Issue 2000-035

Reviews in this issue:

Robert Andrews - An Amnesty For Bonny Things On Sunny Days
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL 083
Year of Release:2000
Info:Cyclops Website
Tracklist: Autumn (9:24), Earth And Stone (9:47), Indian Summer (2:03), Amnesty (8:47), Landfall (11:35), Sunlight On Leaves (4:57), Bonus Track (10:00)

Robert Andrews is no stranger to music having recorded over ten solo albums as well as albums with rock group Land Of Yrx. Those familiar with his past recordings will be very surprised. Let's get the record straight. There are no Heldon cover versions as seldom happened with Land Of Yrx, no screaming and nothing innovative. This seems to be Robert Andrew's asking for forgiveness for those who like bonny things on sunny days as this is an album that you can relax to, have a glass of wine and read the paper, or while away the time in a traffic jam with! The closest artists that you could compare this album with would be Anthony Phillips, Gordon Giltrap and a less elaborate Mike Oldfield.

The keyboard intro to Autumn is extremely misleading as it is uncannily similar to Watcher Of The Skies (Genesis) and one is misled into thinking that he is about to hear something along the classic prog lines. However, following that the nursery rhyme-style keyboard one is immediately placed into perspective as to what the style and setting of this album is going to be all about. The whole album is a set of relaxed instrumentals, though occasionally there are a few soft vocals, with very little in terms of groundbreaking material and at most times can be termed as mimimalistic in nature. By this I mean that the tracks are actually quite simple with repetitive themes (ala Michael Nyman) played throughout a track, which at times can be a bit unnerving. Mike Oldfield uses this style on his concept albums but keeps the same tune for a whole album rather than one track only. 

Having said that, one must also admit that there are certain differences between the tracks. Earth And Stone has a baroque feel to it courtesy of the harpsichord section, and at times the orchestration seems to verge on the compositions of Robert John Godfrey (The Enid). Indian Summer, the shortest track on the album, is just acoustic guitar and has a lot in common with the works of Gordon Giltrap, while Amnesty has an echoing electro acoustic guitar strummed in the background overridden by electric guitar solos. Towards the middle of the track there is an increase in momentum with a Mediterranean feel given to the tune making it my favorite track of the album. 

Landfall could be considered as the epic track on the album clocking in at over eleven minutes. The first part starts in a similar fashion to Indian Summer, featuring solo electro acoustic guitar, yet towards the second third in come synthesizers and piano and here the Anthony Phillips comparison starts. Soft, relaxed, verging on the new Age, this track conforms to the rest of the album in that the changes brought in are done so at an extremely slow and relaxed rate causing little or no disruption in the flow.

Sunlight On Leaves keeps up with the rest of what we have had so far with the guitar based introduction and gentle Nick Drake-like arpeggios until we come to the Bonus Track which stands out from the rest of the album in that it is the only upbeat track present. Calypso rhythms flow as the guitar work also changes, this time with a distinct picking, though the backing percussion sounds too hollow and fake that it nearly ruins the track.

On the whole this album is only of appeal to those who want to something laid back devoid of any lengthy solos and complicated music. A simple album which I consider to be fit for background music but with little in terms of innovation.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10.

Nigel Camilleri

Manning - The Cure
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL088
Year of Release:2000
Tracklist:{Syndrome} Domicile (10:18) {Therapy} Real Life (3:59), A Strange Place (6:48), Whispers On The Wire (7:33), Songs of Faith (11:44), Falling (6:38) {Prognosis} The Cure (17:34)

After his good debut solo album, Tall Stories For Small Children , I was quite curious what Guy Manning had in store for us next. I wasn't disapointed, the album is as diverse and prog-oriented as one can get, while not losing the typical own identity that the first album introduced.

Guy Manning's first album Tall Stories For Small Children is one of the few albums that I reviewed that do occasionally show back up in my CD player. This is mostly due to the very own style and feel that this album has, a distinct identity. This is very, very important in this time that seems to be dominated by wannabe Dream Theaters. I was quite worried that Guy would not be able to deliver another album of that strength. Fortunately, I was wrong. With his new album, The Cure, he takes us through all the ranges of feelings and emotions, all ranges of melodies and rhythms, and virtually the whole of prog history.

As some of the regular readers know, I hardly ever discuss lyrics. It's a slippery area I preferably avoid. As this is a concept album though, I could not ignore them. Therefore I asked Guy himself to explain the album's lyrics to me. For those of you who really enjoy getting into a concept album, and figure it out themselves (and I know there are a lot of you out there!): don't follow the link, just purchase the album and you'll be guaranteed to have hours of fun! Ok, so here's Guy's explanation of the album's concept.

Apart from Guy, the most notable name is that of PO90's Andy Tillison Disk-drive. The musical history of Manning and him is quite heavily intertwined, and influence each other. In fact the opening track Domicile was prototyped for the last ever Gold, Frankincense & Disk-drive (GFDD) album, which was never released, and Tillison wrote the words for it. It has all the ingredients of an opening track, featuring as a musical overture and a lyrical introduction to the theme. Starting with a soft humming and acoustic guitar, it suddenly bursts out in a pounding track, with different flute/recorder like keyboard melodies and a bass organ tune that immediately reminded me of Genesis' Watchers of the Sky intro. Some complex bits 'n pieces follow before entering a more mainstream prog rock vocal part. Talking about the vocals: opinions may differ on Manning's vocal skills. He's perfectly in tune, that's not the problem, but a couple of people who I played this album found his vocals quite whining at times. I cannot disagree with that, although personally it does not really bother me. The track keeps a quite uptempo pace and features some very nice instrumental sections. Some of the organ solo parts remind me of early Camel (Lady Fantasy etc.) but with a more modern sauce over it. Really nice prog rock track including all the ingredients: different instrumental solo's, many rhythmic variations and tricks, and a catchy vocal part!

The second part of the album, {Therapy}, starts with some sounds of a waiting room or something, and a very simple melody sets in, like a children's song or lullaby. Slowly, this is worked out with some more instrumentation. Just as you get used to the calm mood, A Strange Place breaks in with a Porcupine Tree like dissonant chord sequence. However, this song that seems to cry out quickly turns more normal and another catchy melody is featured. There is some particular fine keyboard work featured here, in a quite massive fashion, before it quietens down and a soundscape of all kinds of different religious chants from all over the globe is played. This has become quite a beautiful and calming collage, almost New Age like. This flows into Whispers On The Wire (which could have been subtitled "click click", which keeps hunting your brain long after the song has faded). Some cool Hammond organ is played here (keyboards are the main instruments on the album, even though guitar is featured on every track; in this track a nice short guitar solo stresses the fact that it is not a keyboard-only album). The middle section becomes very powerful, a kind of "Alan Parsons freaks out." Lots of instrumental interplay going on! Suddenly this stops and another soundscape sets in (you get the impression a different song has started). Together with the sound effects and different voices that seem to come from random TV channels they give you the feeling of a Roger Waters album. This impression is strengthened further by Songs Of Faith, a ballad with a typical Waters-like keyboard melody with piercing guitar (remember Amused To Death?). Lovely track, featuring (real) violins and piano. Halfway through however, it suddenly changes into some kind of "happy fiddler" Country & Western style! What a contrast that is. Still, Manning manages to flawlessly mingle these styles (even including some click-click reprises). The ending section is a beautiful, Pink Floyd style, variation of the first minutes. The intro of Falling reminded me a bit of the new IQ album The Seventh House, calm moody synth work, with a darker undertone. However, where IQ explodes in more powerful prog, Manning keeps things calm. A ballad follows, but it is not a very special track. The Sting-like jazzy saxophone playing and violin solo are quite nice though.

The last part, {Prognosis}, consists of only one 17 minute long track, The Cure. It in general has the same kind of feeling you get from the last (title) track of Amused To Death, finally opening up. The track itself is quite diverse, in the same way as on the rest of the album and keeps interesting throughout its length, due to the fact that every two minutes or so the melody and rhythm changes and so does the mood. This track takes us through all the moods present on the album, from calm melancholy to haunting keyboards and soundscapes to agitated rock. It would be a bit too much to describe in detail how this track progresses. Let's just say it's very nicely done!

All in all Guy Manning has produced a worthy sucessor to Tall Stories. Very much focussed on the vocal melodies and the concept, combined with powerful but not too massive keyboards, this is clearly the album of a song-writer, not that of a band focussed on superficial music repeating the same trick over and over again. A couple of minor points of critique regard the fact that at times the instrumentation is a bit too sparse, leaving sonic "holes" in the sound-wall, and Manning's voice that may not be appreciated by everybody. On the compository side, there is not much critisism of my side, Manning is a fine composer who knows how to keep the attention of the listener and masters both writing catchy melodies and writing difficult complex instrumental parts. Summarizing: a recommended album for people who like a more intelligent approach to music. Hope to see them live in Holland one day!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers

Treason - Code of Silence
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Treason Production
Catalogue #:
Year of Release:2000
Tracklist: Last Stand (4:09), Cycles (5:49), Supercool (3:40), Spinning (4:26), State Of Grace (3:53), Deff Bendir (3:48), Kali Ma (4:20), Holy Water (4:22), Visual (4:24), Cold Tears (6:06), Lethal (bonus track) (4:32)

I hadn’t heard of Treason before, but this album rocks. Treason came together in 1996 when keyboard player Ted Stockwell formed the band out of an original based studio project. Bass player Jim Dixon joined Ted after already playing together in several bands, followed by Karl Haug (guitars) and Pete Stern (drums & percussion). Recently Jason Saunders was recruited as their new singer, who in several songs reminds me of Ritual singer Patrik Lindström.

The Seattle based band has contacts in the music industry. On their first production, simply called Treason, they were accompanied by Alan White, Billy Sherwood and Igor Khoroshev from Yes. This new album contains contributions of bass player John Giblin (Phil Collins, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Simple Minds to mention some) and singer Ann Wilson of Heart. Lyrically they collaborate with Sue Ennis, also known for her work with Heart.
Ron St. Germain mixed and contributed additional production to the CD.  In the past Ron worked with bands like Soundgarden, U2, Creed, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Living Color.

The sound of Treason combines the Seattle grunge scene (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden) with hard rock and progressive metal (Voxen, King’s X, Queensryche and Dream Theater) and additional features of progressive rock (Spock’s Beard and World Trade). Overall based on a very American vein, although the musical direction contains the spontanity and the power of the first Ritual release, very recognizable in a track like Kali Ma.

The result of the above is very powerful album, featuring eleven tracks, which likes to bring the listener in a state of amazement. It blasts off with the powerful and very energetic track Last Stand. Layers of keyboards are combined with the great guitar contributions of Karl Haug. Already in the second track the gas is pulled back with the ballad Cycles, a beautiful piano and acoustic guitar dominated song, with King’s X similarities in the vocal parts of Jason Saunders and strong hammond additions in the chorusses. It carries the strenght of a good Queensryche release, during their highlighted years in the late eighties early nineties. After an Arabic alike outtro the song runs into the pumping Supercool, which leads straight into the second ballad on the album Spinning, that opens with very atmospheric keyboards in an almost Tangerine Dream alike vein.

Other strong songs, which come straight to the surface by first listening, are the duet with Ann Wilson in the Whitesnake alike Cold Tears, the atmospheric Visual and the guitar dominated Holy Water, which probably is the best track on the album. Also the Arabic orientated instrumental Deff Bendir needs to be mentioned.

Strange enough this band doesn't need the name dropping at all. Their music is mature enough to stand on it's own. I've got the feeling this band rocks on stage and has potention to grow on future releases. This album grows on you the more you're willing to give it a listen.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Wilco Barg

Elegy - Forbidden Fruit
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Record Label:Noise Records
Catalogue #:TT0046-2
Year of Release:2000
Info:Ian Parry Homepage
Tracklist: Ice house (5.12), Force Majeur (4.44), Killing Time (2.52), Behind the Tears (5.23), The Great Charade (4.45), 'til Eternity (7.44), Masquerade (5.01), Elegant Solution (4.28), I Believe (4.51), Forbidden Fruit (7.16).

Elegy is something of an anomaly, as only one of a few Dutch symphonic metal bands to succesfully release a string of albums, succes based in large part on devoted followers in Japan. Their debut album Labyrinth of Dreams was released in 1993, but the band has existed (in numerous incarnations) since 1986 when they recorded their first demo. Forbidden Fruit is Elegy's fifth studio album. It's presented as a collection of short stories that address man's urges and weaknesses in search of the ultimate "Forbidden Fruit".

Elegy today is basically a four-man band with bass player Martin Helmantel as the only remaining member of the original line-up. Dirk Bruinenberg has played drums with Elegy since 1994. Vocalist Ian Parry joined two years later. Ian released three solo albums prior to joining Elegy and fronted several bands, including Dutch heavy metal band Vengeance. The last few years he has gained further international acclaim with the Consortium Project and his appearances on Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon albums. (You can find out more on Ian Parry below in the review of his latest solo album Shadowman.) The newest bandmember to join Elegy is Patrick Rondat, who will be best known for his work with Jean Michel Jarre.
Elegy is joined on this album by Vanden Plas keyboard player Günter Werno. The bands last keyboardist, Chris Allister, left this year, along with guitar player Henk van der Laars, although Van der Laars has left his mark on Fobidden Fruit as he wrote the music for four of the songs. Interestingly Patrick Rondat could be seen playing live with Günter Werno and Vanden Plas on their latest tour.

The four songs Van der Laars left the band with are all fast metal tracks that approach True Metal territory (Manowar, Hammerfall). Force Majeur and Elegant Solution are such a typical True Metal compositions, where bass and guitar evokes warm memories of the Manowar duo Joey DeMaio and Ross the Boss. These tracks all have very catchy choruses (notably Killing Time) and solid guitar solos (The Great Charade), but at most times it all sounds awfully familiar.

Patrick Rondat contributes three compositions, although, as on all the tracks, Ian Parry has written the lyrics and vocals melodies. Behind the Tears is closest to the Van der Laars material with again a good chorus. 'til Eternity and I Believe on the other hand are two classic power ballads, both opening smoothly with vocals, supported in one case by guitar, in the other by piano, before electric guitar riffs, heavy bass and drums add volume. Very thick keyboards at times in 'til Eternity, as well as a skilful guitar solo by Rondat. As stated I Believe starts with Günter Werno on piano, soon accompanied by (synthesized?) strings and Spanish guitar, which returns throughout.

Ice house and Masquerade are more or less at middle ground between speed and progressive metal, although Werno tips the scales in favor of progressive influences with his recognisable handling of keyboards. Both tracks are a bit bombastic. The closer, Forbidden Fruit, sees Patrick Rondat on sitar as the track opens in Oriental atmosphere. Starts off pretty good and remains OK when it becomes a more standard Elegy type track with riffs, heavy bass and power drums.

Forbidden Fruit shows Elegy putting in a fine performance, nicely produced with clear sound. Ian Parry proves very strong vocally, in my opinion much better than on his recent solo album Shadowman. Rondat could use a bit more variation in his play and I wouldn't mind if Helmantel on bass was treated more kindly in the mix, to add even more bombast to Elegy's sound. No gripes about drums though; Bruinenberg is very good. I wonder who they'll get as replacement on keyboards, but another guest performance by Werno would be highly appreciated, as long as it doesn't distract him from his work with Vanden Plas.

I feel safe in concluding that not much innovative material can be found on this CD. As I said it all sounds very familiar. That doesn't diminish its attraction per se. When I stopped listening for typical progressive elements and considered the songs as more typical (melodic) metal, I found I quit enjoyed most of them. Nevertheless, Forbidden Fruit will probably appeal more to an Iron Maiden fan and possibly to those who enjoy Vanden Plas (owning to Werno's at times highly valuable performance), then to, for instance, fans of progressive metal bands like Threshold or Dream Theater. I find it's not that easy to categorise Elegy as a progressive band, but rather melodic metal with some definite symphonic elements. The Rondat compositions are pretty good, which raises expectations for future albums.

The two Limited Edition Digipack versions of Forbidden Fruit feature additional material. The European version has one bonus song, Sweet Revenge, and two live acoustic recordings performed by Ian Parry and (ex-)guitarist Henk van der Laars in 1998. The Japanese version instead offers four live recordings from the same performance. You can listen to samples of all tracks on the standard version at Noise Records.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Ian Parry - Shadowman
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Record Label:Noise Records
Catalogue #:TT 0052-2
Year of Release:2000
Tracklist: Through Those Eyes (4.05), Shadowman (5.20), The Palace in Hell (I Dare) (3.29), Wildhearts (4.23), Turn Back the Tide (6.31), Run (4.29), No More War (4.33), Can't Go On (4.01), Beggars can't be choosers (4.41), Watch the Wind Blow (4.40), Bad Business (4.13), Dreamin' It All (4.30), Still The One (4.44), Tell Me Why (3.16), Only Lies (4.24).

Once best known as vocalist for Dutch heavy metal band Vengeance, Ian Parry has these last five years become a household name in the progressive rock scene. First and foremost as singer with Elegy, the Dutch symphonic metal band, and of course through his widely acclaimed progressive metal release Ian Parry's Consortium Project. Besides that Ian has appeared on two of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon albums: The Final Experiment and Flight of the Migrator.

Before joining Elegy in 1996 Ian Parry released three solo albums in a short time span of three years: Symphony of Dreams (1993), Artistic Licence (1994) and Thru' the Looking Glass (1995). He decided to release another solo outing with Shadowman. As it turns out this is in fact a collection of songs from his previous three albums with a heavy accent on works from Thru' the Looking Glass.

Shadowman starts off with Through Those Eyes which has fine bass, but unimaginative keyboards, and good drums and guitar, but a bad guitar solo. In the title track keyboards sound much better. Shadowman is typical hardrock, made more interesting through use of keyboards and its unusual intro and ending. In The Palace in Hell (I Dare) the band sounds as a kind of beefed-up Rush with a guitar duet in central section. But Wildhearts is strictly AOR, a bit Foreigner like.

At times the intro of a track raised the expectation that more hard edged metal was coming, but often songs turn out to be strictly AOR material with at times the added keyboards. Bad Business sounds a bit like a Bon Jovi rip off. Not bad in it's sort though, with lots of energy and the familiar backing chants. Dreamin' It All is another of these AOR tracks, with slight use of Spanish guitar. Only Lies is a nice hard rock track, again close to AOR and again with plenty of reference points to Foreigner.

There are also a couple of rock songs that can be labelled one in a dozen. There are three in succesion starting with Run which features at times heavy keyboard support, and another weak, and very short, guitar solo. No More War is another, although keyboards are a bit reminiscent of parts on Ayreon's The Final Experiment. And Can't Go On, a typical rock anthem, though nicely executed, with over the top instrumentation at the end.

Watch the Wind Blow stands out for acoustic guitar and good vocals, but overall it's not a very interesting ballad. Highly irritating drums intrude towards the end. Still The One is a weak love song, whilst Tell Me Why has a rather weak vocal performance by Ian in, again, a weak song. Ian Parry has a great voice, but the quality of his overall performance here fluctuates. Some of the material doesn't really seem best suited for him. I thought he fared much better on the latest Elegy album, Forbidden Fruit.

Finally, I thought Turn Back the Tide a very good song, with Ian in top-notch form. In the intro children are heard singing Freré Jacques, whilst a female duo serves as choir later on. Nice instrumentation throughout. Quite a lot of musicians can be heard on the album, not surprising as Shadowman is a compilation. It features performances by Rene Merkelbach (Gorefest) on keyboards and Arjen Lucassen had a guest guitar performance on the 1995 album. Drummer Ernst van Ee (Helloise) is present throughout. Ayreon fans might also recognise the name Jan Bijlsma (bass). Other players feature on guitar and bass as well.

Most of the instrumentation is of good or adequate level and drummer Van Ee stands out as a solid contributor. Keyboards are at a few select times weak or do not seem to add much to the composition. But Rene Merkelbach is excellent on piano. As mentioned some of the guitar solos are also not that good. Fine sound quality in a good production as can be expected from engineer Oscar Holleman. I don't much care for the artwork on the cover, especially considering it's been ripped off from another album, by the band Children of Bodom!

Shadowman has it's fair share of good rock and hard rock, some of which can be labelled melodic rock, while at other times it's strictly AOR. I don't think this album is of much interest to most prog fans. However, if you consider Ian Parry a great vocalist, as I do, from experience with Elegy or the Consortium Project, this CD might be worth a check. But don't expect the quality of composition to equal that of Ian's other projects.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.

Mark Sander