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 My Arms, Your Hearse by OPETH album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.92 | 550 ratings

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My Arms, Your Hearse
Opeth Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Progrussia

2 stars After the more doom-ish Morningrise, Opeth's third album is the full-fledged demonstration of the style that made them famous - mix of aggressive death metal parts with growling, double kicks and dissonance with slow acoustic passages sometimes linked by more melodic metallic intros and transitions. But it's a style that needs refining. On My Arms, the different parts still sound disconnected, not as seamlessly integrated as in Blackwater Park, say, with death parts sounding the same and tough to listen to, while acoustic ones are often simplistic and not coalescing into a melody. Little use of other stylistic devices that will slowly creep into Opeth later on (if you discount the completely out of place sounding Pink Floydian outro Epilogue). And we have the death growls. A rarely valid device, in my opinion, unless you want to scare your parents or do a Faust-and-Mephistopheles concept (and you only can do it once). On an album about a ghost love story they sound especially off-putting.

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 Ars Longa Vita Brevis by NICE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.24 | 78 ratings

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Ars Longa Vita Brevis
The Nice Symphonic Prog

Review by tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Just as Emerlist Davjack reminds me in broad strokes of Procol Harum's debut album (though I admit that this comparison doesn't hold up very well once I start thinking of specific details of the two albums), so this album reminds me in broad strokes of Shine on Brightly. Both albums feature a clear expansion in ambition over their respective previous albums, as manifested in the presence of a messy sidelong track in the second half; both feature a reduction in the importance of guitar (in the case of The Nice, guitar is almost completely gone thanks to the departure of O'List, though there's a small amount of it in the title track); both albums have a chunk of material in the first half that's more in line with the previous albums and is probably better than the more amibitious material that follows. While these albums strike me as having some parallels, however, I end up preferring Shine on Brightly by quite a bit over this one, even if I think that SOB is possibly the weakest album of Procol Harum's "classic" period.

The 19-minute title track, innovative though it might be, is a complete mess. There are interesting individual passages, especially in the jazz-piano section that follows the main vocal section of the piece, but this mix of jazz, classical (featuring a long excerpt from the 3rd Brandenburg Concerto), drum solos and long keyboard passages strikes me as having little, if any, coherence. Yes, "Tarkus" would be longer than this in a couple of years, but "Tarkus" is one of the most cleanly organized large-scale prog pieces ever written, and I enjoy all of the elements within it greatly. Yes, "Karn Evil 9" would be much more sprawling than this, and have some stupid aspects near the end, but that was at least split into three distinct large-scale sections, and each of them had its own clear personality. This one just keeps going and going, dumping in idea after idea with no clear rhyme or reason, and I find it very tedious. Then again, to the band's credit, it's not like they had clear models to base the piece on, so they deserve some credit for the effort.

The first half is more conventional on the whole, and splits between the psychedelic art-pop of the debut and some more excursions into the world of classical-rock synthesis. The latter is represented by the 9-minute interpretation of the Intermezzo from Sibelius' "Karelia Suite," and it's easy to hear the origins of Pictures at an Exhibition in this. The track starts with the trio playing the basic themes of the original more-or-less faithfully, but this turns into a launch pad for some "explorations" that maintain thematic ties to the original piece, eventually culminating in Emerson squeezing all sorts of unhealthy noises from his organ in the end. This is definitely the peak of the band's attempts to fuse classical and rock, though it does sound a little tame compared to Pictures or "The Barbarian."

Ultimately, though, it's the psychedelic art-pop that I like most; at worst, the first three tracks on this album would have been middle-of-the-pack amongst the Emerlist Davjack material. The opening "Daddy Where Did I Come From?" is a great blast of piano-fueled psychedelic rock, with a mid-section consisting of dad making quite the awkward attempt at explaining procreation to his son (among other things he describes how he fornicated a flower). The son's final response to him is hilarious as well. "Little Arabella" is a cheery jazz-pop ditty (with surprisingly decent Jackson vocals) with lots of subtle organ in the beginning and with a brief bit of bombast in the middle. And finally (since I'm not counting the brief 13-second track that precedes the title track) "Happy Freuds" uses all sorts of interesting treatments on the voices of the various band members as they sing about universal love or something over Emerson's organs. This description may make the song seem kinda stupid but the song is quite nice.

This album is difficult to hunt down, and while it's decent enough I'm not sure it's especially worth the effort. As much as a pretty good album can be, this album strikes me as much more interesting than good, but the "interesting" aspects still end up paling to much of what would start happening over the next couple of years in the world of prog rock. Still, it's worth listening to once or twice.

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 Transmission by TEA PARTY, THE album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.45 | 28 ratings

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Transmission
The Tea Party Crossover Prog

Review by russellk
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The follow-up to the wildly impressive 'The Edge Of Twilight' is a calculated change of direction. You have to admire a band for opting out of a reprise when their formula has reached its pinnacle. THE TEA PARTY does just that by introducing samples, loops and other techniques garnished from the electronica/IDM scene that was cresting at the time. The result is 'Transmission', an album that continues the band's excellent songwriting and performance.

Unlike their earlier albums, this is a slab of top-quality music with no weaknesses - but fewer strengths also. There's no 'Sister Awake' or even 'Save Me', but there are searing rockers (and I mean searing: 'Temptation', 'Pulse' and 'Gyroscope' stick their fingers in your ears and try to gouge out your eardrums) and intriguing, superbly original tracks, such as the title track. This track begins with electronic feedback overlain by what sounds like a sample of a Jim Jones rant, joined by a thunderous Arabic beat, a Mellotron, an Eastern flute and MARTIN's vocal rasp. The song doesn't take full advantage of such an intriguing beginning (which is a complaint one could levy at most of the tracks on this album) but it is wildly atmospheric and needs to be heard to be believed. To my mind this is exactly what a progressive band needed to do in the 90s - take from the dominant musical cultures to flavour their own work.

And those flavours are stolen without apology. After fifty seconds of exactly what you'd expect, the opening track ('Temptation') is subverted by a pulsing beat one reviewer describes as reminiscent of 'When The Levee Breaks' but is in fact lifted straight from 'Minniapolis' an obscure 1992 Lemon Interupt (later to be Underworld) track. This sot of thing wins my admiration even though it comes at the cost of much of the Arabic/Eastern feel.

In a decade where 'progressive' music was by and large taking place outside normal 'prog rock' circles, it was refreshing to see bands like THE TEA PARTY reinventing themselves.

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 Alhambra by TEA PARTY, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1996
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Alhambra
The Tea Party Crossover Prog

Review by russellk
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars Issued as a way to keep interest alive after their superb 'The Edges Of Twilight', THE TEA PARTY's 'Alhambra' is an excellent EP and well worth acquiring for any aficionado of the band.

Acoustic-based songs are an important part of the band's repertoire, both on their studio albums and live: in fact, they have toured as an acoustic outfit. This EP offers acoustic versions of some of The Edges Of Twilight's choicest cuts. Indeed, 'Inanna' and 'Turn the Lamp Down' are substantially the better for it - particularly the former, which is slowed down to a pace where the Arabic flavour seeps into your bones. Delicious.

After four acoustic tracks somes the highlight of this release. ROY HARPER guests as vocalist on 'Time' (sorry, Floydian flashback there) and I can see why he was asked - this outstanding song would not have suited a baritone. HARPER's voice sounds excellent, if a little thinner than back in the day, and it is somewhat of a coup for the band to have recruited him. When the glorious chorus arrives, after over two minutes' worth of largely acoustic setup, it is a substantial shock. Genuinely one of the best tracks in THE TEA PARTY's canon.

What to say about the remix of 'Sister Awake', a remake of one of the best tracks in rock? We're better for having it, I suppose, but it's not up there with the original. This is a link between their previous album and the upcoming industrial electronic feel of 'Transmission'. I think this is an excellent example of how a song's arrangement is crucial.

Four stars as an excellent example of what can be achieved in an EP's length. These days I suspect it would be issued as a bonus disk.

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 Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious by DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.95 | 153 ratings

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Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious
Diablo Swing Orchestra Progressive Metal

Review by Gallifrey

3 stars The only real positive I get out of listening to this album is how much it exemplifies Pandora's Piņata as a truly phenomenal transition.

Before I go any further, I'll just say it outright - Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious is a mess. A sloppy, gimmick-filled mess of ridiculous influences and uber-quirky deliveries. If you are curious about this band, leave this page now and listen to Pandora's Pinata to hear an example of stylistic restraint and quality songwriting, which is something that is so damn rare in avant-garde metal. If you are here because you've heard Pandora's Pinata and liked it, I would suggest you go and listen to some Madder Mortem or maybe Unexpect (although they have some similar problems), and if you really need to, go and listen to The Butcher's Ballroom. This, however, should be your last stop, and you should certainly not expect anything from it.

The strangest thing about this album, and how weak it is in comparison to its follow up, is that on paper, the albums are identical. They both utilise swing, big band, and opera music and dose it with a shot of rhythm guitars and drums taken from a metal band, and then float along merrily having fun. But the problem with this album is that there just isn't any substance. When I reviewed Pandora's Pinata, I pointed out that it was a rare album in avant-garde metal, because almost all of the bands in this subgenre rely so hard on style over substance. And that album had both. It had the gimmick of swing metal, the fun of horns and operatic vocals, and all the pomposity and over-the-top antics of being a circus metal band, but it also had quality songwriting and ambitious execution. The songs were songs, not methods of showing off how many band members you have. The melodies were memorable, the chord progressions were great, and a whole lot of restraint was shown in the arrangements, proving that they could be solemn and introspective as well as bombastic and loud.

This album is pretty much just run-of-the-mill avant-metal.

I must admit that I'm over-exaggerating how bad this is, because while it is a steaming pile of [&*!#] next to its follow-up, compared to the norm in its genre, it's pretty standard, and if you're in it for gimmicks (which is honestly why most people listen to avant-metal, to be honest), then you'll find plenty of them here. The songs here make their way by playing a different variant of the pre-defined gimmick that DSO have set up. We have horn-heavy big band songs and vocal- heavy opera songs, and even a touch of the electronics I was a huge fan of on "New World Widows". But the songs themselves are just not memorable at all. Take out the horns and take out the metal and take out the weird vocals and you just have okay-ish songs. They put so much weight on the instruments and the gimmicks that when they fall flat (which is often) there is nothing to hold them up. And to add to that, the metal on this album is not only more prominent, but less interesting. I praised the guitar tone on Pandora's Pinata endlessly, and while this one does feel close, it has none of the groove that I loved from that album, and just feels like a chugging background noise to add "metal" to the gimmick.

But above the songs being weak, there are just some downright bad parts on this album - regularly due to the vocals. "Lucy Fears the Morning Star" features Annlouice Lögdlund slipping into her regular opera range, but it just simply doesn't fit. Whereas "Aurora" on Pandora's Pinata was a wonderful break from the main album into full operatic bombast, with operatic instrumentation to fit, this feels so forced and mashed together, especially when her vocals are accompanied by some half-assed death growls underneath. Many of these vocals feel like unnecessary Patton-isms in trying to be as quirky as possible, and it just gives nothing to the feeling of the album. Any groove that the horns and bass create (which is probably the best part about this album) is regularly snuffed out by awkward and LOOK HOW QUIRKY I AM XD vocals. So many of the tracks begin with reasonable clean vocals, then suddenly we have opera and it just kills any vibe that I was digging in the songs. To mention "New World Widows" again, there is a really nice Muse-like arpeggio in what would be a chorus, but instead of singing powerfully over it and changing the guitars to match, the entire sound is split between the retarded sounding Opera vocals (super high up) and the chugging guitars (far down low), with nothing in the middle, and it just loses all its power.

Is this any worse than most avant-garde metal? Well, probably not, but I'm still not going to throw much praise at it. To me, avant-metal is a genre that has the potential to be utterly amazing, but so many bands stop short when they've come up with their gimmick and simply don't bother putting any effort into making the songs good. And as the band who broke that mould for me once, I expected so much more from them. Obviously, this record came before Pandora's Pinata, so I can't exactly flame them for getting worse, and in fact I should really be praising them for improving so quickly, but I still can't help but feel a little bit disappointed in this album. If you're here for gimmicks and fun, you'll find them here, but every single aspect of this record was done better three years later, so I really don't see why anyone would ever listen to this.

5.6

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

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 Integration by HYBRID album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.85 | 9 ratings

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Integration
Hybrid Neo-Prog

Review by mbzr48

4 stars Hybrid has been around for many years, since the early 1990's. After the occasional rare gig the band recorded their Lost in Relativity demo in 1995. In 1998 they released their first album Chasing the Dream, which seemingly was well received. This album Integration is their second release.

The three core members of Hybrid are Dave 'Ace' Boland, whom some of you might know as Clive Nolan's keyboard tech in Arena (keys & vocals), Martin Hayter (guitars) and Richard Brooke (drums). Now, add to this the bass playing and extra vocals of Arena's guitarist John 'Tarquin' Mitchell, the occasional Mellotron solo by Mr. Nolan himself and a couple of piano solos by Oliver Wakeman and you're probably getting quite a good idea what this will sound like. Dave himself describes the sound of the band as: 'A Rush-meets-Yes sort of vibe. Throw in a handful of Satriani and Dream Theater and add a slice of ELO and serve with an olive - hey presto ! Instant Hybrid album.' I personally would place them more in the Nolan-ish area of bands.

The album was partially recorded at Ace's 'The Lab' studio and partially at Clive Nolan's Thin Ice studio, with Clive and Karl Groom (of Threshold) helping out. Rob Aubrey (sound engineer of IQ and others) mastered the album. The whole thing sounds like a typical Thin Ice/Nolan production. Both lovers and haters of that sound will know what I mean.

The album starts with the energetic On Top of the World, one of the highlights of the album. It sounds like a cross between the more up-tempo Arena songs (like Welcome to the Cage) and Asia, the latter especially in the chorus. The song is very diverse and even features a nice reggae/dub intermezzo, followed by some rocking guitar and keyboard solos. The song ends with the sounds of a modem. Shadow Dancing starts as a dreamy, atmospheric ballad, not unlike IQ's Still Life. The first two minutes feature a drum computer (ouch!) accompanied by bass and keys. After this first section the real drums kick in with a changed rhythm. Guitar comes in as well at this point and a screaming guitar solo and keyboard solo follow. The song has lots of changes, at times being quiet (the vocal bits) and at time heavy, like the rocking end.

Walkabout is a nice instrumental that is at times heavy and bombastic. The whole track builds around a recurring melody played simultaneously by keys and guitar. The drums sound especially cheesy on this track and the song fades right in the middle of a guitar solo ! Moving Lights is an enjoyable, catchy uptempo song in the AOR-vein, featuring some fine guitar work. The monotonous drum beat actually sounds better than some of the attempt at drum rolls on the rest of the album. Objects at Rest features more drum computer. It's rather trance-like with keyboard sounds-capes accompanying the many variations on a guitar melody that are played throughout the song. Fortunately the second half is more exciting, which saves the track from becoming a bit boring.

Man in the Moon - fotunately not a cover of that horrible Yes track - is a long and energetic song with lots of great guitar solos and some nice piano work by Oliver Wakeman. The vocal bits and melodies in the first half are not among the best on the album, but the vocals in the second half more than make up for this and there's enough good instrumental sections to keep this track interesting. Again, as in most of the Hybrid tracks, there's lots of diversity and changes. At the end of the track there's a nice guitar climax and the song suddenly switches into Objects at Motions; probably the heaviest track on the album. It starts with quite heavy, raw guitar playing. After a reasonable drum solo the vocals come in. In the mid of the song there's a nice bass break that later features a collage of voices. Tension builds from there and in the last minute the pace suddenly increases and .... surprise ! The song ends with a reprise of On Top of the World, very nice touch ! Strange that they didn't choose this as the closing track of the album. And by the way, didn't I see that 'Blown on a steele breeze' lyric before ?

One to One (part 2) - what happened to part 1 ? - is a ballad-like track that starts with some mellow keyboard chords. After one and a half minute the main melody is picked up by bass and guitar and vocals follow quickly. There's some very tasty guitar in there as well. Very enjoyable track.

All in all Integration is a very nice album, with an emphasis on fine keyboard and guitar work. Dave 'Ace' Boland does a very reasonable job on the vocals, certainly better than the average release we receive at DPRP. The album will probably appeal to fans of Shadowland, Arena and Asia. To listen to some MP3 samples of the album and see where you can buy it, check out the Hybrid Homepage.

For me it's a solid 4 star and a great surprising find!

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 Antipop by PRIMUS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.50 | 62 ratings

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Antipop
Primus Prog Related

Review by TCat

4 stars I don't think this deserves such a low rating. Maybe it's a little different from Primus' other releases because the rough edges have been mostly removed on this album that were very apparent on all of their other releases. The production seems to be a little higher quality and this smooth's out Les' vocals and also the instrumentals. I really believe that is what is missing here and that is what everyone is having a hard time with this album. However, the playing and the song structure is still top notch. The reviewers here keep saying that they don't know what is missing, but for my ears, I know its the rough edges that are missing. Still, I don't think that should merit a rating below 4. Previously, the overall rating was lower, now with time, it is slowly climbing closer to where it should be. To me, the smoother side of Primus (even though were talking smoother in relativity to their previous albums, new listeners will listen to this and say "Smooth?....WTF?") is still worth a listen. Other than the fact that the sound is missing the rough edges, this is still enjoyable....the funkiness, the crazy bass and guitar hooks, they are still there. And then there is still that feeling that Les Claypool is like a demented uncle that wants to sit you on his lap, tell you a story to make you laugh and feel a little uneasy, and then think "How the hell did I end up on this mad man's lap?" 4 stars is a fair rating in my mind.

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 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son by IRON MAIDEN album cover Studio Album, 1988
4.19 | 538 ratings

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Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
Iron Maiden Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Here it is. The album that IRON MAIDEN had been hinting at finally coming to fruition. Steve Harris' progressive rock influences had been showing themselves from the very first album and creeping their way into each album with an ever stronger presence until on "Powerslave" the fully formed progressive behemoth "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" reared its monstrous almost 14 minute head. Surprised was I that the next album "Somewhere In Time" was not the fully developed concept album hinted upon, but on SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON, the seventh deadly sinful studio album, all that progginess unleashes itself and in a truly satisfying way that makes this my absolute favorite MAIDEN album of their entire career and since I pretty much like every stage of their career (with the exception of the 90s) that is a major accomplishment in my book.

The story and album title comes from the 1987 novel "Seventh Son" by Orson Scott Card, upon which the concept is loosely based. In ancient western myths the seventh son of a seventh son (or daughters as well) supposedly possessed heightened occultic abilities such as clairvoyance, phophetic dreams and the like. The story unfolds starting with "Moonchild" where Lucifer tries to manipulate the parents of the seventh son as to harness his powers for his own evil. The rest of the album continues through the trials and tribulations of the father of the seventh son and son himself learning to control their powers and cope with the clairvoyant visions of their world slowly being decimated by evil forces. All in all the lyrics are vague and have a definite air of mystery which makes this an album that can be interpreted in many ways.

The real treat on this album is the music itself with extended song lengths, multi-segmented song structures, atmospheric keyboards added, progressive time signatures and just the fact that IRON MAIDEN didn't deviate from their sound or formulaic songwriting approach. They simply did what they were already so adept at laying out and simply let the music process progressively unfold when and where it made sense to do so. The result is a smashing success that still sounds like an IRON MAIDEN album but also doesn't at the same time. Unlike other metal bands who were also dabbling with keyboards at the time, MAIDEN used them only to embellish the music and not create a whole new instrumental section. One of my favorite albums of all time that sits well on the top of my huge heap of must-have releases.

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 Temple Of Shadows by ANGRA album cover Studio Album, 2004
4.17 | 181 ratings

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Temple Of Shadows
Angra Progressive Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars One of the reasons TEMPLE OF SHADOWS is such a highlight in the discography of Brazilian power metal band ANGRA is because this is the album where they seriously began to incorporate progressive influences into their already powerful take on highly energetic melodic metal. They also create a behemoth of a concept album tackling the issue of a saga of a crusader knight known as The Shadow Hunter who fights against the ideals of the Catholic Church in the 11th century. The album is as energetic as any Dragonforce album but incorporates a gazillion influences like an early Dream Theater release would. The result is a diverse sounding album that takes progressive rock ideas and marries them with power metal and adds native Brazilians sounds and lots more.

Diverse influences can be found in tracks like "Wishing Well" which has a neo-prog feel to it especially in the intro reminding me a bit of Marillion. "Shadow Hunter" has flamenco and a strong Spanish feel to it. Symphonic intros and interludes are plentiful beginning with the very first track but it takes little time at all for the powerful crunch of the melodic march of thundering guitars to signify the triumph of the tasty tunes taking full form. This is an album that I like quite a bit but not to the extent that many others seem to. I find this an exciting ride up to about the last few tracks when I feel the album should have ended. The intensity of the album seems to fizzle out around then and a bunch mellow ballads are not a great way to end this album. In comparison to other successful concept albums this one does not blend the songs together as brilliantly as I think they should considering the subject matter. Nitpickiness aside, this is a great progressive power metal ride.

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 The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack  by NICE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.41 | 88 ratings

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The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack
The Nice Symphonic Prog

Review by tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer

4 stars In 1967, when there was a seemingly constant trickle of new albums that were proposing new possible directions for rock music to take, it wouldn't have been especially apparent that this was going to have any sort of significant lasting impact; by contrast, when In the Court of the Crimson King came out in 1969, pretty much everybody knew that a Big Thing had happened, even if there was disagreement as to how good a thing this was. Much of this album bears the unmistakable imprint of having been recorded in 1967; the mixture of Moody Blues-ian harmonies (at least as much as could be attempted with such weak individual vocalists) and Hendrix-style guitars (in heavier parts and lighter parts alike), the whispered recitations in "Dawn," and the general approach of mixing all of the genres they could get their hands on into a single album all help date the album's release into a very specific six month window. That said, it would be a mistake to accuse this album of being nothing more than a derivative aping of the band's betters, because the album does bring something new to the table, and that is Keith Emerson's keyboard playing. He's not in full flight on this album, obviously, and it's not as if The Nice were the first band of significance to prominently feature a keyboardist, but it seems obvious to me from listening to this album that Emerson was going to end up as something special. The hyperactive aggression of his style creates an odd menace in the tone of the album even in moments when he's playing few if any notes; there's a constant threat hanging over the album that he's about to lead the band into a long noisy instrumental passage, and even if this threat materializes only a couple of times in the album, the vibe this threat creates gives a fascinating dark edge to it on the whole.

This dark edge is especially prevalent in the first half of the album, which is great enough to prompt me to give this album a high rating despite that the second half only strikes me as pretty good. "Flower King of Flies," which opens the album, starts off as a shuffling psychedelic ballad that can't help but remind me a bit of "(Listen to the) Flower People," but it quickly adopts a darker guise once Emerson's keys start flickering in the background, and the track becomes rather intense in the instrumental passage between instances of the chorus. The Hendrix-y jams are a lot of fun as well. Jackson's vocals, as would become the standard, aren't great here, but the parts where he sings solo are kept slightly quiet, and the louder moments hide him behind a thick wall of harmonies. O'List takes over on vocals in the following title track, and he isn't really an improvement, but the main features of that song, namely the playful melody repeatedly sung by the backing vocals and the bouncy harpsichord parts, more than compensate, and I enjoy the track a lot. Then there's "Bonnie K," which reminds me in all sorts of ways of the kinds of Hendrix-y rockers that Procol Harum would do back before Robin Trower left the band (granted, a lot of them would happen after this album, but my point is that The Nice and Procol Harum were of a similar mind in regard to rockers of this kind); Jackson works as kind of a poor-man's Gary Brooker in his vocals, Emerson's keyboards are full of life and energy, and O'List's guitars rawk out in the best way that pre-Zeppelin 60s hard rock could offer.

But really, all of this is just a warmup for "Rondo." Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo ā la Turk" was an established jazz standard even at this point, and one may scoff a bit at the idea of the band making a cover of this into one of the centerpieces of its repertoire, but the band claims the piece as its own as much as one could reasonably expect. The band simplifies the 9/8 time signature of the original into 4/4, and through this and other arrangement tweaks the band de-emphasizes the tricky intricacy of the original and amplifies its power and majesty, and in the process they basically turn this track into one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Emerson's downward Hammond swishes in the climactic portions are the moments that jump out the most, but there are great noisy guitar passages here and other enjoyable keyboard passages as well, and the powerful steadiness of the rhythm section throughout holds everything together perfectly. Given that I'm somebody who greatly enjoys the extended versions of "Space Truckin'" that Deep Purple would be doing in concert in a few years, it's hard for me to see why I wouldn't adore this track, and I consider it an essential part of my collection.

The second half of the album, then, isn't especially great, but all of the tracks are at least decent. "War and Peace" is another instrumental built around active Hammond organ and guitar work, and while it doesn't live up to "Rondo" in terms of memorable themes or an especially tight rhythm section, it's a rousing blast while on, and I'd definitely take this over a lot of the instrumental passages in some of their later work. "Tantalising Maggie" is an odd take on the style of the rest of the album, with the guitars showing a lot jangly twang amongst the hyperactive keyboards (which suddenly go into a classical piano mode near the end), and with Jackson's vocals confined to one channel in a mildly psychedelic way (until the vocals get all chaotic and weird in the last minute or so, making the psychedelic elements more pronounced). "Dawn" is an odd combination of Hammond noodling (eventually harpsichord noodling), noisy distorted guitar chords and noodling, and lots of whispered vocals that make the track sound very pompous. The track is probably a good example of the bad sides of 1967 in a lot of ways, but I don't especially mind it, and it's yet another interesting change of pace (if there were another track like this on the album then I might view it less favorably). And finally, "The Cry of Eugene" has a muffled vocal part that doesn't allow for the vocal melody to resonate as deeply as it could with better singing, but there's an odd gentleness in the combination of the Hammond and the psychedelic guitars (with a brief frenetic section as the song transitions into a more bombastic conclusion) that I find rather enjoyable (the sudden cutoff at the end is amusing as well). Yes, the album takes a clear step down in the second half, but it's not a crippling one; the first half would be in the range of a *****, and the second half would be in the *** range, and the combination lets the album settle into a solid **** range.

In my edition of the album, there are five bonus tracks, and except for the single version of the title track (it's just as long as and I think it just has a slightly different mix from the original), all of them are worth having. "Azrial (Angel of Death)" combines a solid grumbly guitar riff with bits of atmospheric piano and pompous (but fun) lyrics before briefly turning into a psychedelic freak-out near the end (then returning to the original riff), and it would have been a fine inclusion on the original album. "The Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon" bases itself primarily around a gentle line doubled on Hammond and trumpet (from O'List), and the keyboard passages that grow out of it are rather lovely. The best of the group, though, come in the form of the full-length and single versions of "America," the band's instrumental take on the West Side Story number. The bombastic organ introduction and the closing recitation from a three-year old are a little ridiculous, but the bulk of the song shows The Nice at its very best. The main riff, played by the organ, is used as the launching pad for all sorts of rousing guitar work and inventive keyboard work, and I never find myself getting bored or tired when listening to it. It's too bad the band didn't use this as the album's conclusion, as a sort of balance to closing out the first side with "Rondo" (I get that "War and Peace" is the "Rondo" counter but I'd be fine with swapping that out for "Azrial").

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  1. Mellotron Storm (3640)
  2. Sean Trane (3159)
  3. ZowieZiggy (2917)
  4. apps79 (2231)
  5. Warthur (2187)
  6. Easy Livin (1925)
  7. UMUR (1827)
  8. b_olariu (1818)
  9. Gatot (1799)
  10. Conor Fynes (1508)
  11. SouthSideoftheSky (1431)
  12. Evolver (1374)
  13. Bonnek (1359)
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  16. snobb (1210)
  17. erik neuteboom (1201)
  18. Windhawk (1086)
  19. Finnforest (1077)
  20. ClemofNazareth (1009)
  21. kenethlevine (994)
  22. Cesar Inca (926)
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  26. Marty McFly (833)
  27. octopus-4 (816)
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  29. Chris S (753)
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  32. Matti (718)
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  35. Guillermo (654)
  36. Seyo (638)
  37. Rivertree (628)
  38. Prog-jester (623)
  39. Epignosis (620)
  40. lor68 (601)
  41. Neu!mann (557)
  42. Ivan_Melgar_M (541)
  43. philippe (535)
  44. hdfisch (492)
  45. Chicapah (475)
  46. stefro (467)
  47. colorofmoney91 (459)
  48. friso (450)
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  50. zravkapt (427)
  51. Prog Leviathan (426)
  52. russellk (425)
  53. Menswear (413)
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