Album Reviews

Issue 2000-004

Reviews in this issue:

Rick Ray - The Key to the Bottomless Pit
Country of Origin:U.S.A.
Record Label:Neurosis Records
Catalogue #:
Year of Release:1999
Info:Neurosis Records (see below)
Tracklist: Isotope 239 (6.46), Everything We Know (8.29), The Einstien Blues (3.51), One More War (4.24), Power in the Empire (5.15), The Key to the Bottomless Pit (17.13), Violent Gentlemen (3.52), RIP Snorter (1.56), The World's Requiem (2.50)

A few weeks ago I wrote a not too flattering review of Rick Ray's album Atomic Soldiers, giving it a rating of 4 out of 10. Imagine my surprise upon recently recieving a second album, which Ray must have put in the mail immediately after the publication of this review. Well, I still don't like the music all that much, but I can admire Ray's tenacity.

The Key to the Bottomless Pit was produced in 1999, like Atomic Soldiers, and is one of the nine albums Rick Ray has made so far, along with such others as Clone Man, The Great Antagonist and You People. The music is basically the same kind of material as I wrote of in my earlier review: loud, grating and with a spacy, slightly psychedelic quality at times.

Rick Ray's vocals sound like you're picking them up on a bad radio transmission. Bass and drums are o.k., so is some work on guitars, especially the accoustic stuff, but on the guitar synths Ray again does the whole some injustice by going over the top. Though in most tracks I still don't like the addition of the clarinet, Rick Schultz has his more subtle moments on this album. I guess it just forms part of Ray's distinctive sound.

The lyrics are once again very confrontational. Ray decries the state of democracy in the U.S. in Power to the Empire, revealing that "Every single election day, you don't really have a say". The United States are reffered to as the new Babylon in several songs and off course the devil has his place in the sun again. But this album is for a large part an anti-war statement, which was also evident on Atomic Soldiers. In One More War Ray warns us against politicians who make false promises at the negotian table, while actually "The idiots want another war, better than the ones they had before."

The centre piece of the album, the more than 17 minutes running title track The Key to the Bottomless Pit can also be listed in the anti-war departement. This song is the most imaginative track on this CD, showing an originality absent from most of Ray's other stuff. Ray and Schultz play around with the basic theme in the first nine minutes, after which follows a nice acoustic part, off course accompanied by Schultz on clarinet, a short relapse into the main theme and then several keyboard simulated atomic explosions. The whole thing ends with a speech about the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and the willingness of the U.S. government to continue the use of this weapon, I suppose by then president Harry Truman. This is rather fine stuff, though a bit more variation in the first half of the song would have helped.

The album also includes three instrumental tracks, of which Isotope 239 and RIP Snorter are rather forgettable tracks. The short track The Einstien Blues is an enjoyable, almost farcical number with an upbeat bluesy feel to it.

I'm not sure if it is genuine conviction that drives Rick Ray or just an immense joy in producing his own brand of music, but the fact stands that this guy has produced nine albums. I enjoyed this one a bit more than the previous one I had the pleasure of reviewing; not because it is better, but maybe because I knew what to expect this time and thus was forewarned. I have to admit though, that I find myself interested in what Rick Ray has to offer on his seven other albums. But don't mistake that for a recommendation.

If you're still interested, you can order all Rick Ray's cds through the mail at $7.00 each by contacting Neurosis Records, 2557 Madison Ave., Painesville, OH 44077, U.S.A..

Conclusion: 4 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Hybrid - Integration
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Hybridian Music
Catalogue #:HYBRCD/F0010
Year of Release:1999
Info:Hybrid Homepage
Tracklist: On Top of the World (6:18), Shadows (6:35), Walkabout (5:24), Moving Lights (4:56), Objects at Rest (5:58), Man in the Moon (12:17), Objects in Motion (9:51), One to One (5:52)

Hybrid has been around for many years, since the early 1990s. After the occassional rare gig the band recorded their Lost in Relativity demo in 1995. In 1998 they released their first album Chasing the Dream, which seemingly was well received. The new album Integration is their second real release.

The three core members of Hybrid are Dave 'Ace' Boland, whom some of you might know as Clive Nolan's keyboard tech in Arena (keys & vocals), Martin Hayter (guitars) and Richard Brooke (drums). Now, add to this the bass playing and extra vocals of Arena's guitarist John 'Tarquin' Mitchell, the occassional Mellotron solo by Mr. Nolan himself and a couple of piano solos by Oliver Wakeman and you're probably getting quite a good idea what this will sound like.
Dave himself describes the sound of the band as: 'A Rush-meets-Yes sort of vibe. Throw in a handful of Satriani and Dream Theater and add a slice of ELO and serve with an olive - hey presto ! Instant Hybrid album.' I personally would place them more in the Nolan-ish area of bands.

The album was partially recorded at Ace's 'The Lab' studio and partially at Clive Nolan's Thin Ice studio, with Clive and Karl Groom (of Threshold) helping out. Rob Aubrey (sound engineer of IQ and others) mastered the album. The whole thing sounds like a typical Thin Ice/Nolan production. Both lovers and haters of that sound will know what I mean.

The album starts with the energetic On Top of the World, one of the highlights of the album. It sounds like a cross between the more up-tempo Arena songs (like Welcome to the Cage) and Asia, the latter especially in the chorus. The song is very diverse and even features a nice reggae/dub intermezzo, followed by some rocking guitar and keyboard solos. The song ends with the sounds of a modem.
Shadow Dancing starts as a dreamy, atmospheric ballad, not unlike IQ's Still Life. The first two minutes feature a drum computer (yuch!) accompanied by bass and keys. After this first section the real drums kick in with a changed rhythm. Guitar comes in as well at this point and a screaming guitar solo and keyboard solo follow. The song has lots of changes, at times being quiet (the vocal bits) and at time heavy, like the rocking end.

Walkabout is a nice instrumental that is at times heavy and bombastic. The whole track builds around a recurring melody played simultaneaously by keys and guitar. The drums sound especially cheesy on this track and the song fades right in the middle of a guitar solo !
Moving Lights is an enjoyable, catchy uptempo song in the AOR-vein, featuring some fine guitar work. The monotonous drum beat actually sounds better than some of the attempt at drum rolls on the rest of the album.
Objects at Rest features more drum computer. It's rather trance-like with keyboard soundscapes accompanying the many variations on a guitar melody that are played throughout the song. Fortunately the second half is more exciting, which saves the track from becoming a bit boring.

Man in the Moon - fotunately not a cover of that horrible Yes track - is a long and energetic song with lots of great guitar solos and some nice piano work by Oliver Wakeman. The vocal bits and melodies in the first half are not among the best on the album, but the vocals in the second half more than make up for this and there's enough good instrumental sections to keep this track interesting. Again, as in most of the Hybrid tracks, there's lots of diversity and changes. At the end of the track there's a nice guitar climax and the song suddenly switches into Objects at Motions; probably the heaviest track on the album. It starts with quite heavy, raw guitar playing. After a reasonable drum solo the vocals come in. In the mid of the song there's a nice bass break that later features a collage of voices. Tension builds from there and in the last minute the pace suddenly increases and .... surprise ! The song ends with a reprise of On Top of the World, very nice touch ! Strange that they didn't choose this as the closing track of the album.
And by the way, didn't I see that 'Blown on a steele breeze' lyric before ?

One to One (part 2) - what happened to part 1 ? - is a ballad-like track that starts with some mellow keyboard chords. After one and a half minute the main melody is picked up by bass and guitar and vocals follow quickly. There's some very tasty guitar in there as well. Very enjoyable track.

All in all Integration is a very nice album, with an emphasis on fine keyboard and guitar work. Dave 'Ace' Boland does a very reasonable job on the vocals, certainly better than the average release we receive at DPRP. The album will probably appeal to fans of Shadowland, Arena and Asia.
To listen to some MP3 samples of the album and see where you can buy it, check out the Hybrid Homepage.

The album is well worth checking out, and if the sound would have been slightly more original, if the drums were better and the drum machines would have been excluded, I would have given it an 8.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.

Hybrid is currently working on an EP called Distractions, which features leftovers from the Integration sessions.

Ed Sander

John Carson's Hypermania - Down to Birth
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Manic Music
Catalogue #:001
Year of Release:1999
Tracklist: Entre Millennia (1.29), Millenia (5.45), Shine (4.05), Wounded (5.22), Only Money (6.12), Crystal Ball (5.00), Exodus (4.34), Sleeping (4.48), Fortune & The Brave (5.34), Save Your Soul (6.18).

Up to this day John Carson remains my favourite Arena singer. I loved his voice on Song's From The Lion's Cage and some of that vocal splendour has never returned in the band's other albums.
I was surprised to hear that Carson had formed a new band called Hypermania, since the pressure of the music business had seemingly become to much for him during the early years of Arena. Carson has gathered some other musicians around him to help him on his solo debut: Ian Schofield on keyboards (Ian worked with Max Bacon (GTR), Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and members of ELP), Lindsay Davies on bass and Neil Mellor on guitars.
Strange enough the biography that came with the CD talks about a solo debut and about 'session musicians', although the band name and the drawings of the band members on the back inlay would make you think this was a real band.

I had very high expectations, maybe too high since Carson's album is the proof that it takes more than good compositions to produce a good album. Some of the songs are all quite well written and John's vocal performance is not bad at all, although he's really reaching his limits in some of the tracks and turning into almost silly screaming. Slightly overdone here and there.
Some of the arrangements are not very good; the instruments and vocals sometimes seem to fight each other more than they support each other. The overall sound quality is questionable and the mix is pretty amateuristic; a blur of sound attacks the listeners from the speakers.

Some of the compositions are very good, like the atmospheric vocal hymn Entre Millenia and the catchy Millenia, with its fine melodies and the mysterious Fotune & the Brave. Wounded is a very nice ballad, but contains a rather irritating keyboard twiddle and John's vocals are a bit shaky in the chorus. Exodus has some interesting ideas and some quite Nolan-ish keyboards. Fortune & The Brave sound okay as well and reminds me of the way Sting sometimes sings. Since it's a rather minimalistic song the instruments are not as dominant as in some other songs. Most of the other tracks are a mediocre to fair.

Main strength of the album are John's vocals, sometimes present in multiple overdubs. Unfortunately they sound very muffled and are sometimes drowned out by the far too prominent howling guitars, that seem to be ever present. Guitars and keyboards in themselves are reasonable, but not brilliant.

And then there's my all time horror coming to haunt me again: the drum machine. An Alesis SR 16, to be precise, played by John. For f**k's sake, what is it with some of these prog bands. Are drummers so damn rare ? What makes somebody want to destroy a good piece of music by one of those awful things ? I mean, there is no such thing as recreating a natural drum roll with one of these things. It's pathetic ! Not to mention the continuous cymbals that destroy tracks like Only Money (spot the sax solo behind the crashing cymbals and win a prize).

Furthermore, the indexing on the CD is rubbish. For no good reason three of the tracks are not separately indexed.

Something else that kind of offended me slightly was the self-indulging text of the biography that came with the CD. Here's a couple of excerpts: "The lead vocalist for Arena on probably the best Arena album ...", "... one of the most talented, dynamic and dedicated artists in the progressive/melodic field in rock today ...", "Gifted with a voice that has been compared with the Greats ...". Better come up with a great album if you carry on claiming these things ....

Finally, the booklet. Well, make that a folded 2-pager. That's all I'm going to say about it.
You can buy the CD through John's web site (which matches the quality of the CD) for 10 pounds. Oh, and that excludes postage and packaging (ranging from 2 to 4 pounds).

Arena fans might check this out, but don't expect a masterpiece.
Sloppy job. This could have been a great album but it's spoiled by bad arrangements and lousy production & mixing. Missed opportunity. Back to start ...

Conclusion: 6 out of 10.

Ed Sander

Rocket Scientists - Oblivion Days
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Transmission Records
Catalogue #:TM-018
Year of Release:2000
Info:Rocket Scientists
Tracklist: Dark Water Part Three: Neptune's Sun (1:46), Aqua Vitae (6:26), Oblivion Days (7:06), Archimedes (5:35), Banquo's Ghost (5:57), Space: 1999 (4:35), Escape (10:00), Break The Silence (5:55), Dark Water Part Four: Heavy Water (4:38), Wake Me Up - Live In Tokyo (bonus) (6:20), Stardust - MM96 Mix (bonus) (4:54)

Rocket Scientists music is loaded with bombast and very macho keyboard work by Erik Norlander. Apart from Eric, who has earned his place in prog history, it's Mark McCrite on vocals and guitars.

To supplement the band, they use several guest musicians, most notably Ayreon's Arjan Lucassen on heavy rhythm guitars on most tracks and even solo on Escape and Lana Lane for harmony vocals. Their previous album Brutal Architecture dates way back from 1995 and, needless to say, this album sounds a bit different (as I am told, since I am not familiar with the previous album). As Norlander puts in in the sleeve notes: " [...] if we are not to push the envelope a bit, how can we then in good conscience call ourselves progressive rock artists? ". True words.

Now to the music. Immediately from second one the feel of the album is established. Dark Water Part Three: Neptune's Sun is an opening like Pink Floyd uses on the last couple of albums (a short instrumental, setting the scene), only since Rocket Scientists are much more bombastic, this opening too is like a really bombastic version of a Floydian opening. It seemlessly flows into Aqua Vitae, which in terms of keyboard work and guitar work reminds me a bit of Threshold, since most of the companion instruments play in the lower regions of their domain, with a wailing keyboard/guitar/vocal melody over it. Indeed, I think in general the bombast of early Threshold is present on the whole album. In this track the bass melody (or better: Chapman stick melody) is also quite varying and interesting. Somewhere in the middle, a quieter piece starts, lifting the momentum a bit and leaving the listener some time to breathe before diving back into the heavy work. One really needs these moments now and then, since otherwise one drowns in the bombast. A good example is the title track Oblivion Days. Played very slowly, dark and dragging, it pounds on for seven minutes. Don't misunderstand me: I think it's one of the best tracks on the album, melody wise, but I can't get around the impression that it is played too slow: it should be speeded up to fit in five minutes (tip for a live performance?). This is the type of track that could have been found on an Ayreon album as well.

Archimedes is a complex instrumental, which I can't put a label on. More open, less bombastic than the previous tracks, bit more jazzy feel. Finally, the album chills down a bit on Banquo's Ghost, a ballad-like track, until the middle section break that features some frantic keyboard work and a fretless bass guitar "solo". Lots of (Mini-)Moog and Hammond here! Judging from the enormous amount of different keyboards that are used on the tracks Norlander must look like Wakeman the Second when on stage (i.e. you sometimes see a hand lifted over a rack of keyboards that surrounds him 360 degrees).

The album continues with an interpretation of the tune of the science fiction series Space:1999 (at least I think it is, since I remember from childhood that such a series exists and since an unfamiliar name is credited as composer of the track). Bombast squared with keyboards performing an entire orchestra.

If you don't have a headache by now, the 10 minute piece Escape starts. The advantage of longer pieces is that, most of the time, they start calmly, and so does this track, just vocals and a semi-acoustic guitar. Then the somewhat distorted (Bowie-like) vocals sing the first part. The chorus is catchy and not hard to memorize: (lots of oh-oh-oh's) Escape (oh-oh-oh). But with really nice and complex breaks between the oohh's. This track is charaterised by change: change of mood, tempo, melody and use of instruments, but most of the time recurring. A true piece of progressive rock, in other words. After this again somewhat massive piece Break The Silence is a welcome change, with clear focus on melody and not so much on bombast or complexety. A melancholic piece, it reminded me vaguely of the ballads of Frankie Goes To Hollywood (in my opinion the Masters of ballads), but others may think I am crazy (well, I'm sure they do). Dark Water Part Four: Heavy Water is what the title promises: keyboard oriented heavy metal, and closes the album with a bang.

Unless you have a CD with bonus tracks: two of their 1995 tracks, one live and one "remix". Somehow there is something weird going on with title numbering and length of tracks on the CD but I managed to play them, hmmmm, strange. Wake Me Up, recorded live in Tokyo in 1999, could have been on this album as a studio recording in style and feel, although the vocal section is more "poppy" and sing-along. Stardust - MM96 Mix is a happy song, with acoustic guitar and vocal, followed by classical-instruments-keyboard. There is only one single reference possible on this track, with Lana Lane on vocals in the chorus: the Electic Light Orchestra (ELO). I have heard few songs that so clearly are based on their style.

A very impressive album, due to the bombast. I personally like some bombast (I for instance adore Threshold's Wounded Land and Ayreon's Into The Electric Castle). But this album was almost too much, even for me! Fortunately at the right times, it quietens down a little. So if you like pompous, bombastic sympho: go get this masterpiece. If you're into subtle delicate tunes: nope, not for you, this one. From experience however, I know that a lot of people like the more bombastic style, and I think this album can be a great asset to your record collection, also because it is well produced, with a really nice and informative booklet (quite thick actually!). The CD is not intented for release in the USA. Maybe try ordering through the website mentioned above?

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers

Finch - The Making Of... Galleons Of Passion / Stage '76
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Record Label:Pseudonym Records
Catalogue #:CDP-1066-DD
Year of Release:1999
Info:Double Dutch Productions
Tracks CD1 (47:55): Reconciling (8:33), Dreamer (4:44), Remembering The Future (4:59), With Love As The Motive [(a) Impulse, b) Reaching, c) Sinful Delight?] (9:00), Night Walker (2:59), Unspoken Is The Word (7:48), Phases (5:31), As One (4:06)
Tracks CD2 (71:06): Scars On The Ego (9:32), Paradoxical Moods (11:39), Necronomicon (17:48), A Passion Condensed (20:06), Pisces (12:00)

What ?!?! A new Finch CD ?! Pseudonym has released the three Finch LPs on CD, and now they released a new double CD !! Even before I heard the album, I knew I simply had to get it. And now I do ! Wow, two more hours of Finch music to listen to... And I am here to tell you that you should get this CD as well ! To make things easy for those who like Finch: buy this album as soon as possible - you won't regret it ! For the others I will write this review.

Finch were a Dutch band, together between 1974 and 1978. They released three albums with instrumental progressive rock. The constant factors in the band are guitarist Joop van Nimwegen and bassist Peter Vink. When listening to the three albums in a row, you hear the music change from very technical but still emotional, heavily guitar-oriented, Yes-influenced and long-stretched songs on the first album, to a more melodic, song-structured, and Genesis-influenced third album. This has to do with Vink's and Van Nimwegen's drive to progress, but also with the change in line-up between the albums.

The first of this double CD set is titled The Making Of... Galleons Of Passion and holds demos that were recorded for the third album. The five tracks that appear on the album are on this CD, but in slightly different versions. The other three tracks are previously unreleased, and make this CD's value increase by the second!
Dreamer is a quiet song, I'd almost say "sweet" and a bit un-Finch-like. The obvious Van Nimwegen guitar sound is there, however, making it more than a simple song. It fits the rest of the music that the band played on the third album very well. No really long and frantic solos, but an atmosphere to create.
Night Walker contains weird guitar melodies, alternating with the keyboards, creating a somewhat mysterious scene; very short in Finch terms, by the way. It's more like it could have been a part in a longer song.
Phases is longer and contains more diversity in Finch styles per 1977, including a structure that is more song-based than older material. This song would have fitted on the third LP very well.

CD 2 is titled Stage '76, and it is what I, and I am sure a lot of others with me, have been waiting for: Finch live! I know a lot of gigs have been recorded, and for those, like me, who have never seen this great band on stage, here's the proof we have been missing out on something wonderful.
On this CD, there are two tracks from the first two albums each, and an otherwise unreleased track. The recording was made between the second and third album, and portrays more if the improvisational part of their music than where the following studio album would have them go. It's great to see how the band can both stay very near the original album versions in one part, and go somewhere complete different the next moment, in raw and rough, but also very fine and freaky improvisations, to come back where they left off earlier. With skilled musicians like these guys, you can't expect anything else than music like this - complex rhythms and adventurous melodies. Not as ovewhelmingly stuffed as those Yes dudes, but with room to breathe as well.
Of course, I have to mention the seventeen-minute Necronomicon [seemingly inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft - Ed.]! It has the time and structure that suits the first and second album, but parts do show influences that would result in songs as on the third album as well. Other parts, however, sound weird beyond expression (pun intended), and more jazzy at times too, long melodic solos - it's all there! It's a marvellous track that hould have been released earlier - maybe the second album should have been a double album.

Thanks to Pseudonym, we now have a document of Finch history that will remain inside my CD player for a long long time. Shame really, that a band like this could not grow further and had to stay in the largely unrecognized shadow of bands like Earth And Fire, Kayak, and Focus, while only the latter could come near the technical skills of Finch. And now I come to think of it, when you like Focus, you definitely have to check out Finch!
Nice packaging with a cover containing parts from all three LP covers, except for the no less than four typing errors in the song titles... Well, you can't have it all, I guess. But with this double CD, we do have a lot - and it's marvellous!

Conclusion: 9 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Bother - Losing Time
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:n/a
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:1999
Info:Bother website
Tracks: Free (6:45), Solitude (5:03), Return To Athens (8:28), Losing Time (4:02), Faith (6:08)

I have a soft spot for those fancy press packages. Lyric sheets, a bio with what the band think of their music, and some review quotes of what other think of their music. I like something to read!
According to the bio, Bother are a progressive rock / metal band, motivated by the desire to create complex and intelligent music that remains listener-friendly. There are five members; take a "classic" prog line-up, and exchange the keyboard player for a second guitarist, and we have Bother's line-up. Now we don't have a lot of reviews on DPRP of bands without a keyboard player, so I'd better explain that they still deserve a spot on our review pages.

Bother are progressive in roughly (pun intended) the same way Metallica are, and they are! Listen to S&M, for example - there really are some symphonic song structures in their music.
This is an EP-length demo CD. The recording quality is not perfect. Drums are a bit dry, and the mix could have been clearer. Overall, this is not a complaint, but more a thing to pay attention to next time.
I'm a man of melodies and atmosphere. The latter is often dark and mysterious, stressed by the gloumy lyrics. Bombastics I like too, and although there are two guitarists, they could have used more powerful layers.

Does this mean I don't like their music? Well, personally not too much, but I am a reviewer and it's my job to give an objective opinion as well, and that's too difficult. These guys know how to write their songs, no simple straight-forward rock, but many nice breaks and time changes. Harmony vocals are well-written, although a fellow reviewer's comparison (in the bio) with Queen is going too far in my opinion. The vocalist (as many others) has not Mercury's powerful throat, but his voice is still good, agressive at times, and warm - it fits the music very well, and it is a very positive part of the grand total. The music is not complex enough to stand in the shadow of a band like Dream Theater with too many other "new" bands, and I mean that as a compliment! Nice riffs, it could have used some more solos though, according to my melodic taste, but this CD should at least grab some attention from record labels. It's a demo CD, and it shows the potential of a rock band that is going to write a great next CD. I can't stop, however, wondering what an additional keyboard player could do to their sound...

So, although not prog in the way you might expect, these guys sure deserved their place among the other reviews on DPRP.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Picklelegaz - In Progress
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Record Label:Picklelegaz
Catalogue #:001
Year of Release:1999
Info:Picklelegaz website
Tracks: Perfect Lie (10:59), City Of Sun (3:47), Different Times (7:17), Impasto (3:42), This Wound (8:15), Genesis Happiness (8:39), Questions (7:39), Perfect Lie (Reprise) (3:44)

I prefer more pronouncable names for a band, but this is a review of the music, not the name. Picklelegaz are a Dutch band who besides the usual prog line-up have a second keyboard player, which reminds me Egdon Heath. Another thing that reminds me of that great Dutch band, is the voice of Ernst Brobbel - at times he is singing like Jaap Mulder.

The music is very melodic, influenced by Eighties bands who got their influences from a decade earlier. The band were really smart in putting Perfect Lie as the first track on the CD - the track with most impressive and melodic intro. But as I have experienced with other new bands as well, there's a lack of experience in songwriting which results in songs that are not able to hold your attention long enough, because they're not strong enough. It make me think of bands like Wings Of Steel and Citizen Cain. Some nice melody lines, but not enough character to create an album full of nice songs.
During the verses, for example, the vocal lines are the most melodic, with little musical backup. And there's a lot of lyrics...

Is it that bad? Well no, there are some catchy tunes, melodic verses and choruses. The music is not progressive as such - not progressing past musical boundaries nor progressing structures within individual songs - but diverse nonetheless. The singer has a deep, characteristic voice (which is a bit of a relief to hear in a progworld where too many bands seem to search for singers with high voices and when they fail to find one settle for less instead of trying to find a deeper voice with character), but otherwise I'd say the music is "sweet". His voice is the strongest part of the music of Picklelegaz, when he's not going over the top in emotional singing. And although there are some nice musical ideas and inventive instrumental passages, the band must learn to create musical pieces that are strong enough to stand on their own even without lyrics, or they'll remain simple tunes that become too long in a short while.

The title of this CD is In Progress. Well, forget about the pun and take this literally, and it's true. Maybe the band should have waited longer with recording this CD, and gain some more experience first in writing songs, and having more original ideas. I am very interested in hearing the next effort and see how they are doing.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Timothy Pure - The Island of the Misfit Toys
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Isosceles Records
Catalogue #:CD 103
Year of Release:1999
Info:Timothy Pure e-mail
Tracks: A Damp Preserve (2:33), The Fly-Man And The Snake (5:21), Finders Keepers (6:19), Hush (4:22), The Engine Roars (2:06), Tribes (5:50), Playground Politics (6:33), Mia's Game (3:33), Misha Superhero (8:32), Island Of The Misfit Toys (7:01), Behind The Front (5:52), Channels (3:17), Safe (4:29), Soil (2:38)

A masterpiece!

There, I've said it. Have I gone out of my mind? A two-word review? Starting a review with the conclusion? It should be enough! But you probably want me to tell you a little more, right?

Island Of The Misfit Toys is the third album by American band Timothy Pure (file under T, not P), and their second concept album. People who know their first two album should stop reading and buy this CD now! For the other folks, poor sods, I will go on.
>From emotion springs art, in this case: music. Very melodic music. Someone is not telling a musical story, but living it. The listener is stuck inside, experiencing the intensity. This is what music is about: emotion. And the music of Timothy Pure is sheer emotion.
It's OK if you're into those bands who go for the effect of pumping keyboard lines only for bombastic results, or those who try hard so to be different that they create forced, hence cold, technical pieces. This is different. The musicians play as a tight unit, to create the one result: a musical outlet of emotions. And there's no need to overdo things at playing, by creating as much noise as you can. No ego-tripping musicians here, and during a very moving guitar solo like in Behind The Front, the other instruments are very subtle. In other cases, there's a wall of sound that's built from musical parts that are still very audible, thanks to a wonderful mix and production. This creates a dark and steaming atmosphere, with intense tension. It reminds me a bit of Landmarq's latest studio album - haunting and, again, intense.

Well, I could go on and on. If you're not convinced by now that you need to go and listen to this album, then you simply have to learn and live missing out on something great: a masterpiece.

Conclusion: 10 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Karnataka - Karnataka
Country of Origin:United Kingdom
Record Label:n/a
Catalogue #:KTKCD 001
Year of Release:1998
Tracks: Must Be The Devil (7:05), Tell Me Why (4:46), Crazy (6:26), Until Next Time (7:50), The Woman In Me (4:50), There Must Be A Way (7:18), Closer (4:17), Run To You (7:49)

I always admire young band splaying the music they want to play. The enthusiasm often results in something refreshing and spontaneous. Some things may sound cute or naive, but that only means the band is working towards a sound of their own. In the case of Karanataka, the latter is not the case.This young band seems pretty comfortable with what they're doing on their debut CD.
The music is based on prog as it was in the Eighties, and most of all Marillion (Misplaced Childhood era), with playful melodies, no complex song structures. I said "based on", not copied - there is more. The songs are softer and sweeter. Guitar solos are giving the music a sharper edge, but the music remains a bit light - they never get heavy or bombastic.
Karnataka don't try to be a progressive rock band, but have their own ideas, and mix melodic song structures with Clannad's atmospheric folk influences. And I also had to think of T'Pau a bit if you leave out their poppy songs, and Solstice. The female vocals are somewhere between Clannad and T'Pau by the way, but on the sweet side.
Personally, I prefer music a bit more bombastic and heavier, and would have liked more keyboards (solos?) or a more powerful voice. But I'm here to give you an objective view on the music, and so I have to conclude that this is a very fine debut CD, on which the band has already been able to show they have found a sound of their own.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

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