Progressive Rock, as it began in the late 60s (if you break it down into its component parts), arguably had key elements that were essential for it to be Prog. Skilled musicianship (if not virtuosity), an understanding of varied musical styles and the ability to distill it into your own identity and yet retain those obvious components in the music. These were, in the main, Jazz, folk, Classical, blues, soul and Rock, there are probably more but the essentials sit in there in the big 5 or 6 bands that broke through in the early 70s.
So onto UT New Trolls who have a history that goes back to the mid 60s and grew out of that very tradition. I won’t go into their long and hectic history but they have been around consistently since 1966 with splits and reunions dotted across the recording world.
The sound is very obviously from that period when you hear it. Hammond organ and Moog synths are heard throughout this album with a thick solid production. The album was recorded at the back end of 2015 in analog so I assume no computers or digital instruments were used in the studio apart from the actual recording equipment.
To the album then, as a whole piece it feels like a journey through the history of music and I know that was the aim of the band when the conceived the project. The Italians close connection with classical music and its history is very obvious in the first track Dies Israe (Day of Wrath), a haunting violin sat in front of a deep keyboard tone, ominous and threatening of things to come. Doom laden, it then jumps into a folk dance that I believe to be a Polka type rhythm in a truly insane change in tone of the track. This sets up the entire album to be filled with the unexpected and a delightful spirit. My translations may leave something to be desired but I am interpreting.
Cambiamente (Changes) is not a Black Sabbath cover but it rocks out as good as any can. It’s not prog metal but it is good rock in a progressive theme.
Io (I) is a ballad in a full on fist pumping passionate style that is worthy of any power pop band from the 80s or 90s, but without the 80s cold calculating production.
The epic Ostinato (determined) is classic prog track that many modern or classic bands would be proud to produce. It’s layered with experimental and melodic components that explore musical themes and is enough to fill an album from that one piece alone.
I’ve selected various tracks off the album as highlights and personal favourites but the 8 track album has something for every fan of progressive music. Do not let the fact that this is sung in Italian put you off, the lyrics ( of which I have no idea what they mean), on listening, become part of the music.
Musically, if you like Camel, Procul Harum, ELP , Yes,Early Genesis,Pink Floyd (Syd period) or Big Big Train, you will find something immediately familiar and reassuring for your aural delight.
As a friend who had listened to album before me stated, “It’s a bonkers album with so much variation to offer the listener”. I’d definitely put it in the ‘worth a punt’ box.
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…….
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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…..
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.
Another ‘Prog Supergroup’, this time featuring Nick Beggs, Roger King and MarcoMinnemann, 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.
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….
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.
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.
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.