Anthea — Tales Untold
Geek mode on. Don't let the cover confuse you, dear readers! Tales Untold clearly features Atlas the titan, known for holding the firmament on his shoulders. As Greek mythology tells us, Anthaeus was altogether another titan, gaining his strength from standing firm on the soil of Gaea, his mother, but ultimately defeated by Hercules on his journey to Hesperides. Geek mode off.
It is not clear whether the US power-metal band Anthea is a gender-swapping reference to that particular titan, or to someone entirely different, but apart from the name there are very few feminine features on the record. The contents are very, very testosterone-soaked. More about this below.
Originating from the melodic death metal scene of Los Angeles, California, the band members of Anthea play firm power metal (Latin American flamboyant style, rather than USPM) with loads of orchestral keys. I deliberately avoid using the word “sympho” here, because essentially there is nothing symphonic here (unless you keep your Pirates Of The Caribbean OST on the same shelf as J.S. Bach or Schubert, of course).
On the metal side of things everything runs smoothly and well. There is loads of drive and that loveable / disgusting (depending on your current mood) metal cheesiness. Choruses are epic and sing-along-friendly, and the groove is well caught and sustained throughout the record.
The vocalist Diego Valadez has a nice range. He mostly sings in a raspy masculine mid-range, instead of the usual high-pitched approach (some references can be drawn to the likes of Ronnie Romero, for instance, and even Jorn). On the prog side not too many things are catching my attention, although it's safe to say that the record has enough diversity and flirts successfully with neighboring genres.
Song for Winter has some nice gothic pop-metal keys in the vein of mid-period Nightwish or Avantasia, while The Deceiver and Empyrean feature aggressive melo-death / thrash riffage and harsh vocals (imagine a more radio-friendly version of Mercenary). And Sapiens brings some ethnic flavour with what guitarists call “Arabic scales”. So, while the record is not really prog or even prog-related, the band feels itself quite confident within their genre and successfully forays into bordering ones.
It would not make the band members happy, but the jewel of the album is not their own song (although once again I stress that the songwriting is very confident on Tales Untold). It's a cover song, In Time, originally penned by South African singer Robbi Rob. Anthea make everything to give more power and brighter colours to this good song, ruined by some dubious production in its original form. Once again, I should mention the absolutely passionate performance from Diego Valadez, showing how superb his pipes are.
Tales Untold balances nicely between the cheesy and masculine aspects of today's power metal and is recommended for all young souls, unspoiled by a cynical world-view.
Captain Of The Lost Waves — Hidden Gems Chapter 3 - Mysterium Tremendum
Life is about managing expectations. I read that somewhere. I can't recall where, but I'm gonna use it here because sometimes listening to music is also about managing expectations.
Let me explain this while I write this review because that sentence came to my mind when I listened to this recent effort from Captain Of The Lost Waves. Of course, it's not the first time I have gone through this kind of emotion, and I'm sure you've experienced it too.
Hidden Gems Chapter 3 - Mysterium Tremendum is the third part of a trilogy that started in 2016 and will be apparently the last one under this title. Believe it or not, but this is a good album even when I have given it a not so good score but, you know, music is about managing expectations.
And what expectations did I have before listening to this album? None. Well, none at the beginning, but after picking it to review and starting to read about Captain Of The Lost Waves my expectations started to increase because I loved, and still do, the idea behind this artist and the description of the music I was about to receive.
The description is as follows: "The Captain is a troubadour, storyteller and free-thinking renegade. His musical offerings are inspired by the great songwriters and philosophers of yesteryear. This is visceral music for the mind and body, full of dreamy verses, life affirming choruses and sheer audacity. Where melodic invention meets alternative folk, progressive, world and ambient sounds." Sounds great, doesn't it?
Yes, until I received the CD and pressed play. Something was just not clicking with me (I do like the package and art though). The album has many good things that I love: nice choruses, good instrumentation, some theatrical vocals, acoustic and dynamic sounds and many more, but for some reason I do not love this album. You can also find folk, progressive and world music as the Captain says, but I guess it is the way everything is presented on the table that makes this album a bit repetitive in terms of rhythm and linear vocals.
Honestly, I don't know how to explain it musically because I'm not a musician but the general tone of the album is missing something. What? Maybe some more powerful drumming or different vocal melodies. I encourage you readers to go and check all of this by yourselves because you may enjoy this album.
I also recommend to revisit Hidden Gems Chapter 1 and Hidden Gems Chapter 2 to close the whole circle. Both are also good ones, but again I'm sure they could have been much better. Let's see what the Captain is capable of in future releases. From now on, I will keep an eye on his music, but with my expectations kept in the drawer of expectations. By the way, I wish him a speedy recover from the car accident he suffered a few months ago.
Regal Worm — Worm!
I could observe Worm!'s segmented complexity through the crack in the door. I longed to enter its strangely intoxicating and vibrant world. Ear cupped in eager anticipation, I huffed, puffed and pushed at the door. I implored Worm! to let me in.
Eventually it did!
I must admit I found it a bit of a struggle to appreciate the full range of subtleties and nuances contained in Worm!, but overtime I have begun to value many things about it.
Worm! is the work of Jarrod Gosling. It is Regal Worm's fifth studio release. I had the pleasure of writing about 2018's Pig Views for DPRP. It is still an album I play frequently. Unfortunately, I am not particularly familiar with The Hideous Goblink Gosling's previous release using the Regal Worm moniker. I think I played it a couple of times and put it onto a 'to do' list of albums to hear in the future.
Time passed and sadly I sort of forgot about it. Based on the merits of Worm!, I shall revisit it.
From the moment that Worm! begins, it is unquestionably imbued with a selection of the stylistic nuances that are often associated with the work of Gosling and Regal Worm. It is therefore, easily identifiable. There are hints of psychedelia and Canterbury. These are bound together with numerous effects and a raft of contemporary influences. The inventive nature of Gosling's work ensures that Worm! is an utterly compelling experience. The combination of vintage instruments and modern technology create a sound that has one foot reassuringly rooted in the past and the other foot confidently striding towards the future.
However, unlike Pig Views where Gosling explored several epic themes, Worm! exhibits Gosling's undoubted skill in penning more concise tunes.
Several of the tunes of Pig Views clocked in at over five minutes. This without doubt, enabled Gosling to explore a variety of ideas within a tune, and offered extended possibilities for interesting vocal and instrumental sections to occur.
By using shorter song-forms, any songwriter wishing to include variations of style in their tunes undoubtedly sets themselves a stern test. Gosling rises to this challenge during Worm! by delivering a fine set of tunes that are by turns, frequently fascinating and full of inventive sequences and interesting variations. The album has some fine transitions where Gosling skilfully uses tools such as repetition, dynamics and changes of pace to keep a listener fully engaged.
One of the ways Gosling achieves this is just like Phideaux, by having a knack of using recurring vocal phrases in a mesmerising fashion. These quickly become lodged in the memory. In this way, it often appears that the lyrics are not the prime consideration for the song, rather it is the way that the delivery of words sounds. Subsequently, the heavily processed vocoded warblings of Gosling create a unique vocal texture, to become an essential component of the sound, mood, tone and tempo of the tune, and to the overall style of the album.
I am particularly enamoured by the mix of styles contained in the short and superbly catchy Hop. It rattles shakes and rolls the listener in a bizarre show of glitter-ball dancing colours. Jangly guitar parts, California harmonies, a dollop of surrealism and a swirling seventies-style organ-sound jog things along in an authentic arm-raising fashion. The melodious vocals proclaim "Do you wanna dance" in a twisted take on the gorgeous harmonies associated with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. It's a track that is cleverly composed; outwardly simple, but enchantingly complex.
The album is crammed with imaginative moments and the influence of Canterbury bands, jazz and electro-pop can be discerned in many of the tunes. For example, the Bong Song has an identifiable Canterbury vibe. The use of sax, trumpet and trombone at various points on the album offer some interesting points of contrast. The bulbous blowing of these instruments compliments Gosling's arrangements in tunes like the bobbing Chlorophyllia. Here the sax bellows and emits windy puffs of reed-induced sounds. The human earthiness of the sax draws a point of distinction to the pulsating keyboard rhythms that drive the piece along.
Although I eventually enjoyed and appreciated what Worm! has to offer, at first, I found that the production values were a little too cluttered for my taste. This was probably because I have recently been listening to a lot of albums such as Compro Oro's Buy The Dip and Black Flower's Magma which display fine, spacious mixes where every instrument has a distinct place and can be clearly heard. Therefore, I initially found the recording of this album a tad too busy for my ears. However, overtime I have got used to the album's 'phone box' sound, and it has not really diminished my overall enjoyment.
Certainly, I am glad that the Worm! eventually let me in. I just hope it does not spit me out!
Yaatri — Lucid
Whilst listening to Lucid I quickly realised that there was a lot to admire, little to find fault with, and much to enthuse about.
Yaatri are a Leeds-based band who have garnered a fine reputation for their idiosyncratic blend and style of progressive music.
The musicians on the album are Liam Narain DeTar (guitar, composition), Felix Bertulis-Webb (piano, composition), B-âhwe (vocals, lyrics), Jona Tromp (drums), Joe Wilkes (bass), Zuheb Ahmed Khan (tabla), Tom Kettleton (saxophone), Felix Burling (flugel horn) and Sam Hobbs on percussion.
Female vocals are prominent, and the frequent use of a wordless delivery offers an atmospheric array of sounds. The band's talents fully exploit the melodious possibilities that this brings. Many influences are apparent in the band's jazz-based compositions. Lush acoustic forays create images of verdant valleys and fertile pastures. The dynamic use of a range of instruments, ensures that pieces are never locked into a groove or a mood for too long.
Complex rhythmic interludes, with a nod to the Indian subcontinent, occasionally weave intricate patterns. Enchanting melodies, elegant acoustic intervals, and chugging guitar interventions all have a role to play. The band's music flows in a natural manner. It majestically builds, energetically rises, and gently falls. Pitted, rock-dressed peaks, and meandering, proggy valleys betray some of the group's appreciation of a variety of other types of music, beyond the realms of jazz.
Lucid begins in an uplifting fashion with acoustic guitars, tabla rhythms and sweet-centred vocal melodies. If Shaktii had done jazz-pop, then some of it might have sounded not too dissimilar to this opening piece. The atmosphere of the tune briefly shifts at its mid-point, as an expressive guitar emerges. This pulls the rudder firmly and powerfully, to steer a different course. The chunky riff that follows, threatens to conclude proceedings in an aggressive manner and is equally unexpected.
Creation is a satisfying opening piece. It is a track that holds many surprises in its myriad of styles and moods. Fragility, whispered emotions and zesty instrumental parts that flow and fizz, all have significant parts to play.
On the face of it, Gold is an accessible tune with a heartfelt, pop-like accessibility, but this is not the whole story. The arrangement includes several impressive and inventive sections. These interesting and unusual shifts of emphasis and instrumentation, fit well. Somewhat surprisingly they feel like a natural progression in an otherwise straight-forward and somewhat predictable tune. The frequently enchanting instrumental passages, most definitely challenge any preconceived ideas that might have formed after a few minutes regarding the direction of travel that the tune might take.
The track most likely to appeal to prog-rock fans is probably In The Clouds. Part 1 is largely fragile, gently mysterious and reflective. Part 2 is mostly raucous, firmly straightforward, and outgoing. Add the two compositions together and an epic track of different hues is revealed in all its techno-colour and inventive glory. It builds slowly and subtlety. It cleverly unwinds, exhibiting clench-fisted energy when the need arises. Acoustic guitars and piano accompaniments jostle and joust with muscular segments of music. These contrasting parts tease and delight. Finally, everything makes sense as it evolves and eventually reaches a commanding crescendo at the conclusion of Part 2.
Vipassana is also a piece that is likely to appeal to prog aficionados. B-âhwe's delicate vocal delivery was somewhat reminiscent of the Northettes. At the mid-point of the tune, saxophone and flugel horn are utilised to provide a welcome and different set of textures. As the piece travels purposefully towards its conclusion, the pace quickens alongside the skilful use of effects to create a larger-than-life sound.
I enjoyed much of what Lucid offered. I found their carefully structured tunes quite appealing and their overall approach quite refreshing. Lucid's accessible, melodious, and harmonious qualities made a refreshing change from some music that I usually listen to.