Album Reviews

Issue 2000-022

Reviews in this issue:

Peter Gabriel - OVO
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Virgin/Real World
Catalogue #:724384354000
Year of Release:2000
Info:PG Homepage
Tracklist: The Story of OVO (5.21), Low Light (6.37), Time Of The Turning (5.06), The Man Who Loved The Earth/The Hand That Sold Shadows (4.15), The Time oOf The Turning (reprise)/ The Weavers Reel (5.37), Father, Son (4.55), The Tower That Ate People (4.49), Revenge (1.31), White Ashes (2.34), Downside-Up (6.04), The Nest That Sailed The Sky (5.05), Make Tomorrow (10.01)

Rarely has so much research and digging into the background gone into one of my reviews (not counting the Counting Out Time series). What first looked like a Peter Gabriel side-project of minor importance has turned out to be a fascinating concept featuring a story, a book, a multimedia live presentation and most important, a new album. As Gabriel said in an interview: "I remember one of the early criticisms was that Gabriel's going to give us another prog-rock concept album. And so I thought, no, we're not going to do that. And then I thought, well actually, maybe we are - fuck it!"

It's been 8 years already since Peter Gabriel's last studio album Us. Since then Peter has been working on a new project called Up, the album which should be released sometime next year. But that's not the only thing that Peter has been working on in the last couple of years. At the end of 1997 Peter was asked by Mark Fisher (who among other things has been involved in the design of many Pink Floyd, U2 and Rolling Stones shows) to help create a multimedia show for London's Millennium Dome. What was planned to be a 6 months diversion turned into a two year project.

The story of OVO was meant to capture past (agriculture), present (industrial age) and future (integration of nature and technology) in one story, and therefore is build around three generations of a family. Beth and Theo are very much traditional farmers, while their son Ion is an inventer who learns how to build big metal machines. Theo's daugher Sophia falls in love with Skyboy, one of the strange sky people, but her father disagrees and scares away her forbidden lover. Theo dies in a thunderstorm and Ion leads the people into an industrial revolution, enslaving the sky people. When nature is strangled to death by Ion's need for raw materials and Ion captures and imprisons Skyboy, Sophia leads the skypeople in a revolution and Ion's civilisation is torn down to the ground.
Sophia weeps on the grave of her mother, who died in the battle, and an oak tree starts to grow from it, while it starts to rain heavily. The remaining and united earth and sky people climb up the tree while the planet floods. Shortly after the son of Sophia and Skyboy (Ovo) is born, people start being pulled from the sky into the air. To save Ovo they build a nest of branches, in which Ovo sails of into the sky.
The story is simple and all-embracing at the same time, merging different historical ages (agricultural and industrial) with universal historical wrongs (apartheid, slavery, war, pollution, etc) and even some biblical elements (Tower of Babel, Moses).

The full story is also explained in a wonderful 40-pages electronic story book with cartoonish illustrations, which can be found in an enhanced CD-Rom section on the CD. I would advise everybody to explore that interactive section, which also features a video for The Nest That Sailed The Sky (filmed during the Millennium Dome performance from the top of the venue looking down), first because the concept will make much more sense if you have seen the full story. The 'real' story book can also be ordered for free once you bought the CD.

Now, how about the music ?
In a way it is very different from other 'regular' Peter Gabriel albums. First of all, Peter only sings part of the lyrics. Peter asked other vocalists to sing the parts of the characters in the story: Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack, This Mortal Coil) plays daughter Sophia, singer/songwriter Richie Havens plays father Theo, Alison Goldfrapp (Orbital, Tricky) plays visionary mother Beth, Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile, best known for their hit Tinsel Town in the Rain) plays Skyboy and Peter himself plays son Ion. On top of that, Gaelic vocalist Laria O Lionaird adds an ancient flavour to Low Light and rappers Neneh Cherry & Rasco (w)rap the whole story up in the opening tune.
Other special contributors to the album are The Dhol Foundation on drums and percussion, The Black Dyke Band on brass and Electra Strings.

The second difference is that a large part of the music is instrumental. Only 7 out of 12 songs have (English) vocals. A lot of the instrumental stuff sounds like the style Peter used on Birdy and Passion. Peter has again taken the concept of mixing rock with 'world music' one step further; the album features influences from British folk, Asian, African, Carribean, Middle Eastern, Australian and European music. Among the credits you'll find a long colourful mix of instruments from all over the world, ranging from didgeridoo to dhol drums and all kinds of flutes, from hurdy gurdy to brass and string sections, not to mention tens of instruments I've never even heard of.

The Story of OVO is a rap by Neneh Cherry & Rasco using the music of a later song, The Man Who Loved The Earth), as a rhythmic backing track. Peter himself does some vocals for the chorus melody. Seemingly this song was not part on the initial OVO concept, but was added because it made the story much clearer and would also appeal to the young generation; the song sums up the story in five minutes. The rest of the album is a more elaborate musical presentation of the story.

Low Light is a beautiful and very atmospheric overture piece in three parts. The first part is a piano/synth prologue to The Nest That Sailed The Sky that follows near the end of the CD. The second part is a vocal Gaelic chant by Laria O Lionaird and also features the melody of Downside-Up. Finally the third part is a instrumental which could have come straight of the Passion album (Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for 'The Last Temptation of Christ') and also reminds me of the version of Slow Marimbas on the 'Secret World Live' album.

Time Of The Turning is a slow, moody vocal track, verses sung by Richie Havens (Theo) and chorus by a Alison Goldfrapp (who's name is mysteriously misssing in the credits of this edition of the CD). Richie Havens sounds a lot like Gabriel himself, possibly because Peter wrote the vocal melodies.
The first part of The Man Who Loved The Earth/The Hand That Sold Shadows is a return to the music we have already heard as backing track in The Story of OVO. It's full of stomping rhythms and weird native sounds from Didgeridoo, Hurdy Gurdy, etc. For the The Hand That Sold Shadows section the music speeds up and heavy guitar chords (David Rhodes) come in, not unlike those in the background of Biko.

The Time Of The Turning (reprise)/The Weavers Reel starts with a return to the melody of the chorus of The Time Of The Turning, sung by Alison Goldfrapp (Beth), who sounds a lot like Kate Bush. Than the song suddenly turns into this marvellous uptempo folky tune that reminds me a bit of Toss The Feathers by The Corrs. Imagine Irish folk mixed with an African drum band gone berserk ! It's one of the highlights of the album.

Father, Son is the first song on which Peter does the lead (and only) vocals. The song is a beautiful gentle piano/vocal ballad that reminds me a lot of Washing of the Water. It also features a brass orchestration with The Black Dyke Band and Tony Levin on bass, making it sound like a track Roger Waters could have recorded. This was actually a rather personal track Peter wrote before getting involved in the Millennium Show project, but it fitted very nicely in the concept of the Theo vs Ion disagreement.

The Tower That Ate People is one of Peter's more experimental and Digging in the Dirt-like industrial sounding tracks with drum loops and heavily distorted vocals. We also find Peter's normal back-up band (Tony Levin, David Rhodes, Manu Katche) playing on this track. It eventually flows into Revenge, which is a typical native rhythm and percussion drum piece of one and a half minute with drum bands Adzido and the Dhol Foundation. Very energetic.

White Ashes is the only track that doesn't do anything for me. It's a short piece with atmospheric chanting vocals (reminding me a bit of The Genius of Love as played by the Talking Heads on the 'Stop Making Sense' video), weird (annoying) screams in the background and industrial effects and drum programming. Boring.
Fortunately the next track, Downside-Up, is another absolute highlight of the album. It is a wonderful duet between the enchanting Elisabeth Fraser (Sophia) and Paul Buchanan (Skyboy) accompanied by wonderful guitar, bass and keys plus brass & strings. Shivers down my spine ! Halfway through it changes into a typical uptempo Gabriel piece which features voices chanting Ovo's name and loads of percussion.

The Nest That Sailed The Sky is an ambient atmospheric instrumental soundscape piece (can't describe it any other way) with brass, strings, Shankar's violin and synth soundscape. Very relaxing.
Make Tomorrow is a long track with vocals shared by Buchanan, Fraser, Goldfrapp, Havens and Gabriel. One by one the vocalists come in, interrupted by breaks with low dark drums and effects. After 7 minutes the track shifts into a heavy drum part which feels a bit like the louder part of Secret World and also has heavy synth effects. Another fine and typical Gabriel piece.

The 24 page booklet features liner notes by Peter on the origin and development of the project, full credits for every track, all English lyrics (except for The Story of OVO) and many arty pictures in true Gabriel/Real World style.

For more information about the OVO project, visit Peter's OVO Pages, including a wonderful 17+ minutes electronic press kit, which strange enough was not included on the enhanced section of the CD.
Having heard this album has for the first time raised my interest in the Millennium Dome, which I considered (and still do) to be a really silly venture. However the selection of OVO compositions used in 'a 28 minute live aerial and acrobatic spectacle that involves 61 performers at any one time, utilising the full 50 metres of the dome's interior height' sounds fascinating indeed. Maybe I should go check it out next time I'm in London.

As mentioned, OVO sounds like a cross between Passion and US, it has the very atmospheric world music of Passion combined with the more electronic song approach of some of the tracks on Us. OVO is a must have for all Gabriel fans and people that like a mixture of prog rock, folk and world music. The Time of the Turning/The Weaver's Reel, Downside-Up, Father/Son and Make Tomorrow alone are more than worth the price of the CD. It's already one of my favourite albums of this year !

Besides this 'international version' there's also a version of the OVO album called the 'Millennium Dome Release' which has 'The Story of Ovo' on a seperate CD (which actually seems much better for the structure of the album and avoids the repeated The Man Who Loved The Earth music and the slightly out-of-place rap), an additional short track (The Tree That Went Up) and a booklet with the comic story of OVO. Although I haven't actually held that release in my hands, it seems a better choice of the two versions.

Ed Sander

Conclusion: 9 out of 10.

Condition Red - Condition Red
Country of Origin:Finland
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC 2003-2
Year of Release:2000
Info:Condition Red
Tracklist: Calls Out My Name (10:28), Judgement Day (10:31), Life is Now (8:51), Bach on the Streets Again (5:15), Fly Me High (4:58), Lighthouse (8:26), Learning To Live (4:30), Final Words (7:41)

Condition Red is a Finnish progressive metal project, initiated by Lars Eric Mattson. In itself the compositions are quite OK, mostly reminding of Dream Theater and the likes, but the execution is fairly dubious at places.

The opening track opens quite nice, with strings reminding more of modern classical music then metal, but the chorus that follows shows the weakness of some of the musician (especially the drums are not up to standards for this type of work). The vocals are on the edge, although the female vocalist gives the best performance here with a Bjørk-like intonation.
Judgement Day opens a bit jazzy, and the bass guitar draws the most attention, together with the swinging soprano-sax. All in all a really bare part. The second part of the track, is quite complex and reminding of Finneus Gauge. Due to the lyrics that feature the sentence "Close to the Edge", indeed this Yes track comes to mind as well, but only briefly.

Due to the fact that this is a project of course everybody wants his/her solo and the album features quite a lot of them therefore. One of the most outstanding names on the project is that of (ex-)Dream Theater, Platypus, etc. keyboard player Derek Sherinian who performs a solo on the next track Life is Now, and this is at the same time the only positive thing about this mediocre track that leans too heavily on the Dream Theater legacy and is quite uninspirational.
Bach on the Streets again is definitely based on classical music (most probably...ehhhggg Beethoven?), thrashed into a prog metal jacket. Well at least the melodic content is OK, but it sounds a bit overdone. Fly Me High is more simple rock, with a negative lead for the vocals. I don't like this one.

Lighthouse starts strong, with a nice folky melancholic tune that leads into a more jazzy/rock experimental part with cool Hammond work and quite a high tempo. Due to the different tempi and atmospheres cramped into the 8 minutes that the track lasts, it is in my opinion the most diverse and best track of the album. Also because it is fully instrumental. Learning to Live continues a bit in the same vein, but less experimental and the weak vocals return. The album closes with Final Words, a ballad, but in reality more of an extended solo with some background chords and drums.

Well, as you have guessed I am not too impressed by this project. Maybe because there are too many different people involved that are forced to play more or less the same style, so it becomes somewhat incoherent. There is no feeling of a "band". The vocals are quite bad, more yelling than singing, but at least they are in tune most of the time. The compositions themselves have potential but are not quite well orchestrated and there is too much room for solos, breaking the melodic lines of the compositions too often. Not an album I would recommend, there are too many other albums worthwhile buying out there.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers

Pale Acute Moon - Newtopia
Country of Origin:Japan
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4308.AR
Year of Release:2000
Info:Musea Records
Tracklist: Collage (3.19), Chapter 1: Newtopia (9.18), Chapter 2: The End Of The Party (5.34), Chapter 3: Time Trip (4.56), Refrain: The End Of The Party II (1.28), Chapter 4: After Moon (7.47), Chapter 5: Impression (8.15), Chapter 6: Daybreak (4.33), Coda (1.27)
Bonus Tracks: In A Forest With A View (2.26), Beelzebub (2.31), Silent Room For Yourself (4.59), Baby (4.38), Room (1.15), Decembre (4.53), Silver Films (5.33), Ten Years Ago (0.32).

Another day, another Musea Records re-release. The nine track piece Newtopia by Japanese progressive rock formation Pale Acute Moon was originally released in 1985. I only recieved the CD and no booklet, and information concerning the band on the internet is flimsy, so I'm a bit short on information. Pale Acute Moon was founded by keyboard player Motoi Semba, who also played in Teru's Symphonia, Kennedy and Shonen Knife. The line up includes guitarist M. Imamura, a rhythm section and a female singer (though I'm pretty sure I can detect two distinct female vocals on the album).

Newtopia is essentially one long composition in nine parts, varying in distinctiveness. The piece starts with a beautiful instrumental intro, Collage, performed solely on keyboards. An excellent neo-classical track. Its theme is taken in other directions in Chapter 1: Newtopia, as the players accelerate, with guitar and addition of bass. Primary focus remains on keyboards and synths, building to more bombastic heights, with the symphonic overture of a synthesized brass section. One-third into the track it turns into a song, piano replacing keyboards, guitar and drums taking the spotlight as female vocals are introduced. These sound very muddled at times; only the chorus is clearly preserved in the mix. The chorus also stays closest to the earlier symphonic atmosphere, while the rest of the vocal section has a bit of a comical overtone, heightened by some almost childlike "nah-nah-nahnah"-ing. This does devalue the track somewhat in my view, but a good instrumental intermezzo, with fine guitar solo, manages to save it. The keyboards are focused on throughout with more or less emphasis, recapturing their dominance towards the end, more bombastic than before, in a grand finale.

Chapter 2: The End of the Party is a subtle neo-symphonic song, with instruments in much better unison than in the previous track. Vocals are also better recorded then in the previous song, though the more emotional parts seem beyond reach of the performer. Some fine guitar support, almost mandolin-like. An up-tempo section on all instruments introduces the fourth part; Chapter 3: Time Trip. This sounds a lot like (early) IQ at times. Vocals stand out clearly in the first half of the track, but are uncomfortably faded later on. The second part of this song has a section of biting guitar chords. The next track, Refrain:The End Of The Party II is in fact a return to earlier themes, with a more powerful rhythm section from drums and percussion, though it is now guitar that fades into the background unexplainably.

The second part of the piece Newtopia opens with the ballad Chapter 4: After Moon. The strange variation in vocal quality remains and again guitar sounds faded and muffled, until its solo in the second half. Chapter 5: Impression is a sometimes farcical track, supported by some fierce drumming. A bit like the musical support of a circus act at the start, this becomes neo-classical variation in the centre part, then turns prog rock towards the end (with some returns of the earlier farcical stuff). Some of the main themes of Newtopia return in the last track of this piece Chapter 6: Daybreak, with some added bombast, making it a perfect closer.

The nine bonus tracks are all relatively short, varying from thirty seconds to five and a half minutes. The sound quality of a few of these songs is extremely poor. Some of this must be due to recording, as with Baby, which sounds like it was taped directly from a vinyl original. The English lyrics, now performed by a male vocalist, are at times incomprehensible, muddled and even inaudible in the background. No attempt is made to capture the bombastic feeling of Newtopia. Rather this is a collection of somewhat dull compositions, based on quiet keyboards, interwoven with unimaginative guitars and percussion. Some track do have distinguishing features, such as industrial percussion on Beelzebub or use of harmonica on Baby and Decembre. Funnily the extremely laid-back male vocals, part of five of these nine tracks remind me of John Jowitt on the Dirtbox track End Game.

The only other exponent from the eighties Japanse progressive rock scene I'm familiar with is Pageant, whose album Abysmal Masquerade I reviewed earlier this year on DPRP. There is room for comparison, as both Pale Acute Moon and Pageant focus on keyboards, with electric guitar as the most important secondary instrument. I find Pageant the more imaginative in composition and performance, whilst sharing with Pale Acute Moon the alternating between neo-classical material, atmospheric ballads and pop oriented songs. Pale Acute Moon does keep focus more on neo-classical arrangements, with Chapter 3: Time Trip as the biggest exception to the rule. Newtopia's bombastic qualities are something mostly lacking with Pageant and one of Pale Acute Moon's greater strenghts.

In the end this album suffers too much from poor production. In either original recording or mixing, or in the remastering proces, something seems to have gone very wrong, as my many references to instruments and vocals floating in and out of focus clearly exemplify. I can't think of a good reason this should have been done intentionally as it is quite irritating at times. As a result the players' performances, which can be rated satisfactory to good, suffer. Motoi Semba's stand out performance on keyboards and piano alone escapes the results of a poor production.

The original piece Newtopia is in itself an interesting and enjoyable piece of composition, that should go down well with fans of neo-classical prog rock. The bonus tracks are as always a nice added touch, but in this case add little of value to the product.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Persephone's Dream - Moonspell
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Pup in a Cup Productions
Catalogue #:PD25155-2
Year of Release:1999
Info:Persephone's Dream
Tracklist: Millennium Moon (4:55), Evident Dreams (5:07), Perigree (0:42), Euphoria (6:24), Learning Curve (4:50), Alternate Reality (4:06), Earth Dreams (12:27), Electronic Exotic (6:17), Full Moon (4:38), Apogee (1:45), Altar of Desire (5:31), Worry Beads (4:39), Doorways (4:32)

Brooding, haunting and intense are words that crop up when listening to this offering by Pittsburgh based band Persephone's Dream. This impression is firmly established by the first four tracks of the album, which share a common feel, albeit not in the same intensity. Rather, there's a slow build-up from opener Millennium Moon, which has a bit of a Legend feel to it, through the haunting Evident Dreams, culminating in the truly menacing Euphoria.
In each of these tracks it's Chris Siegle's driving low bass that is responsible for the dark atmosphere. Set against this are Karin Nicely's beautiful clear vocals, which are not unlike Legend's Debbie Chapman.

Listening to Evident Dreams you could imagine yourself riding with the warband through a primeval dark and haunting forest. Euphoria emphasizes the less pleasant meanings of the word rather than the pleasant. Such imagery is more often experienced when listening to the album, a sure sign that the music is getting to you.

When Persephone's Dream go a little lighter, this is only in comparison. The underlying intensity is always there, but maybe less apparent, like on the far less oppressive Learning Curve which has Rowen Poole opening with a pretty acoustic guitar piece. Alternate Reality is also less brooding, a faster track, primarily guitar dominated.

Keyboards play a supportive but crucial role on the album, often providing a haunting backdrop, like in the short instrumental Perigree. Electronic Exotic features more extensive use of keys, and is also one of the heaviest on the album. It combines early eighties Genesis (hollow pounding drums, keys) with Garbage (vocals, sometimes distorted, and guitars) and succeeds, unbelievable as that combination may sound! The Garbage reference also pops up in the dark Altar of Desire.

The oddest track on the album is the long (12+ minutes) Earth Dreams, which consists purely of percussion, and a few sound effects. Together with guest musician John Tallent, percussionist Ed Wiancko delivers a study of a great variety of percussive instruments, including woodblocks, hand drums and triangles. This track effectively breaks the album in two, providing as it does a moment of relaxation between the driving intensity of the other songs on the album.

Apogee is another short instrumental, very ominous, with whispering voices, hypnotic percussion and the sound of raging wind. The album however ends on a bright(er) note, with Doorways, with which the band seems to want to say that there's light at the end of the tunnel!

In Greek mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, and after she has been abducted by Hades, the king of the underworld, an compromise was reached whereby Persephone would to spend part of the year with her husband, Hades, and part of the year with her mother, Demeter. When Persephone is with Hades the earth is wracked by the sorrow of her mother. When Persephone returns from the underworld to walk the earth again, Demeter pours forth the blessings of Spring to welcome her beloved daughter home. Persephone's Dream's music is a soundtrack to the former period rather than the latter. Still, this is a very refreshing album, offering a combination of intense mystery and haunting darkness, coupled with expressive vocals. A combination that I for one have not heard before, and leaves me wanting for more!

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

Derk van Mourik

Progressive DisDURPance Vol. 3 - Best Advanced Rock & Metal
Country of Origin:Germany
Record Label:Spice Records
Catalogue #:
Year of Release:2000
Info:DURP Webzine
Tracklist: Yoke Shire - The Brook, the Mirror and the Maiden (6.59), Agent Cooper - Wasting Away (3.27), Nangyala - Paragon (4.09), Zenobia - Giant's Behind the Moon (5.04), Scythe - Eruption: the Arrow's Point (2.52), Tunnelvision - Reach the Moon (5.00), TellTaleHard - Tip the Scale (4.46), Body Full Of Stars - Body Full of Stars (5.10), Platos HalO - In the Pink (5.02), Transcendence - Step by Step (4.56), Sfumato - Take2 (3.30), Prototype - Trinity (5.02), Paranoise - Tarana (3.51).
Bonus Tracks: Mystery - Beneath the Veil of Winter's Face (5.49), Salem Hill - The Last Enemy (7.49).

The German website DURP (Die Ultimative Review Page) has previously released two sampler CDs jammed with progressive rock, though the focus has been on those acts that would be labelled prog metal. This year they've released the third compilation in their Progressive DisDURPance series. Tracks were selected by DURP masterminds Markus Weis and Renald Mienert. As I'm only slightly or not at all familiar with most of these bands, this offers a good opportunity to see what's happening in the progressive scene beyond the well grazed pastures.

The compilation opens on a high note with The Brook, the Mirror and the Maiden by US band Yoke Shire. This is an excerpt from a sixteen minute epic Maiden Voyage. It starts as a acapella song, featuring several vocals, before wooden xylophone establishes the main theme, soon joined by percussion. The song is build up slowly, as acoustic guitar becomes the central instrument, with percussion and vocal chants in support. Then keyboards take it to new heights. At the three-minute mark, the track seems to end with only a sound fragment of rain remaining, but then wind instruments intrude in this serene environment, supported by humming vocals. It all ends wonderfully with rich keyboard section, and a late addition of lyrics. Without question one of the best songs on this sampler album. The album this song came from, Masque of Shadows, earned a DPRP recommended tag early this year. (Check out DPRP's review).

Next the album shifts to a more powerful setting with Wasting Away by Agent Cooper, another US act. A good rock track, with fine vocal and guitar performances, aided by Hammond organ and keyboards. Paragon by Dutch prog rockers Nangyala is a single edit of an originally almost 13 minute song. An at times very subtle track, with sweeping hard or melodic guitar driven intermezzo's, carried by electric guitar and floating keyboards, and a simple, but extremely effective bass. I can't play this one without increasing the volume for the final section. Also rates as another good vocal entry. (Click here for DPRP's album review).

Giants Behind the Moon by German band Zenobia is a bit disappointing, especially after the first three solid tracks on the CD. This is a re-edit from a 6.49 minute version featured on their debut album October. The second half of the track improves a lot on the first half. The singer fails to impress me, though he arguably has some very tricky vocal melodies. A fade-out at the end for some reason occurs in the middle of a lyrics section, possibly a result of the re-editing. Next up, Eruption: The Arrow's Point, by another German act, Scythe. A short piece, performed with lots of energy, with an initial fine guitar solo, and booming keyboards, but the muddled vocals don't help this song. Too short to leave any real impression.

Then another highlight: Reach the Moon by Finnish prog metal band Tunnelvision. This is prog metal at its best. Great guitar with powerful riffing, sweeping keyboards, a pounding bass, excellent drums and captivating vocals. I can't think of any negative aspect to mention. A review of their debut album While The World Waits will soon be posted on DPRP. Guess who's hoping for the honours of that one?

Tip the Scale by Germany's Telltalehard was taken from their second demo Spiral Stairs. While the band comfortably shifts between the styles of diverse bands like Everon and Dream Theater, the drummer seems a bit overactive on cymbals at times. Body Full of Stars, a self-titled track by UK ensemble Body Full Of Stars I found a rather strange experience. Frenzied bongos evoke both the atmosphere of the African jungle and Industrial music. Guitar and keyboards float in the background, except during an unimaginative guitar solo. Interesting varied vocals are used. Except for the bongo beat this really did nothing for me.

Another very alternative track and the only song with female vocals is In The Pink by Plato's HalO from the U.S.A. Vocalist Marija's soprano vocal melodies evoke images of Kate Bush. Effective use of simple keyboard notes and sliding guitar. Not really my cup of tea, this somehow succeeds in captivating me each time I hear it. The fourth German entry is Step by Step by Transcendence. Violin is integrated to great effect, but besides that, this is at best a good rock song, that would have fitted in comfortably on Queensryche's Empire.

Take2 is by Sfumato, another German band. An energy-packed instrumental, that just doesn't seem to go anywhere. This song featured on their debut album Demo 99 which was included in DPRP's millenium review special. Trinity by Californian Prototype is included as a preview of their upcoming album. Initially these guys come over as a pumped up version of Kansas, but raging guitar and double bass drums soon shatter that image. Powerful, yet sophisticated metal in a varied composition.

You may be excused if you'd think you had accidentaly put on some kind of Spirits of Nature CD when the first tones of Tarana by U.S. band Paranoise come floating in. The Amerindian chanting comes straight out of World Music but is brought in Oriental fashion. Underneath this dominant chanting, there's a guitar riffing though. In my final judgement, I'd sooner skip this one. The first bonus track, Beneath the Veil of Winter's Face by Mystery from Canada, was taken from an unreleased demo. Very accessible melodic rock, combining influences from Yes and IQ in a simple package.

And then, after over an hour of music, the CD does justice to the term climax with its second bonus track, The Last Enemy by Salem Hill. I've heard Salem Hill's last CD The Robbery of Murder once or twice and remember it fondly, though I haven't bought it...yet. The band delivers here an excellent song with instrumental sections in a superb coordination of instruments and great vocals. The Last Enemy starts as a ballad, builds up halfway through, then returns to the earlier theme, through an intermezzo of a choral piece, but with imaginative variation in tempo. This track is included on the upcoming Salem Hill album Not Everybody's Gold.

Progressive DisDURPance Vol. 3 has grown on me over time and has certainly achieved its goal by awakening my interest in several of the bands featured. It has some very good tracks, notably on the first half of the CD, but also some disappointing material. At first I thought some of these songs only barely deserved the label 'progressive', but on closer examination I have to admit to have been mistaken in most cases. This could partly be the result of DURP's selection process, if tracks have been chosen for their accessibility or re-edited to that effect. Added value comes from the superb presentation in the form of an informative booklet, with facts on each of the bands and the respective tracks. And finally I must point out the beautiful artwork of one of my all-time favourites, Larry Elmore. Sound quality of the CD itself is excellent.

This 73 minutes long sampler will almost certainly appeal to those who favour prog metal. I do not think there's enough here to satisfy the neo-progressive fan, although two of the best tracks, by Yoke Shire and Salem Hill, are reason enough to make this CD interesting to anyone wanting to sample some of today's better or lesser known prog acts.

You can order this CD at or by sending 15 US Dollars or 30 German Marks to: DURP, c/o Markus Weis, Am Gangstein 9, D-85551 Heimstetten, Germany.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Album Reviews