Reviews in this issue:
- Godsticks – Spiral Vendetta (Duo Review)
- Fibonacci Sequence - We Three Kings [EP]
- Fibonacci Sequence - Numerology
- Rodrigo San Martin - 1
- Roswell Six – Terra Incognita: A Line In The Sand
- Erik Norlander – The Galactic Collective
- Iconoclasta - Ressurrección
- Beyond-O-Matic – Time To Get Up
- Urihani – Music For The Planet
- The Final Sigh - Prologue [EP]
Godsticks – Spiral Vendetta
Tracklist: The Offer Still Stands (2:52), Unnerving Allure (5:59), Timshel (5:20), Norman (6:08), Put Seven In Bold (5:21), Withdrawn Was The Giveaway (5:38), Traverse (3:55), R.R.R. (5:06), The Continuation Of Livid [instrumental] (4:15), Unravel (4:39)
Jez Rowden's Review
Since reviewing the debut EP from Godsticks I have been looking forward to hearing an album and after 18 months it’s finally here. Despite the line-up change forced by the departure of founder Jason Marsh the remaining duo of Darran Charles (vocal/guitar/keys) and Steve Roberts (drums) have persevered with their unique sound and with the help of bassist extraordinaire Brian Beller (Steve Vai, Mike Keneally etc) have extended it into new areas and come up with a truly excellent album that is sure to excite many more listeners.
Spiral Vendetta has it all in spades with chops, emotion, musicality and imagination, the songs, predominantly written by Charles, pack a breathtaking amount into concise pieces and the album in no way outstays its welcome. The playing by all concerned is superb and this would be a hell of a unit going forward but with Beller guesting for the album only a new full-time bassist has been recruited to take the band into the live environment. Having cracked the studio they will now rise or fall based on their live performances. After a slightly disappointing showing at last year’s Summer’s End and a lack of gigging they need to deliver and if they can successfully pull off this material in front of an audience they could well be the band to watch in the next few years.
The 10 tracks feature laid-back lyrical numbers with Charles’ voice adding real emotion, high energy workouts with funk and jazz influences, a superb instrumental and an acoustic finale as a cool down after the pyrotechnics that preceded it. Their real talent is having the foresight to realise that instrumental dexterity is no substitute for quality material that takes the listener on a journey and triggers their imagination. They put together quirky yet somehow accessible tracks creating magnificent, intricate and passionate music that bears repeated listening. Luckily they also have the instrumental muscle to back it up.
Their style is very much their own and all credit to them for not attempting to take on specific genres. Godsticks have established a sound with influences from many and varied sources and they have clearly worked hard in the studio to create the structure of this album, the results of which are often mesmerising.
Opener The Offer Still Stands is mid-tempo with a measured rhythm and instantly oozes quality. The vocal gracefully lifts the basic structure of this short, to the point number and the decidedly left field guitar break in the middle is at odds with the rest of the song but just spot on. The stall successfully laid out its on into Unnerving Allure, a much funkier beast with skittering drum patterns and Beller’s first opportunity to shine with some pulsating low-end. Instrumentally it goes to all sorts of places whilst keeping melody to the forefront, an emotional vocal careening over the top. Charles’ adds a guitar solo and vocals with more than a hint of Adrian Belew and some tasteful piano here and there to broaden the palette. The brief solo near the end suggests Allan Holdsworth and the piano outro with intricate drumming makes for a jazzy vibe. Time and tempo changes abound within the 6 minutes packing so much in that it makes your head spin but still retaining accessibility. This really shouldn’t work but it does, the original Godsticks template remaining intact but filled out and more mature than before.
The piano led intro to Timshel, builds into a more muscular number with solid rhythm around which Charles’ voice and guitar dance. This is soaring stuff with many prog elements but as with the other influences they are never pushed at you wilfully but used as just one of the many ingredients that go into the Godsticks sound. The overall effect is accessible vibrant and sunny which belies the fact that the pieces are more complicated and intricate than most relying on well planned material not just theatrical dynamics to keep them interesting. There is so much here to enjoy. Like the EP this disc is instantly likeable, managing to draw you further in with each successive listen.
Norman is harder with pounding rhythms and harsh guitar counterpointed by piano stabs and a keyboard solo that could have come from a Steely Dan record. Varying rhythms fight against each other and the tempo cools with a funky guitar line. More changes sweep in with the vocals and little quirks and tricks add to the variety. Guitar and bass lock in with shimmering drums and building percussion, some excellent work from Roberts here, before pulling back into a solid, vocal-led rhythm. This track sometimes sounds like Jadis to me but with much more going on. Stabbing keys open Put Seven In Bold before moving on with laid-back vocals through tight sections with a jamming feel and lovely soloing in varying styles. The surprise coda features bluesy guitar solo, acoustic rhythm, dextrous drums and some Beller harmonics. Beautiful.
Withdrawn Was The Giveaway opens on a slow, rolling rhythm with piano adding depth. There are numerous shifts and changes of direction, Charles’ ringing plenty of emotion out of the vocal with a bit of Steve Howe style guitar before a false ending which preludes a relaxed rhythm, the extended sparse piano acting as the intro to Traverse. The melancholic vocal makes for a great change of mood; this is a gorgeous track dripping with emotion, multi-tracked vocals used to good effect as they are throughout the disc. Burbling bass and keys, off-kilter rhythms and regulation Godsticks quirkiness comprise R. R. R., the busy vocal taking the listener to unexpected places. This is a tour de force of control as the whole thing could collapse in a mess at any moment. It doesn’t and is a joy. There is real and exciting imagination at work here; Prog or not? Jazz or not? It doesn’t matter, this is great.
Bizarre rhythms and fiddly drums duel with guitar at the start of the fascinating instrumental The Continuation of Livid. There are jazzy elements and Beller’s busy bass pins it down; this will be a blast if they can pull it off live. All three men interact with precision, the ground shifting beneath their feet like a musical earthquake. There are almost Indian references and Zappa influences here and there, the guitar playing off the rhythm section in alternating passages. Keyboard solos are more obvious here than elsewhere and they stay away from the trademark piano. Unravel ties things up with a simple and refreshing acoustic song rammed full of passion that leads the album out on an emotional high, Charles’ multi-tracked vocal melodies winding round each other beautifully.
Charles puts in a stellar vocal performance throughout, depth and character key ingredients in the presentation. His resonance and warmth fit the music perfectly, although the vocal often seems to come from a different place with Soul and R’n’B elements they work together brilliantly. No lyric sheet to study but irrespective of the meaning they work their magic and fit the bill perfectly. The playing is tasteful and detailed without being wantonly flashy fitting the demands of the music and never feeling over the top. This is ensemble playing of the highest calibre with remarkable consistency. There are no troughs, just peaks. Much thought and planning has gone into the construction of the pieces to ensure satisfying results. The bass, perhaps not surprisingly, is lower in the mix than previously but the album is probably more balanced as a result and a special mention must go to the striking artwork by Chris Maguire of Screamadelica who also created the sleeve for the EP.
I have not been disappointed in the slightest by this release and Godsticks are to be credited for sticking with it after some problems since their debut. It is hard to say whether this is an album for fans of traditional prog. To me this is truly progressive taking disparate elements and shaping them into something new. Do yourself a favour and have a listen to this inspired album that is in a field of its own.
Bob Mulvey's Review
In 2008 I tipped this three piece band from Wales as my "best newcomer" in our annual poll, based on their excellent debut EP. The EP also garnered favourable reviews across the prog fraternity and the band seemed set for a promising future. The first thing they needed to do was to fulfil their initial promise with a full length album. July 2010 sees the fruition of almost a year and a half of writing, rehearsing and recording with the release of Spiral Vendetta. Though the path to this debut has not been an easy one, with both Steve Roberts and Jason Marsh leaving the band during 2009. Drummer Roberts hiatus was thankfully only a brief affair, however bassist Jason Marsh has not returned to the fold. His replacement for Spiral Vendetta was to be session man Bryan Beller (Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, NDV, James LaBrie and many more).
The burning question was - could Godsticks fulfil their initial promise? Well I am happy to report "yes" and in bucket loads. Not only does Spiral Vendetta follow on from the EP, but it shows a significant move forward in all areas. The writing is more assured, the performances are (once again) top notch and the production values greatly improved (not that the production of the EP was bad).
In a similar fashion to our duo review of the Godsticks' EP, and as Jez has already painted a fairly detailed and deservedly glowing picture, I will speak more generally about the musicians and the album.
Darran Charles has a distinctive and hypnotic voice which immediately sets Godsticks apart and with a good ear for a melody we are well on the way to an intriguing listen. A gifted guitarist too, with the ability to combine the many parts found on each track and to fuse them nicely together. Icing on the cake is his fluid lead breaks which brought to mind Jakko Jakszyk's work on The Bruised Romantic Glee Club. The influences of Steve Vai and fleetingly Allan Holdsworth are also present, although note here that the solos remain integral to the songs and never seem excessive. Finally both Charles and Roberts are accomplished keyboard players, which greatly adds to the sonic palette on the album. Speaking of Steve Roberts, his drumming greatly impressed me on this release as he just nailed all the pieces - with the oft complex arrangements superbly punctuated and accented. He's a busy player, but with that uncanny knack of knowing what fits and more importantly, what doesn't.
Finally, I did wonder how the dynamics of the band would change with the departure of founder member and bassist Jason Marsh, whose percolating style played such a huge part on the Godsticks EP. A difficult player to follow which thankfully the band didn't try to mimic or find someone in a similar vein, but rather with Bryan Beller the band have succeeded in replacing Marsh without drastically compromising the sound. So for me the album is a little darker, certainly heavier, however the jazzier/fusion/funky elements remaining intact. Beller's credentials speak for themselves and listening to this CD, wholly justified.
I mentioned in the previous review that Godsticks are a difficult band to pigeonhole and this is still the case. With Spiral Vendetta the music is certainly more dense and with a greater layering of parts. Darran Charles once again demonstrates his abilities as songwriter, skilfully combining the sort of catchy melodies and crafted arrangements you might hear on say a Steely Dan release. Add to this some of the quirkiness and vocal delivery to be found on King Crimson's 80s period albums (Discipline, Beat and Three Of A Perfect Pair) and a picture starts to emerge. Spiral Vendetta has also added a grittier edge to the music, possibly due to the inclusion of Beller, but on more than one occasion Steve Vai came to mind.
Once again the band have kept the tracks short and to the point, with only one song crossing the six minute mark. Now you may be fooled into thinking the material has something lacking here, (what no epics), but I can assure it doesn't - this is complex and absorbing music that neither leaves you short changed nor does it outstay its welcome. The mixing and production are also excellent allowing the detail within the music to be transparent and clear. So with eye catching cover artwork Godsticks have announced themselves to the world...
Highlights? Too numerous to mention - well, actually all of it...
Were there any downsides - certainly none that I could hear, however, personally I would have liked the lyrics included in the booklet.
In the nigh on ten years I have been with DPRP (and to the best of my knowledge) I have only ever awarded one mark of 9 ~ with this release Godsticks have doubled my tally.
Fibonacci Sequence - We Three Kings [EP]
Fibonacci Sequence - Numerology
Tracklist: Commencement (2:47), Neap Tide (9:20), Primrose Path (6:38), Dawn (2:56), Catlord (8:54), Illuminati (0:42), Work In Progress (6:54), Missing Time (8:49), Faunus (11:17), IO (9:13)
The Fibonacci numbers are a mathematical sequence always starting with 0, 1 and then the sum of the last two digits so you see a range looking like: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 etc and if you would like to know more about this mathematical pattern then I suggest a visit to Wikipedia. What we have here, however, is an American instrumental progressive rock band and as I am sure everyone who frequently visits the DPRP site knows, I happen to really love instrumental music.
The band Fibonacci Sequence, is actually a three piece with additional musicians to complete the line up where needed. First of all we have Michael J. Butzen (electric & acoustic guitars and mandolin), Thomas Ford (drums & percussion and electronic percussion) and Jeffrey Schuelke, the third member taking care of keyboards and piano. Additional help comes from Chris Klingel playing fretless bass on all tracks except Missing Time, here bass is handled by Chad Burkholz. Further assistance comes from Elizabeth Grimm playing violin on Missing Time, Faunus and IO.
Playing an instrumental piece might be harder than making a song with vocals added. You have to be aware at all times that the music is your only lead, a melody line can be very strong but doing an instrumental piece also gives you an awareness of such. Whatever you play - the instrument is your tool. As with all true craftsman - a true musician loves playing his instrument(s). Vocalists nevertheless might state that a voice is an instrument too, correct it is an instrument but with a difference, we all have our own voice. Some of us are real artists with that and can do all sorts of tricks. And that is where I was headed, a good musician doesn’t perform tricks with his instrument. The instruments are played with care and craftsmanship, and that is exactly what we have on our hands with Fibonacci Sequence, a bunch of musically talented people. Probably multi-talented as well, considering the complexity of the music they play.
Now I have spoken about the fact that with playing instrumentals you face the possibility of repeating yourself. I could easily say that in certain tracks I do get the feeling of repetition, but I like to believe that the band have tried making a concept album with Numerology, this is simply based on the fact that although I hear some repetitions, these seem naturally blended into the song that is played at that very instant. Thus making it a theme recurring throughout the album. Backing up my statement is the start and ending of the album. It actually starts like an old fashioned record and you’ve already guessed it also ends with one. You can hear the clicking and hissing noises as well as the underlying monotonous hum a gramophone player makes. So far the statement concept.
Numerology consists of ten instrumental tracks varying from almost classical music with astonishing acoustic guitar and piano to more mystical and adventurous pieces of music.
If you listen to music and especially instrumental music like I do - I just play the music, no lights - sit at my chair or lay myself down on the ground with eyes closed. Experiencing music with no distraction by a voice. At the times I am not alone in the house, headphones are used. Closing my eyes I experience every single note and every twist in the music. Meanwhile my mind wanders off to wherever the music takes me. I am, as you may conclude from this, a disbeliever of video-clipping. I am wandering off, I need to stick to the musical experience here.
Numerology is a whole lot of experience it is melodic, sad, cheerful, loud, classic but most of all Fibonacci Sequence have made a brilliant album with Numerology. All of you who remember the album The Reading Room (2000), I would almost urge you to get your hands on this album. To me it sounds as “The Reading Room Part 2 ~ the instrumentals”, except we have no voice over to tell a story. There is no need - let the music speak for itself.
With the full album I also received the predecessor EP with two songs from 2009. The two tracks are We Three Kings and Neap Tide. The latter of the two is also present on Numerology. We Three Kings is an arrangement of a John Hopkins Jr. (1820-1891) song which was intended as a Christmas carol with lyrics, but here in arrangement by Michael Butzen as an all instrumental track, very well done and a great arrangement.
I have played both discs about a dozen times now I guess and every time I listen I get surprised and find something new. Wonderful stuff which I will listen to more than once in the coming period. And now for the concluding rating for Numerology.
We Three Kings : Not Rated
Numerology : 9 out of 10
Rodrigo San Martin - 1
Tracklist: 1 (39:13), Bonus Tracks No (5:59), Circe [Alternate Take] (2:02), Blues In E (7:02), 5 (4:43)
Rodrigo San Martin (guitars, vocals, bass, keyboards, mellotron, Hammond organ, atmospheres, programming), is a 22 year Argentinean multi instrumentalist who is best known as the founder and lead guitarist for prog rock band De Rien. Rodrigo is also involved in a duet called Souls Ignite as well as having a solo career, (what a busy guy). What we have here is his first album 1 in which he plays all the instruments. This is a landmark in Argentinean music recordings, as it is the first album available in both 5:1 and stereo.
Rodrigo has obviously spent quite some time crafting his techniques and as ever he is one of the few musical illuminati that are able to turn their hands to most instruments, confidently and proficiently.
What struck me about this album was the quality of the recording and its diversity throughout. Rodrigo to his credit isn’t afraid to experiment with differing styles that oddly complement each other in the grand scheme of things. We have orchestration, prog rock mixed in with metal, funk rock, classical, ambient and jazz fusion all being elaborate and complex in nature. We are given the expected complex time signatures, but the music always has a very strong melodic presence, whether it’s acoustic or electric.
So what we have here is a one track conceptual piece, Phase 1 through to Phase 8 which segues as one piece. It has an air of familiarity about it calling to mind the likes of Lee Abrahams, Transatlantic, Neal Morse, Spocks Beard, Porcupine Tree, Unitopia and Dream Theater, but still engaging the field of originality, which must be applauded.
The standard of musicianship is, well to be quite honest quite exceptional. I often say how I can’t understand how someone can have so much talent, (which is one of the reasons why sadly I don’t play an instrument), but Rodrigo San Martin is another gentleman to add to my list, which is quite remarkable considering his age, (and re-enforces that reason). His playing is fluid, dynamic, rhythmic and as I said melodic, with all the pieces fitting together perfectly. All the instrumentation has been used to great effect, highlighting Rodrigo’s talent to the max.
His use of lyrical context is also very powerful and mature:
“The world has let me down and I have become. Awake and full of hate and rage I have become. I find myself surrounded by faces with no eyes no ears no brain just empty smiles” or “I can’t believe I’ve waited all my life to see you, to hold you in my hands. She refuses to see the world as they paint it blank”.
Rodrigo isn’t afraid to challenge his listener, making them listen to both the musical interludes and his word play, allowing them to build their own visions from the sound sculptures he has created.
On the CD / DVD deluxe version there are four bonus tracks;
No starts with a funky jazz bass line with some with rock overtone guitar playing, featuring some interesting keyboard work. It has a commercial sounding approach and as ever, even through 1 the acoustic guitar plays a very influential role in the construction of the song creating an interesting dynamic. In saying this, the track is still predominantly electric and very interesting indeed, although it does sound at times like a song in progress.
Circe [Alternate Take] is an acoustic version of Phase 6 which as a stand alone track works very well. The emotional vocals work very well, albeit that this alternate version is only just over two minutes long.
Blues In E is a more basic rock / blues orientated track, (does what it says on the label), with some fascinating lead guitar breaks being underpinned by a heavy rhythmic guitar passage. Rodrigo has not been afraid to experiment with various guitar styles here. This really shows another dimension to the multi faceted musician on display here, confirming that he is not a one trick pony.
5 has an ethereal / ambient sounding approach for the most part being keyboard driven, which again shows another side to Rodrigo. As ever the electric guitar work steals the show.
So all in all what we have here is a mighty fine album from Mr Rodrigo San Martin, which if you follow this LINK, which makes the album available as a free, yes free, download with the bonus tracks. I mean how good is that? This is a person who is very confident in what he does having great self belief too. I certainly can’t wait to hear his future works and pending releases. My friends please take the time to enjoy what has been offered here, you will be rewarded.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Roswell Six – Terra Incognita: A Line In The Sand
Tracklist: Barricade (8:24), Whirlwind (5:01), The Crown (5:21), Loyalty (6:15), My Father's Son (6:09), When God Smiled On Us (6:01), Need (6:06), Spiral (6:45), Battleground (6:10), Victory (9:06)
Although the 2009 debut Terra Incognita: Beyond The Horizon was highly recommended by our own Jim Corcoran, my introduction to Roswell Six was restricted to the sampler track Here Be Monsters included on the Mały Leksykon Wielkich Zespołów 15th Anniversary Album. It was enough however to convince me that this was a project that warranted further investigation so when the follow-up release appeared I was eager to offer my review services. Before I talk about the music on this particular release though, a little background information is in order.
The aforementioned debut album Beyond The Horizon was released as a companion to a fantasy novel entitled The Edge of the World by Kevin J. Anderson, the first in his ‘Terra Incognita’ trilogy. The second book The Map of All Things has recently been published and likewise so has this second album A Line In The Sand which features part of the story that didn’t appear in the novel. Confused? Don’t worry you’re not alone! As with the first album, Anderson together with his wife and fellow author Rebecca Moesta has written the lyrics to the songs. That’s where the similarities between the two releases end however. Whereas Rocket Scientists keyboardist Erik Norlander handled the music last time around on this occasion Frameshift multi-instrumentalist Henning Pauly is responsible for the music, production and all instruments.
In keeping with the story which focuses on destruction and war, the music is darker when compared with its predecessor being less prog and more metal with a heavy and relentless tone. Similar to Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon albums (Lucassen coincidently performs backing vocals on one track) Pauly is joined by a succession of guest vocalists who often portray a character from the story. The individual performances throughout are singularly excellent. Steve Walsh’s histrionic assault during the sledge hammer opener Barricade, My Father's Son and the bombastic Spiral sound’s more like Ozzy Osbourne than the Kansas singer we know so well and you can almost see the veins standing out on his neck. In contrast Michael Sadler’s restrained but commanding delivery during the obligatory ballad Loyalty (sounding not unlike Oliver Philipps of Everon fame) has just the right air of fragility to portray his characters’ anguish. But then Sadler’s despair might just be genuine given such uninspired lines as “A man should never surrender but I surrender to you” to sing.
There are also first rate performances from less familiar names like Nick Storr who reminded me a little of Geddy Lee without the high-pitched whine during the moody Whirlwind, Charlie Dominici and Sass Jordan especially. The Canadian singer storms her way through two songs The Crown and the power ballad Need giving a raunchy performance that I can best describe as Tina Turner on steroids. During the fast and frantic The Crown in particular she literally chews up the words and spits them out, as well she might. The legendary Janis Ian had a hand in writing the lyrics to both songs and it has to be said that I found it hard to believe that it took three people to come up with such short and repetitive lines. That being said Need does at least feature some bittersweet wordplay during the chorus where the line “I need you” becomes “I need you to go”. Storr for his part mostly avoids the heavy metal posturing and is memorably joined by Alex Froese for some engaging and well thought out counterpoint harmonies during probably the album’s most original song When God Smiled On Us.
If I’ve been a little unkind to the lyrics thus far it’s because they are by far the albums weakest element with the concluding and simplistic Victory being a prime example. Trailing not far behind is Pauly’s tuneless and hookless compositions. He is without doubt a superb musician, arranger and producer as admirably demonstrated during the powerful instrumental Battleground where fast and impressive guitar soling is underpinned by crunching riffs and bombastic keys. Unfortunately his gifts in these areas are not matched by his abilities to come up with melodies that are even remotely memorable. As such for me A Line In The Sand is ultimately a case of style over substance.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Erik Norlander – The Galactic Collective
Tracklist: Arrival (1:47), Neurosaur (5:00), Fanfare For Absent Friends (6:08), Sky Full Of Stars (10:00), Astrology Prelude (5:38), Trantor Station (6:27), After The Revolution (12:16), Garden Of The Moon (5:18), Dreamcurrents (5:38), The Dark Water (20:42)
My familiarity with the music of Erik Norlander is admittedly limited to what I have heard on the Asia featuring John Payne single Military Man, and the work Norlander did on the excellent debut release from Roswell Six. So his new CD The Galactic Collective served as sort of a crash course sampler, as I listened to it for this review.
Norlander is perhaps best known as the keyboardist for American prog act Rocket Scientists, but is also a member of the aforementioned Asia featuring John Payne. He also serves as the producer, keyboardist, and leading songwriter for prog rock high priestess and his spouse Lana Lane. Count in the number of contributions to recordings he has made and indeed, Norlander has appeared on over twenty-five albums since 1993.
What we have here is a collection of ten newly recorded tracks coming from various phases of Norlander’s career. On the CD, Norlander is joined by Mark Matthews on bass, Nick LePar on drums and Freddy DeMarco on guitars. Additional guest musicians on a few various tracks include John Payne (Asia featuring John Payne, GPS, CCCP and others) on guitar and choral vocals, Lana Lane on choral vocals, Mitch Perry (Asia featuring John Payne) on guitar, Mark McCrite (Asia) on guitar, and Ron Redfield on guitar.
The style of music on the seventy-nine minute CD is instrumental symphonic prog. Perhaps the most obvious point of commonality in Norlander’s sound would be Keith Emerson, yet Norlander possesses an individual flair all his own.
On Neurosaur, originally from Norlander’s 1997 debut solo release Threshold, his dark orchestral synths and acoustic and electric piano style elements are carried along with Payne’s ominous choral vocals and the turbulent drumming of LePar, all of it peppered by Payne’s serrated guitar shreds.
After The Revolution, originally from Rocket Scientists’ 2006 release Revolution Road, offers an overcast waltzing tempo, thunderous drumming from LePar, melancholy piano elements from Norlander, and some choral vocals from Lana Lane.
Garden Of The Moon, recorded now as a fused combination of two earlier Lana Lane tracks, features Hammond organ phrasings from Norlander evoking The Nice and some trumpet style synths that nod to Emerson, Lake and Powell as an influence. The song is marched along by the guerrilla style rhythm section of LePar and Matthews.
The music on the CD is performed and produced well but for me was a tedious listen due to the predominantly minor-key and vocally devoid music spread out over seventy-nine minutes. The CD booklet is well designed with notes on each track and an introduction from Michelle Moog-Koussa, executive director of the Bob Moog foundation and daughter of the late synthesizer pioneer Dr. Robert Moog (Norlander plays no less than six different Moogs on this CD).
This CD will appeal most likely to those purveyors of instrumental symphonic prog. If you are seeking vocal pop, this isn’t it.
As far as room for improvement goes, I would say that the next time Norlander compiles a CD of re-recorded tracks, he should include in the mix a few vocal tracks and tracks played in a major key. A CD of shorter running length would also be desirable.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Iconoclasta - Ressurrección
Tracklist: Sin Escape (3:02), Posesión En Cuerpo Y Alma (4:52), Huapanguero (5:06), Hijo (4:35), Deidad Solar (5:51), Huautla - Homenaje A Maria Sabina (11:20), La Ressurrección De Maquiavelo (5:41), El Perro De Pavlov (5:11), La Búsqueda De La Verdad En Sí Mismo (8:32), La Ética Del Verdugo (6:21)
Some 30 years after this Mexican band was formed by guitarist/keyboardist Ricardo Moreno, the band returns with a 'resurrection' after a silence of two decades. Some line up changes were inevitable but both guitarist Ricardo Ortegón and drummer Victor Baldovinos are there from the original line up. Greta Silva plays bass, arranges all vocals and sings part of lead vocals and Alma Castillo seems to be the second lead vocalist in the band.
The opening track shows influences of Blood Sweat & Tears, because of the woodwind sound - a little bit funky but the female vocals give the music that definitive "Latin" edge. The muffled guitar sound is characteristic for the band. More symphonic is track two, Posesión En Cuerpo Y Alma, emotionally sung (all in Spanish) with beautiful orchestrations and the way these ladies sing reminds me of the more recent albums by the French outfit Minimum Vital. Whereas odd meters and a mixture of pop and folk are the order of the day in Huapanguero. Then we have Hijo which is a beautiful acoustic guitar piece, although for my ears the guitar is not tuned perfectly? The vocals, more suitable for gypsy music for my taste, are very tasteful in this track.
In the instrumental track Deidad Solar we can recognize some influences of Yes and again Minimum Vital. The sound of the bass however is more jazzy and more staccato then in the bands mentioned. The longest track Huautla again mixes Yes-influences (And You And I) with pop and folk music. Here most of the vocals are lalala-ohohoh and ai-ai-ai sounds which to be honest not my favourite. Nice keyboards and guitars though. Latin and some jazz-rock influences are to be heard in La Ressurrección De Maquiavelo, a homage to the famous Italian painter. Again we have lyrics without words and not always in perfect harmony, but balanced by some very good guitar playing by both Ricardo's as well as bass playing by Silva.
More rock oriented is the music in El Perro Del Pavlov which means Pavlov's Dog. The vintage sound reminds of the first albums by this band from the early eighties, whilst some of the chords are comparable to those in George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The first melody lines in La Búsqueda De La Verdad En Sí Mismo remind me of She's Not There by the Zombies, a nice popular tune with again some seventies Yes influences in the second part. A majestic - both poppy as well as symphonic - song, La Ética Del Verdugo features 'twin guitars' and sweet vocals in the finale of this resurrection from this Mexican outfit. The sections with 'real' lyrics are alternated with na-na-na like singing.
Many of us will not comprehend nor like the Spanish tongue but musically this album is above average, although to my ears both vocals as well guitars are a tiny bit out of tune now and then. On the other hand, it is very nice to have Iconoclasta back on the prog-scene, because for a long time and as far as I know, Cast was the only band that established an internationally recognized status from Mexico. The production could have been done differently, although this is partly a matter of taste, however, surely there could have been a bit more attention to the detail(s).
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Beyond-O-Matic – Time To Get Up
Tracklist: Plague Of Bliss (6:12), Hawaiian Lady (14:18), Starbong (7:41), Trying To Find You (12:09), Time To Get Up (11:09), The Liquid Midnight (1:16), Child Of Fog (5:22)
Sometimes a band figures out that the old acid rock from the 60’s and 70’s really was just about using a musical vessel to carry the mind to an alternate place. Beyond-O-Matic have done just that with Time To Get Up. It seems that genre tired itself out when its bombastic elements were eschewed for an attempt at substance. Sometimes the listener just wants an unabashed head-trip and that has been reinvented here and is described by the band as, “Bombastic Space Prog.” It is a fitting description.
The space trip takes off and reaches high orbit by the second song with Hawaiian Lady. This tune takes its time and builds in slow progression toward Saturn by the time its through. This trippy acid space rock has some of the elements you would expect to find during a Grateful Dead jam or space segment. It rolls gently to the mantra of “Hawaiian Lady” as if singing praises to the namesake of their favourite chemical vessel. Outside of the overuse of the title in the lyrics, it is a good heavy shot of psychedelic funk.
Beyond-O-Matic employ multiple sound effects that stretch from the ‘60s on through to today’s technology while retaining the feel of the past. The recording quality even keeps itself tilted towards an earlier time.
Starbong is the title of the next song. It has Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun influence all over it but it stays mellow and uses some flute. The title should be descriptive enough to give you an idea of the point of this song and is representative of the album as well. The song following employs some guitar distortions and space sound effects to complete the character styling of the older Pink Floyd space rock.
The music for Time To Get Up was done back in 2004 but not released until 2010 when Trail Records finally made it happen. The music here could have been written in 1968 just as easily. The tenor of the music really places itself back in that era convincingly and the effects sound like they were lifted from an old Sci-Fi television series. Probably the major drawback lies in the repetitive lyrics, but I can grant that it is intentional as a sort of meditative device.
Beyond-O-Matic have a good thing going here. They fill a specific niche of flower-power throwback and they do a good job at it. Don’t look to be dazzled, but do expect to find yourself melting into the sofa watching a colourful kaleidoscope as you listen to this stuff. You don’t have to be altered to enjoy this, but it is a convincing placebo.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Urihani – Music For The Planet
Tracklist: Lost Souls (3:24), 2 Late? (3:38), Over Me (4:05), There Inside (4:02), High Speed (3:03), One Way To Move (3:32), May Be (3:09), Uncertain Experiment (4:47), Some Of Them (3:02), Fragmentation (2:55), Another End (4:41)
Urihani - meaning “spirit of the trees, spirit of the forest” in the gŭycan language of the Amazonian Yanomami tribe - is a French duo with a cause - to address environmental concerns through their music. They are made up of Jeff Alcaras on guitars, bass, Chapman stick, keyboards and engineering, and Philippe Moreau on guitars, keyboards, sound design and programming. The duo first met in 2003, deciding to forge a creative partnership. They are joined on their CD Music For The Planet by several talented guest musicians and vocalists.
The style of the music on the CD is paradoxically not organic but rather electronica based rock, evoking Project Moonbean and Mind Movie as commonalties.
On the track Some Of Them, bits of muted trumpet capably played by Romain Bly delightfully evoke a natural feeling of a warm summer day, along with Emily Spiller’s soulful vocal croon.
Spiller’s slightly baritone voice, not unlike that of former Karnataka vocalist Lisa Fury, also features on 2 Late ?, a tune offering mid-tempo programming from Moreau and drumming from Patrick Texier.
Texier, a second drummer Michael Notebaert, and Moreau flavouring the beats with programming kick it with a Chicago blues shuffle on May Be, which also showcases an operatic vocal turn from Nathalie Leonoff.
Keyboards and guitar from each member of the duo get in on the action as well, although it is not credited as to who plays what on the specific tracks.
The CD has excellent production quality and the songs are generally composed and played well.
The CD’s distribution is widely digital and is available for download on most music sites such as Amazon and Rhapsody.
If you dig electronica based rock you would probably like this CD. Folk music or solo acoustic guitar fans are advised to look elsewhere.
I detected elements of Enigma in this CD and I would suggest that with the next Urihani release the duo may wish to interlock all the tracks together as a song cycle or maybe throw in some sampling for good measure.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
The Final Sigh - Prologue [EP]
Tracklist: Empire (4:50), Elias (5:32), Good Friday [Live] (3:49), Empire [Live] (4:46), Siege [Live] (5:03)
The Prologue EP (a prequel to their forthcoming album called Canada), released by The Final Sigh who’s band members are Owen David Pegg (guitars & keys), Thomas G. Wright (guitars & synths), Steven Roworth (drums), Kyle James Patrick (vocals) and Peter Scott (bass & vocals), hail from the city of Leeds. The Final Sigh has been classed as progressive, rock and experimental. It never ceases to amaze me what people classify as prog these days. Prog was always a word that was whispered in dark corners, but now seems to refer to any music that is a bit quirky. To be totally honest I would class this release as modern metal with a slight twist. Looking at the history of their stage sharing would only confirm this.
The band have released several split singles and an album called If You’re Not Part Of The Solution Then You’re Part Of The Problem. The band have now finally found stability in their currently line up, having become tired of the material they had been playing, deciding that they needed a change in direction.
This is an EP that consists of five straight forward modern rock songs. There is nothing new or ground breaking here. It’s all been done and heard before, but one thing is for sure, musically this is a very tight band. There is plenty of powerful guitar interplay, heavy bass lines and solid drum work throughout. The vocals presentation is strong, with Patrick jumping between being melodic one moment to shouty the next. The title track Empire is as would be expected the strongest studio track on the EP which might have you pressing play again. The other studio track Elias is well produced also, but is much heavier in approach than Empire. There are some interesting musical passages / interactions with Roworth supplying some very tidy drum work, which when paired with Scott’ solid bass really offers a solid back line, holding everything together. Both Pegg and Wright work very well together complementing each other with Patrick again supplying is trademark vocals.
For me the live tracks on this EP musically work better, they just seem to have more substance, giving what I personally feel a truer representation of what The Final Sigh are all about?
To be honest I quite like what I am hearing here, the only downside to that being that I have heard it many times before, which doesn’t really do the band any real favours.
If you are diggin’ bands like Enter Shikari and The Dillinger Escape Plan then you may want to try this band out. If you live in and around the Leeds area check them out, as I get the feeling that live they have a bit more of an edge to them. Their current tour dates are up on their MySpace page.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10