Album Reviews

Issue 2022-073

Galaverna — Wagdans

Galaverna - Wagdans
Under The Seas (5:42), Wagdans (7:47), Ganymade (5:32), The Loss Of The Sun (6:27), The Darkest Reign (6:40), Metempsychosis (7:49)
Ignacio Bernaola

I bet you haven't heard of Galaverna before. Neither have I, but I'm glad I picked this album to review, because I like it even when it's not the type of music that one would play in a random moment of a random day. As I always say, each album needs to find its place in your life.

Galavarna hail from the city of Verona, in the north of Italy, but don't expect classical Italian progressive rock. You will have to go to the north of Europe to find similar sounds because this music is inspired by Northern European folk.

Funny thing, because lately I'm finding myself discovering different kinds of progressive folk bands, with Kaprekar's Constant being my favourite. They play British folk but these days seem to be the days of discovering 70s progressive rock and folk sounds from many places. We have reviewed the latest Jordsjø album and Galaverna mentions that Norwegian combo as something similar to their music. They also name a few Scandinavian and British bands that explore the folk side of 1970s progressive rock.

The band was formed by Valerio Willy Goattin in 2014 and released their debut album a year later. Called Dodsdans (The Dance Of Death) it developed as a concept album and contained dark acoustic sounds which were related to the dark lyrics talking about the adversities that one must overcome to survive in an inhospitable context. Those lyrics also exalted the beauty of nature though.

Wagdans (The Dance Of The Faun) seems to be the logical follow-up after the planet ended not so well in Dodsdans. It represents the other side of nature and talks about a rebirth of the planet, so the sounds we have here are bucolic and more flourishing, always keeping the acoustic and folky touches.

According to Valerio Willy Gottin this is a vital record, full of hope, that looks to the future. The music expresses it well, since the musical parts are more intense now, with a different way of singing too. Also the production has improved and the instruments sound clearer and better, specially the flute played by Chiara Paganini and the viola and violin, played by Lorenzo Boninsegna and Simone Rodriguez.

It's also fair to mention the job done on guitars by Davide Corlevich and Stefano Gazza Masotto, as well as the simple but concise drumming by Simone Marchioretti.

I'm not going to describe each song because that's a listener's job but I can guarantee that once you press play and start listening to the opener Under The Seas, you will find yourself wrapped into Galaverna's universe. As I said before the only thing you will need is to find the right moment to enjoy this progressive folk album and I'm sure you will. I also recommend listening to Dodsdans first and then Wagdans without stopping, to get the whole experience. I hope they can make a coherent continuation to this latest album, so as we can keep discovering this great band.

Intelligent Music Project — Unconditioned

Intelligent Music Project - Unconditioned
Topic (3:22), Intention (3:25), Sunshine Boulevard (4:00), How (3:02), Blue Morning (3:17), Soulmate (3:39), The Long Ride (3:43), Madness (3:33), And Stars Never Fall (3:16), Spirit (3:31), Wait For The Night (3:22), New Hero (3:24), Finale Grande (2:40); bonus tracks: Intention (Eurovision Song Contest 2022 Version) (2:56), Intention (Instrumental) (2:57)
Jan Buddenberg

I opened my previous review on Intelligent Music Project (IMP) with the words: "As if nothing has happened...". This line clearly doesn't apply now, for a lot has happened since their 2021 effort The Creation hit the shelves. Most notably this included the song Intention with which they officially represented Bulgaria at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest.

To give exposure to the song, a short "Intention promo tour" was scheduled amidst partially-lifted Covid-restrictions, taking them to places like Sofia, Paris and Turin. It also included The Netherlands, where I was one of the very lucky few to catch them in the act on the 19th of March at the "Mezrab", a small club with an intimate setting within in walking distance of Amsterdam's central station. Quite a different affair in regard to the audience of millions that would see them flawlessly perform the catchy melodic rock song two months later on the globally-televised event.

Still savouring the moment, their seventh album Unconditioned signals that it's back to business with a collection of engaging melodic (hard) rock in the vein of Toto, Mecca and Vertigo, at times enriched with a touch of sophisticated Asia prog.

With a steady line-up of Bulgaria's finest that includes Biser Ivanov (guitar), Dimitar Sirakov (bass) and Ivo Stefanov/ Samuel Eftimov on piano/keyboards, it marks the return of Simon Phillips, who temporarily takes over the drum stool from IMP's live drummer Stoyan Yankoulov. As opposed to their more recent efforts, this time it solely features lead vocals by Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, MSG, VandenBerg), which is a superb choice as it gives the album great cohesion. He proves to be perfectly up to the task.

Next to the Eurovision version of Intention, a sing-along version is included as bonus. A nice gesture, although it's the unabridged original version which is the most interesting rendition. It adds a whopping 24 seconds of sensitive prog flavourings to its elegant bridge that precedes Ivanov's delightful shredding bombardment. In a peaceful reality it would surely have won over the world, although probably not in originality. That however says nothing about its enjoyment factor, as it's a fine 'douze-points' contender in my book.

Winning me over every time are the two fabulous tracks bookending the main album. These are amongst the proggiest efforts ever recorded by the band. Topic's classically-inspired entrance glides into a brilliant instrumental overture that showcases tight dynamics, sublime symphonic arrangements with lush piano parts and tantalising play from Ivanov. Topped-off by grand epic melodies in which Jeff Wayne meets the Trans Siberian Orchestra, it starts the album off marvellously.

The closing outro Finale Grande goes the extra mile with flashy key-work, organ and guitars, shining brightly with pomp and vibrantly infectious rock. A delight for any Styx fan out there, especially those who hold dear thoughts to Grand Illusion's memorable finalé. The band combines various fragments of songs into one majestic whole, thereby delightfully revisiting album themes that state: "It's never too late to set foot on the right path. All you need is a firm intention!"

Between these two mighty, way too short, pillars one can enjoy infectious AOR-styled rock with a great sense of melody. Nothing earth-shatteringly new, but who cares when it's stunningly performed, highly entertaining, well-composed and comfortingly familiar. Diversified ballads like How and Madness even manage to stay away from well-trodden paths and both resonate with IMP authenticity. The way in which the latter oozes that distinct Boat On The River (Styx) feel is especially noteworthy, swaying its way through catchy melodies as accordion sounds once again illuminate visions of Paris.

Engaging melodic rockers like Blue Morning, The Long Ride, and the menacing bombast of Wait For The Night, make sure the album maintains an excellent flow throughout. Next to formidable vocal lines, convincingly controlled ad-libs and muscular performances Ivanov's brilliant whirling play stands out in these tracks and manages to continuously bring a smile to my face. There's even more to smile about for the album also reveals to include two tracks co-composed by Ivanov, the others involved in the writing process being Ivo Stefanov and Ronnie Romero (also lyrics). As far as I'm aware, a first on an IMP album.

Out of these Sunshine Boulevard strolls along with slow moving sensitive burning blues that thrives on softly roaring organ in the background. Next to a warm embrace of outshining guitars it's laced with an emotional performance from Romero who demonstrates to possess the much-needed depth in his vocal chords to carry the emotions across. Prog it ain't, much like the delightful Journey/Magnum reminiscent AOR rocker And Stars Never Fall, but it's all very tastefully done.

From a prog-purist point of view this might be a less interesting album than their previous efforts, despite the two excellent prog-influenced songs surrounding the themed songs. However, for a melodic rock fan who likes a touch of prog, of which I am admittedly one, Unconditioned might be worth checking out. I find this their most consistent and satisfying effort to date. Although secretly I hope they grant my inner wish for longer, epic-styled songs, this is an album filled with beautifully concise, well-composed and strongly-executed music.

Majesty Of Revival — Pinnacle

Majesty Of Revival - Pinnacle
Open (4:04), You Have A Message (4:38), Rebellion (3:46), Mindcrime (5:01), Fool (4:37), Deliverance (4:17), At All Cost (3:11), Dig Me Up (3:24), Citylights (4:25), Stone (6:12), Things Are Not What They Seem (4:18), Guardians (4:54), Overcome (3:35)
Edwin Roosjen

Majesty Of Revival were founded in 2009 and their debut album Through Reality was released ten years ago in 2012. Pinnacle is their fifth album, the release was postponed due to the Covid pandemic and the invasion of their home country Ukraine.

On their previous albums, the music was more metal and at times pretty heavy, symphonic metal with use of grunting vocals. On Pinnacle the music is still heavy but a bit more towards progressive metal than their earlier releases. I listened to their previous album and liked them. With their new album Pinnacle they try to broaden their musical horizon.

The opener, Open, is a song that will be liked by many progressive metal fans. It has a heavy riff with guitar and keyboard jamming the same melody. The vocals at times are heavy, borderline grunting, but not as heavy as on their previous releases. The lyrics of Open have been given a lot more weight considering the current condition of Ukraine.

Open your heart, open your mind

You Have A Message also has some heavy stuff and some stop-and-go trickery that for me is not working. On the other hand the keyboard solo is spot on. The song Rebellion is not as heavy. It starts with a piano melody that lingers through the whole song. The keyboard tune in Mindcrime is a lot faster and heavier. It is a heavy rock song that reminds me of Helloween.

The song Fool gives me mixed feelings. It has a killer riff that sticks in your head. After listening to this album this is the part that you remember. Sadly it is also the song where they do some rap. It would be the best song on the album if only they were singing and not rapping. Still, one cannot blame a band for trying something different and Majesty Of Revival tried some new things on Pinnacle; but not all is gold.

We also have the slow, powerful rocker Deliverance and the mellow piano on At All Cost. Dig Me Up is a funky pop song immediately followed by a heavy and fast Citylights. There are a wide variety of influences but the main source is heavy progressive metal. With Stone that continues. It is a very heavy song with a lot of grunting. Things Are Not What They Seem is also very heavy but has more alternations and would fit more to the likings of progressive metal fans. Then on Guardians it is more symphonic metal of Rhapsody, with fast passages alternated with medieval guitar melodies. The final track, Overcome, is a mellow piano-based song.

With Pinnacle Majesty Of Revival have taken a step towards progressive metal by trying a lot of new stuff, instead of just creating another metal album. Not all experiments are a success but as a whole Pinnacle is an interesting album.

I liked their previous albums and recommend you check these out but if you like more variety, then Pinnacle is their most interesting album.

Metakosmia — Aperantos Kosmos

Metakosmia - Aperantos Kosmos
Entropy (10:30), Disorder (7:16), Ataraxia (5:09), Atomism (5:18), Astronomikos Kanon (8:23), Megas Δiakosmos (10:12), Micros Δiakosmos (8:08) Tetrapharmakos (6:06), Ordinary Matter (5:26), The Absence Of Suffering (4:45)
Calum Gibson

Metakosmia was formed in Greece at the start of 2020 by Petros Geromarkakis and Vasilis Kakafikas. Unfortunately, shortly after the completion of this debut album, Petros passed away, and Aperantos Kosmos is dedicated to his memory. Metakosmia is the abode of the gods according to Epicurean philosophy.

Described as symphonic black metal, the album kicks-off with Entropy. A synth-heavy, driven intro leads you down the path to the melodic dose of metal where clean vocals soar through tremolos and unrepentant double-kick drumming.

Disorder enters the scene next with some more synth-laden music before dropping the blackened music in again. Some proggy, grooving riffs and bass-lines jerk you back to reality. The final opening third of the album is a five-minute instrumental of keys and synths. Gently and softly it tugs at you and remains at the back of your mind without taking away the focus. A nice wee break.

The middle comes hammering with pounding drums and discordant riffing as Atomism brings in a full whack of the symphonic black metal vibes. Reminding me of the likes of Rotting Christ or Sepctic Flesh, but without the growls.

Astronomikos Kanon weaves through soft sections of symphonic melancholy, fast tremolos, heavy Bathroy-styled parts and harsh, growled vocals over discordant guitars. It showcases every part of their influences. Next, we have Megas Aiakosmos, stylistically similar to Disorder, it is a 10-minute instrumental, again going between melodic atmospheres and crushing drums and distortion.

The ending third comes in with the melodies, atmospherics and solos befitting an epic, electro metal track in essence, before the delving into an almost bass and keys-driven melancholic piece about not fearing God or death.

The final instrumental, Ordinary Matter, takes your hand through discordant noodling, and ominous tones from the keys, in a minimalistic trip down to The Absence Of Suffering. This closer is the shortest track on the album, at just under five minutes. This is the culmination of the black metal influence with chugging guitars, discordance, harsh growls and blast beats combined with symphonic keys for an epic sound to round it all off.

This is an enjoyable album and absolutely one that the duo should be proud. For those expecting a sound like modern-day Dimmu Borgir, you will be disappointed. This is better, and doesn't have the sickly or screeched vocals common with black metal. Instead, it utilises more gothic-styled vocals.

I'd say that this is for fans of Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, old Dimmu Birgir (the For All Tid era) or Samael and Moonspell.

Somehow Jo — Scales And Details

Somehow Jo - Scales And Details
Fata Morgana (4:17), Friend (4:44), Cycle (3:41), Spin (2:47), Rush (5:33), When It Falls (3:02), Getaway (3:49), Rising Sun (4:52), Mirror (4:40)
Andy Read

The third album from this quartet out of Tampere is certain to please those who desire focussed slabs of modern alt-prog-rock with a metallic heart, a groovy fun-side and an insatiable knack of dealing great hooks and melodies.

It was a couple of years ago that I stumbled across this band and devoured their lovably-huggable second album Tusk. The reference points here on Scales And Details for me are the same: Von Hertzen Brothers, Saigon Kick, Fair To Midland and Jolly. The band prefers to draw comparisons with System Of A Down, Mastodon and Alter Bridge. Whatever musical compss you are using, this is a band that combines progressive and alternative-metal influences, infused with catchy choruses and galvanic twists and turns. It's not a difficult album but there is a deluge of quirky details that reward repeat listens.

Somehow Jo, promo photo by Patrik Nuorteva

Again, the best tracks are the opener and closer. I can't stop playing either of these fun-filled frolics.

I'm not keen on the screamo vocals that ruin the otherwise catchily-addictive Friend. The helter-skelter car-chase riff of Cycle is crazily fabulous. Spin is too concise.

Rush benefits from a longer lifespan to explore its diversions, at a pace that allows the listener to absorb them properly. It's pop sensibility is a clever mid-album change of pace.

When It Falls is bit too odd-ball for its own good. Getaway has a nice melodic bounce but needs more power in the guitar and seems to lose its way in the second half. Rising Sun is my least favourite song. It just does not connect with me at all.

Most of the mid-album tracks lack the killer hooks and riffs that positioned Tusk as a very difficult album to follow. However there is enough fun and entertainment here to satisfy even the most miserable listeners!

The album was released this week on Inverse Records. At the end of this month (September 2022), Somehow Jo begin a three-week European tour in support of One Morning Left.

Sunrunner — Sacred Arts Of Navigation

Sunrunner - Sacred Arts Of Navigation
The Launch (1:04), Promise Of Gold (5:40), Faraway Worlds (5:27), Invisible Demon Of Ideology (3:52), Where Is My Home (5:28), Acadia Morning Ride (3:58), Obstacle Illusion (4:21), Dragonship (5:31), Last Night In Tulum (4:36), No Mess, No Magic (4:15), Navigating The Apocalypse (12:23)
Gerald Wandio

Invisible Demon of Ideology. That's the title of the fourth song on Sunrunner's new album, Sacred Arts Of Navigation. Who can resist an album with such a song title? Equally brilliantly-titled is the final track, Navigating The Apocalypse. The danger with such great titles is that the songs have to live up to them. I'm happy to report that they do, with perhaps one exception.

This is American band Sunrunner's fifth album, and it's a good one. A glance at the cover will remind any fan of American progressive/hard rock, of the cover of the great Kansas album Monolith. I don't know if that's an allusion or coincidence, but Sunrunner's music is very different from that of Kansas. That venerable band played heartland-rock laden with progressive touches, whereas Sunrunner hews much more closely to the sound of such progressive-metal bands as Savatage (a source the band acknowledges) at the time of its fine Hall of the Mountain King.

Sunrunner's great strength (to my mind, the greatest strength any artist in any genre can cultivate) is melody. No matter how heavy the music gets, the focus here is on melody; not only in the choruses but also the verses. That melody is supported by excellent vocal harmonies. Vocalist Bruno Neves has a pleasing, powerful voice that he can also modulate for such quiet (and quite lovely) songs as Last Night in Tulum, a ballad with an almost jazzy guitar that nicely offsets the predominantly metallic sound of the rest of the album. I'll mention the equally-lovely Arcadia Morning Ride, an instrumental which seems to owe maybe a little bit to Led Zeppelin's Black Mountain Side.

On first listening, I took Sacred Arts Of Navigation to be a concept album, but the band's description says otherwise. They deny that it's a concept album with the explanation that the album depicts: “The idea that in the future, mankind will look to the old ways of survival to benefit our race. Or, if the world ever shifts to an apocalyptic future, these primitive survival skills would probably be the most useful tool people could inherit.”

Not that it really matters whether the album is or is not labelled as a “concept album”, the songs hang together very tightly, and the album is obviously carefully sequenced; something else the band is to be praised for.

For what this album means to do, then it's very good indeed. The musicianship and production are admirable, and, as I've said, the songs are very nicely constructed.

I said at the beginning of this review, that there was perhaps one exception to my claim that the songs live up to the cleverness of the titles. The one song that doesn't is (also unfortunately) the long, long, long (more than twelve minutes) closing number, Navigating The Apocalypse. On the one hand, it's a showcase number that allows each member of the band to display his skill. On the other, it's way too ambitious, too diffuse. I'm all for ambition and for interesting changes of tempo, and variations in dynamics, but I think this song expects too much of the listener without quite providing the satisfying ending that this otherwise very good album deserves. Sometimes (forgive the cliché) less is more.

The upshot: I like this album very much indeed, and it will go into my rotation. Having heard it a few times already, I may skip that final song, which to my ears dilutes the effect of the rest of the album. I encourage you to get the album and decide for yourself, though. Maybe my attention-span is shrinking, or maybe the band's ambition really did ever so slightly damage this fine album.

Album Reviews