CD: A Place In The Sun (7:55), Obsession (4:51), Not Going Away (7:26), Don't Ask Me Why (8:02), Never Escape The Storm (8:19), Death (9:48), Hear My Voice Out There (8:10), Speak The Truth (7:30), Blackened (5:50), Tears And Laughter (5:54),
DVD: A Place In The Sun, Obsession, Not Going Away, Don't Ask Me Why, Never Escape The Storm, Death, Hear My Voice Out There, Speak The Truth, Blackened, What If, Tears And Laughter
It is not unusual. Neither is it common. But what started out as a solo, side project from RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner, has now become a full band with a profile rivalling that of his "main" project.
Yes, it has taken almost a decade to break out from its "side project" banner, but with three critically acclaimed albums, increasingly lengthy tours and high-profile festival appearances, Blind Ego is now a name with its own strong following. That reputation will certainly be emboldened by this impressive live album, and with another tour that will pass through Germany, the Netherlands and France in the new year.
If you have yet to explore the world of Blind Ego, then DPRP has positively reviewed all three albums. The 2007 debut Mirror offered a mellow, heavy neo prog styling (review here), whilst two years later Numb was a much heavier rocking affair (review here). We then had to wait seven years for Liquid, which combined both styles, to become one of my favourite albums last year (review here).
What we have here is a two-show CD/DVD digipak set. The CD covers the band at the prestigious Loreley Amphitheatre in Germany. The DVD was captured on the same tour at Hamburg's sold out Logo. It's the same set but with an extra track, What If, captured in Hamburg. I only have the CD version, but have watched the Hamburg show, which you can do as well, because it is freely available from the label's YouTube channel (link below).
You really can not get two such different settings. The Hamburg venue seems to be a pretty cosy club with no air-con and sweat dripping from the ceiling. Despite the massive pillar rising from the centre being more useful for pole dancing than a rock concert, the band put on an impressively animated performance.
In contrast, the Loreley show seems to have been hit by the arrival of a massive rain storm just as Blind Ego launched into a set, one that ironically opens with a track called A Place in The Sun. The weather seems to have had little effect on the band's performance or the crowd's response, and for the first time in my life I have been able to hear a frontman shout to the crowd from the stage: "Are You Wet!"
Both shows rely heavily on songs from the Liquid album. As the band's first live album, perhaps a wider summary of their career-to-date would have been warranted here. Only Obsession and Don't Ask Me Why from Mirror, and Death from Numb make the set-lists. Another one from each album would have given a better overall perspective. There are no shortage of contenders from either the band's first two releases.
It remains to be seen whether this live line-up remains in place to produce a whole Blind Ego album, or whether Kalle will continue with the guest vocalist approach he successfully used with three different singers on Liquid. But American/German singer Scott Balaban certainly has the range of vocals to deliver this band's wide repertoire which varies from bluesy hard rock, to more progressive stylings. Previously known only for his part in the band Aman Ra(more info here). Scott seems really at ease on stage and develops a great connection with both audiences. The rest of the band, featuring current and past members of Dreamscape, Sylvan and Dante, is equally impressive, while Kalle delivers an endless array of impressive licks, solos and riffs.
Blind Ego is a band on the rise. Liquid Live_ is an excellent showcase, and if they come anywhere near you in 2017, then I'd heartily recommend that you grab a ticket.
Glow And Fade (4:20), The Game Never Changes (16:06), They Know (3:59), We Are Still Waiting (3:46), The Law Of The Jungle (5:20), Levitate (4:34), The Story Of Jonah (4:39), One Is all (4:24)
Whilst the name Kilbey Kennedy may not be too familiar, if you dig deep into the recesses of your memory, you may just recall a song called Under The Milky Way which was a minor hit in 1988 for Aussie band The Church. The song's singer and writer is Steve Kilbey, who as you may have guessed, is one half of Kilbey Kennedy (or KK as the CD logo would have it). The other half is Martin Kennedy of Melbourne-based electronic instrumentalists All India Radio. Like The Church, they have a string of studio albums to their name and their music has featured in several TV shows and a film soundtrack.
Although KK are new to the DPRP, Glow And Fade is their fifth album in a recording collaboration spanning 10 years. Unfortunately the minimalist CD inlay doesn't say who plays what, but I'm assuming that Kilbey provides lead vocals, bass and some guitar and keyboards whilst Kennedy (along with several guest musicians) provides the bulk of the instrumentation including keys, electronics, acoustic and electric guitars, trumpet, drums and orchestrations.
Kennedy cites Pink Floyd as a major influence, which is evident from the very start. The title track Glow And Fade has a dreamy, vaguely-jazzy ambiance, reminiscent of Time and Us And Them (from The Dark Side Of The Moon), complete with vocal echo. In a similar manner to TDSOTM, sampled spoken voices are used to link the songs.
Kilbey's singing has a slightly husky, melancholic quality that suits the music's moody atmosphere. The closest comparison I can think of is Ryan Marshall (he's the handsome, dark haired one in Canadian music video maestros Walk Off The Earth). Kilbey's voice is often double-tracked with echo to compliment the cinematic density of the keyboard loops.
The 16-minute The Game Never Changes opens with strummed acoustic guitar and mellow steel guitar, before embarking on an astral journey. Bubbling synths give way to surging Mellotron-like 'strings', evoking Tangerine Dream (not to mention David Bowie's Space Oddity). It climaxes with a soaring guitar coda. An excellent example (and all too rare these days) of how a long-song can transport the listener, and build to a majestic finale.
The rest of the songs average around the four to five minute mark and have a more contemporary feel, bringing to mind the wonderful M83. The most immediate is We Are Still Waiting, where Kilbey is joined by the angelic voice of Selena Cross. This is an obvious choice as a single, which is probably why it has a more upfront, compressed sound compared with the rest of the album. That said, the production overall by Kennedy is quite stunning.
The remaining songs have a mellow and often hypnotic ambient vibe, especially the acoustic They Know and the sustained, electronica of the closing One Is All. The aforementioned They Know and The Law Of The Jungle also benefit from the most effective use of the trumpet in a prog environment that I've heard since early King Crimson and Gentle Giant.
As albums go, Glow And Fade is one of those rank outsiders that comes along every once and while and sneaks its way into your top 10 of the year. And with Christmas only a few weeks away, I very much expect it to remain there.
First Song (4:41), Interlude 1 (2:30), Could You Would You (4:24), Sub Rosa (4:52), Coda (2:52), Bargaining (2:31), Final Breath (3:35), Poltergeist (4:55), Interlude 11 (5:24), Immolation (6:57)
This is the new album from NYC-based outfit The Knells and one that fuses contemporary progressive rock with classical voicings to great effect. Upon first listen it comes across as a bit shrill. But prolonged listening reveals this to be a work of grace and beauty. One with clever musicianship and different, yet intelligent voices throughout.
In short this is an album that challenges your preconceptions in a pleasurable way, as it begins to unfold its myriad delights to attentive listeners. In addition, the music here is nothing short of stunning, with a lot of motion in the background. Whilst I doubt it will reach the heights it surely warrants, now is the time to catch up with this band before they crossover into the public domain.
There are lots of guitar parts on display here, ranging from gentle strumming to Zappa-esque guitar lines and some great slide guitar playing, such as displayed on Coda. This track is a real treat and tour de force with some delicate picking and highly effective wah-wah work
This is an instrumental that works well and builds steadily into Bargaining before it opens into Final Breath. It is a stellar segment that shows the talents of this band and how they strive for something different musically and vocally. It is to be applauded, and the careful, subtle use of electronica adds another dimension to proceedings, with a riff that is staggering in its effectiveness and makes for a standout moment in an album of many such moments.
In fact the more I hear this, the more I understand this is a great album and one I am very glad to have come across. Such inventiveness is rare nowadays, and fans of King Crimson will find much to their liking here. This is prog for the discerning and as such I have no hesitation in recommending this album highly.
The Knells are truly different, innovative and rewarding.
Song For My Soul (feat. Mistheria) (3:55), Duality (feat. Frank Caruso) (4:03), Message In Morse Code (2:40), MAD 333 (feat. Mattias Eklundh & Jonah Weingarten) (3:33), Kyoto's Gardens (feat. Ryo Okumoto) (4:18), Obsessions (3:47), Afterneath (2:31)
This is Italian bass maestro Alberto Rigoni's sixth studio album, and is a follow up to the his 2016 release Bassorama. On Duality he favours a mix of styles, from progressive metal though hard rock to prog rock, ambient and fusion.
Drummer Doug Harris features throughout Duality, whilst a number of guest players lend their considerable talents to these entirely instrumental tracks. The most well-known to prog fans would be Ryo Okumoto, the keyboard player for Spock's Beard. Also on keys you have Mistheria of the Vivaldi Metal Project and Jonah Weingarten of Pyramaze. Then on guitars Rigoni has called on Mattias IA Eklundh (Freak Kitchen) and Frank Caruso (String 24, Thunder Rising). It leads to an eclectic mix of sounds on the album.
The opening track is the most jazz-fusion tinged track on Duality. It has an 80s Mick Karn feel to its slinky bass line, burbling keyboards and jazzy piano. Rigoni then moves through a variety of styles. The title track is a heavy prog workout with a pleasing darkness to its metal stylings. A pulsating bass drives the short, punchy and engaging Message In Morse Code.
The ghost of Lemmy, from his fuzz bass Hawkwind days, haunts MAD333 as it progresses from a short, funk bass section into something far more adventurous. The interplay of bass, guitar and synth is great. Then given the title and its guest player, Kyoto's Gardens has an ethereal Japanese ambience to it, as it deigns. But again this soon grows in an interesting direction. A rolling drum groove pushes this along, and Rigoni's bass puts me in mind of Rush's Geddy Lee. It is very satisfying.
Rigoni closes Duality with a multi-tracked bass solo work, the atmospheric and mellow Afterneath.
The album shows the full range of Alberto Rigoni's virtuosic bass playing without any 'look at me' grandstanding. Duality's mix of styles means that it never outstays its welcome, and if one piece doesn't suit you, then something else will soon be along. It is a short album, really an EP's length in the days of 70 minute CDs, but it happily fits into a single listen on my commute to work.
So, all in all, Alberto Rigoni's Duality is a fine album for any progressive listener, and not just bass enthusiasts. Its mix of styles will have something for everyone, even the most casual of listeners.
Prelude (meine ruh ist hin) (1:54), Soothing Stitches (5:07), Interlude (ist mir das grab?) (2:07), Wings Of Wax (5:07), Out Of Spaces (5:41), Eternity (3:53), Wonderful Warning (6:58), Frequency (4:02), Postlude (wo ich ihn nicht hab) (8:01)
This is the new album from the band featuring ex-White Willow vocalist Trudie Eidtang, following on from their 2013 debut album 7summers7winters. This is also the debut release for new British label Sonicbond, founded by the two men behind the UK's renowned Summers End prog rock festival. The music is inspired by the tale of Faust, the man who drives himself to damnation in his search for true enlightenment. It is shaped like a German song cycle and draws inspiration from the Franz Schubert song Gretchen am Spinrade. It is described as opening in the classical sphere, ending in the blue, and yet never leaving its electronic foundation.
All of which is very intriguing, but is it any good? To which the answer is an unequivicable: "Yes". This is a work of great depth, skill and emotion, with a great sound and great vocals from Trudie Eidtang, confirming her status as one very fine singer indeed, especially on the very memorable opening song, Soothing Stitches.
Interlude continues with a church organ being given an airing by Vidar Uthang, before Wings of Wax commences with a rippling piano line underneath which, a meaty guitar line is played by Christian Paulsen to geat effect.
Vocally this album is splendid with very clear vocals and harmonies and the musicians involved are of a very high calibre, helping this material to breathe and live. It is all very symphonic and sounds glorious, lush and full-sounding. Eternity is another very strong track featuring a great vocal refrain, some gentle keyboards and a gently-undulating electronic background, which marries white noise to the song along with sound effects. The programming used is subtle and enhances, rather than dominates proceedings and is used to maximum effect and in a subtle manner.
You can tell that this is Scandinavian in origin as some of the tones sound very Nordic. You can sense the influence of artists such as Bjork, Peter Gabriel or even Kate Bush, but ultimately it is When Mary's own vision and sound that comes through.
Tainted is a very impressive second album and its themes are a fascination of the disturbing and unseen, commenting on things like prejudice, injustice and deception. The album even has a dedication to the false prophets of this world, offering a depiction of the ever-quickening and perhaps destructive pace of modern life.
So all in all this is a thinking person's album for you to explore and take your own interpretations. I recommend several listens for these melodies to become lodged in you mind but it is impressive stuff by any standard and an album that will remain with you long after it has finished.