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Soul Enema

Eclectic Prog

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kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars It is a long time since I last came across Israeli act Soul Enema, who were formed back in 2001, and released their debut 'Thin Ice Crawling' back in 2010 through Mals and Musea. It gained a lot of positive reaction at the time, but for some reason it has taken some seven years for them to release the follow-up. That of course may have to something to do with the fact that only keyboard player Constantin Glantz is still there, so in many ways this is a brand-new band. Singer Noa Gruman is a real find, as she is at home in whatever musical style that the band are prepared to throw out, and there are certainly plenty of them. The easiest way to describe these guys are as progressive, but progressive rock in its very truest sense as they bring in elements of melodic rock, progressive rock and metal, ethnic, psychedelic, jazz-fusion, sympho-rock elements etc., with a somewhat theatrical approach to the lyrics.

There are times when I find myself thinking of Orphaned Land in the way they approach some of the music, and a closer inspection of the guests shows the appearance of Yossi Sassi (ex-Orphaned Land, Yossi Sassi Band), as well as Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One). The album was mixed by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend, etc.), so as well as being intriguing in a musical sense, the production allows every instrument and nuance to shine show how important each element is to the overall sound. I haven't much from the Israeli music scene, and if this is an example of what is being produced out of that country then I really need to hear some more. The album is intriguing, and musically all over the place, so that if the listener doesn't like what is going on just wait a minute as it is going to be changing soon. I love this album, and sincerely hope that we're not going to have wait another seven years until we get the next one.

Report this review (#1737521)
Posted Saturday, June 24, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very strong album from the Israel prog group. It mixes a lot of different styles (progressive metal, folk, classic prog) and still has something unique. Lyrically the band covers many grounds, too: ecological disasters, craziness of today's world, some personal touch. It's evident that lyrics do matter here. It's good lyrics have a good doze of humor (otherwise things would be way too serious). Some may not like the female singing but for me it's completely OK. Noa Gruman has a very strong and versatile voice which she can adapt to almost all styles required -ácheck videos on Youtube where she sings arias, blues and delivers metal growls. What is always important for me in music is how memorable it is. And here Soul Enema delivers again - after 2 listens I can recall almost all tunes (maybeáexcept 3 pieces dedicated to Aral sea).áThe level of musicianship is top notch and still you never get the feeling they start showing off for virtuosity's sake. Highlights: Spymania, Cannibalismo Ltd, Octopus Song, Breaking the Waves. All in all, highly recommended. 4,5 stars. Surely of of the best releases of 2017.
Report this review (#1771268)
Posted Sunday, August 13, 2017 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars Although founded all the way back in 2001, the humorously named Israeli band SOUL ENEMA has only released a mere two albums beginning with 2010's debut "Thin Ice Crawling" and at long last the follow up has emerged in 2017 in the form of OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS. Main man and founder Constantin Glantz readily admits he is the utmost perfectionist when it comes to creating his music and just like the debut, the listener is treated to an equally compelling eclectic musical ride with every element ratcheted up a few more notches. Glantz is the only common thread between the two albums and all other performers are completely new to the SOUL ENEMA scene. While the debut had five full time musicians and four guests, OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS still has five core musicians but has a whopping eight guests including Arjen Lucassen of Aeryon fame providing a cameo guitar solo on "Eternal Child" and fellow Israeli Yossi Sassi providing the unique sounds of his bouzoukitara on "Aral Sea II - Dustbin Of History." The album took a staggering seven years to make and and therefore leaves no "i" undotted and no "t" uncrossed. This is a project of passion, a labor of love and despite the trials and tribulations involved in the making, turned out to be another resounding success.

Due to all the attention paid to every little detail, OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS comes off as a slick and serious project where every idea and composition is careful crafted and placed in the proper place as to create the perfect musical flow of ideas and energies. The emotional gamut runs from the apocalyptic "Aral Sea" three part suite to the silliness of the title "The Age Of Cosmic Baboon" and other moments of desipient amusement. Much attention is paid to the production as well and despite being rather complex and multi-layered, the album retains an organic spontaneous feel that surprisingly doesn't sound overproduced at all and contains no excess fluff added for fluff's sake. Right from the beginning track "Omon Ra," SOUL ENEMA displays the same eclectic fusion of several genres all stitched neatly into a nice musical collage of styles and sounds. The heavy metal guitar riffs overlap with other polyrhythms including Middle Eastern sounds and symphonic prog style keyboard assaults. The diversity of the tracks keeps the album interesting with Noa Gruman's vocals adding a more diverse range than her than her predecessor on the debut. Likewise there are many more elements lurking around every corner and at times even reminds of how The Beatles would layer contemporary rock over more traditional styles of music with one example of how "Spymania" takes its Vaudville tinged prog metal and allows a more traditional anachronistic musical form to emerge as the heavier parts fade out.

So many elements going on here it's impossible to describe them all. The common thread is that much attention is paid to catchy melodic hooks that take on crossover prog possibilities. The heaviness alternates between full-fledged progressive metal riffing to calmer melodic rock to simple piano runs. There are many ethnic influences as well with tracks like "The Age Of Cosmic Baboon" sounding completely exotic with Middle Eastern rhythms and percussion with the added mystic flair of the sitar. The mix of the rhythmic elements with the atmospheric is utterly fascinating as they seamlessly weave around each other in perfect unison. Heavy guitar parts can abruptly shift to a more symphonic prog segment with folk fueled flutes fluttering away as one melodic segment cedes into another. The pace is perfectly set for each part to connect to what has already occurred and what is yet to come. While most tracks have a metal or rock feel in nature, some like "Last Days Of Rome" bring good old-fashioned piano rock to mind with artists like Carole King coming to mind although with a zillion other elements tacked on in crossover prog fashion of course! "Dear Bollock (Was A Sensitive Man) is another exotic sounding track with Glantz showing off his Japanese shamisen playing skills and although there are metal riffs added for bombast, it comes across as a mad rush down the silk road of some sort.

Despite the parade of ideas floating around on any given track, the three part suite "Aral Sea" is perhaps the most progressive rock in feel with three long suites that feature a diverse rotisserie of moods and represent the ultimate demise of the famous sea that went from Garden Of Eden fertility to the dusty barren wasteland it is today due to human carelessness. The suite begins with "Aral Sea I - Feeding Hand" that tells the tale of the fertile life giving sea that demands respect in exchange for provisions with heavy rock guitars, melodic piano runs and Noa Gruman providing one of her most dramatic vocal deliveries. "Aral Sea II - Dustbin Of History" picks up the pace a bit adding a bit more eclectic polyrhythms in a more Middle Eastern feel but quickly turns to sadness with dynamic electronic effects and heavy metal riffing suddenly simulate the once productive sea being siphoned of its life giving vitality. This second suite installment has a unique Far East vibe due to the presence of Yossi Sassi providing the unique sound of his bouzoukitara adding a truly exotic flair as the Middle Eastern meets metal riffs dance around one another. "Aral Sea III - Epilogue" has the expected ending of demise but performed with an interesting intro of discordant piano and percussion and ultimately sang out by Gruman's powerful vox box. This finale has Sergey Kalugin of the Russian prog rock band Orgia Prevednikov making a cameo on acoustic guitar.

Glantz is an excellent self-promoter as he describes this album as a creative diverse rock / metal album that explores vast melodic and rhythmic territories that takes elements ranging from ABBA to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond between East and West and way beyond in a true progressive fashion. While those words are delivered in a slightly cheeky way, they actually ring true as well as Glantz is interested in making progressive prog instead of the factory line varieties. With more elements than the periodic table, SOUL ENEMA delivers an outstanding sophomoric epic journey that takes the best elements of prog, rock and the entire Putumayo World music catalogue and runs away with it! It truly is impressive and adventurous without ever getting weird for weird's sake. It remains completely accessible while dishing out unorthodox exaltation. While "Thin Ice Crawling" was a major step in achieving something great, OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS actually fulfills that mission and one of the best albums of the year that i've heard so far. It is fearless as it shamelessly throws the sensual and the bombastic in a cage together and let them duke it out. The result is a not a musical death match but rather a triumph of sonic cooperation that demonstrates the possibilities of musical genre blending when proper care is taken to the details. Unlike the debut album, this one at over 72 minutes doesn't wear out its welcome by the the time the last tracks finally crank up. This album is quite the accomplishment. Bravo!

Report this review (#1771775)
Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Soul Enema is one of the most promising bands from progressive rock genre in last decade. They release so far two albums, one in 2010 and the second is coming after almost 7 seven years in 2017 Of clans and clones and clowns , now this is for sure a total winner as the debut, at least to me in top 5 I've heared so far from this year.

I was very pleasent surprise about this album, the music is very innovativ and intelligent, quite original, a hard thing to find on most of the new and young bands from this genre. Combining elements from symphonic prog zone with blistering keybords, with some eastern infuse folk arrangements to even progressive metal parts, and on top of that a solid voice coming from now diffrent female voice as on debut Noa Gruman. Brilliant ideas , great musicianship makes from this album a total winner, every piece is well developed, complex structures, their is enough room to show that Soul Enema mean bussines in this field. Very captivating keybords arrangements, who together with the guitar make a real treasure this album to listen and to have in the end in any collection. Nice electric atmosphere, from avan to prog metal, they have it all in their sleeve, and is intredting that they combine elements from diffrent genre with an amazing ease and very natural, the music is not forced. The first 3 tracks are killer, specially the opening Amon Ra really smokes, the guitar and keyboards are exemplary, aswell the voice. The rest of the pieces are aswell great. Some respected invited guests present among others famous Arjen Lucassen on track 13 and Yossi Sassi ex Orphaned Land who done a great job

It's pretty said that this band doesn't get the full appreciation world wide , they are among the most original bands around in prog field. for me a solid 4 stars , Recommended both albums has same level, and I mean high level. Nice intriguing art work, CD digipak format.

Report this review (#1820732)
Posted Friday, November 10, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wonderfully diverse folk-infused Prog Metal expanding a tradition from the Middle East that includes bands like ORPHANED LAND and MYRATH, Constantin Glantz's SOUL ENEMA is a huge surprise and revelation to me. This man can write great songs melding seemlessly the electronic sounds of metal music with the traditional folk instruments of his culture. Plus, he's not afraid to push the envelope with his lyrics. And my introduction to the vocal talents of Noa Gruman is quite welcome!

1. "Omon Ra" (7:02) a great opening song for the way in which it lays out on the table all of the amazing chops this band has: metal, electronic effects, traditional Middle Eastern instruments and melodies, powerful top notch female singer, refined and adventurous compositional skills, instrumental prowess top to bottom, and, not least, their acerbic-yet-insightful lyrics. Though it's a long song, it keeps one's attention start-to-finish. The cinematic "interlude" in the sixth minute followed by the re-amped djenty guitars and great guitar/keyboard solos over the top are wonderful--making the song end even better than it started. This could be called a "perfect" prog metal song. (10/10)

2. "Cannibalissimo Ltd." (5:59) What lyrics! Bold and hilarious--but meaningful in their metaphoric sense. Plus, supported by such quirky, unexpected music (starting out like JOE JACKSON's "Cancer" before adding the metal and, later, Middle Eastern folk sounds!) Again, the song showcases the marvelous talent of lead singer Noa Gruman. She is so versatile! And the growls are perfect--humorous while not going over the top. And leader/songwriter Constantin Glantz is quite a keyboard player! (9/10)

3. "Spymania" (6:44) Yet another style used here! Almost comic book cinematic, almost Prog Cabaret! Again, I love the lyrics and their metaphoric significance. Great melodic hooks. Awesome guitar soloing and vocal work in the fourth minute. What a songwriter! (9.5/10)

4. "Breaking the Waves" (5:37) If this song is about what I think it is about, this is a song that needs radio play-- needs to get out there to provoke conversations about the mistreatment of women (by men). Gorgeous and powerful! Man, can this woman sing! (9/10)

5. "The Age of Cosmic Baboon" (4:33) opening like a Middle Eastern belly dancing song, this one maintains its foundation of Middle Eastern instrumentation (with some interesting synth work woven into the mix) until the 1:50 mark when metal chords and drum hits in a syncopated time signature, take over. Crazed piano solo (know DON PULLEN) in the background, before settling into a kind of combined modern/traditional mix of the two styles. Congas and accordion and monkey squawks help fill out the final couple minutes. (8/10)

6. "In Bed With an Enemy" (5:59) piano-based metal with one of the weaker melodic and harmonic constructions on the album, it's hard for me to get into this one for the first couple minutes. Nice synth and guitar soloing in the third and final minutes. Love the flute in the third-fourth. The dynamic shift in the fourth minute is awesome (and very welcome). More of the talents of singer Noa Gruman on display in the vocals in the second half. (8/10)

7. "Last Days of Rome" (4:22) melodic metal opening with machine gun bass drum. Quickly everything cuts out and we're left cabaret piano and female vocal. When the chorus section begins at 1:23 the songs full sound comes into display. Again, the lyrics are brave and bold (and controversial?). Musically, this is not so special. Lyrically it's remarkable. (7.5/10)

8. "Dear Bollock (Was a Sensitive Man)" (3:10) opens with very Middle Eastern folk sound--instruments as well as time signatures and tempo. The tongue-in-cheek male vocal is brilliant--as are the reality-checking metal bars after each verse. I love all these Eastern instruments! And the lyrics are wonderful! Again, so bold and courageous! Kudos, Constantin, for being so brave! (9/10)

9. "Aral Sea I - Feeding Hand" (8:48) awesome bells foundation over and around which all other styles and sounds build for the first 1:50. When things quiet down to bare bones Noa enters with a serious tone to tell us the historic and legendary story of this part of the world (and its people?). The "demonic" presence in the sixth minute is a bit ambiguous, but then the amp up afterward is powerful. Plays out like a classic prog rock song. (8.5/10)

10. "Aral Sea II - Dustbin of History" (5:30) the presence of amazing guitarist/multi-stringed instrumentalist YOSSI SASSI on this one makes me tune in with extra attention (I love his work--both solo and with ORPHANED LAND). A cool foray through many instrumental paths, the music seems quite fitting for the story being told--especially in the way the old informs and haunts the present. As seems to be a trend with my hearing of this band, the final couple of minutes are my favorite. (8.5/10)

11. "Aral Sea III - Epilogue" (6:25) minor-keyed piano-based opening sets up an impassioned vocal from Noa Gruman--perhaps her finest performance on the album. (9/10)

12. "Octopus Song" (2:54) opens as if we're going to hear an upbeat, gentle pop song, but then the main structure kicks in and Noa sings in a middle range letting us know that she is singing seriously. Still, the song does sound a bit like something out of a Broadway stage musical. Fortunately, Noa has the voice to carry a song in the way a Broadway singer must. (9/10)

13. "Eternal Child" (5:35) piano-based, this song opens like we're about to hear a tear-jerking ballad. Noa's whispery, almost sultry voice confirms it. What a voice! Even the over-the-top NINA HAGEN-like strains at the high reaches sound and feel affected and part of the performance, while there are also moments of pure beauty. Nice guitar solo in the fourth minute. Gorgeous song though it never really goes anywhere special. (8.5/10)

14. "Of Clans and Clones and Clowns" (0:42) a spoken (whispered) poem over nature sounds which gives us insight into the reasons for choosing the themes and title of the album .

In the wonderful traditions of ORPHANED LAND and MYRATH, SOUL ENEMA gives us an amazing inside view into the Middle Eastern mind and soul. I am a fan!

Report this review (#1841361)
Posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars SOUL ENEMA are a band out of Israel who play Prog- Metal with a lot of humour. Now I feel they've limited their audience as Prog- Metal seems to get trashed on this site although I do like it a lot. Humour in music? Well I never used to like it but have grown to appreciate it. I'm not into the kind of humour Zappa is known for but I like the more subtle brand like we get on a lot of Canterbury albums. CARDIACS are pretty funny too and I do like them although the helium vocals get old. The title of this album "Of Clans And Clones And Clowns" is awkward to say the least but probably that was intended.

I'm going to make this one short simply because there are some great reviews here that are very positive. Unlike mine. I have to say the music is very well played and at times really well thought out, some great ideas here. The female singer is amazing! She can sing in different styles and is the star of the show in my opinion. It's kind of cool that we get a Middle Eastern vibe here not surprisingly. Also some interesting guests help out like Yossi Sassi from ORPHANED LAND and Arjen Lucassen from his various projects. There's others too.

Lots of variety and some genuinely funny sections. The fact that this is very highly rated should be enough to at least sample this album. I think my favourite track is "Aral Sea I: Feeding Hand" and at almost 9 minutes it's also the longest. The whole three part section is very well done in fact. A very entertaining album overall and if your into Prog- Metal you really need to hear this band. Lots of fun.

Report this review (#1847092)
Posted Thursday, December 28, 2017 | Review Permalink

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