album!
Conclusions:
Marcel Hartenberg: 8.5 out of 10

Tuesday The Sky - Drift
Tuesday The Sky - Drift
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 49:04
Links:
Track List:
Today The Sky (4:15), Kite (5:10), Vortex Street (4:46), It Comes In Waves (4:30), Dyatlov Pass (7:29), Far And Away (4:19), Westerlies (5:27), Roger, Gordo (4:06), The Rowing Endeth (4:31), Drift (4:09)
In a recent interview conducted for DPRP, John Mitchell said that his "idea of an instrumental album would not be some guitar based album whereby all the music is basically a backing track designed for me to play endless solos over. I hate those things, they (on the whole) serve no purpose and are incredibly dull". With a few notable exceptions, I fully agree with John's comment. Albums of that type tend to be redundant and pretty unexciting. It takes a very creative and unique musical curve to alter my opinion on that.

This being a project by guitarist, Jim Matheos (Fates Warning, OSI), I walked into Tuesday The Sky thinking that it could fall into the unique category noted above. Though I am not tremendously familiar with Fates Warning, I am a fan of OSI, mainly because their sound is very distinctive. From the opening notes of Drift, it was apparent that Matheos was bringing a similarly unconventional and quirky approach to this project. The publicity notes state that he would start with "interesting sounds" and then build the compositions from the ones that inspired him. It was about "creating a mood and letting that sink in and develop over long periods of time". This methodology is apparent, as the album is chock-full of creative and intriguing soundscapes. You can absolutely hear how the songs evolved.

I don't want to give the idea though that this is one of those albums that disregards melody in favor of atmosphere. Matheos blends styles in ways that create separation from the more standard rock guitarist, but there is also an accessibility to the songs here that is appealing. There are few flashy solos, and when they do occur, it feels appropriate rather than a presumed expectation. This is not a shredfest by any stretch, and though Drift does strike a certain low-key tone throughout, it is never repetitive or boring. There are occasional metal bursts that are effective, but I would classify this album as atmospheric progressive rock.

When joined by OSI bandmate, Kevin Moore on a few tracks, there is a definite OSI vibe at play. Also vry impressive are the performances by Anna-Lynne Williams (Trespassers William, Lotte Kestner), who provides wordless harmony vocals on two songs. Her voice is used as a true musical instrument and the results are wonderful. Lloyd Hanney's drumming is also a strong point and gives the music a strength that might have otherwise been lacking.

With Drift, Jim Matheos further cements the fact that he is one of music's most innovative and underrated guitarists. Though he is certainly capable of producing an album full of "endless solos", he strives for something much more interesting here. Brimming with inventive guitar sounds, the cohesive nature of the work is what truly secures the success of this project. The focus is not on how fast Matheos can play, but on how much depth the instrument can bring to the compositions and the listeners. The album's quirkiness and overall style probably secures it as more suited to certain musical moods. That said, it is nonetheless a highly entertaining listen for any music fan seeking a fascinating instrumental album.
Conclusions:
Patrick McAfee: 8.5 out of 10

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Published Sunday 25 June 2017

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