~ EUROPE ~
AINUR – Children Of Hurin
In 2007 Italian progrock formation Ainur released their debut CD entitled From Ancient Times, a pleasant album but one year later this overlooked band delivered a superior second effort that is based upon Tolkien’s dark concept story Children Of Hurin (taken from the book Silmarillion). The music is performed by musicians who use a wide range of instruments, from harp, violin, French horn, clarinet and flute to keyboards and many male and female singers like a bass bariton. The amount of classical instruments is a strong indication what we can expect from Ainur during the 13 songs on Children Of Hurin. The first composition Morgoth’s Prophecy is an impressive start, we can enjoy lots of dynamics between the classical instruments and the electric guitar and sensational Minimoog synthesizer flights, layered with classically trained vocals. In the other 11 tracks we can also enjoy a blend of classic and progrock music with the emphasis a bit more on classical. But just when it tends to sound a bit too classical, the music turns into fluent, often sumptuous progrock like sparkling piano, porpulsive guitar and lush organ in Mim And The Outlaws, sweeping guitar riffs and fat Minimoog runs in The Sack Of Nargothrond and beautiful interplay between electric guitar and the Minimoog with a progmetal sounding rhythm-section in Glaurung’s Death, Ainur succeeds to keep my attention during the entire album!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
ALBATROS – Pentadelia
Here’s one of my most exciting progrock discoveries in the last 5 years! I read about Albatros on a Spanish progrock site, ordered their debut album and was blown away by the varied and original music. The name Albatros points at five guys who wants to make psychedelic inspired music, on their stunning debut album (2008) they deliver great dynamics, build-ups and compelling or hypnotizing atmospheres, topped with surprising musical ideas, an adventurous rhythm-section, powerful guitarwork and inventive keyboardplay. Some examples of Albatros their exciting eclectic musical approach: climates that shift from propulsive with prog metal guitar/drums to a slow rhythm with sensitive electric guitar/mellow organ and a dreamy atmosphere with twanging guitar and soaring keyboards, culminating in a very compelling psychedelic mood featuring great interplay, fiery guitar and hypnotizing synthesizers in the instrumental 48, a strong and catchy beat in a hypnotizing climate (evoking early Hawkwind) with wah-wah guitar and lots of dynamics, the second part is mellow with Floydian guitar and warm Spanish vocals, culminating in a lush finale delivering a sensitive electric guitar solo and a fluent rhythm-section in Supernova, sensational interplay between a bombastic choir-Mellotron-like sound and wah-wah drenched guitar with obvious psychedelic undertones in the instrumental Ensor and first wailing distorted vocals and bluesy Fender Rhodes piano, then more and more dynamic with a slow but exciting psychedelic inspired synthesizer solo in the instrumental Mehari. To me Albatros sounds as a very promising progrock band that will please the fans of psychedelic rock and Heavy Prog.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
AREKNAMES – Live At Burg Herzberg Festival 2007
If you like vintage keyboards drenched progrock that is firmly rooted into the Seventies Progrock tradition, I am sure you will be delighted about the new Italian formation Areknames. This live CD was recorded during the Burg Herzberg Festival 2007, the interesting annual German festival. The five varied and often compelling compositions (between 3 and 18 minutes) contain lots of exciting muscial moments like in Dateless Diary (a dreamy climate with wonderful violin-Mellotron and a bit melancholical vocals like Peter Hamill, powerful Hammond organ, propulsive guitarwork and fat synthesizer flights and in the end Mellotron, Hammond and flowing electric guitar), A Prison That Few Can See (violin-Mellotron in the vein of Anekdoten and howling electric guitar runs, followed by a long and very compelling Hammond solo similar to Dave Greenslade his work during Colosseum and Greenslade), A New Song (from majestic Hammond and powerful guitar and a long Hammond solo to a final part with soaring Mellotron), Outcast (a bit psychedelic with propulsive drums, fiery vocals, heavy guitar and hypnotizing organ work, it reminds me of early Italian gem Il Balletto Di Bronzo) and the long Boredom (again the focus is on the Hammond along a sensitive electric guitar solo, fat synthesizer flights and wonderful violin-Mellotron). Areknames their sound is a musical time-machine to the early Seventies, you can easily confuse this for a Seventies band but I am carried away to Vintage Keyboard Heaven!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
(IL) BACIO DELLA MEDUSA – Discesa Agl’Inferi D’Un Giovane Amante
This is one of the most sensational new progrock bands I have heard in the last ten years, what a mindblowing sound! In 2004 six piece band Il Bacio Della Medusa produced a very promising eponymous debut album, four years later followed by a second album entitled Discesa Agl’Inferi D’Un Giovane Amante in 2008. Meanwhile the saxophone player has been replaced by a violinist and the drummer/keyboardplayer has extended his array of keyboards, especially the distinctive Hammond organ is omnipresent on this stunning new album. The 12 tracks on this concept story sound more elaborate and refined than on the promising debut CD, what a tension, dynamics, captivating breaks and changing climates, strong solos on guitar and keyboards and what an inspired Italian vocals! A very strong element in Il Bacio Della Medusa her sound is the ‘Holy Trinity’ of fiery guitar, swirling flute and powerful Hammond organ, especially in Ricordi Del Supplizio it sounds like a hot Heavy Prog jam session featuring Jon Lord and Ian Anderson, splendid! Another strong point is the tension between the mellow parts with flute, acoustic guitar, Grand piano, violin and warm vocals and the heavy interludes with bombastic keyboards, harder-edged guitar and raw vocals like in Nostalgia, Pentimento E Rabbia and Nosce Te Ipsum: La Bestia Ringhia In Noi. From a musical point of view the music delivers lots of variety, from Grand piano with violin and pleasant vocals in Confessione D’Un Amante and a duet with saxophone and fiery guitar in E Fu Allora Che Dalle Fiamme Mi Sorprese Una Calda Brezza Celeste to wonderful interplay between Grand piano, violin and choir in very the moving Corale Per Messa Da Requiem (I had almost tears in my eyes, what an emotion this song evokes) and warm work on flute and Grand piano in the final track Epilogo. What an impressive progrock effort, a must!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
BAROCK PROJECT – Misteriose Voci
In general I love to listen to progrock when the vocals are in the native language, in my opinion it sounds more expressive and evokes more emotion. So I am glad with the new Italian four piece formation Baroque Project, their singer does a good, often emotional job in the Italian language. Baroque their sound on the debut CD entitled Misteriose Voci (2007) is accessible, melodic and a bit dated because of the frequent use of the Hammond organ (swirling solos in Odio, Premonizioni and especially Gentile Direttore). The colouring and interplay by the guitar (lots of sensitive runs) and keyboards (from wonderful Grand piano to sumptuous organ and fat synthesizer flights) is very tasteful. In the more mellow pieces Baroque Project reminds me of Italian musicain Angelo Branduari and in the more compelling symphonic rock parts I notice elements of Dutch keyboard driven trio Trace like in the long composition Premonizione and in the final song Un Altro Mondo (beautiful conclusion with a moving guitar solo and lush keyboards). Recommend to the many Italian progrock fans.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
BEARDFISH – Sleeping In Traffic Part Two
In 2007 I witnessed a Beardfish gig during the first Dutch Symforce festival, the Swedish four piece band blew me away with their enthousiastic, dynamic, varied and unique progrock. So I was very curious to the successor of Sleeping In Traffic : Part One, simply entitled Sleeping In Traffic : Part Two. I didn't need much time to get excited about their new album, it even impresses me more than Part One. Beardfish has done their best to deliver varied compositions with lots of musical surprises as you can hear directly in the short first song As The Sun Sets with its electronic atmosphere. Then many alternating and exciting tracks with elements from both Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant and Spock’s Beard as the Seventies USA Classic Rock bands. The omnipresent ‘churchy’ Hammond organ gives a Classic Prog touch and the powerful, often a bit funky bas sound deliver a fat groove to the music, what a delicious melting pot of musical styles. I also like the strong vocals and the fiery guitarplay (with use of the wah-wah pedal). The outstanding ‘magnum opus’ on this CD is the titletrack (more than 30 minutes): the one moment you hear bluesrock with heavy guitar runs or a mellow part with twanging acoustic guitar and warm vocals, the other moment there is a tango with bandoneon, a compelling interlude with violin-Mellotron or swinging rock with lush Hammond organ. The final part contains a bombastic climate with the unsurpassed Mellotron as an important ingredient. If you like adventourus and dynamic progrock, don't miss this band!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
BELIEVE – Yesterday Is A Friend
Years after their debut CD Hope To See Another Day (2006) the Polish formation Believe (featuring guitarplayer Mirek Gil, known from Collage and Satellite) has delivered a second effort with the nostalgic title Yesterday Is A Friend. To me the nine songs (between 2 and 9 minutes) sound as a very pleasant blend of modern progrock and folk with an important role for the sensitive guitarwork and intense violinplay (reminding me of Japanese proggers Outer Limits). From the very first song Believe their music carries me away, it sounds as a ‘warm bath’: in general changing from dreamy with twanging acoustic guitars, violin and flute to compelling with moving electric guitar, at some moments you can enjoy a propulsive beat that contains fiery guitar. I am delighted about the contrast between the violin and the electric guitar, also the fair amount of emotion in the vocals (with that distinctive melancholical Polish undertone) gives the music an extra dimension. The short but wonderful final track Together brings acoustic Led Zeppelin (like on III) on my mind. The role of the keyboards is limited to beautiful pianowork in some songs, only in the track Mystery Is Closer the guest musician Adam Milosz shines on synthesizers and organ. Neo-progheads and modern progrock fans alert!
In 2008, Believe released a DVD version of Hope To See Another Day (Live).
LINKS: Website | MySpace
THE BLACK NOODLE PROJECT — Play Again
Here is the third release of this French five piece progrock formation, the 11 compositions on their new album Play Again (2007) sound very melodic and harmonic with the emphasis on creating emotion and atmospheres. An often compelling element is the huge tension between the mellow parts and the more bombastic pieces: very tasteful embellished with a soaring organ sound that reminds me of Rick Wright his Farfisa (70-73 Pink Floyd) and sensitive electric guitar featuring a great build up and intense final part in Tomorrow Birds Will Sing, a slow rhythm with Fender Rhodes piano and emotional, a bit theatrical vocals in the melancholic The Great Northern Hotel, between soaring and fiery rock in Garden Of Delights, spacey organ and swinging piano and clavinet in the compelling, Floydian-inspired To Pink From Blue and the highlight Happy End: first melancholic piano and vocals, then sensitive violin work and finally an excellent ‘grand finale’ featuring breathtakng interplay between violin, piano and electric guitar, goose bumps! If you like 70-73 Pink Floyd, early Porcupine Tree and the melancholic progressive pop from bands like The Cure, Coldplay and Radiohead, I am sure The Black Noodle Project will carry you away.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
BIJOU - El Profeta
From the very first moment I listened to this Spanish five piece band, I was blown away by their instrumental and modern sounding symphonic rock. The seven compositions (running time more than 1 hour) sound very pleasant and dynamic: lush and varied keyboards (from sparkling piano to bombastic orchestrations), very moving duo- guitarwork (many sensitive and howling soli, harder-edged riffs or twanging guitars), a splendid and energetic rhythm-section and lots of shifting moods, accellarations and great soli on keyboards and guitar. A very strong point is that Bijou plays wonderful and captivating progrock with an own identity, what an incredible level for a new band on their debut-CD (2005)! The highlight on El Profeta is the epic titletrack (3 parts, almost 25 minutes), halfway they manage to create a very captivating Morish climate featuring keyboards that sound like the flamenco piece Zambra Mora, one of the most Arab inspired flamenco rhythms. The guitar riff in the first and final part sounds very catchy but is obviously inspired by Trevor Rabin his one on Owner Of A Lonely Heart (Yes). If you like modern and dynamic progrock, this one is for you!
BOOTCUT – De Fluff
During the first edition of the Dutch Symforce Festival I had enjoyed the Beardfish gig and was told that in the early evening Beardfish member and Hammond organplayer Rikard Sjöblom was planned to play later that day with his own musical project Bootcut. Well, that gig was great and halfway I decided to sneak quickly a Bootcut CD on the Beardfish merchandising stand. Bootcut has released 3 albums and this one entitled De Fluff is the second (from 2004). The band is a duo featuring Rikard Sjöblom (Hammond B3 organ, Nord Electro2 and ARP Pro Solist synthesizer) and Petter Diamant (drums and percussion) with additional musicians on woodwind – and brass instruments, guitar and contrabass. In general the twelve melodic and accessible compositions sound fluent and swinging with strong echoes from jazz (Bootcut often played in jazz clubs) but also rock and blues. Their music often brings late Sixties and early Seventies bands to my mind like The Spencer Davis Group (after Eddie Hardin had replaced Stevie Windwood who had just founded Traffic), Hardin & York (also a Hammond/drums duo), Brian Auger and Trace. And of course late Sixties fellow Swedish band Hansson & Karlson but less complex, less soloing and more keyboard variation like the synthesizer in Quintus Quest, the clavinet in Funck The Living Dead and the Fender Rhodes electric piano in the bluesy Istället För Att Jag Kom Till Skogen Kom Skogen Till Mig. Although Rikard plays less self-indulgent, we can enjoy some swirling and propulsive work like in Fresh Free Fruit (funky sound), Funck the Living Dead, Hang Em High and especially in Crazy Cookie where he freaks out, goose bumps! The interplay between Rikard and Petter is strong and often dynamic. In some songs we can welcome guest musicians on guitar, flute, trombone and saxophone, it give the music a pleasant extra dimension. A funny track is the final song Mutta, a swinging blend of organ, guitar and Turntables (by D-Cuts), that sound of playing LP’s with the hand, quite original in prog! Hammond organ freaks, this is a must!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
BREATHING SPACE – Coming Up For Air
Here’s an interesting album (2008) for the many Mostly Autum fans: keyboardplayer/composer Iain Jennings founded his own band, he started to tour and then the formation Breathing Space was born. Breathing Space also features Mostly Autumn background singer Viola Sparnenn who turns out to be an excellent lead singer, what a voice! She has an important role in the ten varied, accessible and modern sounding compositions. In the more mellow songs her warm voice matches perfectly with the wonderful dreamy piano sound and the sensitive electric guitar runs. In the more dynamic tracks Olivia delivers a powerful voice that can compete with the bombastic keyboards and fiery guitar like in the opener Coming Up For Air (nice mix of rock guitar and electronic sounding synthesizers), When I Hold On To You (bombastic organ and guitar) and The Senses (tight mid-tempo with powerful saxophone solos). I am very pleased with the the beautiful songs Don’t Turn A Blind Eye (wonderful twanging acoustic guitar and strong slide guitar sound), Searching For My Shadow (dreamy piano and strings and warm vocals along howling guitar) and especially the exciting and alternating final pice entitled Turn Of The Tide: from mellow with twanging acoustic guitars like early Genesis to a compelling atmosphere with dramatic vocals and lush choir-Mellotron). A band to discover, not only for the Mostly Autumn fans.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
BRIGHTEYE BRISON – Believers & Deceivers
Since the early Nineties many interesting progrock bands emerged in Sweden, from Anekdoten and Anglagard to Simon Says, Beardfish and ... Brighteye Brison, founded in 2000. After the release of the demo 4:am (2001) Brighteye Brison made their eponymous debut CD (2003), Stories (2006) and this new album - Believers & Deceivers (2008). It contains 4 compositions (between 5 and 35 minutes) with a total running time of almost 70 minutes. Along the five band members you can also listen to two guest musicians on trumpet and ‘spoken voice’. During my first listening session Brighteye Brison impressed me: what a wonderful, in general quite melodic Seventies progrock inspired music (evoking early Spock’s Beard) with obvious references to mainly Yes but also Gentle Giant and Genesis. Their sound is alternating and dynamic with lots of strong musical ideas and a varied instrumentation, from acoustic guitar and saxophone to a wide range of vintage keyboards and even the Theremin. My highlights are the two epic compositions. First The Harvest (20:27) : This long composition starts with a sumptuous church organ sound, then we can enjoy lots of changing moods, accellarations and breaks, the music shifts from mellow with acoustic rhythm guitar and vocal harmonies to heavy with powerful saxophone and bombastic eruptions, layered with the unsurpassed sound of the Mellotron, Hammond and Moog and supported by a strong rhythm-section. The final part contains a strongly build-up guitar solo, a splendid farewell. Second The Grand Event (34:44) : This ‘magnum opus’ is a tribute to the Classic Prog, from Yes to Gentle Giant and I can tell you that Brighteye Brison didn’t fail to keep my attention during the more than 30 minutes, from dreamy parts with vocal harmonies and soaring flute – and violin-Mellotron or a ‘churchy’ Hammond organ to compelling with howling guitar and bombastic with vintage keyboards like a fat Moog solo and heavy Hammond waves (again Focus comes to my mind). You can hear that this Swedish formation plays together for many years, to me Brighteye Brison sounds tight and the interplay is fluent, especially the rhythm-section is a very strong foundation (like Alan White- Chris Squire in the Seventies Yes years). What a dynamic, varied and vintage keyboard drenched album.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
COMBINATION HEAD – Combination Head
Here’s an extremely overlooked UK formation that deserves wider attention. The members are a keyboardplayer, a guitarist/bass player and three different drummers on the nine compositions of their eponymous, instrumental debut CD (2006). It contains fluent and dynamic music with a lush (often vintage) keyboard sound and great interplay by the musicians. The music is melodic and very pleasant, I cannot trace weak songs and especially the work on the Hammond organ is outstanding like in Clover RD R.B.C. (captivating and alternating, from dreamy with piano to compelling with a bluesy Hammond sound and an accellaration with fiery guitar) and Devonshire Crescent (swirling solo and splendid drumming). Halfway this CD a mellow, very beautiful classical piano piece is a short mellow interlude but in general Combination Head delivers swinging tracks like the Jeff Beck (Wired-era) sounding The Bonk (flashy synthesizer – and biting electric guitar solo along powerful Hammond runs), the ELP-inspired Clover RD DEF (exciting Hammond – and Moog sound and howling guitar) and the hypnotizing, electronic oriented Fourteen (a slow rhythm with spacey synthesizers). The final song For What? is a very strong ‘musical goodbey’: a fluent rhythm with fiery guitar and a swinging end featuring a spectacular synthesizer solo and again fiery guitar. Recommended!
In 2008 DPRP reviewed their new release Progress?.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
CONQUEROR — 74 Giorni
This article is loaded with interesting new Italian progrock bands, Conqueror is a very fine example. After their debut CD Istinto (2003) and the successor Storie Fuori Dal Tempo (2005), the Italian five piece band Conqueror has released its third studio album entitled 74 Giorni in 2007. Again the band has made notable progress, I am even impressed by the ten melodic, tasteful and varied compositions (some instrumental) delivering a wide range of instruments: a wonderful blend of soaring keyboards, powerful bass runs, a tight drum beat and sensitive electric guitar in Il Viaggio, lots of shifting moods with pleasant work on guitar and flute in Orca, a Sixties-like organ sound (The Animals/The Doors), wah-wah guitar, a flute solo and fluent synthesizer flights in teh alternating Non Maturi per l'Adilà, romantic piano play in the short Cormonrani, tasteful keyboards and varied guitar work (from heavy riffs to use of the tremolo arm) in L'ora del Parlare, Fender Rhodes piano and jazzy guitar in the short Miraggi and sensational Minimoog-like runs and a compelling part with raw guitar and soaring flute in the captivating Nebbia ad Occhi Chiusi. So lots of variety and soli on different instruments (from guitar and flute to saxophone and organ), this album grows every listening session and I am sure it will please many progheads.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
CORAL CAVES – Mitopoiesi
More Italy! On their debut album entitled Mitopoiesi (2008) Italian five-piece formation Coral Caves scouts the borders between neo-prog and symphonic rock, the inspired native vocals add an Italian flavor to the music. The sound on the 9 compositions is very melodic and accessible, from dreamy with flute traverse and acoustic guitar to tight mid-tempo rhythms and bombastic eruptions with a tasteful keyboard colouring by the EMU Proteus sound module (Hammond, Mellotron and Moog ). But the focal point on this album is the excellent dual-guitarplay: biting wah-wah drenched in Sorridi, Santana inspired in Cliff Of Moher, Gilmourian in Senza Di Me and Ricordi (exciting slide guitar) and lots of moving solos with often howling runs in most of the tracks, shivers down my spine! My highlights are Senza Di Me (great build-up, from mellow with twanging guitars to bombastic with a wonderful vintage keyboard sound, beautiful guitar and emotional vocals) and the long and alternating final composition Il Dolce Canto Della Terra: first a slow rhythm with organ and warm vocals, blended with dreamy parts featuring classical flute and guitar, halfway a moving electric guitar solo, culminating in a very compelling final part with fat synthesizer flights and a sensitive electric guitar solo, accompanied by a lush organ sound, goose bumps! I am sure this album will please both the symphomaniacs as the neo-progheads, what a wonderful first effort!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
DR NO — El Bufo De La Cort
If you translate the Spanish title into English, you will discover that it means “the jester of the court”, this reference is no coincidence because the music on their debut album (2003) is obviously drenched in the early Marillion sound. Especially the first track “Arlequi” sounds like a version of “Market Square Heroes” featuring an up-tempo rhythm and a enthousiastic approach. But Dr. No is more than just another early Marillion sounding group. First the wonderful lush keyboards sound, delivered by three members, featuring lots of keyboards including strings, a grand piano and the Mellotron. Second the very tasteful and refined compositions, from dreamy to compelling and even bluesy (the short Estacion Pirenaica has hints from early Wishbone Ash). Third the splendid, very compelling electric guitarwork (with echoes from Latimer and Rothery) featuring lots of sensitive, often howling soli, excellent! And fourth the beautiful vocals in the Catalonian language, a mix of Spanish, French and Portuguese. This is a wonderful symphonic rock album, released on a Dutch progrock label, one to discover of you like warm neo-symphonic/neo-progrock.
ECHOES – Rachel
Here’s another criminally overlooked interesting new progrock band: Echoes, a French four piece band with an additional female player on flute travers. Their debut CD entitled Rachel (2007) is an own production and distributed by the known French progrock label Musea. Listening to Rachel I presume that the band name Echoes is a kind of tribute to the sound of Pink Floyd their album Meddle but I also hear elements from early Jane and Eloy. Echoes their sound is build upon lots of tension between the dreamy and more compelling parts with lots of organ and sensitive electric guitar. Remarkably is the variety in the instrumentation: twanging guitar and organ in Night The First, sensitive electric guitar and sparkling Grand piano in I Met With Scorn, a sumptuous church organ sound with fiery guitar and vocal harmonies in The Lift, Grand piano and flute traverse with a swelling organ sound in Supermarket Santa Claus and piano with flute and biting wah-wah guitar in Until The Last Shadow Is Gone. One of my favorite tracks is The March Of Rachel: majestic piano play, then a slow rhtyhm with propulsive guitar work and catchy guitar runs, followed by fragile piano flights and a tight tango rhythm with theatrical vocals, this sounds like a rock-opera! I had to get used to the English vocals of these Frenchmen (three musicians also sing), especially in I Met With Scorn the accent is a bit too obvious so perhaps singing in the native language will be a better idea on the next album?
FLAMBOROUGH HEAD — Tales Of Imperfection
Recently I watched this Dutch formation during a ‘homegame’ at the annual Dutch Progfarm Festival (2008), what a progress they have made since I attended a concert at a Progfarm festival many years ago, their sold out performance evoked a lot of clappies and roars! Flamborough Head is not the most prolific progrock band, Tales Of Imperfection is only their fifth in 8 years. But listening to this effort I can conclude that it is their most mature album. The seven compositions on Tales Of Imperfection (running time at about 52 minutes) sound pleasant and melodic and are a very tasteful arranged blend of classic, folk, rock and symphonic with the emphasis on the traditional symphonic rock from the Seventies with echoes from early Camel and Renaissance. Edo Spanninga his keyboards sound lush and varied: sparkling piano and soft violin-Mellotron in Maureen, Grand piano, a church-organ sound and in the end a Peter Bardens-like synthesizer solo in Higher Ground and wonderful interplay with the flute and electric guitar in most of the songs. But the most impressive contribution on this CD is delivered by guitar player Eddie Mulder, from sensitive and warm to fiery and harder-edged and subtle use of slide and volume pedal, what an outstanding guitar work! The female vocalist (also flute) Margriet Boomsma will never gain the 'Annie Haslam award' but her voice sounds less sharp and more warm than in the past. If you are up to wonderful and pleasant 24 carat symphonic rock, this one is yours!
DPRP have also reviewed Unspoken Whisper (1998), One For The Crow (2002) and Live In Budapest (2007).
LINKS: Website | MySpace
GAN EDEN ~ IL GIARDINO DELLE DELIZIE – Lavori In Corso
This Italian band is a project by Angelo Santo Lombardi (vocals, Hammond organ, Minimoog synthesizer, pipe organ and synthesizers) who invited musicians on acoustic- and electric guitar, drums, bass and vocals. The music on their debut CD entitled Lavori In Corso (2007) is obviously rooted in the 24-carat symphonic prog tradition of the Seventies, mainly because of the frequent use of vintage keyboards like the Hammond and the Minimoog. The opener Dolce Brezza starts in a pleasant atmosphere but goes on and on without any tension or musical ideas, only the final part delivers a sensitive electric guitar solo and a fluent shifting mood with tasteful piano and organ but 10 minutes is way too long for this track. The final composition I Take All The Way showcases Gan Eden Il Giadino Delle Delizie at their best: lots of variety and dynamics and exciting work on guitar and keyboards: sparkling Grand piano, fat Minimoog flights, a sensitive electric guitar solo, a fluent rhythm-section and organ play that strongly reminds me of famous Le Orme (Collage-era). The other four songs sound pleasant and melodic with a tasteful colouring by the guitar and keyboards like warm Grand piano, fat Minimoog runs and a pipe organ interlude in the titletrack, slow and fat Minimoog flights, howling guitar and sparkling piano in La Canzione Della Bimba and mellow Hammond runs with fiery guitar in E Dopa Il Vento. The Italian vocals on this album sound warm and inspired in the typical Seventies Italian prog tradition like Metamorfosi and Le Orme. Apart from the first composition I enjoyed this wonderful symphonic prog album and I hope this is not another Italian one-shot-band, recommended to fans of Seventies Italian Symphonic Prog!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
HOGGWASH – The Last Horizon
Here’s one of my more obscure discoveries: Hoggwash, a special musical project that started on the Internet where singer Will Mackie (from a pastoral village in Wales) and multi-instrumentalist Antony Kalugin (from a busy city in the Ukraine) got in touch with each other. They shared a love for progressive rock and this has resulted in the release of this debut album by Hoggwash. The name is derived from a spirit that helps people to come from the dark into the light if they are desperate or feel broken, this symbolizes that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The sound of Hoggwash is more symphonic prog but less adventurous than Antony his other project Karfagen. Nonetheless, Hoggwash has succeeded to make varied and interesting music with flowing shifting moods and good breaks, often topped with strong solos on keyboards and guitar. The first composition is the long and captivating Out Of The Darkness: lots of variety (from compelling and dreamy to mid-tempo and bombastic) and a lush instrumentation featuring fluent synthesizer runs, heavy guitar riffs, wah-wah guitar, powerful vocals, mellow hobo, warm classical guitar and some accordeon. The colouring with the keyboards is wonderful with the sound of brass, Hammond and Mellotron. The other seven tracks also manage to keep my attention for the full running time like in Road Of Many Challenges (from dreamy with soaring kebyoards, flute and Mellotron to compelling with howling guitar and mid-tempo with sensitive guitar and flashy synthesizer flights), Like A Miracle (strong interplay between varied keyboards and guitar along good solos), Another Friday Night (beautiful mellow atmosphere with acoustic guitar, a slow rhythm with howling guitar and bombastic with Hammond, synthesizer runs and wah-wah guitar) and the dreamy final song The Last Horizon delivering a slow keyboard solo, flute and acoustic guitar.
I hope this interesting musical project will be continued, a very good start for Hoggwash!
HOSTSONATEN – Winterthrough (Part III of Season Cycle Suite)
In 2008 Italian six piece band Hostsonaten released this new studio album, six years after their previous effort entitled Springsong. You can divide the 10 compositions on this CD in seven shorter pieces (between 1 and 4 minutes) and three longer songs (between 6 and 13 minutes). The shorter songs are very tastefully coloured with a wide range of instruments, from frequently twanging acoustic guitars and assorted percussion to electric guitar and – piano, vintage keyboards and woodwind – and brass instruments. The climates change from dreamy and compelling to mid-tempo (Snowstorm with a strong final part delivering choir-Mellotron and moving guitar work) and a fluent rhythm like in the short but exciting Outside in which we can enjoy Minimoog flights, choir-Mellotron and Moog Taurus bass pedals, like Wind And Wuthering Genesis, I love it! The 3 long compositions deserve to be described separately, first Entering The Halls Of Winter (10 minutes): the first part sounds like a bolero with tender Grand piano and then slowly other instruments (like soft drums and bass, violin-Mellotron and brass), followed by heavy choir-Mellotron waves and a compeling part with howling guitar and propulsive drums and finally wonderful interplay between piano, clarinet and choir-Mellotron, culminating into a grand finale with a French horn. The track The Crystal Light (almost 7 minutes) starts with lush choir-Mellotron, then a slow rhythm that turns into a dreamy interlude with twanging guitars and a clarinet solo, concluded with an exciting final part featuring fluent drums, powerful Hammond and spoken words. The long final composition is my highlight on this new Hostsonaten album: first a slow rhythm with sensitive guitar and then splendid parts with breathtaking interplay between Grand piano and violin-Mellotron and sumptuous moments with synthesizers, organ, choir-Mellotron and howling guitar, this is Progheaven. What a wonderful and pleasantly arranged blend of Seventies inspired symphonic rock, classical and folk we can enjoy on this album!
HYPNOS 69 – The Eclectic Measure
Initially Belgian formation Hypnos 69 had disbanded but due to the many positive reactions on their latest album the band decided to re-unite and we could even enjoy Hypnos 69 during the second edition of the Dutch Symforce Festival, they blew away the crowd, what a gig!
Listening to The Eclectic Measure, I noticed obvious hints of the pivotal first King Crimson album (from dreamy with Mellotron to violent with propulsive interplay, fiery guitar and powerful saxophone), the track Ominous (But Fooled Before) even sounds like a variation on 21st Century Schizoid Man but the blend of Hammond organ, violin-Mellotron and Glockenspiel gives this song a special flavor. During my first listening session Hypnos 69 their sound reminded me not only of KC but more and more of (King Crimson inspired) Swedish formation Anekdoten because of the tension between mellow, compelling and violent interludes, the intense vocals, the fiery guitarwork, the propulsive rhythm-section and the frequent use of the Mellotron. But these are subjective musical observations, I would like to emphasize that Hypnos 69 delivers very pleasant and varied, often compelling and dynamic progrock. On this CD we can enjoy 10 strong and varied compositions: between propulsive and compelling with wonderful Hammond and Mellotron waves and splendid guitar (from bluesy to Cry Baby wah-wah drenched guitar solos) in the alternating titletrack, bombastic with a heavy rhythm-section, powerful saxophone, fiery guitar and a lush Hammond organ sound in The Antagonist, warm acoustic guitar and vocals, majestic violin-Mellotron and a Lucky Man-like synthesizer solo in Halfway To The Stars, from dreamy and compelling to bombastic with a surprising piece of flamenco guitar and howling electric guitar in the exciting The Point Of No Return and a great build-up and grand finale in the mindblowing final song Deus Ex Machina, from dreamy with Fender Rhodes electric piano and spacey slide guitar to breathtaking interplay between sensitive electric guitar and violin-Mellotron, goose bumps! I am very glad that I was able to visit the Hypnos 69 gig, otherwise I still would have been unaware of this outstanding Belgian band that has made captivating progrock on their fourth album, highly recommended to King Crimson and Anekdoten fans and Heavy Prog aficonados.
ICE - The Saga
This Dutch progrock formation is an offshoot of Dutch band Maryson, the brainchild of writer/keyboardist Wim Stolk. He is not present on this CD, the keyboards are by Ardie Westdijk who once played with his brother in Dutch progrock band Differences in The Eighties. So here we have some experienced prog musicians, this is obvious on The Saga because the 10 compositions sound very professional and pleasant (melodic, harmonic, tasteful and varied): from dreamy to bombastic up-tempo (with echoes from Pendragon) in the opener Starlight, a lush symphonic rock sound delivering howling electric guitar in The Trail, dreamy and compelling featuring a fiery saxophone solo in Not Only Love, from slow to up-tempo with pleasant keyboard work (including a sitar sound) and a wonderful guitar solo in The River and bombastic with Floydian guitar and flashy synthesizer runs in Setback. The final long track This Battle delivers a splendid final part: first acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals with strong hints from early Uriah Heep, then exciting symphonic rock with great soli on guitar, saxophone and keyboards. The vocals on this CD are excellent: Hein v/d Broek delivers emotion and variety and succeeds to give the songs an extra dimension with his singing. Dutch band Ice has made a strong debut-CD, at some moments a bit polished but in general very entertaining with the strong guitar play and tasteful colouring by the keyboards as the main ingredients.
KARMAKANIC – Who’s The Boss In The Factory?
Until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Karmakanic, the solo project by the The Flower Kings bass player Jonas Reingold so I was also not aware that the album Who’s The Boss In The Factory is already Karmakanic their third CD (after Entering The Spectra in 2002 and Wheel Of Life in 2004). But during our long car drive from The Hague to Bakkeveen in Friesland because of the annual Progfarm, we had plenty of time to listen to new progrock and in the end I was mostly impressed by .... Karmakanic, what a dynamic and often exciting progrock!
The long first composition Send A Message From The Heart (almost 20 minutes) delivers very dynamic and alternating (from mellow and slow rhythms to swinging and bombastic) modern sounding progrock featuring splendid keyboard work, from majestic choir-Mellotron and powerful Hammond organ to sparkling Grand piano and a mindblowing Minimoog synthesizer solo with pitchbend in the vein of Jan Hammer in his best days, awesome! The guitarwork is also a strong element, from a jazzy solo to Gilmourian runs and a fiery solo supported by lush Hammond organ, what a start! The other five compositions also succeed to generate a lot of excitement, due to the huge variety and many captivating musical ideas: swinging acoustic guitar, fat R&R inspired guitar and a spectacular synthesizer solo in the fluent Let In Hollywood, wonderful interplay between fretless bass and Grand piano, again a fantastic vintage keyboard sound (from another flashy Minimoog solo to lush Hammond and Mellotron) to fiery wah-wah guitar and a compelling final part in the titletrack, tasteful keyboards, guitar and saxophone in the pleasant Two Blocks From The Edge, very beautiful Grand piano in the short piece Eternally Part I and again beautiful interplay between Grand piano and fretless bass along intense accordion work (evoking the Argentine tango masters), the Malmö String Ensemble and a compelling grand finale with emotional vocals in the melancholical final song Eternally Part II.
My conclusion about this new Karmakanic album: to me it sounds way more interesting than The Flower Kings and I am looking forward to see Karmakanic on stage! Perhaps on the Symforce III Festival?
LINKS: Website | MySpace
KEN’S NOVEL - Domain Of Oblivion
Ken’s Novel is a five-piece band from Belgium, in ’99 they released their first album The Guide, in 2002 two songs from the band could be found on the compilation Spring Rock Festival 2000 and a year later Ken’s Novel released the CD Unplugged?. In 2002 the album Domain Of Oblivion was released on a demo and two years later the band put it on CD, distributed by the French progrock label Musea. On this CD the band uses a wide range of guest musicians (keyboards, bass, backing vocals, lead guitar, violins, cello). The music on the CD Domain Of oblivion sounds melodic, dynamic and varied with good solos on guitar and keyboards and strong interplay between these instruments. The propulsive parts with organ evokes Kansas but in general the main reference is Styx, especially because of the vocals and the more polished parts of their music (AOR/poprock). Despite the running time of almost 77 minutes, the music didn’t fail to generate excitement: lots of spectacular synthesizer flights, some sparkling piano (Voices), sensitive electric guitar with soaring keyboards, metallish guitarwork and bombastic organ (Wisdom Part 3) and a ballad with wah-wah guitar in the end (Distinctive Signs). The absolute highlight on this CD is the long titletrack (more than 16 minutes): fiery electric guitar and sumptuous keyboards, acoustic guitar and piano, a beautiful, bluesy guitarsolo and then ... it’s solo time featuring a jazzy piano, sensational synthesizer runs and a swirling organ, this band ‘progrocks’ during these instrumental fireworks. This is the best from Belgium I’ve heard since the legendary Machiavel!
KNIGHT AREA – Under A New Sign
As a huge fan of the disbanded and underrated Dutch symphonic rock formation Cliffhanger, I was very curious when members Gijs Koopman (Rickenbacker bass and keyboards) and Rinie Huigen (vocals and guitars) decided to found new progrock band Knight Area featuring a singer who once was a member of a Queen-tribute band. In 2004 Knight Area released their debut CD entitled The Sun Also Rises on the known USA progrock label The Laser’s Edge, owned by Tron-Maniac Ken Golden. This debut CD gained worldwide appreciation and Knight Areas was even invited on the annual Nearfest Festival in 2005, among Italian progrock legends Le Orme and Banco.
On this second CD entitled Under A New Sign I notice that Knight Area has matured on all levels (compositions, interplay, creativity, variety). The seven tracks frequently contain catchy mid-tempo’s (featuring a fluent, often propulsive rhythm- section, pleasant vocals, wonderful keyboards and strong guitar work) that shift very flowing from dreamy and compelling to bombastic. Knight Area their sound scouts the borders between mid-Genesis (twanging guitars, Moog Taurus bass pedals, Mellotron waves and synthesizer runs) and early IQ (accessible and powerful with fiery guitar and heavy choir-Mellotron eruptions). Some songs deliver surprising elements like a jazzy Hammond organ solo in the alternating titletrack and melancholic violin play in the mellow Courteous Love. This strong and pleasant CD ends in great style: a splendid closing section in the final composition A Different Man Part II (firmly rooted in the 24-carat symphonic prog tradition) with a compelling and bombastic climate featuring a deep Moog Taurus bass pedal sound, lush choir-Mellotron and a howling guitar solo, this is Progheaven, goosebumps!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
KOTEBEL – Omphalos
This is the new CD by the interesting Spanish formation Kotobel, it is their fourth studio album since the debut CD entitled Structures from 1999. To me it sounds as their best effort, very varied and adventurous with some early King Crimson elements and a lush instrumentation (from Fripperian electric guitar and sumptuous keyboards to Grand piano, acoustic guitar, flute and cello). The most remarkable element in Kotobel their music on this Omphalos CD is the opera-like female voice that sounds powerful with a wide range. The ‘magnum opus’ on this CD is the long composition Pentacle’s Suite (five parts, 30 minutes): we can enjoy Kotobel at their best delivering great shifting moods, strong breaks, excellent interplay and exciting soli on several instruments. My highlights are a howling electric guitar solo in Mercury Pentacle, a wonderful classical intermezzo in Venus Pentacle (including piano and cello) and lots of changing climates in the alternating Mars Pentacle, from swirling flute, powerful bass runs, a fat synthesizer sound and virtuosic interplay. This new Kotobel album will not be everybody’s cup of tea but those progheads who wants to discover adventurous and a bit quirky progrock should check out this amazing Spanish band.
DPRP have also reviewed Fragments of Light (2003) and Mysticae Visiones (2001)
LINKS: Website | MySpace
KRAMER – Life Cycle
Here’s another Dutch formation: Kramer, rooted in the Dutch formation Lorian (2001) and since 2004 the new name (with some new members) is Kramer. On this debut CD entitled Life Cycle you will find nine compositions and the running time is at about 70 minutes. Kramer their sound is melodic, tasteful and alternating and they do their best to make original progrock. The first song Homecoming showcases Kramer their compositorial talents and pleasant musical ideas: an intro with sensitive guitar and piano, then a fluent rhythm with pleasant vocals, propulsive drums and guitar, the band slows down with twanging acoustic guitar and in the end the sound become gradually lush with strong interplay between guitar and keyboards. That element is colouring the other songs on this album very tastefully and I also like the contrast between the warm sound of Grand piano and the howling runs on the electric guitar, like in the varied Identity and A Farewell, The Final Chord (intens blend of piano and guitar) and the great final piece Life Cycle. My other highlights are the sumptuous final part with classical orchestrations and fiery guitar in Escape Into A Dream and the wah-wah drenched guitar and emotional vocals in I Believe. In my opinion Kramer has delivered a strong debut CD, check out their website to discover this fine new Dutch progrock formation.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
LUNATIC SOUL - Lunatic Soul
The Polish Heavy Prog band Riverside has become very popular in Holland and I am still very happy that I have witnessed three gigs, what a compelling and dynamic sound! When I heard that two Riverside members (singer and bass player Mariusz Duda and keyboardplayer Michal Lapaj) had started the new musical project Lunatic Soul, I was very curious to their sound. Because of Mariusz his melancholical moods and fascination for madness, I didn’t expect "In Dulci Jubilo-like songs". Mariusz is the only one who plays in all songs, he has written all lyrics and he turns out to be a multi-instrumentalist with a very important role on this album. And about Michal Lapaj, he plays in two songs on the distinctive Hammond organ. The music on Lunatic their eponymous debut album is not 100% similar to Riverside, that’s a plus for Mariusz and the others. Only a few songs are in the vein of the typical Heavy Prog Riverside sound like the titletrack, Where The Darkness Is Deeper (hypnotising with orchestral keyboards) and Drift (dreamy with warm vocals and sensitive electric guitar). But in general Lunatic Soul sounds more subdued and more atmospheric, from sultry and dreamy to hypnotizing. I would like to describe Mariusz his vocals as ‘impressionistic’ the way he colours the compositions (pretty dark in my opinion). His strongest contributions are in the second, very compelling part of the titletrack (expressive with lush Hammond support) and the strongly build-up The Final Truth (from a dreamy first part to a bombastic finale with emotional vocals). In a few songs you can enjoy ethnic instruments like the kalimba (‘thumb-piano’) in the titletrack and the ‘quzheng’ (Koto) in the Far Eastern sounding Waiting For The Dawn. I am sure the fans of Mariusz his distinctive vocals will be pleased with this album but you have to be up to the more subdued and atmospheric sound. Personally I love the way Lunatic Soul uses a wide range of instruments and succeeds to put emotion into the music, a very good start!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
MANGROVE – Coming Back To Live
After their debut albums Touch Wood (2004) and Facing The Sunset (2005) on this live 2-CD set you will experience that Mangrove is ‘live’ at its best! The 10 compositions sound tasteful, melodic, accessible and contain lots of fluent shifting moods, from dreamy to mid-tempo and from a slow rhythm to bombastic eruptions. The keyboard work has strong echoes from Tony Banks (70-77 Genesis era) featuring excellent choir-Mellotron samples (like Afterglow on Seconds Out), strong Hammond organ waves, some Fender Rhodes electric piano runs and many synthesizer flights (often Banks his known ARP Pro Solist sound). Especially the long and alternating track Wizard Of Tunes is loaded with a great keyboard sound (wonderful classical orchestrations and majestic choir-Mellotron), the interplay with the guitar is very pleasant and I was carried away during the final part, how compelling. Also the ‘grand finale’ on City Of Darkness was goose bumps with howling electric guitar and bombastic synthesizer work, this is Progheaven! Remarkable is the King Crimson climate (Red-era) in Facing The Sunset with a dark and ominous sound. Other fine tracks are the ‘epics’ on CD-2 I Fear The Day (wonderful Mellotron sound) and the final song Hidden Dreams (moving electric guitar play and great choir-Mellotron). On this live 2-CD Dutch symphonic prog band Mangrove has prooved to be a very pleasant option for those progheads who love mid-Genesis and early Marillion.
DPRP reviewed their debut EP back in 2001 entitled Massive Hollowness.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
MASS MEDIA – Criptoidea
The Italian formation Mass Media made music in the Seventies but they have reunited because the label Electromantic invited the band to make a new album, the current line-up features three original members. This CD entitled Criptoidea contains 13 songs, four contain (Italian) vocals, the rest is instrumental. The music often delivers swinging and fluent jazzrock (echoes from Mahavishnu Orchestra and Brand X) with lots of guitar and Fender Rhodes electric piano (along Hammond organ and synthesizers) and a very adventurous, often propulsive rhythm-section. I am impressed by the musicians their skills and interplay, it’s obvious they are very experienced and know each other very well in musical terms. I am delighted about the parts in which the guitar is supported by strings/ a propulsive rhythm-section and the duels between guitar and keyboards, what an energy. The final composition Suite Del Ringraziamento is a tribute to some classical composers and keyboardists Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. It is recorded live in the studio and contains short renditions of compositions by Bach (Badinerie and Preludio), Mozart (Rondo A La Turca), Bernstein (America), Brubeck (Blue Rondo A La Turk), Copland (Hoedown) and Wakeman (Catherine Howard). We can enjoy sparkling piano and fiery guitar and great interplay between guitar and keyboards, remarkably is the fiery electric guitar in Hoedown instead of the fat synthesizer sound. I am sure this CD wil please many jazzrock fans, what an exciting CD!
MIKROMIDAS – Brennende Drommer
This debut album - Brennende Drommer - (2001) by Norwegian progrock band Mikromidas is “a Tron-maniac’s wet dream”! The music is simply structured, wonderful 24-carat symphonic rock, loaded with Hammond and Mellotron, often the early Barclay James Harvest comes to my mind. But the emotional Norwegian vocals and the layers of violin Mellotron also evokes the work of fellow Skandinavians Landberk and Anglagard. The music is rather simple and accesible but the emotional impact is very great, it invites you to dream away from the daily stress and problems! The guitarwork is beautiful and very sensitive with some awesome interplay with the keyboards. The compositions contain alternating climates, from mellow with organ and twanging guitar to sumptuous outbursts with floods of Hammond and Mellotron. Simply beautiful!
DPRP have reviewed their last album Faunus in 2005.
MINDFIELDS – One
Another formation from Poland, incredible, what a fertile progrock ground! On their modern sounding debut album One (2008) the Polish quintet Mindfields starts with the alternating composition In This Life, from mellow with piano/strings and a tight mid-tempo rhythm with fiery guitar and lush organ to a wonderful part with piano and orchestral keyboards and strong solos on guitar and synthesizer. Every song (the albums contains 8 songs, running time 50 minutes) is followed by a short instrumental track featuring beautiful classical guitar (the final one also soaring keyboards). The other three compositions deliver lots of variety: a spacey intro, Hendrix-like wah-wah guitar, Floydian inspired guitar runs and an exciting duel between guitar and synthesizer in Ready To Live, lots of shifting moods and tasteful work on guitar and keyboards in Home and a compelling final part with heavy guitar, lush organ and powerful drums beats in the highlight Nobody’s Dream. To me Mindfields sounds as a very promising band, a big hand for the current Polish progrock scene!
NEMEZIS – Nemezis
More Poland: Nemezis is a new five piece band that delivers wonderful neo-prog on their eponymous debut-CD (2008): from mellow with twanging guitars, soaring synthesizers and warm female vocals to compelling and bombastic with varied keyboards and beautiful, often Steve Rothery-like guitarwork (many times he carried me away to Marillion’s Fish era). My highlights are the moving guitar solo in Unknown Tomorrow, the exciting interplay between a church-organ sound, guitar and drums in With No Return, a spectacular synthesizer solo in Somewhere In Time and the long final piece The End (more than 12 minutes) that succeeds to generate a lot of excitement: a dreamy intro with warm vocals, piano and soarin gkeyboards, a wonderful part with intense orchestral keyboards, beautiful piano with longing vocals, sensitive guitarplay in a slow rhythm, a mid-tempo with propulsive drums, a long and harder-edged guitar solo (like Steve Rothery at his pinnacle) and a quite mellow conclusion with piano and again that excellent female voice. I am sure that especially the neo-progheads will be very pleased with the Nemezis sound.
NEVERNESS - Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles
Here’s another overlooked new Spanish formation, founded in the late Nineties. In 2002 they released their debut album entitled Horizonte De Sucesos but then it took five years until Neverness produced a successor. If you listen to Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles, you can conclude that the time was worth waiting, the band has made a huge progress, what a wonderful and often exciting CD! The sound of Neverness has no obvious references, every track (between 5 and 13 minutes) on the album contains lots of flowing shifting moods with many interesting musical ideas and a dynamic rhythm-section. A very captivating element is the contrast between the rock-oriented guitar work and the varied ‘vitnage keyboard’ sound, from Mellotron and Moog synthesizer to Fender Rhodes piano, Farfisa organ and Solina string-ensemble. I was carried away during the strongly build-up and often very compelling guitar soli like in Muro De Cristal - Maldita Esperanza (from sensitive to fiery) and Sin Horizonte (long and bluesy with great support on strings and organ). Other great moments are the pyschedelic sounding intro during Desde El Silencio (the guitar and organ sound evoke Pink Floyd At Pompeii), the variety and wonderful vintage keyboards (Mellotron, organ and piano) in Mi Mundo Al Reves and the many goodmusical ideas in the captivating final song Mundo De Locos (4 parts). I am impressed by this second effort by this new Spanish band, what a good musicians and what a wonderful and often compelling compositions, a big hand for Neverness!
NOSTRADAMUS – Testament
I am a huge fan of Solaris so I was very curious when the rhythm-section of this legendary Hungarian progrock band founded Solaris Fusion in 2007 and released the mini-CD Mystica (2 compositions). One year later the band changed their name into Nostradamus with almost the same line-up (only a new fluteplayer) but another musical direction, I would like to describe it as a Heavy Prog version of Solaris. On their first album entitled Testament it’s obvious that most musicians are classically trained, the interplay is awesome and especially the compositorial skills of keyboardplayer Valeria Barcsik are great, this turnes listening to Testament into a captivating musical experience. I am excited about the tension between on one hand the heavy rhythm-section, propulsive guitar riffs and powerful guitar and on the other hand the sparkling flute and sumptuous keyboards, it sounds like “classical meets progmetal”, great! My favorite moments on this CD are Solarissimo (bombastic and dynamic with swirling flute, fat synthesizer flights and sensitive electric guitar runs, the Spanish undertones are strong), Divine Comedy (between Heavy Prog and progmetal with fiery guitar, sparkling flute and orchestral keyboards), the enervating and dynamic titletrack (omnipresent flutework, warm Grand piano, propulsive guitar riffs, a strong organ solo and excellent interplay), a beautiful build-up in Emotion (from dreamy with twanging guitar to a compelling grand finale with howling guitar) and warm interplay between classical flute and acoustic guitar in Secret In Hand. A bit of a maverick is the short song African Cotton Typesetters In Ireland that blends African singing and Irish folk instruments, very special! The bonustrack My Emotion is a strong conclusion, it starts mellow with dreamy vocals and soaring keyboards and ends bombastic with howling electric guitar. What a stunning debut CD this Hungarian formation has delivered, it deserves worldwide attention, progheads alert!
LINKS: None Found
OBSCURA – Le Citta Invisibili
The first time I listened to this new Italian formation their captivating debut CD entitled Le Citta Invisibli (2007), I was excited about the variety, the music shifts from mellow with sparkling Grand piano to heavy with Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) inspired guitar riffs like, very remarkable, almost were opposites meet! More examples of this stunning variety in the compositions Limbo Cosmico Part I (from mellow flute to heavy guitar and a wonderful, very sensitive guitar solo, supported by huge Mellotron waves, Progheaven!), La Citta Del Sole (sparkling piano and heavy guitar riffs, an accellaration with organ and guitar and finally Fender Rhodes and again heavy riffs), Limbo Cosmico Part II (beautiful interplay between piano and flute, a moving guitar solo with lush organ and a great final part with good vocals, flute and choir-Mellotron)) and the excellent final composition Guernica (alternating with Fender Rhodes piano/flute and neo-prog with fluent synthesizer flights, organ and propulsive drums and a compelling part with wah-wah guitar, first supported by organ and then by majestic choir-Mellotron, goose bumps!). This CD delivers two short pieces: Bersebea featuring Grand piano arpeggio’s and mellow flute and Ipazia with a flute/acoustic guitar duet, wonderful. Although they still have to mature, to me this debut album sounds as a captivating blend of symphonic (tasteful vintage keyboards), classical and hardrock, a band to discover.
ODYSSICE – Impression
In fact this Dutch formation is not a new progrock band because Odyssice is rooted in the late Eighties. The prime mover was guitarplayer Bastiaan Peeters and two American friends on drums and keyboards. In ’87 Odyssice released their debut-demo Track One, the sound has echoes from Rush and Camel. Unfortunately some members were not able to concentrate on the band and Odyssice disbanded. Surprisingly Odyssice returned to the progrock scene in 1996 in a new four piece line-up and with the release of a mini-CD (four songs) entitled Moondrive (released in 1996). Because of the start with a new line-up and a new sound, I have decided to add Odyssice to this article.
In 2000 Odyssice released the CD entitled Impression. This album is in the vein of the mini-CD Moondrive but with more mature and alternating compositions. Jeroen delivers a lush keyboardsound (piano, Mellotron – and Moog samples) in some songs but the focus is on Bastiaan Peeters with his sensitive guitarplay and the use of a guitar-synthesizer (spectacular – and surprising sounds). The progress of this band is emphasized by the integration of ethnic elements from Scotland, China and India, very beautiful and a proove that Odyssice is on the way to develop their own sound. I’m sure this album will please a lot of symphomaniacs!
In 2003, Odyssice rereleased Moondrive as Moondrive Plus.
OMNI – Solo Fue Un Sueno
It’s a while ago that the Spanish six piece band Omni made music, in the late Eighties Omni produced two albums. This new album is their third album, released in 2007 and again it contains pure instrumentally music. The sound of Omni on Solo Fue Un Sueno has obvious echoes from Seventies Camel and also reminds me frequently of Dutch Camel-inspired bands Lady Lake and especially Odyssice: very melodic, flowing and often sensitive guitar work (compelling in Noche En Malandar, fiery in Telescopio de Papel en biting wah-wah in Espíritu Libre), omnipresent interplay between guitar and keyboards, some pitchbend driven Minimoog sounding soli (like in Telescopio de Papel and the dreamy final song Salto al Abismo) and finally the use of saxophone (sultry in El Tren De Rota). Like Seventies Camel the sound by Omni is like a ‘warm bath’ as on the Camel albums Mirage and Moonmadness, my favorite Camel-era. Along the strong guitarwork, the keyboard player colours the compositions very tasteful with varied vintage keyboards like the Fender Rhodes electric piano, the violin-Mellotron (wonderful intro on Noche En Malandar), Minimoog synthesizer, Solina string-ensemble and the Hammond organ (swirling solo in the alternating highlight Espíritu Libre). Omni doesn’t make very original symphonic prog but it sounds wonderful with strong work on guitar and keyboards and tasteful arranged compositions.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
OSADA VIDA – The Body Parts Party
After their highly acclaimed previous effort entitled Three Seats Behind A Triangle (2006) I was very curious or this new Polish progrock band was able to deliver again such an exciting and dynamic sound on this new album entitled The Body Parts Party (2008). During my first listening session I noticed that Osada Vida didn’t change their sound, in fact it’s very much in the vein of Three Seats Behind A Triangle: the atmospheres alternates between Heavy Prog and prog-metal with fat and propulsive guitar riffs, lots of fiery and wah-wah drenched guitar solo, an often thundering rhythm-section and sensational synthesizer flights. But it is the blend of inventive musical ideas into Osada their music that gives their sound an extra dimension, this lifts it high above the average prog metal bands that are too often focussed on scale-acrobatics and high-adrenaline climates. Some good examples: mellow with soaring keyboards and a subtle guitar solo in Brain - Mind On Cloud Nine, use of the distinctive Hammond sound in Spine - In Full Swing, varied keyboards (Fender – and Grand piano and organ) in the dreamy Heart - Back And Forth, a swinging bass, lush keyboards and excellent interplay in Muscle - Strong But Powerless, a compelling build-up with jazzy piano and a spacey climate in Bone - My Name is Bone The Single Bone and a hypnotizing Riverside-like atmosphere in the strong bonustrack Remember Your Name. What a band, in my opinion they can compete with fellow countrymen Riverside!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
PANDORA – Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco
Did you think Il Bacio Delle Medusa is the best new Italian progrock band in the last five years? Well, check out Italian four piece formation Pandora, what an exciting sound! The band is rooted in 2006, inspired by Genesis, Yes, PFM, New Trolls and Dream Theater. After a serie of concerts in early 2008, Pandora got a record deal with the known Italian label Btf., specialized in progressive rock.
On their debut album Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco (7 tracks, running time 63 minutes) Pandora is scouting the borders between Classic Italian Prog, symphonic rock, Heavy Prog and prog metal in a very exciting way. We can enjoy lots of bombastic and compelling atmospheres, loaded with heavy guitarplay, sensational keyboardwork (3 members play on keyboards!) and thunderous drumming like Il Giudizio Universale (exciting break, great wah-wah guitar and passionate Italian vocals), the instrumental March To Hell (swirling Hammond organ solo, fat Minimoog sound and obvious Dream Theater elements), Pandora (the piano is wonderfully blended in the heavy sound) and the titletrack (beautiful Grand piano intro and a splendid grand finale with compelling keyboardwork and a very moving guitar solo, goose bumps). But in other songs Pandora also deliver great build-ups like Così Come Sei (from dreamy with soaring keyboards and acoustic guitar to compelling with a strong electric guitar/synthesizer duet and bombastic with furious drumwork and heavy guitar) or mellow like Breve Storia di San George (wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, flute-Mellotron, warm Italian vocals, classical orchestrations, delicate harpsichord runs and a pleasant flute solo in the end). The most elaborate composition is the final track entitled Salto Nel Buio (close to 14 minutes), it sounds very varied and contains lots of captivating, very flowing shifting moods and surprising musical ideas, from a short interlude with acoustic guitar and choir-Mellotron to a piece with prog metal overtones and a jazzy vibraphone solo. The final part is very exciting featuring fat synthesizer flights and propulsive drum beats, slowly fading away, I am in Progheaven!
My simple conclusion: highly recommended and ... play it loud!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
(I)PENNELLI DI VERMEER – La Primavera Dei Sordi
Pennelli Di Vermeer (the name is derived from the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer) is rooted in 2002, in 2007 they released the mini-CD Tramedannata and one year later the debut CD entitled La Primavera Dei Sordi. Well, I was blown away during my first listening session, what a varied and unique prog this is with an important role for the vocals, from an opera-like female voice to theatrical vocal harmonies or even a small children choir. The variety in the 10 compositions is great: a tango-like rhythm in the first track Tre Cadaveri Nel Cassetto, a kind of “Madness meets The Shadows” in the cheerful Manifesto 70 x 100, wonderful interplay between violin and Grand piano in Cinque Minuti...Una Notte, a Hawkwind-like atmosphere with a hypnotizing beat and synthesizer beeps and bleeps in S.K.L.Ero, vintage keyboards (Farfisa – and Hammond organ and flute-Mellotron) and a wide range of singers in Luce and a synthesizer sound in the vein of The Stranglers (late Eighties-era) and a spectacular synthesizer solo in Incuboinuncubo. My highlights are the two most ‘traditional progrock efforts’: an intro with warm vocals and twanging acoustic guitar, then a slow rhythm featuring wonderful work on wiolin with soaring organ and excellent male and female vocals in Nel Giardino Di Belzebu’ and sumptuous church organ and howling guitar in the alternating Carogna. If you are up to an adventurous progrock journey (this music will not be everybody’s cup of tea), check out this genuine progrock effort by a very unique new Italian band, what a thrill that 30 years after the Classic Italian Prog-era, new Italian progrock bands succeed to present such an unique, daring and adventurous prog, a big hand for I Penneli Di Vermeer!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
PROGRESSION – The Dream Of Cecilia
The Finnish band Progression was founded in 1976, they made a demo, did a few gigs and twenty years later they were refounded by original member Harri Nokso with “new members and new ideas”. In 2007 Progression released her instrumental debut CD The Dream Of Cecilia, finally! On this CD the band describes their music as ‘groovy jazzrock’, influenced by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham and John McLaughlin. In the nine melodic, mainly swinging compositions I hear elements from Mahavishnu Orchestra, Al DiMeola and JL Ponty, played very energetic and convincing: an adventurous, often propulsive rhythm-section, powerful dual-guitarwork, sparkling violinplay and some songs contain keyboards, it sounds fluent and exciting, what a band! The only mellow song is Bright Light From High featuring dreamy work on acoustic – and electric guitar and a sitar-like sound. But in general Progression indeed delivers ‘groovy jazzrock’ with strong interplay and cascades of solos on guitar (in almost every song fiery work by the two guitarplayers, in some songs dual guitarwork like in Nightmare and Hyperactive Games), on violin (swirling in Nightmare, Gansta Race and Mental Activity) and on keyboards (swinging Fender piano in the titletrack and spectaculair synthesizer fights in Bright Light From High, Hyperactive Games and Little Confusion). To me this album sounds as a splendid tribute to the Seventies jazzrock!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
RANDOM DEEDS - Basis Of Comparison
On Internet and in progrock magazines I have hardly read reviews about this this unknown Hungarian four piece band, they have surprised me pleasantly with the both melodic and accessible as elaborate compositions on their first album. The vocals often reminds me of Frank Borneman from legendary German prog band Eloy. The music alternates between dreamy, compelling and bombastic with the focus on a lush Hammond organ sound and Gilmourian guitar work. Some good examples are the first song Respect For The Exceptions (intro with mellow organ and twanging guitar, then a moving climate featuring a wonderful guitar solo), the strong build-up Compass (compelling with majestic Hammond waves and a sensitive guitar solo and halfway a break with propulsive guitar riffs and a bombastic finale), the dreamy Before Dinner (a pleasant atmosphere with beautiful acoustic guitar) and the final track Out Of The Great Valley (howling guitar and lush organ). After a few listening sessions this album delighted me more and more, I think the Pink Floyd fans and those who love German prog like Jane and Eloy should give this new and unknown but promising Hungarian band a chance.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
SENOGUL – Senogul
To me Senogul sounds as a very good example of the resurrection of the current Spanish progressive progrock. I was pleasantly surprised with their debut album entitled Transitos but I am really delighted about their eponymous second CD, what a wonderful symphonic prog! It contains 12 compositions including new versions of all five tracks from the debut album. The music sounds on one hand very melodic and quite accessible and on the other hand varied and elaborate. The has progressed on all levels: a better sound, very matured compositions, a more lush and varied keyboard sound, the guitar work is excellent and the interplay great. To get an impression: a classical sounding piano intro, soon blended with sensitive electric guitarplay and halfway a female choir, conga’s and dynamic drums in Dr. Gull I, a swinging piano, howling gutiar and a jazzy guitar solo in the catchy Racionalidad, an intro with bagpipe, then varied, often swirling piano work and a wide range of instruments (from the fiery guitar and powerful saxophone to a strongly build-up Minimoog synthesizer with pitchbend) in the captivating La Verbena Hermetica, lots of variety and strong duo-guitarplay with an exciting blend of the soli in La Maha Vishnuda, lots of brass and fiery guitar in the Alquin-like Agua, Fuego & Porexpan and dreamy featuring sensitive guitar and soaring keyboards in Travesia De Las Gaviotas. And in some tracks you can enjoy the sound of the flute traverse. My highlights are the two compositions in which Senogul blends several styles and we can enjoy lots of shifting moods: first Tango Mango that sounds as a hybrid of tango, symphonic prog, avant-garde, classical and jazz delivering both synthesizer – and guitar soli as sparkling play on accordeon and harpsichord and second La Mulatta Electrica, loaded with tension and exciting musical ideas, from Al DiMeola-like symphonic jazzrock (fiery guitar and propulsive rhythm-section) to Prog Andaluz (including palmas/handclapping and jaleos/cheerful shouts) with swinging piano and moving electric guitar runs. In my opinion Senogul has made a very pleasant and captivating album that showcases the huge talents of this band, highly recommended!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
SEVEN REIZH — Samsara
Seven Reizh is a French musical project featuring the duo Claude Mignon (keyboards, guitars, compositions) and Gérard Le Dortz (graphics, story, voice and samples) along many guest musicians. This Samsara CD is the successor of the album Strinkadenn Ys that was released in 2001, a while ago. Somewhere on Internet I read that Seven Reich intends to make a trilogy, well, I am looking forward to that because Samsara is a very captivating and often compelling blend of ethnic music and progressive rock (with hints from Pink Floyd and Camel) with the emphasis on ethnic. In the huge booklet (20x20 cm) you can read about the story, the lyrics and the wide range of instruments, these are blended in a wonderful way into the 14 compositions. The climates are in general dreamy with a sultry undertone and we can enjoy great female and male vocals in French (Breton), English and Arabian (the North-African Berber language). The songs flow into each other and are all small jewels, so beautiful and warm, from the short opener Encore (melancholical violincello with twanging guitar and a mellow trumpet sound), Soñj (compelling contrast between fragile piano, flute and soaring vocals and bombastic keyboards and propulsive guitar chords) and the breathtaking Ay Adu (Arabian vocals, Scottish bagpipes, a wonderful solo on classical guitar, followed by powerful electric guitar) to Qim Iydi... (a lush sound with piano, violincello, accordeon and moving interplay between piano and howling electric guitar) and A-roak (a slow rhythm featuring organ and a bombastic part with again howling guitar). It was a real treat to listen to all those ethnic instruments, from the Scottish bagpipe and the Celtic harp and tin-whistle to the Arabian udu along the bodhran, duduk, flute traverse and tambour, to name a few! If you are up to a captivating musical adventure on the borders of folk and prog, I am sure you will be pleased with this wonderful album, highly recommended to prog folk fans!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
SIMON SAYS – Tardigrade
Swedish formation Simon Says their second CD entitled Paradise Square blew me away and I was also delighted about their splendid contribution to the 2-CD Odyssey : The Greatest Tale. This turned me into a Simons Says fan so I was very curious to this new release Tardigrade. Well, halfway my first listening session I quickly concluded that the album Tardigrade is very worth listening and after two listening sessions it’s even on the brink of being superior to Paradise Square! I am delighted about the lush vintage keyboard sound, what a cascade of Mellotron waves, Moog sounds and Hammond organ runs, especially in the alternating opener Suddenly The Rain (fiery guitar, heavy Hammond, flashy Moog flights, the sound of a steel-guitar and a bombastic interlude with majestic choir-Mellotron), As The River Runs (spectaculare Moog sounds and wah-wah – and steel guitar blended with Hammond and Mellotron) and my absolute highlight, the epic (more than 25 minutes) Brother New Day that contains many instrumental parts including a sensational break with pleasant synthesizer work, wah-wah guitar and choir-Mellotron like Howe and Wakeman, sparkling piano, fat Moog runs like early Keith Emerson and frequently exciting interplay between guitar and keyboards. In some tracks you can enjoy the sound of the vocoder (like Mr. Blue Sky by ELO) and I love the song Moon Mountain with a wonderful blend of classical – and electric guitar, like a duet by Hackett and Howe. I would like to end this review with the remark that the distinctive, slightly theatrical vocals will not be everybody’s cup of tea. But to me it’s not a problem and many parts on this CD are instrumental so hope you will share my enthusiasm!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
SONIC PULSAR - Out Of Place
I am not really into progressive metal but when I got this Out Of Place CD as a promo, I was stunned by this Portuguese trio: most of their music is dynamic and energetic progmetal (fortunately not those endless scale-acrobatics) with lots of exciting ideas and variety and splendid metallish guitarwork (many biting and howling soli and propulsive heavy riffs), this man is a sensation! Sonic Pulsar also creates moments to relax featuring acoustic rhythm guitar, great keyboards (wonderful piano, classical orchestrations and a soaring string-sound) and some panflute. In my opinion Sonic Pulsar has made a progmetal album on an international level, highly recommended!
DPRP have also reviewed Playing The Universe, the band's debut release from 2001.
SURVIVAL – Crusader
This is a musical project by Dutch keyboard player Jack Langevelt, a huge fan of the Seventies symphonic rock and the late keyboard wizard Rick Van Der Linden. Between 1981 and 1997 Survival existed in its first line-up, then disbanded but fortunately Jack didn’t give up and now we can enjoy the Musea release of his first album entitled Crusader (2008). From the very first moment I listened to this instrumental album, I was carried away to ‘Vintage Keyboard Heaven’, what a wonderful and often compelling keyboard driven symphonic rock: a tight rhythm with a lush and powerful, Jon Lord-like Hammond sound, fiery guitar and propulsive drum work in The Holy Land, orchestral keyboards in the melancholical Lamentation, a long and swirling Hammond solo and howling duo-guitar in the titletrack, a slow rhythm with pitchbend driven synthesizer work and lush Hammond organ in I Cried For You, sparkling piano, exciting Hammond and synthesizer play and splendid Gilmourian guitar in Exceptional Friend, majestic church organ in The Knights Templar, sensational interplay between keyboards (including a choir-Mellotron sound), guitar and rhythm-section with lots of great solos on keyboards and guitar and a compelling duet between synthesizer and guitar in the long Montsigard and a dreamy final track entitled After All featuring beautiful interplay between warm piano and soaring keyboards, a subtle conclusion of an often bombastic and compelling sounding album that reminds me of Japanese progrock band Gerard (but I wonder or Jack has ever heard of that Japanese progrock band...). After the tragical lost of keyboard-wizard Rick Van Der Linden, we can enjoy a new Dutch master on the (vintage) keyboards: Jack Langevelt, thanks for your wonderful debut album, I am proud to be Dutch and .. looking forward to your next album!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
THIEVES’ KITCHEN – The Water Road
During my first listening session of this album, the music often evoked Anglagard because of the frequent powerful Hammond organ runs and the abundant violin-Mellotron eruptions. Well, this was no coincidence: guest musicians Thomas Jonson (keyboards) and Anna Holmgren once they joined ... the legendary and highly acclaimed progrock band Anglagard, what a pleasant surprise! Along those King Crimson inspired bands like Anglagard and Anekdoten, we can also enjoy mellow parts with classical overtones (flute, hobo, cello) and dynamic jazzrock featuring a guitar sound in the vein of Daryl Stuermer and an omnipresent Fender Rhodes electric piano.
This great musical variety is very present in the epic first composition The Long Fianchetto (over 20 minutes) delivering a wonderful piano intro, strong interplay between electric guitar and Fender piano, bombastic Hammond and Mellotron work, fiery guitar runs, dreamy parts with beautiful female vocals, flute and acoustic guitar and a compelling final part with lush keyboards, fiery guitar and a propulsive rhythm-section. The frequent shifting moods sound very flowing and I am delighted about the tasteful keyboard arrangements, often in strong interplay with the guitar. Next the instrumental Returglas, an exciting blend of folk, rock and prog that contains lots of interesting musical ideas, a big hand for Thieves’ Kitchen! Then the dreamy Chameleon with a lush instrumentation (from saxophone and hobo to Hammond organ) and a beautiful grand finale featuring majestic violin-Mellotron and howling guitar. The track Om Tare (lyrics in Sanskrit) sounds like swinging ‘symphonic jazzrock (evoking Colosseum II) with excellent keyboardplay and sensational guitarwork. The long, violin-Mellotron drenched composition Tacenda For You (close to 10 minuts) alternates between mellow (with flute and cello), compelling and catchy with again great keyboard variety and strong guitarwork (from Fripperian to a powerful jazzrock sound). Next the the song When The Moon Is In The River Of Heaven: first a moving atmosphere with sensitive guitar, violin-Mellotron, warm vocals and Fender piano, then mighty Mellotron waves and a dreamy climate that gradually turns into more lush and compelling featuring delicate Fender piano, flute and the unsurpassed Mellotron. Then the short, to me a bit too fragmentic track Plaint.
The final composition is the long The Water Road, mainly quite laidback (in the vein of the beautiful Italian ‘pastoral’ prog like Celeste and Apotheosi) with a dreamy sound of flute, cello, hobo, halfway followed by more powerful work on Hammond, Mellotron and Fender piano. Then the music slows down but in the final part the music turns into bombastic and compelling with fiery electric guitar, fluent drum work and lush violin-Mellotron, a splendid goodbey! I am impressed by the alternating sound of Thieves’ Kitchen on their new album The Water Road, highly recommended!
DPRP have also reviewed Shibboleth (2003), Argot (2001) and their debut album Head released in 2000.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
(LA) TORRE DELLE ALCHIMISTA — Neo
Since their eponymous debut album from 2001, this Italian band has turned from a five piece formation into a quartet, on this new CD Neo accompanied by guest musicians on flute traverse, violin, saxophone and guitar. The last years La Torre Dell’ Alchimista has performed on several festival like Nearfest 2002 in the USA and The Gouviea Art Rock Festival 2005 in Portugal, I notice this has boosted their experience and compositorial skills if you compare Neo with their debut CD. The new album contains seven compositions (running time around 50 minutes), most sound fluent, melodic and accessible, especially the parts with vocals. I had to get used to the vocals in the first song but gradually I started to appreciate the singer and in the end I was pleased with his contributions. La Torre Dell’Alchimista their sound is drenched with a ‘vintage’ keyboards like mainly the Hammond organ (with obvious hints from Keith Emerson and Rick van der Linden during Trace) but also synthesizers (like the Minimoog), the Fender Rhodes electric piano, the Mellotron (often the violin-section) and the Grand piano. The interplay between the instruments is wonderful and colours this album very tastefully like the ‘Liturgic organ’ and violin in Medusa, a sensitive piano and violin in Risveglio Procreazione E Dubbio pt. I and flute traverse with Fender Rhodes piano and fluent synthesizer flights with intense violin in de final song Risveglio Procreazione E Dubbio pt. II. Two tracks deliver solo pieces on Grand piano: sparkling and compelling in Idra and dreamy, quite romantic in L’Amore Diverso. But I am most impressed by the lush keyboard sound featuring bombastic Hammond organ, majestic Mellotron waves and lots of fat sounding synthesizers, almost every track contain exciting keyboard work, this reminds me of fellow Seventies Italian prog legend Rustichelli & Bordini (bombastic use of Hammond and Moog) and Trace (fast Hammond runs and a wide range of vintage keyboards). La Torre Dell’Alchimista has made a lot of progress on their new album and especially the vintage keyboard aficionados will be delighted!
DPRP have reviewed the band's second album USA ... You Know? released in 2005.
TRAUMPFAD – Die Kreise Schliessen Sich
The German quintet Traumpfad was founded in the late Nineties and exists in their recent line-up since 2003. In 2004 they released their eponymous debut-CD and two years later we can enjoy this second effort. Because of the German vocals the music reminds me of early Novalis and the album Wer Will? by Anabis. Their music is rooted in the melodic rock tradition but the frequent shifting moods, surprising breaks and use of keyboards turnes this band into an interesting band for progheads. The nine compositions sound elaborate and tasteful featuring lots of variety, strong soli on guitar and keyboards, a dynamic rhythm-section and good vocals. The one moment you hear a fluent rhythm with fat synthesizer flights, propulsive guitar riffs and fiery guitar play, the other moment you are carried away by classical piano, sensitive guitar or a dreamy climate with fragile piano and romantic vocals. My favorite tracks on this CD are Der Kreislauf Beginnt (propulsive with heavy guitar and bombastic keyboards and a final part with captivating interplay between keyboards and guitar), Der Nächste Winter Kommt Bestimmt (alternating featuring a wonderful grand finale with organ, dynamic drums and fiery guitar), Totes Meer (a beautiful, very sensitive guitar solo loaded with howling runs), the exciting and strongly build-up titletrack (spectacular keyboards, a wonderful, dreamy break with a lush strings-sound and violin-Mellotron and again a howling guitar solo) and the final track Ein Neuer Tag: first a dreamy part, then more and more compelling, culminating in a 24-carat symphonic prog closing section featuring moving work on keyboards and guitar, Progheaven! I am delighted about this pleasant and dynamic debut-CD and it sounds original, also because of the German vocals.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
TRICANTROPUS – Recuerdos Del Futuro
Here’s another good new Spanish progrock band, the trio Tricantropus in which every member plays keyboards (along bass and guitars) with additional guest musicians on instruments like drums to rhythm-guitar. Their instrumental debut-CD entitled Recuerdos De Futuro contains 11 compositions that mainly alternate beween mellow atmospheres and slow rhythms, often with jazzrock undertones. But to me it never becomes boring or too laidback because of the interesting accellarations and solos like in the tracks Mar De Cristal (fiery guitar solo with fluent drums and an accellaration with powerful bass runs and a flashy synthesizer solo), the alternating Bajo El Sindrome De Koro (lots of howling guitar runs and a swinging bass) and the beautiful and exciting titletrack (including a jazzy piano solo, a swirling synthesizer solo in a mid-tempo with delicate flutework and a strong guitar solo, supported by organ waves). In the 11 songs we can also enjoy excellent, often sensitive gitar play, a pleasant keyboard variety and an adventurous rhythm-section. The tasteful colouring by the guest musicans on flute, violin and piano adds an extra dimension to the music.
After a few listening sessions I started to appreciate this album more and more, the jazzrock fans and lovers of a guitarsound in the vein of Carlos Santana and Andy Latimer will be pleased. I hope Tricantropus will not turn into another fine one-shot-band.
TRION - Pilgrim
What’s in a name? Well, Trion is an abbreviation of the words trio and Mellotron, as a Tron-maniac that sounds pretty mouth-watering to me! In 2003 Trion released their debut CD entitled Tortoise, a wonderful symphonic prog album layered with beautiful Mellotron samples. The positive reactions led to an invitation by the Finnish Progressive Rock Society named Colossus. Trion contributed to Colossus their the 2-CD release entitled The Spaghetti Epic (featuring progrock bands from all over the world) with the epic composition Frank that can also be found on this new Trion CD (in a re-arranged version). Originally Trion was founded only to make one album but in 2008 the trio released this second effort - Pilgrim. In comparison with Pilgrim I notice a huge progress, way more dynamic and alternating, also due to the more varied vintage keyboard sound. That variety is very present in the first song Pilgrim: a violin-Mellotron intro, a piece with Fender Rhodes piano and a sensitive guitar solo, a compelling rhythm with Hammond organ runs and propulsive guiar riffs, a mid- tempo with fluent synthesizer flights and a final part with first fragile Grand piano/Mellotron and then organ, Mellotron and slide guitar, wonderful! In the other tracks the atmospheres range from dreamy to compelling with echoes from Seventies Camel, Genesis and Focus. Especially the interplay between organ and Mellotron with the electric guitar is beautiful and moving, like in Silence of the Universe, Giant Man, The Deep Ocean and Out There Somewhere. In between we hear interludes with warm play on classical - and acoustic guitar like in How We Used To Go (solo piece) and Reveal The Mystery (wonderful interplay between organ and Mellotron). Also worth to listen to are the tracks The Book (majestic church organ sound aling slide guitar and Mellotron) and the mellow A Dream (warm sound of the Grand piano and fragile acoustic guitar). But the absolute highlight is the final composition Frank: it begins with twanging 12-string guitar (like early Genesis) and violin-Mellotron, then lots of shifting moods (with moving guitar, beautiful Mellotron), a captivating duel between fiery guitar and fluent synthesizer runs and a compelling grand finale delivering a long and moving guitar solo, supported by mellow organ and strong drums, this is Progheaven! What a wonderful album, I am glad Trion decided not to turn into just another one-shot-progrock-band!
VIIMA – Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta
Here’s Progrock from Finland and it has touched me from the very first moment, what a wonderful sound featuring lots of fine musical ideas and surprising twists and turns. The six compositions (all between 6 and 10 minutes) on this debut CD - Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta - contain a blend of folk, rock and symphonic rock, in my opinion with the emphasis on the latter category. Enjoy the many flowing shifting moods, from dreamy to rock or bombastic parts: Leijonan Syksy delivers halfway a beautiful keyboard interlude as a bridge to a long and moving guitar solo with echoes from Steve Rothery, the titletrack contains great variation, from sparkling piano to wah-wah guitar, a harpsichord-piano duet and a church organ part, Ilmalaiva Italia starts dreamy but then there is a steamy rock and roll guitar interlude and a sensational synthesizer solo and in Luutomat the dreamy climate with twanging guitars and flkute turns into a mid-tempo with fiery saxophone work (in the vein of mid-Pink Floyd) and majestic violin-Mellotron. The final, long track Johdsatus delivers again lots of variation, wonderful keyboards and a long, compelling guitar solo. To me Viima their sound evokes early Renaissance (great female vocals but in Finnish) and mid-Genesis (lush 24-carat symphonic rock parts) but Viima doesn’t sound as a clone, they present a beautiful blend of folk and symphonic rock that contains many surprising musical ideas. What a strong and promising debut!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
WILLOWGLASS – Book Of Hours
Because of the lush Mellotron sound on Willowglass their wonderful eponymous debut CD (2005), I was very curious to this new album - Book Of Hours - that was released in 2008. Well fellow symphomaniacs, this is even more ‘Vintage Keyboard Heaven’: frequent use of the unsurpassed Mellotron and analogue synthesizers like the Minimoog, goose bumps! During my first listening session I already conclude that multi-instrumentalist and prime mover Andrew Marshall has matured in writing compositions during the 3 years between his two CD’s, in my opinion the five compositions (between 4 and 17 minutes, running time around 50 minutes) sound more elaborate and varied than on the first CD. I like the contrast between the bombastic keyboards and the warm twanging 12-string and classical guitar and the flute, in the alternating piece The Maythorne Cross you can even enjoy a medieval sound. In thetitletrack the Hammond sound evokes the early Procol Harum sound, wonderfully blended with a classical guitar (in the vein of Steve Hakcett) and the Mellotron and Grand piano. My highlight is the long final song The Labyrinth: an intro with warm classical guitar in delicate interplay with the violin-Mellotron, then lots of shifting moods (featuring an impressive church-organ sound, sensitive electric guitar, majestic choir-Mellotron and fluent synthesizer flights), culminating in a splendid final part with a slow rhythm that gradually changes into a bombastic atmosphere delivering very compelling 24-carat symphonic rock with bass pedals, choir-Mellotron, pitchbend driven Minimoog runs and sensitive electric guitar, I am in Prog Heaven! What a beautiful symphonic rock album, highly recommended to all vintage keyboard aficionados!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
YESTERDAYS – Holdfenykert
After Solaris and After Crying, here’s another interesting ‘Hungarian formation’ although Yesterdays features mainly Rumanian musicians, the current line-up contains 10 band members including 3 women. Yesterdays is rooted in early 2000 and has already made a demo tape (entitled Come Dream With Me from 2002), a serie of CD’s and even a DVD. During the first part of this CD entitled Holdfenykert their sound is pleasant and folky inspired featuring lots of acoustic guitar and flute along a wonderful female voice with echoes from Annie Haslam. I am delighted about an acoustic guitar duet )twangin gand solo) and the omnipresent violin-Mellotron waves. The second part of Holdenfenykert delivers a way more symphonic rock sound featuring fluent Moog runs and again beautiful Mellotron work. But we can also enjou pure folk and I was very pleased with a duet from acoustic guitar and harpsichord, that distinctive vintage keyboard. My highlight is the long and alternating song entitled Seven: it starts with a fluent rhythm, Moog flights and Mellotron waves and mellow parts with warm female vocals, then a compelling piece with sensitive guitar and lush Mellotron. The final part begins with a flute solo and howling guitar runs and finally a sumptuous eruption with a swirling Hammond solo. To me this sounds as a wonderful blend of folk and symphonic rock, very tasteful, this band will please both the prog-folk – as the symphonic prog fans.
LINKS: Website | MySpace