GorMusik — Snakes & Angels
How exactly does one go about adapting the most epic story ever written? Regardless of whether you believe that the Bible is true, it tells the most complex and intricately connected story in all humanity. Humans have been studying it for thousands of years, and we've only scratched the surface of the wisdom within its pages. It's no surprise that it inspires artists, including musicians. Some of the greatest music ever written has been inspired by the Bible, from George Frideric Handel's 1741 masterpiece oratorio Messiah, to Genesis' 1972 masterpiece, Supper's Ready.
Now I wouldn't rank GorMusik's recent album Snakes & Angels as highly as those pieces, but it is a very good album that shows a great deal of care and reverence for the subject. The album covers the entirety of the timeline of the Bible in just over an hour, although it is by no means exhaustive.
GorMusik is the product of Gordon Bennet, who wrote the music and lyrics and plays most of the instruments. His friend Joseph Frick provided bass guitars, and another friend Jay T. McGurrin played drums on The Lost. Both McGurrin and Bennet also worked on the late Colin Tench's 2016 album Hair In A G-String. Bennet helped with the orchestral parts of that record, which clearly shows here, as Snakes & Angels features many orchestral passages.
There are two things I'd like to point out before digging in a bit deeper. One is that the music is excellent. The songs are all long, which gives them space to develop, but they also include many references to the history of progressive rock, some of which you might not expect to be mixed together.
The other thing is the inclusion of Peter Jones on vocals. Jones makes everything he's involved with better. Here he takes an album that is already very good musically, to the next level.
The eighteen-minute opening track, The Beginning, is primarily instrumental, although there are some vocal passages. The song seems to tell the story of creation through music; much how Dave Brons, in his 2020 album Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, tells the creation story in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle Earth mythology through spacey musical passages punctuated with guitar.
In the space of 30 seconds, a little past the midway point in the opening track, we get a strong Gentle Giant influence followed immediately by a Rush influence drawn from the opening passages of Xanadu. A little bit later in the track, I hear a passage influenced by Rush's rockier side in the bass, guitar and drums, and the way they interplay.
The second track, The Deception, gets into humanity's role in the story (the part where we bungle it up by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden). Towards the end the song gets heavier and more chaotic, musically representing the chaos caused by sin. There is a bit of distortion added to Jones' vocals at this point that reminds me a little of Neal Morse, which I can't help but wonder if it was intentional. Even if it's not, I think Morse would approve of this record for many reasons.
The Wandering looks at the Israelites' wandering in the desert for 40 years following their exodus from Egypt. In many ways the lyrics can represent the wandering that so many of us do in our own lives. The music reaches metal territory, with a big wall of drum sound and distinctive bass. During the quieter moments, when Jones is singing, there is a swirling synth sound that conjures images of being lost in a desolate place with the wind howling, and with swirling sand in your face. A heavier instrumental passage has a guitar and keyboard section that reminds me a bit of Dream Theater with Derek Sherinian.
The Lost begins as an acoustic song with Jones' vocals playing gently over acoustic guitar and strings. My one complaint with this album is the use of autotune on Jones' vocals in the first half of this song. Jones' voice does not need auto-tune, no matter what effect anybody was going for with it. For a song that's supposed to be more subdued, it makes more sense to me to have the vocals raw and open, rather than obscured by auto-tune. It doesn't spoil the song completely, but it would be a lot better with unadjusted vocals. Musically the song is very beautiful as it gradually builds. The track shifts in the second half, with some beautiful Irish whistles played by Jones. This portion may be my favourite part of the album. There's also some guitar that reminds me of the acoustic/electric blend sometimes used by Alex Lifeson and John Petrucci.
As the name might suggest, The Lost Orchestra is a heavily orchestral piece, with synth and rock elements splattered in as well. It has a very cinematic feel to it. The acoustic guitar returns with the symphonic sounds in the final few minutes, repeating an earlier melody from The Lost. It's a very serene way to end the album. This final track starts rather ominously, much like the final book of the Bible. It's a little surprising that the final track is entirely instrumental, but I'll leave it to the listener to find a deeper meaning behind that.
Snakes & Angels will take you on a musical and lyrical journey. The emphasis is more on the music, with many long instrumental passages. At places Christianity is at the forefront of the lyrics, which is fine by me as I am a Christian, but it's never preachy in a negative way. In the Gentle Giant passage I mentioned earlier, it states a belief in an artistic way, and the song moves on. The stories told on the album are actually presented more through music, with the lyrics taking on a more Imagist form to supplement the music. ("Imagism was a movement in early-20th-century poetry that favoured precision of imagery and clear, sharp language.", according to Wikipedia.) If you're familiar with the Bible, you'll understand what I'm talking about when you listen to the record. If you're unfamiliar with the Bible, you can appreciate this record for its artistic value.
With the aforementioned influences, there is a lot to appreciate for those with varying musical tastes. There are elements of metal, hard rock, symphonic rock, classical music, and straight-up classic prog. I thoroughly enjoyed the album on repeated listens, and I would love to hear a sequel from GorMusik.
Inner Prospekt — Grey Origin
Inner Prospekt is the place where Italian composer Alessandro Di Bendetti (Mad Crayon) shares his musical ideas without any fixed format or limitations. Over the past year or so this has seen the release of Canvas One and Canvas Two, two albums featuring delightfully inspired progressive rock with a huge stamp of The Samurai Of Prog attached to them; not surprisingly as several songs have featured on their albums as well.
With work on Canvas Three underway, involving several Samurai compositions written in the past year, Di Benedetti has also found time to compose the concept album Grey Inside. Written especially for the occasion, it's a step away from the symphonic prog scene and glides elegantly into jazz-influenced, futuristic electronic music, with touches of ambient.
Loosely based on and inspired by drawings by artist Alex Troma, the instrumental narrative tells the story of a scientist who wants to transplant a human brain into a droid. Through trial and error loses sight of his aim, and in the process involuntarily gives birth to a new life form. The imagery of the 60s-inspired SF artwork illustrates the various stages of the story beautifully. Although Di Bendetti states that the songs are connected to each other in no particular order, to me the story is one of linear coherence.
Opening with smooth-touching jazz and feelings of hypnotic melancholy in En Trance, the cold and lifeless beginning of The Machinery illustrates this perfectly. It instantly brings sadness, while the intricate playing captured with sterile warmth, adds feelings of loss. Floating through ambient sounds embraced by shimmering mysteriousness the sensitive melodies then transform into electronic pop structures with dreamy melodies reminiscent to Jose Manuel Medina's Eternity (Machines). Slowly invading incantatory chants brings further life to the composition, which is then engagingly followed by the vibrant and upbeat Brain Sausage.
The production is pristine and spatial, and brings out every musical element. This benefits the whole of the album and especially a song like Gymnoectomie, where classical influences surrounded by enchanting flute suddenly burst forth in upbeat melodies. The subsequent restrained jazzy environment, in which excellent bass play stretches its shapely muscles and connective computer sounds create atmosphere, brings further playfulness. Le Docteur keeps these dreamy melodies methodically in shape with darker, slightly ominous atmospheres as airy piano transports added refinement.
The scene is now set for some controlled experimentation. Cavie ('guinea pig') carries groovy jazz and succulent bass play. Rafael Pacha, the sole participating musician, carefully enters on guitars. Operating with comfortable ease through beautiful melodies, Pacha adds emotive melancholic touches that makes this song an album highlight.
Special Waste signals the return to futuristic soundscapes. Drifting on classical music, artificial breath sounds initially bring amenity of swing jazz. On reprisal, it signals the beginning of a beautifully vivid soundscape saturated by miscellaneous laboratory noises pulsating with lush synth bells and emotive melancholy. Graciously gliding onwards, heartbeats then transform this dreamy passage into ecstatic tingling jazz. It reaches a marvellous euphoric state from excellent interplay between bass and keys, while percussion adds elegant dynamics. The miraculous birth is thereupon, cinematically captured in grandeur scope in L'Assistant. The Plague swings this new species into fully-animated action by mild metal on a bed of emotive violins, ethereal vocals and excellent percussive elements.
A final chapter to Di Bendetti's formidable transporting narrative, Ex It brings blissful affiliation, tenderly designed by sumptuous piano conversing with humanitarian hybrid small talk. It paints a delightful scene of preciously regained unifying love and surmountable affection that slowly steps out of the canvas into the open. An idyllic finale that magnificently rounds off the story.
Overall, Grey Origin is a marvellous "in-between" record. Never once the need for lyrics is felt, as the talkative allurements of the music, visualised by the wonderful drawings, perfectly conveys the tale. Surrounded by masterly arrangements and showcasing sophistication through layered structures and skilled executions, it's once again a splendid demonstration of Di Benedetti's gift to capture one's imagination.
Eddie Mulder — Blind Hunter
Fairplay: Prologue (0:47), Back In '85 (3:54), Playful (4:16), Arcadia (4:25), Reflections (3:05), Senorita (2:22), What Is It? (3:58), Late At Night (3:00), A Joke (1:55), Celts (3:03), Nobile (3:32), Hypnotic (3:36), Tribal (3:17), To The City (3:04), Majestic (3:58)
Maintaining a steady stream of releases, Dutch guitarist Eddie Mulder releases his seventh solo album, a two-CD set that showcases his mastery of both electric and acoustic instruments.
The main album is called Blind Hunter and is a collection of instrumentals, bar some spoken words on Fransum Chapel by Galahad's Stu Nicholson, that are written for guitar, keyboards, bass and drums with added flute on three of the compositions. Naturally Mulder plays guitar throughout but also contributes bass to half of the ten tracks that features the instrument.
Other contributors to the recordings include Colin Bass (Camel), Francois Fournier (Mystery) and Peter Stel (Nice Beaver) on bass, Margriet Boomsma (Flamborough Head) on flute and recorders, Gert van Engerlenburg (Leap Day), Antony Kalugin (Karfagen, Sunchild), Rafal Paluszeck (Osada Vida), Edo Spanninga (Flamborough Head, Trion) and Henk Stel (Nice Beaver) on keyboards, Albert Schoonbeck (Pink Faces) on drums and percussion, and finally Enzo Gallo (5Bridges) on steel guitar.
Anyone familiar with Mulder's previous solo albums, all of which have been reviewed on DPRP, or his work with Flamborough Head, Trion and Leap Day, (the majority, if not all, of which have also been reviewed on our esteemed site), will know of his talent with constructing vivid melodies and layering his guitar sounds to construct joyous patterns of flowing fretwork.
His solo instrumental work tends to be of a gentler and more laid back nature, with definite echoes of Camel and even Pat Metheney in places. Check out Going Places for example. His group compositions are best when complimented by keyboard lines that blend in with the guitar, never competing, but enhancing and often taking exquisite solos of their own. Although a lot of the music could have been written and released in the 70s height of prog, it is elementally timeless, classic and comforting. And despite each piece being of a similar type, each maintains a uniqueness in and of itself.
This is largely achieved by the different combinations of guitar sounds and tones employed, and also by having different keyboard players infusing each composition with their individual styles and choice of instruments. Being an admirer of the albums released by Trion, it is great to hear Mulder and Spanninga combine once more on the excellent Change Of Seasons, which is enhanced by a superbly-judged slide guitar part by Enzo Gallo.
Not every track employs a band. The delightful Melancholy features just Mulder playing different guitars and best exemplifies his ability to intertwine acoustic and electric instruments. Dreaming is a very peaceful acoustic guitar and flute piece that flows like a gentle stream with innate tenderness, its soothing, almost lullaby qualities endearing it with bounteous relaxing properties. Boomsma is also featured on The Calling At The Gate, and to greater effect of Fransum Chapel which has a more Baroque flavour where her recorder provides breathing space between the stanzas of the poem of the same name by C.O. Jellema and wonderfully enunciated by Stu Nicholson.
The title track gives the listener the greatest surprise, as it changes from the initial acoustic setting to a more full-on electric band that takes the initial theme and expands it to give a delightful prog classic.
Although the acoustic Fairplay CD is provided as a bonus disc it could easily have been released as a completely separate album. It might well have originally been envisaged that way, as it is rather unusual to have a bonus track (Majestic) added to a bonus album! However, it should be noted that Majestic is an older composition dating back some seven years to the time of Mulder's first solo album Dreamcatcher. It is a mystery why it was left off that album, as it would have fitted perfectly. And even if the length of the album had been an issue (which it wasn't) it would, in retrospect, probably have been better than including the Trion and Leap Day tracks, nice enough as they are. No matter, it finally gets its release here.
If listening to the two discs of this release sequentially, you will no doubt hear that Fairplay starts exactly as Blind Hunter ended, as Prologue is the same composition as Coda! A clever little trick both musically and literally.
Solo acoustic guitar albums may not be everyone's cup of Earl Grey but there is no way you can fault the compositions or performances on this album. Comparisons are often made with Anthony Phillips' acoustic releases but that is somewhat lazy, and I hold my hands up for being guilty of such in the past. One important difference is that a lot of Phillips' compositions can be considered as études where the object is, to an extent, one of technicality. Mulder's pieces seem more personal. Of course this is just a personal observation from someone who has limited musical experience! Whatever, if you have ever enjoyed any of Mulder's other acoustic pieces then there is much to enthral you on this most recent collection.
In conclusion, the first Blind Hunter disc alone would make this release the highlight of Mulder's solo career thus far, but the addition of the acoustic Fairplay disc makes the whole album a collection that is hard to ignore.
Neptunite — Sensor
The German band Neptunite consists out of Tim Diern (keyboards, programming), Marc Schröder (keyboards, programming), and Guido Poetzel (guitars). With Diern and Schröder collaborating since the 90s, the former focusing on song structures and the latter committing his attention to sound and engineering, it was around 2019 that they met Poetzel and shortly after named themselves Neptunite. Sensor is their self-released debut album dating back to August of 2020 (due to delayed promotion we have only just received a copy).
As debut albums come, Sensor is quite ambitious, featuring 78 minutes of almost completely instrumental music, with a concept addressing the five human senses. For this, they blend a variety of progressive rock with classic Berliner Schüle electronics and hints of Krautrock. They describe this as "inspired by the classics with a modern twist and signature sound". Something they pull off brilliantly!
Admittedly, I had some reservations regarding the long instrumental electronic prospect of the album. These evaporated like snowflakes in the sun after an attentive session with headphones that brought out the many levels of elegantly streaming music that is embedded within the adventurous compositions. Since that first exploration, the music seems to have grown in infinite amounts, and I'd like to think that the excellent opening composition plays a big part in this.
The word "binaural" translates to "both-ears" and relates to the difference of perception between the registered left and right ear frequencies. If this variation lies in the region of 0-30 Hz the resulting brainwave will have an effect on one's sensory perception and mental activity, and in case of bèta waves (14 - 30 Hz), preliminary studies show that it can have a positive effect on peoples moods. I don't need scientific proof to support this theoretical thesis, for Sensor's uplifting musical display provides evidence in spades.
With pristine sound, the symphonic entrance of Binaural is slightly reminiscent to Eloy. A long segment of soothing, bluesy guitar follows and navigates the melodic flow into lovely synth and organ melodies fusing Genesis and Pink Floyd. Tumbling shortly into a propulsive synth movement, embedded with several darker Jane-like atmospheres and great guitar work, the multi-layered melodies then cycle comfortingly into a radiant sea of Camel-like prog, before revisiting Krautrock outburst rounding off this excellent composition.
The mouthwatering melodies in SweetSourBitterSalty exhibit equal attraction. Initially gliding in soothing, cosmic atmospheres that permeate images of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, the composition flows intricately onwards through bluesy guitar leads, before a sparkling sensation of dark, howling guitars adds spice to the melodies. Momentarily revisiting splashing cosmic replenishments, caressed by gently weeping guitar, the composition ends with aggressive guitars, forcefully empowering the music with a perfect "umami" moment.
This sparse heavy spicing might well be my favourite part on the album. Although I haven't made up my kind just yet for there are more movements that tickle my senses. Okular demonstrates this perfectly, adding uplifting Saga vibes from synth and bass-Moog that converge into acoustic guitars and dreamy Pink Floyd atmospheres. It then gains strength as flames of Mellotron transform the melodies into funky, electronic foundations for Poetzel to explore. He does so brilliantly, with stellar guitar work. The composition transforms into a space odyssey that thrives on galleons of passionate melodies reminiscent to Finch. It gradually drifts into a solar music show that dazzles with Grobschnitt expressions, before it peacefully fades into the enchanting distance.
Scent Of Blue Iris shines evenly bright with classical, romantic tenderness in which love is the motive. It brushes upon pioneering Didier Marouani soundscapes as whiffs of touching keys and jazzy lead guitars persuasively open-up long-lasting melodies fragrantly reminiscent to Sebastian Hardie and Windchase.
The final display is the all-encompassing Tactile Perception. This lengthy composition manages to keep attention throughout. It glides through a variety of richly-decorated movements that alternates bluesy guitars, electronic Krautrock, progressive rock, and ambient atmospheres. The bluesy opening converges into electronic sequences that ignites excellent memories of Twelfth Night's early-80s instrumental era.
In conclusion, Neptunite's own style-description is not far off the mark in light of the respectful influences shown in these predominantly relaxed compositions. I would gladly like to add symphonic prog and mild sparkles of neo-prog to this. The crispy, crystalline freshness that surrounds the recordings, sets them nicely apart from contemporary bands as well.
Sensor proves to be a great discovery and highly recommendable effort. It surely has activated my sixth sense towards anticipation of their next venture, which is scheduled to arrive in 2022 / 2023. I hope sooner rather than later, for this has a more-ish taste!
TijaD — He Would Have Given Us Wings
TijaD is back with their second album, following Cognitive Dissonance released in 2015, and a promise of more dark, neo-classical prog. Interestingly, the album was preceded by a radio drama with the same title featuring TijaD's father narrating in Dutch. (An English version is to follow later in the year). So, having thoroughly enjoyed the previous release, the question remains: Will I enjoy this one?
The album opens with the soft acoustic and cleans of Silent Words to draw you in. It feels almost like a piece suited to a Victorian drama, even when the heavier guitars and drums come in. The track is full of lamentations.
The title track brings in more of a modern prog sound, akin to a cross between Opeth and Dream Theater (when they are on an acoustic binge). Sorrowful solos and vocals, across softly-picked chords abound throughout what is the longest track.
Heliocentrisam is where the heavier side comes through more. With more double bass, more solos, and an overall darker sound compared to the rest, which wi more melancholic and atmospheric. Following this, Santum Sanctorum is a wholly acoustic track with a lovely classical flair to it.
Blackshaped again brings in a dark sound of uneasy anxiety, with some sullen riffs and some harsh screams to really bring in the sense of dread. Another acoustic and Opeth-styled track follows in Algor Mortis with Tijad putting his deeper vocals to good effect to really bring out the melancholy of the song.
Finally, we have Leitmotif which is more of a gothic strings and keys driven ensemble, up until two-thirds of the way through when we are treated to some growing intensity in the solo before the end.
The album is a nice progression from the previous one. I still feel TijaD maybe needs to bring in a new vocalist at points, but that may be to do with singing in English. But he still manages to provide well-rounded vocals that do suit the music well. It is just an unfortunate consequence of singing in another language.
The short interludes throughout add a nice touch and more depth to create a wonderful piece. As with Cognitive Dissonance, I'd advise this be listened to as a whole, to really appreciate the music.
For fans of Katatonia, Opeth (especially the Damnation era), The Ocean and similar.
Wilderun — Epigone
Wilderun delivered a stunning opus called Veil Of Imagination back in 2019 that was included in my top ten that year, so the expectations for this one were high. I just listened to the radio edit version of the song Passenger (I hate radio edit versions) and I wasn't very impressed, but you know, this band needs listeners to dedicate time to fully appreciate its music. That's what I did when I received the full album invest. I have invested plenty time in this album, as I did with Veil Of Imagination to fully understand the music and discover as many details as possible.
I honestly wanted to enjoy this new effort, but you know what? It's not happening. And it is a shame because I like what Wilderun proposes in terms of progressive metal, combined with orchestrations and some folk here and there, but this album is not clicking on me as much as I expected. I have shared this opinion with a firmed of mine that also enjoyed their previous album, and he thinks just the same.
Usually when I start listening to an album for the first time, I try not to judge what I hear, even if I don't like it at all, because with progressive rock you can change your opinion after understanding the whole album as a unique piece. But this time, after a few minutes I found myself not paying attention to the music and thinking about other things that crossed my mind.
Well, such has happened to me many times in the past with some albums that didn't catch my attention at first, so I decided to start again from the beginning; trying to be more focused. Thus I discovered Woolgatherer as a good song, although the initial part seems to be too long. Also, the full and original version of Passenger appears as a great composition with a great guitar solo and a very interesting way of ending.
Then Indentifier begins, and suddenly I found myself again not paying attention. I either have too many things in my head or this album is not made for me? Let's try again, because I really enjoyed Veil Of Imagination, so I have to like this one too?
After the brief interlude called Ambition, the song Distraction finally got my whole attention. It's divided into four parts and I think it works very well under that format. Just listen to Distraction III and tell me you don't like it.
So this is my story with this album. I'm probably not the only one feeling the same but perhaps I am in a minority. I felt relieved when I was starting to enjoy the album started to grow on me, which I really wanted to from the beginning. Being honest I don't think I will find myself listening to it as much as I did the last time. I guess it could grow on me some more, because my initial score was a 6, now it's a 7. If you ask me in a few weeks it could have gone up to an 8, but it will not reach any higher than that. Anyway, I'm convinced it will be among the best of the year for many prog-metal lovers, so go check it out, and I hope your experience is better than mine.