Album Reviews

Issue 2014-017

Round Table Review

Prog Sphere Productions

Progstravaganza XVII: Progression
Progstravaganza 17
Country of Origin:Various
Record Label:Prog Sphere Promotions
Catalogue #:n/a
Year of Release:2014
Samples:Click Here

This is the fourth of the Progstravaganza compilations to get the DPRP treatment.

Created four years ago by Prog-Sphere - a website and agency - this series aims to help promote up-and-coming bands from around the world. The compilation is accompanied by the official Progstravaganza website where all the artists have profiles plus interviews and reviews of their releases.

As before, the aim of this "review" is not to provide a detailed analysis of each track but a brief comment to signpost songs which may be worth further investigation.

This time, to widen the range of opinions offered, we've made it a review foursome. Joining Andy Read, Roger Trenwith and André de Boer, we have the DPRP's Basil Francis giving his view on each song. To make it more of a challenge - they have to do it in no more than a paragraph!

Where available we've also added a link to the band's most recent DPRP album review.

You can stream individual tracks of interest from the Progstravaganza 17 Bandcamp page whilst you read through the comments. You can also download the entire "album" via Bandcamp in the usual different audio formats under the "pay what you want" format.

Bad Salad - Deep Roots (8:25)

Roger Trenwith (RT): Thunderous bass prog-boogie chuggathon. Not bad, but doesn't hold my attention for long.
Andy Read (AR): ProgMetal from Brazil to rival Pigeon Toe for the worst band name ever. Their debut's on my Spotify playlist, so this is one of only two bands on this compilation I've heard before. More djent influences amid their eclectic brand of ProgMetal that I remember. Not bad but not compelling.
André de Boer (AdB): Best kick-off for any Progstravaganza yet. This is a heavy BEAST! You wanna have this EP. Period.
Basil Francis (BF): A fun ProgMetal track to begin the collection, although Bad Salad inevitably fall into the all-too-common trap of sounding too much like the ubiquitous Dream Theater. That said, with the way Dream Theater are going nowadays, it may be better to find alternative groups such as these for your ProgMetal fix. With the singer's convincing vocals, I would never have guessed the band were from Brazil!

Edison's Children - The Seventh Sign (Single Edit) (7:08)
[In The Last Waking Moments... (2011)]

RT: Previous album reviewed by Baz, who probably wished he hadn't. Quality sympho-prog from Pete Trewavas and Eric Blackwood that given its origins should have me running for cover, but I actually quite like it, even though it tends to lose focus after a while. Seven minutes is a "single edit"??
AR: Floydian AOR Prog with lots of atmosphere. Likeable in a non-essential way.
AdB: Beautiful song of impressive NeoProg.
BF: I had some initial prejudice when I saw the words "Single Edit" in the title, but this fortunately doesn't stray too far into commercial territory. A smooth and relaxing track, Trewavas' signature understated bass keeps things ticking over. Shame the vocals aren't all that great. Perhaps not enough 'stuff' for some listeners, but pleasant nonetheless.

Iridic - Catharsis (4:40)

RT:"Channeling the baroque grandeur of Muse via the breathless dynamism of Dream Theater" sez the blurb. Not for me, then. Next...
AR: ....Must be for me then. Just enough quirkiness and crunch with more than enough melody plus a great singer. Further investigations required.
AdB: A light ProgMetal song without any surprises. Nice, yet not renewing.
BF: The band describe themselves as a blend of Muse, Dream Theater and Periphery, and honestly I could not put it better myself. Firmly in the prog-metal ouvre, this band launch an assault on the ears that will leave you breathing a sigh of relief as the final note fades out.

Kosmoratik - Anchor and Compass (5:50)

RT: Norwegian melancholic pop-prog with male/female harmonies. Nice, but a bit forgettable.
AR: Nice vocal harmonies and melodic lines. Lyrics don't work for me and it's the type of acoustic-folky-atmospherica, singer/songwriter style that I find too predictable.
AdB: Beautiful, two-voiced folk from Norway which reminds me of Mostly Autumn. Sweet as hell.
BF: This banal slice of Scandi-pop seems out of place, lacking in what the compilers might deem "progstravagance". Unlike in Bad Salad, Eivind Johansen's Norwegian accent hinders the delivery of the incredibly soppy lyrics. At least it's soothing on the ears after Iridic.

Vako - Part I (5:37)

RT: Vako is Spanish musician Juan Carlos Palazón whose love of '70s synth driven Krautrock shines through on this spacey ambient number, with added acoustic guitar. For lovers of Ash Ra, Mythos, Schulze. I like it!
AR: Sounds like the sort of thing my wife meditates too. A free scented candle with every CD?
AdB: An ambient synthesiser quietly meanders without any goal.
BF: I was never a big fan of Tangerine Dream or the ambient/electronic genre in general, but Vako is onto something here. Starting merely with keyboard sounds, he introduces a simple acoustic guitar melody that effortlessly raises the tension towards the end of the piece. I can only assume this tension is paid off in Part II. A simple yet interesting track.

Bulbs - 3752 Off (5:52)
[On (2013)]

RT: Favourably reviewed on DPRP and a really fine album this is too. Highly inventive modern Prog, and not a riff in sight! Highly recommended.
AR: Wot no riffs? Plenty of looping acoustic guitars though. Enjoyable in a first day of Spring sorta way.
AdB: Acoustic guitar virtuoso with some looping. I don't find any progressive elements.
BF: Hailing from Liverpool, Bulbs present the most interesting track on this collection. The forward-thinking band use cyclical melodies and subtly shifting themes to create an astonishing soundscape that immerses you in its carefully constructed interweaving rhythms. This is music that fully embraces what it means to be 'progressive'.

Eryn Non Dae. - Lotus (6:03)

RT Ah...the first slab of ProgMetal, it had to come. You can place the slider anywhere in this track and it all sounds the same. Next...
AR: Grungy guitars and growly vocals. More grrrating than grrreat.
AdB: Grunting ProgMetal that makes sense. Would like to see 'em live at ProgPower some day.
BF: The description of France's Eryn Non Dae gives the band far too much credit, claiming that the band will "without a doubt stun the metal genre." In reality, they're more likely to bore the metal genre, not to mention the progressive genre. Absolutely nothing original or even interesting here, just very loud metal music.

OVRFWRD - Stones of Temperance (8:49)

RT: Piano-led spacey prog (but not space rock). Takes 7 minutes before it gets interesting. Possibly best heard in the context of an album, one hopes.
AR: Extended, multi-faceted Prog instrumental.
AdB: Astonishing instrumental that covers many areas of progressive rock in one song. Very impressive. With the addition of a singer this would've been the newcomer of the year!
BF: Instrumentental American band deliver a refreshing, if rather inconsequential piece. I very much liked the piano and guitar interplay, but unfortunately there's not enough technical flair to seperate these guys from the pack.

Basta - Mondi Paralleli (5:57)

RT: Italian band that mix traditional rock instruments with bass, clarinet and melodion. I'm not convinced it works.
AR: I'm convinced that it doesn't work for me. Clarinet and melodian is the musical equivalent of an egg and marmalade sarnie.
AdB: Instrumental progressiveness with a blink of the eye. Humoristic, special, not pretentious at all but very very special. Love it.
BF: What distinguishes this Italian group from the rest is the inclusion of a bass clarinet and melodion in their sound. The new instruments do go some way towards making an impression on the listener. I just feel that a band shouldn't have to rely on a gimmick to sell their music.

Magg - Chinese Room (14:05)

RT: If this rather long-winded and plodding track was as knowingly pretentious as the band's PR blurb, then it may have been interesting. "Does time exist? Heraclitus' river would say yes, Zeno's tortoise: no. At least: If I think, I exist! However...why is there something rather than nothing?" Why indeed?
AR: Ambitious extended heavy prog workout. Singer needs to be more consistent and ditch the poor grunts and lose the accent. Band could be tighter and the production much sharper. Not devoid of promise.
AdB: Lengthy prog rock song from Mexico with clear and grunt vocals (neither of which I much like) and lots of mood and time changes. All these kind of things happening in this quarter of an hour. Breathtaking.
BF: The longest track on the album comes from Mexico, and this one is very difficult to judge. On the one hand, the band put together a well structured 14-minute song that seems to be able to hold its weight, with a variety of interesting themes. On the other hand, it's woefully produced and the singer is not that great.

Sludgebucket - Penniless Blues (3:25)

RT: They're not going to be ambient with a name like that are they? It is however, oddly remininscent of Ocean Colour Scene, but heavier.
AR: Does what it says in the band name. Plenty of sludge and sounds like the drummer is playing a bucket. Dulls my senses.
AdB: Stoner metal by Slipknot cover band. Nice but rather boring tune.
BF: Cor, listen to that bass! Not over the top at all, this stoner band trudge through something resembling the blues in alternating 5/8 and 6/8, although things get more interesting as the song goes on.

Structural Disorder - The Edge of Sanity (11:04)

RT: One of the better productions on this compilation sees an epic and dynamic prog-metal ballad go through its changes. A heavier Porcupine Tree, and well put together with care and attention to detail. Good stuff, it's a grower.
AR: Great case study in how a good production elevates a song. The 11 minutes shot by. Heavy Prog with good singer. This band should appeal to a wide range of progressive fans. Top song.
AdB: ProgMetal and NeoProg wonderfully welded together. Even a bit of Moon Safari!
BF: More like it! Good old symphonic metal played just right and without too much Dream Theater overlap. Great songwriting, great musicianship and even good singing, despite the Swedish accent. Fans of Haken would do well to check this band out.

The Land of the Snow - Patterns of the Self (4:08)

RT: The Land Of The Snow is a one man band in the form of Swiss guitarist Joel Gilardini, not that you would know it. Heavy and with an experimental edge, this shows promise.
AR: Oh no! Horrible, horrible production. My ears not like. Next!
AdB: The most off-the-beaten-track of this sampler. Way-off to my idea. The only good thing is that it's a short song.
BF: Swiss acid prog rock, now there's something you don't hear every day. Joel Gilardini puts together a murky and sorrowful soundscape to ensnare the listener and the results are quite effective.

Personal Signet - Wires (5:27)

RT: Prog Metal with electronica flourishes and dramatic vocals. Not in my remit, so I'll leave it to others more qualified.
AR: OK - the 'qualified' one speaks! This is rather scrumptious melodic ProgMetal with a heavy dose of electronica which reminds me in a big way of latter-day Fates Warning. Great singer too. Grabbing this song for DPRP Radio.
AdB: Impressive Czech Prog / ProgMetal. Fine composition, pace and vocals.
BF: Progslavaganza more like! Musicians from the Czech Republic and Slovakia combine to produce neo-prog in the style of IQ but with a harder, metal-oriented touch. Unfortunately, this particular concoction is not so palatable, lacking any truly distinguishing features.

Perfect Beings - Bees and Wasps (6:29)

RT: As the guitarist puts it "Bees and Wasps describes a post-apocalyptic world in which the dark skies are artificially brightened and depression has turned into a plague affecting almost everyone". He should get out more, methinks. Quite atmospheric but a little too earnest.
AR: I don't mind earnest. After an opening chorus of bees there is a distinct Rush vibe, before a bit of funk and an odd, extended jazzy insertion. Slightly morose vocal style suits. The electronic vocal style doesn't. Good transitive Prog.
AdB: Quiet crossover Prog song with a nice, short, jazzy interlude. Beautiful, though it does not attract me much.
BF: They weren't kidding: this piece does actually begin with the sound of buzzing insects. The music is actually quite a pleasant surprise; imagine if Keane picked up some guitars and decided to play prog. A talented singer to boot.

Brandon Dyke - Hindsight (4:58)

RT: Guitarist/vocalist and big Rush fan, Brandon Dyke turns in a nice trad-prog ballad of regret. For fans of neo-prog.
AR: Enjoyable Floydian Prog ballad. For Camel and BJH fans.
AdB: I am in no way connected to a singer/songwriter thing like this. But if you are, I guess this is something to check out.
BF: The list of names that Brandon Dyke identifies his music with is long. On this unadventurous and repetitive track, he does seem to do an uncanny impression of Phil Collins. Unfortunately, that alone doesn't score him any marks.

ONOMY - Pariah (I-II) (8:44)

RT: Lush orchestral dark and cinematic symphonic prog that broods with intent. I'm only slightly put off by the short appearance of growling near the end.
AR: Broody, atmpospheric Prog in the style of Frequency Drift which turns into a growly, metallic, electronic Cynic. Lacks a melodic focus.
AdB: Ambient alternative prog. Nothing wrong with it, other than you might have heard this before.
BF: Having watched more than my fair share of silent films recently, I can say without a doubt that ONOMY's unique blend of string composition and industrial music would be well suited to the telling of a woeful tale.

R-Evolution Band - Young Lust (5:28)

RT: There is no publicity for this band, so I can tell you nothing about them. Slightly Crimsoid-jazzy intro and interesting breakdown into a spacious and smokey jazz club feel makes for the most restrained young lust I've ever come across! Not bad.
AR: Oft-minimalistic, jazzy prog fusion, Crimsonesque instrumental for the thinking (wo)man.
AdB: Obvious riff opening this song but soon your ears will be fascinated by brass and other instruments. This is a surprise anyone should try.
BF: The R-Evolution Band takes an unflinching attitude when modifying this Pink Floyd tune, almost beyond recognition, and making it their own. I was never a huge fan of The Wall anyway, so I'm glad to hear it changed to become more sinister and less polished.

Tucana - At the Gates of War (8:08)
[Tucana (2012)]

RT: Portentous vocals and riffs. Next...
AR: Theatrical with a stage musical vibe. Baroque keys mixed with familiar metallic motifs. Not unpleasant. Strong singer. Must be from a concept album.
AdB: These Swedish guys label their music "Baroque progressive metal". I agree on that. It sounds rather predictable and pompous, though that might be done deliberately.
BF: Tucana have all the elements of a great symphonic metal band - classical stylings, a taste for power and a good vocalist - but something in the exectuion just draws them back. A band one could grow fond of if given the chance.

Vital Element - The Well (6:45)

RT: Occasionally wayward singer too high in the mix of a restrained song that leaves little impression.
AR: Promising new Dutch band in vein of the excellent A Liquid Landscape. Review of full album due on DPRP soon.
AdB: A new Dutch band in the moody prog style of A Liquid Landscape. Sounds quite interesting. Please start some gigs. If only there where six entries in a top 5...
BF: Vital Element simply doesn't do anything for me. Though 'passion' is apparently what drives this Dutch band, I can't hear anything remotely passionate about this piece of pop-metal.

And Finally...

Roger Trenwith: A far more manageable 20 tracks this time, which is more than enough. Some nice variety on here and with one real gem, PS XVII is a definite improvement on the last one we reviewed on DPRP. You should all know that my "No.1" is top of my list by a country mile!

Andy Read: Following previous criticisms, this is probably the best Progstravaganza compilation yet. Twenty tracks, of a good standard, only two are long. I feel this is about the perfect balance for such a compilation. Four good new discoveries for me.

André de Boer: And this "Progression" edition XVII of Prog Sphere's Progstravaganza sampler series is a real treat for the progressive adventurer. It has so much to offer and all sorts of talented bands to enjoy. Bringing you my personal top 5 has never been so difficult! Please give these bands your undivided attention and you will be pleased with several of them for sure. Enjoy!

Basil Francis: Quite a metal-heavy compilation, so if you like things light, you need to read our descriptions and pick out the good stuff. Refreshingly there's a sizeable amount of material that ticks the 'progressive' box rather than simply 'prog', most notably Bulbs, whose style of music is completely new and interesting to me. Still, one man's pleasure is another man's pain, so I'd urge you to try anything that sounds interesting to you, even if I do advise against it myself.

Top 5 Recommendations

Roger Trenwith

Andy Read

André de Boer

Basil Francis

3752 Off
Personal Signet
Bad Salad
Deep Roots
3752 Off
2.R-Evolution Band
Young Lust
Vital Element
The Well
R-Evolution Band
Young Lust
Structural Disorder
The Edge Of Sanity
Part I
Structural Disorder
The Edge Of Sanity
Stones of Temperance
Pariah (I-II)
4.Structural Disorder
The Edge Of Sanity
Mondi Paralleli
Penniless Blues
5.-Edison's Children
The Seventh Sign
Personal Signet
The Land of the Snow
Patterns of the Self

From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Progstravaganza Reviews:-
Progstravaganza 13
Progstravaganza 14: Timeshift
Progstravaganza 15: Ascension

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Published 28th March 2014
Album Reviews