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THE SAMURAI OF PROG

Crossover Prog • Multi-National


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The Samurai Of Prog biography
Founded in 2009 as a multinational collaboration project

Multinational ensemble THE SAMURAI OF PROG was formed as a project lead by Finland-based Italian composer and bassist Marco Bernard. He's been active in the Finnish Association for Progressive Music since 1995, and have been involved in their Colossus Magazine since 1996 - and instrumental in the Colossus series of theme albums they have created in cooperation with French label Musea Records.

It was for a contribution to one of those projects that The Samurai of Prog was born, and joining Bernard as permanent members we find US artist Steve UNRUH and Finnish drummer Kimmo Pörsti. Besides this core trio, the philosophy of this band appears to be to involve additional musicians as needed and wanted, and their debut effort Undercover from 2011 bears testimony to that line of thinking, with a list of guest appearances impressive in length, scope as well as quality.

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THE SAMURAI OF PROG discography


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THE SAMURAI OF PROG top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.44 | 93 ratings
Undercover
2011
3.99 | 137 ratings
Secrets of Disguise
2013
3.99 | 215 ratings
The Imperial Hotel
2014
3.77 | 137 ratings
Lost and Found
2016
3.88 | 173 ratings
On We Sail
2017
3.91 | 141 ratings
Archiviarum
2018
3.88 | 155 ratings
Toki No Kaze
2019
3.83 | 126 ratings
Bernard & Pörsti: Gulliver
2020
3.72 | 43 ratings
Bernard & Pörsti: La Tierra
2020
3.99 | 70 ratings
Beyond the Wardrobe
2020
3.29 | 42 ratings
The Lady and The Lion and Other Grimm Tales I
2021
3.88 | 38 ratings
The White Snake and Other Grimm Tales II
2021
3.38 | 20 ratings
Bernard & Pörsti: Robinson Crusoe
2021
3.81 | 26 ratings
The Spaghetti Epic 4
2022
4.03 | 27 ratings
Anthem to the Phoenix Star (featuring Marco Grieco)
2022
4.00 | 21 ratings
Marco Bernard: The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
2023
4.33 | 12 ratings
The Man in the Iron Mask (feat. Oliviero Lacagnina)
2023

THE SAMURAI OF PROG Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE SAMURAI OF PROG Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE SAMURAI OF PROG Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.24 | 22 ratings
Omnibus - The Early Years
2018
4.07 | 10 ratings
Omnibus 2 - The Middle Years
2021

THE SAMURAI OF PROG Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 23 ratings
The Demise of the Third King's Empire
2020

THE SAMURAI OF PROG Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Marco Bernard: The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2023
4.00 | 21 ratings

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Marco Bernard: The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Yes, this is practically 100% The Samurai Of Prog album, despite what's reading on the cover. The TSOP moniker was originally founded by the bassist and producer Marco Bernard, so it's not a big deal anyway. That said, this is a pretty strong TSOP album, although also very typical and thoroughly familiar in style. Almost all collaborators -- as before, the compositions are by an international cast of prog keyboardists -- are familiar from earlier albums, and the fairy tale based concept continues the recent TSOP tradition which has, just within 2-3 years, seen interpretations of e.g. Gulliver's Travels, Grimms' tales and Robinson Crusoe. Sir James Barrie wrote his play Peter Pan in 1902, and the adventurous story has become a household classic of children's literature and the whole popular culture. The liner notes (both the foreword and track-by-track) emphasize the message of keeping alive the child within us all.

What's on offer musically is the usual TSOP stuff: excellently produced, 70's rooted symphonic prog, Foxtrot era Genesis being the most obvious influence. Vintage keyboard sounds, Gabriel-ish vocals and plenty of additional classical instruments. 'Overture' (Octavio Stampalia) is a great instrumental opener in which Steve Unruh shines on flute and violin, Marc Papeghin on French horn and trumpet. 'Never Never Land' (Alessandro Di Benedetti) features the vocals of John Wilkinson. Very fine, roughly 11-minute prog piece, as is Mimmo Ferri's 'The Lost Boys' too. The theatrical dialogue parts (between the characters of Peter Pan, Wendy and the lost boys) on 'The Home Under the Ground' are a bit irritating, but at least this approach is not over-used on this album as it was in the first Grimm-based album.

'The Pirate Ship' (Marco Grieco) is sung by the Peter Hammill -reminding Discipline frontman Matthew Parmenter. Oliviero Lacagnina's 'The Return Home' is the other instrumental and has a charmingly rich arrangement. The final song 'Lunar Boy' (Marco Grieco) is sung by Bo-Anders Sandström from the Finnish Genesis tribute band Rock Theatre. Summa summarum, as I said above, the vocal department is this time very Gabriel styled throughout the album, and for me it's a minus. Several other TSOP albums have a wider and fresher spectre, hence this album won't become a favourite of mine. Nevertheless, as an individual work this deserves four stars, even if the listener has for some time had a feeling that TSOP keeps doing similar albums at too fast pace.

 Anthem to the Phoenix Star (featuring Marco Grieco) by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.03 | 27 ratings

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Anthem to the Phoenix Star (featuring Marco Grieco)
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by alainPP

4 stars THE SAMURAI OF PROG was born in 2009, project and nickname of Marco BERNARD who worked on Colossus and Musea; its philosophy is to integrate guest musicians according to album releases; 15 including three per year since 2020, impressive. Kimmo PÖRSTI and Steve UNRUH forming the backbone, after covers of MARILLION and other groups, they embark on personal compositions from 2014 to make music of quality and emotion; themes on short stories such as Gulliver, Robinson Crusoe or Grimm's tales. Here it's S-F composed by Marco GRIECO for a symphonic prog stamped 70's.

"Anthem To The Phoenix Star" on travel with the constraints of time and space as a preamble, a PINK FLOYD sound for bass, Marek's sax and Juhani's guitar, voice-overs including that of Clive NOLAN forming a spatial soundtrack where the synthesizer is king and where the universe shaped is indeed dystopia; Juhani's infuriating guitar solo at the end. "Burning Silence" continues with the voice of Bart SCHWERTMANN from KAYAK which makes me think of JETHRO TULL; Sara's flute, what a coincidence? a title between conventional 70's rock and melodic space flight; the voice goes on the sound Charisma, carnival in the world of Alice; synths forward again on the Mellotron, percussion à la GENESIS, run to listen to 'The Knife' again while the heroine mother hopes for a second chance; note the pleasurable guitar solo. "Killing Hopes" continues to dive into the prog rock of yesteryear, memory atmosphere, a little about the RPWL good Yogi is there it must be normal, soothing warm voice; Steve UNRUH's violin brings the most for this nostalgic title; the instruments eyeing GENESIS, an arpeggio by divine Rafael PACHA on the guitar and a keyboard finale which this time goes to the shores of the great YES; regressive emotion guaranteed. "Bones" arrives with the folk prog title, Olivia of MOSTLY AUTUMN is the attraction; a melting pot where the beauty of the voice is entangled on the instruments drawing on progressive lands, Rafael here on the uilleann pipes, Olivia on the choirs then the synth part which shows that TSOP is above all an organ sound with Marco.

"Don't Be Afraid" Genesis intro I'll let you guess; John WILKINSON of Dr. FEELGOOD draws his voice on FISH for a moment, the warm neo-prog organ à la MARILLION, Sara's flute in break GENESIS 1st version; it starts again with an Irish gig then a solo by Marcel SINGOR from AYREON and KAYAK to situate the pedigree, piano arpeggio and finale with a logical crescendo before a second, more tortured guitar solo; relentless title. "Wings" to remind that this album to Marco as a grand-guest; a grand piano for the sacrifice of a life to save humanity, it was necessary to show his mastery in an astonishing piano a capela filled with hope and beauty. "Behind The Curtain" in 9 movements; the cathedral organ in the intro brings a prog metal riff before leaving Clive on vocals, yes; Marco and Kimmo are in charge of printing a grandiloquent air, one does not return from space-time and Ankaa without consequence; it's stamped prog from A to Z with the soli, the breaks and it looks like TSOP: colorful, warm, complex and associating all the instruments to release a ''substantially'' musical tune with Cam BLOKLAND of SOUTHERN EMPIRE on guitar hero.

THE SAMURAI OF PROG can afford to release so many albums in such a short time given the number of guests; a prog musical that smacks of the 70s but not as a regressive sound; here it is transformation, ingestion and digestion of the tunes of yesteryear to release soft, warm, hopeful melodies. I feared a consensual musical melting pot, I found myself with an album bringing the prog rock sound to its firmament, allowing to revise its ranges of sounds from before while living well in 2022. No novelty in the genre but a guaranteed magnificence.

 Bernard & Pörsti: Robinson Crusoe by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.38 | 20 ratings

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Bernard & Pörsti: Robinson Crusoe
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Samurai have now chosen the story of the solitary but inventive castaway. Daniel Defoe's novel "The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventure of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner" (1719) immediately became world-famous and much imitated, as the introductory text points out.

Partly it's obviously because of the oversupply of releases from the same production team (which really can make the faithful listener feel pretty full at this point), but this time I frankly remain relatively unthrilled and uninterested by yet another new theme album from The Samurai Of Prog camp. [The absence of Steve Unruh explains the moniker Bernard & Pörsti on some albums, but they do belong to the same oeuvre, made with a similar recipe with an international -- and, by now, familiar -- cast of collaborators.] Of course these musicians & producers still are excellent at what they're doing, and Robinson Crusoe definitely isn't a weak album in its own right. It just won't be among my TSOP favourites, that much I can say for sure even with limited listening rounds. This has a lot to do with the narrow stylistic pallette of vocalists which is not much up to my personal taste.

The instrumental 'Overture' is composed by Octavio Stampalia (of JINETES NEGROS). The way the arrangement picks up in turns various instruments such as keys, flute, violin, trumpet and guitar is cool and dynamic, but overall the piece is a bit over-bombastic to me. 'Like an Endless Sea' is also bombastic and fully packed. Vocalist John Wilkinson is a plain Gabriel/Collins disciple. 'The Voyage Begins' is the expected and trusted David Myers solo piano piece.

'The Island of Despair' (by Alessandro Di Benedetti of MAD CRAYON and INNER PROSPEKT) features vocalist Bart Schwertmann, whose dramatic and hard singing style I'm not fond of. Musically there's a lot to enjoy, such as the gorgeous guitar solos by Steve Hackett. 'Friday', yet another fully packed ten-minute epic, features Marco Vincini's dramatic, Fish-reminding voice. 'The Rescue' features the legendary MUSEO ROSENBACH (and IL TEMPIO DELLE CLESSIDRE) vocalist Stefano Galifi, whose stuffy voice I've never personally enjoyed. So, you get my point? All the vocalists on this album represent the basically similar, drama oriented approach (influenced by Peter Gabriel, Fish and hard rock singers), ie. it's a much less varied selection of vocalists than on TSOP albums usually. Gracefully the finale 'New Life' is a great instrumental. John Hackett guests on flute.

My rating is only three stars (for my subjective liking but also for the sense of having more than enough by now), but if you dig the vocal style and bombastic dynamics, this album is strongly recommended. The arrangement has fantastic diversity and there are so much of fine details to be found.

 Omnibus 2 - The Middle Years by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2021
4.07 | 10 ratings

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Omnibus 2 - The Middle Years
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Following TSOP's first Omnibus box set subtitled "The Early Years" from 2018, this new set contains the albums On We Sail (2017), Archiviarum (2018), Toki No Kaze (2019) and Beyond the Wardrobe (2020) with five bonus tracks. "We're calling this 'The Middle Years' because there's still plenty of charge left in our batteries", the core trio of Marco, Kimmo and Steve write in their liner notes. To me as a long-time listener and reviewer of TSOP, this period is perhaps their finest. Since I've reviewed each album at the time they were released, I'll only shortly quote each review and estimate how well my enjoyment of the music has lasted till today, although the perspective is naturally still short.

ON WE SAIL. "The multi-national prog-Gasthaus have now released their most mature work. This is a beautiful and perfectly balanced 65-minute set of finely crafted symphonic prog." Because so many excellent TSOP albums has come since 2017, On We Sail may not reach my Top Three any longer, but it still sounds strong and highly dynamic. I think the adventurous spirit has a KANSAS flavour here and there, due to the violin of Steve Unruh.

ARCHIVIARUM "is actually a collection of recordings made throughout the years, none of the tracks having been on a TSOP album before. It contains compositions of the musicians that they have worked with, and (more or less re- worked) tracks that originally have been released under other artists' names on the mentioned Colossus projects (the Decameron trilogy, to be more precise)." Partly because several tracks were familiar in advance, this one didn't originally appear to me as an equally rewarding TSOP release, but I have to say that nowadays it stands boldly amidst other albums. The cover of CAMEL's superb instrumental 'Ice' is wisely far from being a carbon copy. The original album had a cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes' as a bonus track, which I frankly didn't like. The decision to omit it here affects positively to the whole.

I have often referred to TOKI NO KAZE as my favourite TSOP album, and probably I still think so. "The final track featuring Elisa Montaldo is another mellow highlight. I'm simply blown away by the beauty of this fantastic album." The album opener 'A Tear in the Sunset' feels all too bombastic now, but the rest has maintained its charm wonderfully. This Hayao Miyazaki inspired album probably has the biggest amount of female vocals which I'm fond of.

BEYOND THE WARDROBE. It's only about thirteen months since my original review. "A marvelous, superbly produced album of first class retro-natured symphonic prog composed and co-performed by excellent prog musicians from various countries including e.g. Argentine, Netherlands, Italy and Japan. In fact I believe this album will be one of my biggest TSOP favourites!" Well, the subsequent new releases of TSOP and related have kept me too busy for having listened to this one very often. But yes, I greatly enjoyed it now. Relatively many classically inspired instrumentals on this one, and fewer guest vocalists (the regular TSOP collaborators Daniel Fäldt and Elisa Montaldo).

The BONUS tracks are scattered on three discs (Toki No Kaze is nearly 75 minutes long on its own). 'The Iron Mask' is a snippet from the forthcoming album of the same name by Bernard - Lacagnina - Pörsti. A tight, Kansas- flavoured prog instrumental containing also a Baroque quotation. 'Pentahedron' is very dynamically many-sided as a symphonic prog instrumental, gracefully avoiding the overblown pretentiousness. 'White Skies' is a totally different version of 'A Queen's Wish' from The Lady and the Lion, and much better. Only Daniel Fäldt's lead vocals (plus backing vocals by the composer Alessandro Di Benedetti) this time, leaving the irritating Disney fairy tale effect behind.

'Killing Hopes' sung by Elisa Montaldo is from another forthcoming album, Anthem to the Phoenix Star by Bernard - Grieco - Pörsti, composed by Marco Grieco. Pretty good song, although the acoustic instrumental section in the middle feels slightly out of place. And finally, 'Take Me Down' composed by Alessandro Di Benedetti. John Wilkinson's Gabriel-like voice underlines the heavy 70's Genesis influence.

If you haven't yet purchased these albums by The Samurai Of Prog, with this box set you can do yourself a big favour if you fancy retro-styled symphonic prog with international stellar cast and excellent production.

 The White Snake and Other Grimm Tales II by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.88 | 38 ratings

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The White Snake and Other Grimm Tales II
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I've been reviewing new albums of this multi-national recording project for many years, and I'm glad to notice that finally there have been also other reviewers around lately. TSOP certainly are a force to reckon in the retro/classic prog styled department of the international prog field, despite not being a band in the traditional sense. The incredible pace of their releases, approximately two albums per year, may indeed be more than the listener really needs, but nevertheless the production team (Marco Bernard, Kimmo Pörsti and Steve Unruh) has always kept the artistic level very high, and the invited composers, usually simultaneously the keyboard players, seem to give their 100% dedication to the collaboration, as well as all the guest musicians.

I was somewhat disappointed with the first album based on Grimm tales, The Lady and the Lion, and had certain reservations for this sequel as well. Will the theatrical approach of story-telling -- and not just any stories but the imaginative fairy tales from roughly two centuries ago -- irritatingly over-dominate these compositions too? The answer is no. The White Snake is in my opinion way better than its sister, starting from the structure of the album whole.

I appreciate the way the opening instrumental piece 'The Tricky Fiddler' makes a brief return in the end to wrap it all up neatly. It's a fine piece featuring Unruh's violin in a lead role. The composition of Marco Grieco (a.k.a. MacroMarco as a ProgArchives included artist) has a flavour of classically inspired vintage Rock Progressivo Italiano, bands such as Quella Vecchia Locanda or New Trolls. The symphonic instrumental bliss only improves with the nearly ten-minute 'Searching for the Fear' composed by Alessandro Di Benedetti (Mad Crayon, Inner Prospekt), which is probably my favourite track. There are lots of solistic moments for various instruments, ie. keys, violin, flute and electric guitar, all proceeding with an elegant and dynamic flow, and the cherry on the top is the beautiful wordless vocalisation by Paula Pörsti.

'The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs' does have the theatrical roled vocals (Unruh and three guests) but thank god not narrative parts the way the previous album had. In the picture Marco Vincini has a Fish-reminding face paint and he certainly puts a lot of drama in his vocal parts. Elisa Montaldo's vocals function beautifully as a softening element. Mimmo Ferri's composing style is undoubtedly heavily influenced by Nursery Cryme /Foxtrot era Genesis without reminding too closely any particular song. The following, equally lengthy track 'The Travelling Musicians' composed by Luca Scherani is basically rather similar in its dramatic, multi-vocal structure. interestingly the lyrics mix English and Italian. Perhaps here the vocals dominate a bit too much; even though the backing music is fine, it is very subsidiary to the story-oriented vocals.

The title track is the longest (17:37) and the most ambitious piece as a full-blown, multi-part prog epic. The French horn and trumpet of Marc Papeghin add a tonal sharpness, and composer Oliviero Lacagnina's organ sound is pretty tight too, but there are also beautiful calmer sections featuring vocals of Camilla Rinaldi, and later also Irish flute of Rafael Pacha. Three rather vocal-centred long pieces in a row demands a lot from the listener, and therefore the instrumental reprise is a perfect way to close the album. An excellent addition to a prog collection for those who fancy dramatic symphonic prog with vintage flavour.

 The White Snake and Other Grimm Tales II by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.88 | 38 ratings

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The White Snake and Other Grimm Tales II
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Squonk19

4 stars For those new to them, The Samurai of Prog is a multi-national symphonic prog rock project dating back to 2009, led by Finland-based, Italian composer and bassist Marco Bernard, with permanent members Steve Unruh on vocals, violin, flute and guitars, and Kimmo Pörsti on drums and percussion ? along with a raft of guest musicians and vocalists.

I reviewed The Lady and the Lion ? volume one of a new series of albums based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm ? a few months ago. The White Snake is volume two, and I was interested in seeing how the series has developed and how it compared with the first album.

I am pleased to say that the quality of the instrumental symphonic prog produced by the project remains of a high standard. The solid foundation that Marco, Steve and Kimmo create is enhanced by the talented guest musicians they have employed ? especially on keyboards and electric guitar. The music is dynamic and diverse and full of invention that would please any followers of the genre.

However, whether you take to the album or not will largely depend on the lyrics and vocal approach. This is fairy tale storytelling prog style! It can often feel like a commentary over a local theatre group's Christmas pantomime. However, on this occasion, the vocals are much less melodramatic and integrate better with the musical flow and structure of the longer, narrative-led tracks, compared to the last album.

The first two tracks are instrumentals and work well. The Tricky Fiddler is a brisk and busy track, not surprisingly dominated by Steve's violin, which combining playfully with lush retro-keyboards, flute and lively electric guitar creates a Kansas/Tull hybrid at times. Searching for the Fear is more of an ensemble piece, with each musician seemingly allowed to take the lead as the track ebbs and flows ? all propelled by Kimmo's drumming ? with prog noodlings a plenty, especially from the guest keyboards and guitar of Alessandro Di Benedetti and Marcel Singor, respectively.

The three, longer, storytelling tracks are each composed by a different guest keyboardist, and the four-part The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs by Mimmo Ferri fares least well. The promising instrumentation (including some nice guitar soloing) is often swamped by the densely-packed lyrical content, and although the vocals are slightly less theatrical than the first album, they are still overdramatic at times. The Travelling Musicians, by Luca Scherani, is better, however, lyrics and music well integrated and it flows more easily, and whilst you still feel you are listening to a stage musical at times, the vocals are stronger ? especially Elisa Montaldo as the cat and Alessio Calandriello as the rooster (just wish I could understand Italian!)

The five-part epic The White Snake has music composed by Oliviero Lacagnina, and is rather good. Fans of ELP/Triumvirat will enjoy the retro keyboards and synthesised orchestration of the Prologue onwards. At times there is a theatrical grandeur similar to ELP's Pirates. The narrative content is stronger too, with Camilla Rinaldi's vocals easy on the ear and Massimo Gori's lyrics never dominating the instrumentation. Violin, keyboards and guitars utilise the additional space given to them more effectively, and there is even some nice Irish flute playing before the proggy conclusion. The final, short instrumental The Tricky Fiddler ? Reprise rounds off the album with a more restrained, stately return to the original opening theme before a final swirl of violin.

A step up from the previous album, although despite the impressive prog instrumentation, it will largely be your liking of musical theatre and lyrical storytelling which will decide if this album, the previous one or any future releases to come from The Samurai of Prog are for you.

(from THE PROGRESSIVE ASPECT)

 The Lady and The Lion and Other Grimm Tales I by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.29 | 42 ratings

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The Lady and The Lion and Other Grimm Tales I
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Squonk19

3 stars THE SAMURAI OF PROG is a multinational symphonic prog rock project dating back to 2009, led by Finland-based, Italian composer and bassist Marco Bernard, with permanent members: Steve Unruh on vocals, violin, flute and guitars, and Kimmo P'rsti on drums and percussion ' along with a raft of guest musicians and vocalists ' many who have appeared on earlier releases. THE LADY AND THE LION, released in May, is volume one of a new series of based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.

As someone fairly new to the project, I found much to enjoy with the ensemble work across the relatively short, 6- track, 42 minutes album duration. Bernard's bass and Porsti's drums drives through most tracks impressively, with Unruh's violin and flute and guitar lovely additions throughout.

Into the Woods is an atmospheric introduction to our journey into the world of magic with the whispered 'Once Upon a Time' vocal welcoming us into the concept and album series. The Three Snake Leaves is even better, with Unruh's vocals combining well with some powerful and dynamic instrumental prog, with retro keyboards mixing fluidly with soaring guitar runs, driving bass and violin and flute supporting this mini-epic. Iron John is an uplifting, cinematic instrumental, written by Kayak's Ton Scherpenzeel, with glorious sweeping keyboard and some moving violin to end with. Long-time collaborator, David Myers, delivers a beautiful and melodic solo piano piece, The Lady and the Lion later on, as well.

However, the two narrative-led tracks: A Queen's Wish and Blue Light, might be more of an acquired taste for many symphonic prog listeners. A Queen's Wish is a very literal rendition of the tale of Snow White ' and unfortunately the excellent instrumental work (which is impressive) is rather dominated by the theatrical vocals and spoken words throughout. Phideaux's Valerie Gracious has a powerful, expressive voice, but in this context, her Kate Bush- like, Evil Queen portrayal feels like it is akin to a commentary over a provincial theatre or children's television Christmas pantomime. Blue Light closes the album and fares a little better, but still suffers from that same melodramatic vocal style at times. However, if you are at ease with that story-telling approach from similar concept prog releases from other artists (as many are), you might have no reservations and enjoy the approach ' as musically, the album cannot be faulted.

The second volume is entitled THE WHITE WITCH and is due out in July. If they continue with the strong compositional work and can find a better balance between the impressive instrumental symphonic prog, and restrain the theatrical vocal performances, the Grimm Tales series of albums might be worth persisting with.

(From The Progressive Aspect - A Different Aspect)

 The Lady and The Lion and Other Grimm Tales I by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.29 | 42 ratings

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The Lady and The Lion and Other Grimm Tales I
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The multi-national recording project The Samurai Of Prog shows no signs of slowing down. In recent years we've had many many albums of TSOP and related, such as the solo album of Kimmo Pörsti, and The Guildmaster project with its folk orientation. The American core member Steve Unruh has been less, if at all, involved on several of those recent albums, but on this new release his contribution is very central. This time the album concept -- for which a sequel is undoubtedly to be expected later this year -- is built on the fairy tales of Brothers Grimm. As a literature lover I find that quite appealing to start with. It's nice to have the plot summaries of the tales in the booklet, but in the end I'm not happy of the way the story-telling occasionally dominates the compositions. I'll come to that later.

The instrumental opening track 'Into the Woods' composed by keyboardist Alessandro Di Benedetti (Mad Crayon, Inner Prospekt) is very charming in its airy melodic approach reminiscent of Camel -- ah, the flute! -- and Spectral Mornings -era Steve Hackett. 'The Three Snake-Leaves' (9:43) written by Chilean prog composer Jaime Rosas with Unruh's lyrics captures the tale's drama effectively. The music is very dynamic, at times heavy, and there are gorgeous soli for various instruments. Unruh's vocals remind me of early Marillion and Fish at his most dramatic (e.g. 'The Web' for the whispered section). Then comes another instrumental, 'Iron John' composed by Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak). He was a core member in The Guildmaster, and also here he added some Old Music flavor although the track rocks too. This far the album is just as satisfying as one has learnt to expect from these hard- working guys and their contributors.

The latter half leaves me less impressed and a bit frustrated to be honest. The solo piano title piece by TSOP's long- time contributor David Myers is beautiful all right (I hear a slight pop ballad flavor à la Billy Joel, which is not a bad thing), but it is sandwiched by two vocally over-theatrical pieces where the narrative level gets way too dominant in my opinion. 'A Queen's Wish' (Di Benedetti/Unruh) is based on the fairy tale of Snow White, and Steve Unruh's vocals are accompanied by Phideaux's Valerie Gracious who acts as the mean queen. This is the album's longest track (11:36) and it contains excellent prog sections, but, as the vocals are mostly either narrative or pure voice acting, I can't help thinking of the audiovisual Disney fairy tales released in my childhood. In other words, the fine music becomes painfully secondary to the shamelessly melodramatic story telling. 'The Blue Light' (composed by Octavio Stampalia of Jinetes Negros) suffers from the same feature. Valerie reappears as a witch.

So, this time my rating is lower than for TSOP releases usually (five stars haven't been a rarity!), but I want to underline that it's mainly because of my disliking for the over-theatrical, story-telling oriented approach especially on two songs. This album is also relatively short compared to many preceding albums. The length in itself is not essential, but the lesser amount of quantity means there is less stuff to be fully charmed by. That said, the best TSOP albums such as Toki No Kaze are IMHO fantastic symphonic prog all the way.

 Beyond the Wardrobe by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.99 | 70 ratings

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Beyond the Wardrobe
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The multi-national, Finland-based recording project did it again, a marvelous, superbly produced album of first class retro-natured symphonic prog composed and co- performed by excellent prog musicians from various countries including e.g. Argentine, Netherlands, Italy and Japan. In fact I believe this album will be one of my biggest TSOP favourites! (After editing two former ratings this is now my third full rating for this project.)

With nine tracks this album remains under an hour in length. This means the average track length is slightly shorter than on several other TSOP albums, and that is actually a benefit for the whole in which each piece is very good and have distinctive characters. The varying of vocalists and the placing of instrumentals is truly ideal here.

'Another Time' (written by Ronaldo Rodrigues and Steve Unruh who also sings) evolves dynamically from mellowness to energetic instrumental section and features Marek Arnold on saxophone. Oliviero Lacagnina composed a pompous symph prog instrumental 'Dear Amadeus' inspired by Mozart. One may think of 70's RPI bands such as Latte e Miele. 'King of Spades' (by Alessandro Di Benedetti) features Daniel Fäldt's vocals. There's a classic Genesis influence in this charming, mellow piece, but also a cool electric violin solo.

Unruh sings 'Forest Rondo' he co-wrote with Christian Bideau. Impressive dynamics between ELP/ Gentle Giant flavours and the more delicate, mystical moments. 'Jester's Dance' is a classical music flavoured instrumental by Octavio Stampalia. 'Kabane' is sung in Japanese by the keys-playing composer Yuko Tomiyama. She has a beautiful, clear voice and the piece is very charming. 'Marigold' is a brief instrumental written by KAYAK's leader Ton Scherpenzeel and his keyboards share the spotlight with Unruh's flute.

'Brandenburg Gate' (by Oliviero Lacagnina) is rooted to Bach; this piece really could have come from the early 70's. The album closes with perhaps its finest song 'Washing the Clouds' written and sung by Elisa Montaldo. Moody, mellow, and on the more romantic side of symphonic prog, and Unruh's soli for violin and electric guitar points at bands like Camel.

This album is one of my favourites of 2020, which indeed has been an amazing year for prog albums.

 Bernard & Pörsti: Gulliver by SAMURAI OF PROG, THE album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.83 | 126 ratings

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Bernard & Pörsti: Gulliver
The Samurai Of Prog Crossover Prog

Review by Ovidiu

5 stars Sensational new album from 2 of the amazing musicians of THE SAMURAI OF PROG-KIMMO PORSTY and MARCO BERNARD!The music on this amazing album is simply outstanding....vintage prog rock of the highest quality!Top prog rock and some amazing musicians involved in this ambitious project!The final result is a fantastic album of the highest caliber and the guarantee of another wonderful release from this 2 magnificent musicians!It's a wonderful journey anf the sonic soundscapes created are perfect! Superbe music and great,great moments of pure delight and enchantment!This 2 musicians seems to have an endless inspiration in the process to elaborate such exceptional high quality vintage prog rock! A serious mention to the graphic work,sensational as usual,a masterpiece provided by the unique ED UNITSKY,which made here another memorable piece of true art,which fits perfectly well with the ambitious music! Very coherent and cohesive album ,rich in ideas and musical expressions,a true ear candy even for the more pretentious and die hard fan of vintage prog rock!5 stars for something memorable!
Thanks to windhawk for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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