Review – The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me – By Shawn Dudley

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One of the many benefits of living within “the era of Steven Wilson” is in addition to his seemingly bottomless pit of musical projects and his excellent remixing work he also has quite a knack for surrounding himself with top-drawer musicians.

The multi-talented Nick Beggs immediately made his presence felt in Steven’s solo band, not just with his bass and stick playing, but his excellent backing vocals. He provides the harmonic anchor in very much the same way that John Wesley did in Porcupine Tree. When I first heard about The Mute Gods project I was intrigued to hear him take on the main vocal duties himself and the results were even better than I anticipated.

To complete the lineup for The Mute Gods he brought along Marco Minneman, his rhythm section partner from Wilson’s band and also keyboardist/producer Roger King (Steve Hackett) as well as additional contributions from session drummers Nick D’Virgilio and Gary O’Toole.

“Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me” isn’t an actual concept album, but it does have a loose thematic element to it.  The topics include “hacktivists”, government surveillance, religious extremism, Internet trolls, general apathy and many other wonderful elements of life in the 21st century.  But to his credit Beggs mostly wraps these heavy topics in wonderfully accessible, melodic pop/prog confections, allowing the messages to come across without beating you into submission with negativity.

On my first listen to this album I was really surprised by how infectious it was, a very accessible pop/rock sound delivered with the type of sophistication expected from the artists involved. It made me realize that it’s a shame “mainstream rock radio” doesn’t really exist any longer, because I think many of these tracks would sound great while cruising down the highway with the radio blaring.

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The title track Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me sets the stage nicely.  After an extended keyboard intro (that had me temporarily flashing back to the early 80s) the main driving rhythm kicks in, propelled forward by a muscular bass pulse. In an alternate reality I could see an arena full of people jumping up and down to this groove and singing along with the anthemic chorus. This track stuck in my head like glue from the very first listen. Is is prog? Well, I suppose that’s debatable, but I don’t hear very many “mainstream” rock acts that have the subtlety and musical chops displayed here.

Praying To A Mute God keeps the vibe upbeat with an even more pop-oriented approach but veers off for a little display of instrumental dexterity in the proggy mid-section. This approach is repeated elsewhere on the album, short moments of progressive stretching out used to punctuate otherwise fairly straightforward compositions. The song always remains the focus.

My favorite tracks on the album are a couple of progressive rock gems on the second half; the lovely and ethereal Strange Relationship and the exotic-tinged atmosphere of Swimming Horses. Two of the longer cuts they give the band a chance to stretch out both compositionally and instrumentally. Roger King’s tasteful keyboard choices are worth note on these songs; he uses a nice balance of vintage and modern sounds, always providing just the right tone the composition requires.

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For contrast there are a few darker compositions on the album; Feed The Troll, Your Dark Ideas, the instrumental In The Crosshairs and Mavro Capelo. These tracks are a little heavier and a little more menacing, but are scattered throughout the tracklist so the mood never completely dominates. Of these the most successful is the deliciously dark and devious Feed The Troll, it’s menacing but playful at the same time, kind of like a cat toying with a mouse for a while before finishing it off. The only track that doesn’t quite work on the album is Your Dark Ideas; it comes off more silly than intense, but is partially redeemed by the instrumental mid-section and a particularly gonzo guitar solo.

Speaking of playful, there’s a track on here called Nightschool for Idiots (I’m pretty sure I was valedictorian). This song is the very definition of a grower.  When I first heard the album I’ll admit it irritated me to no end, I just found it too sweet, too syrupy, too cute…but with each subsequent listen I liked it more and more and now it’s one of my favorites. This song and Father Daughter stand apart from the rest of the album and feel more self-contained. Father Daughter is exactly what it says it is, a duet between Beggs and his daughter Lula Beggs, the lyrics forming a dialogue. It’s a touching and unique track.

All in all The Mute Gods isn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was a very pleasant surprise nonetheless. I’m hoping we get a follow-up.

Released 22nd January 2016

Buy Do Nothing Till You Hear From me from Inside Out Music

 

 

Review – Osta Love – The Isle of Dogs

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(Featured image of the band courtesy of Chris Noltekuhlmann)

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” – Martin Luther.

I have oft mentioned how I see myself as a modern day treasure hunter, searching the jewels of musical endeavor that would otherwise lay hidden due to the fickle nature of the modern music industry. However, I don’t do this alone, there are a lot of us Indiana Jones-a-likes out there and it is often thanks to these fellow musical pursuants that I will be introduced to another wonderful piece of music from a previously unheralded artist.

One fine and upstanding gentleman who I trade musical discoveries with is the Prog Guru™ himself David Elliott, founder of Bad Elephant Music and the Amazing Wilf of The European Perspective fame.

David pointed me in the direction of Berlin based progressive band Osta Love and their latest release ‘The Isle of Dogs’ and it was, yet another, excellent recommendation!

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A quick visit to their website elicits the following information:

Osta Love unite Rock with Jazz, Pop with Baroque, catchy hooks with complex rhythms and add just the right dose of melancholic dreamscape to form a unique sound that touches hearts and heads.

The band was founded by Tobias Geberth and Leon Ackermann as a studio project, after they left their hometown Heidelberg for Berlin in 2010. The two had met in school and had been playing music together since 2006. Soon the first songs were written, recorded and also performed with a live band. In 2013 they released their debut album ‘Good Morning Dystopia‘ that earned them some attention and many favourable reviews. 

The line-up was completed when Oliver Nickel joined on bass and Marcel Sollorz on keys and vocals. Over the years Osta Love played live in almost every club in Berlin and played support shows for Boy & Bear and The Pineapple Thief.

Osta Love belief in the album as an artform and like to combine memorable songs with musical ambition and complexity, to form a cohesive listening experience that works on an emotional and on a cerebral level.”

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For a progressive album ‘The Isle of Dogs’ is relatively short, coming in, as it does, at 43 minutes but it does have a 16 minute epic on there so that’s definitely heading in the right direction!

Album opener, and title track, The Isle of Dogs opens in a subdued manner before blossoming into a jaunty edged little number. The vocals have a haunting quality to them and the keyboards and drums give a real 70’s psychedelic edge at times. Throw in some rather excellent guitar work and it is a fine bit of nostalgia tinged progressive rock. There is a very finely worked sense of humour running throughout too, especially on the intricate instrumental session that would’nt be amiss on a Caravan album from the 60’s and 70’s. All in all a rather fine opening to the album. Down to the River has a more modern feel to it taking its pointers from Moon Safari, Mew and the like. Upbeat and cheery with cool and classy jazz infused keyboards making an appearance at regular intervals. Marcel’s vocals have a real feel of quality to them with an occasional halting tone and, once again, the guitar work is rather good.

The next track is one of my favourites, a really haunting little ditty that evokes so many different images in your mind. The Sea has an almost portentous opening before opening into a brilliant song that keeps you on edge with the eerie feeling harmony of the vocals and the persistent drumming and melancholy note of the keyboards and piano. A somber and wistful track from beginning to end, it has a bleak beauty deep in its heart, quite superb. Velvety smooth and super cool, Black Beacon Sound wouldn’t be out of place on any modern jazz album. It literally floats along with an air of nonchalance and aloofness and the Martin Taylor-esque guitar solo just oozes class. The vocals are subdued and sultry and the keyboards add another layer of sophistication to this elegantly refined and intelligent track.

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A subtly building, haunting introduction heralds the prophetic Green Hills of Home. Marcel’s pensive vocal delivery adds a hushed reverence to the song and the gently undulating piano note gives it a strong gravitas. It grabs you and draws you into its sombre embrace. There is a stark grace that is the core of this humbling track, never more so than on the pleading guitar solo and the austere harmonies. Moonshine at Midnight begins with a low-key introduction before it breaks out into an upbeat track with a note of Franz Ferdinand. Inventive and knowing, it is a clever, complex song with a lively feel running throughout. The vocals are sometimes solemn and restrained and at other times buoyant and optimistic. The gifted keyboard playing is a particular highlight on this track.

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Perhaps saving the best until last, the final track is the 16 minute majesty of Translucent Engineering. A delicate acoustic guitar introduces Marcel’s soft and fragile vocal, leaving you hanging on every word. There is a dreamlike feel to this opening part of the track, ethereal and rarefied. Gossamer like, it leaves you in hushed contemplation as it continues to play out before you, a ghostly synthesiser taking up the baton. There is a pause before things get a little more exciting and seriously progressive, a repeated note underlying a wandering guitar and laid back keyboards, quite a spaced out atmosphere in fact. The vocals join in again and lend an aura of 90’s neo-prog to proceedings, it’s all getting very interesting as the captivating guitar transfixes you. Onto the third part of the song and a subtle bass takes over, driving things along with an increased urgency before the guitar, once again, shoulders the burden and takes an uplifting route to your inner soul. Osta Love are extremely skilled in the construction of emotive music and they use every trick in the book on this epic track, the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise as it comes to a powerful conclusion with Marcel’s voice and the incredible guitar playing of Tobias Geberth adding that final layer of polish to a very impressive release.

It is discovering or being introduced to little gems of musical brilliance like this that really makes me smile. Music is one of the greatest treasures that our world possesses and, when it is as good as this, it is a treasure that the whole world should know about and have the chance to enjoy.

Released 27th November 2015

Buy Isle of Dogs direct from the band

 

 

 

Details of New Magnum album, ‘Sacred Blood, Divine Lies’, and tour released

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Mighty British melodic hard rock group Magnum are set to release their magnificent new studio album ‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’, on Steamhammer / SPV on February 26th, as a limited edition DigiPak CD (with bonus DVD), standard Jewel Case CD, double gatefold vinyl with printed inner sleeves + CD (in paper sleeve), and download.

‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’, a hugely stirring, uplifting opus, is a notably heavier, harder offering than its much acclaimed predecessor, ‘Escape From The Shadow Garden’, and is packed with even more of Magnum’s massive trademark rousing rock melodies. The band have also lined up a 15 concert headline UK tour in support of the album, from May 11th through to May 30th; dates are:-

 11th May         SOUTHAMPTON The Brook

12th May         CARDIFF Tramshed

13th May         LONDON Islington Assembly Hall

14th May         OXFORD 02 Academy

16th May         NORWICH Waterfront

17th May         NOTTINGHAM Rock City

19th May         BIRMINGHAM 02 Institute

20th May         HOLMFIRTH Picturedome

21st May         MANCHESTER Academy 2

22nd May        NEWCASTLE 02 Academy

24th May         ABERDEEN Garage

25th May         GLASGOW Garage

27th May         BELFAST Limelight 1

29th May         BRISTOL 02 Academy

30th May         LEAMINGTON SPA Assembly

Magnum mastermind Tony Clarkin started working on the resounding new album even before ‘Escape From The Shadow Garden’ crashed into the UK Album Chart at 38, (the band’s first top 40 album chart position for over 20 years), on release in March 2014.

“I usually start composing for our next album immediately after the release of the previous one,” Clarkin recalls, continuing “When ‘Escape…’ arrived at the stores in March 2014, my thoughts had already turned to our next recording.”

Clarkin was inspired to write 25 new songs during and after the subsequent triumphant European tour, the most outstanding 13 of which were selected for ‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’. Ten of the numbers made it onto the standard album CD and another three onto the DigiPak bonus DVD, which also contains videos for three of the brand new songs on the album.

The epicentre of this soundquake features, along with frontman Bob Catley’s charismatic voice, Clarkin’s awesome riffing and hard driving lead guitar licks, which provide the all-important substructure to each of the ten gems of songs on the album.

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‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’ counts without a doubt among the group’s most dynamic releases; Clarkin states that “I’ve always been into rock numbers. But it isn’t necessarily that easy to write really good rock material. It’s much more simple to compose a ballad. But that dynamic pace suits Magnum perfectly.”

Nowhere is this more evident than on the title track and album opener; “I feel that Bob delivered it really well,” Clarkin praises his vocalist Bob Catley. “As far as I am concerned, ‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’ is definitely likely to join the ranks of great Magnum classics.” So it comes as no surprise that ‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’, with its significant message, became the album title.

Among the other multiple highlights on this thoroughly powerful recording, mention must be made of the anthemic ‘Gypsy Queen’, which Tony was inspired to write after a concert in St. Petersburg, a city which deeply impressed him with its unique atmosphere.

By no means less memorable is ‘Your Dreams Won’t Die’ which is based on a cascading piano chord sequence, reflecting the song’s poignant philosophical message. “To me, the title and lyrics have an almost religious depth,” says Clarkin. “There’s a saying that somebody is not forgotten if their name is remembered.” A successful rock group like Magnum should be entitled to eternal renown, shouldn’t it? Says Clarkin: “You want my honest opinion? I don’t think that far ahead, but of course it’s a nice notion that this band may always be remembered because so many people love our music.”

And last but not least: ‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’ closes with a song which surprised even Clarkin; “I liked the general sound of ‘Don’t Cry Baby’ from the start,” he remarks. “Although I initially didn’t have a lyric, the melody kept going through my head, as well as the chorus with acoustic and e-guitars plus piano. We even kept the drums from the demo version because our drummer Harry James liked them so much. He said: “I love it the way it is. We shouldn’t change a thing about it”.”

‘Sacred Blood “Divine” Lies’, the cover of which has once again been designed by renowned fantasy artist Rodney Matthews (Nazareth, Asia), is a stupendous record, packed with soon-to-be-proclaimed-classic, majestic hard rock compositions.

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Review – Profuna Ocean – In Vacuum

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“You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.”  – Paolo Cuelho

Well, to quote Mr Cuelho once more, “I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure”, and the treasure I seek is music, not any old music but music that can move you and stir your soul, music that can ask questions and then answer them with amazing clarity.

If I can take some liberty with the original quote, maybe you are a victim of the world if you have to listen to the dirge that is anodyne, bubblegum chart music. This is music that is only ever created for commercial gain and not for passion or just because it can be brought to life and it is anathema to me.

It can take a while to unearth a true gem and, on a recent short hospital stay, I had an interesting conversation that became somewhat an analogy of my musical treasure hunts.

While laid on the hospital bed  I struck up a conversation with the gentleman opposite who just happened to be an avid metal detector devotee who would spend hours on a cold and frosty day criss-crossing fields searching for that elusive big find.

While never unearthing anything of large value himself he went on to avail me of the many great finds that his fellow detectorists had come across and, while having the interminable wait of any hospital visit, I came to see how it actually coincided with how I will listen to hundreds of albums to find that one peach of a listen.

Well, my friends, my travails of 2016 haven’t taken long to reveal an early musical gem, Profuna Ocean’s ‘In Vacuum’ and what a jewel it is!

Profuna Ocean Band

“Profuna Ocean is a contemporary progressive rock band from the Netherlands, founded in 2008. With their sequences of thought out compositions, vivacious melodies and powerful rock sounds their music constantly takes the listener on a musical trip and introduces him of her to the musical world of Profuna Ocean.” 

Or so says the PR material that came with the album, the band consists of Fred den Hartog (drums), Raoul Potters (vocals, guitars), Arjan Visser (bass guitar) and René Visser (keyboards) and they self released their first album ‘Watching the Closing Sky’ in 2009. ‘In Vacuum’ was released through Freia Music and sees the band refining and redefining their own unique sound.

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To be fair, I was blown away on first listen as an imposing riff awash with heavy guitar and swirling keyboards introduces Thousand Yard Stare with no unnecessary frippery. This then breaks into a stylish melodic section with nicely harmonised vocals a la Steven Wilson before thundering into a dynamic chorus where the keys and flared out guitar take centre stage again. The music grabs you from the start and Raoul’s dulcet tones are perfectly matched, whether playing the melodious troubadour or hard-edged rocker. Throw in an aggressive, hard rock infused solo and some almost deviantly classy instrumental sub-sections and you are left mightily sated by this excellent album opener. The question is, can the rest of the album keep up the incredibly high standard? I find myself transported back to the grunge days of the early 1990’s with the fuzzy guitar and dynamic drums that open Awakening, a really upbeat and aggressive track where the vocal gives it an edgy feel. The melody is really catchy as it dances across your mind and the staccato riff that underpins the verse has you up on your metaphorical toes. I really enjoyed the nostalgic feel of Nirvana and Pearl Jam that emanates from every note, although this track has more smile and less frown at its core.

Hanging in the Balance has a feel of alternative rock to it, the pensive introduction is all guitars and keyboards before a halting vocal takes over, a touch of early Foo Fighters perhaps? Although the chorus seems to come straight from the 80’s with the harmonised vocal and elegant keyboards. There is an undercurrent of intensity running throughout as the drums drive this energetic track along. Raoul Potters shows he has an incredible variety to his vocal delivery, his voice perfectly matched to the individual feel of every song. There is a polished note to the delivery and the mix, mastering and production without it losing any emotion or feeling. The instrumental interlude in the middle of the track builds in intensity, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you await the next step, a trance-like section that evokes the feelsome progressive rock of bands like RiversideVotum and Vly. The skill of these accomplished musicians has to be heard to be appreciated as they take you on a sonorous journey through your mind punctuated by perfect chords and notes. This track then seems to segue into yet another direction and style, one inhabited by the giants of progressive and symphonic metal, punctuated by soaring guitar runs and stuttering riffs before coming back full circle to finish on the sharp guitar and keyboard tones of the introduction. Losing Ground is sassy, sharp and smart from beginning to end with a funky guitar riff and polished drums leading the chase. This then opens up into a harder-edge chorus where the vocals, guitars and keyboards swell up and hit you hard before that snappy verse grabs your attention once again. These guys know how to take influences from all sorts of genres and mould them into a cohesive whole, one that is definitively Profuna Ocean and the surprises come thick and fast as they bounce around like a pinball machine. It never gets dull and always feels fresh and innovative, you need more than one listen to pick up every nuance and snippet that is included and you never stop smiling or nodding in acknowledgement at what the band have created and delivered for our delectation. Thunderous guitars, powerful drumming, swathes of elegant keyboards and the ever present bass combine to knock you over with a sonic boom of immense proportions, you just laugh, pick yourself up and return for another helping….

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Turn down the intensity a few notches and enjoy the lush tones of Ghost. Earnest vocals and a delicate guitar note pluck at your heartstrings as this delightful track soothes your soul and allows a peaceful interlude from the high energy excitement of what has preceded it. I found myself rapt in attention as each note danced across my aural receptors. This track has a grace and tenderness deep at its heart and leaves you in a state of ethereal calm, quite beautiful. This release has impressed me at every turn but the highlight for me is the next track, the magnificent Beautiful Sunrise. It begins with a seriously compelling and dominant riff that rides roughshod over everything in its path, attention grabbing all the way, underscored by a mysterious feeling keyboard tone. Now you have taken notice it pulls back into an absorbing piece of music that wouldn’t be amiss on any of the classic Porcupine Tree albums. Slightly halting vocals on the verse, accompanied by intricate instrumentation, followed by a captivating chorus with lush harmonies and music, all intelligently produced and delivered. This is musical education, you feel that your whole life and being is enriched by every listen, I must have put this track on repeat for 4 or 5 plays deducing every slight insight and gradation as the brilliant keyboards take centre stage before the track graduates into an sophisticated and inventive instrumental section dominated by a dexterous guitar solo. This is where the band’s creativity really takes flight and leaves you slack jawed. I’m sure that Profuna Ocean will admit readily to their influences, as would most bands, but it’s what you do with them that counts. As the song comes to a close it goes a bit psychedelic on you for a minute before it confidently strides off into the distance, satisfied in a job well done.

The title track In Vacuum is a dramatic, cinematic instrumental that holds your attention as this great release moves into its final phase and track Clean Slate which opens with a seriously addictive toe-tapping riff and confident drums, Raoul’s vocals are precise and determinate though the verse before they deliver a heartfelt and compelling tone to the chorus. Grunge, alternative rock, progressive rock, hard rock, you name it, they are all thrown into the crucible and melted down to deliver Profuna Ocean’s signature sound. The influential guitar break and dreamlike synth section, once again, paint a precise picture in your mind as this innovative band continue to inventively mix their musical metaphors to perfection and with superb results.  At times it wanders off into a more relaxed vista but it isn’t long before the hard-riffing guitars come and grab the track by the scruff of the neck and set it back on its obdurate trajectory once again. It’s like having four musical seasons in one song but ones that dovetail perfectly to deliver an experience that leads you to the water to drink time and time again. As the song and album come to a close there is another fantastic piece of guitar work that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up before everything starts to slow down and a plaintive piano note runs things out to the final note.

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So we are only in January and I have had a proliferation of great music land at Progradar Towers already. There have been some absolutely dazzling releases but, for this music writer, the best of the lot has been Profuna Ocean. A more hard-edged and aggressive take on Progressive Rock but one with a beautiful fragility hidden below. A brilliant start to the year, this is one release that could possibly have been my album of the year if it had surfaced in 2015, as it is, it will take something rather fantastic to top it now!

Released 8th January via Freia Music.

Buy In Vacuum from Freia Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gandalf’s Fist announce The Clockwork Fable Pre-Order

Progressive Rock innovators Gandalf’s Fist are delighted to announce “The Clockwork Fable”, a Prog-Rock Mind Movie in three oscillations.

As a follow-up to the acclaimed “A Forest of Fey”, they’ve gone all-out, creating a truly epic *TRIPLE* concept album.

Set in the fictional world of “Cogtopolis”, each CD of the record serves as a different “act” of the story, with Dean Marsh and Luke Severn, along with to-be-announced guest vocalists, providing the singing voices of the inhabitants. However things don’t end there; the characters are also brought to life by a 50-page script that has been professionally recorded by a range of hugely talented actors.

A far cry from a musical, where characters burst into song at the drop of a proverbial hat, ‘The Clockwork Fable’ serves as a sprawling motion picture that will play out in your Neocortex with Gandalf’s Fist, of course, providing the soundtrack.

Aside from the depth of story and characters, the band have also fully developed the world of Cogtopolis. From geography, religious doctrines, even down to the fictional language of Cypheridia… the amount of work that’s been put into this conceptual piece is staggering.

Dean adds: “It’s a sprawling record with so many different styles. Conceptually it’s War of the Worlds meets Monty Python, but musically there’s everything from Van der Graaf Generator to Black Sabbath in there. We’re extremely excited for everyone to hear a suite of songs based around the character of “The Lamplighter”, the first of which is the longest song we’ve ever written… and that’s only part one!”
But that’s not the best of it.

Gandalf’s Fist truly believe that this is the finest musical work that they have ever created. There’s a mix of all of their influences and, were you to put all of the best bits of our discography into a huge melting pot, you’d end up with something quite close (but not as awesome) as what the guys have created! But don’t just take their word for it – head over to the pre-order store and have a listen to a whopping 10 minutes of audio previews!

Enter the world of Cogtopolis here

 

Progradar’s New Year Wallet Emptier – 12th January 2016

Happy New Year my friends, after the bumper musical cornucopia of 2015, it is quite difficult to see how 2016 could top it but, you never know!

To get this year started with a bang, here’s a super-duper edition of Wallet Emptier featuring some great albums from last year that didn’t get to feature due to being released at the end of the year and some belters that are kicking off 2016 in fine fashion. Buckle up, it’s going to be an exciting ride…….

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M!NDGAMES – Paradox of Choice

Belgian proggers M!NDGAMES returned in 2015 with this new release, which was my first exposure to their classy brand of Neo-Prog. Bombastic bursts of symphonic tinged rock combine with delicate moments of reflection and sadness to give a feel of early Marillion, all underscored by swooping keyboards. An album that definitely gets better as it it progresses and one that is worthy of your attention.

Released 1st November 2015

Stand out track  – The Whistle Blower

Buy Paradox of Choice from CD Baby

Listen to The Whistle Blower on Soundcloud

 

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Jack Arthurs – Treasure House

With ‘Treasure House’, Jack draws from a deep well of poignant and reflective experiences to deliver a delightful collection of acoustic tracks that come straight from his heart and are like a breath of fresh air. He is tremendously excited to bring these stripped back, uplifting songs to life. Just one man and his guitar, Jack has written ten insightful and moving tracks that, together with his haunting vocals, lead you on a captivating musical journey into the depths of his soul.
Released 5th February 2016 through Bad Elephant Music
Stand out track – North Star
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Profuna Ocean – In Vacuum

I opened my email inbox this morning to find two new promotional releases, the first was for Profuna Ocean, a Dutch band I profess to having passed under my radar. Always open to new experiences I launched into ‘In Vacuum’ to be utterly stunned by what I was hearing. A more hard-edged, aggressive prog with intelligent lyrics, excellent vocals and excellent production. At 62 minutes long it never outstays its welcome and I found myself immediately pressing repeat play to be absorbed in its stylish aura once again, just WOW!

Released 8th January 2016 through Freia Music

Stand out track – Thousand Yard Stare

Buy In Vacuum through Freia Music

 

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N.y.X – The News

From the first note it was apparent that there is nothing quite like the highly original sound of N.y.X.They are at the forefront of avant-garde, experimental progressive rock, a real musical breath of fresh air. The multi-instrumental trio is joined by a number of impressive guest artists to build on the signature sound of a power trio enhanced by electronic percussions, synthesizers and effects.

Released 26th February 2016

Stand out track – The Daily Dark Delirium

Pre-order The News through Burning Shed

 

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Osta Love – Isle of Dogs

Berlin based Osta Love are one of the bands to watch for 2015 and their follow up the dark concepts of ‘Good Morning Dystopia’ is a complete breath of fresh air. ‘Isle of Dogs’ is full of their signature sound that unites Rock with Jazz, Pop with Baroque and adds a dose of melancholic dreamscape to form a unique sound that touches hearts and heads. Even though it was released at the end of 2015, I have only just heard this jewel and it is rapidly becoming a highlight for me.

Released 27th November 2015

Stand out track – Translucent Engineering

Buy The Isle of Dogs direct from the band

 

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Toxic Smile – Farewell

Another German band, this time hailing from Dresden, Toxic Smile have thrown out the rule book and produced an album that consists of just one 42 minute track and, guess what, it works! A soaring progressive rock and metal epic that takes you through a multitude of emotions in its relatively short running time. The distinctive vocals and superb musicianship are key elements to its instant attraction, a record that will surprise and delight on many levels. Another great release from Progressive Promotion Records.

Released 6th December 2015

Stand out track – well there’s only the one anyway…..

Buy Farewell from Progressive Promotion Records

 

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David Bowie – Blackstar

I had already decided to include this release before news of David Bowie’s death started to cross the web, while I have never been as big a fan as many, I have always recognised him as a great musical innovator and a true legend. ‘Blackstar’ was his 27th album and one of his recent best. Exploring new avenues using a jazz band he has produced a deep and sometimes dark release that, obviously, touched on his own mortality as he came to the end of his life. It now seems a brilliant, if poignant, testimony to his musical legacy.

Released 8th January 2016

Stand out track – Lazarus

Buy Blackstar direct from the artist

 

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The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Here From me

Another ‘Prog Supergroup’, this time featuring Nick BeggsRoger King and Marco Minnemann, rears its head to deliver engaging, expansive rock for the thinking person, apparently. While not perhaps living up to those lofty expectations entirely, it is an enjoyable listen and, when not sounding generically like a lot of the so called supergroups, has a real depth and intelligence all of its own. Don’t take it on face value and give it more than one coat of listening to and you will find an album that is worthy of your collection, just not quite a contender for album of the year yet.

Released 22nd January 2016

Stand out track – Swimming Horses

Buy Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me from Inside Out

 

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Casualties of Cool – Casualties of Cool

Originally released in 2014, this year sees the re-release of Devin Townsend’s rootsy country and North American folk music project as a 2CD and 1DVD package. Featuring the delightful vocals of Ché Aimee Dorval it is winsome and wistful in equal measure, evocative memories are brought to life on a battered old telecaster and fender amp in what is a complete change from the Canadian artist’s metal roots. Lay back on your lounger on the porch, sipping iced lemon tea in the sun, life’s easy really. Worth it for the 8 minute brilliance of ‘The Bridge’ alone….

Released 15th January 2016

Stand out track – The Bridge

Buy Casualties of Cool from Inside Out

 

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Ut New Trolls – e

Italian progressive rock that is incredibly intricate and engrossing. Lock yourself in a darkened room and let the endless combination of notes and distant rhythms create an amazing union of classical and rock music. A record where the language doesn’t matter, it is the intent of the words that is obvious and draws you deep into this incredible album.

Released 24th November 2015

Stand out track – Oggi Non Sono Spento

Buy ‘e’ from self

 

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Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – When The Kill Code Fails

The second promotional release that I found in my email inbox, ‘When The Kill Code Fails’ sounded very intriguing. A science fiction/artificial intelligence themed concept album, it is the second release from the London based rock band with a great name Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and is described as proggy, funky and sometimes poignant. Expressive vocals and a pared back sound give it a real intensive feeling that immediately draws you in. Electronica, prog, bluesy rock and metal all get a look in during its very enjoyable and inventive 56 minute running time.

Released as a download on 15th October 2015

Stand out track – I Still Remember You

Buy on CD and download at CD Baby

 

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Martigan – Distant Monsters

German band Martigan were formed in 1994 and deliver an almost pastoral brand of progressive rock with lilting vocals and a sunny aspect, think Lifesigns meets United Progressive Fraternity and you won’t be far wrong. An engrossing 75 minutes of easy listening progressive rock that just flies past leaving you in quite a relaxed state of mind.
Released 18th December 2015
Stand out track – The Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Review – The Prog Before Christmas – CCA Glasgow 18/12/15 – by Progradar

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(Your intrepid correspondent and Jon Hunt, aka jh)

No matter how long and arduous the journey, if the destination deserves it, it was a worthy one. Trust me, the trip up to Glasgow and back for The Prog Before Christmas was decidedly long and, at times, extremely arduous. However, what transpired and unfolded before me on that magnificent night of entertainment at the CCA was utterly magical and entirely worth every mile of train track I covered.

‘Ambitious’ could possibly have been the first word used when I heard that Denis Smith of Abel Ganz was organising a gig on the Friday before Christmas, and way up north in Glasgow too! But, in the inimitable style, they said , “build it and they will come…”and we did…..

The line up was pretty impressive too, legendary Scottish proggers Abel Ganz would be joined by the irreverent brilliance of Peter Jones’ Tiger Moth Tales and the whole darn shebang would kick off with the new kids on the block, Manchester’s own We Are Kin and this, just to top things off, would be their debut live performance. No pressure then eh guys?

Joining me on this jolly adventure way up North would be my mate, the brilliant Jon Hunt and we met at my hotel for a beer before heading over to Sauchihall Street and the impressive CCA venue where we met Adam and Dan from We Are Kin (featured image) outside before heading in for what would turn out to be a superb evening’s musical entertainment….

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Heading up stairs to see Denis doing ticket duties, we walked into the room and I said a few hellos before We Are Kin took to the stage with hardly a sign of nerves and proceeded to leave a puzzled frown on gathered faces. Why a frown? well, did I tell you this was their debut live gig, first……one…..ever….? You would not have believed it as they delivered a superb live performance full of emotion, heart and soul, the twin vocals of Emma C and Nuru holding everybody rapt.

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Home Sweet Home opened the set with Nuru taking lead on this superb track, disarming the audience with its warm embrace. There was more immediacy and an electronic edge to Hard Decision, a joint vocal delivery and underlying grittiness delivering a fast paced, energetic feel and the first sign of Adam McCann’s guitar virtuosity.

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A brilliantly earnest track and one which captivated everybody, Without Them is a slow burner that builds gradually into an eye opening crescendo, Adam’s solo just made the hairs rise up on the back of your neck. The band then followed up with probably the song I had been looking forward to hearing the most. Tides of Midnight has been a favourite of mine since I first heard this unique band back in 2013 and it didn’t let me down, Emma C’s vocal adding layers of gravitas and the keyboards of Dan Zambas adding a polished veneer to the poignant guitar. This music stares deep into your soul and leaves you in a place of contentment.

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Another favourite is Weight of the World, its inspired 80’s synth intro alway makes me smile and it just seemed to come to life in Glasgow with Gary Boast’s intricate drumming and Lee Braddock striding around the stage like some 70’s pimp-daddy with his feather embellished bowler hat. A great live experience indeed. What this band do best is ethereal, endearing and just downright beautiful and the delicate acoustic guitar and vocal that opened The End ticked all those boxes. A moving and yet, slightly sad track that has a mournful grace. I didn’t know whether to smile or cry at the end…

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All good things must come to and end and this utterly wonderful debut performance came to a close with the delicate and soothing charms of The Door. One thing that We Are Kin do extremely well is to make you feel central to the music and this passionate song left me speechless and lost in its allure.

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So, a first debut gig and a triumph, time to nip off to the Gents and the bar and then await the arrival of the outrageously talented Peter Jones, the man behind the much loved Tiger Moth Tales.

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Peter is funny, not in any contrived manner, he is just a funny guy who is full of life and he has a guitar and keyboard combo with drum pedal that makes him appear to be some sort of modern day maestro of the one man band and he is fantastically good at it.

The first track, following some typical Jones banter, is Tigers in the Butter from the first TMT album ‘Cocoon’ and it just leaves you gobsmacked and in awe. Powerful and animated, Peter delivers an utterly convincing performance. A true troubadour, he has the audience in the palm of his hand as he moves onto Story Tellers from the follow up album. A magical album full of fairy tales and fantastic characters, it is Peter Jones whose voice and skill bring them to life on songs such as this. Bewitching all those around, his voice has a wonderful lilt to it as he recounts the tail in his own inimitable style.

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There is a warmth and humility to the banter that flows from Peter between tracks and he had us all in stitches but what he is at heart is a first class musician and he writes songs that draw you in and take you on a fantastical journey like Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright. Like stepping through into Narnia, it takes you to an altogether more exciting place where just about anything can come true. The beautiful guitar work on this song nearly brought me to tears, as if it was really alive with its soaring grace. Now Peter never hides the fact he is a huge Genesis fan and his next track was a cover of More Fool Me and a great homage to his heroes. There was passion and soul in his delivery and he even had the crowd singing along, well those that knew the words anyway…..

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There was a huge shout when another Genesis track was announced, this time Harold the Barrel, fast paced and humorous, even I was tapping my feet at this one and the more knowledgeable really seemed to join in the fray. After the cover-version interlude we were back to Peter’s original material and the brilliant The Merry Vicar. Quite a tongue-n-cheek and pompous song that has a really wry sense of humour. The way Peter can fit his voice to any song and nuance really comes to the fore on stage. I found myself smiling and chuckling away to the obvious comedy in the song. Not merely a song writer but a consummate entertainer and amazing musician too!

Well the time was surely flying as Peter strode confidently into the penultimate track of this astute and accomplished set, the fan favourite A Visit to Chigwick. It is on songs like this that Peter Jones sometime eccentric English persona comes to the fore. I have called him ‘Batshit Crazy’ in the past but only in a complimentary manner, it is that minor lunacy that allows him to write songs as near perfect as this and ones that appeal to wide audience. The final song was the traditional The Wassail Song (well it is Christmas isn’t it?) and the lengthy cheers and applause that followed the end of his performance are testament to his enduring appeal. If you have never seen Tiger Moth Tales live then you are missing an utter treat.

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After shaking the great man’s hand it was another trip to the gents and the bar before the main event.

It was going to take something rather special to top what had already gone before but, if one band could do it, Abel Ganz could and they stood astride the stage like a Scottish Prog Colossus, time for the music to start……

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What a way to open with the instrumental splendour of Rain again, end of rain. Sending shivers down your spine it really set the tempo and the anticipation. Full of highs and lows, powerful and yet a calming influence. The band then followed with a great track from the last but one release ‘Shooting Albatross’, Ventura. It fits seamlessly into the new style of the band from the last self-titled release, a wandering journey into your mind. The musicians all at the top of their form, working together in harmony (no, not THAT song). Mick MacFarlane’s instantly recognisable voice puts its arm around you like an old friend and you are left under its control. A brilliantly reassuring and heartening piece of music.

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If there is one track that typifies the last album it is the five-part Obsolescence, more a self-affirming musical pilgrimage than a mere song. In a live setting it takes on a whole different aura and tonight these guys gave it wings and a life of its own. Davie Mitchell, Iain Sloan and Mick play their guitars with sheer grace and finesse (Iain’s lap steel dexterity needs a further mention, stunning!), Jack Webb animates the keyboards and Stevie Donnelly parades around his patch, his bass almost like a weapon. The glue holding this all together is the maestro Denis Smith on drums. I love this song even more hearing it played like this, utterly mesmerising.

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A song full of emotion, Recuerdos adds a layer of delightful simpleness to proceedings. Gentle acoustic guitar and Mick’s soft vocal just lull you into a true sense of security. Ethereal and divine, I felt myself lost in wonderment until it came to a close.

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Up next was the fourteen minutes of Prog near-perfection of Unconditional, a song that opens its soul and lets you in. Musically it delves deep into our collective knowledge and it darts from style to style but, ultimately it is very satisfying. Lilting piano, funky keyboards, scorching guitar and jazz style drums all combine to lift you off your feet into a place of musical nirvana. Maybe it is the fuzzy memory from one too many beers but I recall the band playing one of the tightest gigs I’ve seen. One of my favourite bands has now become THE favourite.

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I’ve made it no secret in the past that I absolutely love the track Thank You, it feels exceedingly personal to me so, when it was brought out as the first encore, guess who was shouting and cheering louder than most. Mick’s vocal is a thing of utter refinement, beauty and style and the lap steel guitar backing just adds a subtle grace and dignity (hats off to Mr Sloan again). I was singing at the top of my voice and was that a tear in my eye? Yes, so what, I bloody loved it!

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And to the final song of an unforgettable evening and a tribute to the recently deceased Chris Squire. A great version of  Yes’ Running With The Fox closed proceedings with aplomb and a lengthy standing ovation followed that was seriously well deserved.

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A Prog Before Chritsmas, worth 11 hours on a train? what do you think?, of course it was,it was utterly bloody brilliant. Shall we do it all again next year? Denis!!!!!!!!

All artist pictures thanks to the excellent David Stook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Teramaze – Her Halo – by Kevin Thompson

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WARNING!

IF YOU DON’T LIKE YOUR PROG ON THE METAL SIDE, LOOK AWAY NOW.

An endless list: Muse, Queen, Joe Satriani, Pallas, Evergrey, Symphony X, Dream Theater, Anathema, Threshold, and on and on……… I think I have found a new sub-genre, Alloy Prog, as this band combine so many different styles of prog metal and meld it into a melodic whole and it works, it really works, with the emotionally driven lyrics, co-written by Wells and Peachey.

Welcome to ‘Her Halo’, a concept of emotions, recounting the tale of a female trapeze artist embroiled in a love triangle and the fifth album from Australian band Teramaze. I have to say they had not crossed my radar until I heard the title track from this album and what a little belter it is.

I suppose I had best introduce the lads: Dean Wells (prodigious lead/rythm guitar), Dean Kennedy (thundering drums), Luis Eguren (throbbing bass) and Nathan Peachey (soaring vocals).

And so to the album:

Track 1: An Ordinary Dream (Enla Momento) – which I believe translates literally as ‘In the time’.

Ushered in on ethereal winds, with the distant sounds of a carnival, bringing a gentle acoustic guitar and piano intro, leaving us defenceless and unprepared as we are suddenly pinned back in our seats by a barrage of Dean Kennedy’s drum beats peppered with intense guitar fire from Dean Wells and Luis Eguren’s bass battering. It all relents slightly to introduce the melodic vocals of Nathan Peachy before returning to the fray, swooping in and out, this is the longest and most epic of tracks on the album, centred with a heart wrenching guitar solo, licks and hooks abound, leaving you in no doubt what’s to come on the rest of the album. The track ends with a gentle piano run.

Track 2: To Love a Tyrant – Eerie noises and ominous approaching footsteps and it’s into the heavy riffs. This has a sense of foreboding coupled with fear and is more ‘metal’ broken by a short piano interlude. It then returns to the churning guitars and drums, giving you the impression something wicked this way comes, Peachey using his clear, vocal range to a crescendo and good effect. The song ends with an unfinished chord on the piano hanging in the air.

Track 3: Her Halo – Everybody punch the air, here comes the title track. A pleasant string arrangement intro and a gentle verse from Peachy and you can feel the catchy chorus building. You are there by the ringside, as she floats through the air above you, arms raised and bursting your lungs to sing along. Slight editing could see this as a great single.

Track 4: Out of Subconscious – There is no escaping the fact I keep being reminded of Threshold, the drumming and guitar are straight in on this and pick up the pace from the title track. Another catchy chorus and great harmonising before we are allowed a brief respite before being lined up against the wall and shot to pieces by the drums and guitar work again. Peachey’s vocals fly off the scale and we are left to slide to the floor as the frantic guitar riff slides down to the end of the track.

Track 5: For the Innocent – Continuing apace with a great riff/hook, this starts with intent, easing to allow the verses some space, then pounding along again. Dean Kennedy‘s driving rhythms are nothing short of excellent on this album, of which Mr Johanne James himself would be proud, combined with the dynamic bass from Eguren frantically working away as part of the driving powerhouse that pushes the tunes along. This hammers to a sudden end, daring you to catch your breath before the only instrumental on the album begins.

Track 6: Trapeze – The shortest track but it allows the instruments to do the talking and loses nothing for it, Wells shredding with the best of ’em. The sound of something straining and snapping and a fateful scream precede this cinematic, bouncing tune of technical grandeur, showing the fine musicianship of the band members at their best.

Track 7: Broken – The ballad, on which the band come  closest to AOR. Guitar work reminiscent of Neal Schon weaves throughout this, the plaintive lyrics from Peachey, once again with seamless harmonies, rising to an uplifting finish. Wells is allowed to shine with fabulous runs at both ends of the fret-board.

Track 8: Delusions of Grandeur – Drum roll to the grand finale and no less than you would expect from such accomplished musicians as they throw everything into this glorious end, including background circus noises. Melodic and compelling it builds breathlessly, bringing everything to a climatic and dramatic close, befitting it’s theme, with the sounds of fire and the sirens of emergency vehicles fading into the distance to nothingness.

The quiet is palpable at this stage and I scan the room to check nothing is burning/melting and there is still glass in the windows. All intact, there are no bullet holes in my clothing, furniture is intact and I have a rather large grin on my face. Thank goodness, time to grab a cup of tea and get some more jobs done. Then again, I could just have another listen, close the room door, who will know.

Love it.

Released 30th October 2015

Buy Her Halo from Mascot

 

 

 

 

Review – Malady (self-titled) by Emma Roebuck

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I don’t really like to have half the review written for me.However, the guys from Malady kindly translated their website information from the Finnish as their English makes my total absence of Finnish look very embarrassing. So for those of you looking at the website, you can now see what some of the words mean and where these guys are coming from..

Malady was formed in Helsinki in 2010 as a three-piece band (Tony Björkman/Guitar; Juuso Jylhänlehto/Drums and Jonni Tanskanen/Bass) and was initially intended as a one-album project. The album was originally to be released around 2030. The majority of the songs found on the debut album were conceived in the following few years.

Finding the guitar-bass-drums -combination insufficient, Babak Issabeigloo was asked to play the Hammond organ in 2012, which he promptly switched to the guitar and microphone. The role of the organist was filled by Ville Rohiola a few years later. The first album was recorded in summer and fall 2014 and was released by Svart records in late 2015.”

You would not immediately think of Finland as hot bed of talent and prog rock but, thanks to this album being pointed out to me by David Elliot (not of BEM, the other one), I say to you think again if you thought that, and Malady are anything to go by. The sound is retro being Hammond, guitar, bass and drums. The sound the music makes is reminiscent of Floyd (circa Syd up to ‘Meddle’), Camel (‘Rain Dances’/’Snow Goose”) and King Crimson (‘Larks Tongues’ period), with a hefty chunk of Psychedelia thrown in.

This an immensely chilled album, late night candles, you get the idea. Its atmosphere is very unique and conveys the message of the lyrics very well. The band delves into their own culture for some of the inspiration and at global issues for others. Musically these guys know what they are doing and can write very well and never override the music with their skill. The song here is the key and the work they have done shines through every chord sequence and solo. Do not let the language be a barrier here, you do not need to speak Finnish to love this music. The words are minimal and never a problem. I’ve played this album over 10 times and not got bored once, how can you get bored with the huge Hammond and bass combo and the understated but driven rhythm section.

There is nothing new about this album, it’s not earth shattering or ground breaking in its intent but, it is a great vehicle for these guys as writers and musicians.

High points for me are Unessakävelijä and Aarnivalkea, these alone are worth hearing for the money, however, the others are not fillers.

Unessakävelijä is very Floyd and has a sinister under current driving through it that maintains the interest to the very last note. Aarnivalkea Camel fans take heed at this, they produce a fine 10 minute plus epic of variety that Messrs Latimer and Co. would be justly proud of on any of their albums. If any festival in the UK in 2016 is looking for Scandinavian talent look no further for a bit of coup.

Now, I don’t normally list the tracks of the albums but in this case I think it is needed.

Here is a brief explanation of the songs and titles, translated, with much thanks to Jonni:

Kantaa taakan maa – The Earth carries the burden – A pessimistic view about the impending devastation of nature and man’s impact on the environment. Mankind’s greed as a destructive force on planet earth and generations losing their faith in the future. Ultimately, as the title says outright, it’s the Earth that carries the burden.

Loittoneva varjoni – My receding shadow (instrumental)

Pieniin saariin – To small islands – A rather personal lyric by our guitarist. To this day I’m not entirely sure what it’s about. Something about one’s thoughts escaping to small islands, building worlds out of what you hold inside you. It’s pretty cryptic, to be honest.

Unessakävelijä – Sleep walker – A dreamscape of a man walking in a city in the night during Autumn completely alone, with everything around him silent. The lyrics for this one were never sung but they’re still in the liner notes.

Aarnivalkea – Will-o-the-wisp – Will-o-wisps have several explanations in numerous folklore, whether it be guiding people to safety or toward water for baptism. In Finnish folklore, The Aarnivalkea leads one to faerie gold…. or in this case, allegorically to one’s loved one.

Kakarlampi – Name of a pond in Finland. Instrumental song. Kakar can mean either a child or a red-throated diver (a bird).

Released 30th November 2015

Buy Malady from Svart Records

 

 

 

Combination review – Panzerballet – Breaking Brain & Special Providence – Essence of Change by Shawn Dudley

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fusion (noun) – a merging of diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole.

When venturing into conversations about experimental or hard-to-define musical styles I often find it beneficial to go back to the original literal definition of the genre name.

Fusion (the musical style) conjures a particular sound and a particular era, mostly the early 70s and bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, Tony Williams’ Lifetime, Miles Davis’ electric bands, etc. A briefly exciting marriage of rock rhythms and jazz vocabulary that eventually got watered down through the corporate machine until it came out Smooth Jazz on the other end. Thousands of waiting rooms in dentist’s offices beckoned. But the sound of early 70s fusion is very much defined now, so I believe we’ve lost the focus on the diverse elements that went into creating that sound in the first place.

That 70s fusion sound can be heard on both of these albums, but it’s now just one ingredient among many again, it has returned to being an element of a larger whole.

Panzerballett and Special Providence have tackled a similar range of variables; combine various jazz styles and arrangements with highly technical, complex progressive metal. However, they’ve chosen their own individual approaches to attaining that merger.

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(Picture by Uzziel van Baalson)

Panzerballett from Munich formed in 2004 and instantly made an impression with their insanely complex and often humorous cover versions of famous jazz and rock standards. Songs as diverse as Smoke On The Water, Giant Steps and Birdland (Weather Report) were dissected and reassembled in all kinds of imaginatively quirky ways. Classically trained bandleader Jan Zehrfeld (guitar) assembled a lineup of similarly schooled musicians including a full-time sax player and set out to play “jazz metal”. ‘Breaking Brain’ is their fourth full-length album and while the humorous elements still come into play, as a whole this is a more focused affair and features primarily original compositions.

Yes, their music is insanely complex and the music nerds have plenty to dissect and study here. But, they are so much fun at the same time, such an infectious spirit permeates these instrumental pieces that even non-musicians should find plenty to enjoy on ‘Breaking Brain’.

My attention is constantly drawn to the saxophone in their arrangements, an instrument that is still a rarity in the prog metal arena. The coloration offered by paring the saxophone with the tightly controlled prog metal arrangements really gives Panzerballett a unique sonic signature. Saxophonist Alexander von Hagke (who has toured with Asia) is an excellent player in the post-bop mold; I hear a lot of Joe Henderson and Michael Brecker influence in his playing. In fact, the music of the Brecker Brothers looms large in Panzerballet’s fusion bag; ‘Heavy Metal Bebop’ for the 21st century.

Highlights include the ferociously complex opener Euroblast, the excellent saxophone feature Der Saxdiktator and the “funk turned inside out and backwards” opus Smoochy Borg Funk.

The comical tendencies come through in the infectious Typewriter II where the rhythm of the piece is stated by the clicking and carriage returns of a manual typewriter.   The album also feature a couple interesting cover choices; Mahna Mahna from the late 70s TV series The Muppet Show and an insane reading of Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme.

As a whole ‘Breaking Brain’ is the most exhilarating and entertaining instrumental album I’ve heard in 2015 and I highly recommend it to the more adventurous leaning progressive rock and jazz fans.

Special Providence

Special Providence from Hungary released their first album ‘Space Café’ in 2007 and it was primarily a jazz fusion album with elements of funk and rock mixed in. It was on their follow-up record ‘Labyrinth’ from 2008 where they really started integrating progressive rock, instrumental rock, electronics and progressive metal elements into their arrangements.

‘Essence Of Change’ is their most streamlined release to date with a more defined approach to the overall sound. The whiplash-inducing shifts from rock to jazz on their prior album ‘Soul Alert’ were undeniably thrilling but it was probably a hindrance for the non-jazz initiated to warm up to. The jazz elements and compositional complexity are still definitely in place on ‘Essence of Change’, but they’ve now been more subtly integrated, which could be partially attributed to the addition of new keyboardist Zsolt Kaltenecker.

The album flows beautifully through a variety of moods and styles, every piece melodically engaging while also revealing further complexity on repeated listens.   The tracks work individually but I think the album is best experienced as a whole.

Guitarist Márton Kertész has to be mentioned here, because his assured playing permeates all these songs. A very tasteful player who possesses the chops for shredding and the restraint to only use them when absolutely necessary (which is a rarity in my experience).   That description also really works for the band itself; they never allow their obvious technical skills to take precedence over their compositions.

The highlights are many, with Kiss From A Glacier and first single Northern Lights being the standouts on the first half and the song cycle of Atlas Of You, I.R.P. and the lovely Darkness on the second half.

As a jazz fan for many years I tip my hat to both Panzerballett and Special Providence for showing that fusion is alive and well in the 21st century. It warms my heart to hear young musicians still exploring that vocabulary and finding new and interesting way to apply it to modern progressive music.

‘Breaking Brain’ was released on 30th October 2015 and can be purchased from:

www.gentleartofmusic.com

‘Essence of Change’ was released on 30th March 2015 and can be purchased from:

www.specialprovidence.eu