Album Reviews

Issue 2017-053

RPWL - A New Dawn

RPWL - A New Dawn
Country of Origin: Germany
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 112:24
Track List:
Revelation (5:14), Swords And Guns (9:46), A Clear Cut Line (4:13), Wanted, Like To Like (4:55), The Fisherman (18:29), Hide And Seek (4:02), Disbelief (6:05), Misguided Thought (7:24), Still Asleep (8:00), Perfect Day (6:39), Terror (1:03), The Attack (10:39), A New Dawn (6:53), Revelation Reprise (6:19), Unchain The Earth (7:12), Hole In The Sky (7:31)
RPWL has been associated with Pink Floyd for many years and in some ways, it seems that the band entered their Roger Waters phase a few years ago. Their last two studios albums followed a politically tinged concept model similar to what Waters has mastered. That comment is not to underestimate RPWL's achievements in forging their own identity, but the connection to Floyd must be a positive as they have certainly not shied away from it.

Similiar to what Roger Waters did with The Wall, A New Dawn is a combination concert, play and multimedia event. Though on a much smaller financial scale to what Waters did with his shows, the production of A New Dawn is nonetheless impresssive. The setlist is heavy on material from thier latest release Wanted and presents a storyline that connects it to their previous studio album, Beyond Man & Time. This link is mainly through an excellent performance of the epic track The Fisherman. The one representation of older material comes via a concert closing rendition of Hole in the Sky from the band's debut.

The theatrical portion of the show features a cast of fifty actors who seem committed to creating a memorable event. This double CD focuses mainly on the musical elements of the show, which ultimately is a positive. The DVD release certainly provides a better perspective of the band's overall objective and I don't think the "play" elements would have carried over paticularly well to the CD version. There are spoken word segments that bring some of the theatrical performance to the audio release, but the music is the predominant feature. Of course, Yogi Lang handles the lead vocals and as part of the story telling aspect, there are a few moments where the actors sing as well. One key element that enhances this performance is the fantastic work done by backing vocalists, Connie Kreitmeier, Bine Heller and Julia Schroter. They bring an urgency and power to the music that is very appealing.

The material throughout is impeccably performed and if you are a fan of RPWL's work (particularly the last two studio releases), you will enjoy this album. It is obvious that this show was a significant occasion for the band members and they all do flawless work. Ultimately though, in terms of acquiring the full scope of the event, the DVD/BluRay is the definitive way to go. The live album is an entertaining listen, but to some extent, it is the visuals that create the real distinction from the studio renditions of the songs. Ultimately though, this CD is an excellent document of an ambitious and intriguing show.
Patrick McAfee: 8.5 out of 10

Sounds Like The End Of The World - Stories

Sounds Like The End Of The World - Stories
Country of Origin: Poland
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 39:24
Track List:
No Trespassing (5:22), Walk With Me (6:13), Breaking The Waves (6:21), Obsession (4:31), Faults (5:25), Outflow (4:00), Acceptance (3:05), All Over Again (4:24)
Formed in 2012 in their home city of Gdańsk, Poland, Sounds Like The End Of The World is a quintet of Michał Badecki (bass), Wojciech Kowal (guitar), Michał Baszuro (guitar), Tomasz Hoffman (drums) and Michał Koziorowski (keyboards). Stories is their second full-length album following on from Stages of Delusion released in 2014. The band signed to Germany's Progressive Promotion label after they were invited to perform at the label's festival at the recommendation of God Is An Astronaut. Despite the band being totally unknown in Germany and performing a style of music, instrumental post-rock, previously unassociated with the label, the reaction was such that following their performance the group were offered a deal.

The album gives plenty of indications as to exactly what caused the favourable impressions with No Trespassing kicking off with intent. Somewhat more abrasive than a number of other the leading lights in the genre, the incessant throb of the bass and understated use of keyboards provides something rather novel. Yes, the genre hallmarks of quiet passages interspersed with more raucous onslaughts are present but there is an ever-present nod towards melody. The exceptionally good Walk With Me has an air of mystery enhanced by guitars entering across the stereo spectrum; if ever there was a track that is crying out for a 5.1 remix then this is it.

The relative brevity of the pieces enhances the flow of the album that seems to pass in a blink of an eye and this, combined with the abundance of variety across the tracks, leaves the listener wanting more. Obsession adds more variety with contributions from violinist Jan Galach whose pizzicato and bowed playing is merged seamlessly in with the rest of the band. Outflow and, in particular, Faults turn on the sonic aggression before the listener is blindsided by the relative tranquility of Acceptance. A rousing All Over Again completes an interesting and accomplished album.

Although post-rock is not for everyone there is no denying the inventiveness and musicality behind many of its creators. Sounds Like The End Of The World may not be be up there with the major names in this style of music but on the basis of Stories it won't be long before they are.
Mark Hughes: 7 out of 10

TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc - The Antithetic Affiliation

TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc - The Antithetic Affiliation
Country of Origin: Netherlands
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 40:59, 43:24
Track List:
CD 1 (The Idealist – The Light): The More We Remember (22:38), Anthem (6:36), Lovesong (4:34), Monolith - The Ascent (7:10)
CD 2 (The Cynic – The Dark): Monolith - The Descent (7:07), Aphrodisia (8:19), Dirge (4:41), Lest We Forget (23:16)
bonus DVD (An Acoustic Night At The Chapel - Live at PPE 2016): Some Things, Surface Scratching, Lovesong, Happy Day, Dirge, Your Room, Butterflies, Home, Anthem
It's been a while since I walked through the land of prog metal. In the late 1980s / early 1990s I was looking for heavier prog and was a very happy prog fan when I discovered the first Dream Theater album. It came out at a time I needed it. A decade later my taste had shifted: most of prog metal was too technical to my taste, increasingly cold music didn't do it for me anymore. Another decade later my taste is going back to heavier music, heavier than ever before actually, as long as it's exciting and surprising my ears while not showing off technically. Atmosphere, playing from the heart, heavy melodies, that is what counts for me. And headbanging, obviously.

I was not familiar with TDW, but considering the near-full circle my taste underwent, I was interested in picking this up for a review. Oh, the beautiful packaging and artwork helped. A double CD (with bonus DVD), a concept book-ended by two epics. I can't see a band going wild on technical showcasing for 20 minutes, so this sounded safe for my noodling allergy.

(There was some confusion about the official band name. In official communication and the CD I read TDW, other sources claim TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc. TdW acknowlegdes this and is thinking of using TDW & Dreamwalkers Inc as the official project name.)

At first listen, I was pleasantly surprised! Several elements are pleasing to my ears and taste: lots of heavy bits, no growling or silly heavy metal voices, no operatic vocals, lots of heavy riffing yet very melodic, focus on musicality instead of technicality, progressive in the sense a lot is happening in terms of musical layers and breaks and solos.

Regarding the two epics I was having some doubts at first. Aren't they too long? Would a split into slightly shorter tracks work just as well or even better? With the whole album as a story, the lyrics don't require extra long compositions. It took a few more spins before the cohesion started to become clearer, making it more of a whole instead of the feared patchwork of separate sections. Repetitions of themes here and there, no illogical breaks, it all comes across very organic.

A lot of the music has a lot going on. With an album of this length, this speed, and this many things happening at once, you get an awful lot of music for your money. I know some people say sometimes it's the silence between the notes that makes the music, and that's true for some types of music, but a lot of times my brain just likes a lot going on to keep itself busy. Alternated with quieter sections, sometimes with acoustic guitar and piano, sometimes even for a bit longer (Lovesong), this never get tedious and just feels like a well-balanced effort. Listening to this, even several spins later, not once did I think the music needed a break.

The disc titles (The Light and The Dark) refer to the story rather than the music, so don't expect a heavy and a softer side. In fact, I think the The Light is actually a bit heavyer with The Dark being more symphonic. There are a lot of lyrics. It's obvious the story is important. With tracks this long there is still enough space for instrumental sections. Not just soloing, but also multi-layered, symphonic walls of sound. As you will buy this for the music and not the story, I won't make this review even longer by throwing some spoilers on the story.

Although I realise I missed some of what prog metal has went through for a certain amount of time, I have not been living under a rock (being a publisher on the DPRP team, I see all review issues including all videos), and I find a lot of original stuff here. This makes it harder to give references because any name I give that I am reminded of will also have a lot of differences as well. That is a good sign!

During some guitar solos I hear Iron Maiden, but TDW are heavier and much more progressive. Some epic moments recall Epica, but TDW never take the cinematic route and therefore steer from becoming cheesy (sorry, fans of epic metal). Regarding song structures I could see these guys open for a band like Opeth, but TDW are less polished, which is a plus, to my ears. I really think they might blow that headliner off the stage. A safe reference would be Devin Townsend, but Townsend is more extreme, more crazy, more guitar-oriented, and less serious. (No judgment, just stating my perception.)

I think I also have to mention countryman Ayreon (heavy prog concept studio projects with different line-ups based around a single person), but TDW are a bit heavier with more focus on the metal side, and less stylistic and epic-sounding. Whether they are not capable of it or deliberately avoiding it, TDW tend to write less catchy tunes. It's not about big sing-along choruses or the epic effect they are after, like Epica or Within Temptation where to my ears the catchiness becomes a bit formulatic. To me it sounds like TDW are not trying so hard to write catchy or pleasing. And that pleases me.

The whole album pleases me. If you like even a bit of prog metal, this will please you, too. From the soaring epic bits to heavy riffing, from the subdued sections to the ripping solos, all covered in that melodic, progressive, symphonic gravy. Being thrown off your feet by the breaks and the sheer power of it all. Thank you TDW for this warm welcome for me back into the world of prog metal. It came out at a time I needed this. It is more than a great album, it's a new benchmark for the world of prog metal.
Jerry van Kooten: 9 out of 10

Until Rain - Inure - Duo Review

Until Rain - Inure
Country of Origin: Greece
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 66:59
Track List:
Progressus In Idem (5:54), New World Fiction (5:14), Because Something Might Happen (9:15), This Fear (5:38), Tearful Farewell (4:32), This Solitude (6:48), Butterfly Invasion (6:44), Broken Wing (4:58), Inure (13:00), Debate (bonus track) (4:56)
Calum Gibson's Review
Having formed back in 2008 in Thessaloniki, Greece, Until Rain have so far released one EP and three full length albums, including this one, Inure. Originally they started off as Delear, before another few name changes until they settled upon Until Rain. From there they set out on their course to conquer the music world. As a band that has toured extensively and shared the stage with bands such as Rotting Christ, Leprous, and Firewind, they certainly do not lack the force of will required to do so.

The album starts with a discordant piano lick before the band kicks in with a heavy set of proggy riffs, before the almost power metal/Alice Cooper-style vocals of Cons Marg come in. Progressus In Idem follows in a riff heavy, catchy, and very well written track, going from technical sections to more slower "chugging" patterns.

One track that stood out would be one of the ballads of the album: A Tearful Farewell. While having the hallmarks of a ballad, and being lighter than the rest of the album, it didn't have the typical "piano and solos to cry to". This helped it stand out as an emotional song that tries to be different. And it works. A thoughtful, sing-along tune that is a refreshing breath of fresh air in a genre surrounded by a million similar ballads.

Melodies are commonplace in the album, along with grooving baselines, jazzy and bluesy interludes, soaring vocals and heavy, chugging guitars. There are elements of bands such as Dream Theater and Meshuggah, as well as others like Ayreon

What follows is an absolute gem of an album, with tracks to suit fans of straight up progressive metal, hard rock, power metal or a mix of them all. I found myself enjoying the album, surprisingly I probably preferred the more "power prog" elements of it the most. Surprising, as normally I can't stand power prog!. It's exceptionally well written and performed, with breaks and interludes in all the right places to keep it interesting and exciting.

With the mix of impeccable songwriting, fantastic musicianship and a perfect mix of clean vocals punctuated at the perfect points with harsh growls, I expect more great things for this band and just hope they make it up to Scotland on tour one day!
Dario Albrecht's Review
Four long years after their last album Anthem to Creation, Until Rain return and everything changed, everything is different. OK, almost everything, as the high quality of their music stayed together with the two main songwriters Theodore Amaxopoulos (guitars) and Lefteris Germenlis (keyboards). New are drummer Matthew Vella and Swedish bass virtuoso Linus Abrahamsson (borrowed from Andromeda). New is background singer Donna Zed, replacing Vicky Psarakis who went to Canada to join The Agonist. New is lead vocalist Cons Marg, taking Yannis Papadopuolos' place, who is singing with greek power metal band Wardrum now. And most of all: new are the musical spheres Until Rain are roaming on the roller-coaster ride that is their new album Inure.

Starting off with a monumental riff morphing out of the circus like out of tune-piano intro, opener Progressus In Idem sets the mood for the coming hour: dark and gloomy. The verse is developing slowly with an eerie vocal melody over a brooding bass groove, the chorus features gorgeous dual vocals from Cons Marg and Donna Zed, while the unexpected bridge is suddenly protruding into extreme metal territory, with harsh growls from the man behind the mic. It won't be the last foray into these intense regions on Inure, but it suits the compositions and the overall atmosphere very well. I am quite sure that it wasn't a decision they took lightly, to include these kind of influences. But with Cons Marg they recruited a stunningly versatile vocalist, who can go from sounding like Geoff Tate in his best days to impressive Åkerfeldt-style growls in seconds. Also on display in the second highlight of the album, the mysteriously titled nine minute monster Because Something Might Happen.

But not only the new singer(s) know how to impress. Even though the band members live fairly spread across Europe, they all met in Switzerland to record Inure, and the result speaks for itself: in every second it is clear that this is a band effort with no weak link whatsoever. Amazing songs, played by incredibly skilled musicians, captured for us to be enjoyed over and over again with a beautifully warm, yet vigorous and forceful production. Be it the tearjerking semi-ballad This Fear (including a Dream Theater-esque solo part), the crushing prog death in This Solitude or the post rock influenced title track, every song has its own character, yet still the flow of the album from start to finish is incredibly coherent.

Butterfly Invasion features an epic feel and the unique vocal harmonies are oddly reminiscent to those of Bulgarian prog metal band Pantommind. And here I thought nobody knows them and nobody else in the prog scene would be going for that kind of (almost) inimitable eeriness! A fair dose of Andromeda awesomeness was adopted together with bass man Linus, but he is not the only one who is spreading it. Rather it is the whole band, masterfully forging their own brand of progressive metal. Not afraid of starting a thirteen minute song (the title track Inure) with a simple melody sung in a low timbre not entirely unlike the one of Roy Khan (Kamelot, Conception), superseded by the post rock-ish main theme/chorus riff before the first verse, only to transcend that main theme with a longing, soaring vocal line on the spot. And then immediately spiral down into a blastbeat and growl attack with full force. And so Inure takes its twists and turns until the final cathartic return of that epic chorus. With Inure, Until Rain re-invented themselves, and catapulted their sound out of the power metal roots into pure progressive territory. A mature band with a stellar achievement of unique dark, diverse prog metal. Welcome back!
Calum Gibson: 8.5 out of 10
Dario Albrecht: 9 out of 10
Album Reviews