Issue 2020-103: Prog Bites

Here at DPRP towers, we frequently receive some interesting albums that whilst not strictly "prog", would be of interest to many of our readers. We sometimes receive albums that have been released in previous years. Also, with so many albums submitted, it is not always possible to find a writer with the time to give every release our usual in-depth review.

So how best can we still bring you news of such releases?

This is an edition of Prog Bites. Each still has all the usual album information and links to samples and videos (where available), but the reviews are much shorter, and we do not award any score.

We hope you will find some great music that you think deserves further investigation.

Xavier Boscher — Zoologica Duodecim #3: Pond

Xavier Boscher - Zoologica Duodecim #3: Pond
Country of Origin
France
Year of Release
2020
Time
20:18
Samples
(Guitar) Heron (4:33), Swan (4:45), Dragonfly (3:12), Frog (4:09), Carp (3:39)

Pond is the third release in the "Zoologica" series by French prog-metal guitarist Xavier Boscher (Misanthrope, Nebuleyes), who in his solo career also incorporates pop, rock and new age styles. Having started in 2018 with his "rock safari" via Zoologica Duodecim #1 : Ocean this third offering concentrates on river animals.

The character traits and behaviour of the five featured animals have been superbly translated and woven into the instrumental tracks. In the restrained Swan the refined melodies flow ever so smoothly over delicate melodies that are guided along by a distinctive gracious guitar sound, incorporating a slight new age feel. Equally alluring is the initially bluesy Dragonfly, containing refreshing and delightful noodlings reminiscent of Frédéric L'Epée that elegantly captures it's counterparts marvellous flight. An element that's inhibited in the laid back Carp as well, and convincingly showcases Boscher's adaptability and broad guitar spectrum.

Next to these slightly ambient inspired compositions Boscher also embraces his prog-metal roots. Starting somewhat hesitantly the joyous nature of opener (Guitar) Heron brings to mind a lighter side of KONG's fusion soundscapes, which then rapidly changes into delicious and carefully arranged prog-metal fusion with lots of melodies and high quality guitar play by Boscher, whose technical abilities shine through beautifully.

The same kind of versatility is to be found in Frog. This well constructed composition really comes alive through the many delightful interactions of a vivid rhythm section, paving the way for Boscher to leap and bounce around with some gorgeous guitar play, intertwining marvellously and showcasing his unique style.

Ultimately "Zoologica" will consist of 12 different episodes. On basis of this entertaining and recommendable effort something to look forward to.

David's Van — Intervention

David's Van - Intervention
Country of Origin
USA
Year of Release
2020
Time
49:02
Samples
Randall Ferguson (0:50), B.Y.O.G. (6:08), Swim Test (3:39), Conscious Frat Guys (3:13), Pig Latin America (4:37), Eskimoses (4:11), Cone of Shame (6:58), Pirate Cowboys (With Lasers) (3:59), F*ck Jazz (Interlude) (2:22), I Love Country Music (4:36), Pizza Retreat (8:24)

"Prog Metal, Comedy Metal". This is probably the first time we have an album in this category here on DPRP. It's an unexpected album by a very young band.

Especially the lyrics but also some of the music (in particular the singing) can be regarded as comedy. But beneath that is some prog metal that might interest some of you. Think of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys with a heavy gravy of progressive songwriting. For the mixing of heavy rock with comedy there is, of course, Tenacious D, but the more progressive sections touch Frank Zappa in a modern metal style. Ugly Kid Joe must have been a big influence, too.

The mix makes it possible to hear and understand the lyrics even if English is not a first language (as is the case for me). When you're primarily interested in the music, this might be a bit distracting, or shallow. Some of the music is serving the performance and lyrics, giving the comedy part an even bigger role.

With comedy there's also the question of how long a joke remains funny. There's just so many times I can listen to the Tenacious D tracks in the comedy category.

Mind you, the lyrics might be comedy, these guys can really play too and must be taking their playing very seriously. At times the drums and bass are just sick, so fast and still tight, like in Swim Test, which also has a wild, shredding guitar solo. Mentioning Tool and Animals As Leaders here might pique some interest among our readers.

Robert Kropop — Psychodelicious Mushroom Juice

Robert Kropop - Psychodelicious Mushroom Juice
Country of Origin
Poland
Year of Release
2019
Time
44:54
Samples
Synesthesia (3:08), Geronimo (2:52), King Of The Monster (3:41), Age Of Aquarius (2:58), Alice In Wonderland Syndrome (4:36), Siren Song (4:42), Silk Road Suite Part 2 (4:16), Hands Full Of Lights (5:03), Water Mirror (2:33), Mammoths March (5:03), Wave (2:07), Motorheart (3:49)

Robert Kropop is a writer, animator, graphic designer, musician, and composer from Poland. The title gave me the impression I was going to listen to some psychedelic music but it is much more guitar-oriented, instrumental prog-metal. Joe Satriani must be a big influence to Kropop. Guitar and bass have a wide range of sounds and methods of being played. Together with the compositions varying from slow to fast and subdued to heavy, this makes for a varied album.

The lack of information is a pity, though. There is no information on the line-up on his Bandcamp page or his own website. Did Kropop play everything himself? Listening to the music I assume he is mainly a guitarist, also playing bass. Drums might have been programmed, but if so a good job was done there, then.

The press info was 6 sentences long, the website has icons for Facebook and Instagram pages but are not linking to anything. I found the Facebook page mentioned above by accident. His Bandcamp page has no links to external sources, I could not find a Youtube video for you to include beneath the review. Trying to make it as a musician I'd suggest adding more information.

His own website combines samples of the album with his work as a graphic designer. Check out the page that accompanies this album, which I think is wonderful.

While you're there you can check out his first album from 2015 as well, Underwater. That first album is not as varied as this second one, more Satch-heavy so to speak. But it is available for free download from his Bandcamp page.

Leviathan Owl — Would You Kindly

Leviathan Owl - Would You Kindly
Country of Origin
UK
Year of Release
2020
Time
36:45
Samples
Bradley (Feat. Blumen) (8:27), Ubuntu (Feat. Joseph Anidjar) (8:27), Good Place, No Place (Feat. I Built the Sky) (5:23), Keep Me In The World, Pt. 1 (Here) (6:00), Keep Me In The World, Pt. 2 (Gaslit) (3:58), Keep Me In The World, Pt. 3 (Clearing) (4:26)

Behind the name Leviathan Owl one finds Andrew Scott, who during the years 2017 - 2020 has written several compositions that are now gathered on the adventurous Would You Kindly. Next to his accountability for the instrumentation, there are several guests appearances aiding him along, supplying guitar solos (Joseph Anidjar, I Built The Sky), laying down bass foundations (Matt Ball) or adding playful piano-parts (Richard Blumenthal). A special mention goes to Jack Davenport who next to playing bass on the first three tracks, is also responsible for the mixing and mastering of the album, which he makes a great job out of.

Stylistically Scott operates in the delightful segment of prog metal fusion, which in Bradley sees an immediate highlight. Technically superb, with fierce riffs and a thriving rhythm section crafting an initial progressive metal edge mindful of Anti Clock Tower and Hybradism, it then slowly glides into calming jazz-fusion territories reminiscent of Steve Morse. With highly versatile guitar parts, a classical piano interlude and further fusion eruptions it's a fully entertaining track.

Ubuntu follows suit with its playful opening that's guided onwards by piano and when met by sensitive guitars slowly turns into infectious rock, similar to Michel Héroux. This is however only one aspect of this beautifully constructed and highly varied composition, which furthermore sees delicate interplay, odd time signatures and is surrounded by a solid and constantly shifting rhythm section. The way it slowly progresses to reveal many exciting sub-layers upon revisits is equally fine.

Good Place, No Place shows lovely jazzy intonations and lots of sophisticated melodies amongst slight experimental influences and even sees some doom-like structures, which set up sufficiently for the epic Keep Me In The World. Divided into three separate parts the musical diversity on display within this majestic composition is a progmetal-fusion roller coaster affair.

Gradually building in intensity it flies of into overdrive featuring blast beats and extremely fast and tight bass and drum work. Impressive riffs, complimented by odd time signatures and quirky piano frivolities follow while overwhelming complexities shift to minimalistic refinement in no time. In part 2 the classical piano interlude provides some relief, as the track slowly progresses towards a progressive metal landscape, with slight post-rock influences and flawlessly slides into the third and last part, which encompasses all.

Here Scott pulls out all the stops through Djent-y prog metal riffing, playful melodies, rhythmic shifts, technical shredding, blast beats, unexpected rhythmic explosions and flashy drums just to name a few. A perfect demonstration of his compositional writing skills and an amazing achievement, where all the individual instrumental pieces slowly melt together like a gigantic progressive metal jigsaw puzzle.

To fully fathom the many different layers and complexities lying within Leviathan owl's compositions takes some effort. Something I would recommend to do, for when invested the end result is rather pleasurable and an enjoyable experience that shows great potential.

Lunear — Curve.Axis.Symmetry

Lunear - Curve.Axis.Symmetry
Country of Origin
France
Year of Release
2020
Time
51:34
Samples
Lemniscate / First Death (7:32), Same Player. Shoot Again (3:26), Nothing Left To Do / A Passage Of Time (5:39), The Rise And Fall Of Earth (5:37), Earth's Population: One / Earth's End (8:07), Adrift (5:37), From Its Sky (6:29), Forever / First Death (Epiloge) (9:07)

For their second album, the French pop-progressive trio Lunear created a concept album based on an idea drummer/lyricist Sebastien Bournier had been contemplating for years. Curve.Axis.Symmetry tells the story of a person who is or becomes immortal, and who outlives all other humans and eventually even the planet Earth.

Bournier recalls writing the album's lyrics in just four hours. As we learn, the protagonist exhausts every form of entertainment and becomes lonely, bored, and eventually wishes in vain for death. "I have read every book ever written / I have listened to every song / I have nothing left to do." So you could say it's a bit like Groundhog Day without I Got You Babe, the rodent, and the humour.

The musical soundtrack to this story is beautifully produced and shamelessly reveals the group's classic pop and prog influences, including Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Genesis, David Bowie, Asia, and Steven Wilson, and on the single Same Player. Shoot Again, a dash of Muse.

Lead vocalist and keyboardist Paul J. No has a clear, high voice, and perhaps for the purpose of staying in character as the immortal, is restrained in the dynamic range he uses, which gives the character a feeling of emotional detachment. While this approach makes sense in general, it is a bit of a shame in the chorus of Earth's Population: One, which could have been a powerful dramatic moment in the narrative, as the protagonist becomes the last human alive on the planet. Sung in head voice, it just doesn't have the same emotional wallop that it might otherwise have had.

Album highlights are Adrift, which sounds like Major Tom floating around in space over acoustic guitar and synth pads, and From Its Sky, which cleverly revisits themes from earlier songs before building to a nice David Gilmour-esque guitar solo by Jean Philippe Benadjer.

The 52 minutes of Curve.Axis.Symmetry is a long time to spend dwelling entirely on the themes of loneliness and boredom. While I enjoyed the story initially, after a few listens, I found myself not being drawn in any further, and wanting instead to listen to the groups that influenced Lunear, on songs with more energy and emotional variety.

Might — Might

Might - Might
Country of Origin
Germany
Year of Release
2020
Time
35:26
Introduce Yourself (1:41), Pollution Of Mind (3:17), Vampire (4:20), Possession (5:05), Warlight (6:19), Weirdo Waltz (3:31), Flight Of Fancy (4:38), Mrs. Poise (3:01), Zero (3:27)

What characterizes prog? Many attempts have been made to define this music style and in all definitions there will be part of what makes music prog. Melody, variation, different instruments, time changes, musicianship, probably even clever lyrics (in whatever broad sense it can be used) are just a few that can come to your mind.

So what to call an album that doesn't have any of that?

Depressed by the empty streets, contact restrictions and breathing masks that the current Covid-19 pandemic brings about, it comes as no surprise that many feel depressed. That kind of dismalness in our daily life can easily lead to a sombre vision about what the new normality will be.

Two days before the planned start of recording their debut album the world came to a grim halt with lockdowns implemented all over Europe and abroad. The married couple Ana Muhi (vocals, bass) and Sven Missullis (guitars, vocals, drums) decided to stay in their own studio to try to create something new that would express their emotion and feelings about the time we now live in. The result is Might, a short album consisting of nine tracks that are really, really depressing. The minimal lyrics don't offer much hope while the music doesn't offer any relief either as it is distorted, metallish, very simple and lacking any attempt to play or sing a melody.

Opening track Introduce Yourself immediately sets the scene: a simple guitar riff, spoken words that can hardly be discerned and some non-functional cracking in the background. It gets worse with second track Pollution Of Mind that is just guitar shredding, metal-like drumming and distorted vocals. And it doesn't get better in the seven tracks that follow. Halfway through the album some melody shines through in the longest track Warlight but that is about all to be found in the field of melody.

In the introduction to the album the band speaks of their music in terms of subtleness and ethereal intensity, coming from their feelings of discomfort, rage and despair because of the present situation. The latter can be heard quite well, the former is nowhere to be found. I really think this is an awkward album that has nothing to do with prog whatsoever. To my ears this is loud noise, not music, let alone prog no matter what definition you want to use.

I'm very sorry to say this but I was glad it was all over after just 35 minutes. This can definitely not be classified as prog. Tagging this album as Doom Metal fits the music on offer far better and therefore this is an album to keep far away from.

Northern Lines — The Fearmonger

Northern Lines - The Fearmonger
Country of Origin
Italy
Year of Release
2017
Time
42:54
Samples
Mast Cell Disorder (6:08), Session 1 (0:43), Shockwave (3:26), Nightwalk (5:39), Session 2 (0:22), Machine Man (3:44), Meteor (8:12), Jukurrpa (4:20), Toward The End (4:29), Apathy Fields (5:51)

The Fearmonger is the second full-length release from Northern Lines, an instrumental rock trio from Rome, Italy. The album is a grab-bag of influences, anchored by heavy rock guitar riffs by Alberto Lo Bascio, but interspersed with an almost comical array of other musical styles.

This is a fun album to listen to with another music fan and play "spot the influence." In the first track alone, I hear an Iron Maiden-inspired opening drum fill into a dark Black Sabbath groove, followed by a beautiful Jordan Rudess/Dream Theater piano passage played by bassist Stefano Silvestri, and eventually an effects-laden guitar splash that sounds straight out of Rush's Hemispheres.

Other tracks make even wackier transitions between odd-meter rock sections, funky pop and slap bass, tango, surf music, and, on Jukurrpa, a perfectly executed Jimi Hendrix groove a la Foxy Lady.

There's a feeling of humor and whimsy throughout the album, which shouldn't be a surprise from a group whose first album was titled Farts From S.E.T.I. Code. It's rather refreshing to be reminded that music doesn't always have to be completely serious.

The Fearmonger is an ideal album for someone with a short attention span. If you don't like one section, you can rest assured that the next one will be completely different. For me, the musical highlights of this album are the contrast of rock guitar against keyboards, so I was delighted to learn that, since the release of this album, the group has become a quartet with a full-time keyboardist.

OGD — The Big Game

OGD - The Big Game
Country of Origin
USA
Year of Release
2020
Time
56:02
Samples
Young Love (2:29), Sweet Life (3:58), The Word (3:51), Out in the West (3:54), Innocence Ran (2:44), Setting Sun (4:07), Dreamland (3:11), Scary Night (3:07), Unknown (3:46), Outland (6:24)

As a power trio, when you list Rush highly in you influences, and then employ Hugh Syme to design your album cover and package, you are giving the listener an unrealistic expectation of what they may expect. I have many times dived into a band who list Rush as an influence and have almost every time been disappointed by what I hear. Unfortunately OGD have maintained this trend.

OGD are Derek Olivero (vocal and guitar), Bobby Gavin (drums and vocals) and Dave De Ranieri (bass and vocals), and all reside in New York. The players have been friends since an early age, and share similar musical influences, all of which should make this album what I would want to listen to. After a number of listens, the band are very adept musicians, and have used ex-Peter Gabriel drummer, Jerry Marrotta, as producer, so the production is quite good. The art, well its typical Hugh Syme, and if you have plenty of his album designs in you collection, its like were has that concept been used before? (I have found two Dream Theater and one Rush piece reused).

It is not that the album is bad, its just uninspiring, and in a musical time were there is so much music being made available, this just does not do anything new. The biggest influence I can hear is that of The Foo Fighters. The songs are mostly of a traditional arrangement, and hence sound very similar. It isn't until the final track, Outland, that OGD try something different, and this is the most successful track on the whole album.

I found very little here to recommend the regular DPRP reader towards, but the mainstream rock press will probably have a different opinion.

Toxenaris — The Third Policemen

Toxenaris - The Third Policemen
Country of Origin
Germany
Year of Release
2020
Time
49:46
Info
Samples
Golden Hours (3:31), The Iron Pump And Spade (4:28), Divney and I (2:29), Nameless (9:14), A Power For The Hills (2:13), Inspector O'Corky (4:29), Change For Tinahely And Shillelagh (1:44), On The Lever (3:59), Le Savant (2:45), The Codex And The Scaffold (4:22), Fox (5:44), Happy Return (4:39)

Toxenaris, hailing from Germany, is the studio project of composer Timo Aspelmeier. Inspiration for The Third Policeman comes from the book by the same name, which was written by Brian O'Nolan under the pseudonym of Flann O'Brien in 1939/1940. A philosophical and humorous novel, where the main character, a dim-witted murderer, arrives in Hell and experiences many adventures, going full circle in the end.

Aspelmeier shapes the absurd narrative into instrumental music using a wide range of genres, blending together progrock, avant garde, jazz, but most of all electronic soundscapes. This eclectic mix starts right from the beginning of the story, as we're met by a minimalistic chamber quartet where sensitive cello played by Martin Kiems adds emotion as well as surrounding mysteriousness. With the flow of the music passing by naturally, tracks like The Iron Pump And Spade and Divney And I give rise to images of Sunrise Auranaut when it comes to synth executions and drum programming, while some of the more ambient passages ignite that of Daniel Crommie.

Next to entertaining diversified tracks like On The Lever, the whimsical Fox and frivolous Inspector O'Corky, each flowing through an array of nicely executed movements varying in intensity and showcasing lots of sparkling synth-work, there are also contemplative moments where simplicity prevails. A good example of this can be found in Le Savant which shows a slightly more experimental approach, reminiscent of Frédéric L'Epée's Morning in light of it's fine guitar work. Another illustration is A Power For The Hills, which brings a lovely recital featuring David Marlow on piano.

Through tracks like the poppy and slightly funky The Codex And The Scaffold and Nameless Aspelmeier shows his inventiveness and creativity when it comes to writing entertaining music. The atmospheric opening of the latter is great, just like the combination of jazzy undertones with playful synth that sparks memories of ELP and to lesser extent Greenslade. It all ends in the uplifting and excellent concluding Happy Return harbouring a funny crackling coda.

Whether Aspelmeier has meticulously translated the sharp wit of the story into the music is unknown to me, as I'm not familiar with the book. What he did manage is to successfully write engaging music and entertaining compositions, which in combination with the accompanying surreal, absurdist artwork and abbreviated story outline in the inlay conjures a smile to my face. What more can you ask for?