These Are The Days (3:24), Grass Is Greener (4:32), And Set Your Spirit Free (4:37), Round And Round (4:06), The Messenger (4:13), Hold Me (4:18), Unlike Any Other (4:07), A Space For Our Love to Grow (4:36), Dreaming Of A New World (3:37), What's Going On In Your Head (3:37), Stop Them (2:39), Cynical World (6:11)
To start off, I, and the artist, want to make it abundantly clear that this album was made by Tim Burness, not Tim Bowness or Tim Burgess. A veteran of progressive rock, Mr. Burness has been involved in the genre for over 35 years, including sharing shows with Pineapple Thief, Steven Wilson (in his early days with Karma), and Pendragon. With that said, Burness takes a poppier approach to making prog, at least on Whose Dream Are You Living?
This album was originally released a couple of years ago on digital platforms only, but this year it was officially remastered and released on CD. Considering the lyrical content, it fits perfectly with the political climate of today (even if I may personally disagree with Mr. Burness' arguments). In addition to Burness on guitars and vocals, the band features Fudge Smith on drums, Keith Hastings on bass, and Monty Oxymoron on keyboards. The latter bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Andy Tillison. As a keyboardist, he's no slouch either.
Synth sounds dominate much of the album, giving an almost 80s sound to the music. However, it does not sound dated in any way. I found Round And Round to be the freshest-sounding song on the album because it features clean piano and acoustic guitar. It is also mainly an instrumental piece, apart from a few spoken phrases. Tim Burness and company excel with these quieter moments.
For most of the album, Burness' lyrics feature a great deal of repetition, probably to reinforce the points he tries to get across. Usually I'm not the biggest fan of excessive repetition, but it works here. The only issue is Burness' voice, which lacks the range needed to keep the listener engaged for the entire album. A vocalist with the ability to add some variety to the way he/she sings would certainly help keep the repetitive lyrics from becoming stale. Overall, Burness is at his best when he repeats a lyric over a softer musical section, before the band breaks into an extended instrumental section.
Even though the songs are all quite brief, the instrumental sections included throughout are very good. All musicians play well, although adding more guitar throughout could really help to balance out the keyboards. The basslines do a great job of tying everything together. A highlight from the guitar work, is the Discipline-era King Crimson-like guitar featured in Hold Me. This tone should bring back a sense of nostalgia for a lot of listeners.
Apart from the relatively weak vocals, the lyrical content sometimes grated on me. In a few cases, the writing was just poor, such as in GrassIIs Greener, in which the rhyming felt incredibly forced. For instance, Burness rhymes failure with Australia. That really doesn't work for my American ear. Beyond that, the political and cultural undertones come from a leftist background, which is starting to get old for me. The news is full of it, and there are a lot of artists writing similar lyrics. As someone who holds a different set of political values, I feel a little overwhelmed by some of this. Thankfully, however, Mr. Burness never really preaches at the listener.
Whose Dream Are You Living? is ultimately a solid album musically that would benefit from a vocalist with a wider range than the one Mr. Burness possesses. Overall, the construction of the lyrics, even with repetition, works pretty well, apart from a few weak points. For those that like calmer prog with a bit of an 80s vibe to it, check this album out. You may find much to enjoy here.
Disc 1: Dalhousie's Walk (19:08), Falling The Tree (9:22), Limbo (9:17), Johnny Got His Gun (6:47), Hang Over (2:54), Pastance (4:50), The Nightwatch (6:40), Dead End (13:56)
Disc 2: Wild Dogs (7:17), Growing Seeds (10:25), What Remains (9:13), Sanctus (11:45), Harlequins (11:45), The Redeemer (11:57), Broken Promesses (4:54)
This is the debut album from Montreal-based Cirkus and it is a sprawling and encompassing release that shows great potential. As the band is keen to make clear, they chose to invest in taking their time to record this album, rather than invest in expensive recording and post production. "Because we wanted to be in a perpetual creation mind set, it was absolutely obvious to handle our own recording gear, which is not of a standard professional studio. We could record or re-record again and again over the 15 months it took to make Wild Dogs."
Generally speaking this approach seems to work, although it does mean that on ocassions one's attention can wander and some of these songs can lose their way a tad.
But even so, this is a very good album, albeit not brilliantly produced, opening with the sound of bells and thunder before a repeating keyboard riff is introduced along with vocals. Immediately you can see there is a problem, in that voices are unclear and indistinct and a bit muddy overall. Being able to read the lyrics would certainly have helped here, but the overall sound is not unpleasant or jarring. Then at the 3:50 mark an acoustic guitar is introduced making a rounded and warm sound, followed by an electric guitar passage and a lead vocal offset against an ascending guitar line. This is a much more strident section, sounding all the better for it. There is a world music sound to this song, which is different and interesting.
The second track, Falling The Tree, uses woodwind to create a decent instrumental tone at its conclusion, although without lyrics it is not easy to work out what each song is actually about.
The third track Limbo opens with interesting string sounds, almost like pizzicato on a violin, which again is different and also very effective in showing great imagination.
This is an album that has great presence even if it at times the music is a bit unrealised and indistinct. This song then heads off in what sounds like a samba chant type groove fuelled by organ sounds. Very intriguing stuff, before a synth solo takes centre stage on this impressive instrumental track. It is all rather epic in sound and style. It's a bold, brave step and one that certainly captivates the listener.
Also worth noting is that four of these songs (Dalhousie's Walk, Johnny Got His Gun, Hang Over and Pastance) were originally mooted for a prog band called Loam Tales that existed in the late 1970s that two of the Cirkus band members band were a part of. These songs have been updgraded to fit alongside the newer material seamlessly and generally it seems to work, as there is no huge difference in the quality of the material. These four songs are certainly not inferior nor filler, but instead form an important element of all that is going on here.
Mikrokosmos 113 (4:21), Mikrokosmos 149 (3:40), An Evening In The Village (3:21), Roumanian Folk Dances 1 (5:39), Roumanian Folk Dances 2 (3:15), Roumanian Folk Dances 3 (3:48), Roumanian Folk Dances 4 (4:20), Roumanian Folk Dances 5 (1:54), Roumanian Folk Dances 6 (1:54), The Young Bride (5:26)
The work of acclaimed Hungarian composer Béla Bartok has been reformed and revised by the Brazilian band Dialeto, in their latest album Bartók in Rock. On the evidence of this release, the band's adaptation of some of Bartok's compositions to suit their particular style is highly successful. The result is a creative and imaginative album that undoubtedly enriches the legacy created by the original compositions. A measure of the success of this type of adaptation, is that the experience encourages a listener who is unfamiliar with the originals, to seek out and explore them for themselves.
I have experienced this on a few occasions; most notably, after listening to Thijs Van Leer's Introspection albums in the 70s. After listening to the beautiful orchestrations by Rogier Van Otterloo, blended with Van Leer's flowing flute lines, I felt compelled to hear the original works by composers such as Fauré, Bach and Handel.
More recently, I have enjoyed Dialeto's Bartok In Rock and have been similarly wowed by Adam Torok's and Mini's adaptation of their fellow countryman's compositions in their recently released Bartók On Rock. I definitely intend to hear the original pieces, to give me a better perception of how both bands have modified the composer's work.
Even with no knowledge, or points of reference to the originals, Bartok In Rock excels in its own right as an exciting and innovative album. In this respect, familiarity with Bartok's compositions is not a prerequisite for enjoying what is on offer. Arguably however, knowledge of the originals, could add an extra dimension to the whole experience. No doubt, it would be fascinating to make a comparison and see how Dialeto have adapted the work of Bartok to fit their own particular brand of powerful fusion.
The folk idioms that lie at the heart of the six Roumanian Folk Dances that make up the bulk of the album have a warming effect. The stylish blending of modern instruments and heartfelt rustic charm, works well. The combination emits a soothing glow that is able to invigorate the body, melt the heart and caress the senses. The music has a tangible uplifting effect, in much the same way as sagging limbs might be refreshed and revitalised by autumnal ambles, amongst a crisp carpet of fallen foliage, in an otherwise barren, bare, barked wood.
A number of the dances, including the first and most notably the sixth, are purposefully forged with crunchy guitar parts, full bodied bass parts and busy drumming. These up-tempo pieces encourage listeners to jig rhythmically and gurn in exhausted appreciation. Other dances such as the third and the fourth, give an opportunity to recover. The third does this by beginning with a contemplative air. It then powerfully evolves into a menacingly-atmospheric slow foot-stomp that is sure to redden the cheeks and fatigue the calves.
The far reaching range of moods captured in the six dances creates a fresh sound that has a satisfying and timeless allure. The six pieces are simply wonderful. If you like the folk inspired sounds of bands such as Grovjobb, Agusa, Kormorán and Attila Kollar's Musical Witchcraft, then this suite of dancing tunes should appeal.
The members of the ensemble are all highly talented, but it is the skilful contribution of guitarist Nelson Coelho that is definitely the most notable. He has an expressive and emotive style that complements the ear-friendly melodies that are at the heart of the pieces on offer. His solos are always enjoyable and the manner in which they are constructed and performed is often exciting. The frequent use of carefully-chosen tones and effects to embellish and add depth to the music works particularly well.
The album begins with Mikrokosmos 113. It features some inspired ensemble interplay and a range of attractive solos. The piece has a guest appearance by David Cross on violin and his contribution and exhilarating performance gives this track a different overall feel to the rest of the album. Mikrokosmos 113 will surely tick many boxes for prog aficionados. Its exciting pace, shifting dynamics and heady mix of guitar and violin ensures that it is never less than fully engaging. Consequently, it is one of the most attractive pieces of the album.
The most interesting piece however, is probably An Evening In the Village. It stands apart from the others, as it is tinged with a Far Eastern/Chinese vibe that, in the context of the release, gives it a unique feel. The end product sounds like something that Zhongyu could have devised for their album Zhongyu Is Chinese for 'Finally', if they had wanted to create something far less progressive, and shaped with a much more accessible folk-based style.
However, my favourite track is The Young Bride that ends proceedings. This delightful piece is garlanded by an ambience often associated with prog, but in keeping with much of the release, it also incorporates folk melodies with a rock-ready sound, similar in style to Plankton. It is also one of the longest tracks on the album and this gives an opportunity for the ensemble to develop and explore the piece in a way that is not possible in many of the album's other shorter interpretations.
The Young Bride showcases Dialeto's skill as a band and demonstrates the creative manner in which they have been able to adapt and arrange Bartok's original compositions. It is a fitting end to a release that satisfies in almost every way.
Babel (6:14), Caliente (1:40), Fu (6:04), Humedo (1:56), Inside the Whale (8:25), Frio (1:18), Detritus (5:54), Seco (1:49), Dodecaedro (5:59)
Dodecaedro is the third album by Mexican prog metal shredders Glass Mind, a combo that fits nicely in the line of Animals As Leaders, Plini and Sithu Aye. The album sits firmly in the jazz metal drawer, though it combines a couple of other elements.
With Babel the album starts off with a slamming heavy metal track, with cool studies of the arabic scales, accompanied with Arabic percussions and jazzy interludes. Panzerballett comes to mind.
The second track, Calientes, begins with an ambient counterpoint, which transforms into a Latin groove that is bent into a djenty rhythm pattern, and from there it leads further into a cool, heavy fusion style.
From there the album unfolds into great soundscapes of metal riffing and advanced jazz harmonies, with leads that are cleverly woven around the rather unusual chord progressions. Advanced time signatures are not just the base layer but have their own dynamics and add another great accent to the listening experience. Adventurous breaks separate the different parts of the tunes, but are also the links to the different styles that normally wouldn't fit together, but strangely do, in this musical construct.
Where Animals As Leaders are too complex and too detached for the common listener, Glass Mind have found a great way to incorporate the same complex form of math to their music, but still manage not to outstress one's brain while listening. Where the leads are ingeniously woven around the advanced chords and their progressions, they could be a bit catchier for a perfect approach. However in that respect one should be stunned that it is possible to create such complex music and still manage to put out an enjoyable set of tracks.
Dodecaedro doesn't unfold at a first listen, it takes quite some time to fully dive into these new math-scapes, but it's very rewarding to spend some time on this piece of art.
Sultan´s Curse (4:10), Show Yourself (3:03), Precious Stones (3:46), Steambreather (5:03), Roots Remain (6:28), Word To The Wise (4:00), Ancient Kingdom (4:54), Clandestiny (4:28), Andromeda (4:05), Scorpion Breath (3:19), Jaguar God (7:56)
It was ten years ago that I discovered Mastodon. They released Blood Mountain in 2006 and I had the chance the see them live playing at the Monsters of Rock Festival 2007 in Zaragoza. Those who read my reviews already know that I'm not the best metal fan, but a friend convinced me to go. (Thanks Roberto for that because it was great). We went there to see mainly Dream Theater, and Mastodon wasn't among our preferences, although their name was becoming more and more popular. We weren't in the front row but I must confess that they didn't sound good. After that I forgot Mastodon until 2009. Then they released Crack The Skye and everything changed. I really loved that album and it's still my favourite.
Many said that The Hunter (2011) was a step too far from the metal and a commercial album, but it wasn't. The thing is that Mastodon likes good melodies and good choruses, and now they know how to put them into their songs keeping their own style. So, did they become mainstream? Yes. Is it something to blame them for? Not at all. It's actually great, since more people are listening to good music and it's good to see thousands attending their concerts all over the world. Then, Once More ´Round The Sun was released in 2014 and just the same issue. And both were incredible albums in my opinion.
What you can find in Emperor Of Sand is a mix of all those albums but with the spirit of Crack The Skye. This is probably my next favourite Mastodon album. It's not easy to imagine something better. Good riffs, good melodies, some prog, heavy parts, new stoner and groove. Mastodon in their essence. They have created the Mastodon sound. I would say that the band has closed the circle with this latest effort and it shouldn´t be bad news, since it will be very interesting to see what happens next. It's only a personal point of view but I think they are going to do something different next, but of course keeping their own personality. I'm looking forward to see that evolution. Meanwhile I can only suggest listening to the EP they released a few weeks ago. Nothing new under the sun, so good for you.
The only thing that I need to check again is their live performance and hopefully I will see them at Brixton in London within a month. I'm pretty sure this time won't be like ten years ago. I'm just the same (a bit older), but Mastodon have been improving all these years.
CD1: Breaking Ground (4:46), Murmuration (8:42), Sly Dream Catcher (6:12), 12:16 (6:53), Tutankhamun (8:47), Crimson Stone (10:45), Black Gold (Part II) (8:07)
CD2: The Wire (6:13), Ahead Of Your Time, (8:08), Heroes (5:27), Hold Back The Night (5:38), Rub It Off (3:48), All Out Of Love (3:32), Star Traveller (6:21)
With just three studio albums to their name, a double live album may seem a tad indulgent but it makes perfect sense given that Multi Storey's first two albums were released back in the 1980s. As such, Live At Acapela gives the band the opportunity to update the older tunes and present them to a contemporary audience, alongside the songs from their most recent album Crimson Stone (2016).
Live At Acapela was recorded in front of a small but appreciative audience at Acapela Studios, Cardiff as a finale to the 2016 Crimson Stone tour. A fitting venue given that the band originated from this area in south east Wales when they formed in 1981. Following the release of two albums, East / West (1985) and Through Your Eyes (1987), they eventually went their separate ways.
Original vocalist Paul Ford and original keyboardist Rob Wilsher reformed the band in 2015 and the current line-up includes brothers Aedan and Jordan Neale on lead guitar and drums respectively, with Kyle Jones on bass.
The set opens with Breaking Ground, one of the oldest songs in the band's repertoire and very much a product of its time. In fact it reminded me of those catchy but corny theme songs to 80s UK TV comedies like Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Minder.
The rest of disc 1 is dedicated to the Crimson Stone album with six out of its eight songs performed. Although they lack the polish of the studio versions, they make-up for that with raw energy. Which is perhaps appropriate given that the band's retro sound is a throwback to early 80s neo-prog (think Twelfth Night circa Fact And Fiction and Marillion circa Script For A Jester's Tear). Standout songs are the atmospheric, slow burning Sly Dream Catcher and the expansive title song.
The songs on disc 2 are split fairly evenly between the first and second albums, although ironically the title songs from both are absent. Clearly the band had commercial aspirations during the 80s, as evidenced in songs like Hold Back The Night, which has an Asia AOR-meets-prog feel, and the rousing The Who-like Rub It Off. All Out Of Love is not the insipid 1980 ballad of the same name by Air Supply, but an energetic song with the band firing on all cylinders.
Best of the bunch is the Marillion sound-a-like Heroes with its triumphant synth theme and the staccato rhythm pattern much used in the early 70s by bands like Deep Purple (Child In Time) and Genesis (The Knife). Overall however, the songs have not dated well, especially when compared with the more recent material from Crimson Stone.
As live recordings go, Live At Acapela is not the last word in sonic perfection and the playing is not flawless but it does capture an honest and solid performance. Paul Ford is a charismatic frontman in the style of Fish and Roger Daltrey. Rob Wilsher's synth noodling and symphonic washes echo Tony Banks and in particular the underrated Manfred Mann. Aedan Neale's chiming guitar arpeggios brings Steve Rothery to the table along with the occasional histrionic solo. Brother Jordan's drumming is loud and powerful with busy fills and thundering kick drum, whilst Kyle Jones' deep bass lines will certainly give your subwoofer a good workout.