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SHINY EYED BABIES

Bent Knee

Crossover Prog


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Bent Knee Shiny Eyed Babies album cover
4.18 | 145 ratings | 7 reviews | 42% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Shiny Eyed Babies (1:19)
2. Way Too Long (4:59)
3. Dry (6:07)
4. In God We Trust (5:20)
5. I'm Still Here (5:08)
6. Dead Horse (5:17)
7. Battle Creek (5:42)
8. Untitled (2:00)
9. Sunshine (5:19)
10. Democratic Chorale (1:42)
11. Skin (5:58)
12. Being Human (6:28)
13. Toothsmile (7:23)

Total time 62:42

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Courtney Swain / lead vocals, keyboards
- Ben Levin / guitar
- Chris Baum / violin
- Jessica Kion / bass, backing vocals
- Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth / drums
- Vince Welch / sound design, producer & engineer

With:
- Abigale Reisman /violin
- Rachel Panitch / violin
- Matthew Consul / violin
- Abby Swidler / viola
- Rachel Jayson / viola
- Ro Rowan / cello
- Valerie Thompson / cello
- Rob Krahn / trombone
- Sam Morrison / baritone sax
- Tyler Kion / alto sax
- Rach Azrak / flute, piccolo
- Matt Hull / trumpet
- Guy Mendilow / berimbau

Releases information

Artwork: Bree Lurver

CD not-on-label (2014, US)

Thanks to kev rowland for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy BENT KNEE Shiny Eyed Babies Music


Shiny Eyed BabiesShiny Eyed Babies
CD Baby 2014
Audio CD$11.35
$7.17 (used)
Shiny Eyed Babies by Bent KneeShiny Eyed Babies by Bent Knee
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Audio CD$38.52


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BENT KNEE Shiny Eyed Babies ratings distribution


4.18
(145 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(42%)
42%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(26%)
26%
Good, but non-essential (19%)
19%
Collectors/fans only (11%)
11%
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)
3%

BENT KNEE Shiny Eyed Babies reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars BENT KNEE out of Boston were formed in 2009 at the Berklee College Of Music. This is their second studio album and this five piece band has 13 guests helping out on a variety of horns and strings. While the singer Courtney Swain is certainly the focus this band is simply "lights out" when it comes to the instrumental work. I've never heard anything like this to be honest, it's one moment melodic and almost poppy then it turns very powerful and intense in an experimental manner the next moment. Some call it Avant Pop or Experimental Pop but that's far from the whole story here. Talk about dynamic, innovative and adventerous! And the lyrics are extremely meaningful and so well done. Back to Courney's vocals, what can I say? She has suddenly become my favourite female vocalist. The absolute sheer power that comes out of her mouth is incredible, but she's doing gymnastics when it comes to vocals, seemingly to be able to sing in any style with perfection.

Up first is "Shiny Eyed Babies" a short piano/ vocal track where she sings about having a baby out of wed-lock and kissing her baby hello while kissing her now ex goodbye and singing about the judgement directed at her. "Way Too Long" is maybe my favourite. A heavy duty intro as passionate vocals come in. "I've has a secret for way too long" is a line she sings and man she can sing. Check out the vocal melody 3 minutes in! Oh my! The instrumental work that joins in kicks some serious ass. I'm laughing out loud at this point in disbelief. The final 30 seconds are spacey.

"Dry" opens in such a cool way instrumentally as reserved vocals join in. Soon she's bringing it hard vocally including those amazing vocal melodies that warble here. The horns before 4 minutes are adventerous then it kicks back in. Some nice violin in this one too. Check out the killer instrumental work late, it's quite experimental. "In God We Trust" opens with picked violin as vocals join in. As it picks up i'm feeling emotion as it starts to groove. Backing vocals here as well. It settles back and again i'm moved. It's building as she repeats certain lines over and over. Great track! "I'm Still Here" opens with a spacey organ-like sound as laid back vocals and a lot of atmosphere join in. Vocals and keyboards 2 minutes in then it becomes fuller. A moving section a minute later with piano, vocals and violin standing out. It's building late as she sings "I'm still here" over and over.

"Dead Horse" has pulsating piano to open as vocals join in and electronics come and go. It settles into a fuller sound before 2 minutes with some excellent violin. I love the spacey calm later after 4 minutes reminding me of Klause Schulze. "Battle Creek" has such a unique soundscape early on with the synths, keyboards, picked violin and spacey vocals. She starts to sing with passion and the instrumental work follows suit. So good! We get a powerful instrumental section 3 minutes in followed by a calm with violin melodies. Gorgeous. The violin adds emotion after 4 minutes as vocal melodies continue then she's singing again late. "Untitled" is a short vocal/ piano piece with lyrics like "Please won't you just raise your voice, I need to know i'm worth an ounce of pain". "Sunshine" is a cover of that old song and it seems fairly normal until she sings in a disturbing way after 3 1/2 minutes and my hair is standing up 5 minutes in as she sings in anger.

"Democratic Chorale" is a short piece with sampled spoken words in the background as the piano plays in a laid back manner. "Skin" has slicing violin as the drums kick in with power and vocals follow. The drums are out in front here. Catchy stuff as the focus becomes the vocals 1 1/2 minutes in. Themes are repeated. It becomes instrumental with honking horns and more and then it turns dark and creepy. Man this is good. Piano only follows before 5 minutes to the end.

"Being Human" is the song that got me into this band, as someone posted a video of them doing it live and it blew me away. It's so pleasant and beautiful early on and this will be contrasted with powerful instrumental jazzy sections. Punchy sounds come and go before 3 minutes as vocal melodies join in. Check out the heaviness before 4 minutes! A spacey calm ends it. Incredible! "Toothsmile" ends the album and synths and vocals lead the way early on. Violin 2 minutes in. A calm then a powerful sound 4 minutes in. It then starts to slow down like a train late but it's still powerful. Love the way it ends.

Man this will be near the top of my fav albums for 2014 for sure. You have to hear this band!

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team
5 stars BENT KNEE's lead vocalist, Courtney SWAIN, might be the bravest woman I've ever heard of. To be able to replicate even one of the amazingly intense vocal performances on this album in a concert setting would wear me out; I'd need at least a day to recover from singing just one of these intensely personal, emotional songs in the incredibly dynamic way that she does. Courtney SWAIN may be the most powerful, emotional vocalist I've ever heard. She sings with the emotional intensity of BJÍRK or a young ALANIS MORISSETTE only amped up by ten. She has the vocal power of ETHEL MERMAN. She has, at times, the tone and timbre of NORA JONES, at others the quirk and tone of EDIE BRICKELL, and still others the stylistic flair of ANNE PIGALLE. At al times she exhibits a fearless, devil-may-care attitude similar to NINA HAGEN. Her lyrics possess a personal and intellectual style similar to RIKKIE LEE JONES. The band's music expresses itself with an originality that I would compare to KATE BUSH or TOBY DRIVER, KING CRIMSON or JANE SIBERRY, with a sound and structural style sometimes similar to DEVOTCHKA and yet with the power packed intensity and dynamic range of EMILY AUTUMN. And the instrumental accompaniment seems to always, always match perfectly the mercurial approach of Ms. SWAIN's vocal deliveries.

I cannot remember being this excited about an album since I heard MAGMA's MDK for the first time back in the summer of 2009. I feel like I could write paragraphs about each song they are each so diverse, so powerful, so fascinating, so unusual, so complex and driven by such an amazing collaborative effort! Instead let me wax rhapsodic about one song that epitomizes the unique and unusual product and effort that is BENT KNEE. Song 7 is entitled, "Sunshine." Barely recognizable before the final stanza (which is repeated three or four times at the end of the song), this is actually a remake of a popular song that was written by Georgians Paul Rice and Oliver Hood around 1933, performed for years in the American South--mostly in Louisiana--by the Rice Brothers Gang, but only first recorded in August of 1939 by The Pine Ridge Boys (Marvin Taylor and Doug Spivey)--though the February of 1940 version recorded for Decca Records by Jimmy Davis (later governor of Louisiana) and Charles Mitchell was the version that brought popular attention to it. When it was then covered four times in 1941 by no less than the likes of Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Mississippi John Hurt, and Lawrence Welk, "You Are My Sunshine" became permanently embedded in American popular culture. The song has been covered numerous other times--so often, in fact, that according to Wikipedia it is "one of the most commercially programmed numbers in American popular music." Originally performed in a country or folk music style, "Sunshine" has, over time, been adapted into many musical styles--and is most assuredly familiar to most every natural-born American. But, I will go out on a limb here to declare that most Americans have never heard this song in the form or with the power or intention that Bent Knee now gives it. With Courtney Swain at the helm, the band give "Sunshine" a feel of desperation and longing and regret and vengeful anger at an act of perceived betrayal the likes of which I have never heard before. Ms. Swain sings it with a kind of jilted young girl crazed mournfulness that is entirely unsettling and yet emotionally engaging to the listener. As in many of these songs, there are multiple moments in which I find chills of emotional resonance racing through my bodymind. The song opens with 40 seconds of instrumental upbuild as first muted electric guitar strums his muted strings, then piano adds a repeated single note, then cymbal play mimics the edgy, tense syncopated rhythm before bass and violin join in with their tension-building contributions, coming to a near-frenzied mini-crescendo before utterly disappearing--leaving behind the one constant throughout the song: an unsettling two- and sometimes three-note chord being picked by Ben Levin's plastic pick on his slightly-muted electric guitar. Soon Courtney enters with her voice singing the first verse in a plaintive NORA JONES-like voice while occasionally hitting a piano chord to provide a little harmonic fill to the otherwise eerily spacious background soundscape. After Courtney stops singing the first verse, the violin, drums and bass make a very brief dramatic appearance before just as quickly dropping out to allow the spacious emptiness to present Courtney's singing of the second verse. (The renowned chorus is skipped--saved for the end). At first she sounds quite positive and upbeat--even seductively innocent, but then her tone switches subtly but unmistakingly for the last sentence: "..but if you leave me, to love another, you'll regret it all someday," she sings in a slightly ambivalent, yet perceptively menacing, even threatening, tone. Piano, pounding toms, creepy violin and thumping bass immediately take center stage before Courtney's reverbed voice enters from the background with "ooo"s that provide an unsettling, ghost-like effect--all in the space of 22 seconds! Silence--save for the constant plucking of the same muted electric guitar notes--and then the girl comes at us again--each time feeling a little less in control, as if she is coming a little more unglued with each verse. The addition of some well-placed, well-timed high-pitched squeals from the violin and Courtney's purposeful use of off-key, sliding vocal notes, only adds to the effect of showing us that this girl is losing her grip, is going psycho, as she sings, "You once told me you really loved me and no one else could come between, but now you've left me to love another," and when she sings the final line, holding the last word for 20 seconds before turning it into a vehicle for her unbridled shrieking, "you have shattered all my dreams," I believe her! I get chills! Every time! And I find myself wanting to get as far away from this psycho murdering bitch as possible! The full band has been supporting her while she shrieks and shrills with some brilliant play that Robert FRIPP would be proud of and then just as suddenly, at 3:16, they disappear. We are once again, left alone, with that eerie single-note guitar picking and all of that empty space--and this time for an extended wait of 12 long seconds! When Courtney finally enters for the final chorus--sung in a high octave fragile, whispery, wavering, single, though, eventually, sliding note--she is accompanied by the sound of a snapping of a guitar string! "Twank!" Incredible! As she reaches the final words of the chorus, "Please don't take my sunshine away," the full band joins in pumping out their jam at full decibels over which Courtney goes straight into a second singing of the chorus, this time in a full belt Emily AUTUMN-like voice. As the last strains of her descending hold of "awa-a-a-y" fade, the sound of the band morphs into a frenetic, "Day in the Life" type of psychedelic cacophony. But wait! They're not done! They all come together in a PORCUPINE TREE-like metal chord-pulsing support of Courtney's last SCREAMING run through the chorus, each instrument pounding out their loudest possible sound in perfect synchronization with each syllable of the lyric, finishing early with, "how much I love you?"! Wow! What an incredible, exhausting journey. All in just five minutes and twenty seconds! And if you watch the YouTube videos of the band's live performances you can see how totally engaged and into the song each band member is. This is why I can't believe that Courtney or the band can do more than one song per concert performance: they give SO MUCH to each SONG performance that I can't imagine digging deep to do it again for one much less ten to twenty more songs! It must be exhausting! And how I would LOVE to be in the same room for such a performance. There are not many bands I would pay or make the travel effort to go see, but this is one of them. Maybe the only one. And the most amazing thing of all is that every single song on this album is equally powerful, equally well- designed, orchestrated, impassioned, and produced as "Sunshine"!! There may be songs that I don't give 10/10 ratings to but there are none that don't deserve it for effort alone!

The album opens with a brief Broadway/Billy Joel-like piano-based song, 1. "Shiny Eyed Babies" (1:47) which serves as a vehicle for Courtney's singing which, for some reason, reminds me of the unapproachable ETHEL MERMAN. (9/10)

2. "Way Too Long" (4:59) is a powerful song which reminds me a lot of Alannah MYLES' 1990 Grammy Award- winning heavy rock, Annie WILSON/HEART-like hit version of her country song "Black Velvet"--voice, pacing, and musical style. (9/10)

3. "Dry" (6:07) is an awesome and beautiful song presented in a wild, frenetic torch song style that reminds me of Trevor HORN's Zang Tum Tum molding of French chanteuse, ANNE PIGALLE (1985 Everything Could Be So Perfect). (10/10)

4. "In God We Trust" (5:21) sounds like a great JANE SIBERRY (or perhaps k.d. lang) song. This is so quirky progressive like a song from Jane's brilliant masterpieces of progressive rock music, The Walking or Bound by the Beauty albums (1987 and 1989, respectively). A great lyric that makes an awesome commentary on modern society. (10/10)

5. "I'm Still Here" (5:08) opens with a very spacey, ambient feel as only treated keyboards provide the background for Courtney to sing over. Then at 1:50 things shift--music and vocal style. Then at 2:10 we get to the meat of the song, a tom-tom-based rhythm with all kinds of high-pitch keyboard and violin notes screeching away above Courtney's voice. At 3:15 a new, more prog-like pulsing rhythm-and-bass-led section ensues to play out to the end as Courtney sings in a high crystalline voice, over and over, "I'm still here!" Very KATE BUSH-like in this extraordinary song arrangement. (10/10)

6. "Dead Horse" (5:18) opens with an ALANIS MORRISSETTE "Thank U"-like staccato piano chord sequence being bounced about. Courtney's vocal even sounds like it could be Alanis. A very scratchy, distorted sound is given to all keyboard sounds until at 1:40 an orchestrated clear rock sound is presented. The Alanis MORISSETTE comparisons continue--though, once again, there is a strong presence of JANE SIBERRY within. The keyboard and drum interlude mid-song is so cool and so beautiful. This is so Jane! The piano and steady background synth washing that fill the final 75 seconds are gorgeous! And haunting! (10/10)

7. "Battle Creek" (5:43) opens with a bluesy treated PINK FLOYD "Wish You Were Here"/"Pigs--Three of a Kind"-like guitar before Courtney's quiet, almost background voice begins to sing. The song is constructed so unusually, so ingeniously, again, very much like a KATE BUSH or BJÍRK song and yet with so much more emotional dynamism. Times ten! It's brilliant! (10/10)

8. "Untitled" (2:01) starts "Side Two" much in the same way that the title song started "Side One"--with a brief piano-based "show tune" showcasing Courtney's more classical side--this one sounding a little more like a stark 1920s/30s KURT WEILL/BERTOLDT BRECHT lieder. (9/10)

9. "Sunshine" (5:20). Shall I recap?! STAY AWAY FROM CHICKS LIKE THIS!! (12/10)

10. "Democratic Chorale" (1:42) is another late-night solo-piano bar-styled piano-based GERSHWIN-like jazz song complete with background television (or radio) noise. (10/10)

11. "Skin" (5:59) opens with a couple of soft piano chords before a frenzied violin plays a high-speed, high- pitched arpeggio, repeated over and over. The first half of the song is a powerful rock song in the tradition of hard female rocker JOAN JETT but at 3:12 Courtney sings, "Everything went wrong" and the rock music stops and a KING CRIMSON "One More Red Nightmare"-like sound and vibe ensues. Violin screeches a low- end note that throws all key-tuning out and off. Keys, industrial-sounding drums, build until they suddenly give way to a jazzy piano-bar like piano solo. Awesome song! Totally unpredictable and ingenious. (10/10)

12. "Being Human" (6:28) is the first song I ever heard by the band--a live YouTube video of a live performance at Hand Forged Works. Hearing that opening line, "I imagine your dead body lying in my bed," and then "You never liked the thought of being human anyway," and "Death is one more option to explore" had me hooked even before the incredibly powerful music of the full band kicks in. I love this arrangement, this music! And when Courtney fills a space in the music at the 1:45 mark with a shrieking, "But it feels like PAIN!" she kills me! Amazing, amazing song that rivals even "Sunshine" for Song of the Year! Every instrument is worth studying, all of their contributions are so amazing! And listen to the way in which the guy running the sound board will play with the effects on Courtney's voice. Mid-song! Amazing! And then the ambient band play for the song's last minute. (11/10)

13. "Toothsmile" (7:23) opens with a cheesy organ over which Courtney sings a gorgeous, emotional BJÍRK-like vocal. For the first half of the song the other band members add a variety of odd orchestra-like sounds and incidentals to the song. But then a dramatic PETER GABRIEL ("3")-like power section takes over--over which Courtney's treated voice continues to belt away. Then, at the 4:30 mark Courtney's heavily treated speaking voice starts to chant out what seems like a list or poem or spell or something deranged as the band winds down its tempo very slowly in a kind of slow portamento or as if the electric equipment is slowly losing its battery power. (10/10)

This album is no joke! This is the best album of 2014 and the best album of the 2010s (so far)! I have never heard such a powerful and refreshing album. And there is so much to hear--each time I listen I hear tons of new things--incredibly clever nuances and incidentals. And GREAT production! This album will most certainly take its place in my Top Ten All-time Favorite albums. The only question is where?

Review by rogerthat
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The lyrics booklet that accompanies the digital copy of Shiny Eyed Babies has a black and white depiction of a nuclear explosion on its second last page (the booklet is full of such stark black and white pictures). It is an apt metaphor for the nature of the music. That is basically what the music feels like: exploding with raw intensity that is almost frightening to behold at times.

Formed in Berklee in 2009 like their more illustrious prog predecessors Dream Theater, but you couldn't get two bands more unlike each other (Bent Knee also carefully avoid any references to prog on their website). Dream Theater's music is a polished but breathless exposition of a style where metal meets jazz-rock. Bent Knee's is a raw and violent but drawn out and meandering melting pot of diverse styles. The line up of 'additional musicians' performing, variously, cello, trombone, saxophone, would do RIO bands proud.

For all that, though, Bent Knee are unabashedly modern. Moments reminiscent of classic rock (like an organ tone on keyboards in Tooth Smile) blend seamlessly into an assuredly 21st century soundscape. I mentioned Dream Theater and my crossover prog colleague mentions Tori Amos in the bio but if there is one band that I would hazard to liken Bent Knee's sound to, it is The Mars Volta.

The similarity they share with Mars Volta is violent punkish energy combined with very soft and slow passages of music. Like Mars Volta, they don't seem to feel the need to play at breakneck speed all the time. Bent Knee seem to recognise that explosiveness in music is better expressed through these soft-hard and slow-fast contrasts. The challenge lies in putting together these contrasts such that the music flows and doesn't get too stop-start to get into. I would venture to say Bent Knee manage this feat even better than Mars Volta.

And that's not the only thing they do better than Mars Volta. Their eclectic blend of influences, diverse enough to include moments of very jazzy piano, as well as the wide variety of instruments make their music much richer, offering a lot for repeat listens. Further, their songs are more organised, more concisely written and get to the point where Mars Volta's rambling could leave listeners lost at times. The longest track, Toothsmile, is still under seven and a half minutes. But the music is not concise to the point of lacking breathing space either or being constructed in a predictable way. Bent Knee manage to keep the listener off balance at all times.

And a significant part of the reason why is vocalist Courtney Swain (I managed to write a Bent Knee review without getting to her until just now!). The band's startling dynamism and explosiveness only come to fruition because she is able to straddle the gamut - from Fiona Apple to um, I don't know, Bjork? I am struggling to think of names of female singers who have done that kind of raw screaming (while still remaining largely melodic and in control) with such frightening power. Maybe it's a first! Exhibit A is Being Human, where she begins with soft singing over keyboard that brings Apple to mind but the twisted chords warn us that danger is at hand and sure enough, she moves into far more violent territory.

It is not violence without a cause, violence for violence's sake, though. What I describe is violence is really an intense outpouring of anguish. The nuclear explosion is basically the venting of a raging soul. This soulfulness underpins their energy all through the album and gives it coherence. It also gives it rhythm, starting with the more stoner-like Way Too Long/Dry, moving into a vulnerable interlude from I'm Still Here to Battle Creek and concluding with the crescendo of Toothsmile.

Does the music sound this way to give voice to the lyrics rather than the other way round? Possibly. I don't know that these heartfelt words would have come out better with Karen Carpenter singing them, if you get the drift.

As far as standout tracks go, Being Human and Toothsmile, are my favourites. But there's plenty of keepers on this one. The wailing chorus towards the end of Battle Creek, for one, will stay with me for a long time, as also Swain's spine chilling shrieking to conclude Sunshine. I have a bit of a problem with the flow of Skin but the rest is fine by me. Five stars without hesitation for an album quite unlike any other you are likely to have heard.

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Imagine you take a vocalist like Christina Wolfe or Jarboe - someone who really isn't afraid to get into some seriously dark areas, but is also capable of singing quite beautifully as the mood demands. Add modern-day keyboard mastery, and then put her in front of the most bizarre and sonically diverse bands in rock music since Mr Bungle, and you have something that might approach the outrageous rollercoaster ride that Bent Knee offer up here.

Don't let the pretty album title - or, for that matter, the charming intro that shares its name - fool you for a second: just as you think Bent Knee are going to ease up on you, they go for the kneecaps again, creating an alternatingly intoxicating and terrifying sonic landscape. This album makes Disco Volante by Mr Bungle (the closest sonic comparison I can come up with), with all of its extremes, seem like a walk in the park - and that's before you even consider the lyrics. In some of the most beautiful moments of the album, frontwoman Courtney Swain is singing to a corpse.

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars After seeing an album with such few ratings (86) creep into the top 100, I was intrigued. Surely this must be an INCREDIBLE album to garner a rating even higher than albums as coveted as "Red", "Animals" or "Fragile"! Unfortunately, after several listens, I've been deceived.

I suppose that Bent Knee can be seen as a modern day Van Der Graaf Generator. It seems that most fellow reviewers have been commenting on the lead female vocals. Personally, they have a Hammill-esque marmite effect on me; some seem to adore it, I feel like my ears are being gouged an hour. The singer's voice, and its subtly grating quality, combined with the generally dark subject matter and generic sounding "metal-prog" instrumental accompaniment that seems to be the rage nowadays (you know which one I mean; put on just about any celebrated prog album of the 2010's) make for an album that I really don't care to listen to again in the future. If you enjoy Van Der Graaf Generator and darker prog, or if you like the sort of metal-ish sound that I described earlier, then this may be right up your alley. But personally I can't bring myself to give this above 2 stars.

Latest members reviews

5 stars I listen this album more than one year after their release and it was a great and nice surprise to discover the talent of this band through 13 solid and intelligent compositions. I can't make an analysis of each song because I feel this is an album that you have to appreciate as a whole work wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#1522546) | Posted by progadicto | Saturday, January 30, 2016 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Before I start, this album is five stars, an undeniable five stars! The problem I have when reviewing albums is that I only get albums that have been highly recommended before hand or I have a personal place in my musical mind of which I may listen to albums that are only rated three stars but t ... (read more)

Report this review (#1522291) | Posted by Alucard Draco | Friday, January 29, 2016 | Review Permanlink

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