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Heavy Prog • Bulgaria

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Kalin Tonev biography
Previously known as the core of the prog rock project TRAVELHOUSE, Kalin TONEV presents his first solo effort. "Machine Years" album comprises the whole gamut of prog territories and promises a worthy experience from a highly talented author, whose imagination easily crosses any prog rock border known. The music is heavy keyboards driven symphonic with influences of Jason Rubenstein and Derek Sherinian.

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4.15 | 7 ratings
Machine Years

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Machine Years by TONEV, KALIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 7 ratings

Machine Years
Kalin Tonev Heavy Prog

Review by Replayer

5 stars Having previously been the main force behind Bulgarian instrumental prog outfit TravelHouse, keyboardist Kalin Tonev recorded Machine Years as his first solo album, which I find to be a very impressive effort.

Machine Years is an instrumental prog album, the only vocals present being in the form of short samples. The album's cover is indicative of its retro-futuristic sound, blending 70s style riffing with electronic and contemporary influences. Kalin has developed a style of his own and the compositions' style is very cohesive, while also showcasing variety. The entire album is drenched in Hammond organ, drenched I say! However that is not to say that the album is dominated by the organ, which is often relegated to the background. Kalin also uses Mellotron string samples on several tracks in a sparse, but effective manner.

In addition to Kalin, who is responsible for keyboards, samples and programming as well as composing the music, the album notes credit three guitarists. Two of them, Biser Ivanov and Daniel Eliseev, had previously played with Tonev in TravelHouse. However, it is Nenko Milev who plays guitar for the bulk of the album. The bass and drums are programmed, but this is no slight on the quality of the album, as they sound real and they're played in a very natural manner, so that I didn't even notice until I read the album credits.

I'm not going to describe every single track, since there are thirteen of them, but rather cover a subset to provide an idea of the album's sound.

Human Not Machine sets the tone for the album, a heavy but joyous track loaded with Hammond organ, guitar riffs, and Minimoog.

Beings is the only track that features contributions from two different guitarists, namely Milev and Eliseev. The track alternates between heavier guitar-dominated sections and spacier synth sections.

Eliseev also appears on the next track, Dust, which abandons the heaviness of the previous tracks and is a spacy and mellow instrumental featuring an ethereal synth pad accompanied by acoustic guitar. A lovely composition.

Mad Dancer is the album's most diverse track, featuring an electronic intro and outro, wordless female chanting samples, distorted guitar riffs, frantic organ solos, and even Baroque organ fugues.

I particularly enjoy Kalin's Minimoog solos on on News from Nowhere, the album's longest track.

Garden is a introspective track, centered on a melancholy bass line and electric piano.

I must say that I enjoy Tonev's organ playing very much and that he has developed his own unique style that does not bring up comparisons with Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, Tony Banks, Ken Hensley, David Sinclair, Peter Bardens or other notable rock organists I'm familiar with.

As a side note, I was offered a free review copy of this album. However, upon listening to the first track, Human Not Machine, on Bandcamp, I immediately decided to buy the album on the opening track's strength alone. It's albums such as these that make me optimistic about the future of prog and remind me that it's still alive and kicking. 4.5 stars rounded up.

 Machine Years by TONEV, KALIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 7 ratings

Machine Years
Kalin Tonev Heavy Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

4 stars

Kalin is a "new" musician to me, but he has been involved in the progressive scene in his native Bulgaria for some years, both in bands and by running a regular radio show. What we have here is an instrumental album, with Kalin providing keyboards and drum programming, and then he has been joined by three different guitarists. But, it must be said that this doesn't sound like a solo project, but much more like a band. Kalin relishes in a filthy keyboard sound, providing chords and passages that wouldn't sound out of place on a Keith Emerson album, if Keith was in his darkest and foulest mood as opposed to his honky-tonk sideshows. The best way I can think of putting it, is that if Chris Squire played keyboards instead of bass then he would have a sound like this.

Although there is a darkness to this album, it is complimented by plenty of light and brightness and is full of invention and dynamics. There are very little "Look at me and see how quickly I can play" moments, but rather this is an incredibly well-arranged album where there are times that he links into the guitar as if it is Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore, or Ken Hensley and Mick Box. This isn't a keyboard solo album, but a progressive rock album with plenty of guts and balls, where the lead instrument is often (but not always) the keyboards. Now I've heard this it has got me wondering what his "real" band albums are like, and when we're going to get the next solo release. But for now, I'll just keep playing and enjoying the wonderful album that is 'Machine Years'.

 Machine Years by TONEV, KALIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 7 ratings

Machine Years
Kalin Tonev Heavy Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

4 stars I'm sure it's okay to notice, that Bulgaria is not really the center of prog when it comes to Eastern Europe. There are many more genre bands coming from Hungary, Czech Republic respectively Slovakia ... and of course Poland most notably. So much the more it's a pleasure for me to introduce KALIN TONEV again, certainly an important figure in his country concerning this genre. So for example he drives an acclaimed radio prog rock show, which is part of the Bulgarian National Radio programme. And he had appearances in more than 20 bands in the meanwhile while being underway in many different styles.

Kalin is already known to me due to the fact that he has been the mastermind of the band TravelHouse some years ago. They released one album under this moniker in 2008, called 'Mindmapping', which is mirroring a quite diverse stylistical journey. Now 'Machine Years' sounds ... different, yeah, unique. A powerful statement most likely, and heavily keyboard-laden. Although supported by three guitarists on nearly all the 13 tracks, this album can be seen as a solo effort with reason, as he is responsible for the song writing as well as production and substitutes the regular bass and percussions. I'm quite sure, that the drum programming as such emerged into a great challenge, caused time. The implementation is tricky overall, not easy to recognize that an acoustic drum set won't play a role here.

The album is an instrumental one, opens with a speech sample anyhow. I would say immediately pointing to its main philosophical theme, as Kalin is obviously dealing with the relationship of humans and machines in general. Both Human Not Machine parts are heavy in execution, featuring a bombast feel, somewhat representative for the album's flow, surely a centerpiece. Furthermore, just emphasizing Beings or Dust for example, you can't deny a strong symphonic essence too. And then again This Empty Space and Late Again are drifting into a more spacey and even downbeat/lounge orientation.

Released in January 2017 KALIN TONEV offers an enjoyable album with 'Machine Years'. I can hear glimpses of Atomic Rooster, ELP, Rick Wakeman ... one or two may detect other influences of course. Initially this sounded a bit single-tracked to me, in the meanwhile though I'm effectively convinced. And this is not least the merit of the collaborating guitarists too, which means Nenko Milev first and foremost. It's worth it to take your time in order to bring this songs into effect really.

 Machine Years by TONEV, KALIN album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 7 ratings

Machine Years
Kalin Tonev Heavy Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Kalin Tonev is not a newcomer to the music industry being in many bands. He was the leader of Travelhouse who did a very good album of fusion prog with electronic soundscapes, metal, and jazz. "Machines Years" is his new project of instrumental prog with guitarist Nenko Milev on most of the tracks. Kalin is handling the keyboards and the drums programming. The songs have many hooks and solid melodies dominated by some synths and vintage keyboards. The sound of his synths are sometimes spacey and sometimes more heavy in the Derek Sherinian and Jason Rubenstein styles. The song "Dust" is one of two quiet songs with some beautiful ambient atmosphere and fine guitar playing. "Mad Dance" bring the ELP type of sounds before getting in a heavier mode. If prog is not popular in Bulgaria, you can count to Kalin Tonev to help gives to this genre more recognition, because this is some high-quality music to check out.
Thanks to rdtprog for the artist addition.

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