ISSUE 2017-067

Mini Review Special
Reviews in this issue:

Aura - Noise
Aura - Noise
Country of Origin: Italy
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 51:58
Links:
Track List:
No Hatred (5:01), From Dust to Life (5:24), Behind My Eyes (4:33), Under Black Skies (5:50), Over the Ground (3:55), Silence in a Word (6:26), Dream of Memories (4:48), On the River of Time (4:39), Falling (4:54), The Distant World (6:28)
Formed in 1996, the first single from Aura came out in 1997. Their first album, A Different View From The Same Side, was released in 2008. This, their third effort emerged in 2015. If you can say one thing about this Italian quartet, it is that they are enduring.

Apparently their earlier music was in that typical Italian style of revisiting neo-classical sympho progressive rock. It may have taken them two decades to evolve their sound, but Noise heralds a more modern approach. Still very prog, the ten songs on offer have much more in common with the likes of Muse and Radiohead. We even visit more progressive metal and crossover prog stylings with tracks such as Behind My Eyes.

No Hatred is a strong opener and The Distant World is a pleasing final song. However, the heavily-accented and out-of-tune vocals on Under Black Skies and the pop-rock-by-numbers of Over Ground sends the finger hovering over the skip button. It's the sort of album that makes an entertaining-enough listen one or twice, but on the whole, the quality of the songs and performances are unlikely to warrant repeat visits.
Katre - Encounters
Katre - Encounters
Country of Origin: Germany/Turkey/Azerbaijan
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 40:42
Links:
Track List:
(Existence I) – Underwater World (6:52), (Existence II) – Mettle (4:32), (Existence III) – The Breath Part I (4:05), (Existence IV) – The Breath Part II (4:16), (Existing I) – Bond (2:40), (Existing II) – It is All New (8:18), (Existing III) – Blurry Paths (4:23), (Existing IV) – Heaviest Leaves (5:16)
Katre is a new band exploring the areas of post-rock and post-metal, synthesised with classic eastern sounds and experiments on the sustaining of sound across an album. Without being an overly "oriental" band, their musical approach lies in the subtle integration of the eastern tunes in post-metal. Encounters is an instrumental concept album and focuses on the subject of existence.

Split into eight sections, each track focuses on the development on a new human from conception to the early years. It is further split into two chapters: with the first four tracks relating to Existence and the final four to Existing.

Katre is: Hasan Koç (guitars, fretless guitar and Ebow), Hüseyin Koç (bass), Okaner Ertuğrul on drums, and the electric guitar played by Aycan Meryumoğlu. The musicians live in three different countries.

Apart from the occasional burst of riffs (as with the Metallica-ish ones on Mettle), the music here is largely laid back, and at times the repetitive patterns (The Breath PartII) make it rather meditative. This vibe is helped by Hasan Koç's approach of applying the E-bow (an electronic device producing a sound reminiscent of using a bow on the strings) to his electric and fretless guitars, to sustain the sound.

On one hand this is excellent mood music, and on the other, if you take the time to explore the concept and how the music fits in with it, then there are lots of lovely details to explore. For example on the opening track, the guitars form the sound of a whale underwater to represent the fetus within the protective liquid in the mother's body. Blurry Paths meanwhile tells of the baby's first stages of development and growth; the syncopated riff towards the end deals with the imbalance and crankiness caused by the mental leaps required as the baby takes its first steps in life.

Encounters is an album that I will certainly come back to from time to time, when the mood fits.
Psion - Psion
Psion - Psion (EP)
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 29:32
Links:
Track List:
Entranced (3:00), Void (9:00), Recall (9:07), Tryanny (8:25)
After an opener which is half-symphonic-majesty and half-bustling-riffage (one after the other), we move into a more interesting ethnic rhythm to launch Void. The vocal is deep and dark and surrounded by emptiness. I'm intrigued. This could go "gothic rock shoegaze" or build into something more metallic. It takes the latter path. This is gonna be trip into the throes of dark, atmospheric tech/progressive metal. I'm intrigued.

Psion is a new UK-based group consisting of four seasoned musicians from the prog and tech metal scene. Founded by Tom MacLean (ex-Haken/To-Mera), the line-up also features guitarist Nik Wolf, vocalist Bryan Ramage (CILICE, Ramage Inc) and drummer Jasper Barendregt (Ulsect, Dodecahedron).

Ramage is the star of the show. His ability to jump from a calm, dark, deep tone, to a soaring high-pitched melody, and then to bitter growls, is captivating. The music follows wherever he chooses to go. One moment picked guitars and piano, the next trashing outbursts of bass-laden riffage.

Like Haken, Psion are treading new ground. It's not modern (djent) prog metal, although it does share some of its stylings. It's not the avant garde, although Vulture Industries springs to mind here and there. It's not electronic prog, although the atmospherics halfway through Recoil could easily be inspired by David Sylvan or even Mr Wilson. It's not old style prog metal either, although Ramage's vocal style, the chaotic background and Ramage's similarity to Kelly Carpenter recalls the under-acclaimed Beyond Twilight (Section X especially). Psion is taking progressive metal into new territories.

Probably the best track is saved until the end. Tyranny offers an awful lot of similarities to Beyond Twilight, and to a lesser extent To-Mera, before flying off into a more extreme metal territory (growls and all).

This is still a work in progress, but this EP acts as a great taster to a hopefully impending full album. It is worthy of a listen to all fans of the above bands and everyone interesting in hearing where this genre could be going in future.
Saint-Samuel - Švankmajer
Saint-Samuel - Švankmajer
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 17:06
Links:
Track List:
Alice (4:19), Night Terror (5:50), Tuesday Night Movie (2:52), Darkness / Light / Darkness (4:14)
Synthwave electronic music from the 1970s and 1980s is the clear inspiration for Canadian musician and multi-media artist Saint Samuel (a.k.a. Stéphane Richard). Think Jarre, Vangelis or Tomita but with the twist that Stéphane writes his music as soundtracks, or as inspired by obscure movies from that same peirod. His YouTube channel (here) has a movie to accompany each of these four upbeat slices of electronica.

In the case of Švankmajer, the title subject is Jan Švankmajer, a Czech surrealist best known for the twisted Lewis Carroll adaptation Alice (the opening track). Another Švankmajer movie, Sole Survivor (1983), was the main interest for the closing track Darkness / Light / Darkness. The EP's other influences are a cult porn flick (Sex Games) and the dizzying 1983 debut (Sole Survivor) of Captain Ron creator Thom Eberhart/. Saint-Samuel's 2015 release, entitled Machine Code For Beginners, was covered in our previous mini-review special edition.
Salander - The Fragility Of Innocence
Salander - The Fragility Of Innocence
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 59:58
Links:
Track List:
Aldri Sakleysi Er Farinn (5:41), Cold Icelandic Winter (9:08), Tomorrow Is A New Day (2:23), Leroy's Tale (3:57), Internal Doors (8:44), And So To Sleep (6:57), Malansky (8:51), Evil Doctor (3:29), Race Against The Machine (11:38)
Hailing from Durham in the very north of England, Salander is Dave Smith and Dave Curnow. This is a blend of neo progressive rock and storytelling, that leans towards the classic styles (synths, Mellotron and organ a-plenty),

It all sounds very English: musically and lyrically. The folksy prog influences are in clear evidence, yet the vocals (maybe not to everyone's taste) and the angry bursts of guitar give the album a slightly modern, alt touch. I'm sure there are a lot of fans of a more traditional, independent UK progressive rock who will be all over this.

A remastered version of the album is available on the "Name Your Price" basis from the Salander Bandcamp page. So innocence really is no excuse!
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Published Thursday 14 September 2017

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