Album Reviews

Issue 2023-043

Marco Bernard — The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up

Marco Bernard - The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
Overture (6:14), Never Never Land (11:24), The Lost Boys (10:20), The Home Under the Ground (9:54), The Pirate Ship (Hook Or Me) (10:37), The Return Home (6:59), Lunar Boy (7:57)
Jan Buddenberg

After two excellent records by Pacha & Pörsti and The Samurai of Prog, 2023 is once again off to fine start with various publications out of the Samurai camp. First off is the recently related efforts by Jan-Olaf Strandberg and Rafael Pacha. And then with Samurai Of Prog's own [The Man In The Iron Mask] which has just been released.

Amidst of all these releases, Marco Bernard found time to record his first solo album, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. A concept album which heralds J.M. Barries' world renowned fictional character of Peter Pan, known foremost from film adaptations like the Disney classic Peter Pan and Steven Spielberg's Hook. Provided with excellent expressive artwork from Ed Unitsky it is this time Bernard's own musical vision that brings this famous fairy tale to life. In doing so he stays close to home by opening a treasure chest of talented guests with whom he travels far into the magical surroundings of Never Never Land.

Before we meet the illustrious characters that play a meaningful part in the story like Wendy, the Lost Boys and Pan's rival Hook, the opening track Overture stages the fantastical sceneries brilliantly with a majestic entrance of French Horns by Marc Papeghin to which a twinkle of flutes bring Mandalaband to mind.

This composition by Octavia Stampalia soars past engaging folk into clear skies of symphonic refinement with tantalizing synth-virtuosity from Stampalia. Another excellent transporting passage and rousing play follows that is mindful of Yes, courtesy of Steve Hagler's guitar gymnastics. Accompanied by Brody Green on drums, the song's sense of upcoming adventure and flight is maintained by a return of flutes, embracing touches of classical music with violin by Steve Unruh. The final touchdown of royally sprinkled melodies brings mesmerising memories of Kansas' Always Never The Same.

Never Never Land then provides a wonderful experience of prog with a distinct mid-seventies Genesis feel. This is emphasized by the expressive vocals of John Wilkinson which captures both Gabriel and Collins by an inch. It is a typical Allesandro di Benedetti composition, and it flows and glows from beginning to end with a lush array of atmospheres. Harmoniously designed melodies include elegance of jazz, delicate restrained piano play alongside playfully arranged transitions. Pörsti is driving the song meticulously onwards, and Ruben Alvarez is going all out with a spirited guitar solo that breathes Hackett. This song is a truly magnificent gift for the symphonic prog fan.

From the moment Beatrice Birardi rattles her xylophone "bones" (see also this review) in the equally impressive The Lost Boys, projections of Skull Island are conjured up. An image that comes fully alive when lively frivolities from synth and ravishing melodies performed by a lavish line-up of keyboardist/composer Mimo Ferri, Bernard, Papeghin, Pörsti and Genarro Piepoli comes into play. Unruh and Marco Vincini portray the boys in question. This eclectic song swings and sways its way through a kaleidoscope of jolly combative melodies that include overpowering guitar parts and lush synth-fusion, as well as a dreamy movement and cheerful happy melodies that slowly guide the composition onto a Gentle Giant-like polyphonic vocal part. This triumphant composition then bounces onto a high-wire of vividly played freestyle jazz, which is decorated with delightful piano work and ends soothingly on the sounds of saluting trumpets.

In the Andrea Pavoni-penned The Home Under The Ground, divided into four "phases", Bernard and his merry musicians return to the familiar musical storytelling style as previously expressed on the two Grimm tale albums (The Lady And The Lion and The White Snake). A spoken introduction by Cam Blokland as Peter over classical cinematic atmospheres is followed by an intimate touching passage shaped by violin (Adam Diderrich). This slowly builds into the songs adventurous instrumental phase. Here, an elegant dynamic build up sprinkled with a hint of atmospheric shadiness, slowly leads the engaging melodies into a colosseum of piano driven jazz with a lengthy delicious melancholic guitar solo by Carmine Capasso.

three-panel artwork from the album, showing a room in black and white with a view on a church in colourThree-panel artwork

French horn and violin guide the composition which then smoothly settles down in medieval surrounding of "the home under the ground". Audrey Lee Harper's angelical performance as Wendy and Unruh's Lost Boys performance, complemented by drum rolls from RanestRane's Daniele Pomo, bring strong memories of TSoP's formidable A Queen's Wish. A descent into blues shadings marks the end of this epic narrative song, with Unruh and Harper's vocal conversation bringing feelings of love, emotional care and security finally.

Speaking of epic, the subsequent The Pirate Ship (Hook Or Me) from Marco Grieco's hand, delivers this in spades. Words fall short to capture all that takes place in these ten amazing minutes. As on TSoP's latest effort, this delightfully keyboard-driven composition expresses a phenomenal theatrical style to befit a broadway musical and contains a wealth of bombast, dynamics, energy and change of sceneries that display power, drive and an exquisite amount of tantalising virtuous solos.

The explosion of synths that follows the tension-raising tic-toc opening is brilliant to say the least, as are the compelling melodies moments later by Hans Jörg Schmitz (King Of Agokik) in conjunction with Grieco's blazing synth and the excellent harmonies by Hook's shipmates. Towards the casting of Matthew Parmenter (Discipline) as the temperamental Hook I have some reservations for I personally envision Hook's imposing character a lot meaner and scarier than how Parmenter expresses this vocally at first. As the song progresses he comes fully into his own, though.

It is gliding with ease through movements of haunting darkness and flighty relief. A beautiful classical piano passage buoyantly floats on top of Bernard's sensitive bass. It's the overwhelming guitar solo by Marcel Singor (Kayak) that gets overtaken by a tidal wave of synths that impresses the most. Admittedly in close shave with the song's brilliant finale. After peaceful alluring shores of flute from Sara Traficante, we return to the song's ravishing melodies. Singor's victorious solo drowns me in a sea of ultimate prog-rock bliss while Hook imaginatively walks the plank towards his destiny.

The successive The Return Home by Oliviero Lacagnina then narrates the instrumental flight back. Meticulously arranged and intricately woven motifs include vibrant symphonies and E.L.P. expressions that swirl into a movement enhanced by violin, adrift in dreamy synths and lovely guitar melodies by Charles Plogman. With sultry saxophone from Marek Arnold and a tangible sadness in Rafael Pacha's classical guitar intermezzo, a perfect palpable sense of departure is then created, which waves a final goodbye through the flourishing melodies over a funky foundation from Bernard.

Finally, it is Grieco who gets to deliver a final prog treat in form of Lunar Boy ("Asylum Reloaded"). It starts out with rock-oriented melodies and a jolly refrain that features Bo-Anders Sandström on vocals and Giorgio Mastrosanti on telecaster guitar. It is especially the virtuosic cumulus of Grieco's keys and the radiant shine of UK that attracts. This time it complemented by a splendidly crafted platform through the efforts of Bernard and Pörsti, on which Juhani Nisula gets ample opportunity to shine with fabulous guitar parts. A round-up that comprises memorable melodies with all-around dashing performances.

With the last page of the booklet revealing a blanc canvas as an invitation to stay forever young and press repeat to create your own story, it's probably needless to point out that Bernard has delivered an exceptional and thoroughly enjoyable album that grants many a wish for fans of symphonic / progressive rock and is a dream come true for those in favour of TSoP's conceptual works. In other words: The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up is another quality release out of the Samurai camp and a highly recommendable listen!

Chaos Over Cosmos — A Dream If Ever There Was One

Chaos Over Cosmos - A Dream If Ever There Was One
Continuum (3:09), Fire-Eater (7:31), Navigating By Moonlight (7:18), A Mantra Of Oppression (8:39), Ebb And Flow(ers) (10:51), Melatonin (2:37), Cascading Darkness - We Will (re)Seed (7:04), Consumed - Two Cannot (re)Pair (8:11), Worlds Apart - You Must (re)Build (5:58), Asimov (3:33)
Calum Gibson

Chaos Over Cosmos began as a due between Polish guitarist Rafal Bowman and Australian singer Joshua Ratcliff back in 2017. However, since then Joshua has moved to other projects and for the latest release been replaced with KC Lyon from the USA. Latest release, A Dream If Ever There Was One came at the tail end of 2022 and a little over a year since their previous release The Silver Lining Between The Stars. Having thoroughly enjoyed their Ultimate Multiverse release, I was looking forward to this one.

The album begins with Continuum which begins like a culmination of In Flames and speed that initially had my attention. Unfortunately, I very soon found myself checking through settings on my media player to see if I had accidentally hit speed x3. Sadly I had not. Fire-Eater continues this vastly over the top speed, which while incredible with the technical ability of Rafal, doesn't sound that great when paired with the velocity of the drumming. Although, between 2:05 and 2:52, it manages to reach a state of groove and flow that works extremely well. And then delves straight back into a mash of blistering drums and guitar solos that do not properly gel.

Navigating By Moonlight fares better, but not by much. The speed of the drumming mixed with the intensity and rate of guitar notes renders some bits sounding out of time, and doesn't allow any second to actually hear what you are listening to. Just like Rafal, KC is a very talented vocalist, and both the screams and cleans sound akin to the likes of Devin Townsend, but the vocals don't ever quite feel in place throughout.

Sadly, my experience of the rest of the album was the same. Moments of clarity, where there was a riff and solo that worked together with well paced and grooving drums, did shine through but quickly got lost in the mire of over the top technicality and speed. The complexity rendered the songs down to an uncompromising mess of sweep picking, blast beats, and vocals that (again, while some fine work in terms of sound from KC) never seemed to quite fit any semblance of structure.

While on paper and theoretically supremely talented, the execution was unfortunately lost in this instance.

In all honesty, I would struggle to recommend this album and would instead advise you to listen to Ultimate Multiverse twice instead.

DC Sound Collective — Collected Singles, EP Tracks and Other Morsels

DC Sound Collective - Collected Singles, EP Tracks and Other Morsels
Be My Monkey (album version) (4:32), Don't Wanna Be Here (5:16), Everyone I've Ever Been (4:55), Just A Millionaire (3:20), Industry Man (abridged) (2:27), K.I.S.S. LOL (3:50), Ghostwriter (4:06), Thoughts & Prayers (3:32), Hesperus (4:02), Drifting Away (single version) (3:29), In Lucid Moments (3:31), Molecular (full version) (5:21), No Room To Dream (3:38), Dante (infernal dub mix) (2:47), Just A Millionaire (dub mix) (3:27), Ghostwriter (EP version) (4:42), Rowena (9:15)
Jan Buddenberg

Producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Crommie (flutes, electric dulcimer, keyboards, drums, vocals) over the last 35+ years has released over three dozen solo albums (find reviews of ten Daniel Crommie albums here and eight DC Sound Collective albums here), several collaborative efforts, and a large number of albums with groups like Echo System, Saturnalia Trio, Group Du Jour and the here applicable DC Sound Collective.

Accompanied by Bruce Hazen (guitar), Eldon Hardenbrook (bass, guitars, keyboards, drums, vocals), and Colin Henson (guitar). The music this time on offer, as the title so obviously suggests, is a collection of digital singles and EP tracks including a few unreleased pieces that have not featured on previous albums.

Many of these pieces involve a New Wave-like pop-art approach which to me resonates with a distinct early 80s Airbridge-like atmosphere and, when my limited knowledge in this area of expertise is taken into account, brings recollections to bands like Art Of Noise, OMD and Talking Heads. Admittedly none of them fit the bill exactly and the often hailed Jade Warrior, personally unknown to me, probably suits better. Yet the infernal dub mix of Dante leaves no doubt to the influence of one David Byrne to me.

When Crommie adds his inspired Ian Anderson-like flute delights in songs like Everyone I've Ever Been and Thoughts & Prayers an assured feel and appreciated vibe towards Jethro Tull's Underwraps appears. The latter simultaneously provoking slight impressions of Space-(B)rock through its repetitive structure and monotone vocals. Ghostwriter's pinch of punk, a direct result from its combination of vocals, uptempo melodic rock and aggressive guitars, and Don't Wanna Be Here's avant-garde synthpop in style of Kraftwerk and Gary Numan brings further rewarding diverseness to this.

Equally fine demonstrations of DC Sound Collective's eclectic and diverse song material is the spiritual ambience of Hesperus and the calming Jazz inspired atmospheres of In Lucid Moments, which is also complemented by nice warm vocal expressions. As is No Room To Dream's charming simplicity that shares a vague likeness to Geoff Mann, and the bunch of songs based upon beats and elementary rhythmic structures like Be My Monkey, Molecular (Extended Version) and the "Acid infused Industrial New Wave Folk"-style of K.I.S.S.LOL that each in their own special way bring a smile of enjoyment to my face.

Amidst all this there are two elements of astonishment. The first one being the curious thought and motivation behind the abridged version of Industry Man, a song originally lasting 12 minutes now shortened to a mere 2+ minutes. The psychedelic feel I received within these few amputated minutes were actually rather promising and a longer version would probably do better justice to the experience of the song. Why they opted for such a short version in the first place is beyond me.

The second instance of astonished surprise is the beautiful closing track Rowena. Following an intro of comforting ambient Pink Floyd atmospheres this graceful composition glides onwards through attractive landscapes painted by woodwinds, sensitive bass lines and acoustic guitar refinement, after which it reaches a dreamy state of enchanting electrifying melancholic guitar parts that slowly draw this magical moment to a fully satisfying apotheosis. In the context and nature of the other tracks this epic pinnacle song places me completely at a loss, but I'm sure glad it's included for it presents a perfect finale to the album.

This being my first encounter with the band I'm not completely sure whether Collected Singles, EP Tracks and Other Morsels is a fully representative compilation for DC Sound Collective. But what I am sure of though, is that as an introduction it offers a nicely variegated, surprising, entertaining, and at times very interesting collection of artful 'prog'-pieces which are well worth investigating.

Lars Fredrik Frøislie — Fire Fortellinger

Lars Fredrik Frøislie - Fire Fortellinger
Rytter av dommedag (16:56), Et sted under himmelhvelvet (6:53), Jærtegn (6:27), Naturens katedral (16:36)
Mark Hughes

Norwegian keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie is normally to be found in the company of fellow countrymen Kristian Hultgren, Martin Nordrum Kneppen, Andreas Prestmo and Geir Marius Halleland in the ultra prog band Wobbler. However, with plans to record a new band album on hold due to a certain global medical thing, Frøislie used the time in isolation to write and record a solo album. And solo it is too, with everything except bass, which was laid down by Nikolai Hængsle, performed by Frøislie himself. Okay, so "everything" actually transpires to mean keyboards and drums but he also sings, in his native Norwegian, not that that is an issue. A perusal of the keyboards employed in the recording gives a clear indication of the sound of the album as such instruments as Hammond C3 organ, Mellotron, Minimoog, Chamberlin, Clavinet, Arp Pro Soloist, Rhodes electric piano and Wurlitzer organ have all previously been heavily employed on many a classic prog album.

The album can, in many ways, be regarded as an initial template that Wobbler would have used to create a new album, although it would no doubt have wound up sounding quite different once the other band members had had their input and added their own flourishes, not least of which would have been addition of some guitar! Throughout Frøislie has endeavoured to avoid creating an overly polished album favouring a more spontaneous approach with large amounts of the music on the longer tracks being improvised, first takes with only essential overdubs added to round out the pieces. As no click tracks were used nor MIDI technology employed, there is a rather more organic and natural flavour to the album.

The album, whose title Fire Fortellinger translates to Four Tales, takes various aspects of Norse mythology as a starting point with Rytter av dommedag (Rider Of Doomsday) the late 10th century tale of Ragnarök (Doom of the Gods) which describes the end of the world of gods and men. The part of the tale that the song portrays is when King Rakne (or Rakni or Raknar) awakens in his burial mound, where he had been placed after being killed in a seventh century battle, gathers together the old Norse gods and embarks on a spell of fighting and destruction (or 'mischief' as Frøislie describes it!). Incidentally, a large mound that has been dated to the seventh century exists near Romerike, North East of Oslo and is commonly believed to be the King's actual burial mound. A lengthy driving piece that makes full use of the various keyboards on offer, the track sets down the template of what is to follow, exquisite 70s style epic prog. Although it would have been great to have been able to follow the story (the lyrics and possibly a translation may be printed in the CD booklet, which was not included with the promo cd DPRP received) it does not impede the overall enjoyment of the piece; Frøislie has a decent enough voice and his singing style fits in perfectly with the music.

There is a more baroque introduction to Et sted under himmelhvelvet (A Place Under The Firmament) with the sound of a harpsichord picking out the melody. However, this somewhat quaint beginning does not prepare the listener for the full on keyboard assault that follows. Some respite is provided by the gorgeous organ and Mellotron flute passage before a reprise of the harpsichord and vocal introduction and culminating in a lovely instrumental playout. The second of the shorter piece, Jærtegn (Milestones) starts at a frenzied, galloping pace with some great playing on keys, drums and bass and layered harmonised vocals. This is a musical representation of a horse and cart speeding through a forest when a solar eclipse plunges them into darkness resulting in them coming to a crashing halt. A more gentle section represents the souls or spirits of the riders wandering lost in the forest trying to find they way out of the darkness into the light.

The final song, Naturens katedral (Nature's Cathedral), has a darker and more ominous beginning, the slower pace a warning against venturing out into the mountains in the midst of a Norwegian winter, where survival in the bitter cold amongst blizzards and avalanches is far from guaranteed. But it is more than this, as a background choir intercedes and various different keyboards take the lead, it also seems to be a celebration of a past time, when things were simpler and perhaps purer — musically as well as thematically. The piece gives the impression of a battle, with darker, more sinister sections interspersed with more reflective moods.

One never really notices that there is no guitar, yet despite the plethora of keyboards used one can't really describe the album as a "keyboard" album per se. Yes, the playing is magnificent, but it is far more with the aim of creating atmosphere and context than displaying virtuosity. I actually enjoyed this album much more than the last Wobbler release Dwellers Of The Deep, which should tell you a lot about the quality of this album.

Seven Reizh — La barque ailée et l’Albatros ... quand s’envolent les mots

Seven Reizh - La barque ailée et l’Albatros ... quand s’envolent les mots
Antre (1:38), Cheñch (14:01), Kraozon (9:32), Odisea (6:06), The Middle Path (10:15), Brems (5:49), Herzel (6:55), Vents Contraires (6:30),
Greg Cummins

French progressive folk band Seven Reizh has graced us with their latest musical opus, Quand S'envolent les mots, released in May 2023. This is a recreation of certain pieces of their last two albums, La barque ailee and L'albatross, and completes the quadrilogy that began in 2001 with Strinkadenn' Ys. The title of the new release translates to When Words Take Flight.

With their distinctive blend of traditional folk elements and progressive rock sensibilities, Seven Reizh has once again crafted a mesmerising musical journey that captures the imagination. It is also a lengthy album, clocking in at over 88 minutes and is available in a number of physical formats including vinyl and CD along with a 24-page booklet.

Seven Reizh is a band I have actively followed since their exceptional album, Strinkadenn' Ys debuted in 2001. Five years later, we were treated to yet another milestone with a melding of Breton Folk and Celtic music when Samsâra was released. 2015 saw the band release their third epic entitled La Barque Ailee which was eagerly snapped up as it included a limited edition version with a 250 page booklet/novel to rival the best in the business. Their stunning fourth album, L'albatross was released three years later. I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them as the music simply captivates you right from the get go and doesn't let up for a minute.

As is often the case, the depth of musicianship that embraces each and every Seven Reizh album is nothing short of amazing. Whilst the predominant talent lies with Claude Mignon (compositions, arrangements, piano, synths, lap steel, electric and acoustic guitars) (Gérard Le Dortz is not longer in the band), he calls upon the services of no less than thirty equally talented people to add their own special spice to the mix. One of the album's greatest strengths lies in its ability to seamlessly fuse various musical genres and ethnic influences. The band's progressive approach to folk music shines through in each track, as they skilfully incorporate elements of rock, jazz, and even classical music. This fusion creates a captivating sonic landscape that keeps listeners engaged throughout the entire album.

Each member of Seven Reizh brings their unique talents and contributions to the project, resulting in a cohesive and well-balanced sound. The interplay between the musicians is exceptional, showcasing their technical prowess and musical chemistry. Turkish vocalist Pelin Başar delivers a passionate and emotionally charged performance, with a rich and expressive voice adding depth and intensity to the compositions.

Additionally, the instrumentation on this album is truly remarkable. The band employs a wide range of contemporary instruments, including uillean pipes (big favourite of mine), duduk, bamboo flutes, flamenco guitar, guzheng (Chinese plucked zither), cymbalum (type of dulcimer), dan tranh (South Korean 12 string half tube plucked zither), ehru (2 stringed Chinese bowed violin) along with a traditional bevy of percussion, brass and stringed instruments. The captivating use of these diverse instruments contributes to the album's rich textures. This creates a lush, immersive listening experience on an ethereal level like something you rarely get to hear with much of today's modern music. The skilful use of dynamics and intricate arrangements further enhances the overall impact of the music.

full artwork poster, three album covers wide, depicting several globes floating in space with ghosts of aeroplanesFull artwork poster

While their current offering is a captivating and enjoyable album, there are a few minor aspects worth noting. At times, the complexity of the compositions may be overwhelming for casual listeners who are not accustomed to such contemporary, progressive music. Some tracks might require multiple listens to fully appreciate the intricacies and nuances hidden within the arrangements. Another potential issue lies in the lyrical content of the album. While the Turkish and Vietnamese lyrics are beautifully crafted and poetic, the language barrier may limit the accessibility of the album to many audiences. However, the lyrics do not really matter as they were meant as a "vehicle" to give emotion. The emotional delivery of the vocals and the sheer musicality of the compositions still allow for a profound connection on a purely sonic level, even without understanding the lyrics. From a personal perspective, I actively seek out music that embraces these elements of such a diverse ethnic importance as I find it too appealing and mesmeric to ignore.

Comparing this 2023 release to the band's earlier two albums is a little tricky as the familiarity I enjoyed after only a few short spins of their excellent L'Albatross album from 2018 is somewhat lost while I have not played La Barque Ailee nearly enough to intuitively recall all of its subtleties and attributes. This is exacerbated by the fact that the songs on the previous two albums have been re-worked for the current album yet the titles of the new versions bears little resemblance to the previous ones. This might be a little confusing for some. There is however, a notable evolution in the band's sound and artistic vision. The new album demonstrates a refined and mature approach, showcasing the band's growth as musicians and songwriters. The compositions on the latest release exhibit a very high level of complexity and sophistication, pushing the boundaries of the genre even further.

The visual presentation of the album also deserves special mention. The graphics and cover art are nothing short of extraordinary, with its intricate and vibrant imagery, perfectly capturing the essence of the music contained within. It serves as a visual gateway into the enchanting world created by the band, enticing the listener to delve deeper into the sonic voyage that awaits them. If ever there was a reason to own a physical copy of a music CD or LP, this album would rank as one of the most captivating pieces of graphic art I have seen in decades. It is truly sensational and has become a significant factor in my decision to chase down a physical copy of the CD as the digital copy I was sent for review, (including artwork), does not do the album the true justice it deserves. The main font used on the front cover is also rather special and complements the musical package contained within, perfectly. All in all, this is one stunningly beautiful package that is more than worthy of owning in its physical format, rather than just settling for a digital copy. I'm also tempted to buy a 945 mm x 320 mm triple album poster as it would look perfect in my music room.

In conclusion, this is a remarkable album that again showcases Seven Reizh's unique musical vision. The band's ability to seamlessly blend folk, rock, and progressive elements with such finesse results in a captivating listening experience that is really quite moving. Overall, Seven Reizh has delivered a stunning musical work that solidifies their position as one of the leading forces in the French progressive folk scene, despite them not being very well known outside of Europe. A marvellous effort!

Zio — Truewaves

Zio - Truewaves
  1. Truewaves (1:09), Untenable (3:52), Amused (1:31), Space Heater (4:05), Living Behind (3:05), Above The Wheels (4:51), Lonely Diamond Pt. 1 (2:37), Close (5:24), I Hear Them Whistling (9:05), Endwave (1:14)
Greg Cummins

Zio is a UK-based band consisting of some former members of Karnataka that disappeared from the scene temporarily until word of their new album, Requiem For A Dream, was slated for release in early June 2023. Jimmy Pallagrosi is the man behind the drum-kit and is responsible for much of the songwriting along with Oliver Castan and Marc Fascia. Hayley Griffiths, (also from Karnataka) features on 5 tracks with her tell-tale vocal style which I thought would add some weight to the project. John Mitchell (Arena, It Bites, Frost, Kino, features on four songs, Eric Gillette (The Neal Morse Band) on three, and badass bass monster, Antoine Fafard (Spaced Out), adds his immense talents to what I found to be the best song on the album, I Hear Them Whistling.

Although Jimmy's work with Karnataka was based upon a more subdued format that fell within the celtic rock/folk rock genre, his drumming on this outing is far more upbeat and purposeful. Many of the songs adopt a metallish edge with a very subdued attempt at provoking the cookie monster to start growling like a French ogre. This is kept very much to the background, (thankfully) and hardly makes a difference to the music, so why bother including this element into the mix? Untenable is a clear example of this inclusion.

This is a very short album at almost 37 minutes duration and with several songs that just clock in over the minute mark, it doesn't leave much time for any of the other songs to make much of an impression. There are a few exceptions of course as I found the best songs to be those that broached the 4 or 5 minute mark. Amused is a pleasant track featuring the sublime vocals of Hayley, yet at just over 90 seconds, it just doesn't have time to get into second gear. This is a pity as it could have been so much better with more material included in its structure.

Space Heater is a decent song that features Eric on vocals but was nothing special. Living Behind is a very twee sounding style of song that really did nothing for me, so it was given the two fingered salute each time it played. Above The Wheels was the third-longest track at almost 5 minutes featuring a softly struck acoustic guitar which quickly morphed into a fully blown mini-epic and has John Mitchell's voice sounding brilliant and almost emulating Peter Gabriel. Consisting of some very clever arrangements and complex time signatures, this was as close to pure prog as you could expect. A great song including a great synth solo just adds to the allure.

Lonely Diamond begins with a soft melodic guitar solo that slowly builds to emphasise that melodic lead breaks always work well for me, although again, it was over far too quickly and could have been brilliant if allowed more time to develop. Close also adopts a more progressive rock foundation, featuring some excellent vocals courtesy of Hayley, excellent drumming from Jimmy, along with some legendary guitar, bass and keyboards from the other members.

This leaves us with I Hear Them Whistling which has its roots in a folkier environment, more in the Karnataka, Clannad, Kara, Iona, Magenta (UK) or Mostly Autumn mold, although it quickly builds strength and develops into a stunning song that rivals even the best you might hear from Neal Morse. Additionally, the vocals from Eric and John are excellent and sounded so much like Neal Morse. Hayley's angelic voice just adds to the perfection.

Endwave is a throwaway song that completes what is a rather patchy album that could have been so much better, had more material been included to round out the sound. For my money, two or three good to great songs don't an album make and considering the length of this offering, you might feel like you are not getting your money's worth. It's not a bad album as such and is played well, produced well and sounds very professional but had me wanting just a little bit more. I believe the first album from Zio called Flower Torania from 2020 is a lot better, so perhaps it might be better to start there and if there is enough enjoyment from that release, you could follow up with their latest offering.

Album Reviews