Album Reviews

Issue 2011-019

Reviews in this issue:

Pendragon - Passion

Pendragon - Passion
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Madfish
Catalogue #:SMACD971
Year of Release:2011
Time:CD 54:42
DVD 121:00
Samples:Click here


CD: Passion (5:27), Empathy (11:20), Feeding Frenzy (5:46), This Green And Pleasant Land (13:13), It's Just A Matter Of Not Getting Caught (4:40), Skara Brae (7:31), Your Black Heart (6:45)

DVD: Progumentary

John O'Boyle's Review

Pendragon Passion their new album release is a bit of a slow burner, it’s not immediate but when the penny drops, boy does it drop, something that will make this album rank with the best of their releases. Messer’s Pete Gee (bass), Clive Nolan (keyboards), Nick Barrett (guitars) and Scott Higham (drums) may for me have just recorded the best album of their career and I don’t make that statement lightly. I mean just look at the track record of their reviewed albums on DPRP’s site alone, out of the nineteen releases reviewed only six aren’t DPRP recommended. Now if that doesn’t speak volumes then I don’t know what does?

So where do you start with a highly anticipated release like this? Expectations are high especially after their last jaw dropping studio release Pure. Well for me personally Passion more than matches it, making it another fine addition to their catalogue of work.

Throughout the album there are some interesting recurring themes from song to song, which have been aligned with some very interesting and differing musical sounds, sounds that you wouldn’t automatically associate with prog or Pendragon for that matter. We see a more metallic edge being used creatively, as is Nick Barrett’s rapping, yes you read that right I did say rapping. The album is full of stunning musical interaction and lyrical lament as one would expect from these gentlemen, the signature soaring guitar and the intricate keyboard works are present as ever, something that we have all grown to expect from Pendragon, creating a musical marriage that demands to be listened to. Smartly the band haven’t alienated anyone, they have appealed to the old vanguard as well as exploring a more contemporary approach, which is what makes this album such a fitting successor to Pure. When the realisation of these constructs and manipulations finally break through it’s like an epiphany, proving that this band can re-invent itself sonically and be taken seriously by fans both old and new.

Passion opens with a sedate drum loop that hides the intentions of the power of the song that is full of verve, energy and passion that the title so poignantly calls out. It’s not until ninety seconds in the commanding line “Drop my balls”, displays the modern and forceful sound that Pendragon have created for themselves and their fans, with it bouncy hooks and memorable melodies that burrow into your mind, something that the whole album achieves, showing the world that they mean business. Empathy follows with its three stage musical approach, firstly we see the music pounding, lumbering almost trance like, before it moves into its second phase, a melodic wall of sonic, sedately building sounding like 10cc vocally in places, again cleverly using varying musical constructs. Nick Barrett’s signature guitar sound is prevalent which builds on the foundations created, hitting all the perfect tones. Rapping is a new approach that the band have tried, and to great effect, which just goes to show that differing musical genres do work and complement each other when used in the right place at the right time. It’s not a new approach per se, but it is for the Pendragon boys. The whole piece arrives at its conclusion with a fascinating use of orchestration.

Feeding Frenzy is for me the heaviest and most intense song the band have ever committed to an album, a song that has a sense of urgency, the velocity of the guitar, drum and bass work is absolutely stunning, (again a term that I don’t use lightly as the whole album is built on these fantastic interactions), which is allowed to breathe and develop, all being held together by Barrett’s vocals. This Green And Pleasant Land the longest and pivotal track on the album sees Barrett again providing those dreamy guitar passages, a song that laments his homeland that ups the ante ten fold, building emotionally and intelligently, teasing the listener, Barrett’s tone climbs telling his story, until the whole emotional bubble bursts and the ensemble dives into a more metallic approach. Higham’s drum work here defines his position within the band, showcasing his ability, not that it requires to be showcased or defining for that matter. In all honesty this is the song that displays the bands natural progression musically the best and for me is by far the strongest track on the album. Its strange and chaotic closure segues into It’s Just A Matter Of Not Getting Caught, (what a stunning song title), the respite after the passing of This Green And Pleasant Land. Its mellow approach is underpinned by a strange darkness, with Nolan’s dexterous finger work adding atmospherics. As you scratch under the surface, which doesn’t require much scratching, the band are developing and manipulating some very effective metallic tones.

Skara Brae develops a trance like Celtic tone that is infused with a heavy melody, featuring a repeating guitar tone which is used throughout in differing keys which aligns it time changes with the Scott’s drum work, building a picture-esque vision of the Neolithic village sonically. Such is the power of the song, if you close your eyes you can almost feel and smell the strong winds blowing through your hair. Your Black Heart the album closer is the nearest that the band get to songs of yesteryear, although they have put a modern twist on it, Nick’s layered vocals are beautifully carried along by Clive Nolan’s stunning and outstanding piano and keyboard work, proving that the band haven’t forgotten their roots, but have moved forward. The whole piece is brought to a climax by a duet of emotional keyboards and guitar interactions.

The DVD that comes with the Limited Edition version, which comes in at approximately a hundred and twenty minutes long offering an insightful look into the recording and thought processes of the album. More importantly during the whole interview we are offered an insight into what makes Pendragon well Pendragon. Nick guides us through the whole process openly, where he sounds at ease with the whole process. He enlightens us about liking philosophy, psychology, theology and all things spiritual, which would explain some of his lyrical content as does Clive and his penchant for history and writing. This is a candid, open and honest warts and all DVD which makes it all that more interesting which is intensely filled with copious amount of musings that does genuinely add to the whole package.

This is an album that the band have created where they haven’t pandered to things in the past, they have taken large steps forward in developing as a band and Passion may as I said just be the album of their career so far?

Edwin Roosjen's Review

In 2005 Pendragon returned with a new sound, as Nick Barrett saw that the formula for the band's music had passed it's expiration date. On Believe Nick Barrett experimented with new ideas, which were later perfected on Pure. The new drummer Scott Higham also contributed to the new sound giving Pendragon a more powerful edge. Now you cannot expect another sudden change in style so my expectations were not as high as with Pure, however the biggest question is whether or not Passion would be as good as it's predecessor.

Sad to say the start of the album put me in shock, horrible, as the first minute or so there is a very irritating eighties electronic rhythm sound. If you listen to the guitar playing and imagine it without that annoying rhythm sound it would be heavenly. From one and a half minute it really starts rocking and I hear the Pendragon I like to hear. Powerful, fresh and still very recognizable. I forgive the strange opening at the moment Nick sings "Drop My Balls". With it's length only reaching five and a half minutes it is a short opening song for Pendragon standards. Great lyrics when Nick sings "Give me some passion, give me some empathy". As said before the opening to me is a clear miss, but mostly as the sound effects do contribute to the music, whereas the end contains some sound samples that do fit in, short and not disturbing.

Empathy reminds me a bit of Indigo, the opener on Pure, as the start of the song has the same pounding rhythm right up until a sudden transition halfway. Again Nick sings "Passion and give me some empathy, lyrically a continuation of the first song. Now Nick Barrett is not scared of doing something new but I never thought I would hear him rap. I am not entirely sure what to think about this experiment, it suits the music but, rapping, come on, give me a break, it's prog.

On Feeding Frenzy Nick Barrett is playing around a bit. Not really a song structure and no lengthy solos in this compact song, which starts off softly but most of the time the rhythm is very powerful and aggressive. Great lyrics and a song, though short, is very interesting.

This Green And Pleasant Land is old fashion Pendragon, an epic song with every thing in it and above all a beautiful song. I will not tell much more about this song apart from the fact that this will probably be my best song for 2011. If you want to know more about it listen to it yourself, it is sheer beauty and by itself is worth getting this album.

It's A Matter Of Not Getting Caught is a great title for a song, a short piece that starts with harp like sound effects and moves at a slow pace for it's entire length. At the end closing with the same sound effect as the opener.

Skara Brae has many of the distinctive solo guitar sounds of Nick Barrett, great, I love it. The grunge rhythm guitar, maybe a bit outdated but I do not care as it gives the song a strong raw sound. The centre part is nice and clean and recognizable Pendragon. During the clean part Nick sings the last of the lyrics for this song and the last three minutes are instrumental. Clive Nolan does some great soloing and nick finishes the job himself with utmost care.

Your Black Heart is the mellow closer of the album, a fact which has become a certainty on the latest Pendragon albums. Not a sing-a-long like It's Only Me which closed Pure but certainly a great closer and the solo at the end is marvellous.

For me Nick Barrett has done it again and Passion is the next logical step after Pure. I was not blown away immediately, as I was with Pure, but slowly and gradually Passion moves up and up and certainly ended up besides Pure. So Passion is a real grower! I can only find two things that, in my opinion, could have been better. Namely and as mentioned, the opening section and the rapping, but the quality of the rest of the album wipes out those mistakes. The album also has beautiful artwork and the production is superb. Pendragon is still at the top of progressive rock with, probably, already the album of the year.


JOHN O'BOYLE : 9 out of 10
EDWIN ROOSJEN : 9.5 out of 10

TCP – Fantastic Dreamer

TCP – Fantastic Dreamer
Country of Origin:USA
Record Label:10t Records
Catalogue #:10T10049
Year of Release:2011
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Schizoid & Guntrip (2:48), In The Movie Of You (8:00), Devotee (7:24), Ambiance For The Active Mind (6:40), Fantastic Dreamer (6:30), Releasing (5:21), Fading In The Rain (6:30), Upon Further Review (4:29), Vision (13:51)

There wasn’t a great deal of American progressive rock that excited me in 2010 although this year is looking more promising thanks to Black Garden by K2 and now Fantastic Dreamer by TCP (aka Temporal Chaos Project). The latter work is the brainchild of the talented trio Henry Tarnecky (vocals, keyboards), Blake Tobias (bass, keyboards) and Jack Wright (guitars, drums) and for me is destined to become one of the highlights of 2011. It follows the band’s debut release The Way which struck a positive chord with my colleague Menno in 2009. At that point the band had only been in existence for 18 months and to date has yet to perform live which comes as no surprise given that in the studio the three man line-up do the work of five.

The bass heavy and Crimsonesque Schizoid & Guntrip (only an American band could come up with such a title) with its angular guitar and distorted vocal effects is a surprising opener given that it is not wholly representative of the rest of the album. Rhapsodic piano sets the scene for In The Movie Of You which thanks to the spacey vibe and David Gilmour style guitar brings early Floyd to mind. Singer Tarnecky may be from Pennsylvania but to me ears his delivery is very European in the theatrical tradition of Peter Gabriel and Fish although tonally he sounds more like a cross between The Watch’s Simone Rossetti and Carptree’s Niclas Flinck.

Speaking of which, Devotee (probably my favourite song here) could easily be the work of Carptree themselves with is blend of quirky pop sensibilities and prog. Based around an incessant piano riff it also has the grandeur of early Genesis (The Return Of The Giant Hogweed) plus some majestic synth flourishes. The big choral arrangement at the end also reminded me of the very wonderful Red Box from the 1980’s. Ambiance For The Active Mind lives up to its name to begin with at least with ambient keys and later Mellotron voices that seem to take a lead from Genesis’ Silent Sorry In Empty Boats. An abrupt change at the half way point sees a martial drum beat heralding an up-tempo but melodic song section before returning to the atmospheric intro.

The title song Fantastic Dreamer packs in plenty of melodrama with a frantic acoustic guitar rhythm underpinning some glorious electric guitar, piano and synth exchanges. Add a fat Hammond sound, wailing Mellotron and a lively Latin flavoured rhythm and the bombastic end result wouldn’t be out of place on a Neal Morse era Spock’s Beard album. The moody Releasing is a song of two halves that for me doesn’t quite gel as a complete song despite some edgy (almost sinister) guitar work in the latter half. Massed keyboards provide a dramatic intro to Fading In The Rain sounding like the soundtrack to some long forgotten film. The extremely catchy chorus has complimentary vocal backing from guest Nicole Tarnecky whose voice is in perfect harmony with namesake Henry T. Synth and guitar interlock in call and response fashion (ala Yes’ live performance of Starship Trooper) for the majestic coda.

The penultimate Upon Further Review is an evocative combination of acoustic guitar and harpsichord rounded off by waves of lush Mellotron strings, simply gorgeous. The album concludes with Vision, the band’s most ambitious undertaking to date which surprisingly is composed by guest keyboardist Glen Arpino. Dramatic keyboard punctuations abound whilst Wright’s intelligent guitar work owes a debt to Steve Howe (circa Topographic Oceans) although overall his technique is difficult to pigeon hole, cross cutting between prog, blues, and hard rock. He also reveals himself to be a more than competent drummer into the bargain. The song takes several twists and turns before hitting the home straight with a reprise of the catchy choral hook with chiming electric piano reminiscent of Supertramp’s Crime Of The Century.

Although it’s still early days, TCP have undoubtedly come-up with my favourite album of 2011 thus far. They skilfully combine modern progressive rock sensibilities with the drama and (slightly eccentric) grandeur of bands like Genesis and Gentle Giant from the early 70’s. They also know how to write a damn fine tune, particularly evident here in songs like Devotee, Fading In The Rain and Vision. Dark and light, moody and joyful, simple and multifaceted, dissonant and melodic, these ambiguities and more could be used to describe the music of TCP and even then I would be barely scratching the surface.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Anders Helmerson – Triple Ripple

Anders Helmerson – Triple Ripple
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:Musea Records
Catalogue #:FGBG4857
Year of Release:2010
Info:Anders Helmerson
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Touchdown (13:49), Triple Ripple (11:41), Yodas Dance (9:39), Helix Of Eternity (3:24), The Search Of F (14:31)

The first things to notice about the latest CD from Anders Helmerson are the other names featured on the front cover – drummer Marco Minnemann and bassist Bryan Beller. You would be hard pushed to find a more noteworthy rhythm section so hats off to Helmerson for getting them on board. It is quite unusual to find a jazz fusion album featuring synthesiser as its lead instrument but the top quality side men give Helmerson a paradise in which to create.

Helmerson’s story appears to be a strange one that saw him kicked out of college while studying classical music in the ‘70s for experimenting with Electronica, recording a solo disc, End Of Illusion, which didn’t sell and playing in numerous short-lived outfits before becoming disillusioned and turning his back on music to train as a doctor. While living in Brazil his interest in music re-ignited and he completed a second album, Field Of Inertia, in 2002 getting a DPRP recommended review from Bart. Helmerson claims that this third album, Triple Ripple, which he composed, arranged and produced himself, is the basis of a new genre, progressive fusion, which sees long songs with virtuoso performances and keyboards that sound like synthesizers rather than trying to be something else. I can see where he is coming from with this but to my ears there is more fusion influence than anything else.

The album is completely instrumental except for some spoken words on the shortest track, Helix Of Eternity, which otherwise is a synth only affair. Elsewhere the pieces are lengthy and complicated with Minnemann and Beller forward in the mix and a wonder to hear. This style of music lives and dies by the skill of its rhythm players but with fine performances from two of the best in the business this was never going to be an issue. Minnemann is a frantic and dextrous powerhouse and his interplay with Beller’s lyrical bass is spectacular but Helmerson’s music does not rely wholly on them; he is a fine player in his own right and can certainly pen interesting melodies and arrangements. This album is not about grandstanding and showing-off as the players provide only what the material requires. The synths do not overpower and are only used to benefit the music which is not allowed to stray into the toothless New Age territory of some synth-led albums as the punch packed by the other instruments is a powerful one.

If you like driving, up-tempo fusion there will certainly be something for you here. The synths add a different dimension and texture and Helmerson has put together some fine and intricate pieces. Whether there is enough to warrant many repeated plays due to the lack of variety in the basic template employed only time will tell but it is a good effort none the less and would probably be a remarkable thing to see performed live as so many of the dynamics revolve around the interplay between the performers.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Finn Arild - Testament

Finn Arild - Testament
Country of Origin:Norway
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2010
Info:Finn Arild
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Genesis (16:43), Water (3:57), All Right (3:40), Inside (3:54), Alive (3:45), Intermission (1:51), Ride (4:35), Carnival (5:06), Excess (4:56), Robin (5:19), Liaisons (3:04), Nemesis (8:06)

Finn Arild is the performing name of one Finn Arild Aasheim, a Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and composer, for whom Testament is his second album. Five years in the making, the album is a concept affair which covers the creation of the universe, from the Big Bang to the coming of humans and the mark we have made on the world. A nice, easy subject, then! Finn Arild plays the majority of the instruments and sings; thankfully he’s also enrolled the help of a ‘real’ drummer in Mikael Wilkman. Other musicians who appear on selected tracks are pianist Reidar Wiik, and Finn’s wife Elin on backing vocals.

In his biography Finn Arild states that his prime influences are progressive rock bands such as Genesis, Yes, Marillion and Transatlantic, and these certainly come shining through on the opening sixteen-minute-plus epic, suitably called (knowingly or not) Genesis. The opening section is a typical symphonic prog-style ‘overture’, majoring on fluid guitar work (Pendragon’s Nick Barrett comes to mind in terms of style and sound) and vintage analogue-style keyboard work. The vocal parts are more in the vein of standard balladry, and introduce Finn Arild as an adequate singer, if perhaps lacking much in the way of clout. The piece as a whole flows well, with the main melodic ideas re-visited and embellished upon in a way which helps to give the song an identity of its own, rather than just a cut-and-paste of various different parts.

Following this epic, Finn Arild wisely decides to showcase a series of shorter pieces. Of these, a couple have a very strong mid-Genesis feel – the instrumental Water, with its Blood On The Rooftops-esque acoustic guitar work, and the gentle, meandering balladry of Inside, reminiscent a little of Entangled. The latter song shows that Finn Arild has a way with a catchy chorus, a feeling intensified by the power ballad All Right and the 80’s MOR stylings of Alive, with its cod funk bass line.

Following the pleasant Intermission, which showcases Finn Arild’s high quality guitar playing, this time in a classical acoustic style, we get Ride, which showcases another side of his repertoire, with its thrusting bass line and semi-mechanically delivered vocal lines. Carnival opens with the sort of classical guitar playing you might expect on an album of Elizabethan-era minstrel songs; the rest of the song is intriguing, if not entirely successful. Excess has some fine piano work from Reidar Wiik, and is a well executed AOR ballad, the sort that would have got good airplay on American rock radio back in the eighties.

Unfortunately Finn Arild blots his copybook with the overly mawkish Robin – this may have been intended as a child-like song, or even a modern nursery rhyme, but whatever, it doesn’t work for me. Liaisons picks things up a little, an instrumental featuring both acoustic and electric guitars, and owing a significant debt to Steve Hackett. Nemesis opens with a medley of news clips – one of which, rather bizarrely, is of Bill Clinton denying sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky! – before trying to tie everything together in suitably epic style. Whilst the song has its moments, the narration and further insertion of sampled news clips disrupt the overall flow, and it rather peters out at the end.

Despite the various criticisms, I was quite impressed with this album. Its clearly been a labour of love for Finn Arild, and his hard work certainly comes shining through – the album sounds good, and the playing is fine throughout. Next time out, it may be worth utilising some different singers for a variation in sound, and perhaps wearing his influences a little less on his sleeve – easier said than done in this genre, I know. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the ‘commercial’ side of progressive rock in general, and in particular of the bands mentioned in the review.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Final Conflict – Stand Up (Re-mastered)

Final Conflict – Stand Up
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Metal Mind
Catalogue #:MASS CD 1412 DG
Year of Release:1996/2011
Info:Final Conflict
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Stand Up (6:26), Signature In The Sand (5:52), Whiteline Highway (7:18), Wasteline (5:52), 11 (0:28), T230 (8:47), Days Gone By (7:41), Miss D’Meanour (6:05), Omen (2:40), Stop (15:05) Bonus Tracks: Moment In Time (8:13), Losing It All (4:31)

Final Conflict appear to be a well known and established band on the British Neo-prog scene, however I have to shamefully admit that I have never heard of this band, until now and I thought I really knew my fair share of bands. Final Conflict, however, must have slipped through the net. For all those other people that do not know or have never heard of Final Conflict, the band consist of Andy Lawton (guitars), Brian Donkin (guitars), Steve Lipiec (keyboards), Barry Elwood (bass) and Henry Rogers (drums).

The album in front of me now, and spinning swiftly in my CD player is Stand Up, an album that was first released in 1996 and now once again in 2010, almost 15 years later through Metal Mind Productions. This version contains two bonus tracks: a completely new recording of Moment In Time and the never before released song Losing It All.

Stand Up provides tweleve tracks of your typical British neo-prog rock and all tracks have their fair share of keyboards present. Style wise I would compare Final Conflict to Twelfth Night or Pallas for the heavier songs... as both use the similar kind of schematic style of compositions, with wide open keyboard dominated soundscapes giving room for a guitar solo or a keyboard solo for that matter. The strong backline of bass and drums is a killer for these songs.

I have held myself back from doing track by track breakdowns of the songs as this would mean I was to go back and write similar lines about each of the songs. This does not mean that the songs are all the same, au contraire but the overall feeling I have for each is. The bigger part of the songs have a well written and performed melody which will stick with you throughout the whole of the song and keeping your attention. As good English neo-prog bands do, the album has its very own epic in Stop. With this release you will receive almost an entire CD 79 minutes worth of music.

Most Neo prog fans will love the album, to the rest of us it may well sound similar to a bundle of others, but that is also in the musical style. Enough said - recommended for neo-prog fans but for the others - find out yourself.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


Qube - Incubate

Qube - Incubate
Country of Origin:Poland
Record Label:Electrum Production
Catalogue #:EP CD 005
Year of Release:2010
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Nothing (7:51), Mantis (6:25), Obsession (6:58), In The Name Of God (7:40), Blame (11:00), Way To Nowhere (11:00)

After the first few notes of Incubate came out of my speakers - I thought to myself - here’s another band from Poland trying to be Riverside. After listening for a while I came to the conclusion that these guys really know how to make music, and how to make use of their influences.

Qube is: Daniel Gielza (Pearl) – vocals, Kamil Wiśniewski – Guitar, Tom Otto – Guitar, Peter Torbicz (Toper) – bass, Paul Gajewski (Gajos) – drums. Five guys from the Lublin area of Poland, an area which seems to be a breeding ground for new artists, and a lot of the current worldwide known bands have their roots in that area to.

Qube was formed back in 2005 by Paul Gajewski. The first period together was to create and compose music which resulted in an album called Shapes in 2006. So Incubate is their sophomore release but their first with Electrum Productions. It has taken the boys nearly 4 years to come up with their second effort and Incubate is more or less an album that states where the band is now, in a medical sense of the word that is. Qube are well on their way in creating their own style, their own spot in the world of music, but I don't think they are quite there yet. The symptoms of a great band are here - compositionally OK, musically OK but there is the lack of their own identity all of which makes the album a fine album but not outstanding.

In my opening sentence I wrote - yet another band trying to be Riverside - I continued my statement that the boys know how to, and yet after listening to the complete CD a couple of times I have come to the conclusion that I hear too much of ... and too little of their own. It is in there and at times it shows on the album but as I say there is something missing still but it is in development.

The CD was a little strange as at the end I got to hear the first song all over again - however I suspect this isn't how it is supposed to be.

I will keep my eye on these fellows, if it were only to see how they develop and in what direction the music is moving in. There is growth potential present, use it I would say.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10


Psicotropia – Psicotropia³

Psicotropia – Psicotropia³
Country of Origin:Spain
Record Label:Musea Records/
Luna Negra
Catalogue #:CDLN-46
Year of Release:2010
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Space Habanera (4:35), Piedra (7:23), Tinta (6:34), Country Grog (2:06), Patos (6:39), Los Espectros De Kronstadt (5:52), Oigo Silencio (6:43), Bella (7:50)

These days, everyone seems to be very relaxed about musical genres, sounds and styles. With so many different artists, labels and web pages crowding the scene, fans and journalists have put their hostility towards particular kinds of musical expression aside, so there’s room and respect for mostly everyone. Progressive/symphonic rock has benefitted greatly from this, and seems to get no more gratuitous flak from the musical press (particularly in England), so there are literally thousands of bands around the world proudly writing and performing prog music.

Psicotropia are Spanish representatives of this ever growing community, and here’s Psicotropia³, their own contribution to keep the scene in good health and, though their music is quite diverse and reasonably entertaining, it also must be said that the sound lacks a bit of depth and performances need more conviction and confidence.

Spanish Habanera starts in Crimsonian fashion and hard rocking attitude, even managing to fleetingly mention Bizet’s Carmen. The following seven minute Piedra (Stone) is one of the longest numbers on the CD and clearly my favourite. The first minute or so is basically a simple but tasteful drum solo by Juan Llull, after which we’re treated to a fairly dynamic piece not too far from what Beardfish are doing these days; again, some Crim essences are unleashed at around the 3:40 mark to great effect.

Tinta (Ink) is the gentler counterpart to Piedra, and features nice violin flourishes by Micaela Tocino and Aurora Aroca. At this point, I’m not too sure about Pablo Tato’s vocals, and think these might be the weak spot on the band. Just in case you’re not convinced about the vocals, Tato’s also the guitarist and two minute instrumental Country Grog is probably included here to display his abilities on the six strings, though it feels irrelevant.

Patos (Ducks) is a much more interesting piece of music, with its six minutes of waltzy, dreamlike atmosphere where again strings add a warm quality to the proceedings. Oigo Silencio (I Hear Silence) follows this path as a soothing, floating vocal piece, including a beautiful Genesis (Ant Phillips/Hackett) type acoustic interlude. Between these two peaceful halves, Los Espectros De Kronstadt (Kronstadt’s Spectres) acts as a loud hinge invoking the mighty Crim spirits once more through an interesting instrumental development.

Bella is the eight minute closer on Psicotropia³ and, though it displays the passion showed on the album’s most intense moments, it also must be said it lacks in structure and maybe is a bit too long for its own good.

This is a decent (and it must be said, graced by the nice artwork by Estudio Krauss) and occasionally enjoyable release, but Psicotropia need to fly a few more miles before they completely fulfil their potential.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10


Cuzo – Otros Mundos

Cuzo – Otros Mundos
Country of Origin:Sapin
Record Label:Alone Records
Catalogue #:AR-030CD
Year of Release:2010
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Punto Cero De La Qalaxia (2:12), Astrorotas (4:27), Del Mas Alla (2:53), Coche Imaqinario (6:19), Ni Vivos Ni Muertos (2:43), Robots En Movinento (7:52), Mutante Continuo (8:01)

This is a very concise album that Cuzo a Spanish power trio has recorded. Otros Mundos, which translates into Other Worlds, being their second album, (2008’s Amor Y Muerte En La Tercera Fase being their first).

The band consists of Alvaro Gallego (bass), Pep Caravantes (drums and percussion) and Jamie L. Pantaleon (guitars) a trio who walk a fine line of stoner, jam, psychedelic, Krautrock, space rock, never really attaining the achievement of being more than just an average sounding album. One that when you hear you will start making comments like, “that piece sounds like” etc. which is a shame really as the ideas are there, they just need some time to develop them.

From the quirky opener Punto Cero De La Qalaxia through to the quixotic closing sequence of Mutante Continuo, this is an audio journey that is not easy on the ear, which at times has an uncomfortable urgency about it, but never really gets out of first gear. There is some nice guitar, bass and drum interactions displayed throughout the album; the guitar work of on Mutante Continuo really alights the piece as does the interactions of Caravantes and Gallego, being by far the best instrumental on the album, but that for me is where the album falls down, it lacks consistency.

It is the three longer pieces on the album where the band stands out, it would appear that they have time to breathe their creative juices, for me this genre doesn’t really cater for short soirees, very few bands of this type have managed to pull that off. Coche Imaqinario has some really fascinating musical sequences woven into its fabric which skirts on the edges of 70’s avant-garde, but never loosing sight of its heaviness. Robots En Movinento mechanically builds to an edgy soundscape but just fears going that one step further, but is certainly interesting in construct and approach, musically viable just missing that je ne sais pas factor.

The albums production is as one would expect, slightly raw and dirty but the artwork definitely outshines the music on the album which is a shame as I had so much expectation after having heard a few tracks off their debut, which for me was like a prog version of stoner rock... now there’s an idea.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10


Album Reviews