Reviews in this issue:
- Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer And Anvil (Duo Review)
- Hypnos 69 – Legacy
- David Minasian - Random Acts Of Beauty
- Delusion Squared – Delusion Squared
- Crimson Sky - Misunderstood
- Loreweaver- Imperative Auditions
- George Bellas - The Dawn Of Time
- Morild – Time To Rest
- Powerworld - Human Parasite
- High Tide – Sea Shanties
- High Tide – High Tide
- The Lloyd Langton Group - Night Air
Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer And Anvil
Tracklist: Fight Fire (4:29), Black Mourning (5:00), Patriarch (4:18), Last Man, Last Round (4:45), Valour (4:46), Over The Top (4:41), Never Divide (4:48), Blitzkrieg (5:34), Open Insurrection (7:20), Armistice (6:16)
Brian Watson's Review
I first heard of Pure Reason Revolution way back and managed to source a pre-release copy of 2005 mini album Cautionary Tales For The Brave from their then PR chap. I was instantly hooked, and made a point of seeing them live wherever and whenever I could. They did not play to big crowds, but every single time I saw them I was blown away by the talent, and charisma of the band. Even dyed in the wool old progsters had to acknowledge that here was a young, upcoming band who positively owned the stage.
The band to my mind, though, never really seemed comfortable around middle-aged, balding men who, let’s face it, formed the vast bulk (in more ways than one) of the typical prog audience. Before prog was fashionable and respectable-ish. And I include myself in said demographic. Now, gasp, ladies can sometimes be spotted at such live ‘happenings’. A quick tip to my socially inept brethren, though, when it comes to the ladies. Don’t tell them they look like your mum. At least prog audiences seem to be changing for the better somewhat. We here at DPRP embrace inclusivity, so maybe the time for a Pure Reason Revolution resurgence is nigh.
A full-length CD, The Dark Third, followed CTFTB, as well as a steady flow of singles.
I took a good deal of photographs of these early gigs, which can be viewed here if you’re interested. From a personal point of view the Canon I took them on became termed the ‘divorce camera’ as such a large, unplanned purchase pushed the then Mrs Watson over the edge of her tolerance threshold somewhat. Still, I’ve got a daughter now. He who laughs last, and all that…
Signed to mega label Sony from the off, a bright future beckoned but the two parted company at the end of 2006.
Playing in front of a room of thirty or forty blokes, as was the average prog crowd back then just didn’t, it seems, blow the record execs away. Can’t understand why.
There was a live album in 2008, recorded at Nearfest and released on the Nearfest label, and InsideOut subsequently re-released The Dark Third with a bonus disc.
2009 saw them signed to hipster label Superball, and their new release Amor Vincit Omnia signalled a new direction, with more than a passing nod to Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, New Order and The Human League.
‘Hold on a minute’, I hear you say. ‘Those bands aren’t really ‘progressive’ are they, Brian?’
‘However’, I reply, ‘PRR are one of a very select group, whose each and every release, Amor Vincit Omnia included, has received a DPRP recommended rating’. Well, here we have soon to be released Hammer And Anvil and the vocal harmonies that prompted Tom de Val to comment in 2005 that “this is simply the best vocal harmonising I’ve heard on a prog album since Spock’s Beard burst onto the scene a decade ago” remain at the centre of the PRR sound. For sure, the electonic-y stuff is still there, but the bleeps and bleepings of AVO seem to have been toned down somewhat and we have, for me, the perfect blend of the old and the new Pure Reason Revolution. And remember, I saw them in a Working Men’s Club in Leeds. Before the bingo as I recollect. So I should know.
If anything this new direction provides some much needed light and shade, serving as a counterpoint to the full-on wall of sound stuff they were doing five years ago which whilst fantastic did become a bit hard to digest throughout the full length of a long player. I’d go so far as to say that this is the best thing they’ve ever done by a country mile for just that reason. They have a truly rounded, and unique sound now, that’s all them.
They count amongst their influences ELO, Smashing Pumpkins, Soulwax, Depeche Mode and The Beach Boys and now combine electronic dance rhythms, poppy hooks and sublime vocal harmonies with huge, nay massive slabs of sound.
It starts off electronic-y, and full on at that, with opener Fight Fire and if this is the only song you listen to you’ll probably wonder what the heck I’m ranting on about, recommending you spend your hard earned money on this record. Stick with it, though. Black Mourning gets quickly back to those trademark harmonies, and the wall of sound that they’ve become synonymous with.
Throughout, synths are to the fore, so it’s not a ‘traditional’ guitar-led album by any stretch of the imagination.
Standout tracks include Blitzgrieg, which, just as you think it’s an electronic melange, becomes the most perfectly harmonised, piano driven ballad before building to an abrupt climax. Open Insurrection sounds like Tangerine Dream meets Mogwai by way of Voyage 34 era Porcupine Tree and Armistice should, if there’s any justice, be a number one single, with its Big Country style guitar melancholy, a-ha pop sensibilities and male/female vocal interplay and harmonies that’ll have the hairs on even the baldest, fattest neck standing well and truly up.
In fact, if I had to cite one particularly strong influence that comes through, to my elderly and (worryingly) hairy (and I mean Hobbit/Wookie hairy) ears, it’d be Tangerine Dream, who seem to be missing from the band’s stated influences but to whom I’ve been listening for over thirty years and whose symphonic synth aesthetic peppers this record.
Sound quality, even for the mp3 download I’ve been reviewing, is spectacular and the artwork looks great on t’interweb.
It’s a brilliant record, this, but a difficult listen for the purists amongst you. However it deserves to be heard by as many people as humanly possible. Whatever you do, if this band is playing live at a venue near you, go and see them. It should come as no surprise, then, that it’s made my top 5 list. Even though I’ve got my mp3 review version, I’ve just pre-ordered the special edition that comes with a live DVD filmed in London this year featuring Les Malheurs, Black Mourning, Apogee, Deus Ex Machina, Victorious Cupid, Fight Fire, Chimeras and AVO. I’d suggest you do, too.
Ed Sander's Review
There was something I immediately noticed when I read the press release that came with Pure Reason Revolution's new album Hammer And Anvil. Where once the band was hailed as the Pink Floyd of the 21st century and precursors of the new age of prog, there was very little reference to progressive rock to be found in their new bio, if any.
"Pure Reason Revolution are proof a band can be influenced by ELO, Smashing Pumpkins, Soulwax, Depeche Mode and The Beach Boys all at once, yet make sense of a vision that brings those disparate voices together into a sound that combines electronic dance rhythms, pop hooks and sublime vocal harmonies with huge rock riffs."
All very true, but it´s almost as if this is another band that tries to dissociate itself from prog. Strange enough there's some lyrical references to Pink Floyd's Goodbye Blue Sky in the song Over The Top. A hidden tribute nevertheless?
Well, maybe their music had changed dramatically? A first listen proved this to be only partially true. Hammer And Anvil is different from Amor Vincit Omnia, the band's last album that saw them moving into a much more electronic area. Although lots of people will disagree with me I found that development very welcome. It gave the music more diversity and much more openness. I always considered the band's first full-length album, The Dark Third, a bit of a tough listen in it's UK edition. I really adored the first half of the album with tracks like Aeropause, Goshen's Remains, Apprentice Of The Universe and The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning. The second half of the album sounded much more 'massive' with less space in the music. I was delighted to find that space again in the songs on Amor Vincit Omnia, as well as a more diverse range of compositions, ranging from the heavy Victorious Cupid to the soft electronic Bloodless.
Hammer And Anvil continues this electronic approach, while returning to the massive sound of the earlier material. Some of you will welcome this change but I personally am quite disappointed. There's soo much sound, so much distortion and very few moments to catch your breath that it's simply too exhausting. Songs like Last Man Last Round have their breaks, but before long the massive sound returns, just when you thought you'd get a moment of relief. While I've always had problems discerning what Cloë Alper and Jon Courtney are actually singing, there are now moments in which I can't even tell one instrument from another in the sludge flowing from my speakers. Besides this, much of the music sounds the same and I have a hard time telling exactly what song I'm listening too. What's worse, upon my first spin of the CD I regularly found myself thinking 'hold on, I've heard this before on one of the earlier albums', which could refer to the arrangement, melodies, lyrics or all of these. Black Morning for instance reminds me an awful lot of The Intention Craft, while Last Man Last Round sounds almost identical to Black Morning.
The multi-vocal sound that PRR is known for is still omnipresent on the record. There are however some new approaches. Fight Fire is almost fully sung by Chloë, although the experimental opening had me wondering if my CD player had given up the ghost and the punkish approach of the composition is not exactly my cup of tea. Valour features impressive 'list singing' that reminds me of Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues.
As with the previous album there's also some lyrical references between songs, for instance between the weird electro experiment Blitzkrieg and the slowly building Open Insurrection that follows it. The latter track is one of the better tunes on the album, since it offers the necessary breathing space and features some of the marvellous tension building as we've come to know from the band's early material (think Bright Ambassadors, In Aurelia or Aeropause). It does slowly build to a loud stomper though and might be a tad too long with it's 7+ minutes. Fortunately, the album's last track, Armistice, shows that the band's music has not completely disintegrated to noise. It's actually these three tracks I find myself enjoying most since they are more diverse and stand out from the rest of the material.
As far as the sound of the album is concerned Hammer And Anvil is an aptly chosen title, while the spooky concrete building with flags and banners is an excellent representation for the coldness of some of the music. As a matter of fact, I find the cover absolutely horrible and for me it conjures up many unpleasant associations. The album comes very quickly after last year's Amor Vincit Omnia, which has me wondering if it wouldn't have been better if the band had taken some more time to make their new album. Regardless of the aforementioned criticism, Hammer And Anvil is not a bad album, it's just a bit disappointing for PRR standards. When taken in small doses the music is still quite good. In one go it's simply too loud, too massive, too overwhelming, too samey and most certainly not the band's best release to date.
The album is available in a standard edition and limited edition digipack that includes an 8 track DVD with live performances of three new songs plus 5 songs from Amor Vincit Omnia.
Hypnos 69 – Legacy
Tracklist: Requiem (For A Dying Creed): i – Within This Spell, ii – Visions/Within This Spell (reprise) iii – A Requiem For You (17:51), An Aerial Architect (6:47), My Journey To The Stars (6:53), The Sad Destiny We Lament (4:57), The Empty Hourglass (10:48), Jerusalem (6:52), The Great Work: i – Nigredo, ii – Albedo, iii – Citrinitas, iv - Rubedo (18:27)
If you don’t know them, and the chances are you don’t, then it’s time to get acquainted with Hypnos 69. If what you crave is ‘70s vintage, underground heavy prog in the vein of Captain Beyond, VdGG, High Tide or Argent in their less commercial moments, then it’s time to get acquainted with Hypnos 69. Perhaps your fancy is for more contemporary exponents of the heavy prog sound, like Diagonal, Black Bonzo or Bigelf? If so, get yourself acquainted with Hypnos 69. Maybe the brooding psychedelic groove of Anekdoten or Landberk flicks your switches? Get some Hypnos 69 in your life.
They’ve been around since the mid ‘90s, releasing their first full length album in 2001. Legacy is their fifth release and the second we’ve reviewed at DPRP. Mark Hughes recommended their last studio offering, The Eclectic Measure back in 2006. At the time, this was to be their swansong, but they’ve subsequently reformed, started gigging again and returned to the studio to commit Legacy to wax. Maintaining the line-up which has served them through their last fur albums, the Houtmeyers brothers, Steve (conductor, vocals, various instruments) and Dave (drums, percussion, Korg MS) are once again in cahoots with Steven Marx (woodwinds, brass, Rhodes and Hammond) and Tom Vanlaer (bass, Moog) to produce 72 minutes of devastatingly cool and vitally fresh music with a hard-hitting sound that fuses classic prog, heavy rock, jazz and psychedelia into a heady brew.
Their arrangements are structured around classic vintage instrumentation that employs moogs, mellotrons, Hammond organ, Rhodes piano and guitars with saxophone, flute, a bit of brass and a range of percussion including, of course, a standard drum kit. The synergy between them is at times, electrifying and, moreover, they successfully manage to adhere their brash, hard-rocking inclinations with passages of introspection and quietude with originality and potency.
For me personally, it’s in their quieter moments that the album really gels. My Journey To The Stars, The Sad Destiny We Lament and Jerusalem are wonderfully affecting and dreamily effective. The first is dripping with rich, whirling Hammond and a plaintive, lysergic melody that immerses the body and mind into a state of gently swaying beatitude, penetrated by Steve Houtmeyers unbridled guitar solo. This state is deepened by The Sad Destiny We Lament which has Dave Houtmeyers on [what I assume is] e-Timpani instead of drums, adding a dramatic tension to the wailing, soulful melody played out on Moog. Jerusalem features Steven Marx’s exquisite clarinet playing, an instrument I’ve heard quite a bit of recently in a few recordings and, not only do I love its woody hoot, but taken out of its natural jazz setting, it works phenomenally well in progressive rock. Jerusalem is a fine case in point, although Marx resorts to free-form caterwauling towards the end of the song which is as good an endorsement as there can be to never hear the instrument again.
There’s something in the lyrical content of these three songs that provides a unifying concept of sorts and colours the whole album. To explain myself, I’ll start with a look at the terrific cover art (by Malleus) which depicts an anguished woman clutching a golden orb, while her preternaturally long hair flows upwards and entwines the trunk of a broad tree. A serpent forms the shape of a lightning strike as it descends the tree in the opposite direction. I’m interpreting this (rightly or wrongly) as Eve before the Tree Of Knowledge (perhaps Yggdrasil) holding The Forbidden Fruit. This is the ‘legacy’ of the title, the legacy of The Original Sin and the separation of humanity from the divine. However, the thrust of the lyrics is concerned with Alchemical and Kabbalistic notions of transmutation rather than any biblical or Christian consideration of the theme which is merely a metaphor for the mystery and, some would say, misery of manifestation. As a subject matter this is dense and occult, but it traverses a suitably cosmic, metaphysical orbit to lend a great deal of personality to the music.
Nowhere is this more clearly and explicitly expressed than in the epic closing track, The Great Work. This is split into four parts and opens slowly in Part I, combining flute and guitar in fluid counterpoints. Structurally, like many of the songs on Legacy, it traces an arc of building intensity into Part II, resolving into quiescence once again, punctuated with searing but melodic guitar solos. Part III however has a choppy, heavy groove with an incandescent, honking, parping sax solo before an insistent riff ascends the scale with each repetition, heightening the sonic fervour into Part IV. Here we find peace and unification of the music and the concept with gentle Rhodes piano and delicate, delayed guitar signalling the attainment implicit in the title. Lovely.
Elsewhere, The Empty Hourglass is a thumping number. Barging urgently out of the speakers with mauling drums and bass it cements into a rococo concoction of all things 1973 and then segues after several minutes into a brilliant re-working of Chris Squire’s The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus). Oddly, no credit is given for this, but it is undoubtedly and unmistakeably a cover of The Fish. In fairness, it might be better to say that it uses The Fish as the basis, the motif for a progressive jam which is all Hypnos 69 in style. An Aerial Architect is VdGG meets Roxy Music, if you can imagine such a thing. Thick slabs of saxophone lend this a dirty feel until a delicious downtempo section intercedes by way of Houtmeyer’s superlative guitar work to the fore once again. Which only leaves the epic opener, Requiem (For A Dying Creed) to consider. This is a difficult track to get to grips with. Across its eighteen minutes we are introduced to the album’s various modes and personalities in microcosm. It changes direction and tone often. It features four blistering guitar solos and some great mobile, retro bass lines alongside supporting roles for all the other instruments we will hear throughout the album, the wind instruments and Hammond organ being the unsung background actors. It does tread water in places which is a sin Hypnos 69 are guilty of more than once on Legacy and I’m sure with a little fat-trimming the album could have come in at under an hour which may have enhanced its impact. As it is, 72 minutes is a bit too much to sit through, especially when the musical point has been well and truly been made.
Even so, this is the gripe of a bedroom critic with little else to criticize. Legacy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if the artists I’ve mentioned above prick up your ears, then you’ll find plenty here to fascinate. If you fancy sampling some genuinely progressive and experimental space rock (whatever that actually means), then you could do no better than to pick up Legacy as a starting point. I don’t love this album, I’m not going to marry it, but it’s different and I like it a lot. We’ll have a charged but platonic affair between us; sharing personal secrets and having fun; contemplating the stars and walking along the road to Shangri La.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
David Minasian - Random Acts Of Beauty
Tracklist: Masquerade (12:32), Chambermaid (8:53), Storming The Castle (5:29), Blue Rain (7:44), Frozen In Time (14:37), Summer’s End (8:00), Dark Waters (5:12)
Unless you’re a Camel fan and scrutinise the production credits on their DVD’s then like me the name of David Minasian will be completely unknown to you. Hailing from California, he was a proficient classical pianist by the age of 15 but decided to embark on a career of filmmaking instead. He did take time out in 1984 to release a symphonic rock album entitled Tales Of Heroes And Lovers before beginning his association with Camel Productions in the mid 90’s and to date has overseen seven of the bands DVD’s. Twenty-five years on from his debut album he set about creating the follow-up Random Acts Of Beauty taking a full year to complete the process.
Apparently it was the encouragement of Andy Latimer that led to the release of this album and appropriately the Camel guitarist lends his talents to the opening track Masquerade. Minasian himself provides an array of keyboards (grand piano, mellotron, harpsichord, Moog, pipe organ) along with acoustic 12 string, classical guitar, bass and drums. In addition to his multi-instrumental abilities he’s a more than capable singer sounding not unlike a cross between Justin Hayward and John Lodge. Very appropriate given that the first half of the song is clearly influenced by the melodic style of The Moody Blues complete with strings and woodwinds courtesy of keys. Mr Latimer is on hand to supply an archetypical soaring guitar solo as well as his recognisably dulcet vocal tones to bring the song to a close.
Chambermaid is based around the albums most compelling choral hook and this time the melodic lead guitar is provided by Minasian’s 20 year old son Justin although it could have so easily come from the hands of John Lees of BJH fame. The instrumental Storming The Castle allows father and son to flex a little more musical muscle with a raunchy guitar and synth break that sits comfortably alongside the more symphonic parts. The atmospheric ballad Blue Rain returns to the serenity of The Moodies whilst the albums lengthy centrepiece Frozen In Time again picks up the instrumental pace with a punchy but tricky section that brings PFM to mind. The latter also features a very attractive and impressively played classical guitar interlude from Justin.
The penultimate Summer’s End wears its Barclay James Harvest credentials firmly on its sleeve with soaring guitar flights and orchestral keys to the fore complete with mellotron crescendos. This would have been very much at home on BJH’s classic Everybody Is Everybody Else album and it also has more than a hint The Enid about it in its classical aspirations. The same could be said for the concluding piece Dark Waters which despite the implications of the title provides a suitably uplifting instrumental finale.
Like The Moody Blues, a band upon which the sound here is conspicuously modelled, David Minasian possesses a fine sense of melody which makes this album very easy on the ear. For some tastes it might be just a little too easy even though he stays on the right side of blandness, a tendency of the Moodies in their later life. In addition to the aforementioned acts this release should also appeal to fans of The Alan Parsons Project. It’s certainly a beautifully crafted album and although it is fairly derivative in places it is a work that I’ll happily return to when the mood takes me.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Delusion Squared – Delusion Squared
Tracklist: Remembrance: The Very Day (4:09), In My Time Of Dying (5:52), Delusion: Copyrighted Genes (7:06), The Betrayal (5:11), Sentenced (5:51), By The Lake [Mourning] (3:12), Enlightenment: By The Lake [Seeding] (4:16), Rebirth (6:42), What We Will Be (6:05), Legacy: The Departure (2:44), A Creation Myth (7:49)
Delusion Squared is a very interesting debut CD of a French trio with the same name. It’s an ambitious concept album in which the musicians clearly stand at the service of the concept. The story puts this CD in the tradition of Marillion's Brave and Sylvan’s Posthumous Silence, but has a different flavour because of its mixture with science fiction elements ”borrowed” from movies like The Matrix and The Bladerunner, as well as books such as Brave New World. Underneath the story it is not difficult to find concerns about contemporary society, which is echoed in lyrics referring to ”copyrighted genes”; ”digitalized consciousness” and societies in which corporations invent new desires and merchandise to buy.
It is not only this social dimension of the story, but also the music which reminds me a lot of Porcupine Tree, (Fear Of a Blank Planet period). The music ranges from dreamy, singer-song writer tracks to heavy ones with fine guitar riffs such as the compact The Betrayal, which I find one of the best songs on the album. The music makes me think of modern British progrock bands such as The Reasoning.
The story is about a princess who becomes pregnant. However, she is not supposed to in her society, which is dominated by corporations and artificial intelligence. As humans are genetically modified and genes have become copyrighted, becoming pregnant is prohibited. She has to face trial, is condemned and put into exile. Totally numbed by injected drugs, she lies down by a lake, convinced her time has come. However, people from another tribe with an alternative way of life, find her. Her baby is lost and she will never be pregnant again. However, it is in this community where she rediscovers purpose to her life. She takes up leadership, becomes a ”mother of all people” and dies at old age highly respected by the people.
Delusion Squared is a trio with Lorraine Young on vocals and guitars. Her voice sounds really pleasant in acoustically oriented tracks such as In My Time Of Dying, in which she makes me think a bit of Suzanne Vega. However, when the band starts ”rocking”, she tends to sing higher and then her voice becomes a bit thin. This lack of power undermines the otherwise excellent heavy track Copyrighted Genes. The (English) lyrics are really hard to understand because of Young’s very strong French accent. Unfortunately, the lyrics are not printed on the CD cover, which is a pity on a concept album on which the story is so important. Fortunately though, the lyrics can be found on their website.
The compositions are generally melodic and stick in your mind, although sometimes they are a bit too repetitive (Sentenced). The keyboards – played by both the bassist Emmanuel de Staint and drummer Steven Francis - are colourful and effective, a bit in the style of Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree). What I really like are the atmospherics they add to the music (By The Lake [Seeding]) as well as the rhythmic sequences (in for example Betrayed). The guitars are excellent in their modesty, while the production is up to modern standards and crystal clear. The album is available in a very beautiful digipack.
With their fine debut, Delusion Squared raised my full attention.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Crimson Sky - Misunderstood
Tracklist: After The Rain (3:46) Turn It Up (4:18) Seasons End (5:12) Things Die (4:23) A Sleep That Burns (10:08), Misunderstood Suit: Misunderstood (3:43) The Sea (6:56) I Do Not Count The Time (4:53) Misunderstood 2 (6:03) The space between us (3:24) Misunderstood 3 (7.41)
Crimson Sky is a band from Bristol in the Southwest of the UK. Formed in 2002 they have previously released one EP in 2006 called Only Love. Misunderstood is their first full-length album and was recorded over six months on guitarists Martin Leamon’s TASCAM 2488 24-track studio:
“The reason for this was two fold, after going to a “Pro Studio” and coming away with a result that was nothing like how they had envisaged sounding and of course the budget.”
Crimson Sky on this album are: Martin Leamon (guitar) Clive Lambert (bass) Chris Cadley (keyboards) Ali Woodman (drums) Holly Anne Thody (vocals). It should be noted that the band has recently recruited Janey Summer as their new vocalist, replacing Holly Ann Thody.
Misunderstood is almost an album of two parts. The first five tracks being very capable examples of modern progressive rock written and performed with skill. The last six tracks which comprise the Misunderstood suite , are in a different league where the writing, performance and production come together to produce a superb piece of music as good as anything released by more established bands with far bigger budgets.
The album opens with After The Rain, a strong and melodic piece with lead vocals reminissecent of Chrissie Hynde of the Prentenders. It features fluid and powerful guitar dueting with the vocal refrain whilst the synth’s swirl in the background.
Turn It Up is the second track which opens with 80’s style keys leading into a driving riff with strong clear vocals. More fluid guitar drives the song which is more rock than prog’ in feel and which closes with another flourish of 80’s synth’s.
Seasons End is track three. A keyboard dominated piece with chiming guitar in support, creating a strong melodic feel throughout. Again powerful vocals, this time with some quiter verses, evidence as to the versatility of Holly’s voice. The song ends with a keyboard solo of “powerful restraint”.
Track four is Things Die. A repetive keyboard refrain opens the song leading into a thoughtful quite vocal passage, then all hell breaks loose as voice and guitar rockout with the tempo at a blistering pace. The track closes as it opened with more keys and voice.
The first epic of the album is track five – A Sleep That Burns, coming in at slightly over 10 minutes, this is the first stand out track, were things really seem to gel and truly turn progressive. With a quiet, slightly medival beginning the song moves into an up-tempo keys driven passage with a powerful vocal. This flows into a section which has a middle eastern feel somehow reminding me of Renaissance. Things then turn more instrumental with fantastic guitar and keyboards leading into an operatic vocal (more evidence of Holly’s range) which closes the song.
As previously mentioned the last six tracks form the suite Misunderstood, which with out a doubt is the piece de resistance of the album. From the fist synthesizer note you are aware that this is something special, the production being significantly better and the band sounding like a unit, the sum being greater than the parts. This is a series of tracks which runs the full gamut of musical styles and emotions. From the opening thumping instrumental workout to the highly emotional and powerful close, we have a veritable smorgasboard of prog rock, with soaring crystal clear vocals, melodic and masterful guitar, clever and creative keyboards,powerful rythmic drums and thundering bass. There are time changes, mood swings, loud parts, quite parts, acoustic passages, melodies, atmospheres, emotions, guitar solos, keyboard solos and of coarse that voice!
This is an album which benefits from repeated listenings. It will appeal to those who are fans of Mostly Autumn, Karnataka, The Reasoning, Renaissance and Uriah Heep! Yes Uriah Heep! They rock! The references are there to be heard, but Crimson Sky have a sound which is all their own. All the muscians are excellent, playing with skill and passion and with a detectable sense of fun. The production is good especially on the Misunderstood Suite. I wonder what they could do with the backing of a major label. It’s a shame that Holly has left the band but I am looking forward to hearing what new vocalist Janey will bring to the band.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Loreweaver- Imperative Auditions
Tracklist: Bogus (7:51), Dead Man Walking (6:28), De Rerum Natura (7:44), Follow the Weaver (7:43), Avoid Feelings (6:42), Ride The Owl (4:27), That Night (7:06), Ultraworld (9:45)
Every so often someone comes up to you and says have you heard of? Or have you come across? Well I am delighted at this one, thanks to my good friend Jill Lerner. Can I please introduce to you, a fine and outstanding band from Italy? The band Loreweaver, the album is Imperative Auditions, a rare find, a well kept secret.
This is a band that consists of Barbara Rubin (vocals), Francesco Salvadeo (guitars), Giordano Mattiuzzo (bass), Lorenzo Marcenaro (keyboards) and Claudio Cavalli (drums). A group of musicians that are all classically trained having developed and shaped their creative juices, producing this damn fine progressive metal album.
On hearing the album, my initial reaction was WOW and then, they sound like a cross between Dream Theater, L.T.E and Lana Lane, a powerful mix to say the least. The dexterity of the band is second to none with their quick paced time changes, keeping the solo passages to a minimum, an efficient use of instrumentation, so to speak, not allowing it to become self indulgent for any one individual. We get a full set of musical emotions presented here, smooth notation, which is interacted with heavier guitar riffs, building some very complex musical structures. The added bonus in all this though, is that, the band work, in unity, as a team, no one person being more important than the next, which can be a rare commodity these days.
Bogus starts the whole affair off with its high paced hi jinx, keyboards, guitars, bass and percussions offering recognition to each other, then wham, Ms. Rubin kicks in with her powerful vocal presentation. The impeccable music interaction is stunning, each member free to breathe their own personality into the piece, which makes creations like this very powerful and likeable to say the least. Marcenaro’ keyboard work really adds character.
Dead Men Walking is a moody interlude, deeper and darker than Bogus, but no less powerful. Rubin takes a less melodic approach vocally, almost as we have several characters adding the words, which makes the piece sound sinister. This is where Rubin differs from Lane, as Lane would have used a more symphonic approach. Salvadeo’ guitar work is fantastic, with some really nice solo work thrown in for good measure.
De Rerun Natura has the band dropping back into the quick paced melodic runs that they are so confidently produce. Mattiuzzo’ bass really punctuates this piece, whilst Marcenaro’ odd sounding keyboards interjections layer to great effect, as much as Cavalli’ time perfect drumming rhythms excite the whole mood. This really is a powerhouse track.
Follow the Weaver opens with its cinematic soundscapes, ghostly, creepy, atmospherics, which on regular intervals is interrupted by the bands angry aggressive tones. Barbara’ vocals are worked through an effects box, adding aggression to her tone, almost as if you are being stalked by the evil incarnate. The beauty of the whole piece though is the whole dynamics, aggressive tones one minute, sedate, lush passages, with heartfelt emotion guitar solos the next, then full circle again.
Avoid Feelings has big driving power-chords, acrobatic keyboards, aerodynamic guitar runs and confident back line musings. The irony of the song title is that Rubin’ vocals carry the message emotionally to your ears, with her deft, sultry tones.
Ride The Owl is instrumental time, showing and displaying how exacting this group of musicians can be. Each member following then leading, taking turns, being a great example of how the band works in unity, one player being no greater than the next. I really do love that ethos. The whole tone of the piece is beautiful and captivating, sadly arriving at its destination to quickly.
That Night offers a stage for Rubin to showcase her scaling and emotional vocal precision. Even in prog metal it’s nice to get that break, from powerful in your face musical soirees, well when they are as wonderful as this they are. This piece just builds to a defining crescendo; pitch perfect guitar runs, sedate keyboard tones. This is an absolute stunning track.
Ultraworld the closing and longest track on the album, which has taken all things past, melded them together, creating a stunning, powerful and emotional song. It’s almost like the band have been practicing throughout, to bring you this closing Sci Fi sounding epic.
Loreweaver really do have a bright future, especially with the quality of musicianship displayed throughout. Eight tracks of varying approaches, unique and interesting, which culminated to an epic ending. This really is an album that got me excited from the word go, which doesn’t happen that often. The whole mix of great musicianship and great vocals, (female especially), is a rare thing in this genre. Loreweaver have managed to achieve both. Now let’s see where these guys go from here.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
George Bellas - The Dawn Of Time
Tracklist: Cyclone (3:36), Seeding The Universe (3:38), Let There Be Light (4:27), The Dawn Of Time (4:37), Machine Man (4:44), Voyage To Triangulum (4:22), Mysterious Light (4:31), Mystical Dream (3:08), Glimmering Stardust (5:49), Electromagnetic (3:52), Genesis Of Life (3:54), Carbon Creature (4:50), Suns Of Andromeda (2:56), We Are Not Alone (4:09), Nightmare Awoken (6:47), Primordial Atom (2:51), Metropolis (4:27), Always At My Side (3:25), The Angels Are Calling (3:52)
The American guitar virtuoso George Bellas, renowned from bands like Ring Of Fire and Palace Terrace, delivers his sixth solo album with The Dawn Of Time. George has been a recording artist from 1997 with his debut for Shrapnel Records called Turn Of The Millenium with among others Deen Castronovo on drums and Kevin Chown (currently playing in the live band of Tarja Turunen) on bass. The album marks the 289th release by Lion Music. George did everything himself on this release, including production and artwork, with the exception of the drum parts. Those were recorded by Marco Minnemann (UKZ), one of the top drummers of the next generation, the 'older one' being heroes like Peart, Bruford, Bozzio and Phillips. Being a fan of classical composers like Liszt, Chopin, Paganini and Bach to name a few, Bellas has always played a "neo-classical" style of music. With a keen interest in all existing theories on composition and musical forms like counterpoint and odd meters, George has developed his own unique style of playing the guitar but has also proven that he is a well established keyboard - and bass player. The Dawn Of Time is an instrumental album rich in romanticism and futurism. The arrangements are short and accessible, and the songs are euphonious and tonal, especially when compared to George's previous album Step Into The Future, which was a single 75 min song and atonal (Liszt, Schönberg!) for the most part. Some of the songs utilize compositional techniques and elements from the baroque, classical and romantic eras, others have more elements of progressive rock in them. As could be suspected from the title of the album, The Dawn Of Time has been inspired by the creation of the universe.
The opening song Cyclone could be described as neo-classical progressive metal: Marco's pounding double bass drums and a hammering bass are the foundation of the track, while the keyboards are the orchestral background for the melodies and solo's played by George's sweeping guitars. Seeding The Universe is a combination of a slow romantic song within a more powerful context, using several odd meters. Heavily inspired by some of the classical masters and a feel of being in a merry-go-round is Let There Be Light, a very catchy up tempo song, with a rather straight rhythm and a beautiful classical counterpoint piece (guitars, harpsichord sounding keyboards). The title track in effects is a rather straight forward simple melody but the bass & drums are pushing really hard and more or less based on the same melodic theme guitars and keyboards are playing a dazzling amount of notes per bar. Strangely enough the bass is used solely and simply as a driving rhythmic force in contrast to the other instruments, that are played with fabulous technique. One would have expected the bass would have been played in the same fashion: many notes per bar and counterpointing for instance the guitar.
Machine Man starts off with a nice rock-based riff played by the bass, than the organ is added and melodies from the Orient/Middle East, combined with a pop-rock tune. In the last part the bass riff is played in a higher tempo and some very tasteful solo's by George's guitar. Slower seventies progressive rock in Voyage To Triangulum, with most of the melodies played by two guitars and of course impressive soloing again. A haunting atmosphere and some hi-tech performances from all instruments in Mysterious Light. Classical themes returns in Mystical Dream and George shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is one THE guitar heroes in this millennium. Glimmering Stardust is a combination of classically inspired music combined with a more straight forward rock tune, with that same driving bass as mentioned before. There's a very tranquil tasteful second part with just electric guitar and keyboards. In Electromagnetic there's some pieces of classically influenced music in combination with a delightful rock piece. Marco and George rendering over the top performances again. Odd meters and blues rhythms patterns, while the music changes in tempo constantly in Genesis Of Life. Here's some nice orchestrations. A slow rock rhythm, lush orchestrations and some classical music in Carbon Creatures, with major contributions from piano, bass, drums and guitars.
Although the second half is richly orchestrated, in essence Suns Of Andromeda is a very gentle ballad. Personally I would have preferred another type and playing of the bass guitar here. A romantic theme is put in rock context in We Are Not Alone and George plays his guitar almost like a violin. The last part has that same hammering bass but this is followed by a nice piece of piano accompanied by 'orchestra'. Rock from the Middle East is back in Nightmare Awoken and most of melodies are played by 'twin guitars', while there's a beautiful oasis of keyboard driven music in the middle. Piano and guitar play alongside at a tremendous speed in the classically oriented Primordial Atom, in the vein of some of Rhapsody's music. Twin guitars in the 'choruses' and a delightful up tempo riff by the bass in Metropolis, a tune with some progressive but even more rock elements. The only real ballad would be Always At My Side based on the E and A chords and this time not only shredding but subtle and gentle soloing too. The grand finale is called The Angels Are Calling: a complex composition with a few different 'faces', varying from almost ambient to heavy, orchestrated rock. In a section with a different odd meter rhythm Marco shows his impressive talents and George picks every single note on the neck of his guitar.
No vocals, no lyrics, thus no irritating singers but yes, also the danger of getting bored by 'only guitars'... As pointed out in the review my personal preference would have been a different sound and role for the bass guitar and I would have loved a bit more variety in the guitar sounds. The overall sound might have been a little more powerful and bombastic, but yet again: a matter of taste. This is the absolute summit of shredding and beyond dispute that Bellas' name should be added on the list with names like Satriani, Vai and Malmsteen. This man is an all round multi-instrumentalist and a refined composer. A must for all fans of guitar heroes, fans of neo-classical rock but I'd invite all fans of any kind of rock music with an affinity for guitars to listen to this album.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Morild – Time To Rest
Disc 1: All I Wanted [The Whale Song] (12:52), When The Night Turns To Morning (6:30), Time To Rest (5:53), Blackbird’s Lullaby (3:21), Circus (15:39), Early This Morning [Christmas Song] (11:03)
Disc 2: Apus Apus (4:57), Two Glasses (13:14), The Slave Ship: [Part 1: Zong | Searching For Prey (11:50), Part 2: Harbour Lights (8:14), Part 3: Mercy (7:59)]
Morild in their current line up has been formed since 2008, although originally Morild was first founded in 2004 by Nils Larsen, Odd-Roar Bakken and Alexander Holand Salgado. All three were previously a part of a band called Adventure but decided to leave and start Morild instead. Odd-Roar is still a member of Adventure.
The history of Morild dates back 30 years, as Odd-Roar and Nils have been friends and musical partners for that whole period. Alexander joined Adventure in 2001 and later followed Odd-Roar and Nils when forming Morild. Alex is, besides being the drummer, Morild's data "nerd" and does all the digital work while recording. John Anders joined Morild early in 2008. In addition to providing vocals to Morild he sings in a local choir and has developed a powerful, strong voice.
The making of Time To Rest has also been a long story, the original ideas of some of the songs date back some 20 to 30 years when Odd-Roar and Nils became friends and had started the idea of the music. That the music dates back that far can be heard in the structures and set up of some of the songs as well as the instrumentation used.
The Morild sound was a sound most often heard by progressive rock bands in the seventies and beginning of the eighties. Musically you get pointers in the direction of Camel, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum and other bands in that genre.
Five out of the eleven songs stretch the 10 minute barrier - not an easy task to compose music of these lengths - however not one of the songs become boring whatsoever, on the contrary each of the songs is a beauty in itself. Massive orchestrations, beautiful melodies, great choruses. All the material sounds 70’s and is almost instantly likeable to a broader audience than progressive music.
There is music for everybody here, we have a Christmas song in Early This Morning, and I must say this really brings across the seasonal spirit as such with the beautifully played organ. I had a feeling I was sat in a church here. A bed time song in Blackbird’s Lullaby, so peaceful and tranquil. A long epic suite in The Slave Ship, a suite made up of three separate songs, clocking the total time in at 28 minutes - a stunning experience. Two instrumental pieces, Time To Rest and Apus Apus. A song of Circus life - stunning - you are part of this. All songs have a certain edge to life.
Great musicians all of them, really stunning album, seventies like production, just like they wanted it to sound, where have these guys been hiding so long. I want more of this beautiful music, why has no recording deal been offered an in place for these fellows, they absolutely deserve this.
I cannot wait to hear another album of Morild. A terrific job and a debut album as a double CD, shows guts. Well they have and they can be proud of their achievement.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Powerworld - Human Parasite
Tracklist: Cleansed By Fire (4:29), Stand Up (4:19), Evil In Me (5:00), Time Will Change (4:58), Human Parasite (5:20), Hope (0:42), East Comes To West (4:27), Children Of The Future (4:17), Caught In Your Web (4:50), Tame Your Demons (6:11), Might Of Secrets (3:58), King For A Day (4:56)
This is the second album from the now ‘multi-nationality’ band, (originating from Germany), since their debut in 2008 and is a nice addition the genre of metal. The music, written by founder Ilker Ersin can be characterized as ‘metal’ but has moments of AOR in the tasteful harmonies in almost every chorus, power-metal and some progressive influences in the really nice interludes scattered throughout the album. The new front- man of the band is now ex-Threshold vocalist Andrew ‘Mac’ McDermott and the new drummer is Achim Keller (ex-Victory). Barish Kepic on the guitars is a long-time friend of Erskin, who as well as keyboardist Nils Neumann is a former member of the German melodic metal outfit Freedom Call.
The first track immediately reminds me of Threshold because of the voice of Mac of course. Double bass drums, pounding bass, some ferocious guitar solos and a very nice but too short symphonic interlude. Another up tempo track but with several different rhythm patterns is Stand Up. Mac has to try his best to reach the higher notes while the tune is more in the vein of Axel Rudi Pell. More like Sabbath is the next track Evil In Me, although the subtle orchestrations make a difference and of course the guitars sound different too. We have a tasteful orchestral overture and an acoustic guitar at the beginning of Time Will Change. Soon the metal characteristics return however and the choruses are very much like Threshold again. In the mid tempo verses, the few times Mac sings with a lower voice, his vocals are hard to recognize. The track holds a short but really nice synth solo by Neumann.
The fierce metallic bass of Erskin sets the tone of the title track. As in other tracks the tempo changes between verses and choruses and in the song there’s an interesting instrumental piece. Via a guitar solo piece by Kepic. The melody is taken over by Neumann and then the rest of the band joins in a rock song called East Comes To West, and indeed some of the melodies and orchestration are inspired by music from the Orient. Finally the keyboards can be heard properly!
In Children Of The Future it’s straight hard rock with the classic up tempo verses, the choruses however have the fundament of double bass drumming and pounding bass again. A very melodic and equally fast guitar solo by Kepic. In the same classic hard rock vein but a little slower is Caught In Your Web. Lots of guitars and the bass merely functioning as a rhythm tool but a nice keyboard solo and Mac is singing is his preferred range.
Heavy riffs dominate in the guitar driven song Tame Your Demons. Nice bass playing by Erskin in the slower parts of verses, but most of the time this is very heavy stuff. Whereas a little more lush sounds feature in Might Of Secrets, perhaps the most AOR sounding song on the album. In King For A Day, the band finishes the album the way it started it: melodic metal, nice catchy choruses and Mac has to push hard again. An occasional piano can be distinguished, which is quite alright.
The band will embark on a European tour early next year, so if you’re in for some heavy metal: go out and see them.
The production is okay but not to my taste: far too many echoes, not enough balance between guitars and keys and the overall sound is a bit too blurry. The obligatory ballad, usually at least one per album with this kind of music, is absent, perhaps a deliberate choice. With Mac, Powerworld has a familiar name in its ranks and this might help them to become successful, but from the perspective of a progressive music lover, there’s too little to get enthusiastic about.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
High Tide – Sea Shanties
Tracklist: Futilist’s Lament (5:17), Death Warmed Up (9:08), Pushed, But Not Forgotten (4:43), Walking Down Their Outlook (4:58), Missing Out (9:38), Nowhere (5:54) Bonus Tracks: The Great Universal Protection Racket (11:24), Dilemna (5:14), Death Warmed Up [Demo] (7:35), Pushed, But Not Forgotten [Demo] (4:01), Time Gauges (6:24)
High Tide – High Tide
Tracklist: Blankman Cries Again (8:28), The Joke (9:27), Saneonymous (14:26) Bonus Tracks: The Great Universal Protection Racket (15:45), The Joke [Demo] (7:44), Blankman Cries Again (8:25), Ice Age (3:25)
The influential UK underground band High Tide were formed in the late sixties by guitarist/vocalist Tony Hill, who had cut his teeth with cult US outfit The Misunderstood. Joining him were bassist Peter Pavli, drummer Roger Hadden and, perhaps most intriguingly, violinist Simon House, later of The Third Ear Band and Hawkwind.
The band recorded and released their debut album Sea Shanties in 1969; described in the essay accompanying this reissue as a ‘highly imaginative blend of folk, psychedelia and hard rock with a dark edge... unique for the time’, it can lay legitimate claim to be a forerunner for at least two subsequent genres – firstly, the gritty, fuzzed up and doomy guitar riffs which leap from the speakers are surely a precursor to Black Sabbath and the burgeoning heavy metal genre, whilst the blending of heaviness with the melody provided by House’s violin playing, along with complex song structures which sees the music go through a number of time and mood changes, could see High Tide labelled as the first ‘progressive metal’ band – although it must be said this is about as far from the likes of Queensryche and Dream Theater as you are likely to get!
With its raw, garage-y sound and youthful energy, much of the material on Sea Shanties certainly packs a punch. Although Hill’s heavy guitar work dominates, its nicely offset by House’s imaginative violin playing, which leads to some great tradeoffs with Hill and extended jams, such as on centrepieces Death Warmed Up and Missing Out. The opener Futilist’s Lament is a standout, with its great lead riff and long winding guitar solo, whilst Hill’s Jim Morrison-like vocals can’t help but give some of the material a Doors-like feel. The band’s mellower side is shown on Pushed, But Not Forgotten and Walking Down Their Outlook, where House takes a major role and the psychedelia-tinged material has a similar feel to Syd Barrett’s solo work.
In addition to the main album, this reissue includes a number of demo’s and previously unreleased tracks, the most interesting being the lengthy The Great Universal Protection Racket, accurately described in the booklet as an ‘extreme instrumental’ and full of good ideas, if a bit ramshackle in its execution. Also worthy of mention is the intriguing cover design by Paul Whitehead, later to produce noteworthy covers for Genesis (Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot) and Van der Graaf Generator (Pawn Hearts), among others.
Shift forward a year, and the band’s sophomore (and self-titled) album showcased an altogether cleaner sound, this time fleshed out with piano and organ. The songs themselves, meanwhile, were longer and more involved than the debut – there were only three songs on the original release. Unfortunately, the band suffers from the same problems as many groups of today who aim to produce an epic number – the songs are less than the sum of their parts, and there’s a rather disjointed feel to proceedings. The worst offender is the near-fifteen minutes of Saneonymous, which is ultimately just a number of oft-repeated but ultimately separate songs, joined together rather spuriously. The Joke is the strongest song on offer, with a winningly hippy-ish feel and an almost poppy chorus embedded amongst the free form jamming. Ultimately, although this album might be the one expected to appeal more to a typical progressive rock audience, I personally prefer the rawer, more energetic and concise debut.
Bonus tracks include another crack at The Great Universal Protection Racket, this time stretched out to a pretty tiresome fifteen-plus minutes, along with demos and the more concise Ice Age.
Like its predecessor, High Tide failed to sell in any significant quantities, and the band folded soon after its release.
Hill reformed High Tide in the late eighties and early nineties for a series of albums, and he continues to tour with his current band, Tony Hill’s Fiction. Yet its’ undoubtedly for these two releases that he’ll be best remembered. It almost goes without saying that Esoteric keep up to the high standards their re-issues are known for, with informative sleeve essays and original cover art included alongside the aforementioned bonus tracks.
Sea Shanties: 7 out of 10
High Tide: 6 out of 10
The Lloyd Langton Group - Night Air
Night Air was the first solo album released by Hawkwind guitarist Huw Lloyd Langton back in the middle of 1985. However, Langton's career as a solo artist started some two years earlier when, during a hiatus in Hawkwind activities, Flicknife records approached the guitarist about releasing a solo single. The result was Outside The Law c/w Wind Of Change released in July 1983 and becoming a Top 10 single in the independent music charts. A second single, Working Time c/w I See You was released some six months later also gathering a fair measure of success, albeit not at the national level. All four sides are included as bonus tracks on this Atomhenge reissue. The songs themselves don't bear much resemblance to the Hawkwind sound of the period, apart from the characteristic Lloyd Langton guitar sound. Notable is the absence of synths and keyboards and a more straight forward rock approach, somewhat inevitable given the three-piece guitar/bass/drums nature of the band (Rob Rawlinson on bass and John Clarke on drums except for on Working Time which features Martin Griffin). The last of these four tracks should have displayed the somewhat dubious nature of Flicknife, being a poorly recorded track from the first ever Lloyd Langton Group concert. To make matters worse Flicknife soon issued a complete live album from the gig to capitalise on the success of the first single, even going so far as to name it after the single. Outside The Law indeed. Recorded on a hand-held dictaphone in a noisy pub in Essex, the album was, at best, raw, although ironically also made the independent music charts.
In order to prevent the bootleg sullying his name and reputation, Lloyd Langton had to respond with an official album. The problem was that money, as ever was tight, and Flicknife was the only label that had any connection with the guitarist. They provided minimal budget to fund the recording which took place over two weeks in January 1985. For the album, Kenny Wilson was drafted in on bass while John Clarke remained behind the drum kit. The result was a rather more polished affair with some energetic songs, all written by Lloyd Langton and his wife Marion. The style of the music continued along similar lines as the singles and it is to Lloyd Langton's credit that he refrained from including the studio tracks from the singles on the album which would been the quicker and cheaper option compared with writing and recording all new music. Despite being a very good guitarist, his electric skills are ably displayed on tracks like Got Your Number, Lloyd Langton is not so hot on the vocal front, although after several listenings one does tend to tune in to his singing and it doesn't jar as much as when first heard! Although largely a rock record, there are some deviations from the 'power trio' setting, particularly Für Kirsty a wonderful acoustic guitar instrumental that is a personal highlight of the album. Another instrumental, Alien Jiggers, has a more melodic aspect and is somewhat less 'plodding' than several of the other numbers, such as Lonely Man, although this song does feature some nice guitar passages, at least one of which may be recognisable from a Hawkwind song.
For the Hawkwind completist then the reissue of Night Air and the two rare early singles will be a boon, particularly in the re-mastered digital format. However, for the more general prog fan and the casual Hawkwind listener then a number of the other Atomhenge releases will provide more to revel in.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10