Saturday 30 June 2012

Nth Ascension – Frequencies Of Day And Night (2011)

The debut album by this English band. A band who are fans of Blackpool FC. A football club who beat.. who was it again ?..... my favourite team Nottingham Forest in the play off semi finals five years ago. OK, I have forgiven them for that crime against my feelings.

Joking apart and taken into account that Blackpool's year in the premier league was highly entertaining for everyone, I have already forgiven them for the slight break of my heart.

I will also forgive Nth Ascension for this album. This album has been described by the band themselves (see Facebook profile) as Neo-Prog. They are spot on too. It is not the type of neo prog which will enthuse most of us. Most of the music is dull and run of the mill material. There is one exception and a substantial better song than the rest of the album in the form of the sixteen minutes long epic The Cage. This is a great epic which ebbs and flows like an epic should do. This is also good symphonic prog Genesis fans would approve of too.

The instrumentations is the usual guitar solos, tangents, drums, bass and not so good vocals. The vocals is perhaps an aqcuired taste than bad. But this a weak point, their weakest point, I guess others than me will not forgive.

The rest..... must try harder and must take some more chances and induce some more personality next time around. There are too many lump, lifeless neo prog albums around and this band should not really target that market. The Cage elevates this album to a good status, but only by the skin of the teeth.

3 point

Pez - Convivencia Sagrada (2001)

Pez delivers a bewildering expercience in Convivencia Sagrada.

Pez is an Argentine band who started out as a punk band and has morphed into a punk-jazz band on this album, their fifth album. Canterbury style jazz, funk and fusion from a punk rock platform. I could list the bands pieces of this album reminds me about. That list would be a very long list though. Let's say they visit everybody from Soft Machine, Red Hot Chilli Peppers to Inxs and Bad Religion on this album.

The basis is still this warm Latin-America hammond organ and Spanish vocals based sound. A sound which acts as the glue who to some extent binds this album together. A bewildering album who strikes out in all direction.

The quality is good throughout though. In particular after giving this album a lot of time as it requires. There are a lot of really good melody lines and details here. But this album is by no means easy listening and I feel they may have overstreched themselves here. It is though fun to find albums like this which is free of any inhibitions. This album is totaly anarchy, Argentine style. Long live this anarchy.

3 points

Free album 

Friday 29 June 2012

Garfield - Out There Tonight (1977)

Garfield French returned with the second album one year after unleashing the debut album.

Listening to their debut album Strange Streets was a mix of hope and despair. I hoped the final song on that album, Eyes, would be a good pointer for the second album. Out There Tonight dashed all hopes I had.

Out There Tonight has a lot of classical orchestra strings instruments in addition to a piano. The music is a mix of light hearted pop music with a full symphony orchestra and Supertramp. Garfield most of all sounds like a third rate Supertramp copycat with a symphony orchestra attached.

The quality of the songs are dire, to say at least. This is an album I prefer listening to in a dark room, alone. It is best avoided by everyone who does not love overblown pop music with symphony orchestra and/or cheap Supertramp copycats. I cannot stand this album.

1 point

Renaissance - Renaissance (1969)

The debut album from highly influential band. One of my favourite bands.

Renaissance is the name and the band is mostly remembered for the Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam version of the band. A version now touring the world again. It has just released a great live album. The Haslam/Dunford setup is why people love Renaissance.

The 1969 setup consisted of John Hawken, Keith Relf, Jane Relf & some other musicians. It was a splinter group from Yardbirds. This version of  Renaissance later formed Illusion after Haslam and Dunford got the Renaissance name after the first two Renaissance albums. A long story which I have forgotten.

Back to this album again..... The album has a flower power pop sound and that is what the music is. Flower power pop music with some classical music influences. The music is mostly performed by tangents, bass and drums. The guitars here plays a secondary role. The vocals are OK, but not as great as on the Haslam era  Renaissance albums. The quality of the songs are not that good either. There is no real great songs or even good songs here.

I regard this album as more an Illusion album than a  Renaissance album. If you are looking for another great Haslam dominated  Renaissance album, you will be disappointed. In it's own right, this is a decent album, but nothing more than that.

2 points

Thursday 28 June 2012

Le Orme - Felona & Sorona (1973)

This is the English language version of the Felona E Sorona album from the same year.

Le Orme and PFM released some English language versions of their albums on ELP's Manticore label in hope to break out of Italy and into the wider world. Sad, really. But that was the scene back then. I don's know if they managed to break this market though.

The music is great. No doubts. This is great symphonic rock with folk music incluced too. Read my review of the Italian version below for the run down of the music.

The music was built around the words too and the lyrical Italian language. The music is loosing it's fluency when replaced with another language. That has been lost in the translation and it is a pretty big thing. Hence my loss of enthusiasm for this music in the translation. I do not speak a single words of Italian. But I still prefer the Italian version and that with a one point big margin.

3 points

Le Orme - Felona E Sorona (1973)

(review written and published 27. September 2009)

The second issue of Classic Rock presents Prog issue claims this is one of the best ever Italian Prog Rock albums. So I duly investigated this claim.

I am not an expert on Italian Prog Rock or progressive rock in general. I therefore cannot dispute this claim. What I do not dispute is that this album is a piece of very beautifully crafted progressive rock. I sincerely hope this album is typical for the Italian scene.

This album comes as two long pieces of music. It is about two different planets; one good and one bad. That is as far as I know. Anyway; the music is the one that matters here. The music is generally pretty dark and pastorial. It is also very beautiful throughout. The music is as whole keyboards dominated. Keyboards and this wonderful vocals which weaves around the music in a perfect manner. In other words; the vocals are perfect or even better than that. I have stated this before and I say it again: The Italian language is perfectly suited to symphonic prog. I do not understand a word of what the vocalist sings so the vocals is for me "just" another instrument in Le Orme's sound. Perfect ! The sound is as stated above pastorial with changing themes. From pretty hard to very mellow. Mostly mellow and melodic. The keyboards sometimes creates some very grand and majestic pieces of music here. Pieces of music that has etched itself into my head and will probably forever be among my favorite music.

The quality is excellent throughout. My only small gripe is the last minutes with this techno rhythm like pieces. I do not feel they have any place on this album. But besides of that; this is perfect album. If this is Italian symphonic prog at it's best; I will raid Amazon and Ebay for more of the same. Viva Le Orme !

4.5 points

Acuity - Skyward (2004)

The debut and final album from this US band.

Acuity tried to copy the British neo prog scene with the usual thin, bad vocals and all the other illnesses associated to the this scene. Acuity got the illnesses spot on. The good things about the British neo prog scene is the only thing they failed to copy.

A pretty dodgy, thin vocals is the one thing that hits the listener first. The very dodgy plastic fantastic synth sound is also pretty tiresome throughout. The guitars is only marginally better. The bass and drums are OK though. In short; the band does not really cut the mustard.

There are some good melody lines scattered around. But the vast majority of the album is really poor. If feels borrowed and copied from the British scene. The similarities to the likes of Pendragon is too obvious to be ignored.

In short, this is a poor album.

1.5 points

Tetrafusion - Horizons (2012)

An half an hour long EP from this US prog metal band. Tetrafusion has released a couple of albums some years ago. I have yet to hear them.

Tetrafusion has carved out their own little niche in the over populated prog metal scene. A scene too much dominated by Dream Theater copy cats. Tetrafusion comes across as a welcome break from that tradition. Their music is dominated by Gary Tubbs atonal, melancholic vocals. The music is both melancholic and traditional prog metal.

The best songs here are Look Away I and II. The rest of the album is good. I like the melancholy tinged sound. But the bands is not backing this sound up with great songs and that is my gripe with it. Horizons is well worth checking out though.

3 points

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Le Groupe X - Frrrrrigidaire (1973)

A one man band from Italy who released two albums and a single before Gianluigi Pezzera, the man behind this band moved on in life.

The music is very much influenced by the likes of Trace and ELP. Add some local Italian flavour from bands like Le Orme and Goblin too and you get this album. The music is created and performed by tonnes of keyboards, bass and drums. The ELP setup, in other words.

The music is not bad at all. I have heard far, far worse ELP fanboy albums than this album. The music here is leaning far more on fusion and jazz than pling plong shopping mall music. The core of this music though is a blend of classical music and some Italian prog rock. The music sounds like Gianluigi Pezzera actually had a vision behind this album. Some delicate acoustic guitars scattered around this album also proves this point.

There are no really great music on this album. The average quality is good though and this is a surprising good album and a very fine addition to the Italian progressive rock scene.

3 points

Anglagard - Hybris (1992)

One of the truly legendary albums and an album who defined a whole genre. The genre is Scandinavian symphonic prog. Or as it is also called; melancholic prog. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this album.

Anglagard was a short lived band though and Hybris was their debut album. It draws pretty heavy on both Kaipa and on Ingmar Bergman's movies. The whole depressive, melancholic Scandinavian culture has been distilled into Hybris. In it's wake, a whole scene suddenly appeared. The rest is history.

Most of the melancholy and depressions here is being played out by the mellotron sound. This album is drenched in lush mellotron and hammond organs. There are some vocals and some guitars here too. But they are quite rightly being pushed back into the shadows by the mellotron.
The music too is lush with several excellent melodies. Most of them are melancholic and pastoral. But the band also burst into some powerful melody lines in support of the dark melancholy.  

The opening instrumental track Jordrök is one of the best ever songs to come out of Scandinavia. The rest of the album is superb too. That does not remove this album's status as one of the progressive rock's masterpieces and a must have album. It is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago too. It is a truly brilliant album.

5 points

Locanda delle Fate - Forse Le Lucciole Non Si Amano Più (1977)

The debut album from this Italian band.

The Italian prog rock scene grew out of the English scene and was and still is highly influenced by the likes of Genesis, ELP, Yes and Jethro Tull. That and the Italian folk rock and pop scene. The Italian prog rock scene offers up a lot of variations though. From pastoral folk pop to pretty hard rocking prog.

Locanda delle Fate is one of the bands who were more in the Genesis and pastoral rock mould. This album is free of any power chords and hard rock. This album is entirely focused on long, epic pastoral melodies. These melodies are performed with flutes, guitars, vintage keyboards, drums and bass. Least, but not forgotten is Leonardo Sasso's excellent vocals which floats over the music like the sun drenched an Italian valley.

The end result is one of the better albums from the Italian scene. The melodies are as lush as the sunkissed Italian landscape. Close your eyes and this music will take you there. A couple of killer tracks would had elevated this album to another level again. But I am not complaining. This is a great album from one of the minor bands in the scene.

4 points

Sunday 24 June 2012

Tritonus - Tritonus (1975)

The first out of two albums from this German band. A band lead by the art-student Peter K. Seiler.

It is obvious from the first minutes of this album that Peter K. Seiler also included the first Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) albums in his studies. The ELP references comes both thick and fast on this album. The vocals is Greg Lake like. The tangents is Keith Emerson like with plenty of mellotrons, moogs and other delightful sounds. All of this is sweet music to/in the ears of all ELP fans. I have to admit I am not hostile towards this kind of sweet music.

Tritonus is not entirely an ELP copycat though. They are far more songs orientated than ELP. Tritonus is also slightly leaning towards krautrock too. But the main core of their music is ELP like keyboards.

The songs here are really good. Their version of Lady Madonna, a Beatles classic, feels like a cheap gimmick and is not as good as the rest of the album. The rest of the material is good though. Ditto for the sound quality. The lack of some great material is my main gripe with this album. This album is an enjoyable experience though and well worth checking out.

3 points

Saturday 23 June 2012

Rush - Clockwork Angels (2012)

I guess this is an album I will enjoy more and more in the coming decades as I have done with most Rush albums. I also see no point in writing a long review about a much reviewed album. An album which has won universal praise. And with good reason.

Rush moved to Roadrunner Records after getting a pretty shabby treatment from the likes of Mercury and WEA for the last two decades. The marketing from Roadrunner has been brilliant though. I am not sure if that is the reason Rush more feels like being reborn anno 2012 than a veteran band. There is nothing old and old age pensioneers about this album and the new Rush. The new Rush is a young, vibrant band. That despite of the average age of Neil, Geddy and Alex being around the 60 mark. It is a rebranding of the Rush brand which really thrills me to the bone. This album excites me even more, though.

Starting with perhaps the weakest song on the album, the two years old single Caravan, the album both thrills and surprises on all levels. The epic title track follows after the now well known BU2B (the B side of the Caravan single) and Clockwork Angels is perhaps one of the best songs they have ever written. Dark, epic and very infectious. From there on, this album becomes a triumphant journey through some of the best songs Rush has ever done. Seven Cities Of Gold, The Garden, Wish Them Well and all the intricate details in Geddy's, Alex and Neil's playing. Geddy's voice, who was awful on the Time Machine live album, is brilliant here. Ditto for Alex guitars. Brilliant, absolute brilliant. Neil has gone through hell many times over this decade. But he has returned stronger than ever. Both his drumming and lyrics is fantastic on this album. What a fantastic human being !

It will take me much longer time than ten days to form a firm opinion on this album. But I am in no doubts this is their best album since Hemispheres. It is a triumphant return and a proof that Rush is perhaps the best band around these days. And I would like to have a drink of whatever they are drinking. I think it is called the fountain of youth. Hey, this album makes me feel young again.

5 points

Black Widow - Black Widow (1971)

The second album from this British band.

Their debut album Sacrifice was drowned out in satanic imagery and lyrics. The band took a step back from the controversies surrounding that album and dropped the explisit satanic stuff. Their lyrics is still a bit on the darker side, although pretty subtle this time.

Black Widow and Black Sabbath has often been compared. That is solely due to their occult imagery. But music wise, the differences are huge. Black Widow is much more leaning towards the hippie flower power and soul music than anything else. Add some blues and hard space rock to the mix and you get this album.

The main instruments are flutes, saxophones, guitars, organs, drums and bass. Add some good vocals to the mix too. The sound is vintage late 1960s to early 1970s with a rich organ sound.

The best song here are Mary Clark. Although the song material is better than on Sacrifice, this album is suffering from the lack of a truly superb song which would had taken this album to a new level again. But the overall quality is very good though. A very good album which would please everyone into the 1970s scene.

3.5 points

Tee (The Earth Explorer) - Trans Europe Expression (2012)

This album arrived into my world like the sun from the east !!!

This is the second studio album from this Japanese band. A previous cover band who did covers of all the English bands. They may still do it as The Watch is doing these days. I don't know. But they have branched out into doing their own material too. This album, with a brilliant cover art work, is the end result. A result as flowery as both their band name and the album title.

The music is an instrumental mix of Japanese rock, sympho prog, Canterbury, folk rock, eclectic prog and jazz. The flute is the main solo instrument. The guitars, both half-acoustic and electric, is also very much alive here. Some brilliant solos, they offers up too. There are also a lot of mellotrons and moog here too. An excellent addition to this mix. Piano is also plentyfull here. The band adds Japanese flavours by adding some female vocals as sound effects. The drums and bass is also very much alive here.

Most instrumental albums lacks teeth and textures. But this is not the case here. The music is very dynamic and full of intricate details. They have even found space for some great melodies too. The result is a great album from a band I hope we will hear a lot more from in the future. This is an album full of life and joy. An album that chases away the rain and the flooding. What's left is a field full of Japanese flowers.

This album is not perfect as it lacks a couple of brilliant tracks. But it is still a great album.

4 points

Sanatorium - Internal Womb Cannibalism (2001)

The second album from this Colombian gore metal band.

The cover art and the lyrics are shocking. The music is pretty much middle of the road death/gore metal. The vocals is extreme growls. Unnatural growls, I would say. I suspect sound effects has been applied.

Behind the shock effects and the growls, this album offers up some decent melodies and midpaced death metal. The band is not setting any speed records. Neither is the music here particular heavy. The result is an album with pretty poor quality and not really anything going for it. I guess all genres has bottom feeders and this band is on that level.

1 point

Friday 22 June 2012

Garfield - Strange Streets (1976)

Garfield was the brainchild of the composer Garfield French, a Canadian idealist. He formed Garfield. They did a warm up gig for 10CC in 1976 and their record label signed Garfield. The result was this album the same year. Three more albums followed. This album and the follow up Out There Tonight was released on a 2 albums on 1 CD some years ago. I bought it last year on a local flee market.

Strange Streets is stylewise somewhere between pomp rock and prog rock. A bit difficult to pinpoint in other words. But Supertramp and Magnum is in that area too.

Garfield French's high pitched vocals is an aqcuired taste though and difficult to ignore. Hidden behind his vocals, you get plenty of tangents, guitars, bass, drums and sporadic flutes.
This album also spawned a hit single in the form of the banal country pomp rock pastisj Old Time Movies. This is by no means a good song though and it leaves me rather embarrassed. The rest of the material is pretty dull and I am starting to wonder why the band was so highly rated. The final track Eyes, an eight minutes long epic, then appear and my ears get a nice fill with flutes, good vocals and angelic instrumentations. The song is a great song. More of this and this would had been a great album. But the other twenty-five minutes is only half-decent and dated. Hence my verdict. I believe all their songs are on Youtube so check them out yourself. In particular; Eyes.

2 points

Ninth Moon Black - Ninth Moon Black (2008)

The self titled debut album from this US band. They have so far released three albums through Bandcamp. Their third album was released last week. I will review that album a.s.a.p.

Ninth Moon Black plays instrumental post rock with metallic edges. Perhaps the correct label is post metal. Experiemental metal too is a good label. Their music has nothing to do with heavy metal. Let me put it that way. Their music also draws a lot on jazz too, although that is not evident in the music.

The instrumentations is guitars, bass and drums. The music has all the hallmarks from post rock with ebbs and flows. The music is a bit intense, but not particular powerful.

The sound is good and the musicians does a great job. The material is a bit anonymous and does not have a focal point. There is no great music here and nothing I really like. This is a decent album though and well worth the bother. As a debut album, this is a good effort and just that. But music wise, this is not really up there among the good albums of this world.

2 points

Get the album from here

Thursday 21 June 2012

Jethro Tull - War Child (1974)

This is Jethro Tull's seventh studio album and is the follow up to the three superb albums Aqualong, Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play.

The opening song War Child very much follows the follows in the footsteps of the three above mentioned albums. That is the best song of this album though. The songs on this album is on the rather short side, averaging three and a half minutes long. But the style is very much as on their best albums. That is an intricate, baroque blend of folk rock and eclectic rock. Ian Anderson's vocals is in the forefront of the mix and dominating the songs. The same goes for his flute too. This album is arch-typical Jethro Tull and a good reason why this band is so much loved.

As mentioned above, the best song is the title track. The rest of the material has some flashes of brilliance, but never really offers up any great songs. Some of the music is also pretty poppy and banal light hearted. This album is not one of the best Jethro Tull albums. But it is still an album I as an admirer of this band really appreciate. But I cannot overlook it's shortcomings.

3.5 points

Cosmos - Mind Games (2012)

If I am not mistaken, this is the third album from this Swiss band. Their first album was released in 1994 and their second one in 2006. This is not a band in a hurry.

Their previous albums has been described as Pink Floyd clones. For those who loves the more commercial Pink Floyd songs from their Wish You Were Here to their Division Bell opuses, Cosmos has again delivered a perfect gift to you. There is a bit more to this album than just a Pink Floyd clone. But they are not deviating much from the slow, epic melodic Pink Floyd formula. The vocals sounds like David Gilmour. The same goes for the female choirs. The music is slow, melodic and epic. The guitar solos sounds like David Gilmours. The same goes for the drums too. The bass is a bit more funkier than Roger Waters and those who took over his duties after The Final Cut. In general; Cosmos is a bit more funkier than Pink Floyd. But only marginally and that should not destroy the pleasures Pink Floyd fans would get from this album.

The overall quality is good throughout. The lack of one or two great songs is my major gripe here. But I like this album. I guess everyone likes Pink Floyd and Cosmos has released a safe, big selling album in Mindgames. Fair enough.

3 points

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Thula Borah - Live Secretly (2012)

The second album from this Glaswegian band.

Glasgow has a pretty respectable indie rock scene. Thula Borah is among the better bands in this scene. They lean a lot more towards post rock and shoegaze than indie rock though. Their sound and music is shoegaze and gloomy. It is driven by guitars and a vocal pretty low in the mix. The result sounds like impending doom and a miserable life. The sound is also epic and majestic too. This album is perfect mood music.

My only and major gripe with this album is the lack of any great songs or even melody lines. But this album is still a very good album which creates a lot of moods and ambience. I would like to hear more from this band, please.

3.5 points

Get the album here

Touchstone - Wintercoast (2009)

The difficult second album from this English band. Difficult because the band is now established and is supposed to set out their agenda on their second album after the joy and excitement after the debut album has faded away. Bands always finds the second album difficult. And so do we reviewers too.

Touchstone sets out their stall on the market with this album. An album which starts with the power/symph prog like title track where the famous actor Jeremy Irons does the narrations. A mix of ELP and Symphony X, it is. That is with a strong theme. A great song it is. So this is a power metal/prog album then........ ? Nope. Touchstone has established their very own niche in the market with their mix of beauty and the beast. The beast is Adam Hodgson's harsh guitars. The beauty is Kim Seviour's (female) vocals, helped out by Rob Cuttingham vocals too.

The essence of this band is the balance between these two extremes. On this album though, I feel the balance is more towards the beauty than the beast. Kim Seviour is an excellent vocalist though. But some of the songs are too sweet and too banal. The rest of the songs still follows the Touchstone formula with complex  epic, symphonic prog like arrangements. Of the new wave of female fronted English bands, Touchstone is by far the best band of the lot. 

Wintercoast is the weakest of Touchstone's three albums, I am afraid. The best song is the title track. The rest is good though. Hence......

3 points

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Gila - Free Electric Sound (1971)

This German band released only two studio albums (and a live album) in the beginning of the 1970s and then disappeared. But they are still regarded as one of the alltime great Krautrock bands.
This is their debut album and my first ever exposure to this band. I have been listening to this album on and off for the last weeks.

Starting out with riffs that reminds me a lot about Jimi Hendrix epic Voodoo Chile, this album takes a sharp left turn after a couple of minutes and heads into the direction of Agitation Free. Krautrock is a very divers genre pretty as it only describe a scene in a country which were experiementing with space rock and electronics at that time. It was a pioneering scene which has spawned some other genres too. House, electronica etc etc. But Gila is on the space rock side of the genre. Long minimalistic hypnotic jams is what we get on this album. They are performed with plenty of bass, drums, guitar solos and keyboards. That and some vocals used as sound effects. The sound quality itself is pretty good too.

The songs/jams are pretty uncomplicted and does not include a lot of intricate details. But they are effective and serves it's purpose. There are some good melodies here too. Like for example the final minutes of Kommunikation. But the overall quality is not as great as the first Agitation Free albums, the standard bearers in this genre in my opinion. But this is still a very good album well worth checking out.

3.5 points

Saturday 16 June 2012

Sinister Street - The Eve Of Innocence (1992)

The debut album from this Dutch band who released two albums before they vanished from the scene.

We are talking neo-prog here in the vein of Pallas, Marillion and the rest of the British neo-prog scene. Not to mention; the rest of the Dutch neo-prog scene. This album is following their path. The Eve Of Innocence though is leaning a lot more towards AOR and mainstream rock than the 1970s symphonic prog scene. This despite of the average song lenght is around six and a half minutes.

Olaf Blaauw's slightly operatic vocals is excellent and the best things about this album. Neither the keyboards and the guitars are particular good. The sound is very good though. The drums sounds a bit flat and so does the bass. The songs are good though and this album is an enjoyable listen throughout. There is no great songs here though and the music is a bit too light and lacking in substance for my liking. But this is a good album. It is also a "pay if you want" download too. Check it out if neo prog and/or AOR is your thing.

3 points

Download link

Broken Hope - The Bowels of Repugnance (1993)

The second album by this US death metal band. I bought a box with their first four albums for next to nothing from Earache Records many years ago and has not regretted that purchase.

Broken Hope never really had the breakthrough their brethren in Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse really got. The reasons for their lack of success is pretty evident on this album. They were simply not good enough. This album starts with a sore melancholic violin and then proceed to some very dark death growls fronted mid-tempo, not particular technical death metal. There are even some outbreaks of melodies here. But the sound is pretty bad though.

The end result is a pretty decent death metal album from a pretty decent death metal band. The dark vocals is the big positive thing I take from this album. They have to be heard to be believed.

2 points

Thork - Urdoxa (2000)

Thork is/was a French art rock project started up back in 1998. They released three albums. This is their debut album.

For some reasons, Thork has been labelled as a folk rock projects in some other web sites and blogs. This album though does not fall into that label though. The music is dark eclectic art rock performed with violins, keyboards, guitars, drums and bass. That and French vocals.

The songs is both long and complex. Their structures are epic symphonic. Songs and music which draws inspirations from both Genesis/Yes and My Dying Bride. The result is an original, eclectic album in the French tradition (Ange, Mona Lisa etc). Not all the music is great here. But the band is most definate onto something here. As a debut album, this is a great effort. A couple of more great songs and this would had been one heck of an album. The best songs are Tædium Vitæ and Requiem. The rest of the album is very good too.

Check out this band and their albums if you are into dark symphonic eclectic music and/or the French symphonic prog scene.

3.5 points

Friday 15 June 2012

Moody Blues. The - The Magnificent Moodies (1966)

In my run through the big discographies, I am now turning my attention to this band.

The Magnificent Moodies is their debut album and not representative for this band whatsoever, I have been reliable informed by their fans. Which is good. But I just want to get this out of the way before I move onto their (I have been reliable informed....) great albums.

The Magnificent Moodies is beat and pop anno 1966 before The Beatles blew the doors of the hinges with their Sgt Peppers album and opened up the doors to the type of music The Moody Blues later did. The music on The Magnificent Moodies is simple beat. And I don't like this album at all. I find nothing good to say about it as this music is the type of music I deeply dislike. There is a hit single on this album. I do not know whom. For me, this album is best avoided and will be put in a box in a dingy dungeon in my castle. It will never be played again.

1 point

Thursday 14 June 2012

Us - The Road Less Travelled (2011)

The ninth and last album by this Dutch band. Band is not a fitting description on Us though. It is more a one man band now after having lost some members due to sickness and other reasons since the first album was released back in 2002. Jos Wernars is now Us and is supported by his wife Marijke on vocals.

Us has always been somewhere between the likes of Genesis and Pendragon. That is symphonic neo prog based on vocals, keyboards, bass, guitars and drums. And this album follows that formula I have gotten used to since their first album. I got them all and have reviewed them for various magazines. That has been an interesting journey. A journey which has followed the same formula during the last albums. That's Jos playing all instruments, supported by a drum machine and his wife.

I have to admire Jos for really sticking to his guns. He is without any doubts one of the unsung heroes in the scene. Where anyone else, including myself, would had put their feet on the sofa and given up, Jos is still releasing albums. That with very limited resources and I guess; even more limited financial returns. Today's music scene is dog eat dog and I am not sure if Jos is really among the most cynical, nasty dogs out there. The type of dogs which survives.

I write this to remind you about the facts of the matter when I am now listing my views and gripes with this album. Jos is a true hero, but I still got a lot of gripes with this album. First and foremost the production which sounds thin and lifeless. Has this album been profesionally mastered ? I doubt it. The vocals is mostly suffering from this dull production which sounds like it has been run through a cheap & nasty piece of hardware.

The songs are not that great either and it feels like the Us formula has gone into a sidetrack and really become static for the last albums. Since Climbing Mount Improbable from 2008, in my view. The formula is long epic songs without much variations and details. It feels like all the epic songs goes down the same road. That impression is not helped by the poor production.

I regard Jos as one of the unsung heroes in the business. But this is not an album I like. It is a decent album though which has retained some of the trademarks which made Us an interesting band some albums ago. This album is not for me though.

2 points

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Drudkh - Estrangement (2007)

The sixth album from these Ukraine black metallers. This mysterious band who never gives interviews or any public statements has become one of the best black metal bands in today's scene.

Estrangement is a bit too one dimentional though. It's sound is basic black metal and the music is a mix of old Norwegian black metal and melodic viking metal. That interluded with some Ukraine folk music. But there is not as much Ukraine folk music on Estrangement as I am used to from a Drudkh album. Estrangement is a bit of a step back into the deepest black metal land. Those who likes mid-era Bathory will love this album though.

This is a decent album, but nothing more. I am left disappointed.

2 points

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Ougenweide - Ougenweide (1973)

The debut album from this German folk rock band.

The band was formed to play medieval folk music. The type of music played in bars and in other public places centuries ago. Ougenweide is slightly electrified though. But the instruments are guitars, bass, drums and congas. Pretty simple and effective.
On the top of the music, you got both female and male vocals. Both very good vocals. The sound is also very good.

The music is pretty basic folk music and the quality of the material very decent. But besides of the vocals, the music itself never becomes interesting. It is a nice mix of ballads and more racy music. But never intersting and taxing on the brain.

This is a decent album from a band who released a lot of albums. I hope the other albums is better than this album, though.

2 points

Acid Floriani - Underground Strikes Back (2011)

Acid Floriani is a band from Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Yes, that's Russia. This is their debut full lenght album after releasing an EP in 2010.

The music here is an instrumental blend of space rock and post rock/shoegaze. More like shoegaze post rock in my view. The sound is harsh and industrial like the factories in Krasnoyarsk. But there are also a lot of organic warmth in their music. The sound is excellent though and don't think this Siberia location means lo-fi and third rate product. The sound quality is on par with the Western world standard.

The overall quality of the music is good. It is a bit too one dimentional for my liking though and not spacy enough. But it is a good post rock/shoegaze album which should appeal to both space and post rock fans.

3 points

Sunday 10 June 2012

Galliard - Strange Pleasure (1969)

A two albums band from England, if I am not wrong. Both albums released on the famous Deram label. And with good reasons too.

I had never heard about this band before I got their two albums (released on CD as 2 for 1) some weeks ago. I was in for a nice surprise though.

Galliard does a nice hippie mix of space rock and folk rock. What makes this album and Galliard stand out from the numerous other bands in this scene is their use of brass. Trumpets, to be more precise. With brass, they moves the music in the direction of flamenco and Tijuana (Mexico) jazz. They have also added a lot of racy, heavy electric guitars and Hammond organs to that mix. That and some great male vocals. The result is a sound which really need to be heard to be believed.

It does not hurt that this album also includes two great songs in the form of  I Wrapped Her In Ribbons and A Modern Day Fairy Tale. Both of them may have been hit singles, for all I know. The rest of the songs are not of that high standard, although Frog Galliard is a very good song. The songs are rather short and sweet too.

This is very much an album of English music, though and best enjoyed with English cider on a nice summer day. If released today, the music would had been popular on the gigs circuit. Galliard and this album is a very nice addition to anyone's collection of late 1960s/early 1970s albums.

3.5 points

Ancient - The Halls of Eternity (1999)

The fourth album from this Norwegian black metal band. A band who was never really accepted in the Norwegian scene.

......Which may explain why their music moved away from the Norwegian sound and more into the direction of Cradle Of Filth. They still had one half of a leg in the Norwegian sound. But the move to a more wider and inclusive sound can be found here. There are even some indie rock stuff here. But most of all; the album is a move towards theatrical black metal. Cradle Of Filth is a good reference here.

The music is decent throughout and offers up some good stuff. But not enough for me to take notice. The lack of some really good songs and the reuse of old riffs and themes from other bands is my main gripes. But I have heard far worse albums than this album.

2 points

Friday 8 June 2012

Altered Vision - Fantasia (1996)

An Italian band and I know absolute nothing about them. I borrowed this album from a friend and that's it.

The music on this forty-five minutes long album is best described as a mix of college rock, art rock and indie rock. Mostly art rock though. This is a type of music I am totally unfamiliar with so I am on very thin ice in this review. But R.E.M is not a bad reference. Altered Vision is far more jazzy and funky than R.E.M though. Somewhere between R.E.M and Jamiroquai is a good reference though.

The music is driven by a lot of different instruments. From cold synths to electric guitars and woodwinds. The bass and drums is also pretty dominant with a busy jazz bassist driving the music forward. The vocals are male vocals and they are pretty good.

The music is pretty good throughout. The sound is very much the 1990s sound though and not a good sound. The lack of any good songs is a problem and the reason for my lack of enthusiasm for this album. It is a decent album though from a band I guess had some commercial success with this album. This type music was very much popular back in the mid 1990s. So maybe I am giving two points to a million selling album. I don't know. But this is not my cup of tea.

2 points

Thursday 7 June 2012

Elend - A World in Their Screams (2007)

Oh dear.......

Elend was once a very interesting band who combined the bottomless sorrows of the doom metal scene, opera and avant-garde classical music. The first two albums is good albums. Somehow, the rot set in and nothing is left on this, their so far final album.

A World in Their Screams is a sound collage which has no cohesion and no real theme. Just some noises I do not really understand how fits in together. In short, this is a horrible album and a bit let down for those of us who rates this French band.

1 point

Black Widow - Sacrifice (1970)

So this is it, then. The infamous and controversial debut album from this infamous British (socalled) occult band. I feel like Frost interviewing Nixon when listening to this album with the view to write something about it.

42 years has passed by and the world has witnessed a lot more shocking albums than this one. So let's leave the controversies & the silliness behind and rather go to the music.
Musical references are Jethro Tull and Vanilla Fudge. The music here is a mix of folk, rhythm'n'blues, soul and rock. Much more soul and rhythm'n'blues than I expected in fact. We are not talking black metal here. Far from it. That other Black band... Black Sabbath and their self titled album from the same year (1970) were far heavier than Sacrifice. The music on Sacrifice is good rhythm'n'blues with a lot of good melodies. But Sacrifice were not breaking any new ground in 1970 with the exception of the lyrics which is on the rather occult side. Naive occultism, that is.

The song Come To The Sabbat, the controversial song and the best song on this album, is rather naive. But it is also a great song too with the great flute as the crowning glory. The other songs are not in the same class. But this is still a very good album which really has vetted my appetite for this band.

3.5 points

Sacrifice was re-released as Return To The Sabbat in 1998, btw. I will review that album and all other Black Widow albums in due time.   

Aethellis - Northumbria (2011)

I had high hopes some months ago after listening to and reviewing the 2003 self titled debut album. So I purchased this album, the follow up.

Eight years is a long time and those eight years has changed Aethellis into a band. It is still being lead by Ellsworth Hall though. The man who did everything on the debut album. The music has also changed from airy rock in the vein of Marillion to somewhat altogether different. Aethellis has morphed into a sophisticated funky pop/rock band with funky electric guitars and long keyboards runs. The sound is the typical awful flat 1990s/late 1980s sound.

The Genesis influences is very strong on this album. I am not referring to the Peter Gabriel fronted Genesis. I am referring to the Phil Collins lead Genesis where the prog rock has been ditched and the slick Motown soul/pop has been introduced. It sounds like Aethellis has even copied a couple of Genesis riffs from that era (which surely is by pure accident). And I despise that Genesis era and type of music.

The result is an album which is going nowhere fast. The material is dull, lifeless and generic. The Genesis similarities too obvious for my liking. The sound is flat and too much like the 1980s/90s. The vocals is a painful listen. The long keyboards runs are dull. There is no sparks of creativity here at all. In short; Aethellis has flopped big time with this album. Shame really, because I really like the area of England called Northumbria and I also liked the first Aethellis album. But this is not my cup of tea. Sorry.

1 point

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Gazpacho - March Of Ghosts (2012)

Gazpacho should not really need any introduction. One of the bands formed by Marillion fans (one of many... I have never understood why anyone finds Marillion post Fish fascinating), Gazpacho has gone their own ways and created their own little kingdom.

Gazpacho is also one of the bands I have been strugging most with during the last year. I have gone from cold shouldering their music to really warming to it to the degree that I am now a fan of the band. In this respect, I have walked 5000 miles. I am now a fan of them...... *10 x sigh*.

So we are in 2012 and their seventh album March Of Ghosts is out. Yes, it has been out for some time. But budget restraints has been plaguing me this year so I have not picked it up before now. I have been giving it a lot play during the last weeks. Both during some walks and indoors.

Gazpacho's kingdom/sound is a mix of post rock, indie and symphonic prog. Bands like Coldplay and Radiohead is prominent in their sound. So is Marillion too, but I am not holding that against Gazpacho. But when listening to a lot of the very interesting post rock around now (and band names I have forgotten), I also find a lot of that music in Gazpacho and in this album too. This album though is also branching into symphonic prog. Yes and Genesis springs to mind. It is not in your face, but the structures is there. Just listen to Hell Freezes Over I-IV. In particular # II with the fantastic final part which sounds like Breton bagpipes to me (it is violins).

Gazpacho has followed the path they set out on the previous album Missa Atropos and expanded their kingdom on March of Ghosts to more structured songs than before. This without loosing their original energy and sound.

In short; this is another great album from this Norwegian band. A band who surely is among the best European art rock bands at the moment. Hell Freezes Over I-IV is the best pieces here. But the best track is actually the rather understated Mary Celeste.

I really love this album and I believe it is their best album ever. If you have not visited the kingdom of Gazpacho before; this album should be your next stop.

4 points - First album (2006)

The debut album from this one-man electronica project who has released all his albums for free. Nice of him. Him is actually a French man called Yves Potin.

I reviewed his best of compilation one year ago and found that OK, as far as I remember. The various albums has their own themes. The theme on this album seems to be Eastern music. The guitar solos is long and haunting. The keyboards, which then takes over, is very much in the Chinese tradition and not far away from what other more western musicians has distilled from the Chinese classical music scene. Westerners like Dennis Rea and Jean Michel Jarre, that is. These themes are very much alive on this album.

The music on this album is still a bit pedestrian for my liking though. Neither is it ambient music either. It is stucked in a no-mans land between jazz, ambient and progressive music. I don't think Yves Potin had refined on this, his debut album. Which is a common fault by most debut albums.

It is also a mystery to me what a female vocals cover version of Pink Floyd's Astronomy Domine is doing on this album. Yes, it creates some variation. But it also destroys make the album a pretty messy affair.
The music here is not particular good either. The guitar solos a bit too traditional and too much out of tune with the Eastern themed keyboards. In short; this album feels like a cobbled together album with bits and pieces from everywhere. It is a decent album, but nothing more.

2 points homepage and free albums   

Obituary - Slowly We Rot (1989)

With the help of the creative freedom this blog is giving me, a type of freedom I have not had for many years, I am digging out some old albums from the boxes and dungeons in my castle.

Obituary was a bit of a strange band. They still are. They are listed as a death metal band. But they never really fitted that label at all. I think they were more a doom metal band than a death metal band.  The title track is a slow grinding doom metal track. And so is most of the other songs here. I really liked this album when it came out. That was - Gosh I am old !!! - 23 years ago, though. I have been giving this album a spin again now, the original 1989 album though, without the bonus tracks.

John Tardy's growls on this album is legendary. They are a mix of a male lion and a cow. Not human, in other words. These growls is backed up by some tight riffs. Most of the music is mid to slow paced. They are interrupted by some fast grinding too.

Obituary came up with a lot of good ideas on this album. But the ideas is not fully exploited in this album. This album feels like a brainstorming session and not the finished product. Despite of that, the music here is still very interesting and good. The title track is a great track. The rest is not that good. But this is still a good album well worth checking out. In particular if you are into new and progressive music. Which strangely enough Obituary produced a lot of during their career. A new album is on it's way, I have heard.

3 points

Earth And Fire - Song of the Marching Children (1971)

The second album from this Dutch band. I reviewed their debut album a couple of weeks ago.

Earth & Fire was fronted by the female vocalist Jerney Kaagman. A vocalist which comes across as a blend of Jane Relf and Annie Haslam on this album. Her vocals is floating on the top of some songs which reminds me a lot about the excellent Scheherazade album by Renaissance. There is no denying that  Earth & Fire sounds like Renaissance on this album. They are two twinned bands.

I am a big admirer of  Renaissance though. A band on my top ten, if not top five, list of the best bands this planet has ever produced. Earth & Fire is playing on my heart strings on this album. I am almost charmed into submission by both the sound and  Jerney Kaagman's vocals. Unfortunate; the songs are not that really great. To put is simple; they are anonymous and grey in colour. Where  Renaissance moved towards classical music and took a lot from there, Earth & Fire sticks to a pretty dull pop/rock music formula. That is a pretty big mistake and the main reason why  Renaissance succeeded and is still touring to packed houses while Earth & Fire remained a pretty obscure band.

This album is a very good album and a charming one. But it is not a great one. And I am starting to suspect the same can be said about Earth & Fire too as this is supposed to be their best album.

3.5 points

Monday 4 June 2012

Mad Puppet - King Laurin And His Rosegarden (1994)

The third studio album from this Italian band.

Although their passports says Italy, their sound and music is firmly rooted in the English neo-prog. Very few influences from the great Italian prog rock scene can be detected in this music. Instead, the references are bands like Pendragon and IQ. There is a lot of post Roger Waters era Pink Floyd influences here too.

The instrumentations is the usual tangents, guitars, bass, drums and vocals setup. There are both male and female vocals here. None of them particular great though. The music is melodic throughout. Something that requires some great melodies. They are sadly lacking though. But the final two songs The Battle and The Spell is great though. The rest of the album is decent to good throughout.

This is not a shining great album. It is very much a middle of the road album which I enjoy. I award it a very weak three pointer.

3 points

Le Orme - Uomo Di Pezza (1972)

The third album from this Italian band.

Le Orme is rightly regarded as one of the best Italian progressive rock bands of all time and is still active in the scene. Their second album Collage (see review) was largely an ELP copycat album. They have moved on and developed their sound and songs a lot on Uomo Di Pezza though. The music has become a lot more complex and eclectic. The likes of Gentle Giant has very much influenced this album and far more than ELP has influenced the music here. The same also goes for Italian folk music which is incorporated into the sound on Uomo Di Pezza.

Where Collage was naive and borrowed, Uomo Di Pezza is a fully bodied album where the band stamps their authority on it. The church organs is still there and so is the vocals, flutes, bass, drums and guitars from Collage. The differences is the complexity of the songs. Layers upon layers of complex melodies has been added. The result is not as immediate and straight in the face as Collage. Uomo Di Pezza requires a lot of time.

The result is a great album which really impresses me from the first to the final minute. It is also almost a blueprint for the Italian prog rock scene too. This is a highly enjoyable album.

4 points

Teudor Tuff - Soliloquy (2012)

The second album from this Norwegian band and the hype machines goes overdrive.

Their first album was heavy influenced by Deep Purple and Whitesnake, according to their homepage. Their new album Soliloquy has both legs firmly planted in the power metal genre though. Power metal cliches follows each other like the wagons follows the locomotive in a train. The typical power metal sound, vocals, guitars, drums and bass. Nothing here is new.

I have to admit I don't like power metal at all and I am the wrong person to review this promo album. Unfortunate, this is a personal blog and I have to express an opinion. There is no great songs on this album. Just a lot of songs which makes a lot of noise, but no sense. The guitars are good though and this is a decent album. But despite of the hypes declaring this album as one of the best albums of all time, I find nothing good about it.

2 points

Sunday 3 June 2012

Agincourt - Fly Away (1970)

Another British one album band. Agincourt was more a recording project than a band though.

We are deep into folk rock land here. Flowery folk rock with a hippie/San Francisco and apple cider from the west counties feel. This album very much mirror the English pop/folk music scene from that era.

The music is performed with piano, guitars, flute, drums and bass. The vocals are both male and female. All of them does a fine job. The sound is great though and fitting for the songs.

The songs are good and flowery light hearted. The songs really never becomes more than meandering good. There is nothing really great about them and I find this album non-offensive and not particular stimulating. I get the feeling of having heard these songs before. But I have not though. This is a good folk rock album and that's it.

3 points

Saturday 2 June 2012

Spurv - Blader Som Faller Til Jorden.. (2012)

A new Norwegian band to me and a band name (Norwegian for sparrow) which has made the metal scene frown with anger. That in the mistaken belief this is a black metal band. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Spurv flies on winds of post rock. Instrumental post rock to be more precise. So don't be afraid if you don't get the lyrics. There ain't any !
The music is the usual post rock mix of full guitar attacks and more pastoral, shoe gazing melodies. Ebbs and flows like the ocean itself. The setup is the usual guitars, bass and drums. I also detect some violins here which also gives the four songs a lot of spice and variations.

I am an unashamed fan of post rock. Most of it, that is. Spurv and this album/EP (which is thirty minutes long) is a good addition to the scene. It does not break any new ground though. It follows the post rock formula to every dot and letter. That is my major gripe with this album. That and the lack of any really great tracks here. But this is still a good album/EP which really deserve some attention. I hope the band can follow up this debut with some more material.

3 points

Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness (1989)

The debut album from this Florida band and one of the most important/best death metal albums of all time.

Up to this album, death metal had only been a harder form of thrash/speed metal. Slayer was still the king of brutality. Morbid Angel changed all that with Altars of Madness. New song structures, blast beats, new guitar solos and riffs was introduced into the scene by this album and a new genre was formed. Death metal, it is.

This album has by all means survived the test of time. Yes, 23 years has passed. The Scott Burns production is not the best though. But the songs are still great. All of them are classics in their own right. My favorite song is Maze of Torment though.

Yes, Altars of Madness is not the most technical death metal album you can get and it sounds a bit dated compared to albums from the new uber-technical death metal bands anno this decade. But it is still a great album from a band I have always rated very highly. If you only want one death metal album in your collection, this is an album you may want to consider although it is not a typical death metal album.

4 points

University Of Errors - Jet Propelled Photographs (2004)

A redo of the legendary Soft Machine demo from the late 1960s.

This Soft Machine demo has also been released on CD too and is still available, I believe. Robert Wyatt was the vocalist. I believe Daevid Allen, who also played on that demo before he was rejected re-entry to United Kingdom (= had to leave Soft Machine), was not too happy about the vocals and had always wanted to re-record this demo and release it. This chance came about in the shape of this band, University Of Errors. This band is one of the many projects Daevid Allen set up in addition to running Gong. Daevid Allen is the vocalist on this album and he is supported by some fine musicians too.

This version of Jet Propelled Photographs is a re-recording of the Soft Machine demo with a lot better sound and with Mr. Allen's take on the songs. The new versions has a lot more powerful guitars based chords and a new sound. What I am missing from this album is the old charm and the 1960s feeling the old demo had. The 2004 version sounds a lot more clinical and better excecuted. But I still very much welcome University Of Errors's take on these songs and I really like this album. It is a good album which adds another dimention to the old Soft Machine songs.

3 points

Kreuzweg - Kreuzweg (1983)

An obscure German band who released only this album and then disappeared without a trace.

Their music can best described as piano & vocals based epic rock. There are also some electric guitars, woodwinds and synths here. The music is mid-tempo and not particular symphonic or even multi-dimentional. The music sticks to it's narrow formula. There are also some krautrock influences in their music. Mostly from the likes of Grobschnitt which is the only reference I would use on this album and the band.

The quality is pretty decent throughout. There is no great songs here though and this album tends to be a bit dull throughout. There is a reason for this album being obscure and largely forgotten. The quality of the songs here, for example. But I have heard far worse albums than this one, though.

2 points

Friday 1 June 2012

Distorted Harmony - Utopia (2012)

Once in a while; an album comes along which proves there is still life in the old dog, the music scene. This is one of those albums.

Distorted Harmony is from Israel and this is their debut album. Israel means the middle east and all those stereotypes. Orphaned Land has released some (excellent) albums with a lot of eastern and middle east folk music influences incorporated in their progressive metal sound. Other bands from Israel has done the same too. Distorted Harmony has not gone down that route, though.

 Distorted Harmony is a progressive metal band who has incorporated a lot of other influences too. The middle east folk music is not one those influences though.  Distorted Harmony could easily had been mistaken for a Canadian, US or a Norwegian band. Their sound is universal. Their brand of progressive metal (performed by guitars, tangents, sampled symphony orchestra instruments, drums, bass and vocals btw is not run of the mill, though. The song structures on Utopia has been lifted from the symphonic prog scene. The likes of Genesis, Yes and Kansas. Add some structures which reminds me about Gentle Giant too. Their guitar riffs is in the progressive metal tradition aka Dream Theater. Their guitar harmonies is in the Muse and the post millenium art rock scene. The vocals sometimes reminds me about Morten Harket in A-Ha. But the vocals is more akin to Muse though.
The opening song Kono Yume sets out the stall and the album culminates in the twelve minutes long title track.
My only gripe is the lack of a true killer track. A track which would had elevated both the album and Distorted Harmony to another galaxy again. But this is still a stunning great album and close to being a perfect album and my favorite 2012 album, so far.

4.5 points

Distorted Harmony homepage and free album