Album Reviews

Issue 2024-015

Anyone — Miracles In The Nothingness

Anyone - Miracles In The Nothingness
Dawning Of The Miracle (2:08), Children Of The Void (6:25), My Name Is Forever (9:12), Some Delectable Species (7:55), Transcending (14:26), Extinction Event (8:42), Someone (6:07), Daylight (9:09), Symptom Of The Miracle (12:55), Evolutions (5:24), Anthropocene (7:20), If The World Is Running Down (5:49), Miracles In The Nothingness (19:43), The Ineffable Bliss Of Being (5:39)
Ignacio Bernaola

Riz Story is definitely making the prog rock world turn its head towards his musical project called Anyone. After three not-so-progressive rock albums he released On The Ending Earth in 2020 and there the progressive rock journey began. I had the opportunity to review that album and I enjoyed it quite a lot, but I thought there was more to discover. I was right because Anyone released a better album in 2021, In Humanity and the prog thing finally appeared on that one in a very interesting and different way.

Now this new album Miracles In The Nothingness keeps on exploring those ideas, both musically and conceptually, being somehow the third chapter of the story of the world in collapse as described in the previous album. As Riz says, "This album is a meditation on the miracle of existing. It is a contemplation of the surreal reality that we find ourselves in as we float through a borderless expanse, on a dust grain which has somehow come to life". Not an easy concept to understand nor is the music that surrounds it. "This music is uncompromising, and I've endeavoured to push the limits of my creativity and instrumental capabilities with no considerations regarding its commerciality or accessibility — it is not meant for the casual listener, but rather those listeners who seek truly progressive music." I can't agree more with this statement. One needs to be focused for two hours to fully appreciate what Anyone has to offer. And it takes many listens to get all the nuances so think twice before you give it a try...

Again, Riz Story is behind everything, from playing all the instruments to mixing, producing and mastering, only letting founder member Jon Davison (Yes, Glass Hammer) sing in the brilliant Symptom Of The Miracle. As on the album In Humanity, we have long songs and regular songs, but in this case the longer songs are even longer and the short songs are not so short, meaning we have much more music here than in its predecessor. Musically, the style keeps following the same patterns as before, with that distinctive drumming and the special treatment to the vocals, but including some softer parts and very interesting guitar solos here and there.

The longer songs seem to be the place where Riz functions more freely, developing the song towards he wants changing structure, instrumentation and tempo. Of course, those songs are the ones needing additional concentration. Try Miracles In The Nothingness to understand what I mean. Does this mean that shorter songs are bad? Definitely not. They are good, but they just follow more regular structures, if anything on this album can be called regular.

I can only recommend this album to anyone looking for a different side of progressive rock. In fact, I would recommend the whole trilogy to fully understand what the artist wants to express. It can be too much for many but for those who resist it can be a great discovery since it's not the usual music you find every day. Let's see what Anyone has to offer in future albums. My bet is Riz Story will give it an unexpected twist once again.

Closure In Moscow — Soft Hell

Closure In Moscow - Soft Hell
Jaeger Bomb (3:58), Primal Sinister (3:28), Absolute Terror Field (3:39), Better Way (4:19), Holy Rush (3:23), Keeper of the Lake (5:09), Lock & key (4:37), Don Juan Triumphant (5:04), Soft Hell (5:03), Fine (3:39), Lovelash (4:00), My Dearest Kate (4:02)
Ignacio Bernaola

What would you do if you read "noisy progressive pop rock with a strawberry twist" as the description of a band you've never heard of? Yes, you're right: you just click to see what happens. Been listening to more traditional classic prog rock and prog metal albums for a few months, but I must confess I love some pop touches here and there. I also love some doom in my life but apparently nobody is adding doom to their pop songs yet.

As I mentioned, I have never heard anything from this Melbourne based band before. Soft Hell is their third full album, released after a nine-year period struggling to finish it. Mansur Zennelli, Michael Barrett, Salvatore Aidone, Duncan Millar and Christopher de Cinque are the names behind Closure In Moscow.

And what about the music? Well, if you, like me, can't imagine that noisy progressive pop rock with a strawberry twist, try to think about some songs from The Mars Volta, or Thirty Seconds To Mars, if you happen to know them, and even some vocal melodies from That Joe Payne or Einar Solberg from Leprous. I know it's not easy to mix all those thing, but it worked for me, and since I really love those bands, I have enjoyed this album quite a lot.

I have my usual complaints, or suggestions, if the band decides to attend my demands. This album feels very cohesive, but I think it could be a better one having some kind of common musical idea behind it, as it was a true concept album. Also, the band have very good ideas, but I think they could turn those ideas into greater compositions if they push themselves a bit further from the traditional structures. They should explore the limits. Progressive rock allows it!

Also, the vocals sound better and more interesting when they are forced a little, and the singer seems to know how to do it. This is the reason my favourite tracks are Keeper Of The Lake, Don Juan Triumphant and Loveless. Of course these are some demands from someone that doesn't know how to play any instrument at all, so why should they listen to me? I would be just happy if Closure In Moscow keeps releasing very interesting music like Soft Hell. And right now, I'm also enjoying their previous albums while hoping they decide to add some doom in their new recipe.

Mike De Souza — Chrysalis

Mike De Souza - Chrysalis
Clementine Clouds (7:32), Looking Up (5:47), Gently Wake (8:57), Paper Plane Pilot (6:46), Chrysalis (7:35), Headbanger Blissout (7:10)
Owen Davies

As Clementine Clouds begins, its delightful melody fills the air. As the piece develops its recurring motif is both stunning and beautiful.

The complex embellishments which surround and adorn Clementine Clouds are magnificent. None more so than the cascading piano fills and beautifully struck guitar lines that underpin, complement, and garland the sax dominated main theme of the tune.

I remember being smitten by the gorgeous melodies of Big Bad Wolf's Pond life several years ago. Chrysalis has a similar enchanting and spiritual appeal. That is not surprising, as Mike de Souza made a significant contribution to the success of Pond Life as a member of Big Bad Wolf. I also thoroughly enjoyed De Souza's previous album Still Life. However, Chrysalis is even more impressive.

Whilst Chrysalis main stylistic colours and flavours are firmly rooted in some of the styling and conventions normally associated with Jazz, there are numerous occasions when genres are crossed. The stylistic boundaries that De Souza's compositions explore are much less defined. There are many occasions when the album briefly traverses some rocky outcrops and grazes for a moment on the trampled pastures of prog.

Consequently, much of Chrysalis may well appeal to a wider audience, including , some who might normally be hesitant to listen to anything even loosely associated with progressive Jazz. For example, the polyrhythmic structure of Paper Plane Pilot will no doubt find favour with some prog fans. Similarly, the malevolent granite-hewn power chords and hard driven guitar of the gloriously and aptly titled Headbanger Blissout will surely appeal to the long-forgotten rocker that lurks within .

In addition,aficionados of the Canterbury sub-genre of prog will no doubt shuffle and wiggle with delight at the extensive synth solo that massages and cleanses the senses to conclude the delightful Looking Up. This enchanting piece also features some delicate guitar tones that twinkle, shimmer, and glitter like a silver coin in a verdant field. Guitarist De Souza's impressive phrasing and use of space had me reaching for comparisons with Phil Lee's tasteful contribution and exquisite tones that featured in Gilgamesh's magnificent second album.

On the album, De Souza is accompanied by the wonderful talents of bassist Huw Williams, pianist, and synth player Rupert Cox, saxophonist Alec Harper and by fellow Big Bad Wolf member Jay Davis on drums. Whilst Davis is not a soloist, his subtle brush strokes, sensitive kit strikes and inventive rhythmic embellishments, add to the albums overall excellence.

The band members mastery of their instruments and the creativity that is brought to the table is very apparent and, on the occasions, when they step forward into the spotlight to deliver stunning solo's, the music is taken to an even higher level.

For example, De Souza's expansive solo in Paper Plane Pilot is superb in every sense and rustles my neck hairs every time I experience it. Similarly, the late-night cocktail-haze, lipstick-smudged, piano solo in the outstanding title track evokes the majestic piano tones of such great players as John Taylor and Keith Tippett. The extended sax solo that follows is similarly satisfying in its measured full cheek intensity.

If this was not enough to massage and manipulate the senses; the aggressive rasps and exciting explosions of Harper's sax that occur in his moving solo during the latter stages of Headbanger Blissout rattles and vibrates eardrums in an unforgiving, yet totally gratifying manner.

Harper's solo in Gently Wake is equally enchanting, although in this piece the emphasis is more reflective and concentrates on creating a rich tone and flowing melodic fluidity that complements the tuneful nature of the piece.Gently Wake is another tune that highlight's De Souza's talents as a soloist.

However, despite such glittering solo forays by the individual members of the ensemble, perhaps the real strength of the album lies in the overall quality of the compositions. In this way, the written ensemble parts create a wonderful basis and a perfect springboard for the soloists to create improvise, invent, and innovate.

The relationship between what is tightly composed and what is loosely developed woven and improvised and the way in which these two elements are resolved is undoubtedly one of the many highlights of this very enjoyable album.

The music has many different textures and there are numerous occasions when the combination of all the instruments and the intricate layers that they create is absolutely mesmerising.

The title track is an excellent example of the bands collective talents. It has an engaging melody and the recurring motif is just irresistibly beautiful. However, despite its ear friendly accessibility the piece is never bland or predictable. On the contrary this engaging composition is expertly and lightly spiced by several inventive sections that explore the possibilities offered by the tunes melodic core. These interludes are impressively delivered or connected by several delicious solo sections.

Mike De Souza's latest project is highly recommended.Its fresh, its compelling, its majestic melodies are absolutely beautiful.

Chrysalis is simply a very impressive release.

I adore it!

Ellesmere — Stranger Skies

Ellesmere - Stranger Skies
Northwards (6:50), Tundra (6:44), Crystallized (5:13), Arctica (4:17), Stranger Skies (12:18), Another World (11:43)
Patrick McAfee

In recent decades, prog music has become less grandiose than the template that was set by the pioneers of the genre. The influence of classical music has been largely replaced by a blend of traditional progressive rock with pop, metal, electronica, jazz, and other forms of music. Alternately, Ellesmere's Stranger Skies is an entertaining nod to the old school symphonic prog of the 1970s.

Think classic Genesis with a touch of ELP and Jethro Tull, and you will get a good idea of what to expect. Singer John's Wilkinson's vocal resemblance to Phil Collins certainly adds to the Genesis vibes. Also reflective of prog's origins is the running theme around the discovery of new worlds. Northwards, Tundra, Arctica, and the epic title track, are all appropriately elaborate. Previous Ellesmere releases were instrumental and the 12 string driven, Crystalized provides an effective glimpse into that aspect of the band. Ending the album, Another World, keeps the Genesis influence strong and makes for a compelling close.

Band leader and multi-instrumentalist, Roberto Vitelli's is ably supported throughout by drummer Matttias Olsson and guitarist, Giacomo Anselmi. The special guest list is also significant and offers fine performances from John Hackett, Clive Nolan, Thomas Bodin, David Jackson, and Graeme Taylor of Gryphon. Special mention goes to Rodney Matthews typically impressive cover art.

There is nothing strikingly original about the six songs presented here, but that isn't the goal. The band has unabashedly acknowledged Genesis' Trick Of The Tail and Rush's, Moving Pictures as inspiration for this recording. Reflective albums of this type often fail in comparison to what influenced them, but there is a convincing sincerity to Stranger Skies. It may not reach the heights of the classics that it honors, but it is certainly an entertaining listening experience.

Forever Twelve — Neighborhood Of Spirits

Forever Twelve - Neighborhood Of Spirits
Mankind (6:42), August In September (6:20), Eight Billion Heartbeats (9:23), New Man (8:31), Neighborhood Of Spirits (7:52), Peaceful Planet (5:33), A Thousand Men (10:01)
Martin Burns

Forever Twelve's new album Neighborhood Of Spirits is their fifth album since forming 1993 and the second to be reviewed here at DPRP mansions. The other being 2017's Home which was given a recommended rating.

The band, a four piece, produce powerhouse neo-prog that is also heavy on the symphonic prog with equal emphasis between multiple keyboards and guitars. The sharp rhythm section holds down the often tricky changes with aplomb. The vocals are engaging being both charismatic and have a wide range.

This is song focussed prog with strong melodies that has well arranged shifts between the instruments that keep the arrangements consistently intriguing especially in the lengthy instrumental passages. The band never lose their forward momentum or melodic concentration and they move through the heavier and lighter contrasting sections of these songs.

Just to take a few examples. The first three tracks have a winning soulful and bluesy guitar sound from Tom Graham (who also provides keyboards, bass, vocals) matched by great synth, paino and organ from main keysman Steve Barberic. Going from the Genesis-style opening symphonic synths on Eight Billion Heartbeats to the fierce organ on August In September. Tom Graham also provides lithe funky bass on the opener, ably syncing with former Mars Hollow drummer Robert Craft. Who joined Forever Twelve sometime after the release of Home, re-uniting with former Mars Hollow singer John Baker who joined and made his first appearance on Home.

Forever Twelve, promo photo

There is a jazzy edge to the electric piano on New Man along with punchy staccato drums and bass. The title track features supple slide guitar, choral synths and piano. It maintains a subtle energy. There is a Hackett/Howe like acoustic opening to the gorgeous Peaceful Planet that has Craft singing in a higher register and some kinetic playing from the whole band.

There is on slight criticism from me. I found that the transitions on the lengthier A Thousand Men sometimes took me out of the song. But this is a minor point.

If you have a liking for the intersection of symphonic and neo-prog then Forever Twelve's Neighborhood Of Spirits will be a superb addition to your listening pleasures.

Viima — Väistyy Mielen Yö

Viima - Väistyy Mielen Yö
Tyttö Trapetsilla (4:42), Äiti Maan Lapset (18:50), Pitkät Jäähyväiset (6:38), Perhonen (6:45), Vuoren Rauha (7:37)
Jan Buddenberg

I'm not a dedicated follower of fashion, but I get the distinct impression there's a new trend emerging in prog: bands/artists that make a very welcomed return to the scene after a silence of at least a decade. Third in line after recent offerings by Glönkler and Hermetic Science (soon to be published) are Viima, a Finnish symphonic folk-prog group who previously released the albums Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta and Kahden Kuun Sirpit in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

Since 2011 there have been several personnel changes and instrumental role reversals within the band, which all together results in a today line-up of Risto Pahlama (vocals, keyboards), Hannu Hiltula (flute, keyboards, backing vocals), Aapo Honkanen (bass), Mikko Uusi-Oukari ( guitar, Mellotron) and Mikko Väärälä (drums). Their former keyboardist Kimmo Lähteenmäki, who left the band in 2011 when work started for this third offer, is also present on the two compositions that bookend the album.

One aspect fully left intact is the use of their native language. With helpful translations available on their website I personally find this "barrier" a highly refreshing and attractive feature that gives the highly pleasant music both character and uniqueness. While it also evokes quite a few surprising musical associated memories that makes me appreciate the eclectic nature of the music, captured in a wonderful open and warm production that highlights every instrument and vocal accomplishment beautifully, even more.

The album starts off with the excellent uplifting Tyttö Trapetsilla which instantly grabs hold with a Jethro Tull-styled elegy of lush Canterbury folk melody and flute movements that remind of Genesis. Living and breathing the progressive 70s, it rocks like a charm from beginning to end and with groovy elements of jazz. Tantalising melodies surprisingly convey flavours of Prog Andaluz and Hungarian Omega to me. A spectacular raw guitar solo finalises in a delightful nostalgic Tull-vibe.

Opening with calm sensitive play and engagingly flowing melodies, the album's third composition Pitkät Jäähyväiset shows similar well-construed perfection. Building momentum with a sudden rock propulsion that's constantly on the verge of exploding, it intensifies into a dynamic and bright passage of psychedelic Pink Floyd synths. It rounds off in an immaculately executed coda of recurring melodies in which peaceful flute melodies activate my inner Neuschwanstein kryptonite.

After a lengthy entrance aglow with serenity that silently cries with coldness of piano Perhonen (Butterfly) exhibits late 70s Eloy-style, bass-driven dynamics. Astonishingly, this combination with Finnish vocals also manages to bring memories of early symphonic Gerard from Japan. Sublime harmonious interplay designed with subtle rhythmic guidance and thrilling guitar work takes off for a divine flight into melodies that shine with minute imprints of Anyone's Daughter's masterpiece Adonis. This marvellous composition flows seamlessly into the parting lament of Vuoren Rauhu which drowns listeners into deeply moving and melancholic Barclay James Harvest melodies.

The epic Äiti Maan Lapset is a real treasure trove of seventies-inspired prog luxuries. Following its dynamic departure it initially settles for a quietly rippling pilgrimage of vintage Kansas and then journeys onwards with attractive synth play into comfortable symphonic prog environments akin to Yesterdays' most recent effort Saint-Exupéry álma. Showcasing beautiful symbiosis between contemplative lyrics and musical intensity, the intricately arranged movements continue to shift effortlessly between passages of rockier prog and refined symphonies. It ultimately touches down in an Eden of organ-heated melodies that soothingly glisten with Sebastian Hardie.

After all this I genuinely hope Viima won't wait another 12 to 15 years to present a follow-up because every composition, especially their epic suite, keeps on giving and giving and has the words "We Want More" written all over it for me.

On a whole this magnificent year-opening in form of Väistyy Mielen Yö has been a wonderful experience. If artfully crafted 70s inspired symphonic prog — played with passion, emotion and feel that also shares a likeness to Residuos Mentales and Camel — is to your liking then this comes highly recommended. Bring on No. 4 🙂!

Album Reviews