Issue 2015-021

Audioplastik - In the Head of A Maniac

Audioplastik - In the Head of A Maniac
Country of Origin: GB / Sweden
Format: download
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Catalogue #: BEM008
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 53:46
Info: Audioplastik
Samples: Audioplastik on Bandcamp
Track List:
Leave the World Behind (0:57), Tonight (4:38), Bulletproof (4:04), Over Now (3:52), World of Wonder (4:27), The Sound of Isolation (4:33), It Matters So Much (5:07), Leave Me Here (5:40), Traveller (1:42), Star (4:32), Now (4:48), John Doe (3:58), Distant Skies (5:22)
In Audioplastik, another all-star prog band, we have Dec Burke, known from Darwin's Radio and Frost, on vocals and guitars, collaborating with Simon Andersson, who is best known for his participation in Pain of Salvation and Darkwater on guitars, bass, keyboards and drum programming. Number three in the band is Richard West from Threshold and League of Lights, bringing in some more keyboard artistry and the occasional background vocals.

With this line-up it should be obvious where the music is located in the prog spectrum: great epic melodies in a rather eighties pop style, with a solid metal fundament.

Burke, with his soft, high pitched vocal is a maestro of epic melodies, and brings in a big portion of Frost appeal, not only melody-wise, but a lot of the chordal theory and progression reminds me of Gem Godfrey's prog effort. They have this perfectly married with Darkwater's heavy but calmed-down rhythm section. West, adds synth textures and a bit of the Threshold mood and riffing, bringing another great aspect to the band.

It must be mentioned that we have here three perfect melody-smiths in one band, and thus the album doesn't fail one moment to deliver the perfect melody. Every single song has the potential to burn itself into your brain, lasting there all day long, impossible to get rid of. The instrumentation is less complicated than you would expect. There's many of the wonderful harmonics we know from Frost, but without the arrangement overload. That way it serves the harder edge of the album quite well. Also there's not much Pain of Salvation influence, which leaves good room for reminiscences of Rush and Queensryche.

One of the main writing techniques of the band is guitar and bass just walking through the verse in 8ths and only following the chords on their base notes. If done well, like here, it provides a cool, groovy pace that gives enough room for clean guitars and keys to support the vocal lines. But there's quite a lot more than just that.

Despite the advanced harmonics in these compositions, the album appears technically rather light, with very, very catchy melodies on a cool, groovy, heavy edge and great textures. I still haven't figured out why The Eurythmics comes to mind each time I listen to this album. But one thing is for sure, this album is going to be a highlight of the year for many people, including me.
Raimond Fischbach: 8.5 out of 10

Auxford - Reflection

Auxford - Reflection
Country of Origin: Russia
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 42:31
Info: Auxford
Samples: Auxford on Bandcamp
Track List:
Crimson Moon (6:38), Front (4:24), Remarkable Hero (4:09), Oblivion (4:52), Highway (7:28), Gulfstream (5:17), Barefoot Walk (5:37), Evening Sunrise (4:06)
Russia is seldom out of the news at the moment and usually for the wrong reasons, whether it is over tensions in the Ukraine, or the impact that sanctions from the west are having on the soviet economy. However, with this CD, we have a reason to celebrate Russian ingenuity once again.

Russia has produced few major bands that most could name; apart possibly from Gorky Park. Whether Auxford could change that remains to be seen. This is a relatively young band whose influences include the usual suspects: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Supertramp, Alan Parsons but notably The Blues, which gives this music a different lilt and direction.

First, the vocals leave a lot to be desired. Russian may not be the easiest tongue to speak, let alone sing in, so they do sound a bit ragged, but not completely unlistenable. Fortunately, the music is far, far better.

This album opens as almost every progressive rock CD since 1975 has, with a wash of keyboards and a Dave Gilmour sounding guitar line before drums enter. Crimson Moon has a steady rhythm to it and a nice sounding guitar tone to boot as Alexander Golenskiy plays a fluid, yet distinctly blues-based intro set amongst a strong backing band. The vocals are almost spoken and, unless you speak Russian, are incomprehensible. However, don't let that put you off as this is a band striving to do something different.

It may not be the best mixed CD either, but it is honest and appealing as you can sense their enthusiasm in every groove. As it is totally self-funded, one can only applaud their commitment to their craft and the music. This is very much a guitar album, but all the members play to a proficient level. Yes, the keyboards may sound a tad cheesy at times, but their heart is definitely in the right place. I would love to hear these songs in English, although I realize that may be a tall order. But, in order to break internationally, I feel that it will have to be addressed.

Second track Front continues in a similar mid-paced strut and you actually begin to understand their sound. Even the vocals seem to blend in better. Again, the fluid guitar is greatly featured and whilst Alexander may not be a Guthrie Govan, he is certainly a good player. When blended with the keyboards of Vladislav Semenov, there is a very fine sound indeed.

Third song, Remarkable Hero, has an almost Asia feel to it and one almost expects Mr Wetton's voice to come booming out. Instead, there is an extended keyboard segment before a plucked bass part. Then, there is some fine moody guitar with a degree of feedback and more keyboards, before entering a funkier segment with soaring synth and chunky guitar chords. As an instrumental this works well as it showcases their ensemble skills.

Oblivion follows and opens in a gentler vein with delicate guitar and keyboards laying down a moody evocative soundscape before English vocals begin. The vocals sound ohay, they are not the strongest, but are adequate for this song. This track features another fine and lengthy guitar solo. I have to say this is an album that requires you to listen with an open mind and to grasp the potential within these guys. Yes, it's a bit rough and unpolished, and, yes, a bit derivative, but it has great potential. With a bit of guidance and assistance, Auxford could make something pretty special indeed.

Highway follows, which was partly written by previous member Dmitry Steopanenko. It is another instrumental piece with what sounds like saxophone (not credited though) and is a very jaunty piece with some fine guitar at the 3:20 mark. This shows the crossover with a lot of blues reference points as it blazes away. It is a great song with some very strong playing and themes and passages.

Gulfstream continues the trend with more soaring guitar and everyone else in the band laying down a steady base off which Alexander can launch into Russian vocals again. Barefoot Walk follows and opens with languid guitar over a rippling piano. This moves into a slow jazzy vibe with a solo synth playing the melody line before guitar picks up an improvised version of the same melody line. Then, both start playing contrasting lines. This is a rather restrained piece, and adds color to the disc with its delicate light touches. Things get a bit livelier towards the end of the song, but itÕs another good instrumental that shows the skills these guys have and their flair for strong composition.

The final piece is called Evening Sunrise and open with piano and plucked guitar lines. This one has the final set of Russian vocals. I haven't got a clue what he's singing about, but it's melodious enough and there is a rather nifty guitar break in here too. It brings the brief album to a good close.

White it's not the greatest album ever, what it does show is a young band with great potential on the cusp of evolving into something pretty good. I would urge any to listen if possible and to show solidarity with these prog and blues loving Russians. I eagerly await their next steps.

By the way, they are named Auxford because they wanted an English sounding name and Oxford attracts some of the world's best minds due to its university. Therefore, there should only be an intelligent mix of art rock and blues from Auxford. One to discuss and concur about, perhaps?
John Wenlock-Smith: 6.5 out of 10

The Distorting Glass - The Germ

The Distorting Glass - The Germ
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Format: Digital download
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: N/A
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 29:27
Info: The Distorting Glass
Samples: The Distorting Glass website
Track List:
The Germ (2:00), Variance (5:04), Kilometre Zero (5:58), The City That Always Sleeps (3:59), Clockworks (4:53), Fear and Wonder (7:34)
London four-piece art rock band The Distorting Glass released their debut EP, the atmospheric and electric The Germ back in 2013. This is a dark and heavy 30 minute journey into the dark heart of the city and the numb soul of modern times.

Vocalised and written by singer and guitarist Pablo Bellinghausen, he is accompanied on his musical journey by lead guitarist Ryan White, with Tom Granica on bass and Daniel Martin on drums and percussion.

Opener The Germ sets out The Distorting Glass calling card, with vivid electronica soundscapes, juxtaposition with intense, brooding, heavy guitars. Sitting just short of full-blown metal intensity, and on the other side of the art rock fence that bands like Franz Ferdinand sit on, The Distorting Glass are an interesting blend of powerful riffs and widescreen electronica soundscapes, deftly pulling together a deep and lyrical sound.

Pablo's lyrics are very thoughtful and intense, none more so than on the powerful and dark seven-minute Fear and Wonder, where the poetic observances and verbose lyrical wordplay is matched only by the ferocity of the guitar interplay between himself and Ryan White. The cinema-scape sounds beat at the dark heart of this record.

This is an interesting debut from a young band, who, given room to grow, should create interesting things.
James R Turner: 7 out of 10

Höstsonaten - Alive in Theatre

Höstsonaten - Alive in Theatre
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: CD/DVD
Record Label: AMS Records
Catalogue #: AMS227CD
Year of Release: 2013
Time: CD: 68:14
DVD: 79:00
Info: Höstsonaten
Track List:
CD: Prologue (7:35), Part One (13:25), Part Two (9:35), Interlude (5:06), Part Three (17:34), Part Four (14:57)
DVD: The Show (71:10), The Backstage (3:52)
For the uninitiated, which I have to confess until recently included me, Höstsonaten is a project launched in 1996 by bassist Fabio Zuffanti, who has also been fronting Italian prog band Finisterre since their formation in 1993. Whilst I'm unfamiliar with the previous work of both Finisterre and Höstsonaten, the latter appears to be an outlet for Zuffanti's more grandiose concepts. Höstsonaten have released seven studio albums to date, the most recent of which is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Chapter One (2012) based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's iconic 18th century poem. Whilst that particular album passed the DPRP by, this live version, recorded at the Teatro Verdi, Genoa, Italy on 16th December 2012 provides a welcome opportunity to catch up with Zuffanti's ambitious musical.

Zuffanti isn't the first prog-related musician to be inspired by 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. In 1975 long-standing Mike Oldfield collaborator David Bedford produced an art music setting for the poem, and a decade later Iron Maiden gave it a metal twist, with proggy overtones, in their 14-minute adaptation. The words have also been referenced in songs by Pink Floyd and Nightwish amongst others. Zuffanti himself previously recorded a 13-minute version for the debut Höstsonaten album, so clearly he has a certain affinity with Coleridge's prose. The opening instrumental Prologue is one of the most easily digestible tracks, with a symphonic and mildly gothic grandeur that recalls mid-period Genesis and classic Italian bands like Le Orme and PFM. Combining vintage keyboard samples (Mini-Moog and Mellotron) with flute and violin, it introduces the soaring main theme which reappears in various guises throughout the work.

The other instrumental, Interlude, was written specifically for the live shows by keyboardist Luca Scherani. It's is a lively and memorable piece that sits comfortably alongside Zuffanti's compositions, with organ and piano complimented by the evocative flute and violin of Joanne Roan and Sylvia Trabucco respectively. It's also free from the Mini-Moog sample, which does tend to be overused elsewhere. Scherani also played a significant role in arranging and providing the musical direction for the show.

The other four tracks all feature a principal singer for each part, ranging from the full-throated, operatic style of Alessandro Corvaglia as 'The Mariner' in Part One, to Simona Angioloni's stirring soprano as 'The Albatross' in Part Four. The words are all sung in English, in a suitably theatrical style but with scarcely a trace of an accent. The main theme weaves its way throughout, with Zuffanti and his band providing a variety of moods, tempos and time signatures so that it never sounds dull or repetitive. Simone Ritorto's tasteful guitar work is both restrained and dynamic as the mood demands, without ever sounding overbearing. Although this is only the first chapter, with a second due anytime soon, it reaches a suitably majestic climax (with the obligatory bolero riff) in the final part.

Switch to the DVD and you have basically the same performance supplemented by visuals. I spent a good deal of time listening to the CD before watching the DVD and I have to confess the staging came as something of a disappointment. With the six-piece band stacked pyramid-fashion to one side, the bulk of the stage is occupied by the five singers and twelve dancers who appear in various combinations. The costumes and make-up are certainly eye-catching, but perhaps due in some part to the constraints of the Teatro Verdi stage (which also doubles as a cinema), the acting and choreography often appears stilted and amateurish. A pity, because the band perform admirably, with drummer Maurizio Di Tollo proving to be one of the most animated persons on the stage.

The closest comparison I can think of to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the recent album and stage musical Alchemy by Clive Nolan. If in terms of musical theatre Zuffanti's work doesn't quite match the sheer scale and excellence of Nolan's, as a concept piece with operatic overtones it works extremely well. In particular, if you are a fan of classic Italian prog in all its bombastic and symphonic glory, then this is certainly for you.
Geoff Feakes: 7.5 out of 10

Kivanc Kilicer - Dew on Roses (EP)

Kivanc Kilicer - Dew on Roses (EP)
Country of Origin: Turkey
Format: download
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 15:03
Info: Kivanc Kilicer
Samples: Kivanc Kilicer on Bandcamp
Track List:
Dew on Roses (4:54), One of a Kind (5:02), Devil's Thought (5:07)
Kivanc Kilicer is the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist from the Turkish hardrock band Element. This three-track EP is his first solo release and it was made with the help of Gursu Erden (drums) and Murat Cum (bass). The 1980s and early 199's melodic hard rock sound is the touchstone for these tracks, but they are leavened by symphonic, prog and prog metal elements.

The lyrics to the opening track Dew on Roses are influenced by seventeenth century English writer John Dryden. The music features angular guitar riffs, full on prog metal drumming and a good use of dynamics. It is the most obvious prog metal track of the three here. It surprisingly has strings and horns emerging from the mix, as the song rocks to its conclusion. Kivanc Kilicer has a strong voice that sounds like a darker Hasse Fröberg from The Flower Kings.

One of a Kind opens with piano plus light, almost jazzy drumming, before it settles into a symphonic metal song. The keyboards hold their own against the hard-riffing guitars and bass. It has a punchy, commercial melody to it, that reminds me of the Australian pop-rock prog metal band Voyager.

Closer Devil's Thought is another good slice of tuneful prog metal. Acoustic guitar establishes the melody, which is taken up by heavy guitars and underpinned with piano. Weirdly there are sections that introduce each verse, which brings to mind Alien Ant Farm's cover of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. Now here are two artists I never imagined I would ever mention in a review for

This EP is a good introduction to Kivanc Kilicer's symphonic influenced prog metal. It has melodies that are intelligent with solid hard rock tunes. They feature strong riffs, short punchy solos and a nice balancing of keyboards and guitars. He will be following this up with a full-length release entitled Gravity. I look forward to what Kivanc Kilicer might do with a broader canvas.
Martin Burns: 6 out of 10

King of Agogik - Exlex Beats

King of Agogik - Exlex Beats
Country of Origin: Germany
Format: CD
Record Label: sAUsTARk records
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 77:00
Info: King of Agogik
Samples: King of Agogik website
Track List:
Bronto's Navel (3:09), 11th Sense (11:57), Nomouglea (7:12), The Chasteness (8:17), Making of SWEP (1:37), Musicogenic Epilepsy (3:50), Sheol (8:21), Lick Me (5:17), The venturous dream of a Schlabbershirt (3:02), Thin as a Skin (22:47), Arrived without travelling (1:31)
Karl Wilhelm Julius Hugo Riemann, who was a German musicologist, coined the term agogics when referring to tempo changes within a piece of music. Lovers of prog will appreciate its complexity, immersing themselves in a plethora of changing time signatures, moods, instrumentation, rhythm and tempo. So here we have a German band, led by drummer Hans Jorg Schmitz, that takes on a bold and defiant royal moniker King of Agogik.

The album Exlex Beats is an instrumental album that on the face of it seems to be an amorphous blob of many musical styles and influences: symphonic, jazz-fusion, metal, heavy and the odd folk moment. There is no question as to the musical abilities on display here but I couldn't help but feel that they were trying too hard to live up to the band's name!

After the opening track, the second song, 11th Sense, descends into a fiery cauldron stew of musical styles, musical references to other bands (e.g. ELP), changing motifs and layers that, to me anyway, had no cohesive whole. It seemed a hodgepodge of ideas cemented together to create the song. However, I do appreciate the cleverness of the musicians in handling the multitude of changes within the piece.

The 3rd track Nomouglea is a welcome respite from the maelstrom of intensity of the first two tracks. A cross between Genesis and Steve/John Hackett with pastoral acoustic 12-strings, heart-felt flute and violin playing. Things get a bit rockier half way through, but it is in keeping with the overall shape & progressions plus a superb melodic guitar solo. This is an excellent piece of music and worth checking out.

The Chasteness has its good and bad moments. It is an odd track that starts with a nice finger picking acoustic guitar (think Hackett) before the drums come wading in. Then there is Genesis sort of moment with Banks style organ arpeggios. The song enters into a corny waltz that didn't do a lot for me – really spoiled the song. Things do improve, with some atmospheric strings and lingering sustained electric guitar notes. But that waltz theme returns again!

We get some great funky bass on Musicogenic Epilepsy as well as soaring guitar work, augmented with heavenly strings and metal power chords. An interesting song that did slowly grow on me over a good few listens. Only problem is that it's too short! The start of Sheol has a superb Spanish guitar intro (reminded me of both Hackett and Howe) - a good 3 minutes worth. Then the rest of the instrumentation enters with some great guitar work. Some nice themes and motifs within this track. Not bad at all.

Lick Me starts off with some heavy guitar and pounding drums. Metallic with plenty of punch! I guess that Lick is a reference to guitar licks or motifs by other bands. There are recognizable nods towards the Beatles, Black Sabbath and The Knack's My Sharona, to name but a few. I can see this song working in a live context with all these musical references but it didn't do a lot for me within the context of this album. The strangest named song is track 8, The venturous dream of a Schlabbershirt (I think schlabber is German for baggy). A short piece with a nice vibe with some wonderful fretless bass sounds.

The longest track of the album is the 22-minute piece called Thin as a Skin. I suppose this is either a lampoon or homage to Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick. Certainly the CD booklet does give it away: "for Harold, Gerald and me" before listening to the music. Certainly a fun-filled composition, with some great flute (you can't help but be reminded of Ian Anderson) & violin playing, odd glimpses of exquisite guitar playing, piano motifs, synth solos and solid drumming. You do catch the odd nod towards Thick as a Brick. This is a mammoth piece of music that clearly demonstrates the writing skills and musicianship of these guys. Not bad at all.

One thing that diminished the overall effect of the music was the seemingly never ending musical references that, for me anyway, got a bit clichéd & tiresome by the end of the album. Overall, this is an album that I'm not likely to listen to again. It's not bad, in fact it's excellent in places, but I did feel that some of the music was a bit contrived in spots and also, being a prog-drum snob (I don't play!), didn't like or appreciate the choice of drum sound, especially the snare. So as to the old DPRP-ometer, I rate this album 6 out of 10. Score would have been higher if they cut some of the material (judicial pruning is one way of putting it) down from 77 minutes to, say, 50 minutes with less of the tribute references to other acts.
Alan Weston: 6 out of 10

Kosmoratik - Directions

Kosmoratik - Directions
Country of Origin: Norway
Format: download
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 18:10
Info: Kosmoratik
Samples: Kosmoratik on Soundcloud
Track List:
Tartan Pattern Moral Fibre (5:53), I Am the Air (5:17), Crossing Peta Street (3:10), Broken from Inside (3:58)
Kosmoratik formed in Oslo in 2011 and this 'mini-album', as they describe it, is their third release. Kosmoratik consists of Lise Lotte Ågedal (vocals), Eivind Johansen (vocals) and multi-instrumentalist Odd Gunnar Frøysland. This mini-album of mid-paced, acoustic guitar-derived songs, has touches of folk and Pink Floyd-like, electric guitar, combined with the melodic melancholy of Nick Drake.

Tartan Pattern Moral Fibre has a lovely melody explored by Johansen's dark-hued vocal, with Ågedal's multilayered, ethereal voice providing backing. It reminded me of White Willow, that is, until instead of the expected flute solo, an exquisite guitar solo arrives which drives this song to its conclusion.

In I Am the Air, Johansen is channelling Leonard Cohen's deep, semi-spoken vocal style, before Ågedal's comes in with a chorus that lifts the song to another level. The use of electric piano and synth add colour to another terrific melody.

Crossing Peta Street is a slow, mainly acoustic song whose lyric consists mainly of other song titles (playing spot the title is good fun). Again Johansen takes lead vocal here. The ballad Broken From Inside has a heartfelt lead vocal from Ågedal. Her pure tone and the light touches of electric guitar, put me in mind of Mostly Autumn's more folk-inflected output.

This is an interesting calling card from Kosmoratik. If you enjoy the above-mentioned artists and wish that RPWL would produce another acoustic reworking of their back catalogue like The Gentle Art of Music, then this is for you.
Martin Burns: 7 out of 10

The Light Afternoon - Among The Family Tree

The Light Afternoon - Among The Family Tree
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: TLHTLACD002
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 54:03
Info: The Light Afternoon
Samples: The Light Afternoon website
Track List:
When I See Ghosts (7:39), The Man from Altea (10:20), The Accidental Singer (4:54), Ageless (5:18), The Eigentumer (8:34), Do Not Immerse in Water (6:46), Among the Family Tree (3:54), We Are Fragile Like China (6:35)
Youtube = --- The Light Afternoon are a studio based project from Bournemouth in the UK and comprise just two members, Annette Appleton who sings and creates the charming artwork, and Steve Newland who does everything else! Among the Family Tree is their second release, the follow up to 2012's My Parallel Life. According to the bio that accompanied both CDs, Steve has played in many bands, all of who were unsuccessful, that encompassed a wide range of music including rock, metal, pop, ambient jazz and, of course, prog. In contrast, The Light afternoon is the first musical project that Annette has been involved with.

Stylistically, the music of The Light Afternoon is more to the reflective, mellow side of the prog rock spectrum, which is largely as a consequence of Appleton's voice, a highish soprano that, at times, is quite resemblant of Kate Bush in her youth, although somewhat lacking the range and warmth of Ms. Bush. Appleton can certainly hit the notes with ease but I feel her singing is rather one-dimensional and, at times, almost perfunctory. However, a minor gripe as Newland crafts some excellent soundscapes around the voice. It is obvious that he has listened to a lot of classic prog rock from the seventies and has managed to incorporate elements of the style of several different bands whilst maintaining an originality of his own. One can hear a musical phrase and by the time one has thought "that reminds me of..." the music has changed into something else entirely.

There is a seamless energy between the keyboard and guitar parts which meld together harmoniously and contain some exceptionally delightful sections. The programmed drums, although lacking the nuances of a real drummer, are not too distracting and are always well arranged. The longer tracks obviously have lengthier instrumental sections which are not overwrought but play on the melodic instrumental interplay. Appleton does provide lyrics to one song, the autobiographical The Accidental Singer which contains the line "My timid little voice, could finally sing". And that probably sums up my reticence to her vocals in that they are somewhat timid and restrained. I feel that Appleton could achieve a lot more by being somewhat freer in her vocal delivery and just letting rip without worrying too much about hitting the perfect note every time. Still, the music backing the rest of the song is particularly good with Newland being somewhat more adventurous in his guitar soloing.

I also felt there was a need to vary the tempo a bit as most of the vocal sections had a very similar feel and could have been improved by upping the tempo and getting a bit meaner. The greatest variety came in the instrumental sections which tended to make a lot of the songs sound similar in that they all had the same kind of format. This is exemplified by The Eigentumer where the backing vocals could have been a real differentiator but ended up being quite bland or two far down in the mix. I suppose it is significant that my favourite track on the album was the last one, We Are Fragile Like China which happens to be an instrumental. The greater dynamics on this track adds a new perspective on things and shows the musical capabilities of Newland in creating a light form of prog rock.

The band certainly show promise which will hopefully be more fully delivered on future albums. Newland not only has some decent ideas, he also has the skills to deliver them. The group's debut album from 2012, My Parallel Life, has a very similar style to it but maybe has a slightly greater variety. No instrumental numbers but the twelve and a half minute opening track, It Couldn't Happen Here is well worth hearing as is the slightly creepy Losing His Brain and the lovely guitar sound on Right The Way In.
Mark Hughes: 5 out of 10

Light Damage - Light Damage

Light Damage - Light Damage
Country of Origin:
Format: CD
Record Label: Progressive Promotion Records
Catalogue #: PPRCD027
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 40:35
Info: Light Damage
Samples: Light Damage website
Track List:
Eden (9:39), Empty (4:08), The Supper of Cyprianus (9:08), Heaven (6:32), F.H.B. (for helpful buddies) (2:36), Touched (6:32)
Luxembourg isn't really a place you associate wildly with imaginative progressive rock albums yet in Light Damage they may just have found a worthy contender, this self-titled album has the makings of being a much vaulted and talked about release this year.

It's a fairly short album coming in at just over the 40 minute mark but when the album is as strong and convincing as this one is time doesn't really matter that much, this is a really a concept album as such dealing with Loss and all the emotions that go with that experience and about coping with that loss of a close loved one.

Much will be made this year of a certain Mr Wilson's Hand Cannot Erase album which deals with a similar subject matter but from another perspective. However for me I rather like this variant a tad more. Maybe it's because this disc is brimming with ideas and because it's brevity plays to its strengths but also because musically it is an interesting mix of styles and textures and sounds fresh and vital.

The band started as a covers band playing Genesis and Pink Floyd covers and some of that lingers in the manner of which the music is composed. There is a kind of Steven Wilson influence in here too I suspect.

With just six tracks - two lengthy nine minutesm three around the six minute mark, and a shorter instrumental track - it never outstays its welcome. In fact it almost warrants hitting the repeat button (feel free to do so if you choose) and whilst the vocals aren't the strongest, they suit the tone of the music and lyrics.

Opener Eden begins with the sound of rainfall footsteps and a clock chiming before a piano motif and bass usher in a sustained guitar tone (spot the Floyd reference here) and arpeggio chords and occasional drum beats add emphasis before fully merging into a strident riff topped with synth. It's an impressive start as it continues to evolve till at nearly four minutes, a soft vocals begins to sing.

As I say the vocal is a bit different, but it is effective, as is the lower registry harmony that is added to certain parts. It is a really grandiose opener and sets the stage for all that follows, a mixture of light and shade, hope and despair. In addition there is some lovely melodic guitar playing that reminded me of Marillion's Steve Rothery in places too.

Empty continues with a bombastic opening fading to a softer guitar tone with emotive vocals by Frederick Hardy and Nicholas John. There is some great keyboard support on this, adding some real bottom end to proceedings, as the song moves forward it moves into almost Muse-like territory with a wall-of-sound effect. This is a great track and show the promise that Light Damage hold.

This is followed by The Supper of Cyprianus, which details a dream a very intense dream with very dark overtones. It has a pretty frantic mid-section and good use of dynamics throughout.

Some very atmospheric keyboards and a solo guitar line giving way to strident chords and more guitar lines as Heaven gathers pace and urgency. Light Damage craft a very dense but effective sound with good clarity between instrumentation. They also write memorable melodies and use keyboards touches to good effect. There is a great keyboard passage at the 5:00 mark that adds great texture to the song very dramatic. Yes, maybe simple, but very effective indeed. The song has a very hard sounding ending too.

F.H.B. is a short instrumental. It's mainly guitar but adds a change of tempo to proceedings before the final number Touched picks up the intensity level once again, with another strident riff and effective vocals. They do like the light/heavy approach, but it works well here as this makes for a cohesive listen.

This is an album to hear for yourself as it is most definitely a grower. Immerse yourself in its grooves, it yields real depth and passion and also some great musical passages and ensemble playing. There is nothing overtly complex here, but they have used their talents to craft an album that plays to their combined strengths .

I've really enjoyed this one and look forward to their next steps. But for now this will suffice admirably.
John Wenlock-Smith: 8 out of 10

Talc - Talc

Talc - Talc
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Format: CD
Record Label: Musea Records
Catalogue #: MP3269
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 50:27
Info: Talc
Samples: Talc on MX3
Track List:
Back To Saskatchewan (4:05), Poison Heavy (5:09), Helical Gear (3:03), Parabellum (4:16), Kill Agent Ryan (3:19), Over The Sea (5:48), Morgen (2:54), Play/Pause (4:47),Steel Dreams (4:52), Machado (3:44), Trampoline (3:32), Kolybelnaya (4:58)
Guitar instrumental albums are cropping up regularly at present, and many seem to be tagged with the 'progressive rock' label in the process. There is nothing especially new about this type of sound and the current vogue is for a harder-edged post rock output, featuring tight time changes and shorter songs.

Talc who hail from Switzerland are similar to this kind of crossover sound, with a little more fusion thrown in. Their 2013 self-titled release starts with a nice little blues riff, then kicks into gear suddenly with an out-of-place cock-rock-style guitar and all the histrionics that go with that. This is the pattern thereon until the end of the track, which is further diminished by some lazy, workman-like drumming that feels very poorly produced, particularly the tight snare sound. The middle features a true 80s hair rock guitar solo. So where is the prog?

It is really hard to say on the basis of opener, Back to Saskatchewan. It really doesn't know what it is. The hard rock guitar continues into a more grunge-inspired riff in Poison Heavy, that echoes more of the early 90s Seattle sound than prog. In places it's not unlikeable but the whole mix is too poor to really appreciate the finer points of the music, with a very dem- like quality coming through.

Like the first song, the instrumental quality does nothing for the overall composition, there just isn't enough going on, technically or atmospherically, in the song to carry it as a piece of instrumental music. The moments of interest by talented guitarist Antonin Wiser are too few and far between, and swallowed up by shred or hard-rock riffing that feels repetitive.

The tight, jazzy opening of Helical Gear is a welcome relief, and shows the abilities are far greater than the initial opening pieces indicate. So much so, you may question if this is the same band at all. The only downside that comes with a nice track like this, is that after three minutes it's over and you are back to a flat, uninspiring hard rock that is 90s in style with a 70s twist.

The cool-sounding Kill Agent Ryan starts well, and again feels the need to follow the pattern between something creative and delicate, with unsubtle heaviness. This piece is one of the few highlights on this album, if you can overlook some of the shredding.

The longest track on the album, running at 5:49, is the sleepy and delicate Over the Sea, which stands head and shoulders over everything before it. Flavours of Roine Stolt come through on this track which nicely avoids the pitfalls of its predecessors. A slow beginning builds well into a nicely-layered middle section where the solo compliments the progression. In fact this is as close to progressive rock as the band has shown over the first half of the album.

Morgan is a nice bit of frenetic jazz with a Satriani-like feel to some of the styling. Some tracks feel too bland in their execution, and Play /Pause is a prime example of this. A little bit Rush at times, with less of the flair of the Canadian trio. This seems like a song that could have benefited from a vocal.

The other slow track on the album, Steel Dreams, has a little more going for it and is an effective guitar-led piece with a minimal percussive beat. It isn't immediate in its wow factor, but perhaps there is enough to encourage repeated plays.

The bass feels a little underused on this album, until Machado, where there is a nice interplay between the guitar and bass melodies that work well together, indicating perhaps the record would have benefited from this on other pieces.

Trampoline feels stuck in the same gear as the track before it, until a funk-fused jazz saves it from being insipid. Unfortunately the Vai shred creeps back in and dominates proceedings.

There is talent in this group, but the content falls short in its composition and over-reliance on shredded guitars, which feels repetitive. There is a shortage of atmosphere which could really lift these songs, some of which could have come through in the production. Guitar-led instrumental albums are very much on-trend at the moment, but many will fall by the wayside without something exceptional to offer, and Talc have yet to prove they have what it takes.
Eric Perry: 5 out of 10