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Advent Cantus Firmus album cover
3.41 | 79 ratings | 16 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. GK Contramundum (2:00)
2. Awaiting the Call. (5:10)
3. Parenting Parents (6:45)
4. Utter Once Her Name (5:30)
5. Remembering When (4:00)
6. Ramblin' Sailor (18:14)
7. Your Healing Hand (8:18)
8. Firmus Finale (4:40)
9. Rear View Mirror (3:34) *
10. Alison Waits (A Ghost Story) (10:40) *

Total Time 68:51

* Bonus tracks (previously unreleased 24-track recordings)

Line-up / Musicians

- Alan Benjamin / guitars (electric, acoustic, classical), Chapman Stick, bass, mandolin, recorder
- Henry Ptak / keyboards, percussion, lead & backing vocals
- Mark Ptak / keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
- Drew Siciliano / drums

- Michael Hook / backing vocals (6)
- Shunji Saegusa / bass (6)
- Ken Serio / drums (10)

Releases information

Artwork: Michael Phipps

CD self-released (2006, US)

Digital album

Contains 2 previously unreleased tracks from the band's debut CD recordings in 1992.

Thanks to KingBarbarossa for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ADVENT Cantus Firmus ratings distribution

(79 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

ADVENT Cantus Firmus reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by hdfisch
3 stars Having not listened yet to their first one this brand-new second release by semi-professional band ADVENT I've to say is a very good and solid work in regard of Retro Prog. GG-reminiscenses are quite obvious especially in the vocal harmonies but as said already in the review for their debut those are not the only influences. Though I usually prefer to listen to the original bands from the 70s this one is certainly worth a couple of spins for any retro prog fan. Absolute highlight is for sure the 18-minute "Ramblin' Sailor" offering typical GG style with nice flute and multilayered vocals. Musicianship throughout the album is absolute flawless.

Wouldn't consider it an essential one, but anyway this work deserves 3,5 stars and anyone who's into that kind of stuff should support these excellent musicians by buying the CD.

Review by Garion81
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wow! I am just now finishing up my second listen to this great CD and may put it on again after this. This is the second offering from Advent, a New Jersey based symphonic rock band, although I understand the first CD may difficult to come by.

The first impression is that these guys are really influenced by Gentle Giant. Upon future review while that is very true in the vocals I find the music to be more inspired by Genesis, Jethro Tull and movie soundtracks as well as English Folk music. These guys are tight and play some great sweeping passages, somber reflective moments to lively rock moments. Starting off the CD with an great acapella vocal with a nod to GG is GK Contramundam that moves into a work called Awaiting the Call that reminds me of After the Ordeal by Genesis. They do this seamlessly with precision and mastery over and over again throughout the CD. Henry and Mark Ptak on keyboards do a great job of mixing sounds and styles. Alan Benjamin plays all the Basses and Guitars and reminds me of Steve Hackett in his guitar parts. Drew Sicilano rounds out the quartet with a great job on drums and percussion. He an Alan really hold it all together. The vocals, Henry and Mark Patak, are very good as well, the harmonies incredibly tight and well sung without straining.

The CD comes with two bonus songs from the first CD released in 1992 and remastered here. These two tracks are amazing in my mind. I can't wait to hear more from this group.

I am thinking anyone who fancies himself as a Symphonic Rock fan, Prog Folk or Genesis and Gentle Giant will find this a very good listen. 4 stars.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Well first off, Spock’s Beard could take a few lessons from these guys in how to actually pull off an harmonized a cappella piece of music. Advent does this quite effectively on “GK Contramundum” and doesn’t come off sounding like a half-lit barbershop quartet, something Spock’s Beard always reminded me of.

That aside, this is a tasteful album that shows undeniable Gentle Giant influences in the soft, flowing passages and especially the laid-back drum work. I get the impression most of these guys are probably classically trained, as the arrangements seem to avoid typical rock compositions in favor of rather intricate and beautiful passages. “Awaiting the Call…” sounds more like something from the late eighties than 2006, and reminds me quite a bit of bands like Group 87 and Happy the Man.

“Parenting Parents” on the other hand is rich with mellow vocals and an almost lullaby tempo, building very slowly with lush keyboards and mandolin but never quite climaxing, and finally just fading away. Good for quiet evenings I suppose, but perhaps just a bit too languid for most people’s tastes. “Utter Once Her Name” consists mostly of electric piano and again the quiet vocals. At times the song almost fades out completely, brought back to life with strumming acoustic guitar and almost imperceptible flute (or maybe recorder).

“Remembering When” is another soft instrumental with acoustic guitar and lazy keyboards, but there’s a persistent thread of electric guitar that keeps threatening to take off, but never does.

The climax of the album is probably the eighteen minute “Ramblin’ Sailor”, a jaunty flute and keyboard sea tale with vocals that lean a bit toward some of the early Moody Blues albums. This is a spry piece of music that lacks much substance, but has some really nicely done vocal harmonies and probably tells a tale of some sort, but I can’t really be bothered to read the lyrics and find out what it’s all about. This is followed up by “Your Healing Hand”, which I gather is some sort of hymn, kind of sounds like something you’d hear in a Lutheran prayer service. Nicely done, but not all that accessible for most people I would think.

“Firmus Finale” opens like some sort of sci-fi soundtrack, and like “Awaiting the Call…” sounds like something that was stuck in a time capsule for a decade or so before being dusted off and committed to tape. “Rear View Window” is another bit of relaxed vocals and sparse keyboards, but not much else. This one is kind of a throwaway.

The closing “Alison Waits (A Ghost Story)” starts quite slowly, but manages to build around the middle with some pretty decent guitar, but otherwise seems to drag on several minutes too long and kind of loses its appeal around the five minute mark or so.

I don’t know much about these guys, but I will say that they are all top-notch musicians, and this is undoubtedly a progressive, perhaps even symphonic album. This would probably appeal to most Gentle Giant fans, and indeed these guys have done a couple of Gentle Giant tribute recordings as well, so their appeal to that audience is almost assured. Maybe some Camel fans as well, as the tempo on most of the tracks calls to mind some of the first recordings by that band. But overall I wouldn’t rank this as exceptional by any means, although it certainly qualifies as pretty decent. So three stars it is, and back to the middle of the pile for an occasional listen on rainy spring evenings.


Review by NJprogfan
4 stars Fantastic album by a band from my home state...New Jersey! Comparisons to Gentle Giant, (listen to the first song) and Genesis are acurate, but I also hear some Happy The Man, especially in the very polished keyboard work and Gryphon. Their music is very sombre and busy, yet at times airy and light. Guitar work is very nice, bringing to mind Hackett during his more mellow and moody side. There's some cool wind instruments with flute and recorder. The recorder playing during their epic and best tune, "Ramblin' Sailor" definately reminds me of Gryphon. In fact, the whole album has a mixture of Celtic/Renaissance and a touch light symphonic with their impeccible vocalization, some of the best in prog right now. I don't know which of the brothers Ptak sings front and center but he reminds me of Phil Shulman with that deep yet delicate voice, very unique nowadays. Now if you're looking for some hard, major time signature changing prog try something else. This album is more inline with easy listening prog for those nights when you need to chill and bring you back to the days when times were much simpler. Just look at the album cover, (one of the best in years) it practically screams what you'll hear inside which is a 4 star gem!
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars It's very Gentle Giant!

The first reaction when I herd for the first time the music of ADVENT was really a Gentle Giant clone. I could get my feeling straight when I heard the opening acapella track "GK Contramundum" which is 100% Gentle Giant. This is the choirs that almost the same with Gentle Giant style. It reminds me to "So Sincere" song. It has the harmonies that qualify as Gentle Giant song - basically no instruments but the demonstration of choirs only. It moves to "Awaiting The Call" which basically an instrumental track similar to Gentle Giant but with some symphonic touch. The only difference between this music with Gentle Giant is the accentuation. In typical Gentle Giant track the "accentuated" choirs are typical trademark for the band. But it's not happening here with ADVENT as most of vocal lines and choirs are performed in smooth line instead of accentuation style.

"Parenting Parents" is a mellow track with low register vocal line with very close quality with Shulman brothers' vocal quality. The use of clavinet and long sustain keyboard work is very obvious here where there is no drums required to perform this track. "Utter Once Her Name" follows previous track with even more mellow track using acoustic guitar to accompany vocal, augmented with some keyboard at the back. The vocal makes some effort to make more accentuation here with this track but it's still has lost their energy.

"Remembering When" starts with acoustic guitar fills which flow relatively long and only when it passes 1 minute the electric guitar solo enters the music. This track seems like losing direction on the melody line because it's just showing the acoustic and electric guitar work perform music without any crystal clear melody - boring. It moves seamlessly to "Ramblin' Sailor" which has more energetic drive through vocal harmonies. The music is like an avant-garde experimentation, typical Gentle Giant track. People who do not know this band might have thought that this is a pure Gentle Giant track - 100% influence, I believe. When it reaches approx minute 3:32 the music has some symphonic exploration. This is an epic track which moves from one style to another with good breaks using acoustic guitar. The ending part f this track reminds me again to choirs of Gentle Giant.

"Your Healing Hand" is another mellow track which relies on vocal harmonies. Since there is lack of structural integrity from one segment to another, I find this track is boring too. "Firmus Finale" to deliver album finale.

Overall, this album might suit those who love Gentle Giant and see how ADVENT music is like. As far as my personal taste, this album does not give me emotional movement at all. I think this one is only good for collectors. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ADVENT are the GENTLE GIANT of our decade for sure and that's how GENTLE GIANT would sound if they were a nowadays band...Very melodic music, really progressive to the bone with lot of emotional vocal lines...At times they remind me also of the more mellow moments of SHADOW GALLERY coming out of their debut album and also of another excellent US band, AJALON...The tracks generally do not differ very much, the GENTLE GIANT influence is obvious almost in every note...We can also listen to some excellent flute work in the epic of the disc ''Your healing hand'' which unfolds fast and easily due to its accesible and melodic musicianship...Fans of vocal oriented, melodic, GENTLE GIANT-ish music will just fall in love with ADVENT's work...True rating: 7/10, a very good, harmonic and enjoyable addition to any prog collection...
Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Adventīs second album Cantus Firmus is a mixed bag of music. The album is from 2006 but itīs obvious from the start that this is a retro prog rock album which draws itīs influences heavily from the big seventies prog rock bands like Gentle Giant, Kansas and Yes.

The first song with itīs a cappella polyrythmic singing is what mostly links Advent to Gentle Giant but there are a few instrumental moments too that leads me to think of that band. The music is pretty good allthough Cantus Firmus is not the most memorable or challenging album I have heard. Another american prog rock band also comes to mind and thatīs Cathedral. Advent isnīt anywhere near as good or original as Cathedral though.

The musicianship is very good even though Iīm not much of a fan of Henry Ptakīs voice. Itīs too low in the mix which probably doesnīt help either.

The production is a bit of a problem for me. It doesnīt sound fully professional to my ears and Iīm not enjoying myself with this sound. It doesnīt exactly ruin the music but it certainly doesnīt enhance my experience either.

The cover artwork is rather enjoyable for the eye and signals precisely what it should.

Advent could use a bit more originality in their music but otherwise this is actually a good album that Iīll rate 3 small stars. The problem is that there are so many other good albums in this style that I would rather listen to that this album will probably collect a lot of dust on my shelf and it might be closer to 2 stars than the 3 Iīm going to rate it.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Attempting to tackle the wondrously complex legacy of Gentle Giant is a lofty ideal that few have endeavored successfully because it requires capturing not just a bygone spirit but also the polyrhythmic techniques that make it so unique. These New Jersey amateur musicians remain highly qualified after an initial debut album that had many amazing ideas but was marred by a tinny production that did not really do full justice to their talents. "Cantus Primus" is their sophomore release and adequately irons out the previous creases, while encased in a gorgeous Michael Phipps cover artwork that enlightens their medieval rock leanings. After a brief multi-part counterpoint vocal hors d'oeuvre, the improved mood comes straight to the forefront on the splendid "Awaiting the Call", a sweeping dual keyboard instrumental adventure that has an immediate highly symphonic appeal, intricate guitar weavings that recall jazzier pastures not too far removed from early Stealy Dan and a dreamy climate that is ear candy of the highest order. "Parenting Parents" has the first "normal" vocal (ā la Minnear) within a gentle preamble, a slowly flourishing semi-pastoral piece that exudes a delicate charm within its nearly 7 minutes, with serene mellotron wisps that mystify and enchant. "Utter Once her Name" is another slow bloomer, very close in style to the previous track, but it frankly somehow fails to grab me as it remains highly ambient and fragile. "Remembering When" is another instrumental story, an Alan Benjamin acoustic guitar piece that incorporates some suave lead guitar, slippery Stick musings and a placid overall atmosphere. "Ramblin' Sailor" as the title implies is a more robust affair , clocking in at a whopping 18 minutes + with a mellifluous recorder leading the charge, a welcome addition that adds a little welcome melody to the complex vocal niceties that immediately recall the Giant. The epic colorations are at times exuberant, baffling and astute, a labyrinth of sound and composition that will certainly require many spin throughs before being completely assimilated. There are broad contrasting sections that keep things interesting, mostly led by a jovial electric guitar and some splashy drumming from new member Drew Siciliano, occasionally fleeting and then suddenly upbeat (generally the recorder is the prime motivator). The 8 minute "Your Healing Hand" gives a Gregorian echo to the proceedings, a soothing ode to fatherhood that has intense lyrics and dissonant/ambient leanings that are truly stimulating, with splendidly emotive chanting vocals, certainly one of the hallmark pieces here. "Firmus Finale" is another instrumental that closes out the recording, paving the way for 2 bonus tracks which are the equal of the prior tracks. It is a fanfarish number that has great merit and an ideal initial closer. The Ptak brothers on keys really give a stellar performance. The 2 bonus tracks are 1987 compositions that combine nicely with the mood with the short and dreamy "Rear View Mirror", a playful ditty that jingles nicely along, while "Alison Awaits (a Ghost Story)" is another epic piece clocking in over 10 minutes. A church organ "entrée en matičre" blends well with some classic vocal work, brooding guitar jangles and elaborate drum patterns from Ken Serio. This is a fine selection that was lovingly reworked from their original (and faulty) demo cassette and displays all the inspiring Gentle Giant/Symphonic influences that fuel the band's muse. While I enjoyed their debut a lot despite the crappy programmed drums, "Cantus Firmus" is a valued second step in their evolution. In no way a necessity to a collection, I still deeply admire unpretentious music lovers who record only for the "Thrill of it All". 4 Turnpike Panurges
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The gift Advent bring to modern prog is the appreciation and value of space and discipline in music. While I feel the band has a lot of growth ahead, I definitely want to encourage them to keep at it: I love this kind of music; IMO, it is too rare in modern prog.

1. GK Contramundum (2:00)
(7/10) opens the album in a GENTLE GIANT/MOON SAFARI way with this acappella song. (Had Moon Safari heard this album before it wrote and recorded Blomljud?). Unfortunately, the message is lost to me cuz I don't 'hear/process' lyrics. I hear the music, the melodies and harmonies. In this respect, the final 15 seconds are the best.

2. Awaiting the Call. (5:10)
(7/10) is an example of how similar much of the instrumental music on this album is to MIKE RUTHERFORD (and ANTHONY PHILLIPS)'s Smallcreep's Day or STEVE HACKETT's Please Don't Touch-through-Spectral Mornings era music. The second section of picked strings is sublime. (1:53 to 3:03: "All in a Mouse's Night" anyone?)

3. Parenting Parents (6:45) (8/10) starts with vocal, organ and synths, to which is added acoustic guitar. Beautiful, angelic voice. Medieval sound and lyric & vocal style. As with the previous two songs, one can grasp and aprreciate the complex intricacies of this song-- subtle though they are--however, they lack any kind of melodic or emotional "hook" to draw/suck in the listener--i.e. those magical moments that cause the listener to forget about time and the existenxe of any external world. 

4. Utter Once Her Name (5:30)
(9/10) is a brilliantly constructed and executed song--again in the Smallcreep's vein. The vocals of this song must be quite difficult to perform live (though I'd love to see it!) because of its numerous unaccompanied rests and odd time signatures and frequent key shifts.

5. Remembering When (4:00)
(8/10) has an awesome start--NEAL MORSE-like guitar hooks you in right from the start. Fretless bass and electric guitar are woven together most exquisitely. A second--and, later, third--electric guitar adds just more beauty and interest to the weave. However, the song is just not developed enough. It's more like an interlude song.

6. Ramblin' Sailor (18:14) (8/10) is the albums epic. It sounds a lot like a JETHRO TULL/GENTLE GIANT mix ā la RITUAL's 2007 album, The Hemulic Voluntary Band. A bit drawn out and slow to develop.

7. Your Healing Hand (8:18)
((8/10) sounds a bit like THE TALLIS SCHOLARS being accompanied by STEVE HACKETT's electric live band. Beautifully constructed and arranged--and very technical--but, again, lacking development and the magical "hook." These songs must look awesome on paper--i.e. in musical notation--but the don't transmit that cerebral mathematical genius well to the listern. Space and subtlety reign supreme . . . to the neglect of 'danceability;' great to observe; difficult to participate in.

8. Firmus Finale (4:40)
(7/10) sounds so much like BABYLON's "Dreamfish" or GENESIS' "Watcher of the Skies. The 4:00 shift to Hackett-like pedal work is nice but the synth horns don't work for me.

9. Rear View Mirror (Bonus Track) (3:34)
(7/10) is so familiar in a Smallcreep's/MOON SAFARI way. The vocal even sounds like it's NOEL MCCALLA!

10. Alison Waits (A Ghost Story) (Bonus Track) (10:40) (8/10) is again very familiar in a Smallcreep's Day/ANTHONTY PHILLIPS Wise After The Event kind of way. I like the drumming on this one. Interesting "A Trip to the Fair" kind of circus eeriness to it. There is a great ANT-like buildup in the middle before returning to the eery theme.

The similarities to the Swedish band MOON SAFARI are numerous. (Are they mutual admirers?) Both bands obviously value greatly vocal tradition?as do I. A often forgotten or under-developed side of music, IMHO. While I commend Advent for its 'classical' efforts and tremendous musical discipline, there is something missing, overall, in the music's (and, therefore, band's) ability to lure me in and keep me there. The album's music seems to lack necessary emotional tension and intrigue. Oddly, I found the two bonus tracks--both written (and recorded?) several years before Cantus Firmus--much more engaging than most of the 2006-released material.

Keep on trying, Advent! I love this kind of music! I will be an enthusiastic supporter and follower of this band from here on!

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Advent, this eclectic prog band from USA, deliver with their second album a pleasent , adventurous music but yet quite melacholic and with two much mellow parts. Cantus firmus is the nam of the release from 2006 and is for me as for many listners a mixed bag of good and inventive arrangements with almost boring parts. Considered the Gentle Giant of moder prog, Advent , never hide their influences and is showed big time here how Gentle Giant they sound from the first note to the last. While I do like this album, pieces like Awaiting the Call... and the longest and most intresting tune of the album an almost epic sided pieces Ramblin' Sailor clocking around 19 min, definetly needs attention, but the rest is quite ordinary yet not bad. I'm bothered by the two much mellow parts, to much vocal oriented passages. Well, what to say, some fans think that this is a very solid album, some that is almost mediocre, I'm in the middle, is ok most of the time with beautiful complicated parts but is far from a masterpiece or something alike. Aformentioned pieces are the best and the most complicated Advent ever done, from symphonic parts to more eclectic ones they did in the end a fairly decent album. 3 stars, very good cover art, shows perfectly what is inside the album, medieval prog rock.

Latest members reviews

4 stars ADVENT "Cantus Firmus" is a very good example which you can make a very good work using old models and conceptions. Take a great portion of GENTLE GIANT and mix with smallest portions of GRYPHON and THE ENID music and you find the ADVENT style of progressive music. Vocal counterpoints -main ... (read more)

Report this review (#771976) | Posted by maryes | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Track 1 "GK Contramundum" is a very brave start to any CD, 2 minutes of pure vocal, this makes you sit up and think "wow" this band is different! Track 2 "Awaiting the Call" starts a bit jazz rock then envelopes into a lovely English 60's folk piece then back into the band sound. Lots of twi ... (read more)

Report this review (#375831) | Posted by usa prog music | Friday, January 7, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Finally, an album which hits the right tangents. Once in a blue moon, I get a bit of a blue period where everything is a struggle. Not that I am complaining. My life is excellent. But I am struggling in all aspects of life at the moment and I am also starting to feel my age. Accumulations of ... (read more)

Report this review (#277586) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, April 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars This is one of those releases that you come across and based on the album cover artwork, you dive in expecting to be taken on a journey through time. Having recently delved into the Renaissance/Medieval new age genre, I was hoping on a contemporary twist being given to some traditional music, if ... (read more)

Report this review (#275653) | Posted by pfdfcc | Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I honestly don't understand how every derivative neo-prog album here can have a bunch of so-called qualified Contributors handing out 5-stars like crack on the street, and yet an insanely talented band like Advent, who actually TRY to sound a bit different from the rest of the rabble, gets the b ... (read more)

Report this review (#244574) | Posted by Anteater | Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Composition/Creativity: 22/25 Structure of the songs is more focused without being standard or traditional in any way. The melodies and lyrics seem to work much better together than n their debut. Musicianship: 20/25 Very well played. Alan Benjamin has developed a real talent for cr ... (read more)

Report this review (#176924) | Posted by Trademark | Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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