Issue 2007-069

Reviews in this issue:

Manning – Songs From The Bilston House

Manning – Songs From The Bilston House
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:F2 Music
Catalogue #:200710
Year of Release:2007
Info:Guy Manning
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Songs From The Bilston House (6:03), The Calm Absurd (7:24), Lost In Play (7:05), Understudy (8:13), Skimming Stones (7:18), Antares (7:10), Icarus & Me (5:53), Pillars Of Salt (10:35), Inner Moment (7:33)

Starting with the 1999 debut Tall Stories For Small Children, each consecutive year has seen the release of a new Manning album. As we head towards the year’s end, 2007’s offering arrives in the nick of time. With my appreciation of Guy Manning’s music growing with each release, Songs From The Bilston was the most eagerly awaited so far. His contributors include the now regular band and ‘guest’ lineup of Laura Fowles, David Million, Ian Fairbairn, Andy Tillison, Steve Dundon plus Julie King on backing vocals. As before, in addition to lead vocals, Guy provides an array of instrumental backing including keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, bass and drums. Conceptually the album continues in a similar vein to last years' Anser's Tree linking fictional and semi-autobiographical events and characters by a common thread. On that occasion it was the successive generations of the same family, here it’s the various inhabitants of a now derelict house.

The title track Songs From The Bilston House is a suitably buoyant opener with a hint of menace that recalls Redbone’s The Witch Queen Of New Orleans. Compared with the succeeding tracks the instrumentation is sparse with spiky guitar punctuations and a brief but forceful sax-break from the ever-excellent Laura Fowles. It has a memorable chorus and closes with some engaging wordless harmonies from Guy and the band. From the smooth jazzy opening, The Calm Absurd sounds like a throwback to Lost In London from The Tangent’s last album. Following a compelling bass line and electric piano section the mood becomes gutsier with super charged flute and sax solos from guest Steve Dundon and Laura respectively. Although until now the quality level has been high, for my money it reaches new heights with the next two songs in particular.

Lost In Play is a wonderfully uplifting song with stunning fiddle, synth and flute exchanges anchored by an undercurrent of crisp acoustic guitar. Just when you feel it can’t get any better, it does with a stunning electric guitar and synth duet that recalls the classic Yes front men at their best. The monumental Understudy that follows is the winning track for me, comparing favourably with No Hiding Place from 2005’s One Small Step, a song I love dearly. A surge of heavy weight drumming propels this keys led powerhouse along with its solid organ sound and twiddly synth work that races from speaker to speaker, courtesy of the prolific Andy Tillison. It reaches grandiose proggy heights with soaring Moog and Mellotron voices, and I almost forgot to mention Guy’s stirring vocal that’s one of his most infectious to date. Special mention at this juncture has to go to the production by Guy and long time friend and Tangent colleague Tillison, which is simply stunning.

Following the excellence of the two previous songs Skimming Stones could have easily been an anti climax, but it isn’t. It asserts itself with a statacco organ riff before breaking into a lively fiddle led reel supported by edgy Ian Anderson style flute work. David Million rounds things off nicely with a supreme exhibition of blues flavoured guitar. Antares features some beautifully tranquil and rich instrumental work that has become a Manning trademark. Pastoral acoustic guitar, flute, mandolin and a relaxed vocal set the scene for a sweet sounding violin solo courtesy of Ian Fairbairn. The mood is broken by a heavy rhythmic passage featuring driving organ and (I think) electric piano. Guy adds a warm and friendly bass pattern to a stirring orchestral section before things come to a gentle conclusion. Icarus & Me is a lively mid tempo song that makes good use of a fat organ sound, rocking piano and synths. Laura provides a driving sax lead leaving Million to have the final word with a soaring guitar solo.

Pillars Of Salt is a cleverly constructed song that’s modeled on The BeatlesA Day In The Life. References to the fab four abound in the music and lyrics including sophisticated keys induced orchestral embellishments and ending with a sustained piano chord. It features one of Guy’s strongest choruses to date with colourful harmonies and elaborate guitar and organ parts with a retro timbre evoking the spirit of the 1960’s. The atmospheric guitar solo in particular is a highpoint of both the song and the album. Unlike Manning’s last album, which ended on a bombastic note, Inner Moment provides a mellow and reflective conclusion. A waltz like rhythm provides the backdrop for some folky lead work taking in ringing mandolin, acoustic guitar and accordion sounding keys. A bittersweet violin adagio takes centre stage along with a potent vocal melody leaving a touch of Spanish flavoured guitar that could have come from the hands of Gordon Giltrap to bring proceedings to a fitting close.

Given that six out of the eight previous Manning releases have each received a DPRP recommendation then this latest has much to live up to. No worries on that score however as this in my opinion is the strongest outing to date. Despite Guy’s prolific output it’s evident that this is the result of many hours of meticulous labouring by the man and his band. With his ability to elicit top performances from the whole team I suggest Guy puts his name forward for the post of England football manager. With everyone playing with skill, precision and unity, the Man of the Match for me is David Million. After his debut on the last album I concluded that his guitar style was not wholly sympathetic to Manning’s music. Following his performance here I take it all back. Not only is his playing stylistically in tune I believe it’s the best I’ve heard on any Manning album. In fact along with Bryan Josh’s performance on the last Mostly Autumn album, it’s some of the most convincing work I’ve heard from a UK guitarist all year.

Conclusion: 9+ out of 10


Vitalij Kuprij - Glacial Inferno

Vitalij Kuprij - Glacial Inferno (and Revenge 2CD set cover)
Country of Origin:Ukraine
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC196
Year of Release:2007
Info:Vitalij Kuprij
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Symphonic Force (4:19), Liquid Rain (5:48), Fire In The Sun (5:57), Divided Horizon (6:03), Glacial Inferno (5:40), Dancing Flame (4:40), Forgive (2:18), Dying To Live (8:03), Burning Ice (5:29), Theme By Albinoni [Bonus Europe] (2:44)

First of all I have to apologize to all concerned and interested for the long delay in finishing and publishing this review!

A long time ago, when I was still young and ignorant, I started to discover the wide variety of modern pop music and that there was more to it than Abba and The Bee Gees and everything else that was in the hit parades. Although it was still many years before I fully encountered the well hidden world of sympho and prog music, the first few elements of that world already reached my attention. But first I went through my hard-rock years when the more heavier, guitar driven, rock sounds were what appealed most to my feelings and needs; that was in the eighties when bands like Europe, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake etc surfaced. I developed a preference for groups as Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, mostly because of their splendid and frequent use of keys and organs. Even then I wasn't that keen on vocals and preferred instrumentals that often pleased my ears the most.

On a certain day I stumbled on the debut album of Yngwie J. Malmsteen and I was totally swept off my feet by it! I never knew this kind of music existed and it was right up my alley; great instrumental tunes, very melodic, heavy and often influenced by fine classical music; I was sold. After that I naturally also fell for Yngwie's followers like Tony MacAlpine and Vinnie Moore and those other guitar masters like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and also the great keyboard wizards like Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Jordan Rudess, Pär Lindh, Erik Norlander etc; again because of their musical variety and melodic creative style of music making with classical influences. Making a modern or proggy version of classical music or incorporate classical music into modern symphonic music, both often described as 'neo-classical', is something I have been affectionate with ever since. And now I can add Vitalij Kuprij to my short list in that category!

Vitalij Kuprij was born in 1974 in Ukraine and began his serious piano studies at Kiev's Mykola Lyssenko Music Academy for highly talented and selected students. After graduation from this major conservatory he went to Switzerland to study at the world renowned Basel Conservatoire where he obtained his second degree. In 1995 Vitalij Kuprij went to the United States upon recommendation by Sir James Galway to begin further music studies and where, while on full scholarship, he obtained another degree and graduated from this world famous institution in 2000. So it's clear this musician is an excellent piano player, totally trained and educated for classical music and is without doubt more famous in the world of classical music than the prog world we focus on. So you might wonder what his album is doing here on this site, but in this respect a slight comparison with W.A. Mozart comes to mind who has often been described as the rock star of the 18th century. So even though Vitalij is highly acknowledged as a classical piano player and has won several prestigious prizes around the world he seems to have the urge to make modern rock music as well, naturally with some classical sauce poured over it. In fact his own website actually consists of two divided sections, a classical side and a rock side. Being totally incompetent of making any sensible comments on the classical accomplishments of Vitalij Kuprij I naturally will focus only on his rock side.

This album, Glacial Inferno, is already the fifth solo rock album by Vitalij and next to that he's also a member of the group Artension who already released seven albums and an ex-member of Ring Of Fire who produced three albums including him on keyboards. Besides that he also was a guest musician on more than a dozen albums by other artists! Adding all his classical albums to that it seems it's hard to find any longer period in which not some kind of musical outing by Vitalij has seen the day of light. On Glacial Inferno he gets assistance by Michael Harris on guitar and the former Yngwie Malmsteen and Ark rhythm section consisting of John Maccaluso on drums and Randy Coven on bass.

This latest album, released early 2007, also came out as a limited edition double pack of just 2000 with Vitalij's latest band project release Revenge, which until now has been unavailable outside Asia. It's a promo of this double pack we're reviewing here, that by the way does contains a few mastering errors that hopefully have been eliminated in the final product.

About Glacial Inferno Vitalij comments:

"The aim of the album was to express myself musically and compositionally in the best possible way to make my friends and fans enjoy it and relate to it, as well as to grow further as an artist and composer/instrumentalist and producer".

Indeed that reveals nothing much about what to expect from this album, so let me inform you about that.

I actually already gave it partly away earlier in this article, placing Vitalij Kuprij in the category along with those mentioned guitar and keyboard wizards. Just as most songs by the aforementioned artists this whole album is totally instrumental and features some impressive musical extravaganza and a showcase of virtuosity and creativity. A comparison to the early instrumental work of Yngwie Malmsteen certainly applies and it's clearly no coincidence his name pops up so often in relation to Vitalij's work. The main difference, although it's not so prominent, between Yngwie and Vitalij is naturally the instrument they master most and therefore use as a basis for their music, for Yngwie it's the electric guitar and for Vitalij the piano. So you won't be disappointed when you expect a more keyboard based version of the neo-classical music Yngwie started his career with.

This album delivers the several kind of songs in that category, the bombastic, turbo-speed power songs, real instrument-battles; almost concert-like orchestrations, mellow ballads in which the keyboard almost howls; short piano-only recitals of some classical piece; it's all in there. Although the music was surely composed on piano first you won't find a lack of wide instrumentation on this album, nor an overdose of fiddling about on the piano. It's really as if some classical pieces have been re-done by a heavy metal group with great respect to the original work. Vitalij's piano or keyboard, sometimes simultaneously, is often accompanied by the rest of the band and leaves plenty of room for the excellent guitar playing by Michael Harris. As a result of the high musical qualities and virtuosity of Vitalij and the people he gathered around him there isn't really a weak spot on this album and I surely did thoroughly enjoy it.

Glacial Inferno offers plenty of variation, lots of progressive and innovative surprises and even some elements of fusion and folk. It doesn't get boring anywhere and Vitalij cleverly manages to avoid the standard mistakes when making this kind of album like a total overdrive, too much notes per minute, or that it's just a showcase of musical abilities; the kind of things that make the ears and brain of the listener utter some serious complaints. No, that's really not the case with this album, so I can really advise it to anyone interested in high quality, innovative instrumental music and I think it's an absolute MUST for all interested in neo-classical prog-rock and everyone who gets excited by musical extravaganza and like powerful, bombastic tunes with lots of keys!

Vitalij Kuprij - Revenge

Country of Origin:Ukraine
Record Label:Lion Music
Catalogue #:LMC196
Year of Release:2007
Info:Vitalij Kuprij
Samples:Click here
Vitalij Kuprij - Revenge (original CD cover)

Tracklist: Burning My Soul (4:59), I Don't Believe In Love (3:52), Into The Void (5:26), Revenge (4:45), Just Another Day (4:07), J. Haydn-Excerpt From Sonata In E Minor (2:24), Classic War (9:42), Emperor's Will (5:13), Follow Your Heart (4:47), Stand Up And Fight (4:59), Let The Future Unfold (6:54)

Basically Revenge is another Glacial Inferno but then with vocals, more rockier and with fewer classical influences. So here I could end my shortest review ever, but still there's more to tell about this album as for instance some background information. In fact this album was already finished in 2005 and released before Glacial Inferno, but only in Asia, so now with the inclusion in the limited edition double pack this album now also comes available in the rest of the world. Apart from the four musicians that also played on Glacial Inferno this album features an impressive range of guest vocalists and a guitarist. The people who provided the vocals on this album are: Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen, solo), Doogie White (Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen), Goran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, John Norum), Apollo Papathanasio (Time Requiem, Firewind), Shawn Leahy and Chris Catena and it was Roger Staffelbach (Artension) who laid down a guitar solo as a guest guitarist. I do however found no information on who sung on which track, so that's a puzzle you have to find out yourself.

Throwing in a vocalist often diminishes my enjoyment of an album, not only does it limit the amount of time spent on the instruments themselves, it also lays more focus on the vocals and lyrics thus (temporarily) pushing the instruments to the background. On top of that all too often the vocal qualities are not that excellent which results in a even further downfall of the overall product. Using a wide variety of guest vocalists is of course an intelligent way to avoid the listeners either getting bored or annoyed by one particular vocalist, certainly in case he isn't really apt for the job, but nevertheless a bad performance in between good ones might bring a whole album down. But the impressive list of names and their record of service seems to indicate there's no fear necessary on this front either and this appears to be correct. All vocalists provide a solid and powerful contribution apt for the more heavy music and the difference in singing style and vocal sound provides a good variation to the album that otherwise would have become a bit humdrum.

As said in the first line of this review the classical elements on Revenge are far more limited than on Glacial Inferno thus also limiting the noticeable contributions by Vitalij. On some songs he throws in a semi-classic intro or a neo-classical intermezzo as a sort of instrumental break and naturally his piano and mostly keyboards are present on every song, but more on the background (unfortunately to my taste).

Up to song six it's basically just up-tempo power-rock that this album offers which only strengthens the comparison with Yngwie Malmsteen and the lush use of keyboards by Vitalij just lifts this album up above the majority of other offerings in this musical category. Apparently having the capacity of composing complicated and intricate classical pieces also enhances the ability to compose higher quality rock songs.

After the piano-only true classical intermission of J. Haydn-Excerpt From Sonata In E Minor the album rocks on, but Classic War turns out to be an instrumental too with a great piano intermezzo and lots of variation, tempo changes and musical extravaganza that even would have been one of the highlights on Glacial Inferno let alone on this album, sheer brilliance; just too bad it all slips away in the end resulting in a fade-out ending. With a true heavy riff, Black Sabbath style, the vocal-based songs return for the remains of the album; the power-rock continues to rule until the last song, Let The Future Unfold, which is a beautiful ballad, the third true highlight of this album.

Even though Vitalij is clearly more educated for composing classical based songs he also succeeded in producing some acceptable vocal-based power-rock songs in which he very much limited the classical influences which is actually a good choice when trying to make a true rock album. The album has his own identity compared to Glacial Inferno and the fact that I graded it lower has nothing to do with the quality of the music, but with my personal taste that focuses more on musical accomplishments than on overall sound. Therefore it's my personal opinion that even though Vitalij Kuprij appears to be able to produce a good, solid power-rock album with some classical touches, he's still musically seen most interesting and innovating when he makes classical based instrumental albums like Glacial Inferno. In any case he's one of the most interesting artists I stumbled on this year!


Glacial Inferno: 9 out of 10
Revenge: 7.5 out of 10


Soniq Circus - Soniq Circus

Soniq Circus - Soniq Circus
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:Progress Records
Catalogue #:PRCD056
Year of Release:2007
Info:Soniq Circus
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Overture (3:15), Welcome (4:35), Bright Future (8:26), Revolution (5:05), An Idiot (8:15), Chain Of Consequences (9:00), Colliding Stars (8:48)

Soniq Circus started some eight years ago when guitarist Marcus Enochsson moved to Lund. Several years and rather more line-up changes later, the group recorded some demos under the name TP3, which are currently available for free download from the band's website. The demo reached the ears of Progress Records who promptly signed TP3 who then, just as promptly, changed their name to Soniq Circus. The rest of the band on the album are bass player Markus Nilsson, vocalist Calle Lennartsson, keyboard player Mathias Beckius and drummer Christer Ugglin.

Sweden has a habit of throwing up bands of the progressive persuasion and by all accounts the standards are pretty high. Most of the groups have a fairly long pedigree which ensures the quality and maturity of the music and the performance, nothing like healthy competition to keep you on your toes! Soniq Circus are no exception as their eponymous debut contains some strong material and vocalist Lennartsson has a fairly transatlantic singing voice that defies his Scandinavian origins. As per usual, the record company comparisons as to the type of music the band plays are fairly wide of the mark, particularly in terms of references to Yes and King Crimson, and just because some vintage synth are used on the album does not mean that they are a "mainly 70s sounding band". Instead of harking back to the past the labels should concentrate on the original aspects of the bands they are nurturing. For a start, Soniq Circus can write shorter songs that have almost pop sensibilities, Welcome being a good example. This is a rousing song with an interesting change of tempo and instrumentation in an acoustic section and a good chorus to boot. The other short song, aside from the opening instrumental Overture, Revolution makes use of various sound effects on the guitar and vocals and contains some interesting ideas but doesn't quite come over as completed, more of a good basis for a song that need developing.

The longer songs, each of which break the eight-minute mark, range from the slightly Echolynish Bright Future to the final Colliding Stars which starts off with a degree of early Porcupine Tree pretensions (albeit a very small degree) and develops into the highlight of the album, mixing good music with humorous lyrics - take for example: "You're over the top, you listen to pop, I'm not very cool, I listen to Tool"! In-between there is An Idiot which overloads on the keyboards, particularly towards the end where they are a bit overpowering, and Chain Of Consequences with its acoustic guitar intro that gives the impression that it is played on a clockwork guitar that is winding down (listen to it and you'll understand what I mean!). Some more noodly synths precede some heavier riffing and a good instrumental section that provides variety without losing the sense or direction of the song.

Although Soniq Circus is by no means perfect, it certainly offers promise. The elements are all in place and the band are certainly headed in the right direction. A solid if not outstanding debut and worth a shot, particularly if the free demo downloads spark an interest. Plus, Marcus Enochsson must be the only guitarist to wear a cape on stage - Prog Rock, not only the bastion of musical innovation but also leading the way in modern fashion!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Various Artists – Treasure Island

Various Artists – Treasure Island
Country of Origin:Various
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4602.AR
Year of Release:2007

Tracklist: Velvet Desperados Gentlemen Of Fortune (25:39), Floating State The Shore And The Breathing Night (24:40), Nexus The Sea Adventure (23:22)

Treasure Island is the latest duo project from France's Musea and Finland's Colossus. After The Colossus Of Rhodes, Seven Samurai, Odessey and the Spaghetti Epic's (one and two) they now focus their attentions on the well known Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Stevenson was a Scottish writer who was born in Edinburgh in 1850. During his short life (he died in 1894, aged 44 due to a cerebral hemorrhage) Stevenson travelled greatly and his many travels inspired him to write one of his best known books ‘Treasure Island’.

Treasure Island is an adventure novel narrating a tale of "buccaneers and buried gold". First published as a book in 1883 it was originally serialised in the children's magazine, Young Folks, between 1881-82 under the title The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island. Traditionally considered a coming of age story, it is an adventure tale known for its superb atmosphere, character and action, and also a wry commentary on the ambiguity of morality. It is one of the most frequently dramatised of all novels. The influence of Treasure Island on popular perception of pirates is vast, including treasure maps with an 'X', schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen with parrots on their shoulders.

Again, and as with the previous collaberative projects from Musea and Colossus, they asked bands to write an epic, this time based on the Treasure Island story. The songs must be at least 20 minutes long and the general sound of the suites should reflective of early seventies. Along with this the instruments used should be instruments from that era (Moog, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, Rickenbacker, Taurus Bass Pedals etc etc) and no loops, programming or 80s / 90s digital sounds are allowed.

Now the subject ‘Epics’ has always been a fine subject for debate within our beloved prog community. Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson for example has a very critical, but well founded opinion on the matter. Genesis keys man Tony Banks recently said in an interview that; ‘In 20 minutes you can cover up a lot with a whole lot of difficult stuff, but in a four minute pop song you can’t cover up anything’. And finally the totally differing opinions on Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans (even within the band). There are those who think it’s one of the best albums the band ever made (Who?, me?), while others think the entire album is a whole bunch of nonsense. Personally I think it’s very very difficult to write a good epic. A lot of epics are not more than a couple of short pieces (not good enough on their own to be a song) stitched to together to form an epic. They miss a good or exiting build up and often the different pieces fail to form a unity. Instructing bands that the songs should be 20+ minutes brings a lot of pressure and can make the whole situation a bit forced. But Musea and Colossus made a good impression with their earlier projects, all receiving DPRP recommended stamps. Certainly Musea and Colossus deserve a huge compliment for the way the CD looks. The cover art is very beautiful, the information inside the booklet is very extensive and the drawings inside are impressive!

First up on the album is the Finnish band Velvet Desperados, who also contributed the song Lords And Knights to The Colossus Of Rhodes CD. Their song Gentlemen Of Fortune starts nicely with an instrumental introduction, in which they use a lot of woodwind instruments giving it sometimes a Chicago feel. The second part of the song brings to mind the singer/songwriters of seventies (James Taylor a.o.) - very nice. But after this they lose their way a bit and Part IV Black Spot is a very poor section of the song. It’s like I’m listening to Isaac Hayes! As Part IV Black Spot moves into a drum solo, followed by a piece of cabaret I have to say it lost my interest. Although at the twenty minute mark they do get back on track with a part where they use bagpipes, which nicely captures the atmosphere of the albums theme. After which Hammond organ and guitars return to the songs opening theme, later joined again by the brass section and some nice Moog work. Still despite the quite exciting end section of the song I’m left with mixed feelings.

Next up are Italian band Floating State and are completely unknown to me. They released their debut CD Thirteen Tolls At Noon in 2003, which contained a 21 minute and a 44 minute song, so they are not new to making epics. However their contribution The Shore And The Breathing Night is very disappointing. The song lacks a spark and above all direction. Some of the breaks sound forced and not very well played. I also have difficulty with the singers voice. The biggest influence I hear is Van de Graaf Generator mostly because of the added saxophone. However I miss balance, a good build up and unity between the parts of the song. It does have some nice moments. For example the saxophone and flute part with Fender Rhodes which kicks in after sixteen minutes is good, as is the guitar solo after the twenty minute mark. There are far too little of these moments to make Floating States contribution an interesting one. And I strongly suspect that those Mellotron strings are samples!

The last track on the album is from Argentinian band Nexus. Their contribution is largely instrumental, opening with Moog melody sounds akin to The Rocket Scientists, but without the heavy guitars - it’s an exiting opening. The Mellotron choirs however sound very digital and in fact the whole song sounds very modern (lots of digital string sounds). After that opening the song changes into an almost Tangerine Dream kind of song. Other influences I hear are ELP and even Wobbler. The quality of the playing is high. After almost six minutes we can enjoy a very nice guitar solo played with a lot of emotion. Although ‘Nexus’ contribution sounds more like different songs stuck together it’s the most enjoyable song of the album. All in all a disappointing album IMHO. ‘Nexus’ delivers the best song on the album with plenty of exiting parts. The Velvet Desperados’ song starts well but loses direction as it progresses. Biggest disappointment is Floating Space with a very uninteresting boring song.

If I understand the Colossus website rightly there are three more parts to the Treasure Island story and they refer to this cd as cd1. I can only hope that cd2 contains some more interesting contributions. Maybe bands should listen to Ritual's Seasong for the Moominpappa for inspiration!

Conclusion: 6 out of 10


Milo's Craving - The More You Know

Milo's Craving - The More You Know
Country of Origin:Germany
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:KE001TMYK
Year of Release:2007
Info:Milo's Craving
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prince Of Darkness [1. When You Fall, 2. Closer, 3. Beyond Good And Bad] (18:35), Time Machine (2:45), Haunted House (9:48), Pictures And Voices (6:47), Wings Of Stone (9:13), Draw The Line (3:05), Come Out (5:21), Will You? (5:52)

German duo Milo's Craving open their musical account with the concept album The More You Know. In truth the 'band' is more of a platform for singer, composer, guitarist, bassist, additional keyboardist, producer, arranger and creator of the 'artwork' (except the cover illustration) Kathrin Elfman. The main keyboards are played by Elfman's musical partner Klaus P. Rausch while supporting roles are played by Thorsten Kern on guitars, Torsten Bugiel and drums and a handful of backing vocalists. Although described as a concept, a "journey through the dark, boundless abysses of, well, craving", the whole thing is more of a theatrical musical production (think London's West End or New York City's Broadway) than a fully formed concept, at least not one that I can immediately grasp from perusal of the slightly pretentious lyrics.

Musically there is some very good piano/keyboard moments from Rausch but they don't always fit in with the lyrics which don't scan particularly well in a lot of places. At times things do get rather overblown, and that's part of the problem. Whereas people like Meatloaf realise that they are somewhat ludicrous and that their music is deliberately over the top, even pompous, you get an overbearing feeling that Milo's Craving take things deadly serious, that this is more than just an album of music but should be viewed as art. However, that may just be my impression. On the positive side, Elfman does have a decent voice although not one that is immediately distinctive or original, and she can write a decent hook at times, like on Pictures And Voices. I think one of the main problems is that the album is over produced and over arranged. This can be the problem with writing and recording over a three-year period, spontaneity is lost and there is always the temptation to add one more overdub, one more section. There is something to be said for the punk ethos of bashing something out that took as long to write as it does to play!

Songs like Wings Of Stone could so with some editing to make a more succinct piece, although the middle instrumental section where guitars and keyboards thrash it out is well played and sparks the interest. The layered vocals are nicely arranged and there is sufficiently different flavour to the voices to make it sound like a choir rather than several tracks of the same vocalist. On the whole, for my tastes the good bits of the album were too disparate and I can only conclude that "progressive songwriter orientated art rock", which Elfman uses as a description of the music, is not really for me.

Conclusion: 5+ out of 10