Wednesday 29 February 2012

Savoldelli. Boris - Biocosmpolitan (2011)

The second album from this Italian jazz vocalist and my first ever meeting with him.

We are talking jazz and we are talking doo-wop here. That is Boris style and his music. Doo-wop was pretty popular in the 1940s. Back in the 1970s, I believe the doo wop band Manhattan Transfer was very popular world wide. I still remember their music from those days and the music on this album gave me some a-ha and deja vu experiences. But this album is still far more jazzy and instrumental than Manhattan Transfer ever was. There are some nifty trumpet work here and pretty laid back jazz. The doo wop is sometimes also replaced with some ventures closer to David Bowie land. The silky smooth jazzy version of the chamelon David Bowie, that is.

The music and the multimedia stuff on this album is both cool and good. I have to declare my general disinterest in doo-wop in general and in vocals based music. There is no really great songs here either so I have to give it a three pointer.

3 points

Dr Hasbeen - Signs (2008)

Gosh. A double CD pack with spaced out Hawkwind adulation is a heck of a mouthful to take in. 138 minutes long and comes in a great digi pack too. The packaging is excellent. This is excellent value for money.

I believe this band is from Italy although I am not sure. But their space rock is universal, universe wide. Space rock is not my thing though. But I really appreciate this album. Dr Hasbeen does not really add anything new to the scene. Just 138 minutes of unashamed Hawkwind like space rock (including a great live version of Silver Machine). Some of it is studio recordings and some of it is live. It does not matter anyway.

For fans of Hawkwind and space rock, you can add one point to my score. I am not totally won over although I like what I hear. But a three and a three quarter pointer is awarded.

3.75 points

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Sabbat - History Of A Time To Come (1988)

A pre black metal album released well ahead of it's time. Hence, it is sadly overlooked.

Sabbat was the first band for the star producer Andy Sneap. Back then, a highly talented teenager guitarist. Sabbat was also Martin Walkyier's first album. He went on to form the far more successful Skyclad after he left Sabbat. Those two very much dominates this album. Andy with his excellent guitar sound and Martin with his excellent vocals.

On History Of A Time To Come, we are treated to some delightful excellent songs. Stylewise, they are somewhere around heavy, speed and thrash metal with Venom and Slayer as distant relatives. But their music is tinged with folk music too. Their music has this very typical English sound too.

Each songs are really great in their own right. Most of them very theatrical and bordering to absurd. But the excellent guitar sound saves their bacon every time. The hatred which Martin spits out in the songs are also pretty punk like too. In short, this is one of a kind album whose sound has never really been replicated. Not even by Andy Sneap himself on others albums. This is for me one of the truly great British metal albums and highly recommended.

4.5 stars   

Sciarada - The Addiction (2009)

Oh no, not another one.......

Sciarada is an Italian trio which does very minimalistic post rock/ambient music. The soundscape is very dark and somber. There is not much going on here. My outbreak above is referring to the far too many similar types of albums the black metal scene was spewing out in the 1990s. Even a couple of guys in Darkthrone did some of these albums and I was not impressed back then. I am not impressed now either. As a friend in Progressor Magazine wrote in a review two years ago: The Addiction is a love or hate album. I am among the haters. I cannot see much artistic value here and neither anything that interests me. This is like hearing myself snoring, this album. Just a lot more ambient than my nightly artistic productions. I wish the opposite was the case.

1 point

Akt - Fraktal One (2008)

A new Italian band not to be confused with countless other bands with the same name. They have so far released two EPs and two albums. All of them free downloads (see link at the bottom).

This band is eccenctric and their music is eclectic. On this EP, they have reworked two King Crimson classics and included an original song which is very King Crimson like too. Most King Crimson covers tends to fall flat on their faces because it is impossible to maintain the spirit if this madly eccentric band when you just cover one of their songs. But in the case of Akt and this EP, they have hit the nail on it's head. Akt takes King Crimson and rework them in the typical King Crimson spirit. Robert Fripp is probably nodding his approval to this EP. Or even joining the many admirers of Akt. I have to admit this EP has made me an admirer of Akt.

This half an hour long EP really weaves some magic. Their take on Vroom is very original and great. Their instrumental version of Starless captures the essence of this song and expands on it. The only original song here Ile Du Sud is actually the best song of the EP. Which may sound like I am asking to be burnt on a stake as a heretic. But the ten minutes long Ile Du Sud with female vocals and a very pulsating melody should be heard to be believed. It is also a very beautiful song which can be compared to the final half of Starless.

In short, this is a truly great EP and one of the best free downloads out there. This is my first ever listen to this band too and I will grab the other three releases as fast as my broadband line can cope. Akt is one of the best talents from Italy at the moment and not one band to be missed.

4.5 points

Link to free download albums

Paikappu - Paikappu (1983)

A one off Japanese band.

This Japanese band ventured into the instrumental symph/fusion landscape with this album. The music is almost like a movie score at times. It also includes some traditional Japanese instruments. But the main instruments are electric powered keyboards and guitars. That and drums, bass..... the usual rock'n'roll setup.

The sound is not particular good. The music is pretty bland as in dull. No great songs around and this album mostly works as a background collage for a bout of ironing and washing up. Besides of that, this music has no purpose. But is it good for ironing shirts. Preferable red striped white shirts.

2 stars

Monday 27 February 2012

Darts - Everyone Plays Darts (1978)

We all have some skeletons in our closets. This is one of mine. I was a big fan of this band when they were around. I was probably the only Darts fan in Norway at that time. And frankly, my infatuation with this band is something I cannot explain whatsoever.

Actually; I can explain it. Back in my childhood, I was plainly weird and had some opinions noone else had. In today's children protection world, I would had been offered medical treatment and counselling. But not back at the end of the 1970s & the beginning of the 1980s. Back then, being eccentric in Norway was frowned upon, but no medical treament was available as it is today where all deviations from the norm are treated with pills and therapy.

Darts was a band who mixed in 1970s pop music with doo-wop and rockabilly. It was an eight man big band with a three men big male choir incorporated. Other instruments were bass, saxophone, piano, female vocals, guitars and drums. The music was very simple and vocal harmonies bassed with some outbreak of deep bass vocals from the male choir. More about the band in the link below. The band still has a great following and all their albums has been re-released now on CD and digital downloads. I actually got a double CD collection myself of their best songs and my face went tomato red when my current girlfriend picked it up last week and studied it. It was like she had discovered some porn magazines...... I am not happy about that album in my living room and it has been moved to a new location (behind my bed).

Everyone Plays Darts is their second studio album (and the third ever album I bought) and it spawned some pretty big hits too. Yes, this was in 1978, one of the most diverse years in the annals of pop music. So Darts got hit singles with both the opener The Boy From New York City and It's Raining. The latter one is actually a good ballad and the closest Darts comes to good quality music on this album. The other songs is teenybopper pop with doo-wop vocals and some rockabilly too. Not anything that makes me happy so I will leave this cassette alone in a cobbard and not join the many fans of this band in buying the CD.

Darts is one hell of a skeleton in the closet.....

2 points

Wikipedia on Darts


Guapo - Five Suns (2004)

Guapo is one of these hidden English treasures. The band has been lumped into the Magma copycat genre. But on this album, they are anything but copycats.

Starting out as a mix of Univers Zero and Shub Niggurath, this album soon explores a lot of avenues. Yes, that also includes Magma. But not as much as I expected. They also takes a solid stab at Scandinavian symphonic prog too (Anekdoten) before they continue over to more jazz/zeuhl like instrumentals. Mainly, I would put this album somewhere between RIO/avant garde, Canterbury and majestic fusion/prog.

All tracks are instrumental and really majestic. Majestic and never boring. There is a lot of things going on in the music here. All of which I really likes. The best part is the Anekdoten part on the long title track. This due to the mellotron both used here and throughout the album. Mellotron on the top of a metallic bass and some great drumming is a good sound in my ears. The harsh guitars also adds something good to this album.

This is a great album and one of the true great albums from this century.

Guapo, that is a band I need to check out more.

4 points

Genesis - Invisible Touch (1986)

I was on a college when this album was released and the popular girls and men loved it. That is what I remember from this album.

Invisible Touch is a big departure from the Genesis I love. Foxtrot and those albums. Invisible Touch is a Tamla - Motown album with all the 1980s sounds and details. A couple of decent soul songs like Land Of Confusion coupled to some hopeless solo stuff like Phil Collins piano ballads is what the rest of the album comes up with. A very painful album it is with not a single hint of their past great albums. Horrible is the word.

This is an album bereft of any qualities whatsoever.

1 point

Saga - The Chapters Live (2005)

Saga collects all their chapters on a live recording.

I am not really into the whole Chapters mythology. Most bands from the 1970s have their own mythology. So this does not tell me much. But some of the chapters is the best music they have ever done.

Saga's pomp rock is one of a kind and sets them apart from most other bands. Magnum is the only band I can compare them to. But Saga most definate has their own music and a strong fanbase to support it. Mostly in Germany and Scandinavia.

This is a two CDs live album with songs from 1978 to year 2000 or so. It goes from some of their best songs like Tired World to less inspired moments from the 1990s. But the first CD is the best here by miles. The last CD is not that interesting and it includes some mediocre songs too.

But this is a good introduction to Saga. A band which is truly a one of a kind band and one I have been following since the mid 1980s.

3 points

Saturday 25 February 2012

Massacra - Final Holocaust (1990)

I bought this for some pennies back in the early 1990s on LP because of the cover artwork. I think I bought it from a second hand shop or a charity shop. Then I forgot about it........ Until yesterday when I found it in a box. So just before I decides what to do with this album, here is my review of this abnomality in my LP collection.

Massacra was one of the very few French extreme metal bands from the end of the 1980s/beginning of the 1990s. Loudblast was another band. Both bands got lost in the Scott Burns trap and died after that. Massacra on the follow up album to this album though.

Final Holocaust is style wise a blend of thrash and death metal. References are Sarcofago and Sepultura (Brazil) and Devastation (USA). That's from what I remember of this scene. The music is pretty much straight forward brutal thrash/death metal without much own identity. Run of the mill and pretty OK in all it's neanthaler primitive song structures. A style now making a return, I am afraid. I prefer the originals like Massacra though.
This album is OK in small dosages, but nothing more. Make that; very small dosages.

2 points

Evergrey - A Decade And A Half (2011)

The band-name really says everything about their music in my view.

I got their debut album, a promo copy, for a previous webzine I ran back in 1998 and was not particular impressed. I thought their label Black Sun had put their money on the wrong band. But Evergrey got some commercial success and I was proven wrong. I think they are now on SPV and I got a promo copy again.

This is a best of compilation album. I have never really rated this band. Evergrey does pretty unimaginative, melodic power metal. Just the type of music that more annoys me than anything else. Some mid-hard songs together with ballads and some very commercial songs which would also appeal to the less sophisticated music listeners. Like senile grandmothers and teenyboppers for example.

I also seriously questions the whole packaging of these two CDs. You get studio and live tracks mixed together. It would had been so much smarter to put the studio tracks first and the live tracks at the end. As it is now, it is a mess, this whole compilation. Move to the nearest prison and loose 0.5 points.

Two hours of this is much more a punishment than joy for me. I rather have a mug of Early Grey tea than ten minutes with this album. But fans of standard power metal and heart vibrating love ballads performed by a male vocalist with a trembling voice should check this out. I prefer women and music with a brain though.

2 stars   

Friday 24 February 2012

Focus - In And Out Of Focus (1970)

The debut from these Dutch greats more than hints about what to come.

This album heavily rooted in what The Beatles did on the Sgt Pepper album. That is the baseline here. But Focus takes the music into a much more lush direction. Thijs van Leer's flute is very much alive here. So is Jan Akkerman's trademark guitars too. The Focus sound in other words. A sound focused on a mix of pop, rock, classical music and folk rock.

The songs are not that great though. But great enough to really impress me. Two of their best songs are here; Anonymus and Focus. Those two songs alone are worth the purchase of this album. But the other songs are also very interesting. This for me is a mildly great album which is not as good as their best albums, but still among their best albums. This band is one of the most interesting bands the prog rock scene produced and this album proves why. I got a weak spot for Focus.

4 points

Thursday 23 February 2012

Criminal Caterpillar - Thanatos and the Archangel (2010)

A new band from Canada. A band with a free download album too. See link at the end of my review.

Their brand of music is pretty lively mix  of modern rock and jazz based. The jazz rhythms comes in pretty frequent. The rock part reminds me about art rock like RPWL, Marillion and tonnes of other new art rock bands. Actually, I do not have many references at all because this is not the type of music I normally listen to.

The sound is excellent and it is pretty obvious the band loves to go out and play this music live. And it is in a live setting this music really comes alive. The vocals are excellent and so is the guitars and the rhythm section too. I have my huge reservations against the lack of quality of the songs here. They sounds a bit samey and bland to me. This is simply not my cup of tea. So I award this album a weak three pointer and recommend everyone to download it and make up your own mind. This may be the best album from 2010 for some of you.

3 points

Link to album

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Saga - The Pleasure & The Pain (1997)

This album title perfectly describe how it is to be a fan, or even remotely interested in this Canadian band. Saga has released some really great albums, intertwined with some really painfully bad albums too. One great album was more often than not followed by a terrible bad album before a new great album followed. Mountains high; rivers deep. That is Saga in a nutshell.

In the case of this album, we are talking pain and the bottom of a deep river. The disturbing, off putting cover on this album should really scare off every potential buyers too. But in case anyone take a peek past it, what awaits the listener on album is even more disturbing than the picture. Some very bad versions of old songs and a horror version of Beatles classic song Taxman is what I would describe as pain. The techno house and disco rhythms on some tracks are painful beyond comprehension. What the heck was this band thinking about ?

This is a truly awful album without any redeeming features whatsoever and it is best avoided at all costs.

1 point

Marbin - Breaking The Cycle (2011)

Marbin is an Israeli - US based project and Breaking The Cycle is their second album. It was released on the highly respected MoonJune Records.

This band has been described as a fusion band. I am not sure which music types they have fused to get this album though. OK, jazz and rock seems a good bet. But this album sorely lacks a great deal of the intensity from jazz and the rock part is also not that prominent either. Instead, Breaking The Cycle is breaking new tracks on the side of rock, fusion and jazz. More like a fusion between jiddish music and rock is my take on the fused elements here. Jiddish lullabyes and folk music in particular. There is a great deal of melancholy and sadness on this album. Sadness very much taken from the tragic history of the much maligned and persecuted Jewish people. You can find it all on Breaking The Cycle.

This album is mostly instrumental and based on saxophone as a solo instrument and guitars as added textures. The playing is laidback and reflective melancholic. The band does an excellent job. The final song Winds Of Grace includes vocals from Daniel White and is also very melancholic.

This album is by no means the usual fusion fare and should be approached with a lot of caution. It is a very good album though, although it does not hit the right notes with me. But it is still recommended by me.

3.5 points

Tibet - Tibet (1979)

A nice little one-album-wonder band from Germany.

This album is music wise pretty much dominated by Hamond organs with some guitars and vocals playing supporting roles. The music is space rock with a lot of Deep Purple (Mk I), Eloy and Novalis injected into the music. The music is also very melodic throughout. Call it flower power prog if you want. The rhythm section has their feet in San Fransisco and the west coast of USA. The vocalist sounds like a German trying to sing English.

The overall standard is good throughout. There is not really anything that excites me at all with this album. But it is ticking nicely over and it is a middle of the road album. This is one of the albums that defines the three points grade.

3 points

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Dire Straits - Love Over Gold (1982)

Yeah, yeah, yeah......... stop sniggering.

Feel free to say anything about Dire Straits. A band that were the kings of cheese on most of their final two albums (although Brothers In Arms is a brilliant song). But this album is something different again.

The first song on Love Over Gold is their finest ever moment. Telegraph Road is up there among the better prog rock songs....ever. Private Investigations is also a great songs. Then the album takes a sharp nosedive with the cheesy meant-as-a-hit-single Industrial Disease. O horror. The title track is a welcome return to form though. The final track It Never Rains is another cheese fest though.

If this album had included Tunnel Of Love and Romeo & Juliet from the previous album Making Movies, this album had been straight up there among the best ever prog rock albums. But the two horror tracks mentioned above destroys the album somehow. I am off to make my own Dire Straits mp3 album called Love Over Movies with the suggested tracklist. But I would still award Love Over Gold a good four pointer.

4 stars

Yggdrazil - Settimo Grado Di Separizone (2012)

A totally new band to me and I do not know much about them. Their album is out on the Italian label Psych Up Melodies.

Yggdrazil, not to be confused with dozens of other bands with the same name, presents hard rock with a lot of space rock and power pop on this album. The rhythm patterns is slightly weird, but this is still pretty much standard rock music. College rock, it is called these days and this is chart topping music. Not this album, though.

The instrumentation is lots of guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Inbetween the hard guitars, we also gets some pretty songs  with a lot of guitars harmonies. But the main music is hard rock.

There are two problems with this album: There are no really great songs here. There are a lot of good stuff here, but there are also a lot of pretty mediocre boring stuff here. The second problem is that the final 2/3 of this album is demos and live recordings. I think Psych Up Melodies has done a big mistake here. Instead of releasing a 75 minutes long album where everything recorded by this band is cobbled together on a CD, I would had rather release the studio album on it's own and the other stuff online as xtras and the second helping. The final part is very bad, to be honest. So I will give the studio album a weak 3 points and the rest a 1 pointer. That gives.....

2 points

Monday 20 February 2012

Julian Julien - Strange (2006)

The second album from Julian Julien which has just announced a new project. Good luck with that.

Julian Julien has his roots in the jazz/fusion scene. But he is somewhere in the world music and the avant-garde scene with this album. It starts with an adventure into Chinese music, continues to Africa and also goes funky for a while. Being a saxophonist, there is almost no saxophones on this album at all and that is a disappointment. Strange is as the album title says...... strange.

I feel Strange is a departure from the standard established with his debut album Terre. Strange simply sounds too fractured and too much of a sound collage where the bits not really fits together. I also think Julian Julien has dived head first into an overpopulated pond. Some of them are big fish too. I would say; stick to the saxophone and leave the sound collages to less talented musicians with tonnes of cpu (computer) power and not much else.

This album is a disappointment in my ears, I am afraid.

2 points

Mayhem - Mysteries Dom Sathanas (1994)

One of the most controversial albums of all time. An album long in the making and where the bassist murdered the guitarist and cemented Norway's place in the history books as the birthplace of black metal.

Removing all the controversies and the front page headlines, what we got here is an album of songs.

Most of these songs was several years old before they got recorded for this album. To a large extent, this album is more a compilation album than a fresh studio album. The music is also pretty primitive and rooted in old Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost. A sound that Mayhem claimed themselves. This was also Mayhem's second studio album. Deathcrush, their debut album, had become a cult classic and still is. On the shoulders of that album, Mysteries Dom Sathanas was created.

The musicianship is excellent here. The bass is anonymous. But Eystein's guitars is really superb. But the drummer Hellhammer is the star on this album. His reputation as perhaps the best drummer in Norway very much justified by this album. The monk chanting vocals is strange to say at least. But they fits this music.

The opening song Funeral Fog is very primitive and a bit of an album filler. The second track Freezing Moon is rightly regarded as a black metal classic. It is a brilliant song in it's own right. From there on, the music becomes surprisingly lush and deviates a lot from the Venom/Bathory formula. It is still full frontal attack black  metal, but there is also a lot of double layered guitar harmonies on the songs. The best song on the album is the title track. Check out the guitar harmonies in the middle part and Hellhammer's drum patterns. Excellent stuff.

When the dust has settled, this is a surprisingly excellent album. Bands like Emperor and other more modern black  metal bands has probably released better albums than this. But for me; this album is the ultimate black metal album and the only black metal album I find interesting enough to stay in my living room.

5 stars

Machine Mass Trio - As Real As Thinking (2012)

The new project  by Michel Delville (Doubt + many other projects) takes us into his usual world of dense jazz.

Michel is a superb guitarist who uses the plank to create sounds than really playing it in the traditional sense. He rarely breaks into traditional solos and riff-o-ramas. Not on this album where his guitar is used to lay down heavy industrial landscapes. The woodwinds is used in a much more traditional jazz settings.

That very much describes this album. Michel Delville's industrial landscapes meets traditional jazz and avant garde jazz. I guess that is what differenciates this project from his other projects.

The musicianship is excellent. The same goes for the sound.

I am by no means a jazz expert. I am just dipping my toes into jazz now and then. But I am being drawn more and more towards jazz, I have to admit. And I like this album. It is good at times. But I like the more traditional jazz melodies instead of the industrial landscapes where my attention drops off and I get a bit bored with the album. But this is by all means a good album, although not a traditional jazz album. It straddles both avant garde and jazz. It is a good album for those who seeks adventures in a musical landscape.

3.25 stars

Saturday 18 February 2012

German Oak - German Oak (1972)

The cover art work on this album and the song titles may give the unaware buyer that German Oak is a nazi-band and this album is full of nazi music. Nothing could be further from the truth though. But I am not displaying this LP in my living room, though. I got enough problems with my girlfriend as it is.

The music is deeply disturbing as it is. It is music about being bombed to death by bombers in the skies above and the general horrors of war. It is an album where the band does not portion any blame on the Axis or the Allies. If you get tonnes of bombs in your head, you really do not care anyway.

This album was also recorded in an ex air raid shelter in Dusseldorf. That explains the sound which is pretty bad. But it is the right sound for this music.

The music is dark space rock. Mostly claustrophobic dark. Dark as in recorded in a disused airraid shelter where thousands were scared witless during the war. The instrumental music is performed with guitars, organs, bass and drums.

This music is so dark it takes time to sink in. I have spent a lot of time on this album. Although this album is by no means a masterpiece or even a great album, it really works and it is a good album. It really have some good melody lines too. I give it a weak three pointer because of that.

3 stars

Churn Milk Joan - Churn Milk Joan (2012)

A new Trans-Atlantic studio cooperation between Colin Robinson from Big Block 454 and Richard Knutson from Plum Flower Embroidery. Neutral Sons and The Chacers. This is their debut album and they have promised to release more albums.

I do not know Richard Knutson's other projects, but I know Big Block 454 pretty well. Churn Milk Joan sounds like a stripped down version of Big Block 454 with  Richard Knutson's added vocals. His vocals and contributions to Churn Milk Joan sounds like a crossbreed between Depeche Mode and it's vocalist Dave Gahan plus INXS funky vocalist Michael Hutchence.  Colin Robinson contributes with the weirdo Big Block 454 trademark rhythms and instruments (= everything in the house he could lay his hands on).

The music is funky as in a crossbreed between INXS, Gong, Depeche Mode and Big Block 454. Some would brand this Krautrock and they are spot on. This is Krautrock. The songs are pretty simple and one-dimensional. They churn on and on without offering much variations from the vocals + weird rhythms pattern. Some discorded guitars are added to some of the songs to add textures.

The quality is good throughout. I am not used to this type of music at all so my final points reflects that. The music here is too one-dimensional for my liking. The sound is excellent though. The many weird sounds on this album is also worthy exploring. This is a free album (see link below) and very much worth checking out for yourself. If you like Big Block 454, you will also like Churn Milk Joan.  

3 stars

Link to free download album

Rupert Selection. The - Conspiritorium (2011)

The Rupert Selection is another band from US who released their debut album last year. Despite of the downturn in the economics, USA is still churning out good bands.

Conspiritorium is a fifty minutes long album with a mix of funky metal, funk, eclectic prog, AOR and rock. They are listed as a prog rock bands on some online magazines and I agree with that. But their music is more mainstream than nerdy and eclectic though. References are King's X, Mars Hollow and the more rhythm based prog rock scene.

Their music is based on mainly drums, bass, guitars and vocals. I have heard they have added a keyboard player now to their setup. But there is very little keyboards on this album and they are most used as sound effects and added textures to the guitars which really dominates this album. There are some vintage hammond organs scattered around this records though. The vocals are understated and fitting for their music. The sound is excellent.

Their chosen type of  music requires some great songs. Unfortunate, this album is poor on great songs. But this is still a good album. I suspect the band is so much better on stage though. This music is meant for a stage and not an album. If I was a gig promotor being offered this band, I would book them. If they were gigging in my area, I would go and see them. But I am looking forward to their new album too. Keep an eye out for this band.

3 stars

Friday 17 February 2012

Stencil Forest - The Abyss (2006)

The second album from this US band. The press release from 2006 claims they play symphonic prog with references to Kansas, ELP, Yes and Ambrosia. That is a grossly misleading press release, I have to say and it cost me some money. The only thing Stencil Forest and ELP have in common is keyboards, some legs and some hands. I also question the references to Yes. Faint references, very faint references is what I can hear. I have never heard about Ambrosia though, but the references to Kansas is something I agree with.

The Abyss is most of all an AOR album with long songs. The title track is twenty-five minutes long. Most will say that this and the other long tracks here is overbloated. A claim with some merit, I would say.

The sound is crystal clear. The male vocals is great. The keyboards and guitars too is great. The sound and music is very mainstream and should appeal to everyone from the Christian rock scene to the granny in a living room. This is family friendly US rock and Stencil Forest is doing a great job with it.

Unfortunate, there are no great songs here with the exception of The Captive Heart. That song has a great hook and melody line. The rest of the songs, including the title track, is not that great. The album bubbles around nicely without really making me stop ironing shirt and clean my flat. It does not have any of this wow factor I expect from a great album. It feels a lot overbloated and too sanitised. But it is still a good album which I guess will make anyone into US prog rock/AOR happy.

3 stars

Alpha Centaury - Alpha Centauri (1976)

Another good prog band from France with much of the same sound as Ange and Mona Lisa. That for me spells quality. This is their only album before they disappeared again without a trace. It is also half an hour long too and that is not good value for money.

The music is based on vintage keyboards and some electric guitars. All this is fitted around French vocals in the Mona Lisa vein. The music is much more pop/rock than symphonic. The sound is sufficient, but not great.

The overall quality of the music is good. I really like the sound and the vocals. The art of song writing has eluded this band. But this is not a bad album at all and pretty much middle of the road.

3 stars

Thursday 16 February 2012

Arenal – Cabernet Sauvignon (2011)

Arenal is from Chile and that is all I know. I also know that Cabernet Sauvignon is perhaps the most popular and most sold type of wine in today's world. Chile is a big producer of red wine based on this grape and the wines from Chile is top value for money. That is as far as I remember from my wine drinking days. I am more or less a teetotaller now and addicted to coffee and Pepsi Max. But wines from Chile comes with my recommondations.

Arenal though is playing a sort of a fusion with metallic edges and some Dream Theater and Mahavushnu Orchestra connotations. I call it neo-fusion or even modern fusion. The music is mostly instrumental and pretty symphonic throughout.

I gather this is their debut album. Which explains their eagerness to prove their value as musicians. Unfortunate, the art of writing great music is missing. But the music is good throughout, although the sound could have been a lot better. But this is a good album and I think it is fair to say that Arenal has a lot of unfulfilled potential. They will hopefully unleash it on coming albums.

3 stars

Milkweed - Milkweed (1978)

A Canadian band with their one and only album before they disappeared again.

Actually, Milkweed was more a project than a band. Which explains the music on this album. Music that is everywhere at the same time. Jazz, symph, commercial rock, new age, movie score, space rock..... it is all here. The music is driven by woodwinds, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The sound is good and the album was released on CD in the mid 1990s by Synphonic Records.

The wide variety of music means a non-cohersive album. It is like a photo album with photos from everywhere. It is mildly annoying as a photo album and pretty annoying as a music album. None of the songs here are any good either. This is a decent album but nothing more. It is not an album that will linger around in my CD player.

2 stars

What the Blood Revealed - What the Blood Revealed (2007)

A new Scottish band. They are actually from a neighbour town in Ayrshire.

This is an EP, although almost forty minutes long. The music is hard post rock/shoegaze with a lot of ebbs and flows in the music. Most flows though with cascades of guitars of various sounds and colours. From some chugging metal riffs to some half acoustic guitars. This music sounds like the Irish Sea just outside the doors of their rehearsal place (well, that is how I imagine their rehearsal place. Let's call this creative licence and not fact) where the sea is crashing onto the beaches.

The quality of the music is decent. What I am really missing is some form of identity here and some good melodies. What the Blood Revealed sounds like umpteen other post rock bands and I would not be able to differ between them and others in this genre. Please give me some DNA samples next time around, guys.
But fans of this genre should perhaps chech out this band.

2.5 stars

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Abedul - Nosotros (1979)

Hmm...... Not so sure what to expect here.

Abedul is one of these one-album wonders from Spain. And they play a kind of cool jazz with pop vocals intertwined too. The rhythms and their songs are a bit ompa-ompa and cheesy. The music lands somewhere between pop and jazz.

The music is performed by keyboards and guitars + drums and bass. The sound is good and the vocals great. The music is not bad at all. The problem and I guess; the reason for this band only releasing one album, is the lack of any really great or even good songs. This album really does not leave any impressions on me.

I like music from Spain. But this album is not one of the pieces of music from Spain I am really overawed about. I give it a couple of points and that's it.

2.5 stars

Monday 13 February 2012

V/A - Xtreem Mutilation Vol 4 (2011)

The death metal scene gave us some legendary compilation albums twenty years ago from labels like Peaceville and Roadrunner. At Death's Door was one of the legendary ones. I bought a lot of CDs as a result of that.

Drowned Records, who morphed into Repulse Records and later Xtreem Records were around at that time in Madrid, Spain. Repulse Records released some really good compilation albums themselves. I believe they were free too.

....... Anyway.....

Compilation albums can be pretty bad like the first installment of the Xtreem Mutilation series (see my review). I guess volume 2 and 3 is not much better either. But they guy(s) in Xtreem Records has really returned at full blast on Vol 4, the one I am reviewing now, with one of the best death metal compilation albums I have ever heard. It is a free, two CDs download celebration (booklet, J-card and CD print is included in the download) of the Xtreem Records 100th release and 10 years in the business. That means a proper celebration with the best what Xtreem/Repulse/Drowned Records can offer from well over 20 years of their history.

This is almost champagne celebration.

The music is mostly great throughout the two hours of death metal terror the listener is faced with. The contributions from Adramelech, Cartilage, Supuration, Necrophiliac, Dissect and Morpheus Descend is really great and alone worthy the whole free download. Best of all; all bands are playing brutal death metal. No thrash and no black metal. This is two hours with fine death metal.

In short; if you are curious about underground death metal or really like this music; this is a download for you. I am fan of death metal in small dosages so this album is just my cup of tea.

4 stars

Link to free download

Ange - Emile Jacotey (1975)

The fourth album from France's finest ever prog rock band.

Ange's style of combining Genesis with Jaques Brel like folk music songs are very much evident on this album too. Style wise, I would say Ange has stripped down their sound a lot and dispensed with the big symphonic prog sound more or less altogether. The songs are very vocals dominated. The music very pastoral and stripped down. This is very much a made in France album too and the influences from across the British channel is more or less gone. The whole album could had been made and performed in one of the cafees in Paris.

The overall quality is good throughout. I am not entirely comfortable with the stripped down version of Ange and would a lot more meat on the bone, a bigger sound. But this is still a good album from a band which is becoming one of my favourite bands.

3 stars

Eiliff - Eiliff (1971)

Wow !! The debut album by this German band really hits the right notes.

Eiliff delivers music on this album which comes across as a mix of Soft Machine aka Fifth/Six, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. The first two songs, and in particular the second song Gammeloni, could have been lifted from Fifth (Soft Machine). The third song Uzzek Of Rigel IV is a mix of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. The fourth and final song includes a mix of all three bands. That includes Soft Machine aka Softs.

The songs relies on woodwinds, keyboards, guitars and some sitar and tabla. The woodwinds reminds me a lot about Elton Dean.

This album is an eclectic album and the overall quality is great. The sound is vintage and adds a lot of xtra texture to the music. This is an album Soft Machine fans should not miss out on.

4 stars

Sunday 12 February 2012

Osibisa - Osibirock (1974)

Our friends from Ghana with their fifth album.

Placing them in Ghana is a bit errenous though. Osibisa was formed in the cold metropolitian called London. That is in England, Europe and the winters there are pretty cold. The summers too are pretty cold too. Not like Ghana,  though.

Their first two albums are really great. Osibirock starts with the utterly horrible Caribean bars like pastisj Who's Got the Paper and continues with a lot of African dance rhythms (world music, it is called) and moves onto some more exotic light jazz stuff at the end. The music is by no means my usual fare. I would say Osibisa is a one of a kind band. Well, at least in my universe. But it has at least introduced the ambience of Africa into my office. A welcome change, indeed.

This album is by no means my normal fare. Quality wise, it is not on par with their semi-classic two first albums too. But there is still some good songs here. But not enough to really recommend this album. So I am a bit restricted with my points.

2.5 stars

Ya Ho Wha 13 - Penetration An Aquarian Symphony (1974)

An US hippie cult commune based around a long bearded guru out in California. The ideology was free love, peace and flowers in the hair. Their album covers was slightly on the wrong side of perversion with this old guru having intercourses with a young girl. The type of behaviour which raises my eyebrows well beyond my reclining hairline.

The music is improvised psychedelic rock. Some would even call this kraut rock. The basis is on discorded guitars with some thumping drums in the background. The bass rumbles on and the there is thankfully no vocals here. Nothing here seems planned and the phrase "symphony" on this album must be a tongue in cheek joke.

The music is not too bad though. It is obvious Agitation Free is a reference here. But where Agitation Free succeed, Ya Ho Wha 13 does not really manage to carry this off.

Ya Ho Wha 13 is a very obscure cult group with a limited appeal. But they are still worth checking out. MP3 files without the very distasteful artwork is the saftest bet, though.

2.5 stars 

Catafalchi del Cyber - Benediktus Und Vobis Quoque, Catafalcus Est Tu (2011)

The debut album from this new Italian  band.

Catafalchi del Cyber plays a kind of art rock with a strong emphasis on a vintage mellotron sound, melody lines which sometimes has strong Middle East folk music affiliations and a lot of King Crimson connotations. This in addition to Smashing Pumpkins and modern art rock influences. That in addition to a lot of influences from early Genesis. Catafalchi del Cyber plays indeed modern Italian progressive rock which has soaked up a lot of influences from the last forty years of music.

The mellotron sound is supported by some gentle electric guitar pickings and great vocals. Sometimes, Catafalchi del Cyber breaks out into long guitar solos too. The emphasis is on creating moods and soundscapes instead of proving technical capabilities. This is music which works for both brain and heart (lowering the pulse). The music that laid back and "cool". Which reminds me a lot about the West Coast rock scene. USA, that is. But most of all; about King Crimson.

All songs are great throughout and the mellotron sound really makes my heart strings sing. There is no real killer tracks here though. But all songs are really great and this band is high on my list of bands to look out for in the future. Italy has just got themselves a new great band.

4.5 stars

V/A - Xtreem Mutilation Vol 1 (20xx)

Time for some death metal.

Death metal and grindcore has always fascinated me. In small dosages though. This music is too noisy for my sensitive ears and I quickly tires of death metal. But I have high regards for death metal as an form of art.
Repulse Records was a record label which kept the death metal flame alive when the world went total bananas over black metal and the death metal scene was almost killed off in the crush for every man and it's dog to jump on the black metal bandwagon. At the end, Repulse Records went out of business and some remains of them (the owner) morphed into Xtreem Records. A record label which keeps the underground death metal scene well and alive.

Xtreem Mutilation Vol 1 is the first free downloads compilation albums out of in total four albums. See link at the end of the review.

All four albums, and in particular volume 4, is superb introductions to the underground death metal/grindcore scene. Superb because they are free.

The music on volume 1 is an eclectic mix of from beyond the grave bands. Mostly grindcore and gore grind bands though. Most of the bands is unknown entities altogether for even the most eager followers of the scene. There are also some black metal here to my displeasure. Not that I mind about black metal. But I thought this was a death metal compilation as volume 4 is.

The overall quality of the contributons here is not good, I am afraid to report. It starts promising with contributions from Disgorge and Paganizer, but then fall as a dead bird to the ground. Of the four volumes of Xtreem Mutilations, this is the least worthy download.

1.5 stars

Link to download

Saturday 11 February 2012

Autumn Chorus - The Village to the Vale (2011)

The return of the English pleasant land.

In England's green and pleasant land, you still get some albums that resonates between the villages and hills in England. An album that paint pictures of the English landscapes, the people and the village lives...... anno 1920. This is such an album.

With vocals that reminds me about A-Ha's Morten Harket and is that good. But where Morten Harket goes take on me and the sun always shines on tv, Autumn Chorus vocalist Robbie Wilson returns into one of England's cathedral and joins one of their many young men choirs in their chorals. His vocals is unearthly excellent and can make satan himself attending church on a regular basis. Robbie Wilson does get help from some female vocalists too and the end result is heavenly godly throughout this album.

The vocals are supported by a post rock like music with a lot of strings, organs, guitars and the traditional instruments. The sound is excellent. The music relies heavily on the vocals, but the instrumental bits is still excellent in it's own right. The music is pastoral post rock which feels like has been produced in an for a cathedral and in a cathedral. The music is in short almost religious and hymn like. But a lot better, I have to say. Sigur Ros is an obvious reference.

The music is excellent throughout and really takes the listenener on a fantastic journey through the pastoral landscapes of England. It also takes the listener back to baroque music, although with a post rock soundscape.

This album is nothing short of sensational. It is not in the same category as Genesis masterpieces, but it is not far away. English prog rock has found a new masterpiece in The Village to the Vale. No doubts.

5 points

Fleeman. Al - The Water Is Wide Variations (2011)

Al Fleeman is a young composer from Kilmartin, Argyll in Scotland. I know his area very well and I was delighted to receive his this album, his debut album, in the post. He is also a very good photographer and his pictures from the Argyll area, an area I visit a lot on my long bike rides, is excellent. Link at the bottom of this review.

That's where my enthusiasm ends........

Al Fleeman has taken one of the best loved psalms/hymns in the world and expanded it out. The name of this hymn/psalm is The Water Is Wide and the extension "Variations" very much describes his expansion of this hymn into a thirty nine long piece of music. He has used keyboards and samples in creating this music. A man and his dog project, in other words. I am not sure which instruments the dog plays, though.

The music is what I believe is called chill out music. I am not a big fan of the chill out/new age music scene. I must be missing something essential in my life because what I regard as chill out music is pretty intense jazz and fusion. Return To Forever is chill out music in my ears. The official type of chill out music just annoys me. The music is too sugary sweet for me. I prefer my life sour and sweet. Just like jazz, in other words.

But this is a pretty good album which is centred around a hymn I personally love. A majestic hymn on par with Jerusalem (which ELP did a good job on, forty years ago). Al Fleeman has fleshed out his "variations" of the hymn and made the music a lot more dynamic than the rather dour hymn. Some of the music here sounds a bit of a clash with the original hymn. But most of this album is good. I am a bit torn between giving this a decent or a good award. But the excellent booklet adds another 0.5 stars to the album and it swings this up to three points...... barely.

3 points

Link to Al Fleeman and photo gallery 

Flax - Monster Tapes (1980)

Flax was a Norwegian hard rock band, some would even say heavy metal band who released three albums from approx 1978 to 1982 (??). Monster Tapes is their second album. It was re-released as a MP3 album by EMI in 2011 as a part of them re-releasing old archive albums (and available through Amazon). Before this re-release, the album had been unavailable since the early 1980s. I bought it back then on LP and it never made into a CD (but it was released on cassette too).

I have always claimed that Monster Tapes is the first ever heavy metal album from Norway. After giving the LP some spins today, I am not so sure I am right. The heavy accented vocals involuntary draws the comparissons to krautrock. The flutes reminds me about both Jethro Tull and Prudence. There are also a lot of progressive rock here too aka Yes. A couple of blues like songs is also included on this album. The hardest songs are pretty much heavy metal though. Does that make Monster Tapes into a heavy metal album ? I don't think so. It is always OK to change my mind and I have just done that. This album is at best a hard rock album.

The whole album also sounds charming, amateurish to me. The vocalist Hermod Falch pretty laughable attempts on English is the main reason for that. But the sound is also a bit strange. Where did they record this album and how is it that EMI of all labels released it ? The album sounds like a box of cutlery falling down on the floor. One heck of a racket in other words.

The songs are good though and shows some promise. The sound however is pretty bad. This is a very strange album though. I have lived with it since 1984 and is still trying to make sense of it. I award it a three pointer while I continue to scratch some more holes in my scalp.

3 points

Rusch. Ben - The Truth of All Love (2010)

A German singer/writer with some albums under his belt. This is his latest album, if I am not mistaken.

Ben Rusch very much produce music in  the vocals/acoustic guitar tradition. The likes of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Not to mention Bruce Springsteen on one of my favourite albums Nebraska. But Ben Rusch's world is not that bleak. He rather paints a pretty happy picture on The Truth of All Love, music wise. It is based around his great vocals which dominates this album. But his voice also gets some support from strings and some woodwinds. It is obvious that Ben Rusch knows his trade and feels secure in his setting.

His product is very dependant on the art of making good songs. More dependant on this art than if he packed his songs around more instruments. If you are naked, you get the attention for missing bits and pieces. If you are fully clothed, the attention is drawn to the clothes instead instead of missing bits and pieces. That is fact and that is the problem of releasing half acoustic albums like this. That is the problem Bruce Springsteen faced on Nebraska too.

There is no really great or even good songs on The Truth of All Love. That is the problem here. And that is why I am very sparse with my points. This is a decent album and only that. It is a cosy album with Ben's voice the big plus. But I cannot ignore the plodding songs which goes nowhere. Sorry !

2 points

Tricantropus - Recuerdos del Futuro (2007)

A new Spanish band with two albums on their conscience..... so far. This is their debut album.

Their brand of instrumental music is a bit difficult to describe. Take a lot of Pink Floyd, some fusion without it's normal intensity, a lot of Camel and a lot of Carlos Santana. Add some prog metal and movie soundtracks aka Jan Hammer into the mix. There are also a some Spanish folk music here.

In short; this album would appeal a lot to Camel and instrumental symphonic prog fans who does not like too many sharp edges in their music.

The quality is good throughout. But I am missing a lot of identity in their music. This album is more soulless and bland than I appreciate. A bit more fusion would had given the material a lot more bite and content. Some chugging guitars and a lot of nice sounding keyboards with some funky bass and drums in the background does not really make the sun shine for me.

On the positive side; this is very competent delivered music and an album well worth checking out. So it is a three points album for me and a hope that their second album has some personality induced. I have just ordered it and I hope my money was well spent.

3 cats.... ehh..... points

Friday 10 February 2012

Venegoni & Co - Sarabanda (1979)

The second album from this band and one heck of an album too.

Sarabanda is an often used album title by Italian bands. I have yet to find out what it means although my online translator says "slow dance". OK..... that does explain/that does not expain a lot about this album.

Sarabanda is a crossover album between jazz, folk rock and RPI. It is mostly RPI though, but not in the PFM mould. The music is very playful and the vocals is used as an instrument. Tangents though is the main instrument. That and the rhythm section who really know how to fill the dance floors with this album. This album is very funky and a sure winner on the dance floor. In particular when it utilize old folk music songs and add a rampant bass and keyboard to the mix. Very infectious indeed and this reviewer has showed off some dance routines on the way between the coffee maker and the computer during the writing of this review. See Youtube video.

Frivolities aside, Sarabanda is a great album with the title track as a superb song. All nineteen minutes of it. Maybe this album is a bit too slick and cheesy. It has certainly taken on board a lot of influences from the disco scene. But the combination of folk music, funk and jazz is really great here and something the new bands in the RPI scene should have a look into. We very much want albums like this.

4 points

Julian Julien - Terre (2000)

A bit of an odditiy album in my humble views.

Listed as a fusion/jazz artist, Julian Julien comes across as much more as a RIO artist on this album, his debut album. I am sure I have heard some similar music before........... let me see.... Yes, this album reminds me a lot about the Moonberry album from Pikapika TeArt, Siberia in Russia. Terre is by no means a clone and I doubt Julian Julien has ever heard about Pikapika TeArt (but he has now so check them out, Julian).

But jazz/fusion, Terre is not. More like chamber orchestra RIO in fact. Which should make Julian Julien an excellent shoe in for the many RIO festivals in his local area.

The music on Terre is created with the typical chamber orchestra instruments. Piano, strings and woodwinds. There is also a strong rhythm running through this album.

The overall quality is very good to great throughout. This album takes time to settle though so I am almost flipping coins between a three or a four stars verdict. But I end up on a weak four stars for it. It will be very interesting to see where Julian goes next.

4 points

Northwind - Last Day At Lokun (1972)

The debut demo from this band which really never broke out of their village and into the scene. Thanx to Bandcamp, this and their other two offerings has got proper releases. Another good reason to love Bandcamp then.

This demo has a lovely analogue sound with the occasional sound disturbance from the LP player. Very charming. The overall sound is very good and this does not sound like a demo to me, sound wise. The Bandcamp format may have something to do with that though.

The music is charming 1960s sounding melody based proto prog. The songs are long and the band tries to pull of long compositions without really succeeding. The material on this demo is anonymous and dull. But this band had talent, but perhaps not the business skills required to break out. This is a decent demo, but nothing more. It is highly recommended to all proto prog fans.

2.5 points

Link to free album

Rainbow Danger Club - The New Atlantis EP (2010)

Progressive rock from China is not the normal fare. But in popularity, Rainbow Danger Club is in the top five of the most popular bands in our archives. If not the biggest band, that is. In China, this band is a huge band.

After repeated listenings to this EP, I can understand why. Their Chinese fans deserves credit for their excellent taste in music.

The music on this album is more or less described in the title itself. This is new, modern art rock with a lot of nods towards Radiohead and Marillion (post Fish). The sound is excellent. The music fleshy, dynamic and really melodic. A song like We Can Be Friends is a potential hit and should be on every proghead's playlist, sooner or later.

There is no real weak tracks on this album. It also functions well as one piece of music where the songs flows into each others. The musicians does an excellent job and so does the Matthew Bellamy sounding vocalist too. The music is performed with the normal setup and with a trumpet adding some xtra flavours too.

There is no doubts in my view that Rainbow Danger Club is a massive talented band who would be big in any territory they tried their luck in. They really deserve the success in China and I hope they will soon visit these shores too.

In the meantime; get this EP.

4.5 points

Amon Düül II - Yeti (1970)

The second album from this band and a one that would make any cat start to sing along.

This German band is an exponent for long spaced out pieces of music from outer space. Or is that from the LSD labs ? Yeti is not exception from this rule. The first half of the album contains songs which is around the three minutes mark. The final part of the album contains songs which is a lot longer though. But even the shorter songs are pretty spaced out despite of some of them sounding pretty commercial to me. The title track is a long improvisation though and that is the main impression of this album. You know what you will get from an Amon Duul II album.

The use of tabla and some oriental instruments are really good. The sound is pretty dirty, but still spot on for this music. That's what we call Krautrock, really. For those of you who wonder what is Krautrock, Yeti is the answer. This album, that is. Not the hairy creature from the Himalayas who eats and molest goats for dinner. A big difference, there.

The eighteen minutes long title track is an improvised piece of music and the best song here. Not everything on this album is great. But I am still sitting with the overall impression of having heard a truly great album.

4 points

Moskau - II (2005)

An interesting project from Germany.

Christian Kolf's first Moskau album is an ecletic mix of Radiohead like pop and the darkest hell like doom. The down-tuned guitars sometimes reminds me about black metal. But My Dying Bride is the best reference. So is Type O Negative and perhaps a lot of the other modern post and experiemental metal bands. I am pretty new to this scene and do not have many references here.

The result is a good album which mixes harsh industrial soundscapes, laid down by the bass, with some very warm and lush soundscapes. This album has a lot of the latter ones, actually. That to my surprise. The vocals is also very good.

I am surprised, positive surprised by this album. It is a free download too and well worth checking out. It is not a great album in my view. But I believe some of you would really love this album. Hence my approval.

3.5 points

Link to Bandcamp album 

Sot - King Of Saltz (2011)

The debut album from this Norwegian band who consists of members with 20+ years long experience from the music scene. But Sot is a total new entity again.

King Of Saltz is a stewing pot of metal riffs, tijuana mexican jazz, samples, normal jazz, bebop, funk and most of all; avant-garde/RIO. The music is performed with tuba (which doubles up as bass too), guitars and drums.

The result is a heady album with a lot of superb melodies, twists and turns. Not to mention, the many different moods which prevails through the album. The gloom is created by the tuba and the sometimes distorted guitars. The tivoli feeling is created by some nifty guitar picking and the tuba too. That means this album is one a heck of a ride and a great album which should appeal to all avant-garde/RIO fans out there. I am hugely enjoying this album.

4 points