Album Reviews

Issue 2022-028

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.

Bring To Bear — Light And Shade

Bring To Bear - Light And Shade
The Shadow Ruse (4:01), No One Knows (4:09), From The Abyss (3:46)
Sergey Nikulichev

Crows and cats are gothic. Wolves and lions are metal. Foxes and porcupines (and armadillos too!) are prog. Bears are definitely folk.

In this sense any folk band with a reference to "bear" is in an immediate “win” situation, and that's where the young sextet Bring To Bear makes their mark. Hailing from London, Bring To Bear might surprise a listener incorporating a bit more than the much-expected Celtic-rock influences. The sextet comprises a female vocalist, a standard rock / metal squad (two guitars, bass and drums), and an accordionist / keyboard player / harsh-vocal singer, whose shoulders bear (pun intended) the bulk of the folk content of the band's sound.

Having said that, I also believe that every member brings something to the palette. While the rhythm section is from the Britain, the singer Izabela is originally from Poland, and the axe-men Hristo and Nikiforos are from the Mediterranean area. All this results in folk metal with a distinct “continental feel” in terms of the melodies, as opposed to the British musical tradition.

Musically there's very little else I can judge from a 3-track EP, other than the band is shaping their sound. Nothing particularly proggy here, just some folk-metal songs that would go well on an open-air event to warm up the audience a bit. Izabela has a nice, confident voice and the band plays quite firmly, mostly building instrumental parts around conversations between the accordion and two guitars.

While there's nothing severely wrong with the material, I'd grumble that the modern, tight production of guitar sound does not go well with folksy tunes. Whereas folk-metal should ideally take you away from a dull city to a medieval tavern, the feeling here is that the tavern comes right from a MMORPG-game. Which is probably not the effect the band wants. However, there is still plenty of time for these newcomers to adjust the sound. (Or discard my opinion and continue their chosen path.)

Crystal Throne — Crystal Throne

Crystal Throne - Crystal Throne
Fate & Triumph (1:42), Rise To Glory (3:43), Timescape (5:24), Shades Of Existence (6:50), Steelbirds (5:12), Foreshadowed Sands (5:12), Valkyrie Ride (7:02), Mechanical Tyranny (3:47), Crystal Warrior (8:22)
Jan Buddenberg

For those about to rock, Crystal Throne's debut album provides a thunderous blast of contagious old school NWOBHM-metal. A slight nuance though, for the 2019-founded band actually originates from France and besides implementing British steel elements, they embed a solid fortress of American concrete within their melodic compositions. Shortening it into NWOBUSAFHM is stretching it a bit though.

On the topic of stretching, the band is blessed by a demi-god on vocals (Terri DeFire) who soars through the songs with confidence. Impressively reminiscent to Rob Halford and Geoff Tate in their younger days, he screams for vengeance in the heavy hitting Mechanical Tyranny and signals warning signs in Timescape, while in the Angra-ish power metal track Rise To Glory he rises to Bruce Dickinson heights.

He is rivalled by a band that plays with spirited familiarity through solid, fist-raising rockers. Energised by a combustible rhythm section (Alex Gricar/Jefferson Brand), it's the masterly guitar work from Max Waynn that holds the heavy compositions firmly in grip with exceptional leads, hooks, riffs, lightening shreds and Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired progressive twists (Steelbirds).

The fearless variation in Valkyrie Ride and the epic closer Crystal Warrior are among the more progressively oriented tracks. The latter is noteworthy as it excels in an elaborate, atmospheric build-up which meets the likes of Queensrÿche's debut.

The album could do with a bit more contemporary Mystic Prophecy-oomph, but overall the target is clear: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and early Fates Warning/Queensrÿche fans beware!

Earthshine — Bridge To Infinity

The Netherlands
Earthshine - Bridge To Infinity
On A Quest (7:09), All Bets Are Off (2:16), Feel the Force (4:18), The Rings Of Saturn (4:27), Passing Kuiperbelt (2:58), Out Of The Solar System (4:47), Into The Unknown (5:07), Bridge To Infinity (5:19), And Beyond... (9:49)
Andy Read

Earthshine is a one-man project by Peter Cox based in The Netherlands. This is the eighth release to bear its name but the first to get covered by DPRP.

Two years in the making, Peter is responsible for all the music, playing, programming, recording, mixing and mastering on Bridge To Infinity. The album is actually quite a different outcome from the one he envisaged. As Peter explains: "It wasn't until a theme stuck in my mind, that I was able to find the right moods. So I ditched a number of tracks and, based on the new-found direction, started to write some new music."

This is all electronic, instrumental music, with influences from film score, ambient and new age. This is all about keyboards. Think piano, the mighty Mellotron, organ and synths.

The songs tell of an imaginary trip, leaving earth, crossing our solar system and then travelling into the great unknown. It's not complicated music. It's much more about the mood, groove and melody. Fans of meditative keyboard music with a touch of the experimental, should enjoy the flight.

Godo & — On Time

Godo & - On Time
Hot Time (4,57), Cruisin' (4:11), Ask Yourself (4:11), Who Stole My Car? (4:16), Light (3:59), Stars (3:56), Last Calling (4:14), Out Of Time (4:32), Talking About (5:17), Anyway (4:31)
Jan Buddenberg

On Time is the debut album of Claude Gaudefroy, aka Godo (lead vocals, guitars, synthesizer, percussion), a French journalist, musical consultant and background singer to many international artists. The press info doesn't state who this applies to, but the & part in the name might shed some light here, mentioning participants such as Simon Phillips (Toto), Stuart Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani) and Craig Blundell/Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson).

These names warrant tasteful execution of the music, yet their background doesn't necessarily guarantee a prog stamp of approval. This shows, for besides an imaginable needle in the haystack prog-moment in the final movement of Hot Time when lovely synths and guitar heat up the atmosphere, the well-arranged songs predominantly drive by in a summery, pop-friendly, melodic rock fashion. Sometimes reminiscent to Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Fleetwood Mac, they pulsate with a smooth and refined, occasionally harmony sweet and safe, 70s AOR/West-Coast feel.

In Cruisin' the show gets on the road through inviting melodies that burst with melodic percussive Santana brightness and a foot-tapping Steve Miller appeal. Embracing softness through sultry sax and gooey harmonies Light takes an elegant Sneaker sightseeing trip. The album's silky-smooth closing ballad Anyway explores pop smoothness alongside colourful harmonies between Godo and guest vocalist Lila.

Adding delicious bluesy organ in Out Of Time and rock pleasantries in Last Calling it's the classic Wishbone Ash style of Who Stole My Car? and Talking About that adds some infectious (twin-)guitar spice to the music. For once (well, twice obviously) the safety straps that surround the other songs are rewardingly untied, making these tracks the album's highlights.

Overall the enjoyable On Time is better suited for a nostalgic easy-listening rock audience. However, those in search of this year's "invite your non-prog neighbours to a summery BBQ" need look no further. And considering its spring release date, it arrives at the perfect moment!

Marco Mattei — Out Of Control

Marco Mattei - Out Of Control
Would I Be Me (4:36), Picture In A Frame (3:15), More Intense (4:21), I´ll Be Born (3:21), Lullabye For You (3:03), Anymore (3:22), Tomorrow (4:21), Void (6:40), On Your Side (5:08), After Tomorrow (1:39), Hidden Gems (2:12), Gone (3:41)
Ignacio Bernaola

Marco Mattei is an Italian guitarist and songwriter and Out Of Control is his debut album. Marco is credited as the sole composer here, with the only exception being the last song. He also plays a wide variety of instruments. Even being able to make the album by himself, Marco has been joined by many collaborators, including well-known names such as Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, Pat Mastelotto, and Chad Wackerman.

After reading these names I was somehow expecting some complex progressive rock here and there, but, let me tell you, this is not the case. So my question is: why include these players in your songwriter album? I guess it's because this was released under Trey Gunn's label, which also has those artists under its wing. Well, I understand the business move, but I think this album could have been the same without them on board.

I don't mean to offend, but it may lead to confusion for those expecting some type of sound after reading the list of certain collaborators. However, the whole sound of this album is great, as well as the production and the very nice artwork.

Out Of Control is a concept album about things we cannot control. The lyrics run around the same idea of "the realisation that many aspects of what we perceive to be defining our identity are not under our control."

The music doesn't follow only one way. Each song sounds different from the next and apparently they are not interconnected. Honestly, I would have preferred it to be like this, since it could have made the album a whole piece of music. As you can see, I'm only complaining so far, but the thing is I think this album could have been much more interesting with just a few different touches because you can find many good things. Marco has proved he can write great, folky, acoustic tunes, mixed with eastern vibes such as he does in the opening Would I Be Me and some great, groovy arrangements such as in Picture In Frame.

He can also arrange some blues and Americana vibes in the great instrumental song Tomorrow or go truly prog on Void. Of course, he can deliver ballads too; maybe too many here? But don't let my opinion condition you, and check this album by yourself because there are many things to discover. We might have a great new name in the prog world. I myself will make sure to keep a close eye on what Marco is doing in the future.

NichelOdeon / InSonar & Relatives — Incidenti - Lo Schianto

NichelOdeon / InSonar & Relatives - Incidenti - Lo Schianto
Non Esistono (3:31), How Hard Tune! La canzone dei soli (2:38), Variations on The Jargon King (5:22), Il Barbiere degli Occhi (7:36), Con Dedica (2:55), Senza Ritorno (3:22), La Scatola (6:49), L'ultima Sigaretta - Fantasmi ad Argun (5:22), Idiota - Autoritratto (Tadzio's Death - Senza Valore #9) (2:42), Ho Gettato mio Figlio da una Rupe perché non Somigliava a Fabrizio Corona (12:11), Sabbia Scura (4:11), Del Mondo gli Occhi - New Moses (1:03), Nyama - Gettarsi Oltre (10:10), La Montagna e il Trono (5:17), Out Let - Viae di (s)PHjga (3:36)
Jerry van Kooten

Avant-garde alert! OK, that's out of the way. I know it's not fair to start with a warning. It probably says more about us at not being able to handle this type of music.

This project is under the name of four "bands" or theatre groups: Not Me, NichelOdeon, InSonar, and This Order. The insert is very confusing as to who plays what, but the Bandcamp page is clearer. On the other hand, it is still confusing, since as far as I can tell Claudio Milano is part of all of it and all four bands. The list of personnel is long. All tracks have, beside the titles, an additional title Senza Valore (Without Value) and the track number. In short, it's not just the music that is avant-garde.

Now about that music. It's very experimental, theatrical. Several sections are vocal-heavy, musical/opera-like. Other sections have several orchestral instruments playing anything from aural landscapes to metallic outbursts. Short sections almost have a song-like structure, like in track 3, which to me was by far the most listenable and enjoyable. Portions are very listenable and even interesting from a prog or prog-metal point of view. But elsewhere, it seems that every part of ~~making music~~ producing sounds becomes an experiment.

There are parts that sound like stripped elements from different genres, with a free-jazz layer on top, and in many cases, with a very theatrical voice. With many lyrics, I guess the story is important but impossible to follow when you don't speak Italian. Sometimes technically impressive, but often hard to listen to, owing to the search for musical structures. The over-theatrical use of silly voices, from very low to very high, is just childish. And there's a lot of that.

This could be a very interesting and exciting album if you're into the very experimental side of music-making or when you are a fan of the theatre (where I suppose this might work better). For most of our readers, the lack of structure and melody will make it a very difficult album. And at the same time I realise that last sentence might even be a compliment to the makers.

Zolder Ellipsis — Entropy Override

Zolder Ellipsis - Entropy Override
Craig Gets Reanimated (5:08), Zap Gun (1:30), Q+A (1:13), Imperial Enlightenment (9:18), Magnetic Objects (2:14), Android Coronation Ball (9:15), The Antidote Game (11:04), In The Hole (3:25)
Jan Buddenberg

Behind Zolder Ellipsis one finds the American composer and keyboardist Tom Aldrich, who is nowadays residing in The Netherlands. Originally recorded in 2019 in Woerden, Holland this is a limitless collection of instrumental wacky, weird musical eclecticism.

This started out as an attempt to reverse engineer Frank Zappa's Civilization: Phase III, which I'd like to interpret as making something unfathomable a bit "simpler" for novices. However, the result is anything but an ironed-out, easily-approachable effort. It takes an infinity of digestive systems to comprehend; or as the band states: "It transcends the bounds of any one person's pencil and paper". Cheating my way around, I'll try to make some sense of it all whilst typing on digital digits.

Opener Craig Gets Reanimated is one of the few instances where some form of musical structure can be found. Imagine a concoction of Zappa quirkiness in a Happy The Man fusion-like style, with radiated psychedelic grooviness and exhaling guitar outbursts surrounded by OutInk jazzy improvisations, and you are halfway there! Okay, perhaps 10 percent, but still.

After a furious blast of King Crimson fun in Zap Gun and questions of additional progressive avant-garde wacky weirdness similar to Nubdug Ensemble in Magnetic Objects and Q&A, the remainder of the music then leaves this "orderly" universe and heads off into highly-improvised, experimental jazz freakiness in Imperial Enlightment. This raises the bar of cacophony into dimensions previously unknown.

Adding bouncy electronic funky-chunky intensities in Android Coronation Ball, it's the dissonant guitar-quacking of The Antidote Game, after several minutes of immaculate meaningless posturing, which brings some exhausting KC/Lucas Lee relief. The final statement of structureless piano looseness in In The Hole ends this obscure album, which to heighten strangeness thematically addresses artificial mechanization (robots) against reflective obsession (zombies). I'll gladly take their word for it.

There is every evidence that each member involved knows their equipment by heart, yet the sounds created is fairly remote from approachable melodies. In a way this makes me feel sorry for the instruments who have to endure all this. In short: strictly for those who have the stamina to work their way through a far-out, bizarre, experimental maze of improvisational avant-garde madness!

Album Reviews