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OF SUN AND MOON

Overhead

Crossover Prog


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Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Finnish band OVERHEAD has been a unit for 13 years at this point, and 2012 marks their 10th anniversary of their debut album "Zumanthum". "Of Sun and Moon" is their fourth full length studio production, and was released by the German label Progressive Promotion Records in the summer of 2012.

Overhead's fourth studio album "Of Sun and Moon" is a production that, despite some detours into slightly unexpected waters, first and foremost comes across as a strong recording within the accessible, melodic progressive rock segment: strong melodies, strong and powerful vocals, compact and energetic arrangements. I'd estimate that fans of Sylvan should be something of a key audience for this production, and in particular those amongst them who enjoy the likes of Porcupine Tree.

Report this review (#800291)
Posted Saturday, August 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
VanVanVan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It's astounding (and a little bit depressing, really) how many gems seem to slip through the cracks. I hadn't heard of this band before I started reviewing their latest album, and from what I've heard it certainly seems a shame to me that they're not being talked about more. This is hard-rocking, eclectic crossover prog in the vein of Fair to Midland, with a wide variety of audible influences and an impressive degree of genre bending.

The album begins with "Lost Inside 2," which makes use of an eclectic riff and some Dream Theater-esque textures to create a very interesting mix of heavy and light music. An anthemic chorus gives the track a bit of extra kick, as does an absolutely wicked synth solo in the middle of the track. All of the instrumental interplay is brilliant as well, with guitars, percussion and synth all melding in a way that makes each instrument sound like a piece of something greater; there's none of the overly flashy pyrotechnics from one instrument in particular that often make a track sound overly busy. Instead, the musicians work together, and the track is that much better for it.

"Berlin" has a bit more of an accessible flavor to it, with another great riff and another great chorus that reminds me heavily of Fair to Midland (and I mean that as quite a favorable comparison). A slick and very interesting guitar solo takes up a good chunk in the final third of the track, and there's a great reprise of the chorus before the track ends rather abruptly.

Fortunately, "An Afternoon of Sun and Moon" begins straight away, with a softer sound than the previous tracks that reminds me of a combination of Fair to Midland (again) and Muse. It's a fascinating sound that clearly draws influence from a lot of different sources, but it also sounds incredibly fresh and should have a lot of crossover appeal who to those who don't necessarily like straight prog or straight alt-rock. The group does a great job with the overall atmosphere of the track, and as a result it ends up being every bit as interesting as the first two tracks even if it doesn't hit quite as hard. It certainly doesn't hurt that it's as hooky as all- get-out, either.

"Aftermath" begins in a similar vein, with an understated, slightly electronic sounding groove and some slightly mixed-back vocals. It's a very laid back atmosphere, and it really highlights the brief punctuation of heavier guitar riffs throughout the track. Once again, the chorus is very catchy, and there's a very cool flute solo at the end that provides an interesting contrast to the rest of the instrumentation.

"Syriana" starts with some punchy percussion before launching into a wild, slightly eastern- sounding theme. At risk of sounding like a broken record, the track (at least to my ears) once again carries a strong Fair to Midland vibe, and carries on the tradition the group has established thus far of having a strong chorus, though this one is perhaps a bit less bombastic than some of the previous ones. A wonderfully weird, distorted, howling guitar solo takes the track into its final vocal section, which is surprisingly tender and restrained given the instrumental it follows.

"Grotte" is the shortest track on the album, but it's also one of the most interesting, with a kind of tribal groove from percussion and bass backing up a very fluid, expressive guitar solo. Fully instrumental, it's quite an eclectic little piece of music, with a huge variety of aural textures blending together to create a small but very densely composed piece. The genre- bending is impressive as well (as it has been on the whole album so far), with strong elements from space rock, progressive folk and of course alt-rock all showing through. "Grotte" is one of my favorite tracks on the album despite its brevity, and I have a suspicion that many of my fellow progheads will think similarly.

"Last Broadcast," on the other hand, is far more stripped down. Spare but nonetheless hauntingly beautiful, the track makes use of psychedelic guitar and understated bass along with what sounds like a whistle to create an intro that sounds like Ennio Morricone could have composed it if he had sat down with Pink Floyd and had a jam session. Once vocals enter, the track takes on a bit of a different flavor, retaining all of the beauty of its introduction but morphing into something more intimate. The vocals here are among the best on the album, with the slightly raw delivery perfectly complimenting the spare, atmospheric music. Even more impressive is the fact that the most laid-back track on the album is also among the longest, and it stays compelling throughout its entire duration by utilizing the "rising and falling" of the musical intensity in a way that's highly reminiscent of many post-rock recordings. There's a brief section of tempo acceleration toward the end of the song that brings the track to a chaotic close, setting a foil to its calm beginnings but transitioning beautifully into the next track, "Alive." The penultimate song on the album kicks off with a great deal of energy, and features some great vocal hooks to complement its heavier sound. There are some electronic elements filling out the background that, by their direct or indirect influence, really highlight the far- reaching influence of Kraftwerk, and serve to give the track a very refreshing feeling. There's some great instrumental soloing towards the end of the track as well, and the galloping flute/guitar duet in the track's final 90 seconds is amazing.

"Angels and Demons" begins with an intro that sounds shockingly like Song for America-era Kansas, but it quickly delves into a more standard alt-rock vein, though the flute part certainly helps to set it apart. The chorus, once again, is excellent, and though the different sections of the track sound perhaps a bit jagged when put together, "Angels and Demons" is a great track to end the album with and it's the kind of song I would imagine would be very fun to see live. The guitar and flute combo is once again very effective, and the track closes as it began, with the big, bombastic, "Lamplight Symphony"-esque theme that finishes the album off on an appropriately grand note.

Overall, then, Of Sun and Moon is a very good album and it's an excellent entry into the genre of crossover prog. Those who think pure symphonic is too long winded and pure metal isn't catchy enough should find a perfect balance of elements here, and prog fans looking to convert their friends to the genre may find a perfect starting point here. I'd also heavily recommend the album to anyone who enjoys Fair to Midland, as I can hear a lot of similarities here. A very solid effort from what is obviously a very talented group of players and songwriters.

4/5

Report this review (#831796)
Posted Monday, October 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Overhead is a progressive band from Finland and their fourth and latest studio album is a real treasure full of innovation and masterful musicianship. Each composition has a diverse structure, rather different from the track preceding it, and in this the album exudes a refreshing feeling as the music tends to move from heavy metal riffs to tranquil passages of beauty. The emotional music is helped by the diversity in musical instruments; Alex Keskitalo is an excellent flautist, along with very effective vocals throughout, Jaakko Kettunen adds aggression on heavy guitars, and some wonderful soloing, Tarmo Simonen augments the sound with ambient keyboards, and piano, along with swathes of synthesizers, Janne Pylkk'nen holds things together on bass, with some infectious grooves to hook into, and all is overseen with the accomplished percussion work of Ville Sj'blom.

The album begins with definitive prog metal on 'Lost Inside 2', with some Dream Theater riffs, and an epic chorus. This is soon followed by 'Berlin', that has a melodic guitar phrase and some soaring solo work sprinkled over the top. Almost seamlessly 'An Afternoon of Sun and Moon' takes over and is definitely a break away from the heavy intricate riffing to make way for the sweet sound of keyboards and gentler nuances. It even has a reggae rhythm and some odd vocals that move from clean low tones to a high register. The chorus builds well with electro melodies and retro synths. Next is 'Aftermath' that sounds unique with an electronic pulse and lovely harmonies. The guitar reverb has a spacey vibe, and alternative style vox enhances the feel. The chorus gets heavier as the guitars crash in. The synth really shines on this and is effectively high pitched and smooth in texture, and there is a flute sound combating the more heavier sounds; like Ultravox meets Dream Theater.

The drums are rather erratic on 'Syriana' that purposefully encompasses Oriental nuances. The rhythm is jagged and has a very different style to previous tracks. A spacey middle section reminds me of the glistening chiming keyboards on The Doors' 'Riders On The Storm'. A highlight of this is the extended lead guitar solo that powers out some tremendous licks. This one is a rollercoaster ride of eclectic styles and one of the highlights. 'Grotte' follows as an instrumental with tribal drums and scorching guitar work, absolutely mesmirising and with some very fast arpeggios and hammering. The flute is silky smooth and haunting. Parts of this have a spacey atmosphere and overall it is a beautiful piece of music leading to the bombastic final tracks.

'Last Broadcast' is a psychedelic track especially enhanced with fuzzy guitar and spacey textures. The vocals are nicely performed here, some of the best on the album, and there is an electronic vibe that is endearing breaking away from the heavier riffs. The lyrics are memorable, 'electrified, or to not let go, to softly say no, electrified, like I'm always lost in snow, gone.' Parts of this are very dreamy, but it has a downbeat darkness and the guitar distortion is lurking around the corner ready to break through. Eventually the guitars return and powers out a simple but effective riff, and the structure spins out of control in an extended coda to draw it to a satisfying conclusion. This is one of the best songs I have heard over recent years.

'Alive' is a mini epic with very strong vocals and uplifting melodies. The guitar soloing is incredible and it competes nicely with the flute as the two instruments trade off nicely. The melodies on this are more uplifting and again the vocals are excellent. The album is absolutely improving on every track which makes a pleasant change. I love the melodies on this and the lyrics in that infectious chorus, 'we're coming alive again, the silence has ended, it's morning the dawning of everything, coming in from the cold, the kaamos descending, tomorrow from beyond the sea.' After the second chorus the rhythm moves to a kind of techno disco feel and this is curiously effective. I love the synth swirls and the pulsating disco bass pulse. It is such a diverse detour into this style that it works beautifully balancing out all the heaviness preceding. As the crystalline synths chime and the flute warbles dreamily through there are outbursts of distorted guitar. Eventually a crunching riff dominates and I love that sound at 5:30. Synths join in with a darkened melody and some crashing percussion beats. There is a false ending and then we are treated to a glorious lead guitar break with soaring string bends and this culminates on another chorus to bring it to an end. Easily the greatest track on the album for me as I have rarely heard such a retro 80s sound merged with the current metal vibe done so brilliantly.

'Angels and Demons' closes the album with another melodic uplifting song driven by guitars and some wonderful flute. This one has a Therion style cinematic feel with bombastic epic intro and an odd time sig in the verses. Again the style diversifies with time changes, and flute trilling. An extended lead break balances out staccato piano breaks with Zorba the Greek banging notes, and more retro synths and operatic vocals. This one is deliriously all over the place and it is glorious.

The album packaging is creative with some weird schematic drawings of the human anatomy and other odd structures, and all is designed in 3D (it was a nice touch to include the 3D glasses with this album too!). The 3D images jump off the cover in a wonderful digipak gatefold, and it works well as an innovative bonus, along with the lyrics embedded in the design.

At the end of the album one is left with a profound sense that they have heard a special album with some moments of brilliance along the way. The album moves away from the prog metal that launched it, and towards the end the music has transformed into some psychedelic alternative rock. There is even a smattering of some oddball disco beats, but it all works well to maintain the interest of the listener. I would definitely recommend 'Of Sun and Moon' as a piece of very accomplished musicianship and accessible heavy prog. The vocals are never too raspy and at times are sung with powerhouse emotion. The riffs never dominate for too long and there is enough here to satiate the palate of most proggers who enjoy eclectic prog sounds tinged with spacey psychedelica.

Report this review (#831898)
Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars For those who know me through my facebook page, you'll know I am currently listening to basically every album released in 2012 in the hope that my album of the year would be less biased. Overhead's "Of Sun And Moon" was high on my to-listen-to list, so while searching for a link, I actually found the band were offering downloads for reviewers, so I cashed in. This is also why I am writing this review early, rather than waiting until January to post it in the album of the year reviews. But I can tell you know, with about 200 albums listened, this one sits in 9th place.

I give a lot of 4 star reviews and ratings, so I want to make clear that this is a very high-end 4 star. I could easily justify it being 5 stars, but it would take a bit of avoiding the point. There are definite drawbacks, but what we have here is an accessible, catchy modern prog album with quite a few elements of metal. I personally would have this band in the Heavy Prog section, but I don't know their back catalogue, and there are some definite crossover elements.

This album is metal in a good way though. I have never like the progressive metal where 10 minutes is the minimum and it's not a song without 12 guitar solos and 5 keyboard solos. Overhead use the distortion to good effect, countering the rather wonderful vocal melodies. Anyone who knows me knows that for me, melody is king. Nothing else tops it. If you have a great pop melody, but apply it in a progressive way, I will love you. Always. Even in styles I don't like, such as the Dream Theater clones, I still love bands like Haken and Seventh Wonder for their epic melodies. The vocal parts in "An Afternoon of Sun and Moon", "Aftermath" and "Alive" are enough to make me love it, no matter what style it is in.

So why the 4 star rating? I don't know how to particularly say it. I think it's the crossover-ness of it, along with some of the unnecessary heavy parts. The band takes some odd influences and fuses them into some otherwise great songs, which sometimes sounds off.

But, having said that, I will re-write this review when I do albums of the year in January, and I've got a feeling I'll put it up to 5.

Essentially, this album is Crossover Prog Metal. Another band that's taken this 'style' has been the latest Beardfish, but it's hard to define. This is a great album however. It falls short in musicality and complexity, but makes it all back up with those sort of choruses that you want to blast in your car and sing at the top of your lungs.

Definitely worth a listen, as I can't really compare it to any bands, or even list influences, and any band with their own signature style deserves a listen from everyone.

Report this review (#842782)
Posted Monday, October 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Of Sun and Moon' - Overhead (8/10)

To those who attest progressive rock is dead, I would suggest they simply aren't looking hard enough. To be sure, the 'vintage' approach to prog has long lost its contemporary relevance, and it's become fairly clear that many of those bands have missed the point of what the artistic movement was all about. At the same time however, there are bands out there that have been doing their darnedest to expand the scope of current-day rock music. Bands like Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, and- to a lesser-known degree- The Pineapple Thief, The Tea Club, and Finland's Overhead have successfully revived the spirit of progressive rock music. While some of these- namely Muse- have received recognition that even dwarfs the popular success of bands amidst the progressive scene's early 70s zenith, many of the modern, or 'post-prog' scene's brightest stars have garnered limited attention outside of the style's fans. Overhead are one such act, and one I may never have had the pleasure to hear, had the band themselves not introduced their music to me. Their fourth album and latest venture, 'Of Sun and Moon', consolidates their proggy-yet-accessible style, offering up something that should appeal to prog rock aficionados and newcomers alike. In a word, it's modern progressive rock done right.

Not unlike Muse, Overhead find a powerful blend of styles between alternative rock, prog, and electronica. Also in the vein of Muse, there is a notable focus on traditionally effective songwriting conventions. Although Overhead dares to experiment with 6-8 minute songs towards the end of the album, it's a rare occurrence for Overhead to long ignore a hook, chorus or recurring motif. 'Berlin' and 'Aftermath' each sport anthemic choruses that would rock the airwaves if given the proper chance. Catchy rock rhythms are often paired up with electronic instrumentation to give the band's more energetic moments a nearly danceable element to them. It's commonplace throughout the album to hear frontman Alex Keskitalo's vocal melodies leading the rest of the band. On paper (or screen?) alone, this may appear a more apt description of a pop record than a rock album, much less one of the progressive variety. In fact, it's this use of accessible elements that makes Overhead feel modern in the first place.

I may be misquoting Steven Wilson on this, but the Porcupine Tree frontman once stated (around the time of 'Lightbulb Sun', I believe) that it wasn't the songwriting per se, but the way the songs were executed that made Porcupine Tree a progressive group. The same principle applies to Overhead as well. In spite of the catchy songwriting, Overhead fuel their performance with plenty of sounds plucked straight from prog rock canon. Underneath 'Berlin's driving chorus, there is a thick, spacey keyboard arrangement that makes it sound like they could be rocking out on the moon. 'An Afternoon of Sun and Moon' pairs up memorable melodies with a weird syncopated rhythm and eerie synthesizer atmosphere. 'Grotte' represents Overhead's most proggy elements rolled into a short instrumental; psychedelic guitars, flute solos and musical madness prevail for a few minutes before returning to a relative normalcy. The production and standard of musicianship are as good as you're bound to find, even compared to some of the most successful rock acts out there. Keskitalo's voice can sound a little gruff at times for the band's hook-centric melodies, but he's got a great, distinct tone to his vocals, particularly during the melancholic 'Last Broadcast'. There's some greatness to be heard in the way Overhead present these tracks, and by the end of the album, there's no doubt as to their prog-credibility. I mean, their singer also plays flute, and I'm almost absolutely certain that's had to have happened in progressive rock somewhere.

'Of Sun and Moon' is an ultimately fitting title for this album. There are plenty of things that- at first glance- seem contradictory going into the album. At the end of the day however, Overhead make it work. Darkness and light. Pop and prog. It's a musical direction that's been taken before, and Overhead certainly aren't the first ones to be successful with it. Of course, that shouldn't go any lengths to discredit what the band have accomplished here. To those who may have thought progressive rock was dead, check out Overhead. You might leave the experience with another opinion.

Report this review (#953077)
Posted Thursday, May 2, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Of Sun and Moon is Overhead's fourth studio album released in 2012 ten years after their first album. While they may not be too prolific in output what they lack in quantity they certainly make up for in quality. This is an excellent recording. I am not sure why they are classed as Crossover Prog, this sounds like modern progressive rock grading into prog metal on some tracks.

They havn't tried to emulate the sound of the 1970's but have come up with their own refreshing sound. I remember one reviewer on Progarchives using the term "hard-edged prog" when discussing a Riverside album. That's a fitting discription of the music of Overhead. There is not a dull moment on the entire disk.

The musicianship is first rate, there is plenty of variation between the tracks so they are not repeating the same style track after track. The flute playing of Alex Keskitalo is not as prominent on this album as some of their previous recording, it is used more sparingly but where it appears it is applied to good effect. Alex Keskitalo vocals are good, he has a distinctive voice which is immediately recognizable.

Its hard to pick out a favourite track as most are excellent although track 8 "Alive" would be a standout.

I am not a big fan of progmetal, as it seems to have run its course, with many of the more established bands seemingly run out of ideas (eg. Dream Theater). While it is certainly not prog metal there are many passages throughout the album that morph into a more metallic style but it sounds fresh, innovative and interesting. This should be compulsory listening for all prog metal bands then they might refrain for rehashing the same old sounds.

So in conclusion this is a superb recording, well worth a four star rating.

Report this review (#1260034)
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2014 | Review Permalink

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