The album features guest appearances by current and former Spock’s Beard bandmates Nick D’Virgilio, Al Morse, Dave Meros, Ted Leonard, and Jimmy Keegan.
Ryo Okumoto, long-time keyboardist for prog rock group Spock’s Beard, is pleased to announce his new solo album ‘The Myth of the Mostrophus’, due out on July 29th, 2022 on InsideOutMusic. The six song prog extravaganza features Okumoto’s signature style accompanied by the talents of a who’s who of progressive rock.
The album features guest appearances by a number of incredible musicians including current and former Spock’s Beard bandmates:
Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard) – Drums & Vocals
Al Morse (Spock’s Beard) – Guitar
Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard) – Bass
Ted Leonard (Spock’s Beard. Transatlantic) – Vocals
Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) – Vocals
Steve Hackett (Genesis) – Guitar
Michael Sadler (Saga, ProgJect) – Vocals
Mike Keneally (Steve Vai, Frank Zappa, ProgJect) – Guitar
Jonathan Mover (Joe Satriani, ProgJect) – Drums
Marc Bonila (Keith Emerson/Kevin Gilbert) – Guitar
Twenty years since Ryo Okumoto’s last solo album ‘Coming Home’ (2002), work on the new album began in November 2000, when Okumoto reached out to I Am The Manic Whale vocalist/bassist Michael Whiteman, following that band’s performance on a livestream event that Okumoto had taken part in. An exchange of demos resulted in the writing of the initial tracks for the album. Okumoto then reached out the fellow Spock’s Beard bandmates (Nick D’Virgilio, Alan Morse, Dave Meros, Ted Leonard and Jimmy Keegan) to join in and the album started to take shape before rounding out with additional guest stars through his Okumoto’s new group ProgJect including Michael Sadler, Jonathan Mover and Mike Keneally. With the additions of Steve Hackett, Marc Bonila, Doug Wimbish, Randy McStine, and Lyle Workman, the star-studded lineup was complete. The result is a prog rock tour de force from one of the most entertaining and influential artists of prog’s modern era.
‘Only Passing Through’, the third Pattern Seeking Animals album has landed and, yes, it is another goodie. A fine set of modern progressive rock tracks, inspired by the greats, but no mere copy or imitation, this set takes the genre and gives it a contemporary twist and shake.
Let me explain the concept, John Boegehold, who has been a lyricist for Spock’s Beard for the past decade, had amassed a wealth of material that, whilst progressively inclined, were not suitable for the band. So John started a new project in which he could realise his vision of marrying his progressive leanings with modern pop/rock music where melodies were king. Hence Pattern Seeking Animals came into being. Using current Spock’s Beard alumni Ted Leonard (vocals and guitars), Dave Meros (bass) and Jimmy Keegan (drums), the project became reality, releasing their debut, self-titled album, in 2018 and the follow up ‘Prehensile Tales’ some 9 months later and the stage was set. The band line up also includes John himself on keyboards and programming and he also oversees the production with Rich Mouser performing the engineering, mixing and mastering side of things.
John says that his aim is to make music that is always trying something new or unexpected and that changes as it plays. He is a skilled writer and he has risen to the challenge by making interesting and intelligent albums. Then came lockdown and Covid. However, they have not been idle and have created this latest release which continues the goal of providing a new twist on progressive music. This time we are treated to several new twists on progressive rock with John also using brass enhancements on some songs.
The song Time Has A Way uses several novel innovations in its sound to make the album’s longest track really something a bit special. Changes in tempo and the ebullient brass section really raise the bar on this fabulous song. One could compare this sound to Big Big Train and their use of a brass ensemble to bring extra dynamics to their sound. The brass is used sparingly but effectively, adding rather than swamping everything, a lone trumpet adding a mariachi element to proceedings too, which is certainly different yet a highly enjoyable and effective take on the sound. This song is a monster and really a highlight of the album, symphonic prog at its finest.
Ted Leonard is on good form vocally and he plays some very graceful guitar melodies, he has really matured as a guitarist over the three albums the band have released and it is good to hear his skills on these songs. Also worthy of note are the rhythm section of Meros and Keegan, who bare both really both driving and supporting these efforts as appropriate. Sometimes on the beat, other times driving or pulling it along with them, all highly impressive sounding. I think it would be fair say that I really am enjoying this album.
Rock Paper Scissorsis another fine track, if not a bit different. The violin part by Rini shines and puts me in mind of vintage Kansas as Ted Leonard projects his inner Steve Walsh. This is, in fact, extremely high praise as Kansas are one of my favourite bands ever, with this section of the track evoking many happy memories of that group. Much Ado is a riff driven track with quite unusual lyrics that talk of depression and a lack of will or desire to do anything for oneself. Whilst the lyrics could be seen as depressing, there is a lot going on in this song musically, plus it has a great guitar break from Ted. Only Passing Through is a song about the temporary nature of our lives, especially how we are only passing through this world. It is a beautifully written and composed track and one that certainly makes you think.
Said The Stranger is another highlight and a mariachi inspired track. It is one that thunders along with a great guitar break thrown in for good measure, there are interesting lyrics to this one too. The final song on the album, Here With You WithMe, is a ballad of sorts, albeit one with more prog than a normal syrupy ballad. It has great words and sound with lots happening musically. The track is a terrific number on which to end, although the cd version has two bonus tracks, I Am Not Alright and Just Another Day At The Beach. You do not really want an album this good to end so the extra seven and a half extra minutes are very welcome indeed!
The first bonus song is about mental health issues and is dealt with in a sympathetic and delicate manner. It is very well written and observed, whether this springs from personal experience or mere observation is not clear. It is a powerful statement either way and is an issue that should be written about, especially now in the wake of covid and lockdown life and the problems that has both created and exacerbated for many folks. The other bonus track is far more upbeat and cheerful sounding although it does say that when it comes to love we are all on our own swimming, treading water or going down another time!
So, even within the happy song there is an undercurrent of sadness or darkness. Even so, this is a very strong and highly enjoyable musical statement of intent from Pattern Seeking Animals, long may it continue.
Progressive-rock band Lobate Scarp will release their second full-length studio album You Have It All on April 1. It serves as an expansion to their 2019 EP Spirals and Portals. Progressive rock fans will appreciate the 17-minute finale “Flowing Through The Change” and the 14 1/2-minute title track featuring guest vocalists Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood from Yes. Modern prog fans will also enjoy guest appearances from Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard) and Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard, Pattern-Seeking Animals). Also drumming on both epic tracks is Eric Moore (Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves).
Rich Mouser, whose mixing repertoire includes Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Neal Morse, has once again mixed the album, and has played even a bigger role as co-producer and additional musician on several tracks. Steven Leavitt, producer of Lobate Scarp’s debut album Time and Space, has also returned to co-produce and engineer. The album will be available in a high-res digital format as well as a limited edition glossy CD-booklet including 16-pages of lyrics, art, and liner notes. This is the third Lobate release with a front cover created by David A. Hardy, infamous space artist. The album is currently available to pre-order at Indiegogo / gotprog.com.
Lobate Scarp is a progressive opera-rock band based in Los Angeles. Their influences range from classic prog-rock of the 70’s such as Genesis and Yes, to 80’s pop such as Duran Duran and Tears for Fears, as well as strong ties to musical theater. Their debut Time and Space has had positive reviews published in numerous music publications and websites such as Prog Archives, Empire Music, and Yes Music Podcast. Online blog, Progarchy called Time and Space “one of the top 13 albums of 2013”. The band is scheduled to perform at this year’s RoSFest, one of America’s premiere progressive rock festival which will take place in Sarasota, Florida.
When the first Pattern Seeking Animals album was released last year, such was its beauty that it easily made my albums of the year list. Its mix of style and deep lyrics made it a very worthy album indeed and, when I spoke to John Boegehold he’d remarked that they had already started work on this sophomore release.
Well that was last year and now, just about a year later, comes ‘Prehensile Tales’, the continuation of the Pattern Seeking Animals story, or sub tale really as the folk involved are predominantly the core nucleus of legendary US group Spock’s Beard, with PSA treading a slightly different path musically. It is still prog but PSA exist as a vehicle for material that John has written, but that he feels in not quite within the remit of Spock’s Beard.
At time of writing this does not mean the end of The Beard, it just means a further outlet is available to John, which I am sure you will agree is a good thing for listeners as, when that material is as fine as this, then there is really no issue, let’s just be grateful for this music.
We find a range of subjects tackled in these songs from finding a second chance in your life, vampires, shipwrecks and facing mortality. Another difference this time around is the wider musical palette that is employed to add more colours and timbre to the tones, these include violin, flutes, piccolo, trumpet, flugelhorn and cello along with saxophone and pedal steel guitars. This makes for an interesting and richly rewarding listen, although, as always, you will have to listen carefully for the magic to unfold around you.
The production by fellow bearder Rich Mouser is crisp and clear with clear separation of instrumentation across all the tracks, likewise the cover art is also highly arresting and intriguing,
The album starts with the Dave Meros rumbling bass on Raining Hard In Heaven this is interspersed with snatches of guitar from Ted Leonard, all ably supported by the keyboard work of John Boegehold and Jimmy Keegan’s solid drumming. The bass work from Meros is sublime and carries the melody wonderfully before a synth solo takes the song forward into a more upbeat section and then reverting to a quitter more measured pace with classic organ sounds and that bass moving the song forwards once again as it heads towards its satisfying conclusion. A great opener by any standard
This is followed by Here In My Autumn which features a sublime violin from Rini in the latter sections, giving this song a Kansas feel, and I mean that in a good way as this additional colour really adds to the dynamics of the song greatly, as indeed does the excellent piccolo and flute which are also very noticeable. Again, the bass work is of the highest standard and his support and playing is subtle and effective. The guitar break by Leonard yields another elegant and emotional track that really hits the mark. Ted’s vocals on this track are also extraordinarily strong, he really can take these songs and stamp his own identity on them. A second guitar solo takes this song to an epic conclusion in tandem with John’s keyboards.
Another stunning song, and were only at the start really! The next piece is Elegant Vampires which features some terrific drum patters from Jimmy alongside more solid bass from Dave and atmospheric keyboards from John, who plays a recurring motif that runs throughout the song. Another fabulous vocal from Ted carries this short song about the inevitability of death using the metaphor of vampires as symbolism. Again, an interesting song which leads us to one of the more unusual tracks of this set,
Namely, Why Don’t We Run? which features, believe it or not, a mariachi band! The track opens with what sounds like Chinese or oriental brass before an acoustic guitar ushers in the mariachi type sound and it gallops along most effectively. The instrumentation on this song is tremendous, highly evocative, and realistic, an acoustic guitar carrying the melody forwards till at the 3.35 mark the horn returns with its wail and Ted’s guitar takes brief flight. This may all sound very weird yet somehow it works and it all sounds magnificent, possibly my favourite song thus far.
We are then led into the albums longest and most epic song at 17:20 called Lifeboat. It is comprised of 5 parts, the first the first of which is an instrumental section, called Nearer Now To Heaven. It then switches to Ted emotive vocal telling the tale of the people on the lifeboat as the ship is going down, leading to another excellent bass part from Dave who really anchors the track together so that you can feel the despair that the hero is facing in an ocean of uncertainty. A plaintive trumpet voluntary takes the song forwards into Ted’s guitar solo after which the protagonist is pondering his mortality whilst crying out for someone to save him. Finally we are led into the closing section which deals with what happens when you die, in this instance we are left with an open ending to that particular question as the song ends with storms and the noise of oars, a brilliant track by any standards.
The album’s final track Soon But Not Today then follows with a musical mystery tour taking in reggae, surf and the Beatles in the tale of a man who gets chance to reassess his life and hopefully make changes to how he leaves the world. Again this song is concerned with one’s mortality and in this song we see just how solidly this band work as one to deliver stunning song after stunning song.
I loved the debut album and, guess what? I love this one too! ‘Prehensile Tales’ is very accomplished and engaging and a great piece of work that will make you glad that you heard it, I really recommend this to you all, it is really really fine piece of music.
In 2019, PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS, the California-based band featuring Ted Leonard (lead vocals & guitars), Jimmy Keegan (drums & vocals), Dave Meros (bass) and John Boegehold (keyboards), presented its much-lauded eponymous debut.
Just a year later, the group announces May 15th, 2020 as the release date for its newest opus, “Prehensile Tales”, which expands the stylistic niche carved out by the debut and adds additional twists and turns along the way.
For the six songs on the album (the longest clocking in at over 17 minutes), the band introduced violin, flute, trumpet, cello, sax and pedal steel to the sound palette that was once again recorded & mixed by Rich Mouser at The Mouse House.
The track-listing reads as follows: 1. Raining Hard In Heaven 2. Here In My Autumn 3. Elegant Vampires 4. Why Don’t We Run 5. Lifeboat 6. Soon But Not Today
“I started writing for the second album right as we were finishing up the first one” says Boegehold, who is again producing. “I wanted to change around some of the songwriting approaches I’d been using and draw from a few different musical influences while not straying too far from the overall vibe of the band.”
Ted Leonard adds: “This album is another collection of lush arrangements and infectious melodies. I mean REALLY infectious. There are certain lines that are the last thing going through my head at night and the first thing in the morning. I think it’s actually furthering my insanity.”
For the striking cover image, P-SA collaborated with Polish artist Mirek (https://www.facebook.com/mirekis7/), whose ‘An evolutionary broadcast’ design Boegehold immediately considered a perfect fit to the album’s peculiar title.
“Prehensile Tales is a play-on-words I came up with while writing lyrics and thought it would be a funny album title. As a bonus, it actually seems to mean something that fits the music.”
To coincide with the album’s release, the band is set to perform at RosFest 2020 in Sarasota, Florida on May 9th and is lining up more dates later in the year which will be announced soon.
“Prehensile Tales” will be released as Gatefold 2LP plus CD, Limited Edition CD, and as digital album on May 15th, 2020 on InsideOutMusic.
“I’ll keep evolving and put that into my songs.” Alanis Morissette
One of the great pleasures of being a music journalist/reviewer is watching an artist mature from their initial early steps and through their growing career. You see how the raw musical talent becomes focused and more mature to give ever impressive musical releases.
One such artist, for me, is Chicago native Zee Baig and his musical project Fire Garden. From hearing 2012’s debut E.P. ‘The Prelude’ (where I initially became friends with this engaging musician) through 2014’s first full length release ‘Sound Of Majestic Colours’ to this latest album ‘Far and Near’, you can see the increasing skill and artistry, not only in the music but in the songwriting too.
Zee is the mastermind, songwriter, guitarist, lyricist and a founding member of Fire Garden. He is self-taught musician. His main influences are the music of late 60s and early 70s and bands like Dream Theater,Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson and classic bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and many more.
Zee has called on the undoubted drumming skills of Jimmy Keegan (Spock’s Beard) on the new release, which also features Jordan Rudess’ keyboard wizardry and is mixed by Bruce Soord. The spectacular artwork is from the feverish mind of the legendary Travis Smith.
Frank Lucas (piano, keyboards, synths), Marc Malitz (bass) and Barry Kleiber (bass) make up the rest of Fire Garden and each adds their own considerable expertise to the melting pot.
The album opens with title track Far and Near which is a haunting two minute instrumental that drips with pathos, feeling and intense emotion. Dominated by a sentimental piano note, it really strikes a chord with me, leaving me feeling slightly melancholy, but in a good way. There’s Something begins with a delightful strummed guitar before the drums become the driving force. Zee’s vocals lull you into a state of grace with their lush tone before the riff gets a little heavier and the song takes on a more serious feel. The chorus has a great hook and you just seem to be carried along on the wave of sentiment that the track engenders. There’s a slight interlude in the middle of the song, an ominous feeling that we are working up to something as everything slows down to a meditative pace. It’s a laconic and laid back, if intricate, build up to a slow burning guitar solo that hits you in the solar plexus and holds you in place while stripping your soul bare. A nicely judged and intelligent song that shows just how far Zee has come as a songwriter. A thunderously powerful riff is the opening to A New Day, a song that has the feeling of U2 but as if it was played by Metallica, the imperative verse drives on with the urgent vocals and dynamic drums. There’s a mesmerising feel to the heavy riffing and eerie organ note that adds to the wall of sound that is being generated. The slow build to the solo really sets you on edge and then Zee’s coruscating guitar really burns bright. A really compelling and forceful track that holds your attention to the explosive end.
Now to my favourite song on an album of great tracks, Life of a Drifter is a whimsical and nostalgic song that brings out feelings of hope and regret deep from your soul. The laid back chorus is gentle and touching breaking into a softly sung but heartfelt chorus. There is a sense of not wanting to look back at a sepia tinged past so that some sort of pain or less can remain hidden. Don’t look back, just focus on tomorrow, it really touched a nerve with me and I am moved every time I listen to it. The serenity is broken by clashing drums, guitar and keyboard, a maelstrom that leaves you breathless with its ferocity before a more focused and powerful rendition of the chorus is sung. This is all leading up to an absolute monster of a keyboard outro by the legendary Jordan Rudess, given free rein to let loose his mind-bending virtuosity. Turst me, you’ll be left slack jawed by the brilliance! The slow brooding A Thousand Lost Souls is a superb instrumental that seems to just be boiling under the surface, leaving the tension readily apparent. I love the way it makes the hairs on your arms stand up with its intensity and focus. Once you’ve heard the first note, you daren’t turn it off, it is like it is talking to you in a mystical musical code. War and Peace is a darkly powerful prog-metal track that feels like it has clawed its way up from the bowels of the earth, elemental and alive. The repeated, singular, words, are delivered in a menacing chant before the industrial riff and deliciously evil guitar threaten to take over your mind, leaving you a slave to the rhythm.
Faint Shadows follows that seriously heavy prog-metal direction with a riff that could topple mountains, primordial and destructive. There’s a feeling of barely controlled chaos that is bubbling under the surface before the ever more potent drumming of Jimmy Keegan breaks free. The vocals begin, almost shamen-like in their delivery, as if they are speaking an incantation and one that draws you in close. You know that something is lurking in the shadows but know not if it is of the darkness or the light, however, you have to follow your instinct and find out. It is a really vivid and dominant song that brooks no argument. Heartfelt, sombre and slightly mournful, the opening notes to Whitelight just leave your heart in your mouth. This is a passionate plea of a song that seems to linger in your subconscious. Zee’s vocals are wistful and dreamlike and you just find yourself left in a trance, able neither to move forwards or back, your attention on every word that you hear. The delicate guitar and keyboards just add to the atmosphere, a song powerful in its contemplation. The mood is broken by a dark-edged riff and frenzied drumbeat before a hypnotic piano brings a feeling of tension and the close of the song. At nearly eleven minutes, Diary Of The Blood Moon is the lengthiest track on the album and hits you straight away as being the most progressive of the songs too with an intricate play off between the drums, guitar and keys. Driven along by Jimmy’s expansive style and Zee’s brooding guitar it is a hectic ride for the uninitiated. Interspersed with interludes of calm and reflection, it is an intense crucible of musical majesty that bestrides this album like a colossal behemoth. The last two minutes raise the bar even higher with a build up of momentum that intensifies with a fiery guitar solo and dominant rhythm section to just leaves you open mouthed in admiration.
So Zee and Fire Garden have raised the bar even higher with this latest release. ‘Far and Near’ is a magnificent album that never loses focus or intensity and, while it is great to see Jordan Rudess and Jimmy Keegan giving their considerable talents to this enterprise, it is very much the product of Zee Baig and Fire Garden’s consummate skill set. Trust me, as an all consuming listen from beginning to end, this is a definite must buy for your music collection.
WARNING – LANGUAGE THAT MAY OFFEND (well, you have to put that don’t you….?)
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it. That’s what’s wrong with our generation: that residual punk rock guilt, like, “You’re not supposed to like that. That’s not fucking cool.” Don’t fucking think it’s not cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” It is cool to like Britney Spears’ “Toxic”! Why the fuck not? Fuck you! That’s who I am, goddamn it! That whole guilty pleasure thing is full of fucking shit.” – Dave Grohl
I was going to start this review by talking about guilty pleasures until I saw the above quote from everyone’s favourite hard rocker Dave Grohl and it did get me thinking and thinking enough to completely change the tac of this review….
Mr Grohl really has a point, maybe we stick too rigidly to our favourite genres and don’t look outside our safety cordon music wise? And, when we dare venture outside and find that there is something different that we really like, why should we feel guilty about it?
It is an old and oft spouted saying but it still rings entirely true, good music really is, just, good music, no matter what style it is and which artist performs it. We tend to make this differentiation a lot more when it comes to music than with anything else such as films, TV or the literary arts where we will dip in and out of many different genres without a care or a by your leave.
How many times have you seen somebody laughed at and dismissed out of hand for listening to a record that doesn’t fit into the cognoscenti or aficionado’s realm or current favourites list? It is just wrong and we should open our minds to other music that we may well actually really enjoy if we just lose the stigma.
Now, after getting off my soapbox (while admitting I can be as guilty as anyone else) let’s talk about what started this dissertation on opening up our closeted musical imagination……..
Lebanese maestro Amadeus Awad is a progressive metal guitarist, composer, multi-instrumentalist and music producer with an already impressive back catalogue behind him. August 2015 saw him release his latest and most complete album yet, a 47 minute, 6 track concept album called ‘Death Is Just A Feeling’.
Amadeus is always stretching the boundaries with his music and lyrics, and it’s no different with his new album. According to Amadeus:
“This album is the result of my personal experience with death, both the tragic loss of loved ones (Father, Brother and a Best Friend) as well as my own attempt of committing suicide, which I contemplated more than once at a certain stage in my life.”
To this end he has drawn together a stellar list of musicians, as well as Amadeus himself (Acoustic, Electric & Bass Guitars, Keyboards and Orchestration) this all star lineup includes vocalists Anneke Van Giersbergen, Arjen Lucassen, Elia Monsef, drummers Jimmy Keeganand Marco Minnemann, Nareg Nashanikian (cello), Rafi Nashanikian (clarinet) and the narration is splendidly realised by the impressive voice of Dan Harper.
The album opener Opia has feeling of lightness and an ethereal quality, the first word spoken is ‘Light’ and it is a song that gives hope. The keyboards are uplifting and fill your inner being with a luminosity only matched by the fluid, burnished guitar work. I can see why Dan Harper was used for the part of the narrator, his voice has a calming authority to it and a mellifluous timbre that dances across your psyche. Anneke Van Giersbergen’s delightfully lilting, heavenly voice takes the song to a close with a rarefied grace that is achingly beautiful.
There is no break as we shift up a gear and power into Sleep Paralysis with a dynamic keyboard and pulsating guitar taking up the reins on the powerful introduction. A progressive metal melting pot of great ideas that bounce of the metaphorical walls to give a primordial soup of musical delights. It takes on a more subdued, yet insistent feel before Anneke’s voice chimes in, this time much more dominant and authoritative, yet no less stunning. The melodies are the focus here, the chorus is especially compelling, backed by the superb musicianship, a symbiosis of near-perfect melodic enchantment. The way the track starts to wind down, becoming more subdued, as it reaches the close is expert and inventive, as the acoustic guitar finishes its last note you are left in a place of comparative calm.
The dulcet tones of the narrator return on Monday Morning, this time with a definite edge, a dissonance to them, as if all is not as it should be. There are subliminal questions being asked here and the answers are not all to your liking. The electronic notes that follow seem to be pulling you forward, in anticipation of something coming that could be either good or evil, depending on how you react to it. Potent and influential, you find yourself holding your breath as it seems to come ominously closer. The pace is steady and regular, like the outcome is inevitable so there is no need to rush. There is a deliciously dark rhythm to this song that I find rather disturbing yet can’t help enjoying it….
The dark journey into hopelessness seems to reach its zenith with Tomorrow Lies. A brooding, haunting tone is added to by the portentous drumming of Jimmy Keegan and it is with a seemingly heavy heart that you continue to listen to the rest of the bleakly appealing song. Elia Monsef’s definitively middle eastern intonation adds a serious gravitas to proceedings, he sings as if his heart is breaking with every word. There is a huge depth of humanity central to this track, a seriousness that leaves you in no illusion as to the outcome of this painful situation. The instrumentation is dazzlingly precise if somewhat subdued and is a testament to the songwriting skill of Amadeus, he can impose his musical brilliance yet take none of the pathos away. The soaring strings add a sheen of humility and respectfulness and the guitar solo leaves you open mouthed and grief-stricken as it winds around your mind. With a definite notion that a song should close just as well as it opens, the ending is once again quite superb as the beguiling strings and guitar bring it all to a close with a final feeling of hopefulness that belies the rest of the track.
Now onto the longest, and my favourite, track on the album. A sombre Cello opens Lonesome Clown adding a meditative and fretful note to the song. Portentous and mysterious with Anneke’s humming and a slightly off-kilter feel, it really does seem to take you out of any comfort zone you thought you were in and leave your senses reeling, open and raw. The vocal begins, earthy and direct, almost as if a spell is being cast. There is a sinister undertone to all that is happening here and you really feel as if you have been caught of guard and dumped in a musical version of Dante’sInferno. An all knowing presence seems to be at your side edging you on as the song builds, becoming more and more oppressive and yet addictive at the same time. Wickedly controlling it shows the slightly malevolent genius that resides in the mind of Amadeus Awad and is perhaps more progressive and definitely more metal than the other songs on the album. There is an odd, siren like build up that seems to break over a wash of mellifluous keyboards before the sinuous, vividly disturbing guitar solo takes you on a dark journey through your own soul. The outspoken and expressive vocal and acoustic section that follows seems to stand on its own adding another level of finesse before exploding outwards in a shower of inspiration. The song closes with Dan’s expressive voice-over, you take a breath and inwardly applaud, shaking your head in amazement, it is that good.
The final track on the album begins with a delicately strummed acoustic guitar, strings and expressive drums. Temporary sees Arjen Lucassen take vocal duties and his eloquent voice is perfectly matched to the instrumentation. Melancholy yet inspirational at the same time, it reminds me of American prog rockers Spock’s Beard and is a really involving, catchy song that seems to want to comfort you with its warmth and integrity yet there is always a sad note in the background. A soulful clarinet takes centre stage before the rest of the instruments join, adding layers of intense musical flavour and Arjen’s voice is always present adding a focal point on which you can hold on to. Marco Minneman takes on the drum duties with aplomb adding a wistful mood to the already mournful ambience imbued. Things are building up to something here and when Amadeus lets rip with an incredible, soul searching guitar solo, you are left flabbergasted. Is that moisture in your eyes? it was in mine as it totally blew me away, utterly magnificent. The song, and album, finally come to a close with a final narrated section, this time by Arjen himself, and you are left to reflect on what has just transpired before you.
Short by modern standards at 47 minutes, you feel like you can listen to this gem for hours and never get bored. Deliciously dark, it is music that takes you to the depths of your inner being and back again, there has been nothing quite like it in this year of musical zeniths. Amadeus Awad and his group of distinguished musicians have delivered not only a superb piece of music but, what to me is, a part of themselves that will live on forever as fantastic art. A triumph in every sense of the word. A guilty pleasure? No, just an intense one!
Released 20th August 2015 via Melodic Revolution Records