KYLVER – The Island – Vinyl/Cassette Release

First put out in October 2016 as a self released album both digitally and on CD; ‘The Island’ by North East Progressive Rock/Metal four piece Kylver is getting a re-release on 12” vinyl via Newcastle label ‘Inverted Grim-Mill’ and also on cassette through Colorado based label ‘Graven Earth’ on the 6th of July 2017.

Kylver is made up of guitarist Jonny Scott, Bassist James Bowmaker, Drummer Barry Micherson and Organist Neil Elliott. They have crafted their take on the progressive genre by mixing slow and heavy doom riffs, odd time signatures, atmospherics of post-rock and Hammond tones of the 70’s with a classic rock and metal sound.

Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings is a small independent label based in Newcastle upon Tyne, established in 2012. Acts working with the label are mostly gathered from the local and regional music scene, with releases and live events aimed at helping artists take the next logical step for their music.”

Graven Earth Records was born in the summer of 2016 in Denver, Colorado as a fiercely independent effort to support the best of the metal underground. The label has thus far worked with bands both local and abroad, issuing limited edition cassette releases with plans to expand to vinyl releases in the near future.

‘The Island’ is the follow up to their 2015 debut release ‘The Mountain Ghost’. ‘The Mountain Ghost’ is a forty-minute long concept album consisting of four tracks that follow the fictitious tale of a spirit who inflicts torment on the residents of a village that lies in the shadow of his mountainous home. The success of this first self released album lead the band to be nominated in the ‘Limelight’ (best newcomer) category of the 2016 Progressive Music Awards which was followed in the same year up by seeing ‘The Island’ listed in the Prog Magazine Critics Choice listings and Prog Magazine Readers Poll.

The Story of ‘The Island’ Goes…. “In November of 1703, a privateer ship and its crew set sail in search of a mythical island that was said to hold a portal to another dimension or another world in space and time. But from the outset, the journey was doomed to never reach its destination. After a day or two at sea the ship was wrecked in a great storm, losing all on board with the exception of one sole survivor. It was as if by fate that he was washed ashore on the very island that the expedition had been searching for, with nothing but a pendant around his neck which contained a strange undecipherable map. As the confused mariner made his way deeper into the heart of the island he was accompanied by an eerie feeling that he was not alone. It was a feeling that he was being ushered along the trails of the island by its shadows, shadows that lured him towards a cave inhabited by an unfamiliar yet familiar stranger. The sibyl of the island showed him the meaning of the pendant’s contents before showing him what and where he was searching. Upon his arrival at the ancient monoliths he found himself greeted by four hooded figures who were members of The Great Race. They proceeded to transport the weary traveller to an abyss where no man should venture. The sojourner begged that he be sent back to where he came from as the strange environment he found himself in was turning his mind into something he could not fathom. To this The Great Race agreed but not before they had removed all recollection of how and when this all happened from his mind. But The Great Race added a curse to protect their knowledge even further. He awoke in his world on the eve before the ship was due to set sail and from then on the rest of his life was a perpetual loop, with the same journey continuing to happen over and over again with no end…”

Review of ‘Black Science’ by Machines Dream – by Emma Roebuck

Not having the time pressures of a “proper music journalist” means that I have the opportunity to mull and digest an album I am given for review as I’m not on a specific dead line most times. Occasionally I am asked to get one done quickly but thankfully I am not on this album. I have played this one through a couple of times a night through headphones while reading since it was sent to me. You could call it a longevity test or the fact It makes great night time listening while immersed in a novel. Both are true in this case as the album will take repeated listening and doesn’t become tiresome in any way.

Most people who know me are aware I am fascinated by the human condition and people politics and this album ticks those boxes and then some. The band describe the album thus;

“Black Science is a musically powerful progressive rock album that thematically explores the dark side of humanity and technology.”

I would agree that it is thematic rather than a concept as the songs do connect and flow excellently and explore modern life and the challenges that are very prescient in the minds of many. Yet I would say it will not become dated in any way.

Opening with a short track Armistice Day, highly reminiscent of a Roger Waters’ vocal style, it’s a doom laden post apocalypse electronic minute and a half that drops straight into Weimar, with a truly ‘Prog’ keyboards, piano and guitar symphonic introduction followed by a very open vocal . It’s very odd as I read this as a narrative close to the series “Handmaidens Tale” currently unsettling the public on Channel 4. There are musical hints of a backward baroque Harpsichord in the vocal breaks then a huge rocking out of synths and general guitar indulgence. Time and key changes rip through this 10 minute mini-epic, a treatise on society’s misogyny and patriarchal dominance. One caveat with this is my reading of the song and I may be off the mark and seeing something that the band don’t.

Cannons Cry opens with a heavy riff and a martial theme that warns of the rise of fascism and the use of propaganda to drive towards an oncoming war of the destruction of common values and principles. These guys are fans of classic Waters/Gilmour Floyd and though this is obvious but not in any way that is derogatory, only complimentary, to the music.

Airfield on Sunwick is very very English despite these guys being Ontario based. Fans of Big Big Train will find solace in a track that is very spartan in structure with lots of space in the music. Guesting on vocals on this, Jakub Olejnik (of band Sound Of Maze) adds real authenticity. This is a song of tragic conscription and the loss of country by Polish refugees in the post 1939 invasion period. Referencing Wojtek, a bear adopted and given a rank of private in the forces in World War two. It has a beautiful tone and quality about it.

Black Science is a real homage to the 70s if ever I heard one. A warning of the darker side of the misuse of science, a very simple tune and the use of the saxophone solo at the end literally took straight back to 1973 as Josh Norling superbly channels the spirit of the use of the instrument so effectively, deliberately referencing our nostalgia for a supposedly better time.

Noise to Signal, the closer on the album, is a real standout track for me combining doom chords and huge sounds to scare the pants of you in a treatise on how social media has filled our lives with noise over substance. Not a second is wasted on this track and it’s as tight as you could possibly get in a studio recording.

The eight tracks on this, their third album, show huge maturity and discipline in writing and production. It is crafted excellently and thoughtfully and fans of music in general will find much to enjoy in this album. Fans of the progressive genre particularly should lap it up as it carries a sense of the past while being still relevant to the early 21st century. These Canadians have a touch and an ear for music that needs to be shared.

Machines Dream are:

Brian Holmes: Keyboards.
Craig West: Bass and vocals.
Jake Rendell: Acoustic and backing vocals.
Ken Coulter: Drums.
Rob Coleman: Lead guitar.

With contributions from saxophonist Josh Norling.

Released 12th June 2017

Buy ‘Black Science’ from Progressive Gears here