Review- Leprous – Malina – by Roy Hunter

I’ve had very little listening experience of Leprous, so the offer of a chance to review this album was eagerly grabbed! Firstly, my credentials. Since July 5th 1969 (a date famous for King Crimson’s appearance at The Rolling Stones “Free in Hyde Park” gig) I’ve been an avid “prog” fan. OK, that’s out of the way so here goes:-

The amount of “prog” hurled at us these days is bewildering, and a chance to get an early listen to a new album free of any expectations or recommendations aroused my curiosity.

Norway’s Leprous isn’t easily “pigeon-holed” in a sub-genre… The album opens with Bonneville – a beautifully thought out track that shows off Einar Holberg’s ethereal voice to perfection. The depth of sound gradually increases drawing the listener in… to… Stuck – a more upbeat song with a twanging guitar backing those soaring vocals once more. The drums lay down a compelling rhythm complimenting everything else. This is a longer track at 6 minutes 49 seconds but it flies by, never getting stuck at all. A very pleasing satisfying experience.

Next up is From The Flame – another song with drive and a great hook that is still going round my head! Job done – can see this one becoming a favourite and possibly released as a single? Ahh – Captive – a punchy opening to the shortest track (3.44), melodic vocals over a pizzicato guitar and strange rhythms. Great harmonies too but it will take a bit of time to understand I think.

Illuminate & Leashes – two 4 minute tracks, slower in pace and highlighting the soaring counter-tenor voice of writer/keysman Einar. His is a voice that intrigues me, soft and gentle at one point, rocky and strident at another… I could listen to him all day long!! (I now plan to seek out the Leprous’ back-catalogue)…

Shimmering keys work opens the next track, Mirage, leading to a wall of sound that then fades to a song that shows traces of a Middle-Eastern structure… Intriguing bass line around 3.30 into the track… “I have been trying to break out for too long from the cage…” sings Einar! Oh definitely they’ve done that!

Malina – Bulgarian for raspberry – but no raspberries for this album so far! Beautiful lyrics over a lighter beginning that builds to a crescendo and some frenzied drumming from Baard Kolstad. Roses for this one!

Followed by Coma, a shorter track much like 5 & 6. Dare I say that this track didn’t exactly place me in a coma? Great – “I still feel the heat, no retreat” !!!

Next up a heavier song, The Weight Of Disaster – those heart-string tugging vocals again, why hasn’t Leprous loomed over my horizon before?

The Last Milestone is the last song on this fabulous album. This track wouldn’t be out of place performed at a concert of modern classicist composers like Henryk Górecki… Plaintive vocals over strings and keyboards. Eat your hearts out audiophiles!

Altogether, this one album has opened up a new sound-world for me. I thought that, although I’d heard it all, there is always something new around the corner! I shan’t be so smug in future, and indeed will look forward to the NEXT milestone!

I read from the press release that this album is a change in style for Leprous – I hope they continue to develop it further. Now for that back catalogue – my interest has been kicked in the backside and made to wake up!

Line-Up:

Einar Solberg – vocals/synth

Tor Oddmund Suhrke – guitar

Baard Kolstad – drums

Simen Børven – bass

Robin Ognedal – guitar

Released 25th August 2017

Pre-order ‘Malina’ from InsideOut

Review – Nad Sylvan – The Bride Said No – by Tony Honour

(All artist pictures by Tom Wild)

After deciding that he wasn’t busy enough touring with Steve Hackett, in 2015 Nad Sylvan signed a Solo contract with InsideOut music to bring us his first solo album, the excellent ‘Courting The Widow’. May 2017 sees the arrival of the eagerly anticipated follow up, ‘The Bride Said No’.

Whilst ‘Courting the Widow’ contained heavy overtones that were firmly routed in 1970’sBritish Progressive Rock, perhaps not surprisingly heavily influenced by Genesis, Nad has fairly and squarely put his own stamp on this new album whilst still acknowledging those influences. The album opens with Bridesmaids, a haunting melody played by Nad, with backing vocals from Jade Ell and Sheona Urguhart, which is used as a recurring theme throughout the record. It segues directly into The Quartermaster, a powerful song based around Nad’s exquisite keyboards which acts as an introduction to the Bride’s suitor and sets the plot for the story. It is also to be released as the first single and contains a very abrupt ending which caught me completely by surprise on first listen!

When The Music Dies is considerably more melancholic and shows off Nad’s vocal range to its imperious best. The story continues with The White Crown which has very strong Medieval overtones. Jonas Reingold’s distinctive guitar riff gives the song a harder edge and is a great contrast to Nad’s guitar throughout the rest of the track. What Have You Done is my personal highlight. It opens with gentle piano from Nad and backing vocals from Jade and Sheona with Jade also sharing the lead vocals with Nad beautifully. Steve Hackett and Guthrie Govan share the guitar duties with Steve starting the incredible soloing and they complement each other magnificently. Crime Of Passion follows and is a much more powerful song that still retains a wonderful melodic balance. A French Kiss in an Italian café begins with a tasteful guitar intro, Nad’s vocals then set the scene and we are led to a meeting with a stranger. Wonderful guitar work from Steve and Nad accompany the vocals along with Tony Levin’s  ever expressive bass and there is a beautiful saxophone solo from Sheona to close the track.

The Bride Said No is the albums finale and at first glance is a nigh on 20 minute magnum opus. It lasts however 12 and a half minutes and magnificently concludes the album. Tania Doko this time shares the vocals with Nad who also contributes with a wonderful “Emersonesqe” solo added to more splendid guitar work and an incredible solo from Steve.

Drums and percussion are shared throughout by the excellent one-time Jethro Tull drummer Doane Perry and Big Big Train’s Nick DiVirgilio. Bass is provided by Jonas Reingold (of Swedish progsters Kaipa) and Tony Levin. The vinyl edition is three sided with the fourth being occupied by an etch in the manner of his stablemates Kansas’ last album. Doubtless, in the 1970’s, the likes of Todd Rundgren would have squeezed this on to two sides of plastic but I for one am ecstatic that we have three sides of pure listening pleasure which I am counting down the days to receive.

Released 26th May 2017

Pre-order ‘The Bride Said No’ from InsideOut Music

 

 

Steve Hackett – The Night Siren – Released 24th March Through InsideOut Music

Guitar virtuoso and rock legend, Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis), releases his latest album The Night Siren on 24th March 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony).  As implied in the title, The Night Siren is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division.

The Night Siren showcases Steve’s incredible guitar playing as strongly as ever, along with regular Hackett collaborators and also musicians from several different countries who Steve invited to join him in celebrating multicultural diversity and unity. This includes singers from Israel and Palestine, who both actively campaign to bring Jewish and Arabic people together. There are also instrumentals from the USA and Iraq and a multiplicity of sounds, including the exotic strains of Indian sitar and Middle Eastern tar and oud, the ethnic beauty of the Peruvian charango and the haunting Celtic Uilleann pipes.

Steve is widely travelled, making friends everywhere he goes and has always embraced multicultural diversity.  In these times of unrest, he has been inspired to express his belief that the world needs more empathy and unity. His wish to involve a range of musical sounds, instruments, musicians and singers from different parts of the world is both a development of his eclectic approach to music and shows how people can be brought together, even from war torn regions.

Talking about his latest work, Steve says, “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world.  From territorial frontiers to walled-up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide.  But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato, ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’.”

The musical journey takes us from ‘Behind the Smoke’, focusing on the plight of refugees throughout the ages, to the penultimate track ‘West to East’ which reflects on the damage of war and the hope for a better world. From personal to universal, the themes celebrate the life force, breaking free from chains of repression.

The album features: Steve Hackett (guitar & vocals), Roger King (keyboards & programming), Nad Sylvan (vocals on Inca Terra), Rob Townsend (all things wind), Amanda Lehmann (vocals), Gary O’Toole (drums), and Benedict Fenner (additional keyboards & programming). Also featured are singers Kobi and Mira (Israeli and Palestinian), Nick D’Virgilio (drums) from the USA, Malik Mansurov (Tar) from Azerbaijan & Gulli Breim (drums & percussion) from Iceland. Additional musicians who add to the rich flavour of the album are Christine Townsend (violin & viola), Dick Driver (double bass), Troy Donockley (Celtic Uilleann) and Leslie Bennett (keyboards on The Gift).

Full Track Listing:

  1.      Behind the Smoke
  2.      Martian Sea
  3.      Fifty Miles from the North Pole
  4.      El Niño
  5.      Other Side of the Wall
  6.      Anything but Love
  7.      Inca Terra
  8.      In Another Life
  9.      In the Skeleton Gallery
  10.    West to East

Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett for a 15-date UK tour in April 2017.  Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis numbers never performed before by Steve’s band including ‘Inside & Out,’  ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Anyway’ as well as material from The Night Siren.

Tickets available from www.myticket.co.uk and venue box offices.   Steve onstage at 7.30pm.

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