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VIENNA CIRCLE

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Vienna Circle biography
Founded in Pewsey, Wiltshire, UK in 2006

UK-based act VIENNA CIRCLE is a collaborative band project with brothers Paul Davis (guitars, vocals, piano, keyboards) and Jack Davis (bass, piano, backing vocals) as the only permanent members to date.

The idea for the band started in 2006, when the brothers started writing songs for what would ultimately develop to be a concept album; with the first world war as the historical backdrop.

After searching on the internet the brothers located Russell Wilson (drums), who agreed to record the drum tracks for the album. He brought along Nick Andrews, at first to engineer the production of the drum tracks. However, Andrews got so intrigued by the bands compositions that he eventually offered to produce the whole album.

The recording sessions started in February 2007, and on the 1st of December 2008 the album, entitled "White Clouds", was officially released.

VIENNA CIRCLE cites artists like Neal MORSE, MARILLION and PINK FLOYD as major influences. On their debut album they explore a mellow and melodic variant of Neo Progressive rock; carefully utilizing subtle and nuanced effects to create nerve and tension to their compositions.

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VIENNA CIRCLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 81 ratings
White Clouds
2009
3.97 | 166 ratings
Silhouette Moon
2013
3.81 | 40 ratings
Secrets of the Rising Sun
2021

VIENNA CIRCLE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

VIENNA CIRCLE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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VIENNA CIRCLE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Secrets of the Rising Sun by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.81 | 40 ratings

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Secrets of the Rising Sun
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by JulesAtCumbria

4 stars I love the fact that the two reviews of this album, posted thus far, are certainly contrasting! Mental_Hygiene struggles to like the album while FredStock is a confirmed VC fan. For me, this album has only come to my attention as a result of a post on the Big Big Train fb page. There are lots of suggestions of bands and albums to try out on such pages - I'm really, really glad I followed this one up!

I'm not about to launch into a track-by-track breakdown of this album but simply say that it really chimes with me personally. The blurb at the top of the VC page cites influences such a Pink Floyd and Marillion. Well, this album has a definite Camel flavour and Paul Davies's soaring guitar has unmistakable leanings towards the wonderful Andy Latimer. I count that as a compliment! The fact that Paul takes on the entire burden of playing and singing everything on this album would suggest to me that it might be a bit narrow - not a bit of it! I was hooked the first time I heard the album (not a common experience!) and was amazed to find that it was the work of a single musician, excepting the addition of Alex Micklewhite on drums, with Gemma Davies handling some of the vocals.

Whilst the guitar work is sublime on this album, there's a completeness to the work that keeps me coming back to it again and again. Wonderfully, in this world of music streaming (where the artist generally receives a pittance for their inspiration) we are able to "try-before-you-buy", and I would encourage all lovers of Camel, as well as bands on the neo-prog genre, to try this album. I'd be surprised if you were disappointed!

 Secrets of the Rising Sun by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.81 | 40 ratings

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Secrets of the Rising Sun
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by mental_hygiene

2 stars Secrets of the Rising Sun is an album I've discovered while trying to listen to the good lot of 2021 prog. I've given it one listen, but it was enough for me to determine how I feel about this record. It's a real mixed bag, with some songs having both really good highs and really shallow lows. I want to be fair, especially with an album that has only a few reviews (eg, regardless of the actual score of this review, I don't want to persuade anyone to not check this album out).

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way: what the heck were they thinking with the vocal production? On the vocals on the first song, I thought it was a stylistic choice because of how clear it was. I'm not sure what kind of auto-tune/pitch correction they used, but it completely destroyed the timbre of all the voices on this record. It sounds vocoded because of how heavy it is, but it's clearly just an effect that was stacked on (with also a boatload of compression and really grossly pristine reverb). On one hand, this wasn't even a musical choice but a production choice (I say choice because there's no way they weren't conscious of how it sounds), but it demolished the delivery of the album for me. I know Vienna Circle knows how to produce an album because the guitar and even the drums sound not just fine, but actually really good. The worst of the bunch is That Night. If it's a stylistic choice, it just doesn't sound good. It's a shame, because I think without it there are some awesome songs that could've shined (fly lady fly, title track, golden sunset roulette). In fact, I could see myself giving this album a higher rating if it was purely instrumental.

The worst songwriting flub is on the song Rivers, just the clap track towards the end. It took away from any sense of development and frankly sounds out of place where it is. Some of the synth tones on this album are very typical of neo-prog: questionable, but not really huge offenders.

The guitars on this album, however, sound awesome! There are some prime moments scattered throughout this record. The best is definitely the peak of the song Fly Lady Fly. Carnival is a killer track! It's a really sick buildup, although I feel like it gets cut up somewhat. Sunset Revolver is my pick for the highlight of Secrets of the Rising Sun. It hits the right spot with the combination of prog metal/heavy neo prog riffage, and it's also instrumental, so no robot vocals. Canyons is also awesome, with some atmospheric soloing that evokes Pink Floyd. The closest the vocals come to working is on the title track, which is actually really catchy! It blows the other vocal songs out of the water.

This is definitely not an essential album, and I feel like it would turn off people who aren't used to the pitfalls of a lot of neo-prog albums. That said, there are legitimate highs to this record that make this a difficult album for me to put a rating on. I can't see myself going back to it other than for the title track or maybe to re-evaluate my listening later down the line.

 Secrets of the Rising Sun by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.81 | 40 ratings

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Secrets of the Rising Sun
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by FredStock

5 stars "A great guitar album, extremely melodic, and a must listen. Especially for fans of Pink Floyd and Camel."

Once I heard that Vienna Circle were releasing a new album 8 years after their last, it swiftly became the most anticipated album of the year for me. Their previous two albums were solid and although I could see room for improvement in areas, I could see the potential for greater albums in years come. I am also one for being stuck in my old classic prog ways and find modern prog rarely captures the brilliance of the classic prog era, and this band has always paid homage to the great prog acts of the past.

Vienna Circle has always been a duo, two brothers, Paul and Jack Davis, and when I heard the news that Jack Davis had left the band and wasn't to be a part of this new album I have to admit I wasn't sure what to expect. As with all my reviews I make sure I give the albums at least 5 plays through before reviewing as with many of these albums it's impossible to digest everything and have a fair opinion on just one listen. It just so happens this particular album got about 20 listens and here are my thoughts.

The album opens with the longest track on the album, and one of the two highlights on the album for me, 'Golden Sunset Roulette', starting with a very prog sounding, 'Watcher of the Skies' style guitar/drum/organ sequence, very cool. It had me sucked in straight away. This song has everything you want from a prog epic. The guitar playing on this album is absolutely superb and very reminiscent of Camel's Andy Latimer, David Gilmour, and at times even Mike Oldfield. The song has strong melody after strong melody throughout, as can be said for the album as a whole.

Five of the nine tracks on this album are instrumental. When I said above that I'd always heard room for improvement in the previous two recordings, the main area would've been vocally. Although the sound of Paul Davis' voice was pleasant, you got the sense of inexperience in his voice but in a strange way it worked for me. I'd be lying however if I wasn't hoping for a slight improvement in this area. Fortunately, on this album the vocals have improved massively and at times are great.

Paul offers up singing duties to Gemma Davis for one of the tracks. 'That Night', which I have to say, it will not leave your head if you give it a few listens. The guitar part is extremely catchy and together with the vocals are slightly reminiscent of Mike Oldfields 'Moonlight Shadow'.

'Sunset Revolver' is a much heavier, metal instrumental that brings back themes from the first track and in particular that crazy catchy arpeggiated guitar melody from the album opener. One for fans of Dream Theater/Riverside for sure as Paul shows off his technical ability on both keys and guitar.

'Fly Lady Fly' offers the album something different with its thumping kick drum chorus. The piano melody is beautiful and reminds me very much of the piano playing in the earlier Camel albums. Probably the closest to a ballad on the album, 'Fly Lady Fly' hosts probably my favourite guitar solo on the album.

The title track 'Secrets of the Rising Sun' catches your attention immediately and has a bit of everything that I enjoy about this band. Sawing guitar solos, catchy choruses, great synth playing, and killer guitar riffs. Try and listen to the guitar riff at the end of the song without headbanging. This track is very reminiscent of classic Pink Floyd for me.

The album closes with the song 'Canyons'. Wow. What a track. Although this album really is full of highlights for me throughout, this track is a real stand out. Everything I want from a prog song. The guitar playing is up there with the greats in my opinion and I can't help but think Paul Davis will never get the exposure he deserves.

So, to conclude, any doubts that the loss of a band member would slow the progress of the band have been quashed and Paul Davis has produced a real masterpiece for me here and the best Vienna Circle album yet. It's clear who Paul Davis' inspirations are, yet at the same time he has managed to form a sound that is unique to Vienna Circle.

The album is very well constructed as a complete start to end piece of work. Each track is different, and the album has kept me interested throughout. I have been on a journey to find new/current artists in the prog genre that can truly be handed the baton by the prog greats from the 70s/80s and I have found one in Vienna Circle and Paul Davis. It's one of those albums where you can say, if this was released in the 70's, I think it would be up there with some of the greatest prog albums of all time. A great guitar album, extremely melodic, and a must listen. Especially for fans of Pink Floyd and Camel.

 White Clouds by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.98 | 81 ratings

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White Clouds
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Presenting a rough draft of the blend of the classic 1980s Marillion/Pendragon neo-prog sound on the one hand and thoroughly modern art rock (a la Radiohead or Porcupine Tree) on the other hand that Vienna Circle would perfect on Silhouette Moon, the brothers Davis and their guest make this first Vienna Circle album a confident debut. Drawing on a somewhat smaller pool of personnel than their subsequent album - Russell Wilson is on drums, and aside from guest vocals from Gemma Burch on the second track that is it - almost everything you hear on here is performed personally by the Davis brothers themselves, establishing the duo (especially main soloist Paul) as interesting new talents in the prog scene with a lot of potential, even if that potential isn't fully realised here.
 Silhouette Moon by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.97 | 166 ratings

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Silhouette Moon
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Imagine playful neo-prog crossed with the trippy, serene neo-psychedelia of acts like Mercury Rev and you've got something close to Vienna Circle's sound on Silhouette Moon - a deft updating of the classic neo-prog sound with enough modern influences to save Vienna Circle from being a clone of any particular previous neo outfit. With soaring compositions which explore a range of moods, Vienna Circle explore each and every phase of their Silhouette Moon over the album's running time, but equally show enough restraint to restrict the album to 50 minutes of strong material and resist the temptation to pad the proceedings out with filler. The Davis brothers and their guests have established themselves as a neo-prog force to be reckoned with here.
 Silhouette Moon by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.97 | 166 ratings

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Silhouette Moon
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

3 stars Next album I was very curious to hear was Vienna Circle's "Silouette Moon" from this year. I hadn't heard anything of them or about them but understood they'd got good reviews. I'm very interested in finding new great prog bands that could interest me as much as the older ones.

The first I noticed was that the singer has a very good voice which unfortunately I don't think can show its full capacity here. "Strangers" is a nice and good starter with wonderful vocals and a great flow in the instrumental parts. The records best song is "Sea" which I though felt interesting in soundscape and voice. I heard voice harmonies and guitar work is greta here. That was the only song I can give 8/10 points. "Strangers" and two other songs got 7/10: "Woven wings" where the vocal parts has a very English feeling and the lengthy "Dreams Presage" with more sweeping symphonic like structures, though quite dull vocals. I don't find the other songs very interesting, just partially. What's good with Vienna Circle is that the sound is clear and sweat. Because they are so distinct it's easy to hear the different instruments for example. I also enjoy Paul Davis voice on many places.

What alas bores me is the piano and the vocals structures which have a feeling of Indie music or Post rock. This music is nice but unvaried so the brothers Jack (bass, piano) and Paul Davis (guitar, piano, vocals) won't get my full love today. Three stars!

 White Clouds by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.98 | 81 ratings

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White Clouds
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by Meegan

5 stars Hello everyone this is my first album review as a member of Progarchives. After reading it I would appreciate if you could Give me some feedback on how I did and what I could do better next time, it would be much appreciated.

White Clouds is a concept album, and this is my interpretation of it, I'm not quite sure if this is 100% percent accurate however this is what I have gathered from the album after listening to it 20 or so times:

White Clouds (Beginning) The album begins with the main character sitting on the English shore. Seagulls can be heard in the background. He begins to reflect on his experiences growing up on the English coast, however he feels that he needs to move on. His optimism towards the future is expressed in the line "There will be white clouds beyond the hills." Overall, the song sets up the album well with a kind of mellow but optimistic tone to the guitar.

First Night In Berlin The song begins with the sound of train in the background. He begins to describe his experiences on his first day in Berlin. Then the music begins to pick up in the background after he describes those around him in Germany turning against him as World War I had just broken out. The tone of the album changes from optimistic to hopeless, and the main character begins to feel that he has no hope of returning to a world of optimism. Other then the story transitioning too quickly between optimism to despair, this song introduces the main plot very well. However that could be expressive of how the world changes very quickly when a war begins.

Stars Of May The main character decides that he is going to leave Germany and return to England, however is denied at customs because the two countries are at war. He decides that he is going to have to return to Berlin and try to live life behind enemy lines. He describes what life is like living alone. He then reflects on the outbreak of World War I, and comes to the conclusion that humanity may have it's problems, however violence is not the answer to these problems. Musically this is one of the heaviest songs on the album, and as a big fan of Heavy Prog, it's also one of my favorites. From this point on, the album is a lot more instrumental than it is in the previous two songs. This is the last song that really introduces the character's situation.

The Morning Fields Of Amber Grey I assume that this is much later on in the war than the episode in Stars Of May. The character walks the broken streets of Berlin, observing all of the obvious changes that have come about as a result of the war. His tone of despair is evident in this song. He begins to pray to God to be able to get through the darkness around him (I believe, when I say this is my own interpretation parts like this can be very dodgy...). This is the longest song on the album, at a little over a 11 minutes 20 seconds. The synthesizer becomes more prominent in this song than in earlier songs, giving it more of a Neo-Prog edge to it. The instrumentals in this song are on point with the subgenre. Overall, the song is very good musically, however it is a dull point in the album lyrically.

Argonne Wood This song is just interviews with World War I veterans of both Allied and Central backgrounds reflecting on The Argonne Forest. This battle was in 1918, which further backs up what I said about the previous song. The interviews are pretty interesting, and they add an aspect of reality to the album. The soldiers describe mustard gas and other aspects of the battle.

Falling This is from a solider's perspective in The Argonne Forest. It describes his experience and ultimately his death. This adds to the reality aspect of the album once again. This is probably the heaviest song on the album. This song just adds to the wonderful musicianship that the Davis' brothers have to offer.

A Break In The Clouds This song brings us back to the story. This is a ballad, and the piano riffs are perfect, making the track serene however also keeping the overall tone of the album at this point. This is the point where the main character realizes that his hope of returning to a normal life is the only thing that drives him at this point. He decides that he would rather die trying to achieve his goal than stay lost in a world of despair.

Conquered Air This is in the dying days of the Great War. The character has returned back to Berlin in hopes of catching a train out of the city to somewhere else beyond the German border. While the passengers are waiting to board the train, they look to the sky hopeful that the daily bombing raids won't delay their exodus from the German Capitol. An air raid alarm sounds, and the main character runs for cover and begins to pray to God for safety. The song goes into an instrumental reflective of the bombing run, and then it begins to describe the Allied soldiers gradual advance on the open battlefield into German territory. The bombing lasts through the night.

Her Green Eyes Blew Goodbye The main character gets out from his hiding place during the bombing raid. It is the morning after, and he is describing his walk through the city. Berlin is in ruins. He describes a man grieving over the loss of a loved one in the streets, and he describes the world as having an illness. During his travel on the street, he comes across a pile of rubble. Inside the rubble, I believe that he finds a bible or holy text of some sort ("Then on the ground/ I found the words you left for me"). This is the shift in the album. His tone returns to his former optimistic tone in the early parts of the album. The piano in this song adds a lot to the emotion surrounding his situation. This song is probably the best musically of any on the album.

White Clouds (Finale) On the final song of the album, the main character begins to reflect on his experiences of the last four years. He comes to the conclusion that war is hell, and the only thing that can get you through that hell is the hope that the world will be different tomorrow. The most important line of the album (in my opinion) is in this song.

"Come with me we'll find a place to go/I'll be the one who lifts you up/Look to the clouds and mourn the millions/Gone that kept their pride"

The lyric reflects all of the thematic aspects of the album perfectly (I will discuss them later). The album ends with the line "There will be white clouds beyond the hills", portraying the return to optimism and hope for the main character.

Themes War is hell. The album describes how a man's life is broken by governmental conflict. However it also describes the psychological effects as well as physical effects of being directly involved. The album describes wars as some of humanity's darkest times.

The only way to get through a time of darkness and despair is to have hope in a better future. This theme parallels the last, using the background of World War I as one of humanity's darkest hours. The album suggests that looking to the future becomes our only option when humanity falls into a pit of despair. The main character comes to realize this in A Break In The Clouds.

(Subtheme): Faith in God is the best way to look to a better tomorrow. As you could tell I shied away from the details of the album that I believed to be theist. This is because I am not quite sure that the people who wrote this have a belief in a prime mover, however I did gather some evidence in the album to back up this conclusion. The only points in the middle of the album that the main character seems to have any hope is when he is reflecting his ideas to God (or who I think to be God), which expresses that faith is the best way to remain optimistic.

Pros The album is a musical masterpiece. There is no song that lacks anything musically on the entire CD. The Davis brothers are incredible musicians. Also lyrically, the album has a fairly complex story and has some fairly in depth themes. All of the lyrics of the album seem to tie together and flow very well, allowing for an overall coherence of the album. The music fits perfectly with the portrayed setting, emotions, and lyrics of the album. Truly incredible.

Cons If I had to say that there was anything bad about this album, I would say that it lacked character development. However I do understand that it is an album, and not a novel so creating a very dynamic character is not something that could really be accomplished in 60 minutes of music.

Overall, I would rate the album a 10/10. If you have never listened to it, you definitely should.

Once again, I would appreciate feedback on my review very much. If you have any ideas about what I should do better next time, then let me know. Also if you have any ideas about the album that you would like to bring up to me, that would be appreciated too. I am very open-minded.

 Silhouette Moon by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.97 | 166 ratings

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Silhouette Moon
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars A band of serious songwriters who manage to pull together quite a little gathering of eclectic sounds (and influences?). The use of orchestra is well done, the simple-yet-intricate song structures and instrument use and play is all highly commendable. I've been quite enjoying this album for a little while and think the album's sole "epic," "Dreams Presage" belongs in the pantheon of classic prog epics.

1. "Strangers" (1:43) is an innocuous little intro dittie. (7/10)

2. "Envy" (2:22) is a very cool, deceptively complex little dittie. Female b vox, strumming acoustic guitars and arppeggiating piano accompany a very melodic vocal, until el. Gtr screams out a wicked solo between the first B and second A section. (10/10)

3. "Dreams Presage" (13:20) begins with about half a minute of flute to introduce the main melody before the full band joins in. At 1:19 a heavy prog with orchestra enters adding some drama and tension. Things quiet down with muted guitar arppeggios before a sax solo takes us through some light and heavy background themes. Then at 3:14 a new synth-led, flute- backed section recapitulates the original theme. At 3:50 all sound and themes drop away to leave a piano, seagulls, and some echoed guitar notes to set up the vocalist. A very pretty section. This song has a very nice, maturely complex feel to it. At 6:25 bass and synth "bees" lead the song to a shift to a more Wild West folk melody behind the simplified flute melody. A return at 7:20 to the vocal section, this time with a little more instrumentation to give it a little more power--to which the vocalist responds in kind. Nice use of orchestra to back the heavier sections. A slightly divergent vocal section begins at the nine minute mark, morphing into a simple song structure with some nice vocals harmonies working totally in sync. Kind of a lull--extended a bit too long for my tastes---in this otherwise exceptional song. AT 12:05 the song returns to full power though with an interesting dichotomy of acoustic/orchestra-like instruments playing along with and in equal power to that of the heavier electrified rock instruments. Odd sudden ending--which seems to bleed into the next song. (9/10)

4. "Scarlet Dance" (3:14) uses the same chord progression from the previous song in a blues-rock format--with a talk-tube modified lead guitar playing its blues riffs throughout the song. Nice portamento synth solo from 1:45 to 2:32. Pretty good song that, again, bleeds into the next song. (8/10)

5. "Woven Wings" (6:26) is a very different song from the previous in that it feels more acoustic and folk oriented--kind of reminds me of the Swedish band, RITUAL. Light, positive, and hummable. It definitely gets into your brain and stays there for a while. AT 2:18 acoustic guitar riffs are doubled up by electric guitars and the song shifts into heavier mode. Flute and picked acoustic guitar join in the mix giving it a very JETHRO TULL feel. Very melodic and almost poppy--though filled with plenty of quirks, subtleties and structural shifts--all of which makes it downright proggy. (9/10)

6. "Ballad of Night" (6:33) begins with a very familiar pop sounding piano chord progression (BONNIE RAIT?) before taking a MOON SAFARI-like turn with full band and sax. The second time it launches into the heavier, orchestra-supported full-band chorus section it sounds very much like the GOO GOO DOLLS' classic hit, "Iris" (which is pseudo-prog, right?) The delicate instrumental part in the fifth minute is quite nice, using space and single notes and hits to great effect. Then the "Iris" section returns and plays out as an instrumental to the end. (8/10)

7. "Sea" (3:36) is a soft, spacious psychedilia song in the vein of LED ZEPPELIN's "The Ocean" from Houses of The Holy. Nothing very special here. (7/10)

8. Eternity" (2:43) is another brief song--an instrumental---that packs a lot into a short time. Beautiful use of orchestra to accompany a kind of U2 "With or Without You" beat and sound-- at least until the electric guitar begins its solo. (7/10)

9. "Together" (5:46) begins with voice and piano performing the melody line simultaneously. A kind of BEATLES "Eleanor Rigby" feel creeps in until the blues-rock electric guitar lead enters (around 1:30). Synth flute in the background is a bit incongruous. Then at 2:47 a drum flurry introduces a kind of folk rock section quite similar to the early AMERICA sound (though the guitar play isn't nearly as intricate or layered as that amazing band was known to do). The song kind of shifts and plays out very much like a GEORGE HARRISON song. Nicely done, if you like that sort of thing. (8/10)

10. "Departure" (3:23) ends the album with an instrumental worthy of a Donnie Darko or Titanic-like soundtrack: piano, distant female voice, full orchestral participation (love the lower register brass!) and, RADIOHEAD/DOVES-like guitars. (10/10)

A wonderful effort from these masters of delicate intricacies and lilting melodies. 4.5 stars rated down for feeling a bit more crossover/prog-related than neo/symphonic.

 Silhouette Moon by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.97 | 166 ratings

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Silhouette Moon
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Vienna Circle's exquisite debut has a new release to further their claim to fame, providing more stunning melodies and daring to go beyond. I anointed 'White Clouds", their opening studio foray with deserved adulation, as I was taken by both their ultra-melodic style and the topic of the atrocity of war, a 'going on 40 year' old personal study. The epic disc runs the gamut of emotions, both the positive and the negative, taking the human condition's musical analysis one step further.

This sumptuously packaged sophomore recording having both a DVD and the CD wrapped in suave cover art and booklet. A very sweet and typically English melody "Strangers"starts off the effort, the voice up front and center with piano and orchestrations, something in the water I guess and just a brief intro for the equally short "Envy", owner of a melody carved out of heaven, fluttery 'aaah' choir and the oblique axe solo are simply jaw-dropping, loaded with unrestrained emotion and passion.

This leads to the next step, the 4 part "Dreams Presage" which alternates a baroque opener, a surly instrumental part that has the guitar fulminating furiously and a serene sax blows its misericord, interspaced by an eerily Phideaux-like main rhyme straight out of his recent "Doomsday Afternoon", a slow piano-led build up all, flourishing bass and jangly guitar all leading to an expected apotheosis which first arrives in the form of a clarinet-driven melody united with another guitar refrain and another Xavier line, finally succumbing to one of the most melancholic orgasm choruses one can ever hope for. The "? Waiting for a love song?" repetition will drop you to your knees in abject submission! The shift is seamless and relentless, recounting the existentialist crisis eloquently described in their anti-war debut album. This piece alone warrants a purchase, a terrific 13 minute+ opus of impeccable construction and sublime delivery. The bluesy "Scarlet Dance" just serves as a culmination of the preceding extravaganza, a bolder and wah-wah guitar drenched upgrade on the preceding melody, just expressed with more bite and resentment. The singing, the wobbly synth and the overall mood are just crushingly amazing. What a quartet of tunes, phew!

Unfortunately, "Broken Wings" does not seem to excite quite like as much, Paul Davis has a pleasant enough voice but here it's just a little wimpy and flat on this song for my tastes and though Jess Shute's colored flute pies a few pipers, the track just plods along somehow unhinged. I tried multiple revisits but outside of the solid instrumental section that rages appropriately, I can only concur with my initial reaction to the song. The strings blasts adds depth but its shallow water anyway. This could have been so much better if it would have spent a bit more time in the oven. Then you have a stellar "Ballad of Night" which again tours the entire periphery of styles, from spacey, to ultra-romantic and then even a psychedelic explosion. Paul Davis has, once you get used to his peculiar high-pitched voice nearing James Warren of the Korgis territory, a quite expressive vehicle to express his angst, and a bit like Steve Wilson, he can also play a cool guitar. Brother Jack Davis tortures the bass strings and the whole piece just beckons the listener into some kaleidoscope world. There is an overt Beatles/Blackfield/Squeeze feel that is uncanny and attractive. Paul really howls, proving that he needs to push the 'lungular' envelope to be credible. The sax and the synth exchange some slippery notes and the guitar solo is fiery and incandescent. A terrific song again.

"Sea" is a dreamier reflection of deep melancholia, a short and fluctuating that sounds close to Like Wendy, a Dutch band that vanished in 2005. Moody and introspective, it has a cool guitar sortie as well. "Eternity" is quite brief as well under 3 minutes and is fueled by massive orchestrations above anything else, all instrumental with a slight country guitar twang feel amid the huge symphonic swirls. It conveys the title rather well. Things get quite Elizabethan on the Beatlesque "Together" with its McCartney piano and Harrison guitar twang and you can hear the hippy-trippy flowery chorus "Soon as it rains?" refresh the piece as if morning dew droplets wash away the night dust. More syrupy orchestra adorns the arrangement, as if George Martin was sitting at the board. Very English pomp rock, wot!

"Departure" finalizes the disc on a lofty note, a brooding goodbye to a most pleasant voyage, dreams still intact, perhaps even more vibrant than ever, the orchestra really taking over now , as the curtain slowly drops to the stage floor and the lights slowly return to their full glow.

Still hooked on the more conceptual "White Clouds" though, a few more spins throughs and Silhouette Moon will perhaps catch up. Melodic, poignant prog this is!

4 Shadow planets

 White Clouds by VIENNA CIRCLE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.98 | 81 ratings

BUY
White Clouds
Vienna Circle Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars There has been a raging rumour going around lately that Neo-prog is making smashing inroads in 2013, boldly torching a new pathway for musical enjoyment, with an abundance of brilliant releases that just keep coming one after another. I must admit that despite my title as a Symphonic Prog Specialist, I have been noticing a massive influx of unknown talents that have been taking my heart and my ears with surprising gusto. Led by double recent releases from both Big Big Train and Galahad, the recent list is long= stunning discs from Final Conflict, Primitive Instinct, Deeexpus, Silhouette, Comedy of Errors, Anubis, Airbag, Edison's Children, Introitus, Legend, Cosmograf, Elephants of Scotland, Gandalf's Fist, Lifesigns, Mystery, Nine Stones Close, RPWL and Silver Key, with a few others that presently escape me. So when I took the plunge to discover Vienna Circle, I knew I was going to be in comfortable territory. I bought both their releases, this sparkling debut and their brand new "Silhouette Moon" (to be reviewed soon) . Aided by a few samples and the obligatory reviews, I am happy to report that this is another new player that deserves your undivided attention. There is something effortless and grandiose in their song craft, the playing is simple yet highly evocative, wonderful bass work, sizzling guitar runs, both rhythm and lead as well as acoustic, atmospheric ivories and solid drumming. The vocals by Paul Davis are indeed higher pitched, certainly in a loftier octave than say BJH's John Lees, James Warren of the Korgis or Steve Wilson. Another close vocal companion would be Xavier Phideaux, especially if the music is also taken into account. The Vienna Circle draws its name from an early 20th century association of philosophers based in the Austrian capital.

The debut album is a savvy affair, a highly mature piece of musical expression that has all the ingredients necessary to carve a long and storied career in Progland. Jack and Paul Davis are two brothers who handle all the instruments, the first mostly on bass and piano while the second handles the guitars, keyboards and the vocals, with guests Russell Wilson on drums and female vocalist Gemma Burch. The foremost strength that immediately leaps out at the listener is the impeccable song writing on display, as well as a musical delivery platform of the highest order. The material is about the First World War, a mournful storyline but with a delicate, romantic, dreamy and memorably hooked manner with some devastating choruses that stick to your ears like glue. Think Porcupine Tree tracks like "Sentimental" or "My Ashes" off the Fear album or some of the classic Blackfield tracks. The playing is quite stunning with a constant sense of creative arrangement = extended mellotron cascades, some fancy slide guitar and quirky melodies. Paul Davis is a tremendous guitarist who is unafraid to let her rip in the fine tradition of Latimer/Gilmour, long bluesy solos that electrify the soul. His vocals are, once you get used to the higher pitch, extremely addictive. Drummer Wilson actually muscles the kit pretty good, keeping things nice and tight.

Like the French band Xang on their farewell "The Last of Lasts", we are offered a graphic story, a concept album that relates the devastating effects of gory trench warfare, expertly relayed in terse lyrics coated in melancholic reverie, from the opener "White Clouds" suavely segued into "First Night in Berlin", a perfect introduction to Vienna Circle's classy neo-prog style. A sad piano amid a train track rumble, ringing bass guitar and the gorgeous voice introduces the upcoming battle, "Deutschland will conquer all"! Funny how gung-ho many seem to be on the onset of bloodletting! So foolishly they forget the carnage! This short song conveys perfectly the innocence of such idiocy. "Stars of May" has the bass upfront and bold, acoustic guitar raging nicely in the backdrop, a few delicate electric licks that garnish the orchestrated sound rather radiantly, the vocals get revved up quite a bit, hitting heftier heights with super backing vocal work. The overall mood follows, stirring up a cauldron of fiery leads and then dies slowly, mercifully vanquished.

The epic 11 minute 25 second centerpiece track "The Morning Fields of Amber Grey" is a classic progressive track ("I'll Find You") that has an immediate radiance to its credit, a perfect synopsis of what this talented crew can offer, clanging guitars and deep philharmonic swaths in a musical style closer to recent Phideaux, a prominent bass and rock solid drumming. The slide guitar work is particularly impressive as its no Howe/Gilmour clone, preferring to fit into the overall symphonic mood. Flabbergasting! This is so worthy, it's positively scary! The brief spoken sample of a shaken veteran soldier "Argonne Wood" is a memory of a brutal battle there between Imperial Germany and France but where many US and British soldiers died needlessly. "It was a curse, really"! Perhaps but the finality of death becomes obvious on "Falling" , a ramshackle crater that will entomb so many, the realization that despondency and not courage is what prevails in the end. Another meaningless life in a meaningless war that ultimately changes nothing. The raging speed guitar barrage evokes the infernal desperation brilliantly as the Big Bertha bass and cannonading drums bash along brutally. "A Break in the Clouds" is a piano-fueled moment of 'all quiet on the western front', a brief respite from the savagery to ponder what every soldier's death leaves behind, a family of loved ones who now have no future left. The sizzling axe solo is a sad and mourning adieu, a farewell to arms that never seems to bring any hope. A church bells resonates profoundly.

"Conquered Air" is another lengthy piece, clocking in over 9 minutes and with military precision evokes the senseless frontal assaults, mowed down by machine gunners with no lack of visible targets. "Prayers for the conquered air" think the troops as they crash to the ground, their bodies shredded beyond recognition. The music reflects the gore, pounding flesh on flesh with muscular drumming, colossal salvos of brooding orchestrations mixed in with slippery synth buckshot. Cute pop this is not! The ebb and flow of battle initiates a piano as it shakes in obvious pain, Davis screeches in agony, deeply possessed by the material at hand, heartbeat evident for now.

"Her Green Eyes Blew Goodbye" is a love song and what a song it is, full of overt romanticism in a chorus to expunge over willingly. Davis lets his axe carve some unfathomable sentimental pain, bass bopping around in a frenzy, "trying to find my way home to you" repeated over and over, I mean just utterly beautiful. The explosive ending is stunning, poignant and tear-inducing. Classic playlist track this is! "White Clouds, Finale " signs the truce to end the confrontation, a track that somehow resonates with foolish hope that 'peace in our time' is at hand , a sad mistake that allowed an even worse scourge to be unleashed on mankind 20 years later. The crows are cawing??

This is a masterpiece in my eyes, just my kind of intelligent, well executed, provocative and well-sung progressive rock, with fabulous lyrics and a seductive voice.

5 milky gases

Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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