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Moth Vellum

Symphonic Prog

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3 stars Moth Vellums debut album is currently getting more play than anything else in my house. It confirms my love of symphonic prog above other sub genres, despite a recent attempt to embrace prog metal. Moth Vellum are hardly the most original band in the history of prog. Their music falls somewhere between 'Going for the One' Yes, and mid period Collins Genesis, with a few Floyd references on the lead guitar front. That said, their strength, purely and simply is in the songs, which are all marvellous.

Ryan Downes 'J.Anderson-esque' vocals, mean that that their Yes influence comes across stronger than their other leanings. Indeed, some of the harmonies are very reminiscent of Yes. At times however, the vocals hint towards a late 80's Geddy Lee and even Sting! The Chorus to 'Whalehead' could have been done by The Police just prior to their 'Synchronicty' era. This is one of my favourite songs on the album; full of strong melodies and changing moods throughout. The crystal clear production allows the atmospherics and dynamics on this album come across beautifully. There's no bad tracks, but I guess 'Whalehead' 'Let the Race begin' and 'Salvo' are probably the strongest pieces, in terms of memorability and fine musical performances from the whole band. There is some wonderfull piano work, great guitar solos and some good dramatic percussion.

Moth Vellum are not going to win any awards for originality, like I said. They are basically just enjoying making good quality symphonic prog rock, and seemingly cramming in as many references to their heroes as they can. Everyone from the 'Happy the Man' to Rush, through Genesis, Yes and Floyd get a nod. This is a sit back and relax album, with an emphasis on lush soundscapes built upon soaring vocals, melodic guitar, classical piano and discreetly spiralling synths. Don't expect to be grabbed by the balls and swung around the room by this work, but do expect to indulge in what is a collection of excellent songs. On that alone, I'm happy to award this album 3.5 stars. In the right mood, and if I were the kind to get so stoned I could hardly stand, I would probably rate it the best album I'd ever ;-)

Report this review (#164281)
Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars This is a new USA four piece band that released their eponymous debut CD in 2007, the music sounds like a happy marriage between Mr. Yes (Going For The One era) and Mrs. Genesis (around Wind & Wuthering). We can enjoy six tastefully arranged, melodic and accessible compositions featuring beautiful and varied Steve Howe-like guitar work (from twanging and use of volume pedal to steel guitar and fiery runs), lush vintage keyboards (from flashy Minimoog flights to soaring Mellotron waves) and Jon Anderson-like vocals. In general the climates are dreamy or compelling, at some moments you can hear fluent breaks or bombastic eruptions. I had preferred a bit more of those moments because in some parts of the longer tracks my attention tends to slip away, the marriage between Mr. Yes and Mrs. Genesis could have had a bit more positive tension! But the running time of this album is around one hour and during the 60 minutes I have heard lots of very pleasant 'vintage keyboard driven symphonic rock' with the atmospheres of 'classic' Yes and Genesis, I think the romantic progheads and symphomaniacs will be very pleased with this CD. My rating 3,5 stars.
Report this review (#176307)
Posted Monday, July 7, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This, so far only album from USA symphonic proggers Moth Vellum turned out to be a pleasant surprise. While having one foot firmly in the seventies they add to this a more contemporary sound. The seventies influences are most evident in a resemblance to Yes at times, particular with Johannes Luley's Steve Howe- esque guitar parts. Vocalist and bassist Ryan Downe while not exactly sounding like Jon Anderson shares some of the Yes mans vocal qualities and you could certainly imagine Anderson wrapping his tonsils round this stuff.

The band all play well on the mainly lengthy compositions giving them ample opportunity to stretch out with some enjoyable instrumental work. As well as Luley's guitar playing Tom Lynham and Matt Swindells also turn in fine performances on keyboards and drums respectively and as well as being a fine singer Downe knows his way round his bass fretboard. The music has a mellow vibe much of the time though they do have their more bombastic moments and the subtle vocal melodies really get under the skin after a few plays. Rather than going through each track individually I found listening to the whole album an enjoyable experience but the 13 and a half minute Salvo was particularly enjoyable for some of the strongest vocal melodies and dynamic instrumental workouts.

I'll certainly look forward to the next Moth Vellum album and if you're a fan of Yes I'd certainly recommend checking this one out.

Report this review (#201151)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another blind dive in the endless pool of prog of which most is to be found on this site as it should be. But this time it wasn't PA that introduced me despite the stream track available here. I just saw it in the store listened to the opening song and decided to go for it.

And indeed the opening track is one of the better of the album, so in this case it was a wise thing to do by the band to put a good song up front. But I noticed through the years that many bands are this clever so I think the record companies will have a hand in this also. Anyway Let the Race Begin is a very melodic tune with some great keyboards on several occasions in the song. Accessible but still real proggy. 4*.

The second song is the reason this band is said to have Yes elements, the exaggeraters amongst us call them a Yes clone immediately because of it, this song is 90% Yes for sure, especially the guitarist sounds a lot like Steve Howe. I can tell you not all you hear on the album is Yes immitation. 3,5*.

Third track is the stream track, Salvo, and this gives you a pretty good idea of what Moth Vellum is about. It's a very versatile track consisting of many different parts and styles. If you think Moth Vellum is a Yes clone, dead wrong on this song because I can truly hear In the Cage by Genesis at around the 10:00 mark. But earlier in the song I also hear hints to Glass Hammer, seems to me this is simply symphonic prog we are talking about and there will always be comparisons makeable. Could also be of course this band is not willing to deny their roots and just admits it. Besides all these statements I believe this song is the highlight of the album. 4,25*.

Against the Suns is a very mellow song but in a nice way I have to admit. This is not annoyingly cheesy, well maybe at a few moments but overall it's dreamy and relaxed. Another example of the good variation there is to be found on this album. 3,75*.

Walk it Off is exactly the same length as previous song (11:22) and is also a bit in the same easy listening style just less dreamy and a bit more aggressive with some resemblance to Wakeman (church)organ after 5 minutes. There's almost as much variation as on Salvo, I really like this feature of Moth Vellum. 4*.

Against the Suns (reprise) is same as the lengthy version a nice laid back track that's easily digested. 3,75*.

Summarized I can say this is a very promising debut by this American band. I would like to recommend this album to all lovers of Symphonic Prog and I feel more of our reviewers and guests should give this band a try because 7 ratings for such a high class album is ridiculously low. 4 stars well deserved.

Report this review (#202250)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 70's Prog rebirth

I heard about these guys on Amazon, based on a recommendation from purchases. I checked out the sound samples provided and was intrigued. So I picked up the CD.

Love it! I normally am not a fan of the spacey, or mellow Prog, but material on this release is great. I was hearing elements of so many early Prog bands, especially Yes, Camel, and Genesis. But is is not simply copycat old Prog. They introduce some post rock elements as well.

The very unexpected highlight of the album for me was the guitar solo work in the middle of Salvo. Guitarist Johannes Luley must be a student of Steve Howe because I found myself thinking how perfectly it would be a Yes song. I find the vocalist's style to fit the band nicely as well.

This is a worthy CD to pick up, although I don't believe it to be a must have. I do look forward to a future release from these guys who also have a link to ProgArchives on their webpage, so you know they are totally into the genre.

4/5 stars

Report this review (#225110)
Posted Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was certainly another unexpected surprise from the USA, already throwing me for a loop with the Astra debut album the Weirding. These California boys are heavily indebted to Yes what with Johannes Luley's crisp Steve Howe-like guitar playing, Tony Lynham's elegant keyboard work and Ryan Downie's occasionally high-pitched bellow that recalls Jon Anderson. I do not feel like they are a Yes clone a la Starcastle, truth is they have a style that is structurally different from their idols , incorporating fresh elements that wink at other past prog legends (the Steve Hillage-like vocal and guitar mood on the otherwise hippy- trippy "Against the Suns", for example ). The opener "Let the Race Begin" is aptly titled, an immediate deep water symphonic dive into their luxuriant prog-rock, influences loosely worn on their cuffs. On occasion as on the palpitating "Whalehead", the harmony vocal work and crunchy guitar swaths certainly hint at the classic sound but it's never overpowering or overt. Drummer Matt Swindells hints more at Alan White square rock style than Bruford's complex poly rhythmics. "Salvo" in particular reveals itself to be a modern symphonic masterpiece, with a thundering drum-fueled intro that blooms into some low-key moods, the choppy bass upfront like you know who and a rumbling synthesized steamroller that devastates in its wake. The dreamy sections recall Hillage-era psychedelia, Downie's sweet voice almost female in timbre with sparse instrumental passages, until a soaring, "reach for the skies" slide guitar explosion takes over in perfect timing. The unhurried restraint is wholly evident here and is to be commended , a clear sign of musical genius and artistic confidence. A pinch of Genesis and Rush only add to the glee. The sweeping guitar makes a resonating appearance once again amid the dense symphonics, keeping the arrangement pulsating and vibrant. "Against the Suns" is an epic yet gentle adventure into a variety of moods and atmospheres, almost ambient at times, that further entices the listener's desire for sonic escape. The brief Gong-era psychedelic tendencies are explicit, loopy synth patterns vying with the melody and vocals, love being the theme espoused. Slick strumming only adds to the joy. "Walk it Off" is of the same length, offering more sonic introspection and exquisite interplay, never coming off showoff-ish or overblown. I deeply admire obvious artistic restraint and Moth Vellum seems to know the prog groove drill: "Keep it cool yet exciting". Massive contrasts in sound and volume, mood and atmosphere make this a highlight track, a wonderful playground to enjoy and exalt in. The brightly sad vocals here peculiarly recall Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree notoriety with a dash of Sting and of course a hint of Anderson. When Luley's axe gets huffy and puffy, we are rewarded by some anxiously delectable moments, a lush piano side door opens when least expected, marshalling the track back onto the main road. The exit section becomes experimental, recalling Happy the Man in complexity and scope, offering up great backing vocals, a bopping bass line, a series of volume pedal guitar solos and some sassy interplay in between. The sparkling debut disc waves goodbye with an engaging reprise of "Against the Suns" with its raspier vocal, placid lilt, pillowed sonic clouds resting against the warm rays, an intricately woven guitar excursion lays this one to rest, sweeping strings in the background. Bravo, all around , look very much forward to their sophomore release.

4 deserved butterfly parchments

Report this review (#245069)
Posted Saturday, October 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I really do enjoy this musical and accessible album. The gorgeous guitar lines are reminiscent of Steve Howe at times and Danny Gatton at others while the keyboards remind me of Peter Bardens providing soundscapes for Andrew Latimer's guitar discussions on the best of Camel's music.

Let the Race Begin is of the of the Steve Howe/Peter Bardens genre. An epic musical statement using all the prog signatures in the book: time and key changes, sweeping synths and really great soaring vocals. Really an impressive first song for one's catalog.

Whalehead is great. Nice acoustic guitar and piano with vocal and musical hooks that could almost be a better grade of alternative. However, mixed in with this acoustic journey are the classic tones of what sounds like a Fender Telecaster a la Brent Mason.

Salvo starts with a salvo. Great drums! Great vocals too against ever changing time signatures and aggressive guitar and keyboards. Switching gears then into a spacy vocal backed up with very adventerous music. Bass is great here and supports the song beautifully. Slide guitar fits right in and brings me into a Porcupine Tree state of mind. Using the word great a lot here.

Against the Suns is my favorite selection. Moody and dark arpeggio chords and a very strong vocal. Sounds a little like Sean Lennon's Into the Sun album. Chorus gives me goosebumps it's so musical and melodic. Really impressive songwriting and execution. I love listening to this song.

Cool guitar harmonics and a little sax opens Walk it Off, CD101.9 anyone? Just kidding but kinda jazzy with really great falling keys. I never could play this stuff. Moves into a stone fusion mode with some cool synthesiser. Vocals then highlight the song and here's the definite Sting comparison, jazzy and clear. Bass is strong in this tune too and overall it's...well great.

Against the Sun Reprise continues the journey started two songs ago. Smart to bring back such lush musicality and melody. This is why I love prog so much, the music wraps around you and compels your full attention. Oh my, with all of that here comes that genius Tele guitar work again, wow!

Great stuff Moth Vellum. I'll be looking for your next album and thanks for making such great music, I'm a fan and I'm giving this one five stars I love it so much. .

Report this review (#258684)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well probably Mr Tom Lynham (keyboards, drums) & Johannes Luley (guitars) are the main masterminds of the present work, reminding me of the mellow side concerning the light prog music (like within the 70's soft classic- romantic and ipnotic- music genre, I mean...), but I should say that this latter is a bit enriched with the space rock sound of the German light symphonic bands here, even though always in accordance to the tradition of the seventies. Of course the vintage instrumentation doesn't help you to "distinguish" their sound, in comparison to a couple of famous bands like the early Yes and the last Genesis band with Steve Hackett...nevertheless there's something modern in their debut album, but also something else (above all the mood) in the vein of Pink Floyd and almost equal to the experience of the most interesting prog bands in Germany, like Nektar, Eloy and Anyone' s daughter for example. Of course the melodies are not bad, even though not always inspiring, nevertheless the "captivating" vocals, sometimes reminding me of Jon Anderson and Geddy Lee, make this album quite worth checking out at least!! "Let the race begin" is a good opener, but if I think of the work performed by P. Bardens with Camel (early period from "Moonmadness" and "Mirage") , I keep on listening to them and soon forget the sound of Moth Vellum, from California,,,naturally it's a question of personal preferences, but if you talk about a "modern" prog sound, I think of Echolyn or once again of the art rock created by US "Don Caballero" for instance (despite of these latter producing a different music-genre ten years ago); instead the other tunes are in the average and the guitar excursions more inspiring in comparison to the contribution of the other musicians.

However at the end a mention for the bass player/vocalist (Ryan Downe) and for the drummer/vocalist Matt Swindells as well must be done , cause I respect their work very much and then...well make your own choice as usual and perhaps you could add an half star at least!

Report this review (#266728)
Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Many times a really solid prog (symphonic in particular) effort requires multiple listens before one can make a coherent and valid appraisal of what one hears. I found it not so with this marvelous debut by Moth Vellum. It drew me in and fascinated me, while swirling around my lobes, not to be taken in all at once, but in pieces and riffs. But the first dive was a highly pleasant one.

Subsequent listens have revealed more of the contemporary side of this band, and it, too, is extremely pleasant. There are 70's sensibilities here as well as more 21st century vibes. It is highly beneficial to listen to the entire recording from start to finish, although each track is a tasty hors douvres on their own.

Hare to tell what bands had the most influence here, the mix is so convoluted from any one source. You listen and decide.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#269619)
Posted Thursday, March 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Moth Vellum Moth Vellum is only my second exposure to a group whose sound is mostly neo-Yes group (Glass Hammer being the other). While I agree that "Whalehead" and "Salvo" sound very much like out of some outtakes from the The Yes Album to Going for the One era of Yes, it is a very much mellower Yes, and the remainder of the album presents Moth Vellum with its very own identity. Sure there are guitar sounds similar to Steve Howe, and a vocalist similar to Jon Anderson (though with far simpler and more accessible lyrics), but the keyboards and song structures are, IMO, much more akin to those of Tony Banks, and the vocalist sounds much more, to me, like Buggles'/Drama-era's Geoff Downes or Rush's Geddy Lee. Still, a very nice collection of songs very high standards. The drums and bass playing are rock solid if unspectacular throughout, the melodies and chord progressions are almost always very catchy and ear-pleasing. The soli are very rarely deserving of Yes-like superlatives yet do a fine job of entertaining and engaging.

1. "Let the Race Begin" has a nice neo-symphonic prog feel to it, some Yes feel to it, but, largely establishing Moth Vellum as their own entity. Something about the lyric and vocal melody I don't like. Perhaps a bit too simple. 8/10

2. "Whalehead" has a 'mellow Yes' feel with a Rush-like vocal chorus. Howe-like guitar playing must surely be the aim for the familiarity is unquestionable. Here, as with "Salvo" the vocal harmonies are most imitative of the above-mentioned 1972-76 period of Yes. Nice song. 6/10

3. "Salvo" begins a bit like a Genesis Nursery Crymes, or Selling England by the Pound song (and ends like "The Knife" or "Giant Hogweed"), though the first solo, given to the keys, is taking full advantage of all of the technological advances made in the 80s and 90s. The 3:15 mark marks the first time of many on this album in which I thought I was hearing a female lead vocalist. (Nice voice, Ryan!) Really a beautiful voice. (Same effect whenever Ryan sings slowly, as on "Against the Suns" and "Against the Suns (Reprise)"). The 'Yes Effect' really makes its presence known at about the 6:30 mark. From there one feels as if you're floating between grooves of The Yes Album and those of Close to the Edge. Really quite a pretty song?very engaging in a way that Yes sometimes . . . wasn't. 8/10

4. "Against the Suns" slows it down quite a bit. Melodies and chord progressions are quite simple?kind of a Wind and Wuthering feel to it. I like the vocals of this song quite a lot?as cheesie as they kind of are. The slow pace also allows for enough space in which to hear many of the subtleties that are often lost among fuller, more dynamic, power-chord crunching songs or song parts. A nice "Close to the Edge"-like quiet period beginning at the 4:00 minute mark preceeds a Rush/Marillion vocal, Howe guitar bridge to a beautifully melodic love-groove section right out of a great Gino Vanelli song. Enter a very cool and unexpected Wes Montgomery-Chris Squire conversation and then lead to fade with a Hackett-Rutherford-Banks foray. Great song. Very fresh even after 50 listens. 9/10

5. My favorite song on the album, "Walk it Off," I had trouble liking until I finally got the lyrics. Now I can get passed the songs ONLY flaw: the chorus. Sounding somewhat like our friends from Down Under, Unitopia, this song is very exciting with several melodic 'hooks' which get introduced separately, repeatedly, and even get layered harmonically at times. Very reminiscent of the winning tricks of Big Big Train, especially as used on their masterpiece, The Difference Machine. I also love the moments of almost campy Broadway musical theatrics (e.g. 7:45). But then we return to one of the great instrumental riffs?this time taken over from the keys by a very un-Howe-like fuzz/distorted guitar before fading out with the intro's guitar's harmonic arpeggios. 9/10

6. "Against the Suns (Reprise)" is a mellow "Afterglow" type of piece in which everybody seems to get to loosen up and let the last bits of expression fly from their fingertips in a kind of "late-night, it's time for bed" loosely structured jazz format. A great wind-down song. 9/10

A VERY pleasurable and OFT-repeated listen. I think it will stand up well over time?perhaps even better than a lot of Yes because of its simpler, more melodic sounds. Can't quite give it a five, but I sure want to!

Report this review (#278549)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Interesting little prog band from the USA. Their debut (and so far, only) album is quite promising. It is clear by the first notes Moth Vellum´s first and foremost influence: Yes. The guitar lines are very much in the vein of Steve Howe (although not as good as the original, of course), and the bass player´s high pitched vocals do remind a little too much of that of Jon Anderson´s. Overall the sound is much lighter than classic Yes, though. The keyboards are more in the background and the drumming is much simpler. The songs are also not generally as elaborated as one should expect from a symphonic band. But the results are good nevertheless.

Not much more to say about them. If you enjoy the simple side of prog, specially the one of Yes, this CD is a good pick. They have nice melodies and the guitarrist is very good. To me the record´s highlight is Walk It Off, a nice tune that has a quite poignant guitar solo at the end. Salvo is another ttrack that shows the band being a bit more daring in their songwriting and arrangements. The vocals can be a little annyoing at times, but less then I thought initially. I´m really looking forward to hear their follow up, since they seem to have everything to grow into something big if they decide to be a little bolder next time.

Report this review (#321762)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars This is another album that I was sent quite some time ago, but for some reason it wasn't reviewed when it should have been. I have been searching the web but can't find any indication that this band is still going, which is a real shame as this is a bloody good listen. It brings together the sound of classic groups like Yes and The Moody Blues and mixes it up with more recent acts like Porcupine Tree and especially Mr So & So to bring together a sound that is accessible and inviting. Sure, there will be some critics who feel that there isn't anything dramatically new and that this is another prog band that is looking backwards instead of forwards but there is nothing wrong with that to my ears. This is genuinely an album that progheads will listen to with a smile on their faces and isn't that what music is all about?

This Californian quartet, Tom Lynham (keyboards, drums), Johannes Luley (guitars, producer), Ryan Downe (bass player/vocalist) and Matt Swindells (drummer/vocalist), have produced a prog album that sounds great and while they have the opportunity to show off their skills and vocal talents this is all about a great set of six songs, with half of them breaking the ten minute barrier yet never being too long. Overall this is a fun album that is well worth hearing.

Report this review (#813740)
Posted Saturday, September 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Moth Vellum from USA is quite an unknown and unfairly overlooked symphonic prog band to larger public, they had release in 2007 a selftitled debute. Well, this is strong and promising album with lot to offer. Long pieces with quirky instrumental passages, a warm and pleasent voice and good production overall. The band was formed and aswell is conducted by Tom Lynham and Johannes Luley. who done a good job here, both on guitars and keyboards. I was stroke how much the sound and arrangements are similar with Druid, even the voice is almost same with Dane Stevens from Druid. Also some Yes atmosphere on some parts, specially on guitar , Going for the one era specially.. The album starts very strong and with a very intresting tune named Let the Race Begin, this is an elegant type of symphonic prog, how must sound this style, catchy , inventive with blistering keyboards moements and very strong musicianship. In fact all tracks are particulary good, no weak moments here, the rhytmic section is brilliant, specially on opening track and Walk it Off. Long pieces where each musicin had time to shine on his instrument and created some spectacular moments overall. Intresting cover art. 4 stars for this little album, strong with plenty of memorable passages, symphonic prog fans must take some spins because worth it.

Report this review (#817945)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hailing from California was this band called Moth Vellum which started by a duo of Tom Lynham (keyboards, drums) & Johannes Luley (guitars, producer).They soon added Ryan Downe (bass player/vocalist) and Matt Swindells (drummer/vocalist) to complete the line-up and the result was the recording of their 2007 self titled debut. They combine the best of Yes, Genesis, Camel as well as modern bands like Moon Safari, Metaphor and Circa with a style all of their own. Very recognizable yet fresh to hear. This is one of those few albums that you can listen to straight through without even noticing the time going by. The flow from song to song is seamless giving it an almost concept album quality to it. Each song on this debut is as good as the other but if I had to pick a highlight or representation of what the band is all about, I'd pick "Against The Suns" Even picking that song, I still think the whole album is the very good.

Here's yet another band that released an album under the prog radar that deserves much more attention than it's received (which is very little). Unfortunately the band formally disbanded in 2010, for me a strong 4 star!

Report this review (#1287892)
Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 | Review Permalink

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