~ RUSSIA ~
APPLE PIE – Crossroad
On their website I read that this is a Russian four piece band, founded in 2000 in the city Kursk. Apple Pie sounds very prosessional, modern, dynamic and varied on their debut CD entitled Crossroad. The title points at the fact that their music is a blend of several styles, well the first track already showcases their exlectic and dynamic approach: first a spacey intro with a lush synthesizer sound, then twanging guitars and dreamy vocals, followed by compelling bombastic prog with propulsive guitar riffs and fiery guitar runs, culminating in a prog metal atmosphere featuring spectacular keyboards and finally howling guitar, supported by Hammond organ waves and powerful and adventurous drums, what an exciting prog! The other ten compositions also deliver alternating and dynamic prog: sensational synthesizer flights and blistering guitar, heavy Hammond waves and a sensation break with sumptuous keyboards and biting guitar in Crossroad, a swinging ‘big band sound’ (captivating blend of brass and fiery guitar), inspired vocals and a bluesy guitar solo in Temptation, a swirling climate with heavy guitar, a bluesy Hammond solo and raw wah-wah drenched guitar in Escape, acoustic rhythm guitar with gospel-like singing in Still Got My Faith In You, wonderful sparkling piano and acoustic guitar and great work on keyboards, guitar and saxophone in the alternating Nothing Comes Everything and tasteful interplay between keyboards and guitar and a final part with howling guitar in Final. Who dare to say that the current prog is boring or is not adventurous, what a splendid and exciting CD! To me this band that scouts the borders between symphonic prog and prog metal, like Riverside, Rush and Ayreon, a big hand for Apple Pie!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
AVIVA OMNIBUS – Nutcracker In A Fury
2007 the progrock world was pleasantly surprised with the instrumental debut album Rokus Tonalis by the Russian musical project Aviva, led by keyboard player Dimitri A Loukanienko who played Grand piano, keyboards, bass, samples and programmed drums and percussion. The music on Rokus Tonalis has strong echoes from bombastic keyboard driven prog in the vein of ELP and Japanese Gerard featuring a powerful Hammond sound, fluent piano runs and flashy synthesizer flights, very spectacular. The song The Valse At The End Of Times delivers a guest-musician on guitar, he gives a very powerful touch to the music with raw and propulsive guitar work. Some tracks sound quite experimental with soaring keyboards and weird voices. That about the first album.
On his new album Nutracker In A Fury (2008) Dimitri has changed the name into Aviva Omnibus and he is accompanied by two guitarists, a bassist/drummer and a second keyboard player who also plays violin. The sound is similar to his debut-album but even more bombastic and spectacular and the compositions are more elaborate and balanced. I am absolutely delighted about the exciting propulsive rhythms with spectacular work on synthesizer and guitar like in the tracks Overture In Fury (lots of flowing shifting moods, a varied keyboard sound, fiery guitar and sensational synthesizer flights), Dance Of The Tea Giants (very dynamic interplay, sensational sounding keyboard runs and guitar riffs that alternates between prog metal and King Crimson in the Red-era, how propulsive!) and Coda Cold (swinging and propulsive rhythms, ELP-inspired keyboard work and a heavy guitar solo).
The track Heavy March includes organ runs that are paying tribute to ELP’s Nutrocker (based upon Tschaikovsky's Nutcracker) and exciting bombastic keyboard play and heavy guitar work, simply sensational! Although it’s obvious that Dimitri is inspired by Keith Emerson, he succeeds to sound original with his varied and modern souding keyboards and the use of many samples (like singing African people, steel drums and lots of voices). Some songs sound mellow like Flower Fever (sound collage) and Apotheosis (great final part with sumptuous classical orchestrations) but in general Aviva Omnibus their sound is bombastic with lots of exciting propulsive rhythms and spectacular work on keyboards and guitar. What a thrill to listen to Nutcracker In A Fury, highly recommended, especially to the aficionados of keyboard-driven progrock!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
(THE) GOURISHANKAR – 2nd Hands
Here’s another interesting Russian formation: The Gourishankar, what an exciting prog! The sound of this Russian four piece band (with additional guest musicians on violin, saxophone, flute and backing vocals) is a Pandora’s Box of musical surprises, take for example the first composition on the 2nd Hands album entitled Moon7: first a fluent rhythm with heavy organ, fast synthesizer runs, Allan Holdsworth inspired guitar work, powerful guitar riffs and propulsive drumming, in between a swinging piano and suddenly a violin solo or a Spanish guitar with percussion, “never a dull moment”! The other 7 tracks also deliver lots of variety, musical ideas and shifting moods: from swinging to bombastic featuring pleasant work on guitar and keyboards, propulsive guitar riffs, a sparkling piano solo and fiery guitar in Endless Drama, classical piano and violin the short song Taste A Cake, a modern and electronic sound in The Inexpressive Chagrin (including theatrical vocal parts and a saxophone solo), End (a bit similar to more elektro pop sounding JM Jarre) and their ‘magnum opus’ Marvelous Choice (almost 20 minutes): an electronic intro, then bombastic symphonic prog with fiery guitar, followed by lots of shifting moods, nice musical ideas and pleasant keyboard work, from classical piano to flashy synthesizer flights, very dynamic and exciting!
My conclusion about The Gourishankar their varied music: it often sounds exciting and captivating but you have to be up to the huge variety, often the music goes into all directions, sometimes a bit too much, from Seventies Prog to Eighties Elektro Pop!
DPRP has reviewed The Gourishankar's Close Grip in 2008.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
INFRONT – Wordless
Infront is a Russian four piece band with additional guest musicians on keyboards, flute, trumpet and trombone. In 2007 I met the drummer and guest keyboard player in an Irish pub when they were in Amsterdam too, we had settled an arrangement thanks to a forum on the Internet. We had a pleasant chat about politics and progrock in Russia and they told me about the founding of their band. It has never been easy to make that kind of music in Russia but nowadays it seems that the Russian progrock scene is blossoming (see this chapter), we took some beers on that! I was also pleased with the very passionate way drummer ‘KS ‘ told about his appreciation for Bill Bruford.
Well, listening to Infront their debut CD Wordless, I am not surprised that he mentioned Bill Bruford because KS his drumming has obvious hints: powerful, inventive and frequent use of the hi-hats. Infront their sound is often dynamic and propulsive featuring a fluent rhythm-section and great duo-guitar work, from mellow twanging chords (888 and RUNNN) and sensitive runs (Chinese Butterfly) to fiery (biting wah-wah pedal in 888) and heavy riffs (RUNNN). The way Infront slows down the music at some moments creates a lot of tension with the in general fiery and violent sound, I love their dynamics! The three guest musicians deliver a tasteful contribution like the trumpet/trombone in Autumn Velvet (a kind of mellow ‘salsa-King Crimson’) and sparkling flute in the alternating, quite dreamy epic composition Chinese Butterfly. This Russian band doesn’t make very accessible prog, their sound has echoes from French band Shylock (second album Ile De Fièvre), Chilean formation Eksimio and Swedish top band Anekdoten without Mellotron because of the fiery guitar, the propulsive rhythm-section and the violent climates. Don’t expect 12-string acoustic guitars, Mellotron waves of Minimoog flights because Infront their music is focussed on awesome interplay and creating dynamic atmospheres. If you are up to adventurous prog and you don’t have a problem with the minimal contribution of keyboards, this is a band to discover!
LINKS: Website | MySpace
LITTLE TRAGEDIES – New Faust
I remember vividly how excited I got when I listened to the music of Little Tragedies for the first time: it was the album Return, I was carried away by the compelling blend of sumptuous progrock and Russian folk (native vocals). This 2-CD entitled New Faust is my favorite Little Tragedies, the focus is on the bombastic Emersonian keyboard work, what an awesome flashy synthesizer runs and swirling Hammond organ. But he also delivers some delicate harpsichord play in more mellow parts. The interplay with the powerful, harder-edged guitar work is very exciting, it often sounds like a blend of ELP/Gerard (Japan) and Ayreon because of the heavy, propulsive guitar riffs and fiery, flowing guitar soli. The Russian vocals give an extra dimension to the music, it often reminds me of Hungarian progrock band Omega. I am sure that many progheads who love bombastic progrock like ELP, Gerard and Ayreon will be delighted about this outstanding, very exciting Russian formation!
DPRP has also reviewed The Sixth Sense in 2006 and Chinese Songs Part I 2007) and Chinese Songs Part II both released in 2007.
LINKS: Website | MySpace
LOST WORLD – Awakening Of The Elements
The last formation in this chapter is a Russian trio with a guest keyboardist who plays in one song. After their debut CD Trajectories from 2003, Lost World released their new album entitled Awakening Of The Elements in 2006. The 12 compositions contain a great flow, lots of dynamics, excellent interplay and great soli on guitar and violin. Because of the fiery guitar and violin work and the propulsive rhythm-section, the music often reminds me of 1972-1975 era King Crimson. The songs sound elaborate and host many captivating elements, surprising breaks and shifting moods. Strong examples are the dynamic titletrack (great tension between the fiery guitar and orchestral keyboards and halfway a splendid break with propulsive guitar riffs and flashy violin), Infinity Street (delicate progressive folk with wonderful acoustic guitar overdubs), Over The Islands (swinging rhythm with exciting guitar runs and funky 'slap'-bass work), States Of Mind Part I (captivating interplay between guitar and violin, again funky ‘slap-bass’ play and subtle synthesizer sounds) and finally my favorite track, the alternating Collision Of The Elements featuring fiery violin – and guitar runs. Because of the lush and powerful Hammond waves, to me it sounds like ‘King Crimson meets ELP’! The cheerful flute work on this CD gives the music a fresh extra dimension between all the heavy dynamic atmospheres. Unfortunately it has become a bit silent since 2006 .. let’s hope Lost World will surprise us very soon with a new album.