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ATHELSTONE

Eclectic Prog • Malta


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Athelstone biography
Composing music with no preconceived rules and limitations can bring out ideas which would not have taken shape otherwise. Athelstone, formed in Malta in 2010, is just that... music written at the service of inspiration without compromise. The compositions themselves are heavily influenced by progressive and experimental bands and artists from the second half of the twentieth century, be it the old school prog rock elite, modern prog-metal outfits, post-rock and shoegaze artists, and fusion/jazz/funk ensembles.

This musical philosophy led to guitarist Daniel Cassar and drummer/percussionist Matthew Vella to write an almost-hour long album over the span of six months. Highly committed to having a recorded product which matched their original artistic intentions, Ryan Vella Bonello was recruited on bass, and three months later, a DIY recording of the album was underway. The album was produced, engineered and orchestrated by Daniel and Matthew themselves during the summer of 2011, a self-induced hermit-like experience which took place in a basement, a living room, and even a couple of bedrooms. The result was the band's debut album, The Quiet Before The Storm. The mission statement in Athelstone is therefore quite simple : to keep on making music for the pure joy of doing so, and sharing the energy of that which is created with as many people as possible.

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2.97 | 14 ratings
The Quiet Before The Storm
2011

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ATHELSTONE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Quiet Before The Storm by ATHELSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.97 | 14 ratings

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The Quiet Before The Storm
Athelstone Eclectic Prog

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

3 stars For those not satisfied when a band remains stylistically stagnant on a given album, this may well prove rewarding. It touches on nearly every major progressive rock style, while making jazz it's "home base." The heavy guitars sound as though they have a cold; that may be an aesthetic choice on the part of the artist, but it doesn't appeal to me, as I prefer more brightness to the tone.

"The Quiet Before the Storm" Following an ominous introduction, the quiet truly takes hold, with gentle guitar and soft percussion. As it gains momentum, it develops a post rock wash. From there, it's jazz music with an especially inspired bass performance, while lead guitar and a warbling electric take turns. None of this more elegant playing keeps Athelstone from flexing their cacophonic muscle, however, including a ringing mandolin in the more fluid passages.

"Jaaz" Jazz solo guitar opens the shortest of the three tracks. One could be fooled into thinking Astrud Gilberto was guesting here. I mean, the music here is just velvety smooth and fuses Bossa Nova with more contemporary jazz chord progressions- even though that unruly ailing guitar makes a brief interruption.

"Coming Full Circle" Infusing electronic elements into the blend of heavy jazz fusion they've already explores, this piece fortunately maintains the stellar bass performance one should come to expect by this point. The piece also introduces Mellotron and a vocal performance not unlike the quieter moments of Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky." Rounding out their truly eclectic nature, they take a more symphonic approach while spicing it up with pummeling guitars.

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 The Quiet Before The Storm by ATHELSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.97 | 14 ratings

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The Quiet Before The Storm
Athelstone Eclectic Prog

Review by Memo_anathemo

2 stars The band Athelstone has very good moments in their debut album The Quiet Before The Storm, in contains only three tracks, two are very long. What I like about the album is the variation you hear within the same songs, which are not repetitive, they have jazzy elements as well as experimentation. I didn't like the next points, 1) the guitar in many cases sounds like low quality, it seems the guitar player didn't pay attention to the sound or the sounds to be used 2) the two songs that are long tend to be repetitive in structure, i.e. predictable, and it makes it something difficult to stand the complete song. It works good as background music but as well as some members have mentioned, they have potentiality for more!

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 The Quiet Before The Storm by ATHELSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.97 | 14 ratings

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The Quiet Before The Storm
Athelstone Eclectic Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Athelstone are primarily an instrumental band that focus on musical textures to convey dark and light shades of emotion. One can take what they wish from the music on 'The Quiet Before The Storm' as there is little in the way of conceptual frameworks to latch onto. I found this to be one of the drawbacks though as the music that most resonates with me contains some kind of story line or at least a concept that draws me in deeper, such as Echolyn's 'Mei'.

The pieces are arranged well in terms of structure, beginning with unusual atmospherics that transported me into an airport, waiting for a plane where sounds fade out over time and become drones as the planes come and go, and the boredom sets in of delayed flights. I related to this and really enjoyed the way the music builds in volume and intensity as waves of keyboards wash over cascading down in a beautiful soundscape. The music spirals and swirls, melted and tangled together by the guitars of Daniel Cassar, the bass of Ryan Vella Bonello, the cello of Rachel Attard Portughes, the drums of Matthew Vella and a myriad of dissonant sounds.

'Jaaz' opens with stripped back acoustic jazz in an improvised laid back style. It is joined by swinging percussion; very relaxing and feels like you are sitting in a jazz club sinking back a few margaritas. The cool scat vocals by Dana McKeon further augment this mood. Suddenly things get out of control as the guitars distort and contort and the drums become frenetic waking you up with a jolt. It settles into a heavy guitar riff and then it dies again into the smooth jazz sounds. The saxophone of Fabian Bonello has a nice tone along with those dirty guitar drones. There is another tantrum of noise before it ends with the guitars and sax battling for supremacy.

Finally we wind up back in another epic 'Coming Full Circle'. Ambient atmospherics are heard over swells of keyboards played by Daniel Cassar. This time it sounds like we are in a train station; perhaps the metaphor of waiting is here too. The music builds with an effective drone and some fast guitar rhythms. There is peace and a lonely acoustic vibration is heard playing a jazz melody. The mellotron sounds lovely by Matthew Vella, and it has a nice percussion tempo. There is a scorching sax solo that comes in at 11 and a half minutes, along with shimmering Hammond. The effects of children playing echoes eerily as violining guitar and a resonating percussion emanates; a stunning passage of music. A heavy guitar riff locks in and some nice vibraphone and harmonics. The music switches to a heavy polyphonic riff and some spacey synth washes.

The cello joins the landscape and then it builds to a crescendo ascending to a droning guitar ringing out. The sound is a psychedelicacy of simmering feedback in a sonic cauldron. When all goes quiet a measured percussion begins and some glissando space rock guitar echoes into the night. It is reminiscent of early Pink Floyd in their spaciest mood. This is a lengthy piece of immersive music but undoubtedly the highlight of 'The Quiet Before The Storm'. The album takes a few listens to grab your ear but overall this is an atmospheric and compelling album with a lot of variation of style.

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 The Quiet Before The Storm by ATHELSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.97 | 14 ratings

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The Quiet Before The Storm
Athelstone Eclectic Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This is a new trio from Malta whose debut album was released in 2011 with the name of The Quiet before the Storm', which features only three songs, but two of them are long epics that reach the 20-minute mark, while the shortest is an 8-minute offering. This trio has also some guest musicians that play some of the non-basic instruments such as sax or cello. The music here could be described as eclectic prog, since they take elements from jazz, folk and even heavy side of prog, so in their music we can find very different passages that make the music pretty original.

A colorful and challenging first track is offered with 'The Quiet before the Storm', whose 23 minutes show the quality of these musicians as composers and of course as performers. The music is instrumental here, so we have a lot to imagine while the seconds/minutes pass. The band brings several changes and a lot of nuances that produce a diversity of textures and emotions; I like how the music is progressing little by little, because the first minutes are slow and careful, but later the guitar produces a rockier sound so drums and bass follow it and make more intense music for some minutes until it slows down and becomes relaxing. As you can imagine, it is only a short passage because later they give us a new powerful moment, which again, is shared for a minute or two until it changes and becomes calmer. These changes in moments become predictable, so there are some passages that I would have enlarged a bit more, in order to create a more solid track, which overall, is a pretty good one.

'Jaaz' starts with cadence and a slow rhythm, after one minute drums and bass enter, accompanying the guitar and making a clear (as the title suggests) jazzy mood. A couple of minutes later a female voice appears creating a bossa-nova style sound. This lasts four minutes until they all of a sudden surprise us and create a heavy rock sound with powerful guitars, heavy drums and a sound full of energy reminiscent of some 70s rock acts. After five minutes the sax enters but in a delicate way, and seconds later it explodes when the sound becomes crazier. The last seconds are calmer and with the bossa nova style.

And finally 'Coming Full Circle' with other 23 minutes of a carousel of sounds. This is my favorite track, the one I believe is the best composition and the one with most audacity and dynamism. Since the first minutes I felt the connection and I was attracted by the sound, by that musical expression that let our imagination fly. The use of acoustic guitar along with female voice (wordless) and the synth produce a very relaxing atmosphere, calm and beautiful, excellent for a good read or write. Some minutes later the music changes becoming more intense and with a combination of heavy prog with some space rock hints, which is pretty cool. Later it becomes even heavier, but this is not my favorite part. The carousel continues with some highs and lows until it reaches a climax at minute 15 with an excellent hypnotizing guitar that is greatly complemented by the other instruments, creating a chaos and a nervous sound, this is probably my fav part of the whole album. The song finishes with a calm style.

And with it, the album ends. Overall is a good album, with some excellent moments and some average ones; the band has talent without a doubt, but I believe they can even do better. My final grade will be 3 stars.

Enjoy it!

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 The Quiet Before The Storm by ATHELSTONE album cover Studio Album, 2011
2.97 | 14 ratings

BUY
The Quiet Before The Storm
Athelstone Eclectic Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Quiet Before The Storm is the debut effort by Maltese trio, Athelstone, and is available as a high quality download from their Bandcamp site for "name your price".

A couple of music sites rather misleadingly describe this outfit as belonging to the progressive metal family of artists, but don't be fooled by this, for this is a truly eclectic effort, with musical moods and influences from far more than bog standard metal. Indeed, the title track, at over twenty two minutes long, veers from some intense psych rock a la Floyd's Saucerful of Secrets to Meddle era, to some lovely early Genesis type symphonic rock, before closing in a far harder vein with passages very much inspired by latter day Crimson, or even the type of music Dream Theater would be pleased to put out, featuring some pounding bass and intense riffs.

There are only three tracks on this work, but with two clocking in at over twenty minutes long, you certainly get a lot of listening here, and, in fact, I personally would have preferred to have seen things broken up a bit into slightly shorter segments. The second track, and the shortest, Jaaz runs to a little over eight minutes long, and as its name implies, this is a laid back, jazzy effort, and is pleasant listening on a sunny Spring evening without ever being overly challenging. If you are a fan of meandering, lyric-less, female vocals, then you will enjoy Dana McKeon's contribution here. This track, in fact, is a sure fire certainty for inclusion on our sister site, Jazz Music Archives, until, half way through, we get a break from the ambience into a Frippesque outburst. The onset of the saxophone backing this provides us with a glimpse of how the early seventies Crimson lineup might have sounded had they still been together.

The final track, Coming Full Circle, is the longest at over twenty three minutes duration. It has a lovely ambient feel to it at the start, with birdsong and effects, and a dreamy guitar lead backed by more jazzy rhythm, sedating the mind. As with the opener, the moods change starkly, from ambient to psych, to pure Crimson, to downright metal, but, I feel, with very little direction or purpose, almost as if the personnel have locked themselves away for a while and produced what is, in effect, an extended jam session committed to disc. It should, though, be stressed that it is all extremely well performed and also very well produced. The guitar screams at thirteen minutes in are particularly haunting.

It's just, for me, the crucial test for a mainly instrumental piece is whether it manages to tell a coherent story in the absence of lyrics, and this one, I'm afraid, fails that test quite strongly.

Three stars for this. A good album, but not one that will set the world alight, and very non-essential. Less is, I feel, sometimes more, and this band would benefit from this for future works.

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