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Gentle Knife - Clock Unwound CD (album) cover


Gentle Knife

Crossover Prog

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4 stars The Norwegian 10-piece (now 11!) group debuted two years ago with the eponymous album, which perhaps didn't get the deserved recognition. I used the word "promising" back then, and this new release is a valid answer to the expectations of maturing and artistic progress. There are some changes in the line-up. One more saxophonist has been added, and bright-voiced but slightly amateurish Melina Oz (who mostly sang simultaneously with the male vocalist) is replaced by Veronika Horven Jensen. Only, her excellent voice could have been put to much wider use here. Concerning the large combo, one is bound to estimate how much sonic variety it brings to the music. For the most part, it's not remarkably much.

They play the usual modern, tradition-friendly prog that favours extended song-form, some degree of complexity, and the part-instrumental dynamics, guitar and keyboards upfront. The colourful use of reeds brings some extra, but don't expect a breath-taking sonic rollercoaster ride. However, as a band Gentle Knife (categorized as Crossover Prog) approaches both Symphonic and Eclectic areas with some Neo flavour. One may think of bands such as UNITOPIA, IZZ or DELUSION SQUARED.

As an album whole, the progress is notable. The conceptual debut suffered e.g. from an ill-chosen running order (for example the Crimsonesque instrumental Coda broke the coherence in the end). Clock Unwound starts gently with a moody, classically oriented instrumental featuring mostly piano and trumpet, followed by the edgiest and longest track of the same name. Powerful guitars, but I'm glad the band didn't take a heavier path as too many prog bands tend to do nowadays. The epic proceeds from intensity with wailing saxes to delicate passages with a beautiful flute. The mostly male vocals deepen the emotion. 'Fade Away' starts with an acoustic guitar, flute and Mellotron sample. Male and female vocals appear both in turns and together. It's another fine prog track shifting between delicacy and edginess. Ah, the flute!

'Smother' operates on the rockier side, but it brings a fresh surprise in its jazzy, groovy section. If one hasn't yet noticed how much better the drums are on this album compared to the debut, now it's impossible not to notice. More of that, please! 'Plans Askew' is pretty good too, in its dynamic, semi-instrumental form. The reeds widen the sonic pallette again, though perhaps slightly too cautiously. But then 'Resignation' functions excellently as the closing track, giving a lot of room for the various saxes. This is basically an instrumental featuring low spoken words. - Not necessarily among the most unique prog albums of the year, but very satisfying.

Report this review (#1742431)
Posted Tuesday, July 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars This is the second album from Norwegian act Gentle Knife, but the first I have come across, and to try and give some idea of what it sounds like let's look at the line-up. They have no guests, as with this many people they really don't need any more! It must be one of the largest line-ups of a progressive rock band I have ever come across, but each has their place. Astraea Antal (flutes, woodwinds and visuals), Pål Bjørseth (keyboards, vocals, trumpet), Odd Grønvold (bass), Thomas Hylland Eriksen (sax and woodwinds), Veronika Hørven Jensen (vocals), Håkon Kavli (vocals, guitars), Eivind Lorentzen (guitars and synths), Charlotte Valstad Nielsen (sax), Ove Christian Owe (guitars), Ole Martin Svendsen (drums, percussion) and Brian M. Talgo (samples, words, vocals, visions and artwork) have put together one of the most interesting albums of the year.

That it is progressive is beyond doubt, but as to what sub-genre it belongs to is more of a discussion. The band have been claimed by Crossover, but they could easily have gone into eclectic if it wasn't for the majestic beauty of some of the passages that transcend all thoughts of prog into stunning classic rock pop. The production has a large part to play on this album, and in many ways, can almost be thought of you as yet an additional instrument, as it is the clarity and separateness of all those involved that prevent this from turning into a muddy mess. There is an emotional use of a baritone sax on the fifteen-minute- long title cut where the notes resonate against the gently picked electric guitar with quite devastating effect and impact. They aren't afraid to use volume, driving riffs and screaming guitars when the need is right, or to move from melody into atonal noise where everything crashes together, before moving into yet another space and time.

This is music that is exciting, vibrant and with a controlled chaos that is rarely heard in today's scene. The arrangements are complex and perfectly executed, and in many ways this album is reminiscent of the most rich and fragrant paella one could come across: take a bite, give it a stir, and the next bite could be totally different as firstly one tastes mussels, and the next chorizos, yet at all times the rice is providing a balance and continuity. I think this is the first time I have ever compared an album to food, and I have written many thousands, but this is comfortable, intriguing, welcoming and inviting, just like a good meal. Needless to say, a good drop of South Otago Pinot Noir goes with it very nicely indeed, thank you very much.

In some ways very Seventies, and in others very up to date, this wonderful album should be heard by all progheads. It is simply stunning.

Report this review (#1744547)
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have really mixed opinion about this album. The one hand, I like their song writing, playing and arrangement. I really like that they use so many different instruments in their arrangement! And mix and sound quality are definitely above average. Now, why 3 stars only? You know, there are some things like passion and drive. This record lacks both. It's precise and exact, but somehow sterile. And vocals, a girl and a boy.... The only good thing about the vocals is there are not too much of it on this record. The rest is bad. Very bad. Both male and female vocals are very weak. Nice, but weak. Emotionless. None-engaging. Monotonous. Muffled. Cold. And, on top of it, they are buried in the mix. I suspect (and hope!) that coldness and lack of emotions that plague this otherwise very interesting record caused by poor mix problem. And maybe their vocalists are good, and were just buried in the mix? I'm not a big fan of live records, but I really want to hear this band live to see if they are more emotional than on this record and if they really suffered of cold production and mix. Overall, this promising record sounds like it has been created and recorded by androids. Almost perfect harmonies, arrangement and sound, nice sounding voices, but everything is cold and a bit dull. Don't get me wrong: I don't have anything against androids, especially if they look like Daryl Hannah :). But I hope those guys are not androids and their next record will really shine! P.S. I found some of their live performances on YouTube. They confirmed my opinion: the band is very good, but their vocalists are really weak! Female vocalist is ok, but no more, but the male vocalist is just horrible.
Report this review (#1816201)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Quite an improvement in skill, polish, sophistication, and sound from the band'd self-titled debut three years ago. My favorite part of this band is its use of a broad array of eclectic musical instruments. My criticism is the "oldness" of many of the sounds and sound styles preferred by the band.

1. "Prelude:Incipit" (3:21) low classical piano opening is joined by distant synth voices and then trumpet solo. Nice song, nice intro. Quite cinematic. (9/10)

2. "The Clock Unwound" (15:58) opens with a heavy Scandinavian prog metal sound before settling into a more proggy shifting song. Muted male vocals precede a nice section of extended synth soling. Vocals at the end of the fourth minute, this time female, before being rejoined by the original male. Nice together! At 6:18 everything crescendos and disappears leaving chant-like choral "aaahs" before the song switches melodies and speeds to go a different direction. Nice! Electric guitar lead is quite nice. Another quiet break at 8:15 leads into a slow, spacious, ominous section with a nice pastoral flute solo over the top. Very "Court of the Crimson King"-like but not too imitative. Very nice male vocal performance here followed by another, more-sensitive electric guitar solo and then tenor saxophone. With two minutes to go the pace quickens and the sound palette fills with electric guitar and synths soloing madly over the top as the drums and pace continually speed up. The best work I've heard from this band yet! (9/10)

3. "Fade Away" (7:25) opens with a series of odd electric guitar chords played in slow arpeggi before date synth wash and trumpet join in. Male tenor voice enters to tell his tale in a Leonard Cohen-like style. Enter Veronika to make it a duet. Decent instrumental mid-section, then amazingly sudden shift back to opening themes, sounds, and pacing. Odd song. (7.5/10) 4. "Smother" (8:49) opens with a sound strikingly similar to that of THE REASONING's 2009 album The Awakening before turning Broadway musical at the end of the third minute. Awesome band cohesion in the seventh minute; weird key change at 5:45 followed by another odd jazz trumpet solo (8.5/10)

5. "Plans Askew" (9:22) opens with a few electrified guitars playing a nice little weave before male vocal enters. Reminds me of some Shulman singing. The next section is full of bombast of the "classic rock" era of the 1970s and 80s. At 3:25 the mix finally feels full, pretty. TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA comes to mind. Then at 4:40 we are suddenly brought back to pastoral folk earth. Nice flute and baritone sax play. (8/10)

6. "Resignation" (10:16) interesting and engaging though a little too monotonous for glowing reviews.Spoken word sounds a lot like the voice and approach of another Scandinavian oddity, MAJOR PARKINSON. (8.5/10)

Four stars; a solid effort of progressive rock music worth recommending to others. If this band continues to grow as they have their releases may soon be nearing masterpiece level.

Report this review (#1823078)
Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars GENTLE KNIFE are an eleven piece band out of Norway and this is album number two for them. The thing that impresses me the most about this band are their ideas. This is album so proggy it isn't even funny. Lots of surprises and the male and female vocals have character. We get two woodwinds players, two sax players, a trumpet player and flautist along with the usual instruments.

"Prelude: Incipit" is the intro to the almost 16 minute title track. Dark piano lines greet our ears along with some atmosphere as lonely trumpet cries come and go. This continues throughout. Such an interesting way to start the album. Lots of melancholy and space. The piano starts to pick up just as this track closes as it blends into "The Clock Unwound".

"The Clock unwound" kicks in with power including guitar, drums and more. A nice heavy sound here as male vocals join in. Check out the synths before 1 1/2 minutes. Love the depth of sound here. The tempo slows some 3 1/2 minutes in as female vocals arrive. Both are singing after 4 minutes. The horns have character as well as we get some dissonance. Suddenly this majestic calm arrives before 6 1/2 minutes followed by this gorgeous rhythm that is quite heavy with the guitar soloing over top. So good! It settles back again with a beat and relaxed guitar after 8 minutes then the flute joins in. The male vocals 10 minutes in are reserved and when he stops a second guitar kicks in soloing slowly over top. A bass horn arrives after 12 minutes replacing the soloing guitar. Suddenly 13 1/2 minutes in it turns heavy and dramatic as a beautiful guitar solo arrives. The tempo is picking up and check out the drumming! Great track!

"Fade Away" opens with acoustic guitar as some gorgeous mellotron, a horn and flute joins in followed by reserved male vocals. Drums and female vocals before 1 1/2 minutes as it gets a little fuller sounding. Male and female vocals 2 minutes in then suddenly it kicks into this heavy sound before 2 1/2 minutes. It settles back with mellotron, flute and a beat but it kicks back in heavily once again as contrasts continue. I like that flute/ mellotron passage that comes and goes. The male vocals are back after 5 1/2 minutes with that mellotron, flute and a beat section. Female vocals follow as themes are repeated. A cool track.

"Smother" hits the ground running with guitar over top until the female vocals join in. Catchy stuff. Male vocals and horns too. An interesting section after 3 minutes as it lightens up to an almost whimsical mood with male vocals. Trumpet to the fore after 6 minutes and I like that bass. The vocals are back before 8 minutes along with that earlier sound.

"Plans Askew" opens with some beautiful acoustic guitar melodies before male vocals arrive after a minute. A soaring guitar solo before 2 1/2 minutes as the vocals step aside. Flute too. I like this! Before 5 minutes it's acoustic guitar only like at the start but the flute joins in quickly along with a beat. A horn too and the vocals return after 6 1/2 minutes.

"Resignation" has this dark vibe to it with bass and percussion. Flute just before a minute. Spoken male words come in after 2 minutes as the music continues. Sax 3 1/2 minutes in as the spoken words stop. Organ joins in then we start to get more horns as it gets louder and louder and more chaotic. Again some great ideas on this album. It changes as this driving rhythm kicks in around 5 1/2 minutes with horns. It starts to calm down again before 7 1/2 minutes as a beat with a horn leads the way. Those spoken sampled words are back from earlier before 8 1/2 minutes.

Norway has been at the forefront of adventerous music and has been for a few years now, so I shouldn't have been surprised at what GENTLE KNIFE have created here.

Report this review (#1824909)
Posted Sunday, November 19, 2017 | Review Permalink

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