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Glorious Wolf - Zodiac CD (album) cover

ZODIAC

Glorious Wolf

Crossover Prog


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TCat
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars Glorious Wolf is a project of guitarist Ruud Dielen who released the first album under this moniker in 2017. In November of 2019, his new album "Zodiac" will be released in physical form, though it is now already available on Bandcamp. This album features Dielen performing all of the instruments except for a few guests. Also, where his first album was all instrumental, this album features vocals and lyrics(co-written by Dielen) by Oscar Anema on 5 of the 7 tracks. The regular album has 7 tracks with a total run time of over 50 minutes, but there are also 2 bonus tracks included which are tracks remastered from the debut album.

The album begins with the track "Constellations" (11:08) which features Anema's vocals and a tenor sax from Andre van de Ven along with all other instrumentation performed by Dielen. The song is inspired by the energy we receive from the stars, specifically, the stars in the Zodiac and Ursa Major. The music starts with a nice, expansive sound created by synths and repetitive bass playing in a spacious and atmospheric style. After 2 minutes, a rhythm is established by the guitar and drums, and vocals begin at 3 minutes. The feel has the expansive feel of Pink Floyd, even when it begins to get more intense later with heavier guitars. The Floydian inspiration is very apparent, and though it is very nice, some of the efforts to sound just like PF are forced. The vocals are a bit questionable, veering off key a few times, and not expressive enough. The sax comes in around the 8 minute mark after the vocals end and the music continues along with a moderately slow PF style. The guitar later replaces the sax with a solo that is a bit harsh sounding for the musical style. Vocals return in the last minute of the track.

"Close to the New World" (7:49) has a softer tone and a slow, more minimal beat. The vocals are more melodic and stay in a higher range, but seem a bit unsure and tend to be "wobbly". There is a very nice acoustic guitar section that suddenly erupts into heavy guitars, synths and a much faster tempo. When the vocals come back, they have increased in passion, but haven't really increased in quality. The instrumentation is quite good, and there are some great passages, but it does, at times, seem pasted together, not really flowing as smoothly as it could, however, I enjoy the instrumental passages much more than the vocal sections. "Zodiac" (7:19) moves to a linear feel, reaching for a King Crimson style, but it all has a kind of clunky feel to it. Again, the instrumentation is the most enjoyable thing about the track. Again, I hear the good intentions here, but it just doesn't flow very well

"Poets" (4:46) begins with a lovely acoustic guitar solo. It features a different vocalist, Frans Verouden. However, the vocals are still questionable and lack feeling, while the lyrics are a bit strange. The vocal melody doesn't really match the instrumentation, and once again, this would have been better off without vocals. "Feelin' Blue" uses synths to create a symphonic feel in the beginning, and then the guitar plays a slow blues-inspired melody with the smooth feel of sustained synths backing it up. The track continues in the slow, blues style which goes on a bit too long and is again ruined by the vocals. "For You and I" (6:37) is an instrumental. This is the best track on the album, nice and expansive, mostly led by the guitars. The tempo picks up later to a moderate beat, and the guitar continues to take the lead with a beautiful, melodic line. After 4 minutes, a high pitched synth takes over the melody and continues in the same moderate tempo. The guitar takes over again later. It's a great instrumental track with some excellent guitar work.

"The Game" (6:15) is a heavier track, a bit harsher, with lyrics that deal with social media and world leaders. The vocals are low and more spoken at first, becoming more melodic later, almost sounding like Mark Knoppfler, but not really pulling it off well. Again, the vocals are quite distracting and take away from everything else that is going on in the track. After this, there are the two remastered tracks from the first album; "Questions" (6:03) and "Aquarius" (5:35). Both of these are instrumental and, because of that, are pretty good, but are both available on the debut album.

I can't help but think that this album would have been much better without the vocals, and feel that the concentration needs to be more on instrumental tracks. Though there are some rough spots even with the instrumental sections, it is still much better than being distracted by the not-so-great vocals. The music is full of great intentions and ideas, and it would have been more enjoyable if these sections would have been able to stand out more without being bogged down by the vocals and the lyrics. Since this album focuses on lyrics to a great extent, it draws the album down. Some listeners might also find that the projects obvious attempt to copy Pink Floyd in the first track could be unacceptable, there is still an impressive amount of musicianship in the instrumental parts that tend to unfortunately get buried in the lyrics. It's good, but unfortunately not great. Hopefully the criticism in this review will be taken as being constructive, because there is a lot of great intentions here that do shine through, but allowing the music to come out without questionable vocals and lyrics would definitely improve the overall experience.

Report this review (#2272952)
Posted Thursday, October 24, 2019 | Review Permalink
DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
3 stars This album "Zodiac" has seen the light in November, 2019, as a Dutch one-man project GLORIOUS WOLF founded by a multi- instrumentalist / composer / producer Ruud DIELEN. His previous opus is quite good, and this stuff again caught me with his deep, heavy sound basis and pop flavour all around. Quite clear melodic lines and thrilling rhythmic appearances are his taste, that sounds like he would give every progressive rock (especially art rock) fan sorta verdict for delightful, acceptable soundscape ... at least for me. This musical fact would be condensed in the prologue "Condtellations" let me say. The first gorgeous texture is beyond expression, and in the middle part energetic guitar explosions and saxophone pacesetters apparently seasoned with mainstream-y hints are tasty.

In the following track "Close To The New World" we can hear beautiful acoustic vibes, catchy phrases like 70s authentic rock, and simultaneously complicated seriousness launched via his dark guitar and deep rhythmic lines. The titled track, one of my faves, reminds me of something dramatic like Genesis in Peter Era. The latter complex melodic diversity and synchronicity should ring my bell ... as if my mental condition would be reflected in a mirror. "Feelin' Blue" sounds like an Enka aka Japanese folk song, filled with bluesy melodic lines, sorrowful instrumental cry, and depressive voices. Why knocking oriental peoples' mind? In the epilogue we can touch powerful guitar and voices showing bright hope and dream in the future.

In conclusion, this second album is heavy like a sumo wrestler but charming like his smiley appearance. No tremendous novelty nor kicking impression is there but his production and remixing are great really. Let me say thanks to Ruud for providing such an enjoyable creation. My love.

Report this review (#2274986)
Posted Sunday, October 27, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars I would like to start this review about Dutch musician Ruud Dielen (the man behind Glorious Wolf) his second album with a short biography. Ruud has a long history with cover bands , playing songs from Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Toto and Genesis. After many years touring in the more commercial circuit, he decided that it was time to write his own music. In 2017 he produced his first album entitled Aquarius (8 tracks, running time around 35 minutes), as a one-man-band. On that first effort Ruud used a breathtaking array of legendary vintage gear, from a Fender Strat from 1965, a Fender Precision bass, a Gibson Les Paul '59 reissue, a Gibson ES335 and a Gibson ES175 from 1990 to a Mesa Boogie amplifier and an Ibanez IMG2010 guitar synthesizer that he connects with the E-mu Vintage Keys module (for the Moog, Mellotron and Hammond sounds). About the Aquarius album I wrote: 'excellent, highly acclaimed guitarplay and inventive use of the guitar synthesizer and Emu Vintage keys', 'very interesting musical ideas!' and 'I am looking forward to his next work and will keep an eye on this promising fellow Dutchman'.

Well, two years later Ruud released his second album as Glorious Wolf (guitars, bass, synthesizers, programming, composer) but now with contributions from guest musicians. And the amazing Ed Unitsky, an international master of digital painting, collage creation and photo manipulation. Ed has done the cover art on more than 150 albums, from The Tangent, The Flower Kings, The Samurai Of Prog to Guy Manning, Tomas Bodin, Starcastle, Moongarden, Unitopia and Mandalaband, check out his website, really mindblowing stuff! But back to the music , on this new album variety rules, also due to the contributions of the guest musicians. Especially the two singers who colour the songs with their different voices.

In the compelling Seventies Pink Floyd inspired first track Constellations (ominous intro with piano and guitar) Oscar Venema does a decent job, but at some moments he lacks a bit of power. Especially in comparison with Ruud his biting guitar runs, and Andre Van De Ven his fiery saxophone solo. In the following tracks Close To The World (strong musical ideas, like a blend of Spanish flavor and heavy guitar) and the titletrack (hypnotizing climate and wonderfully coloured with Hammond, Mellotron and slide guitar) Oscar his tender, emotional and slightly theatrical voice matches more with the music.

Composition #4 delivers strong interplay between the other singer Frans Verouden (only on 1 song) and Ruud his excellent acoustic guitar play (solo, rhythm and flageolets), embellished with propulsive percussive sounds and Mellotron violins.

Next it's blues time in Feelin' Blue (with Ad Boot on bass). First an intro with the mighty Mellotron featuring the violin - and choir section, then pure blues with intens guitar and Hammond organ. Singer Oscar does his best to put emotion into the music, but to me it sounds a bit thin. Then Gilmourian slide guitar and Hammond, gradually the sound turns into more lush. Ruud shines with exciting blues guitar ( from howling and biting to wah wah), like a less raw Gary Moore.

The final part of this CD contains three instrumentals, and one with vocals. That song is the varied The Game: the one moment it sounds chart friendly (between melodic rock and pop), the other moment bombastic with powerful guitar (like a heavy David Gilmour) and lush Hammond, or with spoken words and ominous keyboards, variety rules again.

The three instrumentals feature Glorious Wolf in its full splendor!

For You And I. It starts dreamy with tender electric guitar and soft Mellotron choirs, then a slow rhythm with wonderful powerful sensitive electric guitar (fusion oriented) and a tight rhythm. In between spacey Minimoog synthesizer flights, embellished with Mellotron choir sound, and swinging bass.

Questions. First awesome Mellotron violins and fat synthesizers, then a biting guitar joins (like 'Jeff Beck meets Satriani'). Now a subtle guitar solo with soaring Mellotron violins, what a captivating musical idea, then again powerful and biting guitar. Another strong idea is the overdubbing of guitars, blended with a tight beat, in the end again Mellotron violins and fat synthesizer sounds, wonderful.

Finally the track Aquarius (Seeding the Future). It opens with a sumptuous and compelling sound featuring guitar and keyboards, and a propulsive rhythm-section, at some moments the music evokes King Crimson to me (Red-era). Halfway voices in the background, and exciting powerful (slide) guitar with biting runs, accompanied by lush strings. The final part delivers a dreamy atmosphere with beautiful strings and delicate bass, what a subtle conclusion. By the way, the final two tracks are CD bonus tracks (so not on bandcamp), remastered from the debut CD Aquarius.

Not every track is my cup of tea (including a few critical notes about the vocals), but in general I am impressed by Ruud as a tunesmith, his excellent work on guitars, the tasteful blend of vintage keyboards, and his captivating musical ideas and professional approach in every way (from music to cover art).

My rating: 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#2282238)
Posted Monday, November 18, 2019 | Review Permalink
3 stars Reaching for Transcendence

Dreamy, Sardonic Wistfulness

In this sophomore release from RUUD DIELEN's one-man studio project, "Glorious Wolf", he really pulled out the stops to produce a crystalline, pure sounding album, utilizing several vocalists, and collaborating with OSCAR ANEMA.

One can hear the results- put on good headphones and drift away in the singing, soaring electric guitars, throbbing bass lines, jazzy saxophone (sadly only on one track), Hammond organ and other synthesizer sounds, crisp drumming and percussion.

Soak up the elegant, world-weary, mystical lyrics sung in lazy style.

How I wish it all added up.

For me anyway, I badly wanted to like this album, and ended up appreciating the sound, the effort that obviously went into it, the fine guitar playing- including some very nice classical guitar work (especially on "Pots"), and the sumptuous art work by Ed Unitsky.

Yet there's a case in point ("Pots")alongside the lovely acoustic guitar interplay, lyrics refer to domestic violence- and does it really matter? They go on to ask about angels...and leave the menace behind.

Mixed-up or Juxtaposition?

The search for transcendence comes through in the yearning for meaning, reaching for the other side. It's accompanied by slow, space-y guitars and keyboards setting an ambiance that's sometimes at odds with the ideas being put forward.

The juxtaposition has modern themes, POTUS meeting with South Korean leaders, or the idea of a constipated world and the modern dilemma of getting sucked into a superficial game- or reaching for something more.

Mystical, Spiritual Search

There are signs and symbols abounding- the zodiac, references to shamans and reaching the other side. I thought the message conveyed substantial doubt about reaching beyond the surface, so in effect the music- as superbly as it was performed and recorded- became a mere shimmering surface as well.

In Sum

A very strong effort, that for me at least, left me longing for some real meat, some true passion, some actual musical transcendence.

Rating: 3 Supernatural Shimmers

Report this review (#2283910)
Posted Sunday, November 24, 2019 | Review Permalink
Matti
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The first album Aquarius (2017) by Glorious Wolf -- the moniker of the Dutch multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitarist) Ruud Dielen -- was all instrumental, but this second release features vocals and lyrics of Oscar Anema on most of the nine tracks. I haven't listened to Aquarius. For those of you who have, the crucial question may be: do the vocals improve or ruin the music? Well, mr. Anema is a fairly good, slightly ballsy singer, and I always appreciate a mixture of instrumental and vocal-oriented prog, so I tend to believe it wasn't a bad move at all. Although if I had to pick my favourites from this album, the instrumental ones would probably be stronger in the competition.

The album's overall theme, or source of inspiration, is astrology. I guess most of the "Zodiac" titled albums (e.g. the one by Leif Strand) have the tracks named after the twelve signs of the zodiac. Gracefully that's not the case here, not another musical interpretation of the twelve personalities which is such a cliche. Anema's lyrics are at times pretty esoteric with planets and all, but also dealing with ordinary people and their everyday lives and struggles. The 11-minute opener 'Constellations' is a perfect example of the guitar-centred psychedelic flavour comparable to artists like Steve Hillage and his KHAN, or Jimi Hendrix. The second song has some mindblowing moments and very cool synth work; an excellent rocker with a strong progressive and psychedelic approach.

I don't like all of the vocal expressions on 'Zodiac' (at times Anema clearly imitates Jim Morrison), which would surely function well as an instrumental. There's a cover song included, 'Poets' by David Sylvian. I haven't heard the original and couldn't quickly find its origins, but this acoustically oriented version is great, and the spirit of Sylvian certainly is there. 'Feelin' Blue' is a slow bluesy song and resembles Pink Floyd, especially 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond'. Dielen's guitar style is notably influenced by David Gilmour. The three instrumentals are placed in the end -- tracks No. 6, 8 an 9. Perhaps one coming somewhere in the middle would have done good for the balance, but I do prefer the instrumental orientation in the end instead of coming earlier on the album. On 'For You and I' the powerful guitar soloing is very Santana-like.

Being bravely 64+ min. long, this album carries its length pretty well. There are no weak tracks, although the ultimate highlights aren't very numerous either. All in all, an enjoyable album with not necessarily a great deal of originality. My rating is 3 stars and I'm rounding it up, partly due to fine artwork of Ed Unitsky.

Report this review (#2286844)
Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2019 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Glorious Wolf is a project by Dutch artist and multi-instrumentalist Ruud Dielen, and Zodiac is his current release which he kindly asked me to review. The bass is prominent throughout , a fact that pleases this listener immediately, so the foundation is definitely hopeful. Bursting from the gate is the whopping ''Constellations'' , a cosmic 11 minute ride that oozes along with a definite Floydian feel, guest singer Oscar Anema even sounding like Waters when singing, though the vocal prowess is not in the main spotlight here. The lead electric guitar playing is impressive and even spectacular at times, shepherded along by a stunning sax solo from guest Andre van de Ven. An inspiring opening voyage that will please many fans of cosmic prog.

''Close to the New World'' is gentler beat, suddenly evolving into a brasher realm, between acoustic guitar sections and harsher Tom Scholz-like (he of Boston fame) riffs but the vocals are just not powerful enough to grab you by the scruff, needing a bolder, rockier tone, in my opinion. On the other hand, the instrumental palette is wholly interesting , even I daresay, captivating.

The title track offers a murkier platform, loopy and intricate, booming bass front and center, mellotron surges, as well as creative guitar phrasings. Again, the vocals seem dull in comparison, almost dissonant at times, perhaps a vocalist like Peter Gabriel or John Wetton could have made a greater impression, as this does have Genesis meets King Crimson feel to it. The music is stellar and should have stayed voiceless.

''Poets'' offers up some delicate acoustic guitar strumming, as well as a new vocalist, competent but somehow still not 'on', it's weird hearing the perceptible disconnect between the instrumentation and the vocal/lyrics. Ruud is highly talented though and its obvious pretty much throughout this album. His guitar, bass and keyboard technique is flawless.

Displaying his bluesier style, ''Feeling Blue'' is a top-notch moment, with a classic slow-hand guitar display, rumbling organ and smooth rhythmic pulse. The voice actually is quite suited to the music, being husky and convincingly agonized , loaded up with synthesizer swells that give it a nice symphonic sheen. The tortured axe solo is first rate, dizzyingly electric. Yes, I like a lot !

An album highlight is the all-instrumental center piece ''For You and I'' where Ruud shines like a crazy diamond, powerful and majestic. This track has a sweet rolling feel, loaded up with screeching guitar workouts that clearly show a more Carlos Santana-feel, slippery synth forays and a sizzling presentation engorged in feeling and bravado. Very nice!

Not a big fan of ''The Game'' , a more generic (read non-prog) diversion, armed with another jerky vocal that does sound like Mark Knopfler but less successful in the compositional end. The soaring guitar solo is first rate though (seems to be a leitmotiv here) , full of guts and sensibility. The track bridges a voice effects section that relates to the current political garbage we live in, then morphing into a tough on the ears finale that does not work well in my opinion because of the poor vocals.

The final two instrumental tracks are re-workings of previously released ditties that close of the album on positive notes as they are devoid of any distractions . In fact, on ''Questions'' there are some intricate neo jazz-rock noodlings that ring convincingly, Ruud bending notes on his fretboard as if he was listening to Jeff Beck all his life, a magnificent display of guitar pyrotechnical restraint.

''Aquarius'' is joyfully complex, bouncy and experimental, pushed along by a punchy bass coughing with flair, peppered by guitar pirouettes that turn on a dime, a slide foray that is quite the ride. This is right down prog alley and is sheer musical succulence.

Ruud is very talented indeed, one can here references to classic guitar heroes (Gilmour, Santana, Beck, Jan Akkerman, Tom Scholz, Gary Moore and James Young of Styx). I would recommend sticking to what he does best, instrumental soundscapes that would underline his obvious talent and his undisputed technical mastery. Finally , the artwork, production, booklet and sound are all first-rate.

Dank u wel !

4 inflatable canoes

Report this review (#2302914)
Posted Wednesday, January 1, 2020 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Dutch project GLORIOUS WOLF is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Ruud Dielen, formed as a creative outlet following a number of years being a musician in various cover and tribute bands. As Glorious Wolf he has two albums to his name. The first album, "Aquarius", was released in 2017, while "Zodiac" was self-released in the fall of 2019.

Glorious Wolf's second album "Zodiac" strikes me as a hit or miss affair. Those generally fond of atmospheric laden progressive rock with tie ins to later day Pink Floyd, blues and neo-progressive rock strikes me as the key audience for this album, and quite a few in that crowd will appreciate the music provided on this album. But those that require more expressive rhythms and a strong vocalist to be a part of this totality will probably find the weak points of those aspects on this album somewhat detrimental. As an album experience, this is one that merits a check prior to a potential purchase.

Report this review (#2345901)
Posted Saturday, March 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars On 2017's debut 'Aquarius', multi-instrumentalist Ruud Dielen did everything himself, and this is pretty much the same this time around although he did bring in guests to help out here , with the exception being singer Oscar Anema. Five of the songs contain vocals, and it must be said right from the beginning that this is the major stumbling block of the album. While he does manage to get away with it on 'The Game', for the most part his voice just doesn't suit this type of music. That is a real shame as this neo-prog crossover Floydian album has a great deal going for it aside from that. Dielen is a fine guitarist, and it is this that drives the music, combined with layered keyboards.

For the most part this comes across as quite Floydian indeed, although there are times when there is more than a hint of blues which is nice and refreshing. The atmospheric keyboards and Mellotron set the scene nicely, with piano being a nice analogue touch, but it is the guitar which is the voice, although the Floydian bassline steal in 'Constellation' is so obvious it made me smile and was obviously put in for exactly that reaction. But, that voice does drag the album down, as Anema is not suited to this style of music, and Dielen is needs to find a new singer, go instrumental, or choose a different musical direction which is a shame as apart from that this is a fine album indeed.

Report this review (#2352519)
Posted Sunday, April 19, 2020 | Review Permalink

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