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4 stars 4.3 stars really

Areknames is modern Italian band, and their music style can be described as Symphonic prog. Therefore somebody can get an impression that this is one of the numerous bands continuing wonderful traditions of all those Italian Symphonic Progressive Greats such as PFM, Le Orme, Banco etc etc etc. However this impression would be wrong. Areknames deviate from their native musical traditions quite far and move closer to UK progressive school. They can be compared (if comparison is really necessary) with representatives of the much darker side of the Symphonic spectrum, such as Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and Gnidrolog.

This album contains 12 tracks varying between 1:23 and 11:22 minutes length. The shortest of which is track no. 9 A grotesque gift - 1.23, described in booklet as "a piece of concrete music, just a collection of filters and tapes" and could be considered as a filler, if it had not made a perfect intro for track no. 10 Someone lies here - 4.43, which is kind of epitaph song, based on lyrics by anonymous English poet of XVIII century. It seems like these lyrics were taken from a grave tomb at some old English churchyard. This is obviously very philosophical and sad song, but sadness is kind of a light one, as life goes on. But let's start from the beginning. The first couple of minutes of opening track The skeletal landscape of the world - 6.42 may send you a wrong message that you are in a realm of Metal. The heavy metal guitar riff reminds me of Black Sabbath circa 1971-72 - one of those Tony Iommi's riffs which are being used down to exhaust by so many modern metal bands. The vocals of their leader Michele Epifani (who also plays organ, synth, mellotron, and piano) are very tense and intense, and bear clear resemblances to Peter Hammill. On about 3rd minute tempo slows down, and beautiful grand piano interlude starts sending shivers down my spine, and the opener develops into progressive ballad - dark.heavy.melodic. The second track Deceit - 10.15 starts slowly and very melodically and can remind Genesis circa Trespass/Nursery Cryme but with Hammill on vocals, then pressure builds up, tempos change constantly creating very realistic feeling of drama surrounding you. Masterpiece track. Track no. 3 Outcast - 4.04 is short and not very exciting but still adding to the somber mood of the album. Track no. 4 La chambre - 7.26 is another masterpiece track on this album. It contains beautiful Hammond organ solo - reminding Jon Lord technics with some jazzy touches to it, but overall sound of this track is closer to King Crimson Red era. Track. no. 5. How many artists would include a cover song right in the middle of their album? Not that many that I know. But here we go - track no.5 is cover version of Gnidrolog's song "Snails" from their "In Spite of Harry's Toenail" fame. Gnidrolog is brilliant although obscure band from 70's UK scene, and their song Snails, being a bit disturbing in itself, fits perfectly in general musical stylistics of the album. Track no. 6 - slow tempo beauty Yet I must be something - 5.15 - very light and airy, but containing very serious philosophical contemplations. Narration by female voice (Lucy as guest) adds so much charm to this number. Track no 7 Ignis fatuus - 11.22 the longest track of the album and another masterpiece, starts with piano, bass and cymbals, followed by vocals in very Hammill- esque manner. Singing is full of tragic overtones (PH "Over" comes to mind immediately), instrumentation is rich and thick with small portions of piano soloing thrown here and there. Great track with some quite jazzy parts in it's second half. Track no.8 Stray thoughts from a crossroad - 7.24 - mid tempo track with beautiful piano/trumpet interplays. Trumpet is played by another guest - Luigi Belfatto. As track 9 & 10 were briefly described already, let me jump to track no.11 Pendulum arc - 6.49 - another great one. Not overly long (I wish it would be a bit longer actually), it's most jazzy song of the set, developing into fusion fest. The last track no 12 The web of years - 5.08 - starts with melodic acoustic guitar chords, then bass joins in, and keyboards supported by drums come in and take the lead, allowing just enough space for the vocals; thematically it is another song where sorrow meets frustration, and it logically brings the album to its closure.

May you not be mislead by a bit of name-dropping here, as despite Areknames clearly have their influences and use them (oh well, who does not?), they produce unique and very original sound, thus cloning or ripping-off is not the issue here whatsoever. Being unable to make any comparison with their previous debut album, I still must stress that this one, although not being Masterpiece in true sense of this word (quite close though), would make an excellent addition to any prog-rock collection, and I therefore would whole-heartedly recommend it to all lovers of Dark Symphonic Prog, and especially to all fans of Van der Graaf Generator. This album will keep you interested from beginning to end, despite it's 78+ minutes length. And all thumbs up to band's leader Michele Epifani, who is not only hugely talented keyboardist and a very good singer but also a poet and a composer, as he'd written all music for this album (except for "Snails" by Gnidrolog) and all lyrics in English ! Bravo!!!

Report this review (#99758)
Posted Tuesday, November 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Italian Areknames sounds like 1975 Van Der Graaf Generator, but somehow their sound is fresh and vital. The flexible songs are dominated by "Hammillish" vocals, hard rock guitars and mourning organs. Behind all the mighty mellotron creates beautiful textures. This is warm, living music without any traces of boredom. I`m sure these guys love their music. This album has been nominated as the best Italian prog album of the year 2006. I think it`s better than that. The whole album has a certain mysterious feel, reminding me also about the early 70`s Indian Summer.
Report this review (#120683)
Posted Thursday, May 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I'm not quite sure why I don't love this band. They have all the ingredients that would normally make me drool. Mellotron, heavy guitar and an overall dark sound. I think though that they put the emphasis on other things that just don't do it for me. Having said all that I like this record, maybe a little more then their debut. At almost 80 minutes in length it's a way too long though. The lead guitar is not very prominant at all except for on the first song, what is prominant though is the leader of the bands organ play and his Hammill like vocals.

Highlights for me are the first song "The Skeletal Landscape Of the World" which is all over the place. It opens with SABBATH like sludge as mellotron, guitar, vocals and drums follow. The BLACK SABBATH vibe continues and I especially like the sound 5 minutes in with the lazy guitar and mellotron. The intro on "Outcast" is great but the song turns me off when the vocals come in so loud and noisy. "Snails" is actually a cover of a GNIDROLOG song.

"Yet I Must Be Something" is a song I like a lot, especially the mellotron. "Ignus Fatuus" has Hammill-like vocals, bass and piano to open. The heavy passages come and go. "Stray Thoughts From A Crossroad" has some angular guitar as well as piano, organ and trumpet. Mellotron 6 minutes in and a great rhythm. The final tune "The Web Of Years" sounds so different from the other songs. Synths, acoustic guitar and higher pitched vocals, with heavy passages as well.

I think more people will rate this at 4 or 5 stars than the 3.5 I give it, so if what I describe is your cup of tea I suggest you check this Italian band out.

Report this review (#126774)
Posted Monday, June 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars The second album of this Italian band from Pescara is definitely better than their eponymous debut one. The band go further exploring the possibilities of mixing vintage instruments sounds and love for Seventies Prog masters such as VDGG or Genesis with new ideas... Although you can find here some echoes from the past, Areknamés are not just a clone of someone else playing by tore and trying to stir nostalgic feelings into their listeners. To the contrary, the song-writing of the leader Michele Epifani is excellent and on this album Areknamés seem to have found their own way...

The opener "The Skeletal Landscape Of The World" is a complex and dark thread of images "painted" by the voice of Epifani that reminds of Genesis and VDGG... It features aggressive guitar in Black Sabbath style well intertwined with quieter piano and keyboards passages...

The second track, "Deceit" in my opinion is outstanding... "Come to me, I'm ready..." In the beginning vocals are enthralling and delicate, soaring upon an ethereal keyboard and acoustic guitar pattern, but all along the more than 10 minutes length of this piece there's room for many surprises and changes in the musical direction...

The music keeps on flowing without weak moments, actually all the tracks are very good, like the sinister and agoraphobic "Outcast", "La Chambre" (inspired by a Balthus' painting), "Snails" (a Gnidrolog's cover), "Yet I Must Be Something", "Ignis Fatuus", "Stray Thoughts From A Crossroad"... Actually, there's no filler till the final "The Web Of Years". All the compositions, although complex, are perfectly balanced showing great song-writing skills that combine dark symphonic prog with jazz, psychedelic and classical influences...

Probably Areknmées during the session of this album were dreaming to be in the Seventies, but without losing the conscience of the present. Their music is about dreams and nightmares, they're like painters using notes instead of brushes to draw musical landscapes and images... At length they managed to escape from their "rusty cage of fears" and from the scepticism that surrounded their debut... "There's no more sign of something that makes dreams different from reality / It wasn't me that chose it" (from "La Chambre").

In the whole, I think that "Love Hate Round Trip" could be an excellent addition to every prog collection and it is especially recommended to fans of bands like Van Der Graaf Generators...

Report this review (#126825)
Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album blew me away completely, from the first King crimson inspired assault to the last minute of this awesome album. I'm a huge fan of Van der graaf generator and most albums from Peter Hammills so when I got a tip to check this album out I got it and couldn't beleive my ears. Areknames is a VDGG from the new millennium and on this album they have made every second count so this is as good as anything VDGG made. In my book this album is not only the best album of 2006, this is one of the best of all times. Yes, thats right! This album made it in my top 20 of all times and that doesn't happen anymore. Last time that happened was with Änglagĺrds Hybris from 1992.

The album has got it all, it's complex, dark and filled with great songs and melodies. What strikes me most is that it's the more slower songs that I feel are the strongest ones. Essential in any progressive rock collection.

Report this review (#147527)
Posted Saturday, October 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars 2nd album to this excellent Italian group, which claimed to be influence mainly by VDGG, but don't get the wrong impression that this is just a one-band-clone. Most of the 12 tracks are what is called 'epics', very well structured and developed. The few tracks that do not seem to feet exactly to epic definition are full of inventive ideas. Wonderful melodies are all over the place here.

The group is dominated by Michele Epifani, keyboardist, vocalist, lyricist and composer. The keyboard sound he has built is rooted in the late sixties / early seventies sounds. There are great Hammond sounds, and analog, sinusoid electronics from that era. The other group members are very good instrumentalists also, but somehow shaded a little bit (maybe due to the mix). Nevertheless, guitarist Stefano Colombi 'starring' in two tracks: The opener, 'The Skeletal Landscape Of The World', that feature catchy powered guitar riff, and the almost-closer, 'Pendulum Arc', that really rocks out with strong, dissonant guitar riff and guitar solo. In addition this track got some groovy wa-wa effects on keyboards, and overall, a great flow.

Another excellent track is 'La Chambre', with great melody, jumpy bass and guitar, which interplay with each other in a way that reminds me of GENTLE GIANT. Also, there are two splendid organ solos in this track, a-la Jimmy Smith.

One more track, which worth mentioning is 'Ignis Fatuus', which brings fragrances of neo prog. But I must say that albeit it's a very good track, the last 3 minutes jam is completely superfluous.

In addition, there are some sweet rock ballads (in spite of the overall darkness atmosphere) developed very well to more progressive structures, a little bit of Italian pathos here and there, one impressive atonal riff (at 'Deceit') and very few additional effects and instruments, mainly smooth trumpet and howling recorder (at 'Stray Thoughts From a Crossroad'). The tracks quality moves between very well to excellence. No weak tracks here.

I enjoyed very much from this release, and I would like to trace this band in their next releases, that hopefully will come.

Report this review (#163682)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was quite in love with their Van Der Graaf oriented debut album. Rating their earlier work rather high (four stars), I was keen on listening to their second output.

Obviously, their source of inspiration remained the same, but the sound is much heavier, like we can share in the opening number The Skeletal Landscape Of The World. A Sabbath/ Graaf combo like there are none. Once the first moments of surprise are through, this scary and heavy song is quite enjoyable. But not for all ears. One can even experience a symphonic finale ŕ la PFM ( Impressioni Di Settembre). A great opener, indeed.

The band doesn't make any compromise. They just record what they feel and try (and suceed as far as I'm concerned) to convey some great ambiance. The same difficult approach as the masters is to be noticed. For sure, they are not going to make millions out of their music. Dark, complex, chaotic/hectic, out of reach and hard to apprehend for newbies.

Some might of course say (accordingly), that this sounds too much regressive, but quite honestly: I far much prefer a band playing this sort of music than to be drowned into another Genesis or Yes type of clone. Under these circumstances, Deceit is by no means a deception. It should bring any Graaf maniac to some kindness towards them. A great and intricate song. Another highlight. Powerful and diverse.

Areknamés is really a band you should discover if you ever are missing the great Graaf sounds. This is of course no replacement. Just another option for desperate fans.

The only minus point would be that the album lasts for about eighty minutes. Some of the numbers (La Chambre) should have been shortened to keep the quality level on par; and like their model (the Graaf), a song as Snails is quite hermetic to say the least.

As if the band was aware of this aspect, they would decide to record a truely melodic and balanced song like Yet I Must Be Something. Now, for Graaf maniacs, there is Ignis Faatus. I can understand that some are irritated with such a track. But again, I haven't been confronted so many times with such a band willing to re-create the Graaf atmosphere. And doing it in such a great and decent manner! I can't help: I just like it very much.

It seems that Peter (Hammill) is just next door. The vocal part is so convincing and far from what one could expect from an Italian band (I mean singing in English of course). This song is a wonderful journey into the early Graaf days. I am only thankful to Araknamés to have brought me into these sounds again. Another highlight. The third one so far.

Comparison not being reason, there is even some sax during Stray Thoughts From A Crossroad which is a psyche and loaded tune. But if you you have read some of my early Graaf reviews, you would easily understand how Araknamés came down there.

This album is quite a difficult excercise to rate. Let's say that you have to compare some wines. Some coming out of France (the genuine territory as far as I am concerned) and other ones from Argentina, South Africa or Australia. A daunting task.

I would say that this band is doing alright. At times, they are grandiose. But not always. I am quite enthusiast about half of the songs but Araknamés are rather difficult to appprehend here. To cut a long story short: I think that their debut is better and that Love Hate Round Trip should have been cut down by twenty minutes.

As such, three stars is my rating.

Report this review (#181843)
Posted Friday, September 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Almost 80 minutes of progressive greatness heavily stated from the somber side of the genre - this sentence serves as a proper introductory description of "Love Hate Round Trip", Areknamés' sophomore release. After a promising eponymous debut album that was very good but not to the level of magnificence, now Areknamés, augmented as a quartet, really went to musical heights: this album's material is exquisitely powerful in terms of composition, arrangements and performing stamina. "Love Hate Round Trip" is an exhibition of how pessimism and self-loath can be combined together in order to inspire demolishing musical ideas like whirlwinds across the sky. The band's overall sound has evidently tightened up, nurturing the permanent VdGG references with sonic procedures partially inspired by Black Sabbath, King Crimson and, to a lesser degree, Gentle Giant. I really find coincidences with old obscure prog bands that played the game through the filter of heavy rock-related psychedelia, such as Island and Gnidrolog. For the less tortured moments among the overall display of sonic energy, Areknamés leans a bit close to illustrious compatriots such as La Maschera di Cera, "Eclissi"-era A Piedi Nudi or Ubi Maior. You can also notice some relations with the dense darkness of early Anekdoten, Hypnos 69 and "Storm Season"-era White Willow. The album kicks off with the dark vitality of 'The Skeletal Landscape of the World'; the classicist piano interlude and the complex motif that sets the second part's scheme bring a proper sense of variation. 'Deceit' is longer and more ambitious, refurbishing the general anger with diverse sonorities that feel really creepy. even in the calmer moments in which the band elaborates spacey nuances. 'Outcast' doesn't change things, but it brings a less heavy approach to the perpetuating mood of solitary bitterness. 'La Chambre' starts quite playful: the organ is featured here, as if Emerson had decided to play some music written by Banton and let go of his signature chops. The rhythm duo indulges in some jazzy undertones through the track's versatile structure. At times, the track goes for extremes of creepiness. 'Snails' sort of restores the overall mood of 'Deceit', but this track reveals a much bigger focus on the contrast between the eerie and heavy passages. Guest trumpeter Luigi Belfotto adds excellent colors to the closing moments. 'Yet I Must Be Something' brings a moment of reflective serenity, mostly grayish but also apart from the quest for disturbance and tension. 'Ignis Fatuus', the album's longest piece, starts on a very lyrical note, but after the 2'30" minute mark, the menacing disturbance makes a first announcement. After the 3'30" minute mark, the track's central core is revealed as a majestic heavy prog ballad: Colombi's blues-friendly guitar leads prove quite complementary to Epifani's synth solos, more flashy and rotted on the standard of psychedelic prog. The ominous mellotron layers that take center stage near the end design a proper farewell. 'Stray Thoughts from a Crossboard' is primordially constrained in a rare sense of serenity: the trumpet lines complete the aura of emotional tranquility. Only near the end things get a bit denser, with traffic sounds announcing the song's definitive conclusion. 'A Grotesque Gift' is a brief exercise on free-form psychedelia that might as well fit a scene in a horror movie featuring sinister looking toys in a dark attic; it serves as a kind of prelude to the following track, 'Someone Lies Here', a constructed semi- ballad that stands somewhere between the aforesaid prelude's pending creepiness and a cuasi- symphonic melodic vibe. 'Pendulum Arc' brings back the harshness that had been predominant, although this time with more pronounced jazzy cadences in some sections and old-fashioned hard rock vibes in others (almost like a Uriah Heep-ed VdGG). The lead guitar is all over the place when soloing, bringing an eerie somberness to the overall jazzed jamming that states the track's nucleus. For the moment of the synth solo, the whole ensemble is engaged in a more concise architecture. The bombastic closure is quite effective. The last track 'The Web of Years' apparently begins as an acoustic ballad, but it soon develops a now overtly familiar angry psychedelia in a very ceremonious fashion. "Love Hate Round Trip" is an excellent prog gem of our times: Areknamés is growing solidly as a big current name for the genre.
Report this review (#183152)
Posted Sunday, September 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars Good shot from Italy, except it doesn't sound like anything else I've heard from Italy. So it's from IT, but it's not Rock progresívo italiáno, which is quite unusual. I don't say bad, because I like this record.

Very long album, full 76 minutes, that's something even now in era of CD's isn't normal. I appreciate it. Musically, there are soma parts which sounds more like jazz improvisation than classic prog rock. Or maybe it's thing which is important for prog, to be innovative. Nevermind, it's good to listening, really good. It has many good moments, even there's something I cannot precisely describe, which prevents me to give it five stars. I really don't know why or what it is. I mean it sounds good, right ? It has good vocals, longer tracks in general and so on. So I think it's OK to give 4

EDIT: I wish I know more why, but I feel only to give 3(+), because something is preventing me from enjoying it. Sound of it is strange, I don't like it. Somehow, from some reason. Melodies are also weird, not pleasant, not experimental, just ugly. And bad perhaps.

Report this review (#229662)
Posted Monday, August 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Down a muddy road in pouring rain

Wet, foggy, is elemental and atmospheric vibes that come through to me listening to this eclectic Italian prog band. It is true that the band is a must for fans of VDGG and Anekdoten, featuring Hammill style vocals (in English) and long desolate keyboard meandering kept honest by an edgy, riff able electric guitar presence. One of Black Widow's premier artists, Areknames sophomore effort was one of the awarded albums at the 2006 ProgAwards festivities.

There is so much here to gobble, but I have to mention "Stray thoughts from a Crossroad" which simply exists in its own emotional state. A reassuring, pulsing bass is all that keeps you grounded as the piano and sax lift your emotions up and bring them back down. Far out lyrics beautifully sung and a velvety smooth guitar solo allow the listener one of several reprieves from the album's general heaviness. More typical is the album's longest standout, "Ignis Fatuus", at over 11 minutes. Here we are fully drenched in a lumbering darkness albeit still treated to exquisite piano and sensitive lead guitar. The mood of this stuff reminds me of the old Hero album which we have in the database, complex, dark, and chaotic as hell. The album was conceived as a double album originally which explains the sweeping feel of the 78 minutes. It is a beautiful and moody mélange of vintage keyboard sounds (organ, synth, grand piano, mellotron) stacked with angular guitar brushstrokes, and occasionally poetic lyrics. While not an easy piece of music to digest early on there are rewards here for those who give it some time. I am not with those who find "love hate" to be the best modern Italy has to offer but it is a fascinating album for fans of "night" prog and fans of VDGG style bands, and it certainly is 3-star turf for me. The booklet contains full lyrics and nice artwork for each track.

Report this review (#233917)
Posted Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my review of their debut album, I wrote that this band is a very talented band which may deliver a great album one day......... or something to that effect. Well, they have just delivered this album.

Areknames continues down the same path from the debut album........ with some subtle changes. The album starts as a mix of Trouble and Kings's X and I was fearing the worst for during the first minute of this album. But this album soon clicked into gear, read a straight Van Der Graaf Generator worship. It is well known that both Yes and Genesis has their copycat bands. Marillion, Realm, Starcastle, Druid and numerous others. Van Der Graaf Generator has Areknames in their fan club, nee copycat club.

Well, straight copycats, Areknames is not. They have actually their own ID. This album is pretty heavy with a lot of Trouble vibes. The Genesis influences is more or less ditched on this album. There are some symphonic prog vibes here, but they are more in the direction of some RPI bands than just Genesis. PFM for example. But this album is very heavy, as in Wagnerian heavy and not in heavy metal heavy. The classical composer Richard Wagner has a lot to answer for on this album.

The quality is great throughout. There are some outstanding passages throughout and this album never fails to impress. There are no killer tracks here though. This album is also very long (seventy-eight minutes !), but I have no problems staying awake throughout despite of the lack of the dot over the i which would had elevated this album to a deserved classics status. This album also renews my interest in Van Der Graaf Generator too. In my view, this is a great album which in particular will brighten up the lives of the VDGG fans here and other epic prog fans. I cannot wait to listen to their new album.

4 stars

Report this review (#297407)
Posted Saturday, September 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a first album in 2003, critically well respected and appreciated, and responding to incongruent expectations of those who dreamed of hearing VDGG interpreted by a group from the Canterbury scene, Areknames gave us Love Hate Round Trip, two-headed, so obviously between the monstrous and the all too human. On the cover of the booklet, a picture of a suburban street; probably from a Anglo-Saxon town. Close-up a flight of four steps of a gray-brown staircase, bordered by a same color stone wall, leading, as a line of flight, to a funeral store background. The letters of the sign of the shop appear upside. Gillman Funeral Service. In the foreground, written on the wall with white paint, the album title: Love Hate Round Trip, a real announcement of what it contains. The reality is a yo-yo, the constant change alone. From love to hate, dark to light, a permanent round trip. "The vortex of passion / Makes us alive and dead / At the Saami time". Inside the booklet there is the same aesthetic state of mind. The text of each song is illustrated by a picture or a dark and mystical painting, the image of this painting by Balthus or Bosch that can not leave us indifferent. A photo of the group in silhouette in the evening light closes the book. We do not even distinguish the faces. This mysterious shot overcomes the traditional list of acknowledgments where one crosses a multitude of names, some known and famous, whose presence here seems logical (Colosseum, Frost, Man, Wicked Mind of course), or seems surprising (Agitation Free, Wishbone Ash, Chocolate Watch Band, Mahavishnu Orchestra). The booklet also tells us that we will hear trumpet on several occasions. Stefano Colombi is this time sought full- time guitarthrough beautifully subtle arrangements, very technical and inventive soli. Then it will be found that the main difference with the previous album is the most important place given to this instrument even if keyboard parts are important (except for the melloton who is more discreet). Despite these changes, these innovations, music Areknames may seem familiar (especially for fans of VDGG). First we think to know it by heart, but that's not counting on its mutability, the way to change according to the strength and condition of our soul. Depending on the angle of approach (by car, concert, with friends or alone with our pain), its appearance is changed by what happens to us.
Report this review (#1314254)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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