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 Memoirs of a Broken Man by FUTURES END album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.48 | 15 ratings

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Memoirs of a Broken Man
Futures End Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Despite releasing a single album in 2009, FUTURES END is still officially a bona bide active band and has been touted as a supergroup due to the fact that several members were in various metal bands in their career however that might be a stretch. The band was formed in Martinez, CA by guitarists Christian Wentz and Marc Pattison. Both Wentz and Pattison played in the Tampa, FL based Circle II Circle but the other lineup is what makes progressive metal fans salivate.

Along for this wild progressively infused power metal ride are drummer Joe Allen who has played in various bands including Dragonlord, Masqued, Sadus and Testament. Also on board is Zero Hour vocalist Fred Marshall but the true star of the show is bassist Steve DiGirogio who has played with long resume of metal acts: Artension, Autopsy, Charred Walls of the Damned, Control Denied, Dark Hall, Death, Dragonlord, Futures End, Iced Earth, Painmuseum, Roadrunner United, Sadus, Scariot, Soen, Testament. There were also a few guest musicians. Supergroup? Maybe, but whatever.

Hitting the market in 2009, FUTURES END caught the attention of the prog metal community with its so far only release MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN MAN which was received quite well and won all kinds of accolades for the stellar performances displayed. This is a concept album about a man who returns from war, falls into depression and becomes an alcoholic. His only friend commits suicide and he spirals deeper into the ultimate depression but ultimately if you pay attention the lyrical content, the story ends with a positive resolution which is what everyone wants from such a traumatic ordeal i would guess.

FUTURES END delivered a bombast power metal album infused with progressive twists and turns that take things a little further. The band has rightfully been compared to bands like Symphony X and Dream Theater but in all honesty isn't quite as creative as either band. Melodically the band is quite strong and technically as well with hard driving power grooves that display the member's most ferocious chops. Creatively though, MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN MAN falls short as there really isn't enough divers elements to warrant a 70 minute bombastic metal experience. While a few slower moments occur, FUTURES END delivers a balls to the wall Dragonforce inspired speedfest from beginning to end.

First flaw is that this album is way too derivative of Symphony X with its neoclassical guitar runs, heavy guitar riffing and vocal style. Second flaw is that the tracks are too similar. While the final track 'Powerslave,' a remake of the classic Iron Maiden track is perfectly performed, it seems totally incongruous with the overall concept and thematic flow. In the end, this is a satisfying technical display of musical chops but i sure wish that it would've been honed into a more interesting listening experience. All that is missing is some original content. Oh well, the desire to cash in on popular sounds is nothing new but this album is a testament to why so many bands fail to carryon on after an initial wow factor. Definitely worth a listen if you can't get enough Symphony X inspired technical prowess but unsatisfying if you want an album with staying power.

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 To The World Of The Future by EARTH AND FIRE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.62 | 76 ratings

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To The World Of The Future
Earth And Fire Symphonic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars R.I.P. : Gerard Koerts (who died early 2019)

In 1974 Dutch prog pride Earth & Fire was thinking about its musical direction: to continue with the Song Of The Marching Children formula, or to broaden the musical horizon with new progressive ideas? Because some members got in touch with the swinging jazz and jazzrock from Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and especially the awesome Mahavishnu Orchestra. One year later the band released their new studio-album To The World Of The Future, how about the musical direction, and the progressive ideas?

1. To The World Of The Future (10:47) : The new album starts with a catchy beat and cheerful ARP synthesizer flights, is the new musical direction disco prog? No, because this composition also contains 24-carat symphonic rock, embellished with majestic Mellotron drops and sensitive guitar leads, along classical orchestrations. Also a wonderful part with a strongly build- up, very moving guitar solo, topped with lush Hammond. And we can enjoy famous Dutch conga player Neppie (or Nippy) Noya, known from his work with Jan Akkerman, Billy Cobham, Chaka Khan and Eric Burdon, a pleasant exotic flavour.

2. How Time Flies (3:10) : A wonderful ballad with warm vocals, soaring harp play and intense Mellotron violins.

3. The Last Seagull (6:55) : This an instrumental track that begins with a swinging rhythm and sparkling electric piano, then trademark Earth & Fire symphonic rock, and finally the propulsive conga beat from Neppie Noya.

4. Only Time Will Tell (3:46) : A captivating blend of jazzrock and symphonic rock, Jerney Kaagman shines with a very strong vocal contribution, topped with Mellotron violins from the late Gerard Koerts, this was an Earth & Fire trademark keyboard sound.

5. Voice From Yonder (7:00) : First an intro featuring the distinctive Fender Rhodes electric piano, followed by a swinging rhythm with nice vocal ideas. Then the trademark Earth & Fire, a surprising conga and Mellotron choir duet, and finally that swinging Fender piano, a strong and varied mid-long composition.

6. Love Of Life (3:21) : This Earth & Fire disco prog formula turned into a huge commercial success: swinging, vintage keyboards (Mellotron) and Jerney her bit sultry voice, the sexy appearance in legendary Dutch Toppop contributed to that succes.

7. Circus (6:12) : The final composition sounds wonderful with its dreamy atmosphere, Jerney shines again with high pitched and emotional vocals. This is topped by a long and swirling solo on the Hammond organ.

The bonustracks are several A and B sides from hit singles, like Thanks For The Love and the awfully commercial What Difference Does It Make.

Apart from the irritating disco prog factor on this album, Earth & Fire delivers a lot of interesting prog moments, obviously inspired by the legendary jazz and jazzrock, as mentioned in the intro of this review.

My rating: 3,5 star.

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 Clutching At Straws by MARILLION album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.16 | 1274 ratings

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Clutching At Straws
Marillion Neo-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars As most Marillion fans know, "Clutching at Straws", released in 1987, would be the last to feature Fish as the lead vocalist. After the tour to support this album, he decided to leave the band and have a go at a solo career. Of course, many were sad to hear of his departure, but the band went on and persisted. This album, however, was obviously taking a different direction which was obvious immediately because of the difference in album design.

"Clutching at Straws" nevertheless, is still an emotional and strong album. It is actually tied more to the previous albums than most think in that Torch, the main character from this album, is the 29-year-old descendent of The Jester, who was featured in the album art of previous albums. Torch is an out of luck individual who has been through a failed marriage, he was a bad father and also the singer for an unsuccessful band. He ran away from his problems through drinking and drug use. The concept reflects Fish's own life and has been considered auto-biographical. The songs are quite dark in lyrical context, but the music is still prime-Marillion, the style very close to previous releases by the band.

The album cover is another story all together. Fish wanted a cover showing some of his inspirations. On the front cover, Fish is shown with Robert Burns, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote and Lenny Bruce. On the back of the album, John Lennon, James Dean and Jack Kerouac are pictured. The artwork is all drawn by Mark Wilkinson, who complained that the artwork didn't come close to depicting what he had pictured in his mind, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was rushed to get it turned in by the time the record company demanded it.

Speaking of the record companies, they also rushed this album. Since the band was very popular in the UK and had shown some popularity that was growing in the US, they were in a hurry to make a profit off of a new album. There was also the fact that the US record company Capitol Records wanted to pressure the band into making it more commercial and threatened that if they didn't have a successful record, that the label would drop them. They ended up dropping them a few years later anyway. However, even with the rushed atmosphere, the album itself turned out quite well, producing some of Marillion's best music among other songs that were a bit less interesting. Somehow, the band still pulled off an excellent album, which was pretty close to the high standard that they had set for their music.

The songs on this album are typically a bit shorter than some of their previous material, which is probably a result of not being able to spend so much time on perfecting the music. Yet, all of the key elements are still there. The music is lyric heavy, as is expected from that era of Marillion's music. Fish's vocals are important, and they are definitely not weak by any means. They are full of emotion and dynamic, Fish's ability to make the lyrics clear and defined. The instruments are top-notch as usual, with Rothery's ability to play the guitar parts, flourishes and accompaniment reminiscent of Steve Hackett, keeping it restrained when needed and being quite awesome when required. This is all so well supported by Mark Kelly's keyboard style, always so important to Marillion's music, standing out when needed to give life and variety to the music, but also being restrained when supporting, always providing the best accompaniment in the business especially for a band that relied so much on their story lines and lyrics. It was not very often that a band could work so well together with dynamic and sometimes complex music as this band had, the only band that could come close to being as perfect as Genesis in writing and presenting lyric-heavy progressive music.

This album gets panned way too much. It is a great album and I consider it to be almost as good as the previous 3 for which Marillion is most revered for. Even though all of the songs are great, the best tracks are the last four, "Torch Song" through to "The Last Straw". In these songs, Fish is at his most dynamic and emotional best, the songs being quite memorable and beautiful. Since it is only a slightly lower in brilliance than the previous albums, I tend to rate it with 4 stars, but it is still an album that is worthwhile and I don't understand why it is panned so much by the fans. Honestly, I blame the slight lapse in quality to the record label pushing to get the record out, but I am amazed that it still turned out as good as it did. That, to me, is a huge testament to the band being able to rise above the pressure. It is an excellent album.

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 2067 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars "The voice"

In the second part of the Seventies I was part of a small but fanatic group of symphomaniacs, we had discovered Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Camel, and we wanted more. One day a member of that group was very willing to play Pawn Hearts from VDGG for us. For most of us the music evoked very mixed feelings: interesting but quirky, and the Peter Hamill vocals were not very much appreciated. That member and one other became huge fans of Peter Hamill, bought his solo albums and attended all his concerts. The other lost their hope for VDGG, and focussed on less quirky prog, and prog with a less expressive singer. Today, more than 40 years later, I decided to listen to that album again. I found it on the Internet and also stumbled on a lot of euphoric quotes from fans, under the section where you could click on listening to the entire album. One emotional example of those quotes: "Why isn't Peter Hammil as well known and loved as Bowie and Gabriel? It's a mystery."

During my first listening session today I come to the conclusion that the varied, adventurous but also quirky unique VDGG prog must have influenced a lot of early Italian bands, like Il Balletto Di Bronzo and Osanna. The compositions alternate between symphonic rock and avant-garde, with lots of interesting musical ideas, wonderful work on keyboards (from sensitive piano to bombastic Hammond), powerful and inventive guitar play, and of course the unique Peter Hammill vocals. To me he sounds like a vocal acrobate, the one moment tender, the other moment delivering screamy or theatrical outbursts, very expressive. The quirky factor of VDGG and the sometimes too expressive vocals by Peter Hammill are due to the fact that I have not become a VDGG fan, and I never will be. I simply don't feel at ease with their music, and Hamill his voice (like a nervous Bowie as I stated in an earlier review). So it is interesting or VDGG is a band to recommend when progheads are discovering the amazing and varied world of the progressive rock. In comparison with 40 years ago now there is the extended world of the Internet. There you can easily find your way to prog when you stumble upon the legendary and known names, while reading reviews on websites like Prog Archives, good luck with your prog quest.

P.s.: Apart from my critical notes, I consider this album as a well deserved 4 star effort. But not at the masterpiece level of CTTE from Yes, Foxtrot from Genesis, the first ELP, Red from King Crimson, Mirage from Camel, or The Wall from Pink Floyd.

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 Now We Sleep by ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Now We Sleep
Artificial Language Progressive Metal

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Artificial Language" is a progressive metal band from the US formed in 2015. They released their debut album in 2017, and a few years later, in May of 2019, the released this, their second album, "Now We Sleep". The line-up for the band has remained the same for both albums, namely Shay Lewis on vocals; Victor Corral on guitar; Charlie Robbins also on guitar; Joshua Riojan on bass; Jonathon Simpson on keyboards; and Jeron Schapansky on drums. This album has 9 tracks with a total run time of just over 38 minutes. The first and last tracks are each over 6 minutes, and they bookend the shorter tracks in between which remain between 3 and 4 minutes each.

"The Back of My Mind" starts with atmospheric guitars and sustained keys making a soft beginning, but slowly building until a sudden explosion of heavy guitar chords catapult the song into prog metal territory as expected, and the vocals start in. After a solid beginning, things slow down and become quite dynamic with melodious keys and vocals and sudden onslaughts of heaviness. The vocals match the attitude of the music and Shay definitely has the right voice for this dynamic music. The shifting meters and tempos are all well thought out, and during this six minutes, shows us the palette that this band can work with. There is a great guitar solo and plenty of heavy riffs, but there is also a lot of softer sections and times when the synths also shine, but the overall tone is heavy with plenty of progressive moves.

So now, the album plays through several shorter tracks. "Endless Naught" begins with the same style as previous, but moves to some very surprisingly touching and softer passages, moving between heavy and soft passages with hardly even blinking an eye. You can be listening to a rousing guitar solo in one moment and then hearing a piano rhapsody the next, all of this in a space of under 4 minutes. Of course, the vocalist is able to keep up with no problem, and the music still moves smoothly along. "Pulses" has a more jazz style to it, but remaining with the heavy and progressive sound. Song structure is non- traditional, even through these shorter songs with surprises around every turn, but everything still sounds concise and smooth. This complexity continues in "Further From the Surface", but returning to the heavier sound overall. With this quick track, they still seem to find time to insert an excellent guitar solo. The band proves that if you don't have to deal with the standard song structure, that you can still develop excellent progressive metal in short tracks.

"The Wild Haunt" continues with this smooth complexity moving from heavy sounds involving a balanced use of guitars and synths, suddenly moving to a pensive jazz passage, going to a heavy section and returning to the main theme before it ends with atmospheric synths. "Trail of Lights" is the first single for the album. Even though it has the length of a radio friendly track, it still doesn't shirk in complexity, and the playful synths contrast nicely with the heavy guitar chords and the vocals are dynamic and full as usual. This progressiveness in short dynamic chunks continues with "There's No bottom to This" (which features a carny-style piano in the middle) and "Keep Yourself Hidden" (which returns to a prog-jazz-fusion style). All of the instrumentalists prove their talents are finely honed as they all have time to shine with excellent guitar solos and embellishments shared with plenty of synth and keyboard passages that keep things interesting and add little hints of humor and plenty of variety throughout.

The last track is the 7 minute title track and features the regular vocalist and a guest vocalist Michael Lessard from "The Contortionist". A nice combination of plucked strings, synths and piano chords make the sound reflective. The vocals start with acoustic guitars together with a symphonic atmosphere build in intensity. Electric guitars join in from time to time, but these heavier passages quickly get swapped out by pensive and mellower sections, and you get another gem of a track, this one gets more time for development, which bring it up to a higher level. Excellent track, they saved the best for last for sure.

This album is very dynamic and interesting with some astounding complexity and emotion throughout. The one complaint I have is that the album is too short and some of the shorter tracks could have been even better if developed a little more. But the shorter tracks also prove that so much ground can be covered musically when you don't have to devote so much time to creating standard song structures where verses and choruses have to be repeated. The shortness of most of the tracks work both to the detriment and strength of this album. This band is very talented, and I would hope to see more music from them with a little more experimentation and development within songs. The best tracks here are the two tracks that bookend the album, but that's not to say that there isn't anything interesting in between, because there is. A bit more development would have made this even better. 4 stars.

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 Night After Night Extended by UK album cover Live, 2019
4.33 | 2 ratings

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Night After Night Extended
UK Eclectic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

5 stars "Finally justice done to the exciting UK 1979 live sound"

As a symphomaniac I had a tough time in the late Seventies, after a serie of very disappointing releases by the symphonic rock dinosaurs: Genesis and its progpop since ATTWT, the very unbalanced Tormato by Yes and the lacklustre Love Beach by ELP. The world of symphonic rock seemed to be hit by a devastating meteor, gradually it became more dark and lifeless.

And then there was UK, first an one shot legendary four-piece symphonic jazzrock ensemble, and after the departure of Allan Holdsworth an exciting trio, scouting the borders between 24-carat symphonic rock and chart flirting melodic rock. How lucky I was to witness this UK trio in 1979 in my hometown The Hague, especially watching Eddie Jobson with his mighty Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer, and the magical electric violin, unsurpassed symphonic rock history on stage! But how disappointed I was after buying the CD live registration entitled Night After Night. Because this release was an abridged version of the concert, without the mindblowing compositions The Only Thing She Needs and Carrying No Cross, UK at its artistic pinnacle. On this CD I notice too much focus on the chart flirting songs like Night After Night, Nothing To Lose and Time To Kill, in comparison with the longer and more compelling and exciting tracks. And without the complete solo pieces from the three members. Later you could buy bootlegs with most of the concert, like Parisian Rendezvous, as I did, but the sound quality is mediocre.

In 2016 Eddie Jobson released on its Globe Music label the lavish 14-CD and 4-Blue Ray box set The Ultimate Collectors Edition, with cascades of additional live recordingss from that 1979 UK trio era. Very interesting, but also pretty wallet plundering, I didn't buy it. And in 2019 Globe Music released an abridged 2-CD and 1 audio Blue Ray version of that box set, entitled Night After Night Extended. In comparison to the previous Night After Night release this one does justice to UK as an exciting live band, what a jawdropping skills, interplay and soli! And now we can enjoy the mindblowing compositions The Only Thing She Needs and Carrying No Cross, and more soli by the band members (and with a very good sound quality). I remember John Wetton playing that powerful bass solo on his Fender, R.I.P, I consider this release as a tribute to him.

Also highly recommended: the UK Reunion DVD!

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 Tic & Tac by AREA album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.68 | 51 ratings

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Tic & Tac
Area Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Asiostygius

4 stars Frankly I do not understand the low ratings of this more than decent album by Area. After the unfortunate death of the great Demetrio Stratos in 1979, the band correctly decided to avoid vocals (except by some backing vocals) in this album, since no one could replace the "maestro della voce". Even though this instrumental album is not so adventurous as the previous ones, it is more than decent fusion with virtuosity from all players, especially the spectacular bass played by Ares Tavolazzi. I miss the guitar of Giampaolo Tofani, but as a whole, the album is a joy for my ears: 3.5 stars without any doubt.

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 Night After Night Extended by UK album cover Live, 2019
4.33 | 2 ratings

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Night After Night Extended
UK Eclectic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team

4 stars UK is one of the most important supergroups in prog rock history. When they released their first album in the late seventies, they took the community by storm. Sadly, the band was short-lived. They made only one more album and this live release with some line-up change. Terry Bozzio is on drums instead of Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth is not there anymore. It brings good memories on me on how much I loved the production, the sound and of course the imaginative music. I bought this release to have the complete show in surround mixed by Bob Clearmountain who did a nice job using all channels placing violin and keys on the left rear and drums on the right rear. The violin and drums solo is a real treat to listen in that mode. The vocals of Wetton seems to be forced at the beginning like he was trying to catch his breath with fast tempo music. But it didn't really bother me after because I was putting my focus on the music. The package has 2 CD, a simple booklet, the menu presentation could have been better because we only have a static photo of the album cover when you watch the Blu-Ray, and there's no track selection. But the music of this is brilliant most of the times and very average on that couple more straight forward songs, like "Nothing To Lose". This is an excellent addition to your prog collection because of the surround treatment and the complete show.

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 Omnibus - The Early Years by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2018
4.15 | 7 ratings

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Omnibus - The Early Years
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Good news for those who have finally found out how great band The Samurai Of Prog is and now wish to complete their collections with earlier albums that have been hard to get for a while: The 4-disc Omnibus box set is now available again. It contains the three first albums of this multi-national group of retro/classic/symphonic prog ambassadors: Undercover, Secrets of Disguise (2-cd) and The Imperial Hotel, partly re-edited or re-recorded, plus extra material of almost an hour's worth.

The two earliest albums concentrated on prog covers. Undercover (2011) covers e.g. 'The Lamia', 'Assassing', 'Jerusalem' and 'Dogs' from the output of major prog bands. However, right from the start there were some original compositions too. David Myers composed and performed 'Before The Lamia' for solo piano, and drummer Kimmo Pörsti composed an excellent lengthy instrumental 'The Promise', which appeared on a slightly different form in a "Decameron" set for various artists. The original bonus tracks of Undercover (ie. other artists covering the earlier Italian band of bassist Marco Bernard) have given way for better stuff: 'Journey to the Island' is a new recording with Octavio Stampalia, originally a John Williams piece from Jurassic Park -- as I found out by googling. 'Indictment Ever After' and two bonus tracks placed on the third disc are magnificent collaborations with Lalo Huber and Carlos Lucena of NEXUS. The third disc features also 'Karn Evil 9, Second Impression' (ELP) as a bonus.

Secrets of Disguise (2013) contains further well-made prog covers of an impressively wide spectrum, from 'Dancing With the Moonlit Knigth', Gentle Giant and P.F.M. to Utopia, VdGG, Rush and even the internationally quite unknown Finn Matti Järvinen. As the liner notes of Omnibus say, it was perhaps 'Sweet Iphigenia' composed by Pörsti and Linus Kåse that changed TSOP's course to perform original music instead of covers. The principle was pursued in The Imperial Hotel (2014), the first TSOP release I considered worth full rating. That album's gorgeous symphonic compositions are by the involved keyboardists, e.g. Robert Webb (of ENGLAND) and the forementioned Stampalia (JINETES NEGROS) and Kåse (BRIGHTEYE BRISON).

There are four more bonus tracks on this box set. 'Un Respiro e Tutto Cambia' is sung by Stefano Galifi of MUSEO ROSENBACH, 'Anatta' is a fusion-y instrumental composed by Christian Bideau, and 'Rimani nella Mia Vita' originates from LATTE E MIELE's classic album Papillon. 'La Magia e la Realta' is from the new [at the release time, forthcoming] album Toki No Kaze. All in all Omnibus is a wonderful cornucopia of both covers (of either well known classics or less heard prog songs) and original material in the symphonic prog vein. If you already have the albums (with admittedly more informative booklets), it's a difficult question whether to get this set too, but even in that case there's plenty of new delights.

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 Secret Indoors by KHARMA CODE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.35 | 7 ratings

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Secret Indoors
Kharma Code Progressive Metal

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars for sure

Kharma Code, this totally unknown and gone under the radar progressive rock/metal band from Spain, released a quite solid and full of intresting arrangements on their sole album released in 2011 named Secret indoors. This is quite strange that this album gone unnoticed in prog circles, this is very well worth hearing progressive metal bordering progressive rock, with epic passages, instrumental duelings evoking the best of Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Neal Morse, etc. The vocalist David Ordás is quite good, delivering some fine melodic lines and fiting perfect into overall music. There is only 4 pieces here, is infact an EP, but pieces are long with the highlight clocking around 18 min, a pure delight for prog listners, like the rest of the 3 pieces. I was very pleasent surprised by this album, even the influences are evident, the instrumental parts and vocal passages are good and very well played, intresting art work aswell. All in all is sad that such good towards great album remaining in the shadow of other names in the genre even the whole package is above many albums with name. Far fans of Empty Tremor, Dream Theater (the'90s period), Hydrotoxin, and bands mentioned above, melodic prog metal with top musicianship. Well woth having.

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