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 Roxy & Elsewhere by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Live, 1974
4.38 | 308 ratings

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Roxy & Elsewhere
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by SonomaComa1999

4 stars REVIEW #3 - "Roxy & Elsewhere" by Frank Zappa (1973). 5/20/2018

Continuing on the theme of the music of Frank Zappa, I felt it was necessary to review one of his live albums. Following my reviews of his 1974 album "Apostrophe" and his keyboardist George Duke's "The Aura Will Prevail", I decided to choose an album where both musicians were present. While Zappa has a myriad of live albums, and a never-ending sea of live bootlegs, his 1973 offering at the Roxy in Hollywood is considered to be his best. A compilation of songs played at the club over three concerts, fans consider this album to be an absolute masterpiece, containing the feel of Zappa's concerts at the time. It is important to realize that prior to the internet, live performances could only be heard two ways - by going to a performance or purchasing a live album. It was not as easy to hear a musician playing live material as it is today, so therefore it is always crucial that the atmosphere of a musician's live show can transition and be contained into a live album.

The lineup that plays behind Zappa is quite possibly the best of his career. Several names, including the saxophonist/vocalist Napoleon Murphy Brock, trombonist Bruce Fowler, the aforementioned Duke on keyboards, and Zappa himself, appear on this double LP. Perhaps one of the best traits that this album has to offer is its intercalary monologues by Zappa, where he interacts with the crowd, introducing and explaining the songs to the crowd. Most of the music on "Roxy" is new material with the exception of one song. We begin with the humorously titled "Penguin in Bondage", which while having a sexually suggestive title, does not contain the crude sexual humor which Zappa is best-known for; we are not yet to the period where it is going to be right in our faces. While the opener is a rather average piece, we get our first taste of the jazz-fusion/prog tendencies of this lineup. As I mentioned, this is considered to be one of the best lineups backing Zappa in his discography, and you can see how tight this band is as a unit. We get everything from a guitar solo, to some cheeky humor all contained in a rather mellow and sometimes slow song. Things begin to get groovy as we segue into "Pygmy Twylyte", which is a shorter yet much more active piece where Jeff Simmons takes over on lead vocals. At just above two minutes long, I consider it almost as an interlude, but I am totally digging the rhythm on this one; it makes great use of harmonics and captures a very electric musical atmosphere. I tend to prefer the more conventional songs on this album as opposed to the longer improvised and more proggy instrumentals, but there is still value in those, especially for the hardcore prog listener. Side one is wrapped up quite poorly with the skit "Dummy Up", which is a humorous improv piece where Zappa can take jabs at higher education. It is well-known that Zappa had a strong dislike for college; he attended a two-year school in Rancho Cucamonga but left after only one semester, and refused to pay for his kids' college education. In this song, a seedy "dope pushing" Simmons tries to convince Murphy Brock to smoke his high school diploma with a dirty gym sock on the inside. Afterwards, Simmons has him smoke a college diploma "with nothing at all", referring to the perceived uselessness of a college degree. While this sentiment may be more true today thanks to degree inflation, Zappa obviously had very strong feelings about higher education. Unfortunately for the song, it really does not offer much beyond a humorous skit, and in many ways it breaks the barreling flow that "Pygmy" had built up.

On the flip side, we pick up with another introductory monologue by Zappa. This time, Zappa sets up the song "Village of the Sun", an infectiously good tune about the small town of Sun Village in Northern Los Angeles County, near Lancaster, where Zappa went to high school. This is much more of a tongue-in-cheek tune, poking fun at the desert climate's tendency to peel paint off cars and "wreck their windshields too." I absolutely love this tune; it is conventional and catchy, boosted by the strong vocals by Murphy Brock. I still prefer Ike Willis over him, but he is a very good vocalist in his own regard. While there is not much of a strong prog influence on this piece, we get an instrumental showcase in "Echidna's Arf (Of You)", which directly segues out of "Sun Village." While it is a rather short piece, the listener will almost certainly be blown away by the musical abilities of this band as they play at a breakneck and heavily choreographed pace that only the most talented groups can accomplish It is not catchy, but it makes up for that by being a very musically challenging piece. I came across a cover of this tune on Duke's "The Aura Will Prevail" but it omitted much of what made this version great - opting rather to be a synth showcase. Fortunately this rendition is much better, and culminates in an absolutely insane climax which leaves the listener's head spinning. Next up is the near ten-minute instrumental "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" which brings us towards a strictly jazz fusion perspective. It cruising along very succinctly, and covers a lot of bases in terms of musical themes and the use of a strong brass section which this lineup expresses. There are a little bit of vocals by Zappa somewhere in the middle of the song, but this piece still qualifies as an instrumental altogether. Every member of the lineup gets their opportunity to shine, from the brass to a dual drum solo near the tail end of the piece - a very strong statement by the band regarding musical virtuosity. Overall I am pretty exhausted by the time all is said and done with this one, and we are only halfway through the album! There is still one LP to go, and so far this is a very solid showing by Zappa.

As per the album, the second LP opens up with another humorous monologue by Zappa. This time the theme is monster movies, preferably cheap and poorly written ones. He makes a reference to the corny 50's horror film "It Conquered the World" and its theme as inspiration to the upcoming piece "Cheepnis." This is another one of the more catchy tunes off the album, with frequent references to B-movies which precedes the main story, which concerns a giant poodle named Frunobulax that is wreaking havoc across the countryside. The military shows up to bring up the recurring "Here Fido!" theme which is found on numerous Zappa tunes, including the song "Stink-Foot" which I reviewed on the Apostrophe album. I would not say that this tune is particularly impressive, but I do enjoy the humor and the unique theme of the music. Next up is the slow and bluesy "Son of Orange County" which returns to a mellow tempo. There really is not much more to be said about this one except that there is a strong brass section and a nice chorus. At this point in the album it is a bit of a push-over, but fortunately we get a reprieve with a fiery reprisal of Zappa's "More Trouble Every Day", which was featured on the Mothers of Invention debut album "Freak Out" in 1966. This is one of more serious songs in Zappa's canon, dealing with the Watts Riots and segregation - however the political references have been castrated in this version, leaving a much more ambiguous theme. We know that Zappa looked back upon the sexual revolution which he supported at the time with disdain, but could his emotions regarding the civil rights struggles of the late-60's have tapered down over half a decade? Likely not, considering the subject matter of 1974's "Uncle Remus" on the Apostrophe album, but maybe there was some sort of retrospective decision which caused Zappa to alter the lyrics on this rendition. Nevertheless, this is one of the highlights of the album; it is an extremely brutal variant of this piece, and it comes off very good to wrap up the third side. Interestingly enough this is the ONLY song on the album that is old material, with the rest of the songs being newly released at the time, which is something you do not normally see with live concerts. Zappa never refrained from being a prolific songwriter, with it being the guitarist's personal hobby while on tour.

At this point I am more than exhausted, and we still have the fourth side, which is made up of just one sixteen- minute extended improv piece titled "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)". Going back to the concept of capturing a live atmosphere in an album, this tune captures just that, as Zappa personally invites some of the audience on stage to dance to the scat vocals of George Duke. The entire concept of this piece revolves around dance, and Zappa is not hesitant to allow some ladies and gentlemen to enhance the live experience as the concert comes to a close. Musically there is a lot going here, and there is not necessarily a structure which the band goes along except when Zappa wants to have the guests dance their hearts out to some real abstract passages. Bruce Fowler improvises a trombone solo which mimics the rhythm of a tempo. While the music will not blow your socks off, this song definitely shines a light into the atmosphere and electricity of a Zappa live show, something which a live album should most certainly do.

I have not listened to enough of Zappa's live albums to truly and definitively name "Roxy" as his best, but I was impressed by the musicianship on this album. The Mothers tow a fine line between conventional catchy music and expanded improvisational and jazzy journeys, giving the listener the best of both worlds. I am extremely hesitant to hand out a 5-star rating, and unfortunately this album just has a little bit too many uninspiring tunes such as "Dummy Up" or "Son of Orange County" which will cause it to barely miss that rating. Nevertheless, it made it very close - my biggest takeaways from the album are "More Trouble", "Village", and "Pygmy", all of which are great tunes that have received multiple listens from myself. I recommend that you at least give this album a try - maybe you'll like it more than I do! I give it 4-stars (88% - B+), which makes it my highest rated album to date! Great for Zappa and jazz fans!

"Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny..." -Frank Zappa

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 The Hidden Man of the Heart by ROZ VITALIS album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.32 | 33 ratings

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The Hidden Man of the Heart
Roz Vitalis RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Naida Regent

5 stars In the cold Spring time I was very sad. I felt blue due to the dominance of musical culture promoted by mass media. I had made decision to listen to new album of the band which is known and loved by me for a long time because of the originality. The album "The Hidden Man of the Heart" is much darker than previous, "Lavoro d'Amore", but in the process of listening to the feeling of depression does not appear. If to take technical sides that this album sounds more professionally than previous ones. If to make comparisons with other artists then it the band "combines in one flacon" early Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and ELP. It also reminds exercises of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. If to give characteristics of the style then it is progressive-psychedelic-electronic format with elements of German classical music, for example, Wagner. Recommended to listen to for those who want quickly to move from the state of sadness to the state of joy.

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 Föllakzoid by FÖLLAKZOID album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.00 | 5 ratings

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Föllakzoid
Föllakzoid Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Chile is my favourite South American country when it comes to adventerous music. I remember with fondness when I really delved into bands from this nation. And have you seen some of the scenery from this region, some of the most beautiful scenes in God's creation. FOLLAKZOID are a young 4 piece band who sort of stumbled into the style of music they now play. Having discovered Krautrock from the late sixties and early seventies it soon became their inspiration. The album cover recalls AMON DUUL II's debut somewhat and it is special. As much as I like this their debut from 2009 I understand the next two are even better, and I'm looking forward to hearing them both.

My favourite tracks of the five are the first two. "Sky Input I" opens with spacey synths before these motorik beats provide the backbone arriving a minute in. Such a trippy and contagious sound. Distant vocals pretty much repeat the same lines. They will come and go. A heavier sound after 3 1/2 minutes and when the vocals return they are more prominent. So good! Vocals stop again around 5 1/2 minutes and we get some distorted guitar here. Vocals are back and the tempo is faster until it calms right down after 7 minutes to end it.

"Sky Input II" is dark and trippy with picked guitar and a relaxed beat with bass. The guitar will become more aggressive and distorted as the sound becomes more powerful. This is much slower paced than the opener. It winds down late to end it. "El Humo" has some energy as drums and bass create an uptempo groove and guitar expressions arrive over top. Catchy stuff as the vocals join in. A heavy but melodic track with some excellent guitar.

"Loop" is another catchy tune with a heavy fuzzed out groove. Distant vocals join in as well. An experimental calm before 1 1/2 minutes then it kicks in again. Check it out at 2 1/2 minutes as the vocals step aside. Experimental with some unique guitar. Heavy and slow although some brief picked guitar 4 minutes in provides some light. It starts to wind down after 7 1/2 minutes but then kicks in again quickly to an uptempo groove with vocals.

"Directo Al Sol" opens with spacey sounds as loud drums beat and guitar expressions join in. Bass follows and I like the depth it provides. Heaviness just before 4 1/2 minutes and it's more uptempo with some almost extreme vocals surprisingly.

A modern take on Krautrock I suppose, very psychedelic regardless, and if your into these styles of music this is well worth checking out.

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 Discesa Agl'Inferi D'Un Giovane Amante by BACIO DELLA MEDUSA, IL album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.23 | 290 ratings

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Discesa Agl'Inferi D'Un Giovane Amante
Il Bacio Della Medusa Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review Nº 180

Il Bacio Della Medusa is an art-prog-rock group which was born in 2002. The band released three studio albums until now. The first, of the same name, was released in 2004, the second 'Discesa Agl'Inferi D'Un Giovane Amante', a conceptual album, was released in 2008 and the third 'Deus Lo Vult', another conceptual album was released in 2012.

The band embraces the 70's progressive rock style. The progressive facets of the band touch both the Anglo-Saxon side and the Mediterranean, a facet that characterizes the style that is now known today as Rock Progressivo Italiano. Refined texts, long winded titles and imaginative covers for a baroque style are typical of a certain type of progressive rock of bands like Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Le Orme and Area which are some of the best representative Italian bands in the 70's. It seems the old tradition continue in our days with bands like Il Bacio Della Medusa, Universal Totem Orchestra, Finisterre, Hostsonaten, La Machera Di Cera and Ingranaggi Della Valle.

'Il Bacio Della Medusa' (The Kiss Of The Medusa), riding the wave of inspiration of the first album, immediately begins the work of what will be, so far, their most popular album, 'Descent Agli'Inferi D'Un Giovane Amante' (Descent To Hell Of A Young Lover) . It's a real rock opera, a mature, passionate and dramatic, conceptual album inspired by the V canto of the Inferno of 'The Divine Comedy' written by the great Dante Alighieri. In short, we can say that the concept of the album is about two lovers, Paolo and Francesca and and their thoughts when they follow their path of descent to Hell.

Musically, the sounds are more elegant than the previous one, thanks to the presence of the Rinchi violin and the Petrini keyboards. The work is masterful and full of intensity and density, and the arrangements of the band are excellent. Times and styles are perfectly and harmoniously alternated, between bloodless and dreamy ballads, classical accompaniments typical of symphonic prog and hard-folk incursions. The interactions between the instruments are numerous. The courtly and poetic texts host copious rhetorical figures and are written and interpreted with emphasis, also thanks to a broad ductility of the song that perfectly transmits the emotions experienced by the narrated subjects.

The tracks flow together without breaks, adding to the sense that it unfolds like a grand play. An often obscure music, conducted by the omnipresent organ and a guitar also hard, often embellished by a delicate flute and, to underline, the most touching moments of the story, a poignant violin and a guitar. Here and there we can hear some valuable folk insertions, which soften a little the subtle restlessness that hovers between the notes and the lyrics. The notes of the sad and romantic 'Preludio: Il Trapasso' lead us into the esoteric atmosphere that will accompany 'our souls' for the whole journey among the underworld. The 'Confessione D'Un Amante', sustained by the expansive melancholy of the instruments, is that of the suffering of Paolo. With 'La Bestia E Il Delirio' the rhythm is raised immediately thanks to a low flute unison, which we will often find throughout the album. In 'Recitativo: ' Nel Buio Che Risplendono Le Stelle' the flute, marching with the other instruments, opens to a marvelous and at the same time disturbing poem. A detachment and a change of rhythm introduce 'Ricordi Del Supplizio', one of the grittiest pieces of the album. 'Nostalgia, Pentimento E Rabbia' initially relaxes us, through sounds of medieval appeal, and then reinvigorates itself. Following is the instrumental 'Sudorazione A Freddo Sotto Il Chiaro Di Luna' where at a certain point the rhythms subsided, leaving room for more rarefied atmospheres. Then, let's go through the verses of Cecchini on the epic 'Melencolia', where we estimate the acoustic sounds of a guitar that we find partly in 'E Fu Allora Che Dalle Fiamme Mi Sorprese Una Calda Brezza Celeste', with the kaleidoscopic Cecchini at the tenor sax. We continue instrumentally in the following tracks, 'Nosce Te Ipsum - La Bestia Ringhia in Noi', in which violin and percussion alternate with keyboard rides. We want to end with sad, melancholic and solemn atmospheres, guided by the Rinchi violin that is enhanced in this final. Mere vocalizations without words accompany 'Corale Per Messa Da Requiem' and in 'Epilogo: Conclusione Della Discesa Agl'inferi D'un Giovane Amante' the main theme is taken back, soaked with sadness.

Conclusion: The second studio album of Il Bacio Della Medusa is a mature work, refined and enthralling at the same time. They made an album in which not only the sounds, they pass from the melancholic and dark atmospheres to the purest prog sound or symphonic with an astonishing ease, but also the same voice by Cecchini, they seem to come directly from the 70's. The strong bond with the past is not a question of pure imitation, but a respectful appeal, like the deferential relationship of a believer with his own God. This has to be up there with the best of the retro-Italian prog rock I've heard in the last years with 'Mathematical Mother' of Universal Totem Orchestra. With these albums we can see the prog rock is very alive and why Rock Progressivo Italiano is responsible for some of the best prog albums ever.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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 Linea Di Confine by RANDONE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.78 | 39 ratings

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Linea Di Confine
Randone Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars Randone is the musical brainchild and multi-instrumentalist Nicola Randone. Their previous effort Hybla Act 1 sounded wonderful with exciting vintage keyboards (by Nicola and legend Beppe Crovella), but to me a bit too fragmentic in some tracks.

On this successor from 2009 Nicola Randone and Beppe Crovella deliver again a splendid vintage keyboard sound in more mellow oriented progrock:

a lush symphonic rock sound with Hammond organ and a violin-Mellotron solo in the opener S.I.B. (Prologo),

a pleasant blend of soft Hammond , warm Italian vocals, soaring Mellotron and finally a howling guitar solo in Promesse,

a slow rhythm with acoustic guitar runs and classical orchestrations in the titletrack,

Grand piano, intense vocals and majestic choir-Mellotron eruptions in Preghiera Di Un Re

and impressive violin ? and choir-Mellotron waves in Ritorno.

But don't get the impression that this is music to get asleep because on the right moments Randone delivers some surprising and exciting breaks like in Speranze (catchy synthesizers and fiery guitar), Buona Notte (cheerful climate and female vocals) and Ritorno (blistering guitar work and delicate choir-Mellotron). My highlight on this pleasant album is the final composition Epilogo: it starts mellow with acoustic rhythm guitar, fragile electric guitar and wonderful piano, then the music slowly culminates in a compelling grand finale featuring breathtaking vintage keyboards and a sensitive guitar solo with howling runs, this is Prog Heaven!

My rating: 3,5 star

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 Under A Polar Red Light by PROTEO album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.24 | 10 ratings

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Under A Polar Red Light
Proteo Neo-Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars The Italian four piece formation Proteo started to play R&R in 1996 but very soon they changed their musical direction more towards progressive rock, gradually the band shaped their sound little by little through the years. Proteo released three demos: the first called A Glare From Depth in 1998, the second named Of Stars And Mind in 2001 (both recorded in their practice room) and the third is their first studio release named PROTEO from 2003. Meanwhile the band signed with progressive talian label Ma.ra.cash records and in September 2009 the debut CD entitled Under A Red Polar Light came out on sale worldwide. And in 2013 Proteo released a second effort entitled Republikflucht! ...Facing East from 2013. But this review is about their interesting debut CD.

The eight, often swinging compositions on Proteo their debut (running time around 50 minutes) sound like a very pleasant and melodic blend of pop and progressive rock. It contains lots of powerful guitar solos and subtle arrangements:

a break with catchy interplay between percussion, handclapping and guitar in Eternity,

delicate use of electric piano and saxophone in Australia,

a slow rhythm with propulsive guitar work and soaring keyboards in Tales From The Ocean

and strong interplay between the rhythm ? and lead guitar, culminating in a pretty raw solo in Robota.

You can hear these musicians play together for a long time, Proteo sounds like a tight unit with many interesting musical ideas. If you are up to the more commercial sound of Rush, Roxy Music and Supertramp or if you like prog pop with hints of The Police and 10CC, this is a band to discover.

My rating: 3,5 star.

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 Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco by PANDORA album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.18 | 70 ratings

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Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco
Pandora Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars 'Three members on keyboards, wow !'

Italian four piece formation Pandora is rooted in 2005 and inspired by Genesis, Yes, PFM, New Trolls and Dream Theater. After a serie of concerts in early 2008, Pandora got a record deal with the known Italian label Btf. (specialized in progressive rock). Between 2008 and 2014 Pandora have released four studio albums. This review is about their excellent debut album entitled Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco.

Remarkable, the latest review of Pandora their debut album is almost ten years ago, so time for renewed attention in this section. On Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco the band is scouting the borders between Classic Italian Prog, symphonic rock, Heavy Prog and prog metal, in a very exciting way. We can enjoy lots of bombastic and compelling atmospheres, loaded with heavy guitarplay, sensational keyboardwork (3 members play on keyboards!) and thunderous drumming, like in:

Il Giudizio Universale : exciting break, great wah-wah guitar sound and passionate Italian vocals,

the instrumental March To Hell : swirling Hammond organ solo, fat Minimoog flights and obvious Dream Theater elements,

Pandora : the sparkling piano is wonderfully blended in the heavy sound

and the titletrack : beautiful Grand piano intro and a splendid grand finale with awesome keyboard work and a very moving guitar solo, goose bumps.

In other songs Pandora also deliver great build-ups.

Così Come Sei : from dreamy with soaring keyboards and acoustic guitar to compelling with a strong electric guitar/synthesizer duet and bombastic with furious drum work and heavy guitar.

Breve Storia di San George (mellow climate): wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, flute-Mellotron, warm Italian vocals, classical orchestrations, delicate harpsichord runs and a pleasant flute solo in the end.

The most elaborate composition is the final track entitled Salto Nel Buio (close to 14 minutes), it sounds very varied and contains lots of captivating, very flowing shifting moods and surprising musical ideas. From a short interlude with acoustic guitar and choir-Mellotron to a piece with prog metal overtones and a jazzy vibraphone solo. The final part is very exciting featuring fat synthesizer runs and propulsive drum beats, slowly fading away, I am in Progheaven!

My conclusion: highly recommended, to me this debut CD sounds as one of the best Italian prog in the last two decades!

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 Four Points of Focus by RUBENSTEIN, JASON album cover Studio Album, 2018
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Four Points of Focus
Jason Rubenstein Heavy Prog

Review by Steve Conrad

— First review of this album —
5 stars JASON RUBENSTEIN: Four Points of Focus EP

I was given an advanced copy to review.

The players:

Jason Rubenstein ' Piano, synthesizers, samplers Tom Hipskind ' Drums Shawn Sommer ' Bass and Bass Synthesizer Bugra Sisman ' Electric guitar Chuck Bontrager ' 7-string violin Dani'l van den Berg ' Acoustic and electric guitars

It's a chilly, sizzling masterpiece.

And I'm not sure how Jason does this- but the stark, percussive, unison piano lines in the lower register, pounding out dramatic sequences accompanied by bass and drums- well, somehow one gets the idea there are mysteries and coils in Jason's brain.

There are no resting places.

No places to pause, doff your hat, cool your heels, or take a restful breath. Although the music is rarely harsh or overpowering, there's a steely core that makes you think you'd better stay focused.

And there's heat in that steely core. Passion. Intensity.

Jason seems like a big-brain person- one of those guys with more folds, and cells, and capacities than some of us lesser mortals. Things make sense and add up in different ways that sometimes appear to defy convention.

You could say he's a visionary and folks, it doesn't seem like a real easy, laid-back kind of world Jason inhabits.

There's something compelling in that vision.

He attracts luminous musicians who are equally drawn to that light Jason emits, and who add immeasurably to it.

I was trying to find a weak spot in the ensemble that surrounds this music and fleshes it out.

Couldn't.

At the heart of this music is pounding, percussive, demanding piano.

Not swanky lounge-lizard piano, or sweet, relaxing piano- no. Restless, gouging, growling piano.

Jason elsewhere mentioned Philip Glass, ELP, King Crimson, and Nine Inch Nails as influences.

I think though that he's clearly morphed into a defining 'voice' of his own.

There are four tracks-

Consideration: that driving, percussive piano, precision from all players, complex and shifting time signatures, cool echo guitar, flowing piano, impeccable rhythm section.

Acceleration: arpeggiated piano lines, turning into a 'crazed calypso on acid' with some slinky bass guitar work, flaring and soaring synth work, all ending on one dark piano stroke.

Unequivocation: beginning with some garbled static- voices? chaos?, then that piano at the heart. The stark unison lines with piano, bass, and the tasteful drums augmenting it all, growing more crisp and complex'then some flamenco-like acoustic guitar simmering over the top in fiery, restless tones'morphing into electric virtuosity, all with a Latin flavor.

Ending with

Conviction: flowing bass line, that amazing rhythm section that never over-plays, cool clinking organ tones as the tune builds, soaring synth work moving into an almost unbearable build-up'then'done.

Conclusion

Jason and fellow musicians have hammered out a rare musical sculpture- finely crafted, meticulous, icy-fire.

I give it five out of five chilly hot stars.

Four Points of Focus is due out June 25, 2018.

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 Re|Flection by PROJECT: PATCHWORK album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.00 | 9 ratings

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Re|Flection
Project: Patchwork Crossover Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars Project: Patchwork is a studio project that has been put together by two German musicians, Gerd Albers and Peter Koll, along with the odd friend. This is the second album, and this time they have used less personnel than on the debut, so only 22 additional players and singers this time round. I noted that this had been recorded by Marek Arnold, Martin Schnella and Peter Koll, and given that the first two are bandmates in a few different outfits, it is not surprising that we have a polished outcome (Marek also mixed the album). A quick glance through the names involved and I spotted John Mitchell (on the road with Arena as I write this) and Melanie Mau, who most recently has been involved with Martin and Marek on the Art Rock Project ('Stay' is still my single favourite song of the year to date).

With so many different musicians and voices it is often hard to provide an album that doesn't come across as a hotchpotch of styles, let alone a patchwork, but somehow this has been pulled together into something that is incredibly melodic. I have been fortunate to hear most of Marek's work recently, and I can hear that he has had a major part to play in the arrangements and the way that the album has come out in the end. This is a polished piece of work that fans of Flaming Row and Seven Steps to the Green Door will be looking out for. There is a strong piano base at times, with good keyboards and guitars which allow the singers to be full of confidence. Listening to this has made me realise that I am yet to write a review for the debut, and that I really need to set to and give it some serious listening, as after hearing this I want to find out more. Melodic progressive rock with strong guitars and great vocals, this is a delight.

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 Cycles by PHI album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.81 | 8 ratings

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Cycles
Phi Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars PHI is a greek letter, and stands for the golden ratio, the perfect aesthetic balance. The band work towards this golden ratio with music, creating a powerful alliance of aspiration and Rock 'n' Roll attitude. Formed as long ago as 2006, this is their fourth studio album, but it is the first time I have come across them. Apparently they have had a break in their career, and the current line-up is quite different to the original, but I must admit to being somewhat surprised to have not come across them prior to this as this is a very interesting album indeed. This Austrian band are very much from the heavy prog side, and it is no surprise to discover that it is the guitarist, Markus Bratusa, (also vocals, synthesizer, sound design) who is the main songwriter. What was particularly interesting to me is that he is obviously a fan of Meshuggah and djent, although he does treat that medium quite differently indeed.

This is a very melodic, very modern sounding album. While I can see them having commonalities with Threshold, if these guys had been around in the Nineties I am sure that we would also have been pointing towards Mentaur as potential influences, albeit that PHI are more melodic than both. The bass is also incredibly important with this band, strongly backing up the guitar while also going off on musical tangents when the need arises. When they cast away the melodies and vocals and start to really let rip, these guys move solidly away from heavy prog and into prog metal, resulting in an overall sound that will appeal to fans of both sub-genres, as well as those wondering whatever happened to good old fashioned neo prog. Melodic, great songs with a strong production, this feels very much an album for 2018 and has got me wondering what the other material is like. Easy to listen to and thoroughly enjoyable, this is a thoroughly enjoyable romp.

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