Album Reviews

Issue 2020-113

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.

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.

Arcana — Letters From A Lost Soul, Act I: The World One Forms

Arcana - Letters From A Lost Soul, Act I: The World One Forms
Letters From A Lost Soul (0:53), Wings (7:11), Tailwind (3:55), Octosun/Wings (Reprised) (9:54)
Martin Burns

This debut EP from Calgary-based Arcana is the first part of a sci-fi rock-opera that seems to be about the fallout from global warming. As well as composing and co-producing, Rogan McAndrews plays guitar, bass, synths and he sings the character Damian. The other character, Hope, is voiced by Anna Draper who sings most of the lyrics. Then on drums and co-producing is Deyson Thiara.

The EP opens with a short piece of layered synth work before getting going properly with the instrumental Wings. It quickly moves from a quiet opening into a mix of heavy prog (Riverside, Porcupine Tree) and prog-metal (Caligula's Horse, Leprous). It is quite effective, even if it doesn't escape its influences.

These tracks act as a long-form introduction to Tailwind, a dialogue song between the two main protagonists Damian and Hope. The song has a more original feel and its melody is a winning one. The only thing is that Rogan sings his role in a less-than-convincing death growl which I don't buy into. This dialogue-style continues on the final track, adding-in newsreader dialogues to set the scene, and there are excellent choppy guitars (half way).

Arcana mix and experiment with heavy and prog-metal elements in interesting ways but have yet to fully absorb their influences. They show potential. File under promising.

Svjetlana Bukvich — Extension

Svjetlana Bukvich - Extension
The Beginning (6:21), Utopia (3:35), Extension (3:35), Once You Are Not A Stranger (4:10), Graves (6:43), Tattoo (4:29), Stairs (2:40), Once You Are Not A Stranger (Vocal) (2:00), Nema Te (You Aren't Here, You Aren't Here) (4:27), Once You Are Not A Stranger (Reprise) (4:31)
Jan Buddenberg

Svjetlana Bukvich is an European / American composer who aims for her music to glide in a "no-genre-borderless-flow". After spending her youth in Ethiopia and Scotland she moved to Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina), which she fled during the civil war, to end up in America pursuing media arts. Extension is the direct, reflective amalgamation of these experiences incorporated by the rich sounds of the Balkans.

It is an exploration through musical styles that includes minimalistic music, avant-garde, New-Age, electronics and ambient. Additional experimentation and integrated, earthy world-music indeed generates a unique "no genre" appeal, where vocals are mostly used as an instrument. This is illustrated beautifully in Extension, bringing forth vague impressions of Björk, while the tribal-like vocal variations in Graves, guided by intricate jazzy notes and caressing woodwinds, are met by Gothic chants, slowly converging to intricate melodies.

Tattoo is one of the more song-structured compositions that shows the beauty of Bukvich's compositional skills. Guided by sensitive piano it soars into emotive Tori Amos flight through the beautiful vocals of Kamala Sankaram. The fragile melodies slowly build a bridge towards classical movements, shifting into stunning opera with electronic synth eruptions.

Once You Are Not A Stranger is featured in three different interpretations, of which the first is the most memorable, moving through delicate stages of classical music, avant garde and minimalism (Philip Glass). Here the enrapturing bass lines sound soothing next to the gorgeous violin parts. An instrument that captivates through its elegant reprisal in Stairs, bringing sadness. In the worldly Utopia it brings feelings of temptation amidst classical-inspired, mysterious movements, elevated by sparkling harp.

The final track worth mentioning is the experimental opener of The Beginning which feels slightly reminiscent to Daniel Crommie through its ambient atmosphere, although in all honesty Nema Te actually deserves a special mentioning. For despite all good intentions of the tangible psychedelic feel of composition (mindful to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey), the mezzo-soprano vocals are extremely irritating and most definitely not my cup of prog.

Overall this is an album that has engaging moments, although for me it proved difficult to find these small rays of light. Don't let this hold you back though.

Deep Imagination — My Silent Celebration

Deep Imagination - My Silent Celebration
In My Memory (3:31), Longing For Peace (5:16), Coming From The Cold (6:17), Burning Sun (13:09), Stopping To Run (7:57), After The Glow (5:06), Entering The Temple (11:56), In My Memory (Extended Version) (14:43)
Stefan Hennig

German composer and multi instrumentalist Thorsten Sudler-Mainz takes the listener on an electro-ambient-ethnic musical journey with the odd twist thrown in. My Silent Celebration needs to be listened to when you are in the right frame of mind, due to the atmosphere it creates. It is a very dark work, which I feel could have a negative impact on an unsuspecting listener.

The electronic sounds are punctuated with occasional guitar solos, which bring to mind Pink Floyd, and at times some of the soundtrack albums of Peter Gabriel. The ethnic feel tends to veer towards the American Indian sound. Opening track, In My Memory features Torsten "Hardy" Hartmann on vocals, and this particular collaboration catches the ear due to Hartmann's distinctive feel. Imagine Nick Cave, combined with Rammstein's Till Lindermann. This particular track is featured in two versions, first the three-minute “single” version and then an epic 15-minute “full” version.

The album production, handled by Sudler-Mainz is excellent, along with the sleeve graphics, and an accompanying photo book which displays some stunning scenery.

The rest of the album failed to reach the heights of In My Memory. While not bad, the other songs did not really offer me anything which I felt compelled to listen to again.

Claudio Delgift — Claudio Delgift

Claudio Delgift - Claudio Delgift
Flying Sparks And Alien Warriors (5:27), Drifting (5:48), By The Fireside (4:04), An End In Sight? (4:53), Desmond (3:07), The Wheel Still Spins (6:18), About To Break Loose (1:46), Unleashed (4:11)
Jan Buddenberg

Claudio Delgift is an Argentinian composer and multi-instrumentalist, first coming into DPRP's view with The Essential Delgift, a compilation album which placed entertaining jazz-rock-fusion compositions amongst soothing, easy progressive songs. He's also known from his involvement with the progressive rock band Light, who thus far have offered two fine albums, Light and The Miracle Of Life.)

This self-titled album, his ninth, is a departure from these progressive roots and soars back into his delightful instrumental world of rock-fusion and solid guitar rock, incorporating folk and slight experimentation.

The music convincingly shows Delgift's growth as a composer of entertaining fusion songs. Each is bound by precise conciseness and profits superbly from his biggest asset, his mastery on guitar. Forcefully rocking or carefully treading within the confinements of his well thought-out songs, he weaves entertaining instrumentals that sparkle with catchy melodies and alluring instrumentation. Some of this he contributes himself (bass, keyboards and percussion), while drums are supplied by various very competent musicians from around the globe.

His versatile style of playing changes with(in) each song, embracing rockier paths reminiscent to Steve Morse/Dixie Dregs in tracks like Flying Sparks And Alien Warriors and An End In Sight, or gliding into subtlety with a delicate Rush-like feel in By The Fireside, where his acoustic noodling breathes refinement.

The flow of the album, placing a groovy piece like Drifting or the ambient sparkling Desmond in between the jazz fusion songs, works like a charm and gives the album a welcoming appeal.

An enjoyable listen and a worthy addition to Delgift's discography, with the benefit of having a superior production in comparison to some of his earlier work.

Faro — Luminence

Faro - Luminence
Pure (4:08), Fragment (4:10), December (4:19), Lucas (4:11), Tears (3:35), Down (7:20), Autumn (3:18), Luminance (3:44)
Martin Burns

Faro, from Pescara in Italy's south, have released their second album of 2020 with Luminence. Faro take a song-focussed approach to heavy prog and dust it liberally with alt-rock. They start pretty much as they mean to go on with Pure's grinding guitars, bass and drums. When the singer comes in, I almost expected growling vocals, but Rocco De Simone sings well and cleanly and takes the band into alt-rock territory.

Faro mix in other things in these short songs. There is a post-rock build to Fragment, there is a well arranged Radiohead feel to both December and Tears (that is if Radiohead went a bit Queensrÿche). The longest track Down has some clumsy transitions in its quiet-loud-quiet dynamic but it does barrel-along as it concludes. But my favourite track is the title track where they channel proggy-goths The Sisters of Mercy with added churning guitars.

The main problem for me is that I find the details interesting but there is not enough in the way of distinctive melodies to hold my attention properly. Maybe if Faro let themselves out of the short-form, into something more expansive, they would develop a more engaging style.

Marquette — Into The Wild

Marquette - Into The Wild
No Answer (6:53), Seven Doors (14:02), Criminal Kind (3:47), Alexander Supertramp (6:13), Sensuality (5:24), Portrait of Men (3:36), Poisoned Homeland (4:40), Into the Wild (19:10)
Andy Read

That someone waits until they have passed their 50th birthday to release their first album, and then goes on to create four more albums in quick succession, is a positive testimony to the need to constantly search for new ways to seek fulfilment in one's life.

Human Reparation was keyboardist Markus Roth's first album under the Marquette banner, and was reviewed by DPRP back in 2015. He is now also a member of instrumental combo Force of Progress whose second album A Secret Place was reviewed by DPRP earlier this year. He was also a member of Horizontal Ascension who released a self-titled album back in 2015.

Into The Wild is Marquette's second offering and follows on naturally from the debut, with a collection of predominantly instrumental music, in the vein of the lighter keyboard-led melodic prog bands of the 70s.

Roth is again supported by a band that features Sebastian Schleicher (guitar, bass, backing vocals), the late Reiner Wendland (additional guitar), Dennis Degen (drums) and guest saxophone and trumpet players, who each appear on one track. One of the criticisms of the debut was with Roth's 'weak' vocals. He seems to have listened, as this time Maurizio Menendez handles the vocals. The two vocal tracks included here, now stand with the same versatility as the instrumental ones.

There is also a concept inspired by Cristopher McCandless, the ill-fated young adventurer, made famous in Sean Penn's movie Into the Wild. (If you have not see it or read the book, then McCandless moved through the United States with minimal equipment. He starved to death in a remote area of Alaska after being unable to cross a river. If he had had a map, then he would have seen that there was a safe crossing point about 400 metres downstream.)

Roth explains the link between the story and his music. "Both are examples of the consistent search for oneself, for one's own identity. The search for the truth is important in all areas of life. And it is important to accept that one must be accountable for the consequences of one's own actions, good or bad."

Whilst never likely to be judged as a ground-breaking album, this is a very competent and challenging listen for those who enjoy classical-prog-inspired instrumental music with clear jazz and rock influences.

Paraj — Inara

Paraj - Inara
Dawn (3:23), Continue (5:11), Adrift (5:22), Familiar (5:57), The Other Side (6:37)
Martin Burns

Paraj Kumar Singh was the touring guitarist with prog-metallers Rainburn, whose album Insignify received a favourable review on DPRP, and is part of a band called Flaw And Order. Now Paraj has released his debut EP Inara which, delightfully, is an Arabic girl's name meaning 'a ray of light sent from the heavens'. Something Paraj recognises we all need in these stressful times.

The music on Inara is (in the main) a long stride away from Rainburn's metal and Paraj has his own identity that takes on West Coast gentle harmonies, with acoustic and electric guitars focussed to serve the songs. The kind of focus you find in Steve Hackett's or Marillion's shorter songs. Paraj's playing is restrained, and his singing is affectingly emotional with a good range and a slight edge where needed.

The EP opens with Dawn's keyboard washes, acoustic guitar and bright toned electric guitar with hints of tabla playing in the drum pattern. Not an attention-seeking opening but its positivity brings light to the dark; Dawn indeed. After this Continue keeps the positive vibe going. It's arched structure is topped by a short but incisive guitar solo.

However, for me, the jewel in Inara is Adrift, with its sustained guitar and strings fleshing out a lovely melody. The closing track nods in the direction of Paraj's day job with Rainburn. It is faster and heavier with a more complex arrangement and is a good contrast to the similar paced songs that went before it.

Paraj's Inara is a great collection of melodic and light-filled pop-prog where the song quality takes precedence over anything extraneous or flashy. A quietly-affecting debut.

The Petal Falls — Workin' All Day, Workin' All Night

The Petal Falls - Workin' All Day, Workin' All Night
A Man in Chains (3:50), Love in Motion (3:52), I Was Amazed (3:28), All Across the World (4:14), Rain (4:34), Have a Little Faith (3:52), Workin' All Night Workin' All Day (4:38), Mariah (4:14), Givin' It Up (4:26), Colours (4:24)
Andy Read

The Petal Falls were formed sometime in the mid to late 90s in Kent, England. A lot of songs have been written by various line-ups over the years, but for various reasons, the recordings were never completed. Patience however is a virtue, and finally the debut The Petal Falls album is available. Originally self-released last year, it has now been given wider circulation by Rock Avenue Records.

The band seems to be based around the talents of vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Keith Leahy. The ten tracks stick pretty rigidly to the traditional verse-chorus-solo-chorus format but maintain one's interest by not sticking to any one style. Overall there is a clear respect for the blues-rock (and the AOR) with-a-soul-edge that was popular in the 80s and 90s. Bruce Springsteen I would guess was/is a big influence.

Rain has a gospelly Bruce Springsteen vibe, as does I Was Amazed but with more of an AOR edge. Across The World has more of the Springsteen rock-stomp to it.

Colours is a nice slice of classic AOR rock whilst the title track takes a lyrical stand against inequality, where a singer songwriter verse evolves into a big gospel/soul chorus with a hint of David Coverdale in the vocals.

Givin' It Up could be a Simple Minds album track, Mariah exhibits soft blues rock, whilst Have A Little Faith is a ballad from the Chicago and Night Ranger mould. My favourte song is probably the heaviest rocker. Man in Chains sounds like a more soul-inspired Giant.

Utilising some more of the backlog of written material, a second album is already in the pipeline for next year. They should try to find a few different ways to bring a song to a close, instead of relying almost exclusively on repitition of the hook to a quick fade. But please keep the vocals and female backing harmonies, that are spot-on.

Nothing particularly complicated nor progressive here, just a great collection of songs that stick in the memory.

Potter's Daughter — Casually Containing Rage

Potter's Daughter - Casually Containing Rage
To My Love (5:13), Accidentally Like A Martyr (4:06), We Could Be (4:26)
Martin Burns

Hailing from Virginia, Potter's Daughter is a duo of classically-trained musicians Dyanne Potter Voegtlin (composer, piano, vocals) and Jan-Christian Vögtlin (composer, bass, bass synth, drum programming). Their new EP Casually Containing Rage follows the release of a couple of singles, one featuring Renaissance's Annie Haslam and 2018's full length debut The Blind Side.

Potter's Daughter has a gentle, art rock, fusion take on prog during these three tracks. Opener To My Love with live drums and a guitarist, has an Asian feel to its melody. Dyanne's voice (Jon Anderson is a fan by the way) slides from phrase-to-phrase in a way I've not heard before and it is initially quite challenging. The music is calm, fusion-laden prog with a grand guitar solo that resolves into electric piano and cymbal washes.

Next is a cover of Warren Zevon's wonderful (I'm a big Zevon fan) Accidentally Like A Martyr. It follows the original but with added jazzy harmonics. Dyanne achieves a truly heartbroken tone on Zevon's masterpiece of romantic opportunities lost.

The final track, We Could Be, is a politically-charged examination of the death of George Floyd. Electric piano, percussion and bass underpin in a Portishead-style song that incorporates a news radio report of the events surrounding that tragedy. The band call for compassion and for everyone to 'be better than this'. A synth solo, multi-track vocals and organ fill out this powerful examination of the event that reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and around the world.

Potter's Daughter's Casually Containing Rage is a consistently interesting take on the art rock side of prog.

The Reticent — The Oubliette

The Reticent - The Oubliette
Stage 1: His Name Is Henry (9:46), Stage 2: The Captive (6:00), Stage 3: The Palliative Breath (7:13), Stage 4: The Dream (11:47), Stage 5: The Nightmare (12:14), Stage 6: The Oubliette (10:38), Stage 7: ________ (6:10)
Andy Read

A quick mention for this highly accomplished album that will interest and absorb all those who can tolerate death vocals.

This is the fourth studio album since 2006 from this one-man project out of North Carolina. By day Chris Hathcock has been a director of bands at a high school, and now teaches audio engineering, music theory, and music production. In his 'spare' time he contributes all instruments and vocals (save for a smattering of guests) under The Reticent banner.

The Oubliette is a progressive metal concept album focused on Alzheimer's disease. The album follows the journey of an old man (based upon a relative of Chris) as he descends through the seven stages of Alzheimer's.

There is no daunting the genuine emotion and passion by which this album has been crafted. That it is (pretty much) all the work of one man, is simply amazing. Owing a big debt to Blackwater Park-period Opeth, The Reticent sound and level of performance is top-of-the-class throughout. There are so many details and moments that have the ability to give the listener a hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment. Try the gorgeous harmonic vocal melody, followed by the two contrasting guitar solos that begin at 3:40 on The Palliative Breath.

I just love Chris' clean vocals. Really love them. They remind me a lot of Odd Logic's Sean Thompson (another one-man project).

With all those plus points, it is such a shame that Chris' death vocals occupy so much of the playing time here. I can tolerate mild death vox in small doses, but here they are just too frequent and 'too deathy' for my tastes. In the same way as an over-salted meal, my taste buds just turn off and I can't listen and enjoy it any longer. Try The Nightmare to see if they pass your tolerance levels.

That's my bad? But that is just the way that it is. However for those who can tolerate and enjoy this style of 'singing', then this could be the best prog-metal concept album you will hear this, or any other year.

Album Reviews