Album Reviews

Issue 2009-025

Reviews in this issue:

Colossus Project (VA) - Dante’s Inferno ~ The Divine Comedy Part I

Colossus Project (VA) - Dante’s Inferno ~ The Divine Comedy Part I
Country of Origin:Various
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4753
Year of Release:2009
Time:CD 1: 71:38
CD 2: 64:58
CD 3: 55:16
CD 4: 55:19
Samples:Click here


CD 1: Nuova Era Lasciate Ogni Speranza…Voi Ch'entrate (6:13), Yesterdays Isteni Szinjatek (4:35), Little Tragedies Canto III (6:05), Lady Lake From The Quiet To The Air That Trembles (7:30), Greenwall Come Corpo Morto Cade (11:07), Nemo Inferno [Six Pieds Sous Terre] (7:06), Nexus El Quarto Circulo [The Fourth Circle] (7:57), Atlantis 1001 Back To Earth (7:09), Flamborough Head Daughters Of Night (6:58), Colossus Project Inferno Canto X (7:30)

CD2: Court Anastasius Epitaph (6:17), Willowglass The Crossing (6:16), Wicked Minds Blood From The Trees (9:19), Brighteye Brison Capaneus (5:14), Matthijs Herder Brunetto (7:06), Garamond Canto XVI (7:03), Ars Nova Demon's Forest (7:59), Il Castello Di Atlante Malebolge (8:51), Groovector Ainiaan Erhe (6:48)

CD3: CAP La Danza Dei Contrari (9:18), Ozone Player Inferno XXI (6:28), Sinkadus Stuck In Hell (7:01), Viima XXIII (6:40), NotaBene La Profezia (7:11), Entrance Serpientes (9:33), Advent Canto XXVI (5:21), Contrappunto Project Guido Da Montefeltro (4:26)

CD4: Armalite Scisma (6:50), Corte Aulica Dissolvenza (7:35), Raimundo Rodulfo Falsedad Y Castigo (7:08), De Rossi & Bordini Pozzo Dei Giganti (7:50), Tempano The IX Circle: Traitors (9:58), Nathan Mahl The Comfort Of Tears (7:07), Simon Says Become A Boy (8:51)

Colossus (aka The Finnish Progressive Music Association) could never be accused of doing things by halves but on this occasion they’ve surpassed themselves with their most lavish concept to date. This mammoth four CD collection contains no less than thirty-four tracks each performed by a different band. It’s a veritable global prog convention with participants hailing from all corners including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Sweden, UK, USA and Venezuela. Normally the guide from Colossus is to produce a piece around the 20-25 minute mark but unsurprisingly on this occasion the time for each band was limited to 5-10 minutes. Otherwise its business as usual with prog performed in the classic 70's style using mostly vintage/analogue instruments.

It’s the Italian contingent that kicks off CD 1 and a rousing instrumental from Nuova Era with bass and drums to the fore ala the Squire/Bruford partnership of old. Rustic organ and gothic Mellotron echo the Canterbury scene and the gritty Hammond solo put me in mind of Vincent Crane. Only the squawking improvised sax ending lets the side down in my opinion. If you are familiar with Yesterdays’ excellent debut album then you won’t be surprised or disappointed by their mellow acoustic contribution here. It’s a lovely song that has shades of Renaissance with engaging female vocals sang in the native Romanian language and Yes like backing voices. Little Tragedies are a band that has come on leaps on bounds in my opinion providing a majestic, freewheeling instrumental that’s every bit as good as their stunning contribution to the recent The Spaghetti Epic 3. The highlight of this disc for me and should find favour with ELP fans. Another instrumental, this time from Lady Lake who demonstrate an obvious guitar bias. It contrasts twangy melodious playing in the style of Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross with Steve Howe flavoured bombastic volleys. The infectious coda brings to mind both Nick Barrett and Steve Rothery.

Greenwall’s contribution is the albums longest which they fully justify by producing a mini prog opera that Andrew Lloyd Webber would be proud of. The performances in the strident opening half are very Italian and very melodramatic giving way to a romantic second half featuring a delightful female and male vocal duet with an enchanting chorus. Nemo’s moody effort is less memorable but does include a neat upfront bass pattern with edgy guitar and Hammond playing. The singer has a strong voice which unnecessarily is processed in places. Nexus clearly wear their Genesis influences on their collective sleeves and although the singer performs in true theatrical Gabriel fashion he doesn’t fully convince. Better is the majestic Hackett style guitar work and grandiose Mellotron punctuations. Italian Rush tribute band Atlantis 1001’s contribution remains true to the spirit of the album to begin with including a succession of organ, synth and guitar breaks but then takes off on a very un-70’s prog metal excursion. It works nonetheless in a Dream Theater kind of way and I like the powerful vocals. Flamborough Head are for me one of the most underrated of bands and they impress here with a lengthy orchestral intro (courtesy of piano, keys and flute) which at times borders on the lyricism of a John Williams soundtrack. The catchy song part ends rather abruptly leaving the impression that the track has been edited. The Colossus Project band close disc one with another operatic sounding piece featuring bags of Hammond, Moog, lead bass lines and a superb vocal reminiscent of an accented Damian Wilson.

Court provides an edgy but tuneful start to CD 2 with a gritty guitar sound offset by the conspicuous presence of flute. The vocals are OK rather than outstanding and the histrionic guitar solo is a tad overlong in my view. Both sound and performance wise it lacks the polish of many of the other bands here. The instrumental from Willowglass is more on the mark with its smooth guitar and Moog playing and a gloriously lush Mellotron sound that brought memories of King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King flooding back. Sadly its more sound than substance, lacking as it does a really strong hook or tune. Wicked Minds’ song is to my ears more bluesy hard rock than prog despite the breathless synth and Hammond exchanges during the lively instrumental section. A gutsy guitar workout with its organ backing put me in mind of Santana. If you’re familiar with Brighteye Brison’s most recent album then you’ll know that they’re no strangers to ‘70’s style prog. On this occasion they sing in their native language delivering a busy song that leans very heavily in Gentle Giant’s direction with its tricky musicianship and acrobatic vocals.

With the exception of drums, Matthijs Herder is responsible for all the playing for his stately offering which takes early Camel and Genesis as its template. Melodic guitar (classical and electric), flute and Mellotron are all part of the instrumental tapestry with one part bearing more than a passing resemblance to Can-Utility And The Coastliners. In contrast Garamond have come up with one of the most avant-garde pieces here. It still has its tuneful moments nonetheless with extravagant use of Mellotron voices providing an epic backdrop to the sax and piano meanderings. Ars Nova have a very gutsy but symphonic sound with wonderful piano arpeggios and some very metallic and unexpected guitar shredding. The speed and agility of the keyboard playing is second to none with some really furious but articulate playing from all concerned. Il Castello Di Atlante on the other hand have a pleasant line in Italian prog which takes awhile to get into its stride but develops nicely around the halfway mark ending with a lyrical theme in the vein of early Marillion. Groovector bring up the rear on disc two with a mellow acoustic guitar, flute and vocal intro. It builds slowly into a nightmarish sound before settling back for a relaxed keyboard solo that put me in mind of Bo Hanson.

The massed ranks of CAP are a band I’ve much admired in recent years and they don’t disappoint with the opus that stylishly opens CD 3. It includes their usual take on folk tinged prog with the vocalist in fine form delivering a bright, catchy melody with fine piano, synth and guitar support. The piano driven instrumental from Ozone Player offers tuneful moments and avant-garde fusion in equal measures. Intriguing stuff and beautifully performed. Sinkadus’ contribution is a rather disjoined, rambling affair and one of the few here that didn’t entirely work for me, especially the strained vocals. That’s despite a weeping guitar interlude with rippling keys and flute backing that conjures up early Genesis. The bombastic Mellotron and guitar part that follows echoes Fly On A Windshield from the same band. A very moody and dramatic instrumental courtesy of Finland’s Viima on the other hand is much more to my liking sounding suitably cinematic.

Like Ozone Player, NotaBene mix jazz flavoured instrumental exchanges with proggy arrangements. The sharp guitar sound put me in mind of Steve Howe and the fretless style bass work is a real delight. Entrance have come up with a lively piece of prog with some great Journey era Wakeman flavoured Moog noodling and busy drum work. I’m not entirely sure about the 80’s hair-rock guitar solo however, which is not my cup of tea at all. Advent’s offering is an atmospheric and spooky instrumental with extravagant and welcome measures of Spanish guitar. It would make a fitting soundtrack to a Hammer horror movie complete with ethereal voices and gothic organ punctuations. Disc three concludes with a solo piano piece from Contrappunto Project that put me in mind of Keith Emerson in classical mode ala his Piano Concerto. A virtuoso performance and I was half expecting a full orchestra to come crashing in at any moment.

The deceptively named Armalite (surely more suited to a thrash band) open CD 4 with a surge of gothic Mellotron that took this reviewer back 37 years to GenesisWatcher Of The Skies. The keyboardist continues to evoke Tony Banks with his synth and organ style but the vocals are disappointingly uninvolving. Corte Aulica eschews vocals altogether with their busy instrumental that certainly makes all the right noises with a variety of tempo and key changes. It lacks cohesion however and ultimately fails to engage as the band trip over themselves in search of an effective ending. Classical baroque is the inspiration for Raimundo Rodulfo’s piece which is dominated by a string quartet, classical guitar and massed counterpoint voices. It’s more Lloyd Webber than Verdi however but still remains one of the most distinctive and entertaining here. The instrumental from De Rossi & Bordini is a keyboardist’s dream which evokes Rick Wakeman by way of Andy Tillison. The rhythmic organ and rippling piano are impeccable whilst the bombastic synth sound is straight out of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII.

On the evidence here, Tempano are a band that has undergone a metamorphosis from Genesis/Marillion wannabes as displayed on their earlier albums into a moodier and darker instrumental style. This would provide an effective backdrop to an imaginary horror movie with superb performances all round especially from the meticulous rhythm section. Nathan Mahl opt for a lovely piano, keys and classical guitar theme in the style of a French romantic movie soundtrack from the pen of someone like Francis Lai. At the halfway mark Gilmouresque guitar adds an unexpected aggressive edge but the sudden fade left me with the distinct feeling that this is another track that has been edited. The best is saved until last however with Simon Says’ slick prog sound that hovers somewhere between It Bites and Frost* with the fragile vocals putting me in mind of Francis Dunnery. With some excellent electric sitar, and ultrafast organ playing this is an absolute dream although to my ears it’s more contemporary 21st century prog than it is vintage 70’s.

Dante Alighieri’s epic 14th poem is considered to be one of the most important works of Italian literature. Colossus were clearly of the opinion that an album based on such a work deserved to be equally epic in scope and substance. It would be too obvious to heap plaudits on this release simply because of its sheer size but with so many acts involved it could have so easily turned out to be an unwieldy, disjointed disaster. Thankfully it all hangs together extremely well with only the odd occasion when I felt someone was letting the side down. Equally impressive is the CD booklet which even by Colossus’ normally high standards is an extravagant affair. I’m reminded of the dubious advertising slogan for a compilation that came out a few years ago that went something like “This is the only prog album you’ll ever need”. Of course they were wrong and whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this release justifies such a claim it would certainly fit that bill more than most.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Cast - Originallis

Cast - Originallis
Country of Origin:Mexico
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG 4781
Year of Release:2009
Time:CD 1: 49:06
CD 2: 44:20
Samples:Click here


CD 1: Originallis (4:20), Pulsar (10:01), Lagrimas De Hielo (10:00), Fuego Y Humo (7:55), Batalla De Las Termópilas [Vientos De Guerra (4:27), Tierra Honor Y Libertad (4:18), Furia Traicion Y Gloria (7:50)]

CD 2: De Nuevo (0:08), Renacer (9:23), Llanto De Octubre (2:41), Aquí Y Ahora (4:59), Frente Al Umbral [Al Final La Luz Que Llama (3:06), Ecos Del Pasado (3:22), Todo Es Un Don (8:18)], Medley I (12:24)

Mexican band Cast are celebrating their 31st anniversary this year. Having released something like 15 studio albums, numerous live albums and a couple of compilations, their 2008 album, Originallis, finally gets a European release courtesy of the Musea label. The line up of the band has always been somewhat fluid and on this album, composer, founder member and keyboard player Alfonso Vidales is joined by Antonio Bringas on drums, Claudio Cordero on guitars, Lupita Acuña and Alejandro Tornero on vocals, Flavio Miranda on bass and Pepe Torres on flute, saxophone and clarinet. Always a fairly prolific band, a follow-up to this 93-minute double album is scheduled for release later in the year, featuring a new (male) vocalist.

Before we start, a word of warning, don't play this album if you want a period of relaxation! Two reasons: firstly, the album is relentless, with barely a gap between songs to catch one's breath and, secondly, guitarist Cordero lays down some really heavy guitar lines, shredding his way through some moments that wouldn't be out of place on a prog-metal album! Anyone familiar with Cast will know that Vidales is a fine composer and a large proportion of the material he writes, quite understandably, is focused round his melodic keyboard work. Originallis is no different in that respect. The melodies are enhanced by Torres' contributions, particularly his flute work. The clever mixing of the vocalists adds dynamism and range, although large swathes of the album, including the tracks, Pulsar, Batalla De Las Termópilas, Ecos Del Pasado and Renacer, are completely instrumental. The first CD is essentially two tracks with the first four numbers flowing into each other providing a 32-minute mini symphony that ranges from the plaintive title track to the exuberant instrumental of Pulsar. Whereas many extended progressive numbers could easily be trimmed of the excess that many lesser bands are wont to apply, Cast have proved exceptionally adept in making every note count, keeping the listener engaged, varying the dynamic tension and providing a few surprises along the way. The three parts of Batalla De Las Termópilas are equally absorbing, providing varying degrees of light and shade throughout.

No holds barred, Renacer gets the second CD off with no compromises and it is almost a disappointment when, with a lovely piano segue, the more restrained song Llanto De Octubre begins. The vocals, in Spanish throughout, are of universal high quality and Tornero's voice is a great match with the flute and sax of Torres. In addition, when Tornero and Acuña harmonise the results are sublime. Frente Al Umbral is, initially, the album's ballad with Al Final La Luz Que Llama starting things off gently with mainly piano and female vocals, Ecos Del Pasado, the instrumental intermezzo, adds flute and some subtle guitar but it is Vidales piano and deft addition of organ that steals the show with a totally symphonic workout. Bringas also makes his mark with some interesting and prominent drum fills. Final part, Todo Es Un Don, is more sinister with Tornero taking over the vocalist role. Ominous and haunting no sooner has the song ended than we are rushed headlong into Medley I. This final track is a compilation of 10 older Cast songs reinterpreted by the current band. It is the only track where the lyrics are in English, the language the songs were originally written in. Lyrically there is a sort of theme running between the tracks which gives some justification for their compilation, and given that, on average, a different song is presented every 74 seconds there is, with a couple of exceptions, a remarkably good flow throughout the piece.

Although not being cognisant with the entire Cast back catalogue, I can say that of the seven albums of theirs I have in my collection, Originallis is probably the best. Some of the other albums lack a degree of consistency, yet this one managed to shine all the way through. There is obviously something good, if not great, happening to prog music at the moment with Pendragon, IQ, and now Cast (if you'll excuse the warping of release order!) releasing albums that have been described by some as matching or bettering the best of their careers. If this trend continues I eagerly look forward to forthcoming releases by more established bands with bated breath!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Deus Ex Machina – Imparis

Deus Ex Machina – Imparis
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Cuneiform Records
Catalogue #:Rune 259/260
Year of Release:2008
Time:CD 58:00
DVD 120:00
Info:Deus Ex Machina
Samples:Click here


CD: La Diversita Di Avere Un Anima (7:53), Giallo Oro (12:04), Il Testemento Dell’Uomo Saggio (6:54), Cor Mio (5:13), La Fine Del Mondo (14:48), Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano [Live] (11:56)

DVD: Rhinoceros (9:39), La Diversita Di Avere Un Anima (8:21), Giallo Oro (11:13), Dove Non Puo Esserci Contraddizione (10:04), Il Pensiero Che Porta Alle Cose Importanti (7:46), Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano (11:56)

In my mind, I still think of Deus Ex Machina as one of the new wave of Italian prog bands, but their first album came out eighteen years ago! Blimey!

Deus Ex Machina are closer in sound to bands with a jazz fusion slant like Area and Arti E Mestieri, but they also have easily identifiable influences from Gentle Giant and also Italian prog greats like Banco and PFM.

This excellent value for money package contains not only their long awaited sixth studio album of new material, but also a comprehensive DVD, which has a full live concert, a substantial interview (with English subtitles) and a wealth of tasty extras.

The studio album, recorded over three days in a studio in Paris, contains 5 substantial slices of prime DEM, each with lengthy instrumental sections, plenty of soloing from guitar, violin and keyboards and also each containing a vocal section featuring the remarkable pipes of Alberto Piras. Not since Demetrio Stratos has there been such a striking, powerful vocalist on the Italian progressive scene. With incredible range and control, Piras sings in Italian and Latin to great effect.

There are no weak tracks on the CD, but I have to say that none of them are immediate winners. I found that it took me four or five listens for the material to start to really gel for me. Now that they have, my appreciation grows with each additional spin of the disc and I know I will keep on coming back for more.

Fabrizio Puglisi excels on choppy organ on the intense Giallo Oro and the epic La Fin Del Mundo, whilst Buonez Bonetti soars above the frenetic opener La Diversita Di Avere Un Anima for some decidedly Gentle Giantish riffing.

Although most of the material is in the hard-edged fusion style, Cor Mio is a much gentler offering, and leads the band into PFM territory, for a quite delightful change of pace. The studio album is capped by a live performance of Cosmopolitismo Centimetropolitano, which also appears on the DVD.

It’s a consistently strong CD, which should please all fans of their previous work, but its lack of immediacy might be a bit off-putting to new listeners.

The Live DVD presents a full concert also recorded live in Paris, and offers a pretty “up close and personal” portrait of the group in action, with lots of detailed close-up shots of each of the band members.

It’s great to watch Alberto Piras in action, but as around two thirds of the concert is instrumental, there are plenty of times when he really has nothing to do. It is testimony to the band’s belief in its capabilities that it can afford to let such a valuable asset go unused for such a large proportion of the set. Of course, such confidence is highly justified, as the band is incredibly powerful instrumentally as well as vocally. They were really on form on the night as well, so the performance is great to watch.

The main concert concentrates on the new material and the last two albums only, but the generous helping of extras compensates for this. These include nearly seventeen minutes of footage from a Spanish concert from 2002 (top notch stuff), ten minutes from the USA from 1996, a short clip from Italian TV showing the rocking roots of the band from way back in 1996, and a (dated but fun) promo video from 1993.

All in all this is a great package for fans of the band, and its career-encompassing nature makes it a good introduction to the band for newbies.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


No-Man - Wherever There Is Light

No-Man - Wherever There Is Light
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Kscope
Catalogue #:KSCOPE127s
Year of Release:2009
(Audio Tracks)
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Wherever There is Light (4:21), Death Was California (3:02), Counting (4:24), Carolina Skeletons (live) (7:09), All The Blue Changes (6:39) Enhanced Section: MP3 of all songs, Whenever There Is Light (video), All the Blue Changes (live video)

While everybody's anxiously waiting for the release of the No-Man live DVD we are treated to a new EP featuring some of the forthcoming material in sound and vision. The title track will be familiar to those who own Schoolyard Ghosts, and since I can't imagine many people who would buy this EP not having that album I won't waste too many words on this wonderful ballad featuring slide guitar. Following this track we get two brand new tunes, specially written for this EP. Death Was California is a typical No-Man ballad with little more than acoustic and echoing electric guitar (and something that sounds like a harmonium) accompanying Tim's voice. This song wouldn't have been out of place on the minimalist Together We're Stranger album. Counting is different, still an ambient No-Man piece but with percussion loops and organ and working to a semi-cacophonic climax, thereby reminding me of Truenorth a bit. As with many other EP-only releases by No-Man, both are good quality tracks.

For me the real treat of this EP are the live versions of two of my favourite No-Man tracks. Both Carolina Skeletons en All The Blue Changes are very peaceful and ambient songs in their original versions. Live on stage the band take both songs into a whole new direction. These renditions start as quiet as their originals do, but halfway through they evolve into enormous powerful blow-outs. I had never imagined headbanging on All The Blue Changes, but I did. A big kudos to Wilson and Bowness for taking these songs into places unimagined.

Besides the audio tracks there's also a data section on the EP that can be used on your PC. It consists of MP3 versions of all audio tracks, hyperlinks to all No-Man related websites and two videos. The video of Wherever There Is Light is identical to the version on the DVD of Schoolyard Ghosts and features atmospheric footage of sunrise in a forest. Although it suits the music it's not extremely exciting. No, the real excitement is in the live footage of All The Blue Changes. I already thought the audio version on the EP was amazing, but seeing the musicians at work makes it even better. Seeing the six musicians on the tiny stage with atmospheric lighting from below makes me feel so sorry I couldn't attend their gig in Holland last year. As such this is an excellent teaser for the upcoming live DVD. I can't wait to get my grubby hands on it.
The only downside of the videos is the necessity to install Adobe Mediaplayer to view them (the files are in f4v format). This is a bit annoying since there are so many other standard media types they could have used instead. And I have more than enough media players on my PC already. The enhanced section can either be navigated through a HTML page that opens when you insert the disc or you can approach the separate files by your file explorer application.

Since the two live tracks will soon be available on the No-Man live DVD and the other material is available on the double disc edition of Schoolyard Ghosts the only rarities here are the two new studio tracks, making up slightly more than 7 minutes. Every No-Man fan will have to decide for himself if this is worth coughing up the dough for (I paid almost 16 Euro including postage). Personally I love to have a CD with the two live tracks so I can play these excellent renditions in the car as well. But regardless of the quality of the contents, and since I can't describe this EP as an absolutely essential purchase, I will refrain from giving it the DPRP Recommendation tag.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


Antonius Rex - Per Viam

Antonius Rex - Per Viam
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Black Widow
Catalogue #:BWRCD 126-2
Year of Release:2009
Info:Antonius Rex
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Micro Demons (5:05), Per Viam (6:39), Woman Of The King (8:52), Spectra (7:56), Angels & Demons (7:49), Ufdem (6:28), Antonius Rex Prophecy (11:14)

I love horror movies. And Italian horror movies are the best. My teenage years as a film geek (which I still am…) belong to Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci (among many others).

Visiting Profondo Rosso, the shop Argento and Luigi Cozzi run in Rome, as I browsed through its shelves packed full of weird gems, I found a double CD (and book companion) graced with some dark H.R. Giger artwork, titled …E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore (a slogan from The Beyond, directed by Fulci). As I checked the sleeve notes, it revealed itself to be a (brilliant) musical tribute to those three masterful directors, with songs inspired on their disturbing movies.

That was my first contact with the italian Black Widow label, which has to be the perfect hybrid between the Musea and 4AD labels, with a hint of Hammer Horror. It then led me to discover dozens of great artists mainly rooted on psych, heavy prog and the classic Italian bands from the 70s (being Goblin the main influence for obvious reasons), with a passion for vintage sounds, low-fi production and dark, creepy subjects around which their music would revolve.

From the Black Widow offspring, I’d strongly recommend names such as A Piedi Nudi, Standarte, Abiogenesi, Ars Nova and Pentagram, to name but a few. Antonius Rex also proudly belong to this illustrious family.

Leaded by guitarist Antonio Bartoccetti, who also provides vocals, Antonius Rex display all their eerie powers on their new release Per Viam. As is common with most Black Widow releases, the main themes that run through the album relate to those of the supernatural, the gothic/romantic sensibility for death and sadness. When you listen to music like this, you can’t help but envision old foggy graveyards, ghostly castles and dark moors.

The good thing (for me) about bands like Antonius Rex is that, even if revolving around the same aesthetics and themes as of those of death and black metal bands, the way they reflect their occult tendencies in a musical context is way more effective, without the need of aural aggression. In fact, there’s no growling, no cookie monster vocals, no blastbeats, no downtuned guitars to be found on Per Viam, but as you press play and the phantasmagoric voices of (oddly titled) Micro Demons invade your senses, the music takes you on an hair raising trip and, even if having a slight modern edge to it, lands you straight on a medieval black mass.

This is made no more obvious on the title track, complete with satanic organs and ancient omens recited in spectral distorted voices. This trend is perfected on closing track Antonius Rex Prophecy, an eleven minute (which is maybe a bit too long) ride to the dark side which is basically a spoken word piece decorated with some instrumental passages.

The “odd” track here is Woman Of The King, not because of its subject matter (though this is about an immortal love story… via ritual murder), but because the music is clearly inspired in medieval themes, with a certain tragic touch to it all, which is a welcome change after so many devilish invocations and apocalyptic prophecies. As for the remaining tracks, Spectra (a truly terrifying song), Angels & Demons and Ufdem, they might be a bit too formulaic, standard goth/psych to be highlighted. In any case, they work well to articulate the main pieces of the CD.

Funnily enough, being Antonio Bartoccetti the leader and guitarist, I found his (otherwise good) solos a bit out of place in the context of the album, often breaking the funereal atmosphere, and that might be, instrumentally speaking, the main miscalculation on Per Viam. Otherwise, the star for me here is Doris Norton, with her army of creepy keyboards and even providing occasional ethereal vocals.

This is the musical equivalent to Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum and Bava’s Black Sunday, and something to be savoured at night, in the dark, to really understand its message.

In the end, this is one of the few albums you’ll get to listen to that’s got a medium (Monika Tasnad) credited on its sleevenotes!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Renaissance – Dreams & Omens

Renaissance – Dreams & Omens
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:White Dove
Catalogue #:FRM 1093
Year of Release:2009
Info:Annie Haslam
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Can You Hear Me (14:32), Carpet Of The Sun (3:53), Day Of The Dreamer (10:32), Midas Man (4:22), Northern Lights (4:19), Things I Don’t Understand (9:35)

Renaissance is one of those bands from the most creative years of progressive rock: the seventies. Originally formed by ex-Yardbirds Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, with Keith’s sister Jane Relf as lead singer, the line up changed dramatically after the first two albums, introducing Annie Haslam as the stunning new lead vocalist. The live album reviewed here, is a performance at “The Lower Theatre” in Philadelphia in 1978. The line-up, probably the best of all, consisted of Michael Dunford (guitar/vocals), Jon Camp (bass, guitar, vocals), Annie Haslam (lead vocal), John Tout (keyboards) and Terry Sullivan (drums & percussion). From a cassette tape, found in her archives by former singer Annie Haslam, she and Mickey Dunford did an unbelievable job with these recordings. Although the quality of the sound might not meet the standards of the present day, the album sounds fresh, honest and considering it’s a thirty (!) year old cassette, remarkably good.

The live albums we probably all know of are the live recordings at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall and much later the acoustic live album (again) in Philadelphia (1985). The very nice things about this album are: it’s an electric album, not another acoustic one and even more important, the album is ‘just’ the band, no orchestra or choir. So now we hear the band as they sounded during most of their tours, and it’s a full 47 minutes from one gig! If one realizes the source of this live album with virtually no possibilities for corrections or overdubs, it’s really amazing how good this band was playing that night. Annie Haslam in superb form and all band members, most proliferate musicians being bassist Jon Camp and keyboard wizard John Tout, did remarkably well. Exquisite renditions of well known songs as Can You Hear Me, Carpet Of The Sun, the hit single Northern Lights and Midas Man next to some less familiar songs.

First of those would be Day Of The Dreamer, although this track is also featured on the live album of the same name. Tout opens with some synthesizers and piano and the rest of the band joins in. The beautiful melodies and vocal lines are in the same vein as the songs already mentioned but the more up tempo interlude features Annie singing a melody that subsequently is played by Dunford’s lead guitar and then by Tout’s piano. The more orchestral piece that comes next, beautifully sung by Annie (and a demonstration of how high she could sing!), is of sheer beauty. The song ends with the very melodic chorus, followed by another short orchestral piece. The last song is called Things I Don’t Understand is taken from the album Turn Of The Cards. Pop, progressive, folk and some classical influences are blended in this track. An interlude with very tasteful harmony singing is one of the highlights of this album. My suggestion would be that all members of this unique band start searching their cellars and attics for more of these recordings! Of special interest would be live recordings of the full band from 1979 or beyond, featuring songs of the albums Azure d’Or, Camera Camera and Time-Line: maybe not the very best albums but live recordings of this era seem to be very rare.

The artwork of Dreams & Omens is very tasteful and stylistically easily recognized is by former lead vocalist Annie Haslam, who started painting after her career with Renaissance. In conclusion this CD is a valuable addition to the Renaissance heritage and buying it means supporting the musicians instead of only the record companies…

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Valentine - Androgenius

Valentine - Androgenius
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Time:CD 1: 59:18
CD 2: 67:51
Samples:Click here


Future?: Save Myself (5:30), 4th Rate Razorback (5:18), I Should Have Known Better (3:42), Over & Over.. Again (5:03), Falling Down (4:26), Make Way [For The Messenger] (3:12), Piano Solo [Chopin, Tschaikovsky] (5:49), A New World (4:24), I'm Going Under [Sedated] (3:40), Fear Of Heights (5:08), SOS (3:04), Flick Of The Wrist (3:51), Exodus Elephantes (1:27), I Can't Get Over You (4:44)

Past: Back To The Future Theme (1:15), The Magic Breeze [2008] (5:50), What In The World I'm Waiting For (4:35), Over And Over Again [2008] (4:31), No Turning Back [2008] (4:27), Dear Dad (4:56), She (4:46), Just A Dream [Someone Sold The World] (4:08), I Believe In Music (3:47), The Cold And Lonely Lie (4:52), Visionary Victim (3:25), The Way To Get Home (5:43), Believing Is Seeing (3:14), Rock Me Like A Hurricane (4:17), I Believe In You (2008) (7:10), Rise And Shine [The Victory Anthem] (0:55)

Valentine is the band of Robby Valentine, the Dutchman who received fame and glory in the early nineties with the hit single Over And Over Again, a very sweet rock ballad. Robby Valentine is heavily influenced by Queen with his guitar playing at times sounds like Brian May, and the multiple layered vocals sound like those featured in Bohemian Rhapsody. He toured as a support act for Brian May and although his fame increased it was mostly in Japan, where most of his albums are released making it hard for European people to get his albums without reaching very deep into ones pocket.

After a break Robby Valentine returned with the album The Most Beautiful Pain, a very diverse album that was not only released in Japan but also in Europe. Still heavily influenced by Queen but also many different other styles of music even including the theme to Back To The Future. A year later Falling Down In Misanthropolis was released, a much darker sounding album, with even some gothic, metal and industrial parts. Sadly this album was also only released in Japan so the market in Europe was deprived of a good album. The album reviewed here is Androgrenius, a compilation album which leans heavily on these last two albums and which is only available from his website and concerts.

When Robby Valentine created this compilation album he did not just grab a bunch of songs to be scattered in random order on some shiny discs. The first disc called Future?, representing Robby´s harder/modern/guitar driven side and showing the direction Robby wants to take with his band. Save Myself features Dutch Idols star Marlies and this song is the new single. Marlies made an acoustic album which was written, arranged and produced by Robby and in the future they will collaborate in a project/band called Aniday which will release their debut album called Born 2 Die later this year. People expecting another romantic love ballad will be in for a surprise as 4th Rate Razorback is a dark rock song with many bombastic elements, a catchy chorus and great potential in this song. It sounds like a Marilyn Manson song with a more uplifting twist and a chorus with a "Nanananananahahah" preceded by some glam rock Def Leppard style. Many well known elements welded together in a good rock song.

I Should Have Known Better also represents the darker part of Valentine, the lyrics are about the betrayal of a loved one. A little more glamour because of the flashy sounds and a high multi vocal Queen-like chorus. The song Over And Over... Again is a rebuild version of his hit-single - slow and heavy this song strolls on slowly, increasing in pace and energy and very different from the piano ballad it used to be. The intro to Falling Down could have been stolen from Queen, the rest of the song maybe too? Following this is Make Way [For The Messenger], a sing-a-long hard rock song, which for me needs a more powerful voice - Robby's is a bit too high and too thin for this song. Live it is sung by Peter Strykes, former Vandenberg vocalist, he is a guest musician on the album but sadly not for this song. Now Robby is a very good piano player which he shows in the Piano Solo with classical influences from Chopin and Tchaikovsky.

A New World and I'm Going Under [Sedated] are both rock songs from The Most Beautiful Pain, whereas Fear Of Heights is also a rock song in but in the style of Gary Moore's rock era. Not only live, but also on this this recording Peter Strykes contributes to the vocals giving it just that bit of extra power.

The next two song are covers. First SOS from Abba is sung by bass-player Lilo - this version during the chorus is a bit faster than the original version, a real killer live song. The next is of course a song from Queen, Flick Of The Wrist. Exodus Elephantes is a short heavy guitar piece, the closing song off The Most Beautiful Pain. Can't tell why but I just really like this piece, gives me goosebumps, always. I Can't Get Over You is a piano ballad which is a European bonus track.

The second disc is called Past and is more of a retrospective journey through time with personal favourites from his entire discography. Some of the older songs have been re-recorded so that they blend in better with the modern songs. The album starts a bit strange with the theme to Back To The Future, followed by Dear Dad, The Cold And Lonely and I Believe In You which are in the style of hit single Over And Over Again. Over And Over Again has been re-recorded, although I cannot say I am happy to hear that song again, it is too sweet for my liking, but it should be present on a Robby Valentine compilation album. Personally I prefer the darker version on the first disc. The there are two songs that give me the need to do aerobics exercises, What In The World I'm Waiting For and Rock Me Like A Hurricane make me jump around just like Robby does live. This second disc shows the diversity of Robby, however it does not offer me as much satisfaction as the first disc but it sure held my interest. One remark for Visionary Victim, this song could be a cover Queen.

Robby Valentine is a very diverse artist and this compilation sure shows that. The first disc, which I prefer, is heavier and darker than the second disc that holds the piano rock ballads, but no one can deny that those songs are a big part (of the past) of Robby Valentine. Maybe not progressive enough and maybe a bit too much glamour for some, but Valentine offers more than a standard rock sound. Robby's piano playing is at times classical and all of his music is (very) heavily influenced by Queen. If the Future? is what Valentine will present on his next new album you can count me in.

One tip for Robby - make it more easily available in Europe!

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10


Karcius - Episodes

Karcius - Episodes
Country of Origin:Canada
Record Label:Unicorn Digital
Catalogue #:UNCR-5056
Year of Release:2008
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Elements [Submersion/Sol/Combustion] (30:46), Incident (8:39), Levant (2:26), Purple King (7:36), Racines (8:54)

One of the great things about writing for DPRP is the chance to listen to and review new bands you’d certainly not have heard otherwise, and then follow their progress as they grow in maturity and creativity. Such a band is French Canadian prog fusion quartet Karcius. Their first album, Sphere, was distinctly rough around the edges but showed plenty of potential; second effort Kaleidoscope was far more polished and better composed, although had rather too much filler material (plus a tendency for over-indulgence, solo-wise) for my taste. At the end of my review for that album I wrote that I imagine that Karcius’ third album will be something worth waiting for and thankfully this has indeed proved to be the case, as Episodes by and large realises all the promise inherent in those first two albums, and is one of the finest fusion albums I’ve heard in quite a while.

Karcius could be setting themselves up for a fall by opening with the lengthy title track; however, what could have been an unwieldy and muso-orientated thirty minute epic turns out to be one of the finest pieces of material they have yet written. Although the three parts each have a distinctive feel and mood about them, there are plenty of repeated musical motifs and melodies which help to give it a cohesive feel.

The first part, Submersion, builds slowly and atmospherically, built around Thomas Brodeur’s slow, methodical drum pattern and some sublime, Jaco Pastorius-like bass playing from Dominique Blouin. Mingan Sauriol gradually weighs in with some gentle grand piano playing, which gradually builds in intensity, before Simon L’Esperance enters the fray with a soaring solo, evocative of the sort of stuff David Gilmour was playing on Dark Side Of The Moon. The song continues in a psychedelic-come-progressive vein for a while before the piano takes over the lead role as the music moves more into a more mellow, jazzy vein, reminiscent of some of the Canterbury-era bands. L’Esperance comes in with some heavier guitar work as counterpoint to the piano, but unlike on earlier efforts it blends in seamlessly with the mood of the piece. The track weaves through a more ‘conventional’ jazz fusion section, before slowing down and becoming more sombre again, with pulsating bass lines and L’Esperance’s reverb-heavy guitar appearing (effectively) towards the back of the mix and gradually making its presence felt.

Sol continues some of the jazzy themes established earlier; there’s a funky vibe going on here, with some of Sauriol’s Hammond and Fender Rhodes work reminiscent of Herbie Hancock in his seventies Headhunters phase. L’Esperance meanwhile reels off some sublime jazzy guitar lines, at times not far off Pat Metheny at his best. The way Sauriol and L’Esperance play off one another with such skill and flair is particularly noticeable here.

Sol concludes by reprising some of the more dramatic melodies from Submersion, before the start of Combustion sees the tempos brought down again. The piece starts with some pastoral acoustic guitar and piano work, before L’Esperance lets rip with another emotive solo which this time is reminiscent of something Jan Ackerman in his Focus days might have come up with. The latter part of the song sees the addition of an effective string section, whilst the increasingly heavy but technical work of L’Esperance begins to recall some of the masters of guitar virtuosity such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Perhaps the only disappointment is that the ‘grand finale’ appears far too early, and the song actually ends with something of a whimper.

Many bands would not have been able to follow this, and would have padded out the album with shorter tracks which are effectively fillers. Not Karcius however. Whilst I still think Elements (the track) is the highlight of the album, its run very close by some of the pieces which follow. Incident is a superbly dramatic and very well arranged flamenco-flavoured piece, full of twists and turns and once again utilising a string section to fine effect. Levant is a short but sweet showcase for Mingan Sauriol’s grand piano playing, before Purple King picks up the pace, driven by a fluid bass groove, the keyboard work switches from stabs of Hammond to piano runs, whilst Simon L’Esperance’s guitar work has a heavier, rockier edge at times. The latter part of the song recalls early seventies Deep Purple, with its combination of rampant Hammond work and stomping power chords. Final track Racines is probably the weakest on offer, as some of the pace changes seem a bit forced, but it is still enjoyable, this time offering an almost Reggae-like groove in places and featuring some Eric Clapton-like, blues flavoured solos from L’Esperance.

Overall, this is a very fine instrumental fusion album, and shows that Karcius have grown a great deal from where they were just five or so years ago. Whilst the playing is exemporary throughout, and these players definitely have (and show) their chops, its generally accessible and melodic enough for all but the most confirmed anti-fusion fans to be able to appreciate. Highly recommended, particularly for fans of adventurous but melodic instrumental music.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Taylor’s Universe - Return To Whatever

Taylor’s Universe - Return To Whatever
Country of Origin:Denmark
Record Label:MALS
Catalogue #:MALS 315
Year of Release:2009
Info:Taylor’s Universe
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Mooncake (6:44), July 6th (7:33), Haunted Yellow House (4:21), The Atlas Clock (5:22), Earth (7:16), Pink Island (7:39), Mooncake - Reprise (5:35)

Self-taught Danish musician Robin Taylor is quite prolific, releasing albums under four different project names: Art Cinema, Taylor’s Free Universe and Taylor’s Universe, as well as under his own name. His music is difficult to categorise, but its main influences are the worlds of jazz and progressive rock. Taylor tries to ensure that the music released under each of the four projects is “self-consistent”: Taylor’s Free Universe is, perhaps as the name implies, a vehicle for total instrumental improvisation; Taylor’s Universe has been a rock/jazz fusion, predominantly instrumental; Art Cinema’s one release has been similar but with vocals, so more like songs; and Taylor allows himself a bit of freedom with albums released under his own name.

This is only the third album from his oeuvre that I’ve heard; the others being Isle Of Black (Robin Taylor) and Art Cinema’s eponymous album. My reaction to all three is similar: the music is pleasant and interesting without actually delivering any “killer” sensations. Of the three, my favourite is Art Cinema, essentially because it is sung and I have a personal preference for sung or vocalised music. For me, the human voice is the most versatile of instruments and can convey emotion better than any mechanical instrument: it always adds musical colour.

Return To Whatever then, is a pleasant album of rock-jazz fusion. The compositional influence is from jazz, and much of the instrumentation is more familiar in a jazz setting than in a traditional rock one, but the music itself doesn’t display a heavy jazz slant. For instance, rhythmically, it is simpler than much jazz. Taylor has composed and arranged all of the music, which is predominantly instrumental; Louise Nipper is credited with “voice” on Haunted Yellow House and Pink Island but her effect is not major. Other musicians contributing are Carsten Sindvald (saxophone), Pierre Tassone (violins), Michael Denner (guitar), Fleming Muus Tranberg (bass), Klaus Thrake (drums) and Tine Lilholt (Celtic harp, flute), with Taylor himself playing keyboards, laser guitar and percussion.

You can judge simply from the list of instruments that the soundscape is going to be very rich. Also, a lot of the keyboard work is on Hammond organ, so overall you have a very organic sound, which is generally very pleasing. The main compositional technique appears to be for some of the band to set up a rhythm and cyclic phrase or section, superimposed on which others take it in turns to play “solos”, bringing their own individual instruments to the fore. To use an analogy from the world of art this would be like the artist painting a general background against which he brings out some bright, varying shapes to focus the attention. At times the soundscape comes very close to ambient music and I think that fans of that genre - say of a band like No-Man - would also enjoy this album.

Focusing on some of the highlights for instance, Mooncake’s background is Hammond, keyboards and guitar in a march rhythm over which you have some melodic phrasing on saxophone and guitar. On July 6th the sustained note playing from the guitar is very effective and The Atlas Clock has some very pretty playing from the violin. Earth and Pink Island vary the tempo up a bit, these compositions contain some faster sections in which the jazzy influence becomes more evident. In the opening to Earth the piano and flute in combination are a delight and later the saxophone really lets rip to great effect. The sax is back on Pink Island, duelling with beefy electric guitar, again very effectively. As you might expect for the reprise of Mooncake - Reprise, the album’s finale, the Hammond is back to the fore.

Overall there’s some very enjoyable music on Return To Whatever, the playing is excellent and the sound textures are good, without the album ever really threatening to completely win your heart and soul. What I would say though, is this: if you do not have a Robin Taylor album in your collection, and you’re a fan of progressive rock who enjoys jazz fusion, then you should dip your toes in his water at least the once - you never know, it may strike a real chord with you - and Return To Whatever is just a good place to start as any.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10


Neo-Prophet - Monsters

Neo-Prophet - Monsters
Country of Origin:Belgium
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:WAMP-001
Year of Release:2008
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Truth (4:07), The Vast Machine (3:43), [March Of The] Boneless (7:19), The Blessed One (6:19), Man Without A Name (5:07), Song X (9:15), 911 Pianoid (5:50), The New Prophet (20:42): [1. The New Prophet (6:23), 2. Monsters (3:41), 3. A Lonely One (3:29), 4. Revelations (1:49), 5. The Pilgrimage (1:34), 6. My Stone Of Life (3:48)]

Last week I read in the ‘News’ section of DPRP about the line-up on the forthcoming Dutch Symforce III Festival (September 27th, 2009) and decided to contact the bands I didn’t know. One of the bands that reacted and sent me a promo CD was the Belgian formation Neo-Prophet, rooted in 2005 when Hans 'Mac' Six and Sjoerd 'CAP' Bruyneel stopped their activities in Marsta Blasta (in which they played both together for many years) and decided to found a new band named New-Prophet in order to realize their musical dreams to make melodic rock with progressive influences of the known Seventies and Eighties bands. Late December 2005 the recordings for the 5-track demo The Feeblemindedness Of The Inept And The Ignorant were made. Meanwhile the first gigs were booked, the first CD-reviews appeared, all with positive feedback. Recordings of the many new compositions started between December 2006 and mid 2007 and from April 2007 the first results of the new recording were presented as the promo single An Introduction To Monsters with the songs The Blessed One and The Vast Machine. Finally late 2008 the debut CD entitled Monsters was released as an own production.

On their debut album our Belgian neighbours scout the borders between melodic rock, Art-rock, neo-progressive rock and symphonic rock with a very powerful and accessible sound. The first part of Monsters (tracks 1-5) contain songs that alternate between melodic rock and neo-prog, embellished with strong solos and good musical ideas, like an exciting Savatage-like break and a fiery guitar solo in The Vast Machine, orchestral keyboards and a sensational synthesizer solo in [March Of The] Boneless and a swirling Hammond solo and jazzy saxophone in Man Without A Name. Listening to these songs bands like Seventies Saga, Styx and early Marillion come to my mind. The second part of Monsters showcases more elaborate and varied compositions. First the wonderful ballad Song X with some heavy eruptions featuring splendid work on keyboards (Moog, Hammond) and guitar. Then the outstanding track 911 Pianoid that delivers an exciting mid-tempo with propulsive interplay between piano and guitar, a moving Rotherian guitar solo and a sensational break with a Saga-like duel between guitar and keyboards, goose bumps! But the absolute highlight of this CD is the long and alternating final composition The New Prophet (6 parts, almost 21 minutes), you can enjoy: a spectacular Moog synthesizer solo, an Alex Lifeson inspired guitar solo, an interlude with Fender Rhodes electric piano that sounds like “New-Prophet Goes Riders On The Storm”, a piece with exciting heavy guitar riffs and bombastic keyboards, topped with a compelling final part delivering majestic strings arrangements, sparkling piano and vocal harmonies, concluded with tender piano and a mellow church-organ sound, awesome!

I am looking forward to witness their gig on the Symforce III Festival, last year Belgian band Hypnos 69 impressed me, I am sure that Neo-Prophet will do the same!

Conclusion: Not Rated


Dol Theeta- The Universe Expands

Dol Theeta- The Universe Expands
Country of Origin:Greece
Record Label:Electronic
Art Metal
Catalogue #:EAMRCD003
Year of Release:2008
Info:Dol Theeta
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Which Are You (1:40), Silver Air (7:12), Nighttime (8:10), Mud (4:25), In the Forest I Found (1:38), Something Called Tomorrow (6:20), Afterlife Crescendo (9:11), Every Goodbye (5:38), Goddess (5:00), And Through a Dream (2:17), The Universe Expands (6:14)

Back in the earlier part of this decade, my best friend and I used to go to Fetish Night at Club Hell in our hometown. The Universe Expands, the debut release from Greek metal project Dol Theeta, would fit in well on that club’s DJ’s play list.

The band, under the stewardship of Thanasis Lightbridge, plays a style of Gothic metal flavoured with industrial synths and female vocals. Promoted independently by Lightbridge as “electronic art metal”, the line-up features Lightbridge on synthesizers and drums, along with the simply-named “Kortessa” on vocals and “Dim” on guitars.

I am a big fan of female vocalists especially within prog, and popped the CD in my player eager to hear Kortessa’s voice. After sitting through opener Which Are You, a predictable and pretentious spoken word track, I started to listen to Silver Air. The song made a good impression on me but I was like, “Where’s Kortessa?” Her singing didn’t kick in until around 4:45 into the 7:12 track.

Lightbridge’s drumming is prominent if not busy in the CD’s mix, and by the end of the third track Nighttime it became apparent to me that some carefully restrained programming would have made for a smoother sound quality than Lightbridge’s live drums, which sound often clumsy across the CD. Industrial bands like Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, and KMFDM are the main points of comparison across the CD. The songs are composed and performed well, although a few seem rather lengthy and could have benefited from some editing.

Kortessa’s lovely voice is sometimes drowned out by the other musical elements, but it is centre stage on Something Called Tomorrow, which also features some acceptable backing vocals from Lightbridge and some melodic guitar leadings from Dim.

The CD artwork is colourfully designed in a fantasy motif by Werner Hornung.

My best suggestion for another Dol Theeta release is for Lightbridge to focus more on drum programming and not live drumming. Admittedly that suggestion stems from my personal taste only.

If you think you’d dig Skinny Puppy with a female singer, this band is probably for you. If you seek lighter fare, stay away.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


The Fractured Dimension – Towards The Mysterium

The Fractured Dimension – Towards The Mysterium
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:Just For Kicks
Catalogue #:809812012122
Year of Release:2008
Info:The Fractured
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prelude (0:27), Towards The Mysterium (5:03), Prism I. Reflection (2:21), II. Refraction (3:00), Fibonacci’s Notebook (3:37), Strangeness (1:43), The Mathematics Of Divinity (7:02), Out Of The Summer Sky (2:01), Worshipping Slonimsky In A Ravellian Mood (4:25), Piano Improv Take I (1:42), Falling Down Stairs (1:30), Despair (3:49), Fractured Are The Nine Principals (6:13), Slendro: An Improv For Lane (2:26), Reiteration And Extemporaneous Noodling (5:56), Preparatory Action [Prepared Piano, Percussion And Freewheel Improvisation] (4:14), Lecture (4:59)

Conceptually, Towards The Mysterium by The Fractured Dimension is an immediate draw for any prog fan whose tastes lie more on the fringe. As described in the liner notes: Russian composer Alexander Scriabin who, having experienced synaesthesia, wanted to unify and elevate mankind by using sight, sound, and unabashed expression in a rapturous apocalyptic enlightenment. That is the thrust of the inspiration for this disc and at first I thought there might be something here that resembled that aim.

The song names reflect mathematics, divinity, and the Fibonacci sequence. Recognizing mathematical principles in all things and making music that is palatable for human consumption to demonstrate this must be quite a task. Tool was able to adroitly accomplish incorporating the Fibonacci sequence in Lateralus but what I hear in Towards The Mysterium is not in that realm.

This music sounds dysfunctional to me. I don’t overlook the obvious talent performed here, but my common sense impression of this album is that a group of show-offs marauding as a prog rock band have released an album with jumbled tangents that provides no higher purpose to elevate to.

There is a lot of technical talent here, but no cohesive art form that I could identify. Few melodies break through with some jazz horns and keys, and the guitars move from one extreme to the other with a heavy complement of percussion. Certainly this release isn’t intended for a wide audience, and as for the narrow audience that will take kindly to this release, you will need to catch your breath between songs as the action really moves. Even the slower songs are dramatic and demand your attention.

Maybe there is a puzzle to be solved between the notes played here, but I wouldn’t be able to get past the poor production to even begin looking. This is a nice concept, but for me it lacks in every way that matters.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10


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