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 Discendenze by ANCESTRY album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.46 | 13 ratings

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Discendenze
Ancestry Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Ancestry was a great progressive rock band from Italy (I don't think they are still active) with two albums in their pockets so far. The second offer from 2003 is Discendenze and is a good example of melodic, complicated lush progressive rock tour de force iwith beautiful warm vocals added as cherry on the cake, what else a definetly winner for me. Long elaborated arrangements, with the opening Colori dell'Etą Sorgente being the highlight, in places evokes bands such Yes, Camel or italian school PFM or Le Orme. Their is some energic and very well played sections on every tune, featuring top notch keyboards waves and guitar parts. The contrast between softer moments with ones more energic and riffy is done in avery profesional way. Good album with many memorable parts, is sad because they are so unkown, this album is for a good aquisition. 3 stars rounded to 3.5

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 A Fury Of Glass by ROSSA, LA album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.11 | 9 ratings

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A Fury Of Glass
La Rossa Eclectic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars really

La Rossa a forgotten and little known progressive act from early '80 from France with one album released in 1983 named A fury of glass, re issued on CD by Musea a decade after. This band is a curiousity for me, the line up was made by french and german musicians, the title of the album was in english and they were known in Tunisia for example, as much as in France, but in the rest of the Europe they were pretty much unknown. Anyway the music is quite great and eclectic, with influences from french prog school , from british school like Gentle Giant or Van Der Graaf Generator and from classical music aswell the result is a myriad of great moments with innspired songwriting. All pieces are short, I mean all are under 6 min, but each one brings the best in french scene around that time, pieces like Cosy chutte with ELP influence brings what La Rossa had best. Also their is a strong and energic rhythmic section and a good voice. All in all definetly a good towards great release in a period when prog was big time in the shadow of other genre. 3.5 stars for sure.

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 Yöhoitajan maailmasta by AVARUUSKORPRAALI PAHA HIRVI album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Yöhoitajan maailmasta
Avaruuskorpraali Paha Hirvi Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

4 stars AVARUUSKORPRAALI PAHA HIRVI (= Space Corporal Bad Moose) is a Finnish quartet who seem to have a joyful, loonie attitude in making Space Rock. On the back cover the young men dance merrily in a backyard at night wearing just shorts. The music is however very well done. This second album was re-released on vinyl in 2012; 200 numbered copies with a colourful painted version of the same front picture, much better than the original you see here. The title means "From the world of a night nurse", but considering the track titles there isn't a clear concept.

The barely 2-minute 'Intro' features wailing synths and a brief spoken narration about, hmm, sexual contacts with space flies & worms. Over-the-top fantasy humour! 'Avaruus, avaruus' (= "Space, space") is 9 minutes of pure, HAWKWIND-like Space Rock with a steady beat. The exciting, electronic soundscape can be associated with the spaciest rock acts of 70's Krautrock too. 'Kauniit silmät' (= "Beautiful eyes") has slower tempo, being no less hypnotic slice of spacey psychedelia. It's slightly reminiscent of Cyclone / Force Majeure -era TANGERINE DREAM.

The B side starts with 'Avaruustissit' (= "Space tits") which is built on a simple, endlessly repeated rhythm pattern. Certainly it has groove and nice sounds, but is perhaps a bit too long and monotonous. The next one (= "Interdeath") features no drums for change. Being close to Ambient / New Age it offers a welcome variety to the album. 'Munakello' (= "Egg timer") has a slow tempo and a melancholic, nocturnal atmosphere. The gentle guitarwork takes completely over synths. Excellent, not far from e.g. ORESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE. And finally comes "The Waking of Sexuality" (Yes, these rather silly titles are obviously from a young male mind!). The drums and the strong beat are again central, but synths and guitars have no difficulties to send the music into outer space.

Naturally it depends on the listener whether this music is hypnotic or boring. Hopefully my review helps you to estimate which reception you'd have. If you enjoy the mentioned bands and genres, you'll probably find a lot to enjoy in this meaty, groovy, ambientish and deeply psychedelic Space Rock. 3½ stars.

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 Live From Manticore Hall (Emerson & Lake) by EMERSON, KEITH album cover Live, 2014
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live From Manticore Hall (Emerson & Lake)
Keith Emerson Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars "Live from Manticore Hall" is a live 2010 show featuring legendary Prog specialists Emerson Lake & Palmer members without the Palmer. No brilliant drums basically but this is awesome stuff and I wish I could have seen the show. Lake spells it out to the captivated audience in the intro that this is going to be a concert where they invite the crowd into their studio where they experiment and create things, looking back to the halcyon days of King Crimson and The Nice and of course ELP. The band explain many things as they explore their past glories and it is a wonderful journey they take us on.

For the first time since 1969 they perform I Talk to the Wind that appeared on that little known album "In the Court of the Crimson King". Say no more. From the Beginning is the opener and no one can complain as its one of the greatest of the many Lake ballads that surfaced over the years.

Bitches Crystal is given a classical piano treatment and it's very cool, Emerson being a master of the ivories bar none. He slams those keys with staccato glee and it jumps along with familiar melody and extended piano concerto vibes. It is sans bass and drums but still works as a compelling piece.

The Barbarian from the first ELP is a great choice, "a catchy and annoying tune, that grows on you" according to Lake. He pulls out the Hammond sound on this one, and there's drums, by some unknown muso. The piano interlude is fabulous too. This is great to hear after all these years; a genuine triumph. "Listen they're whistling it already" says Lake at the end of it.

Take a Pebble is one of my favourites so to hear this revamped version was a joyous experience. Lake's dreamy vocals carry it along beautifully. The piano is welcome and at times this sounds like old school ELP. It's an edited version at 5 minutes 20 but it's still wondrous to hear. It segues immediately into Tarkus.

Tarkus is here. Tarkus! A 17 minute version so there's plenty to indulge in here. This is so beloved you can imagine the crowd adoring this. It is a bit unrecognizable at the start with a lone grand piano instead of the bombastic wall of sound on the original masterpiece. Emerson is just enjoying himself as he strolls through this criminally complex piece of music. Lake comes in as the Mellotron strings enter with Stones of Years. It is refreshing and again it must have been extremely moving and uplifting to be in the audience as this washes over you. Emerson tinkles away with unabashed virtuoso style capturing the greatness of the epic. Lake touches the guitar at times to maintain the off kilter rhythms. The echo on his voice is effective, and overall he is sounding the same as he did all those years ago "The weaver in the web that he made!" It's interesting to hear this version of Manticore too. The track really picks up with The Battlefield, into Aquatarkus with pounding drums and squelchy synths. Emerson pulls out the electronic synth wall for this one and blazes away into full flight like he used to and I wonder if he dragged a synth out stabbed it with a knife here. This captures ELP glory and undeniably is a crowd pleased. I suspect a standing ovation followed. Brilliant to hear Tarkus played with so much dynamic energy and passion!

The melancholy C'est Le Vie is next and brings things down to a calmer level after the previous blitzkrieg. Though not one I like, the song is still sounding similar to the old version with acoustics and relaxing strings for a peaceful atmosphere. An accordion sound comes in too for a Parisian touch. "Merci Beaucoup" indeed Mr Lake.

Pirates is a surprising choice from "Works" and it certainly progs along nicely at 13 and a half minutes. Opening with narrative and ethereal keys it fires up into familiar territory along the allegorical seas of turmoil and adventure. The keys sound similar to the original version, right down to the percussive crashes and flutes. The drums are great here, but who is playing them? The whimsical melodies of sea shanties drift along nicely,

The concert closes with a Moog Solo and then into a glorious rendition of Lucky Man. Lake tells us that Keith "wanted to like it but" it as not initially received well. Is that swirling psychedelic synth solo present at the end? This is the "retro-spective" version and Keith dusts down the old Moog, the same one to produce some mind bending psyched up sounds.

Overall this is a glorious return to the prog brilliance of ELP, with smatterings of The Nice and King Crimson sprinkled over the top. At little more than 78 minutes one has to wonder what the rest of the concert was like and what was omitted on the CD release. Some research reveals that on this tour the omitted songs were Prelude to Hope, Malambo, America and Rondo. A 2 CD release might have been appropriate to include these, especially America and Rondo. This is the setlist they played in 2010 in the USA both at Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis in April, and at The Birchmere, Alexandria in May, respectively. It leaves one slavering for more as the concert cruises by so rapidly. It is a joyous concert, an intimate night out with the prog legends Emerson and Lake.

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 Rising by RAINBOW album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.15 | 346 ratings

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Rising
Rainbow Prog Related

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This second album by RAINBOW is not as good for my taste than their first. Their first album had more variety in the musical moods, having some slow and some heavy songs. For this second album, the music tends more to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal while in their first there even were some Classical Music inlfuences ("Temple of the King") and more Prog Rock music influences. Maybe the changes in personnel (too much changes, in my opinion, and not really needed, I think) really affected the sound and musical style of this second album. While Cozy Powell is still considered as one of the most versatile drummers and one of the best particularly in the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal musical styles, I think that their previous drummer (Gary Driscoll) was also a very good drummer and brought more variety to the music of the band. And I also think that, despite being good musicians, Tony Carey and Jimmy Bain were not better musicians than Mickey Lee Soule and Craig Gruber. Anyway, with Ritchie Blackmore being a very good musician but also "a very difficult person to work with," like some of the musicians who have worked with him have said in interviews, it really was not a surprise that he never was totally satisfied with the line-ups of his band, so many musicians came and went. This "Rising" album is good, but I still prefer their first album more than this album.

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 Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow by RAINBOW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.65 | 182 ratings

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Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Rainbow Prog Related

Review by siLLy puPPy

3 stars After the conflicting personalities in Deep Purple could no longer function together Ritchie Blackmore had enough and jumped ship to form his own band RAINBOW which on this first album has his name attached as RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW. While still in Deep Purple he toured with the band Elf which had Ronnie James Dio as the lead singer,. Basically Blackmore hit it off with Dio and stole a bunch of members of Elf to create this album. This is one of those albums that I want to like but feel a little let down by. The sound is good and all but the music is a little hit and miss. The album cover is way cool with every guitarist's dream castle in the clouds and it hints at a slightly epic kind of power metal that would eventually be invented by much later groups like Rhapsody or Angra.

On this release we get a bunch of great songs and some mediocre ones that just don't seem to fit in. A loose collection offering no unifying theme or feel. Excellent songs include the opener "Man On The Silver Mountain" and "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" and the instrumental closer "Still I'm Sad." Most are just in the OK department for me offering too little of the neoclassical guitar playing that Ritchie Blackmore so deftly exhibited in Deep Purple. Instead he tends to trade it off for a more Hendrix-ish bluesy hard rock sound. This is fine but he takes the influences way too far as on "Catch The Rainbow" and not exactly in an original and interesting way. "If You Don't Like Rock n' Roll" totally ruins the flow of the album. It sounds more like it should be on a Doobie Brothers album or some other blues rock band. An OK album but hardly the best of his RAINBOW years.

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 Heaven & Earth by YES album cover Studio Album, 2014
2.30 | 159 ratings

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Heaven & Earth
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars All bets are off, believe the hype? Yes opt for pure pop and AOR!

Nothing wrong with a bit of nice pleasant music, with nice pleasant harmonies, nice pleasant lyrics with a nice pleasant album cover. Nothing wrong at all. This is an album to throw on after a hard day's work, with your feet up and a cuppa Hazelnut Coffee. Aaah yes, this is so relaxing, so peaceful. Not much Prog to wade through, no complex musicianship to adjust the ears to, easy to comprehend lyrics, just a pleasant mind relaxing album that lulls you into a dream. Only problem is this is Yes we are talking about; the band that brought us complex Progressive classic albums such as "Fragile", "Relayer" and "The Yes Album" (Starship Trooper is still my all time fave Yes masterpiece), the band that brought us masterful conceptual treasures like "Tales From Topographic Oceans" (one of the most revered or maligned Prog excess albums, depending on your tastes), and epic music such as Close to the Edge. Even the last effort "Fly From Here" at least embraced some prog and had one colossal epic to indulge in (a great track heard live by the way, a genuine highlight of the 2012 Melbourne concert I attended).

Let's look at the content of this music that kind of blends in as one huge syrupy dreamy AOR excursion (even my wife who shuns Prog would love most of this and it would sit proudly in her collection alongside her other easy listening music such as Michael Buble, and Guy Sebastian, rather than all that "dreadful King Crimson, Hawkwind and Van der Graaf Generator rubbish that you always listen to!")

There are some highlights on "Heaven and Hell... er... Earth" amidst all the commercial music, but you have to open your ears wide to find them. Light of the Ages stays with me in a good way and Howe showcases some skilful guitar work, and the melody is a grower. The opener Believe Again definitely stands out as a gem with a gorgeous melody and lovely keyboards from Downes and excellent lyrics that are uplifting but still leave room for intelligent reflection. Yes, Yes, this is a great song, and one worth hearing for sure, so the album opens with a killer track; although not progressive I love the keyboard sweeps, Howe's awesome riffing, and Jon Davison's vocals are supreme.

Subway Walls is one of the definitive highlights with a touch of innovation in the time sig and Squire's bassline is totally cool. It sounds like the band have a spark of creative ideas shining through here with a wonderful instrumental break, and Jon's voice is excellent and the switch into half time feel works perfectly. Howe even shines with some really great guitar licks, and it has the feel of a majestic atmosphere in the likes of And You And I (though not a shadow of that masterpiece, mind you). But this diversion into innovative musicianship is actually an annoyance as it shows what the band could have produced on the whole album, yet the album closes with this track and it is too late to salvage the album with a mere three decent tracks.

The lowlights are many, oh so many, but they still grow on the listener, like fungus on a toadstool. I speak of dainty ditties such as the maddeningly sugar sweet saccharine strains of It Was All We Knew, sounding like a Summer drive down to The Partridge Family's mansion. It languishes lyrically in lala land with "Sweet were the fruits, long were the Summer days, it was all we knew" then the harmonised "all we knew" chimes in on cue; surely the band are capable of better than this. I could envisage this being played on the radio and competing nicely with anything by The Eagles, or Air Supply, except they have better songs. Heck, Asia came up with better than this, and I can envisage all the pretty ladies in the crowd dancing to these boilers. White's drumming is so restrained he sounds like a session musician, he hardly strays from a straight 4/4 beat from the get go. I know you can play White, I heard you once in concert.

Let's talk about The Game, so lovely yet so dull, I think if Rick Wakeman heard this he might laugh and say "these old codgers have really lost the plot". Yes can play no doubt, nobody can take that away from them, but here they have abandoned everything that made them stand apart as innovators and shakers of prog rock. The lyrics offer very little worth pondering, "I am standing here at your door with all my defences down, we all know the rules the game must fools still we play the same as if our days remain" and "the love we gave along the way, along the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay". Cue the nice guitar music and harmonised dadadas and lalalalas. Oh, by the way bot fades out; can you believe it, a Yes song that fades out, how droll.

Next is Step Beyond with a torturous synth line that is akin to the 80s synthpop sound at its absolute worst. The lyrics are sung in a corny rhythmic time to the music "you told me so, if I don't let go, I'll never know, what freedom brings" then there's the cheesy chorus "beg, steal, run, and hide." Oh this is so sing songy its ghastly, and it has a dance feel; I can see the band bopping to this. I guess it is a happy song, but oh so hackneyed. Howe tries to save it with a cool guitar lick but it's not enough. It was at this stage on the album that I looked over at my HiFi system and saw globules of honey dripping down out of the speakers.

As To Acend began to play I swear I saw sugar raining down from the ceiling. This is the song to raise up the lighter to, or these days it would be an iphone, and we wave it as we all sing in unison. Ahhhhh isn't this lovely, so peaceful, so interminably clichéd and saccharine. Where is the innovative ground breaking thought provoking lyrics we have come to expect? On Starship Trooper it was "Sister bluebird flying high above, Shine your wings forward to the sun, Hide the mysteries of life on your way", but now on To Ascend it's "taking the time, on a wing and a prayer, a wounded bird in the hand, with the eyes of a child come to understand, I will open the book, raise the pen, let it reinvent my life again, take me from where I am, as a free bird flies from the hand to ascend, to asceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeend". Of course a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I get it. In that section alone there are at least 3 clichés and it just comes across as lazy song writing. In A World Of Our Own is not much better with "right back where we began, why can't we be like we were then, living in a world of our own, living in a world of our own, living in a world of our own, living in a world of our own". You get the picture, and it pretty much just locks onto that idea and the band seem content with that. Okay, that's' another one in the can, boys, next!

It is such a safe album, nothing innovative really to speak of, no power. It doesn't have enough power to knock the fluff off a peanut. Howe plays it safe, Squire plays it safe, White plays it safe, Downes is always safe so no surprises there, actually everybody plays it safe, and it has the unmitigated effect of alienating us old Yesaholics, and I am not sure how it will affect those newcomers to the band. If they heard "Topographic" after this their brain might go into meltdown. So Yes have gone the way that Genesis did in their final stages and it is not an experience that will please the older Yes fanbase.

Don't compare Yes to their past glories? Why not? They are Yes! Not some band rising up from the overcrowded AOR scene. Yes! Well, that's my take on this and the album will sit very nicely alongside other mediocre Yes projects such as "Union", "Talk" and "Big Generator". At this stage I had to think is it actually the worst Yes album? Let's see. Is it worse than "Big Generator"? On that album I had heard Rabin saying on the documentary that this was the most difficult album he had worked on, with a foot note to the fact that Anderson hated the changes in direction and musical differences were creating tension in the ranks. Okay, "Heaven and Earth" is not quite THAT bad. Is it then as appalling as "Union"? That album was a catastrophe, and album producer Jonathan Elias should be lynched by the prog community for deliberately replacing Wakeman and Howe's solo prowess with inferior so called session musicians, creating a hyper soundscape of saturated noise. Is it then as bad as "Talk"? No, cos at least Trevor Rabin is not on "Heaven and Earth". So it's perhaps the 4th worst Yes album, but that is no consolation. Nor is the awesome Roger Dean cover; which is false advertising; a promise of the great Yes of old which simply doesn't deliver the goods. 3 songs save it from a complete disgrace, but as an old Yes fan I was bitterly disappointed and I did not have high expectations after reading the reviews. However I expected something better than this. If I want to hear syrupy commercial easy listening music I will put this on, and it will remain in pristine condition as the CD will rarely leave its cover.

Ah well, it's only music. So let my passionate opinions rest at that, after all it's only an opinion, and I don't have to listen to this album again. I can always put on the 70s classics such as "Fragile" and revisit the glory days when Yes blew my mind and were the ground breaking movers and shakers of the Prog scene. Despite their pitfalls, Yes will remain in my heart as an essential brilliant band that I will always cherish.

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 Without Introduction by POLYPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.00 | 53 ratings

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Without Introduction
Polyphony Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by siLLy puPPy

4 stars POLYPHONY was a short lived band from Virginia Beach, VA who put out this one highly eclectic album back in 1971 or 1972 depending on the source. Originally released on the Eleventh Hour label it has been long out of print until recent years. Unfortunately the re-release is pretty weak as it is not remastered, there are few liner notes and they actually list the wrong track order. Quite lame, however all that aside, it is the music that counts and the music is excellent and exciting. Probably one of the better progressive albums from the USA at this time.

I would call this an equal mix of influences from King Crimson in terms of proto-metal and avant-garde jazz, ELP or The Nice in terms of symphonic bombast and early Pink Floyd in terms of heavy psychedelic tendencies. The music is quite complex as it goes through many changes but generally always energetic and progressive to the max. This could easily be called eclectic. In addition to the major influences there are also Santana-esque percussion parts, strange slide guitar riffs, slow and pastoral Genesis-like symphonic parts and even some hard bluesy rock sections and circus music. The second track "Forty Second Thing In 39 Seconds" is a short little burst of symphonic moog wankery that is rather unique.

Unfortunately the production on this is not so good meaning bad. It has a tinny sound and is in clear need of a remastering. Musically this is quite exciting and I find it to be worthy of the term "long lost classic." The first track "Juggernaut" is just filled to the brim with every prog trick in the book and it takes a full 9 ½ minutes of instrumental prowess to finally get to the vocals on the track. This is the kind of prog that has the right formula going on. It is both melodic and slightly dissonant at times. It varies the tempos, time signatures and compositional developments and keeps it interesting throughout its entirety. With two sprawling epic tracks, POLYPHONY more than proved it was capable of playing with the big boys of prog. This is a band that I would love to hear more music from for the mere 37 minutes is only a teaser! Musically 4.5 but i'm only giving this 4 stars because the production is just so bad it hurts.

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 Automatic Day by LITTLE ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.79 | 84 ratings

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Automatic Day
Little Atlas Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Having voraciously devoured the surprising Roy Strattman debut solo album, the cleverly titled "The Lie of the Beholder " and given it a spirited and enthusiastic review, I now have been given the opportunity to see what the issuing band Little Atlas had to offer on their most recent 2013 release "Automatic Day". I am elated to report that there are familiar strengths that both enjoy, namely stellar bass playing from Rik Bigai and Roy Strattman's effusive guitar stylings being foremost, as well as some obvious differences. Keyboardist Steve Katsikas is more front and center here, not only with his arsenal of ivories but he also handles most of the lead vocals. While very proficient, I actually prefer Strattman's voice on his solo venture, but that is just my taste. The other major difference, with all due respect to excellent Little Atlas drummer Mark Whobrey, is having the now legendary Nick D'Virgilio blow the lid off the tracks with his booming style. That is just not fair! All of this being said, the music should be taken for what it is and it has only a passing resemblance to the Strattman work. Its way more diverse and offers up a wide palette of unexpected traits that will undoubtedly catch more than a few off guard.

"Oort" has an asymmetrical acoustic/electric guitar intro, with Bigai's slippery bass slithering nicely through the sonic openings but the true revelation is Katsikas' swirling mellotron blasts that color the symphonics, a sudden e-piano cameo and a lead vocal that hints at Echolyn. This is the proper way to get into the material that will flow onward.

For a second I thought I was listening to a lost Landberk piece, "Apathy" is a highlight track that scours the horizon with winds of contrast, the vocals highly reminiscent of Patrick Helje of the Swedish legends, whist the chorus and arrangement provide a density that is hugely appealing. Fab track!

Little Atlas can be a different kettle of fish, Roy preferring a more angular approach to his rhythm guitar riffing, a trait that has a strong Robert Fripp flavoring, utterly obvious on the mathematically precise "Twin of Ares" . Now I am not a fan of this KC period (Three of a Perfect Pair), nor do I really enjoy Echolyn's style. It's all a little too Cartesian for me but I do enjoy Bigai's furrowing method, nevertheless.

Another successful track, "Emily True" is a quirky affair with a wall of brooding synths egging the passionate but slightly deranged lead vocals. The mood starts out contemplative and then just explodes into a mellotron ?hard guitar bulldozer, insistent, manic and tortured. Rick Bigai shows of some scintillating runs and the whole thing just hammers away, relentlessly.

Fabulous track number two is named "At the End of the Day", a prog-rock ballad that owns a melody that is immediate and ravishing, traits that seriously tend to seduce me rather easily, armed with a glorious lead vocal full of bravado and passion. Expertly crafted, well expressed lyrically and sophisticated in its instrumental delivery (that darn Fender Rhodes!), this can be listened to repeatedly without any ennui. Roy tortures his guitar with conviction, propelling the pleasure into a paroxysm of delight.

The lengthiest piece is "Illusion of Control", a title that evokes a theme I particularly enjoy discussing in my social life when waxing philosophy (I do own a degree, after all). A subject matter that deals with illusions of freedom and yet underlines the total dependence the human imposes on himself masochistically to govern himself according to some "power to be". Don't get me started, so let's talk music. A 10 minute + ride through dark and sunny, up and down the roller coaster of modern living, pleasure and pain, sadness and elation, misery and ecstasy. A frozen Beatles-like middle section of acoustic guitar and voice instills a sense of foreboding and dreamy disinterest that really hits the mark, swerving synth/mellotron patterns in collusion with a rambunctious bass and a breezy disdain for any form of regulation. Slowly the mood reverts to a bolder reality, a sensational piece of modern prog.

Boy, did I ever get a giggle out of "Darvocet Eyes", a drug anthem that would have pleased Waters or Wilson, directly into abject addiction. A now FDA banned drug from the 50s (how quaint is that?) that had more side effects that Sid Barrett had personalities (ouch!), a pain killer that kills the patient in order to kill the pain, talk about Illusion of Control! Needless to state the obvious, the arrangement is bathing in opiate symphonics, cottony pools of piano droplets, oozing and seeping vocals and a true sense of Pink Floydian dysfunction (this song could have been on "the Wall" album) with carousel-like dizziness and a sudden marmalade death. Total winner again.

After all this woozy head, upset stomach and bitter taste in the mouth triumvirate, how about a nice little pop song, eh? It will get us listeners to the end without any withdrawal symptoms! "We All Remember Truth" sounds almost like a long Lost Todd Rundgren tune, short, sweet and airwave friendly.

The title track is another oddball, slightly dissonant rocker, featuring a pungent bass and raw guitars, tied with a surly attitude that keeps the blood boiling and the feet tapping. Once again, Roy's acoustic picking enters the fray, with Bigai moving in with authority from the right and chiseling together a booming and explosive slow-burner that takes no prisoners. There is a slight Blue Oyster Cult tinge that is quite apparent to the studious listener.

"Escape Velocity" is a perfect send-off, another up-beat, organ fueled progressive song that barely reaches 3 minutes, a cool, funky electric piano-led enjoyable ditty that has closer ties to the Cars than anything epic, and certainly far from Floydian. Major barrage of clapping androids.

In all honesty, I enjoyed this album quite a bit, surprised by the quality of the playing and the maturity of the material. But Strattman's aggressive and perhaps more linear style on "the Lie of the Beholder" just blew me sideways, one of the finest US releases in a long time.

4 robotic times

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 Quarto Vuoto by QUARTO VUOTO album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2014
4.02 | 3 ratings

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Quarto Vuoto
Quarto Vuoto Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars 2013 was a banner year for Italian progressive rock, and there's no shortage of high quality releases showing up during 2014 as well, the latest being the debut self titled EP by Quarto Vuoto. Fans of RPI bands such as Quella Vella Locanda and some particular modern Italian bands will want to look into this band right away, as a lot of their sound here is dominated by the intense violin playing (and distinctive vocals) of Federico Lorenzon, emotional and seductive one minute, wild and edgy the next. There's three tracks on offer here running just shy of half an hour, and the level of confidence on display with the tasteful instrumental playing and stirring vocals is instantly impressive. Quarto Vuoto favour emotional, sedate and dramatic arrangements, never frantic or too bombastic, but with an occasionally heavy sound. Listeners who find fault with the sleek and polished productions of many modern RPI works will also be glad to discover the group also has a bit of grit to them too.

The shortest track on the album at just over five minutes, opener `Dimmi Solo se e Cosi' is a hard gutsy ballad. It's a driving mid-tempo tune with Luca Volonnino's unique shimmering reverberating guitar sound and grandly symphonic synths to raise the drama, Federico bringing a coarse, wavering voice, even attempting some distinctive and brave falsettos. It's a nice piece with a strong melody, but the really impressive stuff is yet to come, and you violin freaks better brace yourselves! `Zattera Della Medusa' is over ten minutes, and really lets the band build some atmosphere and work within extended instrumental passages. After a brief ethereal guitar distortion intro, a gloriously regal weeping and searing violin enters full of classical drama, bringing a brooding intensity over hard chugging guitars and Nicola D'Amico's busy drumming. The band then settles into a confident vocal section, rapid-fire vocal verses and a catchy impressive memorable repeated chorus over orchestral synths and fiery electric guitar soloing. There's a very triumphant sound to this second half, and I love Mattia Scomparin's moody keyboard finale. He's a very restrained player, who seems to hold back on show-off attention seeking keyboard soloing much to the benefit of the music.

The showpiece of the album for progressive listeners is, of course, the fourteen minute `Rub Al- Khali'. Those listeners who love the frequently violin driven modern Italian bands such as Progenesi and Ingranaggi dalla Valle, as well as vintage RPI group Quella Vecchia Locanda's second album `Il Tempo Della Gioia' will adore the perfectly executed instrumental flow to this lengthy piece. It's full of atmosphere and emotion, especially during the thrilling final minutes where the drama expertly builds. Whimsical, intimidating, oppressive and powerful, this is a challenging piece that demands careful attention and focus to gain the best results from it, and repeated plays reveals all the intricate details it contains. Spectral mystery synth passages, cutting electric guitar runs with wailing electric soloing, grandiose violin that moves from slightly malevolent scratchy tension to spellbinding and deeply heartfelt. Edoardo Ceron's murmuring bass bubbles under the shadows of the mix, and Federico gets a wonderfully crooned theatrical vocal spot in the climax that's a trademark of so many wonderful Italian prog albums before. This dynamic piece offers glimpses of the skills the band already have to offer, as well as offering all sorts of exciting directions they may take their music in the future.

Honestly, the EP costs a only a few dollars, has lovely evocative artwork and despite the running time clocking in at just a little under 30 minutes, Italian prog has endless albums with short running times, and this one is even longer than some of them - Le Mani and Il Babau & I Maledetti Cretini, I'm looking in your direction! But for now, this self-titled work suggests a superb new band to keep an eye on and launches them in a very fine manner. If they're already this good, imagine what they may deliver with a full-length proper album?

Four stars.

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