1000 Prog Albums Over 46 Years: 1966-2011
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Topic: 1000 Prog Albums Over 46 Years: 1966-2011
Posted: June 15 2012 at 10:12
A review by UMUR:
“Still Life” is Opeth´s fourth album and it´s the album where Opeth show that they are influenced by seventies prog rock. “My Arms, Your Hearse” which was the predecessor to “Still Life” also contained elements of prog rock but the influence is more pronounced on “Still Life”. The sound on “Still Life” means that this might be the most interesting album for fans of traditional prog if they wish to hear how Opeth sounds.
The music is very heavy with complex slow to midtempo riffing. It´s not tech metal by any means but the riffs are definitely worth investigating anyway. The songs are generally very long and Opeth´s music is not easily accessible, as there are lots of different sections and moods in every song. I find their music easy to appreciate though, as it is very melodic. ‘Benighted’ and ‘Face Of Melinda’ are the only songs that differ from the usual formula of growling vocals and clean vocals that the other songs consist of as those two songs are mainly acoustic guitar led and with only clean vocals from Mikael Åkerfeldt. Both songs have great longing moods and lots of beautiful guitar riffs and playing.
The rest of the songs follow the formula that most Opeth songs from that day forth would follow, which means clean and growling vocal parts in most songs, and both heavy riffing and acoustic parts in almost all songs. I really do feel that Opeth made something unique with “Still Life” and I have a couple of favorite tracks here. ‘The Moor’ being the most impressive one, but both the brutal ‘Serenity Painted Death’ and the progressive and melodic ‘White Cluster’ are also favorites of mine.
Sure Opeth is influenced by doom metal bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Anathema and Katatonia, and sure they are also influenced by especially seventies prog rock, but mixing the two genres is a brilliant move. It´s a thing I have always tried to do myself when making music, but never really succeeded with. In that respect Opeth is unique as many other bands have tried this formula, but no one has ever succeeded like Opeth (I really love both ‘Isa’ and ‘Ruun’ by Enslaved who are also in this genre but they are an exception).
The musicianship is outstanding and I have always admired Martin Lopez’s drumming. He makes this music stick together and the changes are very smooth and intelligent. Mikael Åkerfeldt of course has to be mentioned too for his great compositional skill and his skills as both a singer and a guitarist. He is an outstanding musician even though I think his clean singing has gotten better on later releases than they are here. They are really good here too though.
The production is the most prog rock like production Opeth has had so far (except maybe for “Damnation”). Later albums would have a more edgy metal sound especially on the guitars.
This is not my favorite Opeth album but it´s still a masterpiece and deserves all 5 stars. Opeth is a unique band and this is the first album where they really prove it. The sound on “Still Life” is very grand and created only with guitars, drums, bass and vocals. If there are any keyboards here I can´t hear them. I think that´s a very enjoyable feature in Opeth´s music. On “Ghost Reveries” Opeth added a keyboard player and I was sceptical but it worked out fine, and it works even better on “Watershed”, but it´s still unique with this grand sound without the use of keyboards on “Still Life”. If you have ANY interest in extreme prog metal you´d better get this album as it is highly recommendable and a landmark album in that genre.
A review by Conor Fynes:
This is the first Opeth album (their fourth chronological release) that can widely be considered to be a near-perfect masterpiece. While albums such as 'Morningrise' did show signs of brilliance, the overall execution was imperfect, and there was still room for improvement. 'Still Life' is a fine representation of what a dose of intelligence can do for the metal industry. The end result is a cohesive, beautiful and technical album that seamlessly blends metal, progressive, and jazz leanings into a rich musical tapestry. However, possibly more so than any other album in my collection, this album took a long time to truly sink in, but it was certainly worth it.
At first few listens, I found the album to be technically 'good' but lacking in structure, and void of the mind blowing quality I felt while first listening to 'Ghost Reveries' or 'Watershed.' It was only after my fifteenth or so listen of 'Still Life' that it suddenly clicked in... The truly profound enjoyment of the album first sprouted in listening to the album's closer ‘White Cluster’. The jazz contrast with the metal riffage was interesting and beautiful all at the same time. This newfound appreciation quickly spread to the other songs, and before too long I was listening to the album start to finish and loving every immersive second of it.
Paired with the haunting music is an equally haunting storyline. I won't go into detail about the plot in fear of spoilers, but the album revolves around a man banished from his village, returning to find his lost love. As you might imagine, there are some unfortunate consequences and the lyrics (beautifully written, especially for a death metal record) help to heighten the sense of drama until the heartbreaking, tragic end.
It has been said that the only way to truly test the quality of an album is how well it ages over time. This album is only getting better with time, and although it was a bit hard to truly appreciate and get into, it was certainly worth it, and since then, 'Still Life' has risen to become one of my favourite records of all time.
A must-have for fans of metal music.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Opeth twist Death Metal into new shapes, resulting in a triumphant album.
Opeth are a band I have steered clear of as I am not into death metal, having a distaste for death vocals growling like someone possessed; it was the type of juvenile music I used to listen to as a young metal head. However, Opeth are an exception to the rule. I adored their "Damnation" album, the vocals by Åkerfeldt are stunning, warm and lovely to listen to, yes, even uplifting despite the dark lyrics that are centred on death and spirits wandering about haunting the living. But I loved that album so much I listened to "Deliverance". Unfortunately it was all death metal growls and nauseating metal at that, so I gave up. But the reviews of "Still Life" are glowing and respected prog reviewers are giving it the masterpiece status, so here we are, reviewing an album from a genre I am just not into.
What I discovered was the influences of Porcupine Tree meets Morbid Angel. What a combination. You get blasts of death metal at its most brutal mixed with passages of melancholy ambience. It works! Just when I think I cannot stand another second of those growls, the music takes over and is really so well executed that it is impossible not to like. The guitars scream and soar, the bass pounds. The double kick drum embellishments and triplets are incredible. They are not kidding around.
The album begins with 'The Moor' with a beautiful acoustic guitar, a storm brewing, a brief moment before the distorted riffs blast in without remorse. Åkerfeldt's growls are brutal and soul chilling and unwelcome as far as I am concerned, but I put up with it. I had no idea what the lyrics were and did not bother to check. There is a clean vocal chorus and it is so refreshing so I longed for more of this. The growling reminded me of the black metal I used to listen to with the likes of Bathory or Morbid Angel. At 6 minutes in the riffing stops and we have an acoustic interlude, a moment of respite. The "Damnation" style clean vocals chime in and they are so good, like a different band. I was drawn into the music at this point. Suddenly the caustic roars return scaring the hell out of me. Perhaps I am too timid to take this type of music. Let's move on.
'Godhead's Lament' has a fantastic riff but the brutal Napalm Death vocals infect the track again. The vocals are deep and angry reminiscent of Napalm Death's 'Suffer The Children', or Bolt Thrower's 'Cenotaph'; I told you I used to be a death metal addict. Now into prog I have discarded this type of metal so I am biased, I have no appreciation for this death stuff anymore, but if you do, Opeth are for you. The clean vocals return after 3 and a half minutes. It settles into a gentler mood, and launches into a wonderful lead guitar solo with acoustic guitars. There are more warm vocals and I love this part of the album. The growls of course return but it is not as overbearing with all the softer sections. This would have to be among the best tracks of Opeth, a definitive highlight of the album.
'Benighted' is my favourite song on this as there are no growls and it has a beautiful melody; it is like "Damnation" again. The acoustic and jazz fusion electric guitars are fantastic. I love the lyrics; "Come into this night, Here we'll be gone, So far away, From our weak and crumbling lives, Come into this night, When days are done, Lost and astray In what's vanished from your eyes, What came and distorted your sight, Saw you benighted by your fright..." A great song that is as mellow as Opeth get; atmospheric, melancholy and sinister.
'Moonlapse Vertigo' opens with a strange layered guitar riff, a moderate tempo and melodic chord structure. The lengthy intro is terrific, and it lapses to an acoustic treatment and clean vocals again. I began to really enjoy the album more at this stage. The growls are even more intense when they begin. They are deeper and evil sounding, ruining it for me, then the clean vocals return again. This is weird as I half love, half loathe it. It's like an angel conversing with a demon. There are a myriad of time signature changes with soft and hard textures painted on the canvas. At 5:20 there is some delightful violining on the guitar, a crunching riff locks in and an emotive lead break; moments of brilliance once again.
'Face of Melinda' is a lilting acoustic gentle ballad with some beautiful vocals from Åkerfeldt. He is so lovely to listen to, but it is astounding how brutal he can sound when he is growling. I love this track, one of my favourite Opeth songs. The lyrics are quite disturbing though, "And conceded pain in crumbling mirth, A harlot of God upon the earth, Found where she sacrificed her ways, That hollow love in her face, Still I plotted to have her back, The contentment that would fill the crack, My soul released a fluttering sigh, This day fell, the darkness nigh..." The heavier sound returns towards the end but it is a nice break from all the serenity. The clean vocals remain and I was so pleased as I would rate this track highly.
'Serenity Painted Death' is an ultra heavy song with some respite of acoustic flourishes. The killer riff is incredible and yes, the vocals are grimly caustic. I could actually make out the lyrics, "Voices fell like marble, No longer by my side, Gone all that would linger..." It settles down again and a new time sig kicks in, a very good riff. The death metal vocals are so turgid in comparison to the sweet vocals or previous tracks it is a shock to the system. There are passages of dark and light, tension and release that make up for the brutal vocals. Opeth are musicians of virtuoso standard.
'White Cluster' is very powerful featuring an awesome intro and very fast double kick drumming. The intense riffing is angular with a plethora of time sig shifts and metrical patterns that are complicated and dark. It has a false ending and some structural guitar breaks. It is played effortlessly and with complex arrangements; Opeth on a grand scale. At 1:46 the track changes direction in another time shift with soft vocals and gentle guitar. At 4:13 there is another time shift, a half time feel. At 5:10 a minimalist guitar is plucked gently. It builds again and at 6:30 a cool riff and blistering lead solo takes over. The lengthy instrumental break continues with a new time sig, and violining guitar and gentle vocals again with a strong melody. It fades at 9:10 then an acoustic guitar plays away quietly and it is all over.
In conclusion, one of the best Opeth albums that rang a chord with me, apart from the death metal vocals. The music ranges from very melodic, symphonic sections counterbalanced by breakneck power chord progressions and soaring lead solos. The ominous atmosphere of pervading doom is punctuated by the broken drum patterns and shattered metrical shifts. The slower sections allow breathing space. The musical inventiveness is unsurpassed for the extreme tech metal genre. "Still Life" is not quite a masterpiece, but it’s growing on me with each listen. I love it, then I loathe it, but I can't ignore it's complex structure and innovative approach, reinventing extreme heavy metal.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
One of the great prog masterpieces, “Scenes From a Memory” is the Magnum Opus of Prog metal legends Dream Theater and I must admit I first heard this on the brilliant live “Scenes from New York” 3 CD epic. I had become quite used to the way it was played live so it was quite a surprise to hear the variations on this studio recording. The first thing I noticed was the incredible production and how clear the audio is in comparison to the live version.
The transitions between songs work exceptionally well and the concept is stronger with the spoken narrative. The way the CD ends with the 'wake up' call is chilling and is an excellent denouement to the overall story.
Highlights are the wonderful ‘Beyond This Life’ and the last tracks that blend together in a masterful symphonic multi-movement suite.
It is definitely one of the best the band has to offer along with “Images and Words”, “Octavarium” and the amazing classic “6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence”. One of the best prog metal CDs you will ever hear. Deep lyrics, complex time signatures and an encapsulating concept make this pure prog bliss, and a must if you love progressive metal.
A review by Conor Fynes:
The best progressive metal album of all time...Or maybe the best metal album of all time period? For a good 70 minutes, these masters of heavy progressive music unfold a tale of murder and mystery, and some of the greatest music I have ever heard. Almost everything is flawless and perfect with this album. There’s nothing I've ever heard that's quite of this quality and inspiration.
What we have here is artwork on two layers. The first (and most apparent) is the music itself. Dream Theater pulls every trick in the book on this album. When they were first conceiving of this album, they opted to in essence make 'the most prog album they possibly could.' In this attempt, they created a masterpiece that perfectly blends complexity with memorability, melody with progression and emotion with intensity. From gut-wrenching piano ballads to incredibly progressive instrumental sections typical of the band's repertoire, this album has it all, and as a result, it enjoys great cohesion and a feeling of completion.
The second layer is that of the lyrics. While a lot of Dream Theater lyrics (especially the ones on the later releases) are incredibly cheesy and detract from the music, the words sung by LaBrie on “Scenes From A Memory” actually serve a purpose, and are done incredibly well. The music tells a story that (considering it is only told through lyrics) is incredibly complex, and each character is relatively well rounded, and intriguing. (The summary of the concept is a bit hard to go through on a review, but believe me when I say it has it's merits!) By the end of the album, there’s a feeling as if the listener has just watched a film; as if the album was merely the soundtrack to a grand tale.
From the brilliantly composed tech-pieces, to the gut wrenching Floydian ballads, this album is one of the most complete pieces of music ever written for the metal genre. While the album is certainly as good (even better) than the band's classic masterwork “Images And Words”, this album requires a much more focused listener to appreciate to the fullest.
I bought this album on the last day of elementary school, and years later, after hundreds of listens, I still enjoy it greatly, and find my love of the album constantly renewed with each fresh, exhilarating listen.
“Scenes From A Memory” is about as essential as you can get, and a favourite of mine for years.
A review by Conor Fynes:
This is without a doubt, the perfect example of Anathema's musical style and strength as a band. Despite the high amount of acclaim that 'Alternative 4' receives, I don't find it to be a very strong album despite a few excellent tracks, but 'Judgement' really shows the band maturing and channelling their depressive tendencies in a way that's not juvenile or irritating, but instead very beautiful and moving.
This is certainly a far cry from the band's doom metal origins, but the same sense of dread is still here in full. Having reached the pinnacle (thus far) of their career, there's the perfect balance of Anathema's traits here. There's a bit of a metal, experimental sound; but filled with gorgeous melodic hooks and rhythms.
'Judgement' is filled to the brim with great, soulful tracks; although the second half of the album starts to lack the same stunning flow the first half did. If I had to choose some great songs that uninitiated listeners could sample out; the songs 'Deep,' 'Forgotten Hopes' and 'One Last Goodbye' are all incredibly emotional and powerful, especially the last one mentioned.
'One Last Goodbye' certainly stands as being one of the very few songs I've ever heard that was perfect. Despite it only being 6 minutes long, it has such a haunting melody, and each note; each subtle nuance the song has it's place. The only other song I could really call 'perfect' is 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen, but that's another story.
When one says 'progressive metal,' this definitely does not fit the traditional bill. It's a much different brand of music than your typical Dream Theater or Symphony X. There are metallic elements, but there's no space left for mindless fills; only pure and emotionally charged songwriting.
Realms ahead of most music out there in terms of emotion and effect. Absolutely superb.
A review by Bonnek:
Judgement is Anathema's ride through lush Floydian ambiences. The album is the ending point of their evolution from doom-death metal (see early My Dying Bride), through dark goth rock (see Fields of The Nephelim), to laidback dreamy rock sadness. Or how to go from doom-death to goth to Floyd in 4 albums.
Almost all metal influences have been stripped from the sound. An occasional power-chord not withstanding, it's all clean picking, sumptuous atmospheric synths, slowly pounding drums and that classic British voice that touches me like no other. I usually don't pay any attention to lyrics (blame it on too much Priest, Dio and Maiden listening, guaranteed to induce lyrics-deafness). But on this album, some of Danny Cavanagh's striking verses got themselves imprinted in my memory ever since I first heard them 10 years ago. One Last Goodbye is the most striking example.
I can see some prog fans having a hard time to appreciate this band. This album in particular isn't progressive and the continuous melancholic ambience might become dreary if you prefer more eventful music. I like eventful music as well, but I equally like to be moved by the honest sadness and gloomy intensity that comes wrapped in delicate catchy rock songs here. If you don't have a clue how that may sound, take Riverside's I Turned You Down as an example of a good copy.
Judgement is Anathema's most heartfelt and touching album, and since emotional impact is Anathema's core-business, you might easily call this their most accomplished one. Rock fans might prefer the preceding Alternative 4, prog fans the more dense and textured A Fine Day To Exit. For me, I could listen to each of these three albums every day.
A review by UMUR:
Ágætis Byrjun is the second full-length studio album by Islandic experimental/ post rock act Sigur Ros (not counting the remix album Von Brigði (1998)). Listening to the first two albums by the band has not been an easy experience for me. The repetitive ambient sound experiments on Von (1997) and the remixes of those experiments on Von Brigði really didn´t strike a note with me. Ágætis Byrjun is fortunately a very different album compared to its predecessors and my interest was immediately ignited when I listened to the first song after the intro.
The music on Ágætis Byrjun is ambient, atmospheric, melancholic and above all beautiful. As opposed to the ambient soundscapes of their debut album this album features more regular drums and therefore it has more of a rock (very soft, ambient rock) feeling to it. I´m often reminded of the melancholy of Radiohead which is probably due to Jónsi Birgisson´s vocal style which at times isn´t far from Thom Yorke´s ditto (especially in the songs Starálfur, Flugufrelsarinn and Ágætis Byrjun). Most of the time his style is more high pitched and atmospheric though. Another influence is probably Talk Talk. Listen to the first couple of minutes of minimalistic organic sounds in Ný Batterí for reference. I´m also reminded of the somewhat monotonous alternative rock/ noise rock of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, but it´s mostly because of the moods in the music and the walls of noisy yet melodic sound that Sigur Ros produce in some songs on Ágætis Byrjun.
The album is overall very consistent and the 71:51 minutes go by like a dream. It´s very seldom any album can entertain me for that long. Songs like Svefn-G-Englar, Ný Batterí, Hjartaõ Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm) and Viõrar Vel Til Loftárasa are simply wonderful to my ears. Olsen Olsen is also special to me with its symphonic ending. In addition to normal rock instrumentation there´s also lots of strings on the album which gives the music a great organic touch.
The musicianship is excellent. Jónsi Birgisson´s vocals are extremely emotional and even though I understand little of the Icelandic lyrics it´s easy to embrace the melancholic mood in the music. The music is generally not technically complicated, but creating beautiful and meaningful soundscapes that someone like me (who is normally way too busy to enjoy slow and ambient music) can appreciate is quite the achievement.
The production is excellent. Warm when it needs to be but also crystal clear and cold when that is needed. The sound suits the music very well.
Ágætis Byrjun is my first positive meeting with Sigur Ros music but I´m certainly going to search out the rest of their discography after listening to this album. This one´s a winner in my book and close to a 5 star rating. 4 stars will do for now, but I might return with a re-evaluation sometime in the future because Ágætis Byrjun seems to keep growing on me for every new listen. Highly recommendable to fans of melancholic atmospheric music.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
This album was always at the top of my lists of a must hear Sigur Ros due to the high regard among proggers and in particular the write up in a well-known music magazine. I was also drawn in by the beautiful cover art of an angelic embryo floating in a neon glow. The iconic emblematic art signifies the floating music that Sigur Ros emanate. As the album begins one is immediately transported to the Icelandic chill of the frozen tundras. The incomprehensible language adds to the mystique. The music sounds cold and distant but somehow comforting. The album title “Ágætis Byrjun” means "A good beginning", which is apt as it was the beginning of greatness for the band that went on to become major successes worldwide.
It begins with an Intro of backwards strings and synths. Then is followed by ‘Svefn-G-Englar’, one of the more serene tracks; virtually a one note piece with very high register spaced out vocals, along streams of violins and patient measured percussion. The dreamy synths are meandering slowly and everything slows inexorably from this track on.
The highlight of the album that resonated with me from first listen is ‘Staralfur’ with gorgeous chimes, violins, and tearful vocals. The melancholy that is built with stirring violins and organic atmospherics is stunning. This is highly original music designed to touch the emptions at the deepest level. It ends with cold static leading to the next song.
‘Flugufrelsarinn’ is a haunting soundscape adorned with ominous strings and keys. The vocals are more middle register and no less wracked in emotional longing. ‘Ny Batteri’ has an Oriental feel, and features slow paced horns, a relaxed feel on keyboards, with some intense moments on loud drums, that are released into pleasant calm and almost silence. The vocals are ultra high falsetto and sung in a laid back but beautiful melody.
‘Hjartao Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)’ utilises harmonica with piano embellishments and then the trademark vocals chime in. There is a degree of experimental work to generate unusual rather creepy atmospheres. ‘Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa’ begins as a distant zone of feedback loops and spacey atmospheres. The infinitely patient piano is heavenly and is joined by symphonic strings and some psychedelic vocals. It builds to a crescendo of interlacing violins and improvised melodies that overlap and become chaotic along with sporadic drumming.
‘Olsen Olsen’ begins with distant spacey vibes on vocals and some percussion, with a repeated guitar phrase and ambience at the low end flows along. The majestic ending with multitracked choirs and uplifting melodies is very unusual in comparison to the ambience previously. ‘Agaetis Byrjun’ has a powerful scape of uplifting beauty with piano augmentations and some scraping sounds with a moderate percussion. The chimes add to the dreaminess, and then high falsetto vocals mixed to the front glaze over the freezing landscape. ‘Avalon’ is a trip into space with keyboards and winding ribbons of cello sounds. The exploration of ambient textures is striking and it builds until some experimental twangs are heard to end the journey.
This is certainly one of the best Sigur Ros albums and may take some out of their comfort zone such is the starkness of the extreme ambient music. It takes a degree of patience to endure the full 70 minute journey but makes nice dreamy relaxing music at the end of a busy day to kick back to. It is a full immersive atmospheric journey that has the power to relax the senses. The band built up a very solid fanbase from this album to present day.
A review by Gatot:
I just want to share with you my opinion about this album First, there has been so many people reviewing this album due to the fact that majority (75%) of musicians played in this bombastic project are from Dream Theater. It suffices to say that Dream Theater has been a global name so that whenever its members contribute to other work there it's almost guaranteed that people would buy the album. I might be wrong, but for sure only Tony Levin is the exception as I don't think many people knew about him.
Musically this album is very strong in arrangement and the way how each member of the band creates texture for the music which helps the music sounds a bit complex. There are a couple of surprises in terms of tempo as well as style. The opening track is truly an excellent opening with powerful drum work as well as guitar. The speed tempo and energetic style have made the opening part sound complex and heavy. Other songs are practically good ones. It's good to notice that even though most of the songs have a tendency into a Dream Theater style of music, ‘Chewbacca’ is reminiscent of King Crimson music.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
The only negative thing I can say about this recording is that it's too long. If they had gassed the final two tracks this could have been kept to an hour in length. This is jaw dropping instrumental music though with lots of variety. When you have both Petrucci and Portnoy letting it all hang out on the same album, you know it's going to be spectacular.
"Acid Rain" is uptempo with a heavy undercurrent. The keys come and go. Check out Petrucci 2 minutes in. It's the Portnoy & Petrucci show 3 1/2 minutes in. Lots of synths 5 minutes in. Great track. As Tony Levin says "I came prepared to play some fast music, the chapman stick is ideal for blazing bass lines." This one's a shred-fest.
"Biaxident" opens with some beautiful piano. Heaviness comes and goes. Solid drumming from Portnoy throughout. Soaring guitar after 5 1/2 minutes. The tempo picks up 7 minutes in with some ripping guitar to end it. Levin played his fretless bass in this one. Portnoy says "I love this tune...Jordan brought this one in to us in a kind of "Latin-vibe" form. By the end of our working on it as a band, it somehow ended up sounding more like YES meets Steve Morse meets PHISH." "914" is an improvised jam with Levin, Portnoy and Rudess. The bass is great.
"Another Dimension" opens without a lot going on until the bass and riffs come in before a minute. The guitar plays over top. Nice heavy soundscape 4 1/2 minutes in. TOOL-like 6 minutes in. Nice. It then lightens as we get some accordion followed by flamenco guitar, then it's heavy again! Petrucci says "This is one of my favourites because it demonstrates the hybrid nature of LTE. The mixture of heavy sinister riffs, Latin feels and complex time signatures make this a fun and challenging one for me."
"When The Water Breaks" opens with Jordan complaining. Yes, it's a baby crying to open. The title was inspired by the fact Petrucci's wife had a baby during this recording session. This is a 17 minute epic that features some fantastic work from Jordan. Check out the stampede of drums 16 1/2 minutes in and the crazy piano ending. Chunky bass 5 minutes in and some blistering guitar 7 minutes in.
"Chewbacca" is another improvised piece and my favourite song on here. A nice heavy sound arrives after a minute. Portnoy is so impressive. Petrucci grinds it out and then rips it up. He's lights out on this one. An atmospheric calm 5 1/2 minutes in with this dark mood. Great section that starts to pick up before 10 minutes, then it's shredding time. Awesome sound 11 minutes in. It slows down like a train to end it. "Liquid Dreams" is another improv. This one doesn't do a lot for me though. Same with the final track "Hourglass" which features piano and acoustic guitar throughout. Easily 4 stars despite what I think about the final two songs.
A review by UMUR:
“From Within” is the third studio album from Swedish progressive rock act Anekdoten. Anekdoten´s first two albums “Vemod” and “Nucleus” are excellent heavy progressive rock albums. They are both heavily influenced by the bass heavy King Crimson era (“Lark´s Tongues in Aspic”, “Starless and Bible Black” and “Red”) with dissonant guitar riffs, heavy bass and drums and an overall dark mood. “From Within” continues the dark style from the two previous albums but adds a more emotional dimension and generally leaves out the most dissonant and complex parts that were a dominant part of the first two albums.
The music on “From Within” is very dark and heavy (not heavy metal though) and the melancholic melody lines are really emotional and add greatly to the atmosphere. The music is drenched in great beautiful mellotron waves which gives it a symphonic approach as well.
This is not easy listening music and if you don´t like dark and melancholic music this is definitely not for you. Songs like ‘From Within’, the 11 minute long ‘Hole’ or the instrumental ‘The Sun Absolute’ are all black excursions into a dark and hopeless landscape. But really all songs are like that. I don´t hear any light on this album. The only other band that I can think of who makes music this dark is Saviour Machine. The tension is never released and after you are finished listening to “From Within” your mood will not be light.
The musicianship is excellent and it´s hard not to be impressed by the prominent bass lines and the challenging drums. I also greatly enjoy the mellotron that is used to build up the songs. The guitar is probably the least important part of the album but it´s still great, and does take the lead role a couple of times throughout the album (most notably on ‘Groundbound’). The vocals are an acquired taste for sure. It took me a while to appreciate the vocals but now I enjoy them. The production is excellent. Dark and warm.
“From Within” is easily my favourite of the first three albums from Anekdoten. A dark and melancholic journey that I fully enjoy. 4 stars are well deserved for this black pearl of an album and I fully understand the reviewers who think this is a masterpiece.
A review by Bonnek:
“From Within” is a transitional album between Anekdoten's early Crimson-style albums and their own true voice that they've found on this album. While it boasts some of their best tracks, it unfortunately also features their two worst songs (Actually that would be the only two weak tracks you could stumble on).
Now since you're all so curious to know how on earth I have found weak tracks here and which ones they are and why, I will no longer keep you in suspense. The reason is the singing and the tracks are ‘Kiss of Life’ and ‘Firefly’. Now, I don't share the common criticism that the singing is Anekdoten's weakness. Not at all, in most cases it fits the songs and the mood just perfectly and both Jan Erik and Niclas have an excellent feel for melody and for strong catchy tunes. But here, when they're so forcedly squealed and so off-key? No thanks. If you don't have a strong voice you need to use it for what it is good at and no one will take notice. But these two tracks always make me jump for the remote as soon as they open their throat. Needless to say the rest of the album is top notch.
A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:
Another obscure gem by Solaris
Fifteen years after the release of their debut album "Marsbeli Kronikak" (Martian Chronicles), the Hungarian Symphonic band SOLARIS presented to their huge fan-base their latest album "Nostradamus Próféciák Könyve" (Nostradamus, Book of Prophecies). This time it was without Istvan Cziglan who died in 1998 after an incurable disease, but the show has to go on and in a credible way, as SOLARIS launches what for many is the top album of their discography, and worth reviewing.
Unlike their debut, this album has a few vocals but incredibly complex, because they mix some normal singing with male and female Hungarian Operatic Chants that normally can only be reproduced in non-western keys; a fantastic addition to the already excellent music of the band.
The album is opened by "The Book of Prophesies", a 20 minute epic divided in three parts, but unlike songs like "Close to the Edge", this division makes perfect sense and can be easily perceived by the listener. Part I is a mysterious prologue that introduces the listener to the mysterious and even haunting atmosphere of the album, with almost Gregorian chants interrupted by acute female choirs; simply breathtaking.
Part II: is the main section of the song, where the band develops the concept of the track and hits the listener with all they have. From almost religious chants to fluid keyboard passages and strong guitar sections softened by the flute of Attila Kollar, the band demonstrates what they are capable of, blending pristine Symphonic with religious music and a good amount of Romanian Ethnic music that flows gently until the complex finale.
Part III works as the epilogue of the song and as a bridge from the complex and breathtaking Part II to the next song, and please play special attention to the interplay between guitar, keys and flute, as it's delightful.
"The Duel#" is the dream of a Progressive Rock listener, because SOLARIS shows all their facets and styles blended with class and coherence, we can find fluid Rock passages, Psychedelic organ solos and Folksy sections where "Kollar" really exploits all his skills; a restless duel between Hammond organ and flute only interrupted by a heavy guitar that keeps the listener at the edge of the seat
After a confusing intro "The Lion's Empire" turns into a Heavy Prog song with Casaba Bogdan's guitar at it's best and Robert Erdesz keyboards adding all his repertoire; again a good combination of strength and mystery with a delicate edge.
"Wings of the Phoenix" is another frenetic song which after a soft introduction keeps going "in crescendo" until the dramatic finale. The band give no rest to the listener blending Symphonic Prog, Hard Rock and Folk with such dexterity that everything sounds perfectly coherent, as if these sometimes contradictory styles were created to be played together as a whole in unity.
At the beginning of "Ship of Darkness", the listener may believe that SOLARIS is going to provide a calmed track that would serve as a relief after the powerful previous tracks, but this is only a mirage, because as soon as they take speed, nothing can stop SOLARIS. The first warning sign comes with a killer flute section that suddenly changes into a mystic sound and again to some sort of Heavy Prog; this time with Tamas Pocs (bass) and Laszlo Gomor (percussion) giving a lesson of how a rhythm section should work.
"Wargames" is an attack to the senses but at the same time a pleasure to the ears, the dramatic and mystic chants blended with constant drumming; it's almost like non-violent violence and at the end a marching band playing a war hymn.
"The Moment of Truth" Parts I and II, shows a new face of the band, as now they embrace some sort of Jazzy Symphonic that relieves us from everything we've been listening before. Despite some vibrant interruptions, the song is soft and melancholic with excellent vocals in Hungarian, amazingly beautiful and different to everything SOLARIS has played before.
The album ends with "Book of Prophesies (Radio Edit)” which is only a 3 minute version of the first epic for radio play, a good finale.
After listening to Martian Chronicles, I believed that no SOLARIS album will reach that superb level, but I was wrong "Nostradamus Próféciák Könyve" (Nostradamus, Book of Prophecies) is at least on the same level (if not slightly better), so again I have no other alternative than to rate this release with 5 solid stars.
A review by Sean Trane:
This is the album by which we hold the end of Mahavishnu Orchestra's first line-up's end. Indeed, recorded just like the previous two albums in a rush (four days in late June 73), Hammer and Goodman opposed to its release, this time being helped by Laird, usually not choosing sides between the two camps, while McLaughlin and Cobham wanted to release it as such. So for once, McLaughlin did not have his way in his project, which was a first, another being that three tracks of this album are not from him. Indeed the other three come from the rebellious camp.
Those having seen Mahavishnu Orchestra in concert always noticed that this was John's ship and he was alone boss on it, which in the long run was not a good idea; a mistake he would repeat with the MkII line-up as can be evidenced on the Montreux Performance. Anyway, Columbia finally stumbled on the tapes (that had migrated from London to LA) and released the album with the group's (full, I think) consent, and what a brilliant idea it was, but I just wish they would've given it a more project-type of artwork instead on this relatively cheap photo montage.
Starting on the gigantic epic track called ‘Dreams’, the album quickly lets you climb aboard the spaceship returning to 73, so much easier so that the track exists in an extended version of the live BNaE album. It would be pointless to start picking the differences here, but I like the studio better, due to better recording conditions. The following ‘Trilogy’ is also a track that has graced the “Live 73” album, and here we get in full force with a much-needed conciseness, quality lacking in the live album.
Among the new tracks heard for the first time is the particularly superb Goodman-penned ‘I Wonder’, which has a slight déjà-entendu descending riff, but the track is so very lovingly enamouring that it could last twice its length. The Rick Laird-penned ‘Stepping Stone’ is an ascending riff being worked upon to great affects, but like Goodman's composition, it's fairly repetitive. But most interesting is the Hammer-penned ‘Sister Andrea’, a very accomplished track that concentrates not only on Hammer's keyboard work, but allows a full spectrum of the group's possibilities. Most likely Hammer's Czech origins made him most likely pull some Stravinsky-like songs that John Wanted for Mahavishnu Orchestra, and ‘Sister Andrea’ is this album's highlight.
Closing up the album is a fantastic version of ‘John's Song #2’, and shows the unbelievable power this group had and the mastery in their restraint from exploding their powers all over the sonic spectrum. Goodman's violin again underlines magnificently the rhythm section, yet allows itself all the space to expand. Clearly the group was still quite together back then even if a spat between John and the rest of the group (with Cob abstaining, thinking of his own album to come in “Spectrum”) about writing credits has etched the varnish.
A posthumous album that I wouldn't file anywhere else but sandwiched between “Birds of Fire” and “Between Nothing and Eternity”, “The Lost Trident Sessions” is a pure gem that every Mahavishnu Orchestra fan simply must have. Just as difficult not to give it a full rating as with its shelf neighbours.
A review by Bonnek:
More than 20 years after its recording, this lost Mahavishnu Orchestra album finally surfaced. These sessions were supposed to be the third Mahavishnu Orchestra album of the first line-up. When I first stumbled across this album in the library, I literally rushed home from sheer excitement. Could this possibly be as good as the liner notes said? Or was that merely cheap PR talk to sell inferior demo tapes to the unexpected listener?
Rest assured, this is a revelation! This album blows away the known albums from this line-up, regardless how amazing those were. Most of the music might be familiar from the Between Nothingness & Eternity live album but the tracks are much better here, not only because of the perfect sound but also because of the unbelievably tight musicianship. The Orchestra had been playing together for 3 years and they rage through the material with dazzling speed and focus, but it isn't empty musicianship meant to impress with skill and tricks. This album breathes passion and inspiration, and the musicians play with unheard emotion and dynamics.
Also the shorter tracks are interesting. John McLaughnin allowed each of the musicians to compose their own pieces, and apart from drummer Billy Cobham everybody rose to the challenge. Jan Hammer's ‘Sister Andrea’ is well known and one of the more upbeat compositions here, really cool and groovy. Fiddler Jerry Goodman wrote ‘I Wonder’, a track that offers a soft but really stirring jazz progression on picked violin with gorgeous spacey soloing. Rick Laird contributed with ‘Stepping Stone’, a more relaxed and dreamy track, at least till it builds up tension along the way. These individual contributions make the album more diverse but certainly not less consistent. Each track is equally inspired and essential.
This album is without doubt the creative endpoint of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra line-up and everyone who loved the 2 first studio albums shouldn't hesitate a second. My Mahavishnu Orchestra favourite.
A review by Warthur:
“The Lost Trident Sessions” is a real treat for fusion fans - the long-lost third album from the band's legendary original lineup, officially released after sitting in the vaults for 25 years. This time around John McLaughlin doesn't dominate the songwriting to the same extent as he did on the first two albums, with each of the other members except Billy Cobham contributing a composition of their own. (Billy, of course, had recorded his solo album “Spectrum” mere weeks previously, and so had already found an outlet for most of his compositions there.)
The album leans closer to rock than the first two classic Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, and has a tranquil, spacey atmosphere which lacks much in the way of the furiously fast playing of those discs. It's a mild departure for the Orchestra, but an intriguing one, and although the album was never finished it's clear that just a little more polish would have yielded a third essential fusion classic. But the skilled playing masks the discontent and personality clashes in the band that had already begun coming out by this point, to the extent that apparently some of the participants weren't even talking to each other. The lineup would disintegrate before the album was completed, leaving McLaughlin to construct an entirely new lineup and release the live album “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, which consists of extended versions of the first three tracks from these sessions, instead of this one.
On balance, I wouldn't say this album is quite as essential to fusion listeners as the first two. It certainly wasn't as influential; how could it have been when it wasn't released? The new material, whilst good, still needs polish to come up to the standards of “The Inner Mounting Flame” or “Birds of Fire”. Still, anyone who's listened to those albums should regard this disc as the vital next step in any exploration of the Mahavishnu Orchestra's output.
A review by Gatot:
This album represents the return of the legendary Camel sound like the early days of the band with the "Mirage" album. Andy Latimer seems to be getting better and better over the years. When I heard this album the first time, it blew me away because it's reminiscent of the true Camel sound. An excellent and moving album, loaded with mood songs. For any early Camel fans, when you listen to “Rajaz” for the first time you will immediately get a sense of vintage Camel. Andy does all the vocals on this album with drums that are as good as you would expect from Dave Stewart. Tony Scherpenzeel of KAYAK contributes here but is not as out front as you would expect.
All songs are excellently composed with ambient textures accentuated with long sustain, mostly guitar work that sometimes reminds me of the like of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. Gone are the days when Camel emulated the music of The Alan Parsons Project.
I can definitely sense the moving nature of this album especially in lifting the mood of its listener. There are some silent parts with ambient style and that provide guitar sounds to enter gently into the music. It's an excellent addition to any prog music collection.
A review by Bonnek:
After two albums with soulless midi sounds, Camel returned to the sound of “Mirage”. In fact, this would be the first time ever that Camel returned to previously visited territories and tried to recapture some of the old magic and glory. While this usually sets of all my formulaic music alerts, this album has luckily turned out to be quite successful.
The opener ‘Three Wishes’ isn't entirely convincing me yet. It starts off really well but around minute 3, it changes key from minor to major, a formula that gives a 100% guarantee on cheesiness. Luckily, Latimer proves to have enough chops in the sack this time and steers the Camel gracefully through the dangerous neo-prog pitfalls here.
From then on it's a smooth ride, as ‘Lost and Found’ is a beautiful song, again it's very close to what Camel did on “Stationary Traveller”, but the sound here is more acoustic and organic, the songs also leave a bit more room for instrumental sections and solos. Consequently it sits better with the prog fans.
‘The Final Encore’ is probably a tad too long but it's a captivating piece again. Camel is often criticized for the vocals but while I can agree to this to some extent for the 70's albums, I have always thought Latimer gradually found the subdued but emotive strength in his voice in the 80's. On this album it reaches its full potential as also the title track ‘Rajaz’ gives evidence.
I think it's needless to point out how great the guitars are throughout this album. After all this is a Camel album and Latimer's guitar has always been the focal point in their sound. ‘Shout’ doesn't really work for me, but ‘Straight to My Heart’ is entirely deserving of its title. ‘Sahara’ is a sweeping instrumental piece and ‘Lawrence’ ends in style with a moody song and a great long solo.
This album has plenty of material that would fit on a 5 star album but all tracks stay too much in the same mood really. Nevertheless, one of the best Camel albums and one that is sure to please you if you liked the first four.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
This is Pain of Salvation’s most "metal' sounding record. A complex and heavy recording that sounds harsh partly due to the production. The production is fantastic, in fact it's crystal clear. It just takes a few spins to get used to it that is all. There are so many time signatures in just about every song, it is incredible. This is a concept album that isn't easily explained, but the main element is how the industry is destroying our environment. Even the album title "One Hour By The Concrete Lake" is a sad commentary of how man poisoned Lake Karachay in the former Soviet Union with nuclear waste, and that by just standing beside this lake (that is now covered in concrete) for one hour can be fatal.
Things get started with "Spirit Of The Land" which consists of waves of synths that really do represent the spirit of the land. It blends into the next song "Inside" which was voted the best song on a recent ProgArchives.com poll (by a landslide). Cymbals and fast paced piano are joined by heavy drums and guitars. Vocals a minute and a half in as a flurry of keys come and go. The vocal performance here and throughout this album is astonishing. I like the heavy passage before 5 minutes.
"The Big Machine" is slow and heavy (aren't they all?) It has a gothic feel to it as a dark mood hangs over this song. Great tune! "New Years Eve" sounds amazing! The drumming and guitar work are outstanding. There is a pastoral passage 4 1/2 minutes in with piano and vocals followed by some incredible sounding synths. This section is quite powerful in an emotional way.
"Handful Of Nothing" has machine gun-like drumming, background synths, some aggressive guitar and then vocals. This song feels cold and lacks any warm or organic sound until the last minute which creates a great contrast. "Water" is probably my favourite song followed by "Inside Out" and "Home". I love the soundscapes to open "Water", and they stop as tender passionate vocals come in with some almost soaring guitar melodies. The guitars get aggressive but still tasteful 2 minutes in. The intro soundscape is back. Nice. Spoken words followed by vocals as guitars grind away. Waves of synths arrive with a beautiful melody before the intro soundscape comes back.
"Home" opens with a drum and piano combination. The drumming gets quite crazy at times in this uptempo melody. The guitars and gentle vocals sound great! There are some blistering guitar solos 4 minutes in and again more terrific guitar a minute later. I really like the mellow passages in this song as well. "Black Hills" is a dark and heavy tune with some creepy vocals. There is some light shining through at times as well. Good guitar later.
"Pilgrim" doesn't have a lot going on in it as the vocals are almost spoken, although there is some cello in this one. "Shore Serenity" has a nice beat a minute in and some intricate guitar. There is some heaviness later with keys. "Inside Out" is another fantastic tune! Maybe the best one. It continues where "Inside", the opening track, left off. There is a flurry of keys that come and go to open as drums pound away in this uptempo melody. The vocals are great, so is the guitar solo midway through and the heavy riffs later. It really is a toss up for me between this track and "Water' but if I had to choose I'd pick "Water".
If you’re into Prog-Metal you probably already own this, and if you don't own this yet do yourself a huge favour and get it!
A review by Conor Fynes:
Towards the end of his legendary musical career and life, Chuck Schuldiner sought to shift gears a bit from the death metal he had been doing since his teens. Granted, his brand of death had changed drastically over the years, but there was only so much the man could do with Death. Clean vocals were something that would not have gone over well with Death's fanbase, so Chuck formed a new band to fulfil this dimension of his music. Control Denied only put out one album before Chuck passed away, but it has stood the test of time, and has even been met with love by the extreme metal crowds. Although Control Denied shows Chuck Schuldiner venturing into progressive power metal territory, there is little difference besides this and prog-era Death barring the fact that clean vocals now lead the music. In other words; this was Chuck beyond Death.
From the very first few seconds of 'The Fragile Art Of Existence', it is clear that this is Chuck Schuldiner's work. The music is incredibly similar to what Death was doing with their final three albums, particularly 'The Sound Of Perseverance'. It could be said that Control Denied is more of a band-centric effort however, with a much heavier bass presence than was heard with Death. The style of composition is definitely by Chuck's own hand and in his distinctive style, with plenty of room for technical riffs, dark hooks, and space for his signature guitar solos. Although Chuck is seen as a death metal guitarist, it is interesting to see how much differently the style he plays can sound with only changing the vocal style. Performed here by Tim Aymar, he has an intensely technical voice that isn't afraid to shriek out. Aymar's vocals are much like Rob Halford of Judas Priest; a band that Chuck was very fond of. Aymar evidently has an impressive range, although he generally sticks to the higher end of the spectrum. Many of the vocal passages he pulls off here are as technical as Chuck's guitar work.
Although there are clean vocals here, they are actually used quite similarly to how Chuck used his own voice in Death. They have great range to them, but they tend to go for power over melody. Aymar's delivery is always impressive, but the vocal melodies are less convincing than the epic riffs Chuck and axemate Shannon Hamm are playing. Although Control Denied is fine evidence that Chuck Schuldiner was a man whose musical vision extended beyond the reaches of death metal, the clean vocals do not work as well as Schuldiner's rasp in his music. All the same, Aymar's vocals are impressive, and the instrumentation and songwriting is as impressive as any Death album. It is well-worth checking out for anyone even slightly invested in Chuck's music. Rest in peace!
A review by Finnforest:
I think most PT fans probably fall into two camps, those who prefer the early spacier stuff and those into the latter day, harder-edged albums. For now my preference has been the middle ground. I believe the band made a good leap on "Stupid Dream" from the inconsistency of "Signify," and then made perhaps their two best albums in "Lightbulb Sun" and "In Absentia." I know I still need to hear "Up the Downstair" before I can say that. The 3-album run beginning with Stupid Dream is where the band mixed the heavy prog, metal, and space elements with their most overtly commercial pop sound. Turns out Wilson is as good at pop music hooks and melody as he is at everything else.
Right out of the gate "Even Less" shows a certain confidence we didn't hear on the previous album. It would continue with "Piano Lessons" which is one of their poppiest numbers and could easily get airplay anywhere with its lush harmonized vocals and tasty slide leads. "Pure Narcotic" adds in acoustic guitar and piano to another very accessible track. We have the funky track "Slave Called Shiver" to show off the talents of Colin Edwin, though it is tracks like this one that most cry out for some of Harrison's unreal fills. "Don't Hate Me" is the centerpiece track with lots of mood, mellotron, a spicy sax solo by Theo Travis, and a sweet electric solo. There's even a funky space-tronica bit with a flute solo on "Tinto Brass!" The closer "Stop Swimming" is one of those beautiful, slow, moody PT tracks where the piano and narcotic vocal lull you into a bit of haze.
"Stupid Dream" is not quite as successful as "Lightbulb Sun" or "In Absentia", but it's reasonably close- a very well-rounded, enjoyable disc and certainly one every fan will need to get to. It's the Wilson brand with more alt-pop/rock feeling, after the cosmic itch was scratched but before the metal edge came into play. While this middle period of PT generally loses the fan polls, where most fans like the space excursions or the metal-edged stuff, I love this unapologetically melodic phase. And this first one from this period is not unlike Rush's "Permanent Waves", maintaining just a bit of what made Rush tick to that point, but alerting fans that big changes were coming.
A review by Warthur:
As Steven Wilson explains it in interviews, Stupid Dream (and its sister album Lightbulb Sun) saw him focusing more on composing traditional songs as opposed to the extended proggy soundscapes Porcupine Tree were more known for at this point. In many respects, it parallels the departure Marillion took at around this time with Radiation, with both bands writing more conventional songs influenced by the art rock approach of Radiohead and by more retro influences. Here, I detected the influence of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as opposed to the Beatles - particularly in the vocal harmonies.
However, I think Porcupine Tree do a better job at taking on these influences and integrating them into their spacey sound so that the resultant album is something that's much easier for their existing fans to enjoy (as compared to Radiation, which many Marillion fans consider to be a rather weak effort). It helps that despite all the indie rock influence in evidence, the album leads off with the decidedly prog-oriented and rather Floydian Even Less, and regularly alternates between the more ethereal realms of prior Tree efforts and the indie-art rock territory the band were moving to explore. On the whole, this phase of Porcupine Tree would prove to be brief; encompassing just this album, Lightbulb Sun, and the Recordings compilation of off- cuts from both, but a very rewarding one nonetheless.
A review by Conor Fynes:
Well, if it wasn't already clear with 'Signify' that Porcupine Tree was moving in a new direction with their music, than 'Stupid Dream' made it blatantly obvious. Although there would still be some psychedelic sounds in the band's music (and still are), Porcupine Tree was working themselves up to be the masters of the modern prog rock scene by incorporating a more concise sense of songwriting into their music, largely throwing out the indulgences of their psychedelic freakouts and jams. Porcupine Tree largely reinvent themselves with this album, and for those that may have doubted them at the time and thought they were selling out, they can think again; Porcupine Tree evolved from a spacey psychedelic act into one of prog's leading bands with this album.
Porcupine Tree have always been one of my favourite bands since I was first introduced to them, and 'Stupid Dream' reminds me why I was so attracted to them in the first place; they are a perfect mesh of memorable songwriting, dynamic performance, and some of the most beautiful and atmospheric production one is bound to hear in rock music.
'Stupid Dream' opens with one of its best known songs, the soaring anthem 'Even Less', which I first heard in its full ten minute plus form on the 'Recordings' compilation, but sounds just as great here in a somewhat edited form. A full string section jars on their open strings as the opening riff of 'Even Less' comes to invite the listener in for more, and after a relatively heavy hard rock intro, the music recoils into a more acoustic form of progressive rock. The sound here is modern, even by today's standards, and the song is a good indicator of what 'Stupid Dream' is all about; maintaining their atmosphere while focusing more on the art of songwriting.
While Porcupine Tree's early material was undoubtedly a Wilson-only affair, 'Stupid Dream' does execute as a full band performance. The deep grooves of Colin Edwin's bass playing are very memorable, and Chris Maitland's drumming is precise and dynamic, although in hindsight, Gavin Harrison does do a better job with rearing Porcupine Tree. While not given the same room to sport his skills as many other prog rock bands allow their keyboardists, Richard Barbieri adds a lot of depth to the band's typically guitar-driven sound, and all of this is tied together by Steven Wilson's distinctive style of production, which, as will come to no surprise to any who have experienced it before, tends to reward those with good stereo systems.
'Piano Lessons' is the single to this album; an intentionally conventional piece of songwriting where Steven Wilson subtly mocks the pop writing format, all the while making a very good piece of psychedelic art pop. 'Don't Hate Me' is another highlight and great track from the album, a fairly dark song with a beautiful chorus that could even make a statue cry. Arguably the best piece here though is 'A Smart Kid', a slower track that is led in with a reprise of violin strings, along with haunting acoustics and Steven's emotional lyrics. Without a doubt, it is the most atmospheric song on the album, and one of the best things that Porcupine Tree have done.
Much like my view on 'In Absentia' however, while there are quite a few magnificent tracks on the album, there are a handful of less successful tracks that, while still decent enough, tend to pale a little too much when compared to the gold that the album has to offer. Among these would likely be the only moderately exciting pair of 'This Is No Rehearsal' and 'Baby Dream In Cellophane'; both tracks that are given the same beautiful production and some nice melodies, that do not tend to leap out at me and strike as powerful a feeling.
An excellent album by all standards in conclusion, 'Stupid Dream' is a powerful segment in the saga of Porcupine Tree, and especially being one of my favourite bands, I can see myself experiencing this album many more times in the future. Great stuff!
A review by Sean Trane:
Second album from this unchanged quartet and released on the same Mellow Records label, its title could be what the band meant when they chose their enigmatic name. Musically speaking, this album is quite different than its Gentle Giant-influenced predecessor; here we're dealing with a much jazzier feel, often ogling towards space rock, sometimes towards symphonic as well. One of the things that will surprise you (outside the relatively cheap artwork) is Minella's much softer guitar, abandoning the hard rock feel of the debut album.
Quickly announcing its colour, the opening Escher pulls a very Ozric-ian soundscape, courtesy of Bonomi, but De Grandis' drumming is the star of the show. This track is such an enjoyment that its 8-min+ doesn't overstay its welcome, in spite of its repetitiveness. The following Caleidoscopio is rather different, a slow-starting affair gaining momentum and once on top, the feeling is of a space/Gong-esque ELP (plus guitar) and symphonic overtones are there, with guitarist Minella pulling some Hackettian lines. Clearly since their start DFA has been under the wings of its bigger brother Deus Ex Machina and here singer Alberto Piras has a go at the third track called Gentle Giant-inspired Esperanto (the hopeful universal language that never came to be), here sung in Italian alone. Unfortunately, for DFA, Piras' personality is simply over-powering, and we're having this track transformed into a Deus Ex Machina track.
The two instrumentals Ascendente Scorpione and Ragno are both in the space-rock mould, sometimes between Ozric Tentacles and Gong, the former being similar to the opening track, while the latter is more in line with Caleidoscopio with its symphonic intro. The closing Malia gets another guest singer in Georgia Gallo, but it's the weakest track on the otherwise excellent album.
DFA's second album is just as worthy as their first, despite the surprising different musical direction; let's face it, we're not used to having Italian groups diddling with space-rock. With just two albums under their belt, DFA has the particularity of being Italy's brightest 90's band, in my humble opinion, of course.
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - June 15 2012 at 10:19
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1999 continued soon...
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With 1974 ... I have 143 out of 246 listed.
With 1975 ... I have 186 out of 309 listed.
With 1976 ... I have 215 out of 357 listed.
Rush, Residents, Kansa, Return to Forever, Weather Report and Rainbow I did not bother getting as these fairly well played in Santa Barbara.
With 1977 ... I have 240 out of 403 listed.
Rush, Al di Meola, Kansas, Rick Wakeman, Jon McLaughlin and Bill Bruford I did not purchase as it was already being overplayed.
With 1978 ... I have 256 out of 440 listed.
Rush, Dixie Dregs, UK I did not purchase as I thought this was more radio music than it was totally creative at the time.
With 1979 ... I have 271 out of 470 listed.
Art Bears, Henry Cow and Bill Bruford I have on the SPR tapes. UK was radio music for me and did not purchase.
With 1980 ... I have 279 out of 484 listed.
With 1981 ... I have 282 out of 497 listed.
With 1982 ... I have 287 out of 507 listed.
With 1983 ... I have 291 out of 515 listed.
With 1984 ... I have 292 out of 523 listed.
With 1985 ... I have 295 out of 532 listed.
With 1986 ... I have 299 out of 540 listed.
With 1987 ... I have 300 out of 545 listed.
With 1988 ... I have 301 out of 553 listed.
With 1989 ... I have 302 out of 560 listed.
With 1990 ... I have 305 out of 577 listed.
With 1991 ... I have 308 out of 597 listed.
With 1992 ... I have 315 out of 616 listed.
With 1993 ... I have 319 out of 633 listed.
With 1994 ... I have 324 out of 652 listed.
Bummer ... not more than half anymore ... I really flaked out in the 80's while managing a restaurant ... not enough time for music but I did keep up with Can and Peter Hammill!
I'm hoping to make it to 400 now ... since it could be said that the majority of the stuff I have is earlier than later, but I have a lot of later stuff that is not likely to get listed anyway. Example: I have lots of Garbarek, Haden, Gismonti, Jarrett and Rypdal ... and none of those are listed here. In fact, I am not sure I can name a single ECM listing here ... possibly Shankar ...
The master holy man said from his trinity in the chapala ... none of the hits, none of the time ... is always better sex and music!
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: June 20 2012 at 08:08|
A review by Sean Trane:
Who could've imagined that one of Zeuhl's most fun and inventive album would've come from one of the genre’s sorriest excuse of a group, Runaway Totem. If Runaway Totem was a little more than a third rate Magma wannabe whose best album was their second, Zed, its offshoot Universal Totem Orchestra is one of the most flamboyant and insane Zeuhl creation that I have heard. But when thinking about it, it sort of makes sense; give a crazy and visionary French musician like Magma's Vander and hand him over the Italian citizenship and access to the typical Italian character traits, and you can only have a grandiloquent and baroque Christiano Vandera that would've probably written music that might have had Universal Totem Orchestra's many quirks and twists.
Three members of Runaway Totem invited a ton of guests (including a seven-person choir) to make Rituale Alieno an incredible and unexpected success by daring to escape to the generally-accepted and conventional boundaries of the genre. Indeed Universal Totem Orchestra 's main difference not only relies on slightly different instrumentation, sometimes risking sacrilege with semi-metallic guitars, but mainly in the vocal department. Universal Totem Orchestra 's vocals are baroque, goofy, enthralling, devilish, operatic and extra-terrestrial, no matter whether in lead solo or in pure choir. There is not a single doubt that the musicians had great fun in recording these parts. And if you don't believe me, check out the choirs in the closing track Meccanica Superiore.
There are times where the music veers a bit synthetic (the last part of Elric's Voyage) and this is often while your mind is busy enjoying the oddball choirs, which means it is not immediately discernible and it might take a few listens to realize it. But we remain in Zeuhl territory and the bass remains the centre of the music and it is certainly the case in Ipernatura Del Tempo Centrale, where a piano and a searing Van Halen-like guitar solo soar, but the bass is driving you nuts below it and the closing choirs are another nail driven through your now-fried brains. This is where Magma never dared to go over their long career, and it is all Vander's loss.
Armed with a bunch of macabre skeletal artworks gracing its booklet, Rituale Alieno was released on the ideally-suited Black Widow label, but it is too bad not more publicity about this album was made at the time of release, because Moroni has in his catalogue one of Zeuhl's top 5 albums, but I'm not sure he knows about it. But more important, you do now, right?
A review by Mellotron Storm:
The drummer and bass player who appeared only on RUNAWAY TOTEM's debut album "Trimegisto" are back, this time with UNIVERSAL TOTEM ORCHESTRA. They have a similar name to their previous band and a similar style of music as well. It's difficult to describe this one with the male and female Italian operatic vocals. There is a definite Zeuhl flavour to this album. They thank C.Vander and J. Top in the liner notes. Dark with heavy bass and lots of rhythm and a similar vocal style to Zeuhl at times, but not as metal as RUNAWAY TOTEM though. Yes, this album really took some time to get used to, and that's part of what makes it a great record to have, because it's different.
"Pane Astrale" is a beauty with the female soprano vocals and piano throughout, some violin as well. "Saturno" is an over 21 minute ride into the abyss. Love the dark and heavy 1 1/2 minute intro. Church organ then takes over. Sax, drums then guitar follows. The guitar is ripping it up. Six minutes in the song stops as we then get some Gregorian chanting. Then 7 1/2 minutes in it's back to the heavy intro sound with some excellent guitar. Nice. The tempo slows right down 10 1/2 minutes in as heavy drums and deep male vocals come in. A catchy, faster paced male and female vocal section comes in. The tempo continues to shift.
"Il Viaggio Di Elric" is spacey to open before an uptempo percussion driven melody comes in. It stops 2 minutes in as she starts to sing slowly with percussion to match. It kicks back in before 3 1/2 minutes. Great sound as the guitar grinds it out. It stops 5 minutes in as viola takes over. Female vocals are next and they sound terrific. Male vocals then come in. The tempo picks back up before 8 minutes as guitar and male vocals lead the way. Not a fan of the last 2 minutes.
"Ipernatura Del Tempo Centrale" opens with percussion and sax until it changes completely 1 1/2 minutes in to an almost jazzy flavour with piano, male vocals and bass. Nice guitar before 4 minutes. Check out the chunky bass 4 1/2 minutes in. This continues for some time with female vocal melodies in the background until MAGMA-like male vocals come in 7 1/2 minutes. Great tune.
"Antichi Occhi Ciechi" opens with spoken words as flute arrives 2 minutes in. Female vocals then male vocals as a melody has arrived before 3 minutes. I like the drumming and piano. Jazzy. The tempo and mood continues to change. Love the guitar 4 1/2 minutes in and later 8 minutes in. Cool song. "Meccanica Superiore" is dark with male and female vocals come in singing at a good pace. Some wicked guitar follows. Back to the vocals. Check out her vocals before 4 minutes. Great section after 6 minutes to 7 1/2 minutes.
This is music for the adventurous, those who like to explore new places.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
Mike Sary (bass player) is the one member who has been with this band from the beginning. Yes, you could say this is his band. You have to read his liner notes with some of the funniest stuff I have read. The music seems to sample many genres, and at times it's just a taste that we get before they move on to something else. No, this isn't for everybody, it helps to be a little off center.
"The Kokonino Stomp" opens with horns that bring to mind the "Big band" era. A lot of quick stop and go moments. Flute then comes in bringing a stable calm. At this point I'm saying "please don't leave me", but the flute leaves anyway as we get more crazy passages. A banjo solo, some ragtime piano, and a swinging band sound that could have come from the thirties. A brief vocal melody only adds to the lunacy. That flute does come back though.
"The Secret Life Of Walter Riddle" opens with people whistling like they are going off to work. A good rhythm follows, some great guitar 3 minutes in that goes on and on, and around 5 minutes we get some dissonant sax sounds. The rhythm returns 6 1/2 minutes in with lots of clarinet and sax to follow. "The Odessa Steps Sequence" is a cover of a VOLARE song. Actually VOLARE's drummer plays on this tune. He guests on the previous song, and he is outstanding on the final track as well. It opens with some tasteful guitar as synths create a spacey backdrop. Drums become prominent 3 1/2 minutes in. Nice sound. A change a minute later as it becomes more uptempo with synths. A beautiful flute solo arrives. Some blistering guitar after 7 minutes. I really like this song.
"Mail Order Quarks" opens with some nice calm sax melodies. The song changes before 3 minutes as gentle guitar and flute come in. Vibes, light drums, violin and percussion follow. The song builds with flute leading the way, the bass is good 8 minutes in, then we get back to the original melody 9 1/2 minutes in. Nice. These last two tracks are amazing, and so different from the first two.
"Tiger Tea" opens with drums and then percussion giving us an island beat. Sax comes in and bass. The guitar is playing angular notes, then flute later with synths that has a calming effect before it picks back up with drums and sax. The guitar becomes aggressive, and the changes continue to be unrelenting.
"Joosan Lost/The Fate" is a cover of a ZAMLA MAMMAS MANNA song. This is over 21 minutes in length. If you notice, the songs just keep getting longer as the album goes on. The beginning of this track is so catchy. The drums beat away as the guitar seems to sing along with joy. The song changes 5 1/2 minutes in as it slows right down, with different sounds coming and going 7 minutes in. Some dark piano melodies fade in and out, and we then get a spacey, atmospheric passage that is kind of spooky. Angular guitar starts to rise out of it with drums in tow. This sounds great! The guitar and drums start to go ballistic; a tip of the hat to Dean Zigoris on guitar and Brian Donohoe on drums. The original melody returns 18 minutes in and it's still very catchy with some scorching guitar.
There is a lot of variety on this album to say the least. The first two songs for me are the most difficult to enjoy, and the most challenging songs. The rest is simply incredible. A solid 4 stars.
A review by SouthSideoftheSky:
“Oblivion Days” is Rocket Scientists' third studio album hailed by many as their best. I agree that in some respects it is superior to the previous two, but in other respects the opposite holds true. Erik Norlander's keyboard playing is once again magnificent and the several drummers and bass players also do a great job in providing a powerful rhythm section. Lead guitar is also delivered by multiple people this time including Ayreon's Arjen Lucassen and Lana Lane's Neil Citron. Lana Lane herself provides some backing vocals on a few tracks.
Even though the band's sound became heavier with this album, there is once again a strong Pop flavour. This Psychedelic Beatles/Pink Floyd influence does not always sit comfortably with the keyboard-driven Symphonic Prog elements drawing on Rick Wakeman/Keith Emerson. In addition, there is this time around an attempt to sound more contemporary, which I don't like. All of these diverse elements create an interesting and dare I say unique mix that occasionally works really well, but at other times less so, I think.
But the most important factor is the quality of the material. Out of the vocal numbers, the title track stands out. Break The Silence is a good track as well on which the guitar sound reminds me of King Crimson's Robert Fripp. But there is nothing on this album to compare with the tasteful grandeur of the excellent ‘Mariner’ from the previous album. The instrumentals are the best here including parts three and four of ‘Dark Water’ opening and closing the album respectively. And once again there is an instrumental named after a famous scientist in ‘Archimedes’.
Another good album from Rocket Scientists, but I think they peaked with the previous “Brutal Architecture” and the live album that followed it, called “Earth Below And Sky Above”.
A review by Bonnek:
Yes, I remember knocking off stars from Änglagard's albums for finding them too derivative. Also the vocals didn't help them really. And yes, I realize that Sinkadus is not only highly indebted to Änglagard but that they also aren't gifted with the most easy-going vocals. Following my own logic, I couldn't possibly rate this above 3 stars right? Yet I gave this album a solid 5.
The reason is that, even though I tend to be critical towards things retro and everything that looks like style-exercises, this album is simply too good, overwhelming even. With every listen I have found myself being soaked deeper and deeper into this imaginative piece of music. For symphonic prog fans, it isn't a particularly difficult album to get into, yet it takes time before all its intricate power and secrets will entirely reveal themselves.
Sinkadus sound very much like Änglagard and offer a Swedish mood-mix of Camel's Mirage, Genesis' Nursery Cryme and early King Crimson, featuring lots of vintage equipment such as moogs, flutes, hammond and mellotron. The sound is very natural, organic and direct, with a very solid foundation of tasty bass and drums. Depending on your point of view, you could either call them old-fashioned and retro or authentic and timeless. However, the quality of the musicianship and song material can't be denied. Add the vigorous performance to that and my vote swings in all positive directions.
Each of the 5 pieces here has so many things going on that a full description of all themes and song developments would take up an entire page. To give an impression, Jag Anglemarks Bane has a big cinematic introduction, reminding me quite a lot of the majestic moments of the first two albums from Ange, one of my favourite symphonic rock bands. That's a nice point they score here right from the start. The vocals are a bit awkward at first but they play a minor role and have gradually grown on me. On Kakafonia for example, the vocals are slightly processed through some voice effect device and the result is just excellent. Valkyria is a highlight amongst highlights, very adventurous, soulful, warm and melancholic. The album ends with big washes of mellotron that go through a chord modulation that reminds me very much of the vocal line from Genesis' Seven Stones’; the “only grieves him, Believe him” part. Not a bad quote at all.
Cirkus is an album in a recognizable classic symphonic style and it's honoring classic prog rather than cloning it. When done with so much flair, passion and inspiration, 4 or 5 stars are easily deserved. Even within the symphonic prog sub that is crammed with essential material.
A review by Gatot:
I bought this CD last month because of online reviews and I find no regret at all having this album in my prog collection. I intentionally did not write the review right after listening to this album just to "pre-empt" my mind with previous review so that what I write here is purely what I experience, what I feel and what I think about the album. This album is an excellent debut album in the vein of progmet music (the kind of DREAM THEATER, SYMPHONY X music). For those of you who like this kind of music, this album is a MUST have.
"Perpetual Child" opens the album with heavy guitar riffs and stunning keyboard sound. I think the keyboard that accentuates the song, while the guitar plays the background riffs at intro is great. The short guitar solo just before vocals enter is fascinating; it's definitely DT stuff, especially on the way drum is played and the singing style, even though the voice is different with LaBrie. I think the voice of its lead singer, Josh Pincus, is sort of like the STYX vocalist, Dennis de Young with more of a high tone voice. The overall track is keyboard-based; a great composition!
"Sleepwalker" is another good track with great guitar and drumming; good variety of melodies and riffs. "Spare Chicken Parts" is an excellent instrumental piece with stunning lead guitar and riffs played harmoniously with keyboard. This track reminds me of RUSH's "YYZ" with much more varieties in melody. The drum solo in the middle of the song reminds me of NEIL PEART. The keyboard solo that follows is really wonderful making this an interesting composition. Absolutely, this track is a masterpiece! I even advise you to spin track 4 first before you enjoy other tracks.
"Because of You" indicates the effort to escape from typical progmet music. So, this track is just straight rock with some metal flavours at the end of the track. "The Bottom Line" is opened with soft keyboard sound and great riffs when the music enters. "Ice Age" is the song that I expect would represent the band's "theme". It starts with soft keyboard sound followed with guitar "fills" and vocals. It's not as excellent as I expect, the music flows so flat with little dynamics. "To Say Goodbye Part I & II" are much more dynamic: speedy lead guitar and keyboard (and excellent combined sounds between the two) with high and low points, good melody and great piano. I personally love these tracks. These two tracks are well positioned to conclude this album.
Overall, this album is excellent with tight composition, great musicianship (especially guitar, keyboard and drum) and excellent performance. The only thing lacking is the production quality as the volume control is too high and there are some distorted sounds due to this high volume. Mixing on some segments are also lacking. However, this album is RECOMMENDED.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
The album is called "No.6" and there is no song when you get to track 6, just seconds of silence. We have 3 Americans and 3 Belgiums making up the band on this release, and it's cool that Dave Kerman from 5UU'S and THINKING PLAGUE are playing drums on this one. Roger Trigaux the former guitarist for UNIVERS ZERO and the leader of this band composed and arranged the songs, but leaves the guitar work to his son Reginald except for one song. This band really seems like a "Rock" version of UNIVERS ZERO to my ears. Two long suites dominate the album with a short 2 minute song in between, plus the final track on the record which is 8 1/2 minutes in length.
The first suite is divided into 4 parts called "The Limping Little Girl: Part 1" and opens with a little girl singing before you can hear an adult say "Didn't you hear what your mother said!", and this is repeated a few times in the first part and at the end of the second part. More importantly, the music on this 4 part suite is nothing short of incredible. It's like a charged up version of UNIVERS ZERO. The piano, cello, drumming and guitar are all outstanding. The guitar is quite impressive, but it all sounds amazing! If the second half was as good as the first half (in my estimation) this would be a five star record.
"Le Rodeur" is an experimental 2 minute song of strange guitar sounds and weird vocals. The second suite is called "Ceax D'en Bas" and is divided into six parts. While the guitar had a prominent role on the first suite it's the piano who holds that position on this second suite. There is some good bass on "Part 1" while guitar does shine on "Part 4". It's "Part 6" though that steals the show, with great bass, guitar, bass and piano, as they all stand out beautifully. This is incredible! There is even some mellotron on this song. The final track "Sworlf" has another full sounding melody with marching style drums. It calms down with mournful cello, piano and drums.
I'm very impressed with this band and really look forward to checking out all of their albums
A review by Sean Trane:
There are a few changes compared to Present’s previous returning albums, most noticeably Daniel Denis and Alain Rochette are gone, finding suitable replacements in Dave Kerman and Pierre Chevalier. Roger Trigaux is also taking a bit of a backseat because of his declining health; he is taking on the role of musical director and composer only playing guitar on one track. Ex-bassist Guy Segers has now moved up a step into being their manager. This album was recorded in Israel, mixed in Belgium, but more significantly, it was not released by Cuneiform but by Carbon 7, a small but adventurous Belgian label also handling Aka Moon, amongst others.
Even if most members are now quite young, Present shows that this rejuvenation process is not harming their musical directions, on the contrary. Dave Kerman is a very worthy successor to Daniel Denis and is now the spine of the group and also brings a slight touch of humour in the band with their impressive (and oppressive) 17 minute The Limping Little Girl, where he keeps intervening with the now-famous line "Didn't You Hear What Your Mother Said?" which is clearly a pun on their early classic Poison Qui Rend Fou. Children's rhymes and other oddities are present throughout the track.
Le Rodeur is the only moment on the album where Roger Trigaux is to be heard. The next killer track is Ceux D'en Bas, which clearly makes reference to Univers Zero's Ceux Du Dehors, and you'd better hang on to your sanity as the ride proposed is a roughie and a toughie. This almost 6-part 20-min suite depicts the fine line between dreams and nightmares and is one of the most astounding compositions Trigaux has ever written, although for some reason it is not performed in concert. The only sung track (Le Cauchemard Yo in the CD'eB suite) still reminding you (a bit) of Magma and the finale is certainly Dantesque with the throbbing bass battling the mellotrons (Chevallier has yet to master this last instrument, though) in a blood-curdling chaos. After those two monster tracks, the last Sworlf has problems getting much notice, but still manages some interest, mostly because it is very slow paced and very gothic while staying reflective, reminding me of Shub-Niggurath.
This album compared to the previous Certitudes is quite a step upwards as they leave their slight Zeuhl twist totally behind, and head in adventurous (but by no-means groundbreaking) gothic RIO style, as the new group is out to make their own sound. Certainly a very much needed album to all complex music fans, this is not easily accessible, but all of Present's fans should find their thrills in this oeuvre.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Mostly Autumn are a band I have been drawn to over the years after seeing them play on a compilation DVD. I was immediately transfixed by the power of the music, the performance of guitarist Josh Bryan and especially the wonderful vocal talents of Heather Findlay. The atmosphere is a mixture of Celtic ambience and Folk meets a rocked up optimistic Pink Floyd style, along with shades of Fairport Convention, Renaissance, Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull, due to an emphasis on flute by Angela Goldthorpe. The style is definitely similar to Pink Floyd especially with the keyboard treatment and Bryan's low toned vocals. The second album for the group is one of their most celebrated containing some of their most famous works that are still played live today. On this album, "The Spirit Of Autumn Past", Iain Jennings is present on keyboards, and the mighty Hammond; Bob Faulds lends a hand on violins, and 5 string Zeta violin; Liam Davison is on 6 & 12 string acoustic, electric & slide guitar; Stuart Carver is on bass; and Rob McNeil on drums.
Mostly Autumn really branch out into some Psychedelic Rock on this album and even explore the Celtic sound that they became known for. The opener is the stunning 'Winter Mountain' guided by Goldthorpe's outstanding flute and a hard driving rock sound with a symphonic layer beneath. It has a great riff and some sizzling keyboard soloing; an absolute master class performance.
'This Great Blue Pearl' has a crunching Hammond driving it and some moderate tempo percussion and bass. Findlay and Bryan harmonise well together.
'Pieces of Love' is a work of balladic beauty with Findlay helming the ship, and acoustics, flute and keys laying a foundation of ambient textures. The lyrics are poetic and deep centred in the pain of love; "Pieces of love, Haunting like love, Let the love go wandering away in your mind, Don't question the pain, Breathing like pain, Let the love go wandering away in your mind." It makes a nice break from the intricacies of previous tracks, and features a melancholy violin. The acoustic ballad features Findlay's glistening tones taking centre stage and some delicate acoustic vibrations. The sensuous keyboards and floating flute complete the soundscape of gentle beauty and this is perhaps the band at their most exquisite.
'Please' ventures into pop territory but is a nice balanced track with some spellbinding keyboard passages, especially towards the end.
A quintessential Mostly Autumn track is found on this album that all fans love to hear in the live arena, and of course I speak of none other than 'Evergreen'. Findlay sings with haunting beauty and calm; easily one of most accomplished performances. The melody and tranquil atmosphere is a highlight of the band's extensive repertoire.
'Styhead Tarn' is a bit of a filler enhanced by a pounding drum signature, and it is followed by 2 other mediocre pieces. 'Shindig', a violin abomina? domination is one of those airy fairy things that I could live without. It is shadowed by 'Blakey Ridge/When The Waters Meet', yet another virtual hoedown Folk thing getting jiggy with it.
After these three bland moments, 'Underneath The Ice' seamlessy flows on with acoustic flourishes and a Pink Floydish vibe that has a charm and appeals to my senses. 'Through The Windows' is next and is a bit too concentric on Bryan's dry vocals and violin competing with acoustic for my tastes. I think Bryan improved over time, especially on more recent efforts but this was rather like a rather flavourless folk song.
'The Spirit of Autumn Past' is broken needlessly into 2 parts, but would have worked better as a 9 minute work. It begins with walking on gravel sounds and a wistful piano. It is an organic instrumental very much in the vein of Pink Floyd's quieter moments. Part 2 is the more popular segment where the vocals and melody lock in. Bryan's vocals are like David Gilmour, which is how the majority of his low husky vocals will sound on the next few releases. The melody is infectious and easy to hook into. The music builds with a rhythmic guitar and strong beat. The chorus becomes majestic and then it breaks into minimalist sections before returning to a more uplifting instrumental, backed by violins and dense keyboards.
The 11 and a half minute mini epic 'The Gap Is Too Wide' is a tour de force of atmospherics and symphonic instrumentation. This appears in many live concerts as it gives the band a chance to explore some improvised soloing and unusual musical choices with guest musicians Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes; The Christchurch Singers including the family and close friends of Susan Jennings; and Marissa Claughn on cello. Findlay's vocals are as soft as a butterfly's wings and Bryan's lengthy lead work soars into the stratosphere; a trademark of subsequent albums. The angelic choirs and mellotrons are blissful and heavenly. This is undoubtedly a masterpiece track cementing the virtuoso skills of the musicians. The Uilleann pipes at the end are a perfect way to close the album, augmented by the sounds of lapping water.
The followup to "For All We Shared" released the same year, "The Spirit Of Autumn Past" is a step in the right direction for the band and one of their most revered albums along with 2001's "The Last Bright Light", and 2003's "Passengers". It is a pleasant journey worth embarking on for a slice of very relaxing ambience and just the right amount of hard rocking guitar; one of the best releases from Mostly Autumn from which the catchphrase originated, so synonymous with their music; "Catch The Spirit".
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Ozric Tentacles are trippy psych instrumental wizards that dominate the acid fuelled 90s musical landscape with some of the most outlandish compositions. This release, their 13th studio album continues to explore and experiment with a diversity of musical styles founded in Eastern mystical flavours and techno rave heartbeat rhythms. The time signatures are off the map driven by mindbending bass and speed percussion. The band consist of Ed Wynne a legend on guitars, synths, and tendril manipulations; Seaweed on synths, whoopz, fizzles; Zia Geelani on bass, snapiness; John Egan on flutes, twirlings; and Rad on drum poundings.
A highlight of the album is the jumpy ‘Coily’ with blitzkrieg explosions of flute and mesmirising percussive shapes. It bounces all over the place leading to the flute solo and Oriental guitar hyper picking. The techno synths pounce in later and are joined by spacey guitar phrases.
‘Xingu’ opens with a phased fuzz guitar that blazes brightly and then a percussive figure locks in with swirls of keyboard and an Eastern theme. The sax sound that chimes in later is a dreamscape of ambience.
‘Waterfall City’ is a lengthy piece featuring pulsating synths that hook into an unusual pattern and are followed up with guitar embellishments. Droplets of synth fall on the palette of sequenced synths and then a transcendent lead guitar breaks through. This is more bordering on extreme electro rave dance music with a heavy serrated edge. The lead work is astonishing, almost improvised and the sound breaks into a dreamier ambience with those lightning fast drums keeping time.
‘Ch'ai?’ has an Arabic flavour with sounds of harp and odd instrumentation made on a synth. Agreeable tech bass and drums come in later and a higher pitch on the main theme. The lead break is killer and some of the best work from Ed Wynne.
‘Spiralmind’ is a spaced out piece with synth swells, chunky funkadelic bass and sporadic percussion. Beginning as melodic trance music, this literally spirals wildly out of control, with drum outbursts, lashings of guitar picking and a dollop of melting synth for good measure. The silver threads of ambience are overshadowed by un-restrained lead guitar squeals and pipes of pan synth. It is absorbing and tight musical dexterity, and must rate highly in the catalogue of the Ozric’s extensive oeuvre.
‘Sultana Detrii’ is a symphonic piece drenched with synths and a steady beat. The feel is akin to Reggae but more relaxed with a ton of flute and the sounds of nature. The reverberation of guitar is effective and the spacious synths that flow lucidly. This is one of the beautiful passages of music on this release.
‘Aura Borealis’ has an odd time signature with soft drums glazed over with celestial synths and ribbons of spacey effects generating an interstellar atmosphere. If I were to watch an Aura Borealis this music should fit perfectly. It is uplifting and filled with cosmic wonder.
The album is a prime example of the psychedelic power and spaced up experimentalism of Ozric Tentacles. It would be followed up by at least 6 more albums and of course the underground following would continue and grow. The band are definitely one of the more accomplished in terms of instrumental modern psychedelica and mesmirising space rock.
A review by Warthur:
The Ozrics clearly went the extra mile for their first album on their new label, set up by the band themselves after their departure from Snapper. As well as being somewhat more diverse in sound than many preceding albums, the disc boasts the best production they'd enjoyed for some time and had some really compelling compositions. The opening ‘Coily’ has an unusually heavy, intense and dark atmosphere for the Ozrics, whilst the pulsing, electronic dance music influences that have always hovered around in the background really come to the fore on other tracks such as ‘Xingu’.
On the whole, this is the best Ozrics album since “Jurassic Shift” and stands as proof positive that despite their reputation for simply making the same album over and over again, the Ozrics could still put out an album which sounds fresh and new.
Acid Mothers Temple
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
The Acid Mothers Temple unit is a strange one, and I had no idea what to expect though their album covers signify a return to the vintage psychedelic acid fuelled flower power of the late 60s. I don’t mind a brain blast occasionally of psychedelia such as Gong, or space rock such as Hawkwind, but those bands are nowhere near as tripped out as Acid Mother’s Temple, not even close. It is like vintage Gong without the lyrics, mixed with Hawkwind’s jamming sessions from their earlier years such as “Space Ritual”, and one may also detect hints of krautrock such as Can or Grobschnitt’s “Solar Music”. “Pataphysical Freak Out MU!!” is extreme acid rock taken to the Nth degree. The band are concentric on capturing spaced out LSD soaked atmospherics using any musical instrument at their disposal. The guitars are a prominent focus using phased wah wah effects and sustained string bends.
The opening track ‘Cosmic Audrey/Acid Takion’ sounds like Jimi Hendrix had forgotten the words; it is simply mind expanding spacey guitar with a ton of feedback and a driving fast tempo beat. It is a well-played guitar solo, but it has no riff or tune and is completely improvised over a sonic musical scape. It is certainly one of the better tracks on the album simply for its brute force and no holds barred killer guitar that shreds into the brain; designed to blow the brain apart in would say. Makoto Kawabata is the guitar speed master who is joined by layers of Atsushi Tsuyama bass explosions and Hajime Koizumi of percussion blasts.
Next on the menu, is a dose of tranquillity on ‘White Summer Of Love/Third Eye Of The Whole World’, with some acoustics and ambience, once again without a melody, or tune, but simply a hypnotic sound to kick back to, presumably after a hit of the acid; it is a come down song. The space whispers are reminiscent of Gong but not as sensuous, though the vocals on ‘Astrological Overdrive’ are a little more relaxing with all the spacey textures vibrating around them.
The music though on the album builds with hypnotic repetitions and includes extremely distorted guitars such as on the lengthy ‘Blue Velvet Blues’ that is virtually an improvised guitar on high phased fuzzy reverb. Makoto again takes center stage but it may grate on the nerves after about 6 minutes, though it is only about half way through. The sound is ultra-psyched out and is obviously LSD induced. It would not be surprising to learn that the whole album was created under the influence, such is the vibe of the music.
This is quite a chilling album that left me cold from wanting to explore further into this band. It is certainly a curio and the band have produced a plethora of other albums equally as trippy in the content one would expect. They have an underground cult following for good reason and will only appeal to a certain section of listeners; a very elite section at that who are into stoner rock with an extreme acid fuelled edge. It is what it is, and I would say if you wanted to listen to some of the trippiest music on the planet perhaps you could go no further than Acid Mother’s Temple and the Melting Paraisio UFO, and this is one of their highest rated albums, therefore a good place to start. This stoner rock is not for the squeamish, that is for certain.
A review by Finnforest:
A snippet from a RYM review I read that seems to be a good overview for this sprawling double-disc set of unease, tension, and pain. I largely ignored NIN in the 90s choosing to instead sooth my nerves with Rage Against The Machine, though I really can't stomach the depths of their juvenile politics anymore. As I began to immerse into "The Fragile" it took some time to seep into my pores. It really wasn't until some recent painful episodes sunk me into numbness that this stuff hit me hard, with its oddly beautiful and somehow soothing mix of rage and disquiet. Sprawling is the right word and Fragile feels like one of those slightly off-kilter double albums which catches an artist in a state of limbo, in the way titles like The White Album and Boys For Pele do. Not quite the best single work of the artist perhaps, but the fascinating black sheep of the catalogue.
The industrial/electronic rage-rock is presented with lots of pretentious, proggy, and artsy dressing. From brooding softer pieces bordering on ambient music to the expected rage, there are lots of cool strings, piano, atmospheric guitar (even Adrian Belew!), and choirs. The themes all revolve around darkness and pain, of people falling apart, calling for help; one emotional train wreck after another. Musically there is not quite enough of the open ended stuff for my tastes however, many of the tracks lock into a repetitive verse/chorus style that while nice and heavy, doesn't please that side of me which enjoys the unpredictable. While certainly respectable and of good quality it is not the kind of album I want to return to often. That's probably a good thing.
"tried to save myself but myself keeps slipping away"
A review by UMUR:
A.C.T.´s debut album Today´s Report is a very good album and, even though I like their three later albums better, this one is also fantastic in its own respect. A.C.T. is rightly so placed in the Eclectic prog category as their music is a mix of many genres. They can play some pretty heavy parts (not really heavy metal, but still pretty heavy) and then suddenly sound like they are in the middle of a musical performance. The thread through the whole album is the melodies though. A.C.T. is a very melodic band.
The music is very original in my ears. I think A.C.T. blends their many influences into something unique. Among the influences I count Dream Theater (Images & Words and Awake period), musicals, calypso rhythms and Queen like theatrical moods.
The Dream Theater influences are best heard in guitarist Ola Andersson´s playing. He is an excellent guitarist, but the little technical details in the music are also close to those on the early Dream Theater albums both in structure and melody. It´s no rip-off though as you´ll understand when you listen to A.C.T. The keyboards from Jerry Sahlin are also a treat. He uses some very nice sounds that are very melodic. The rhythm section is also outstanding. They play various styles with no problem.
Lead singer Herman Saming is a story of his own. He has a very high pitched almost female sounding voice that is very distinct. I can imagine this being a love him or hate him case, but I love him. Some of his vocal lines remind me of the Sophisticated album from Sieges Even, but only slightly as Sophisticated is a much more complex album than Today´s Report. The musical themes are comparable though.
Standout songs are Abandoned World, Waltz With Mother Nature (calypso rhythms), Today's Report (with the spoken catastrophic words), Welcome (because it´s so catchy) and of course the Personalities suite which is really brilliant.
The sound quality is good but would get better on later releases. The quality of the songs and the musicians performance of Today´s Report earns this album 4 stars. After listening to the album again to write this review I was never in doubt. This is a really special band, and I hope they will get the success they so fully deserve.
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2000!!! Coming soon
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A review by Gatot:
I knew of Kevin Gilbert during the years when I was chasing tribute albums in the mid-nineties through a compilation album "Supper's Ready" - a tribute to Genesis (Magna Carta, 1995) and "Tales From Yesterday" - a tribute to Yes (Magna Carta, 1995). Out of fourteen tracks featured in the Supper's Ready CD, I was totally amazed with track 5 "Back in NYC" performed by Kevin Gilbert featuring himself (vox, gtr, bass, keys, cellos, recorder), Mike Keneally (gtr, kalimba, bell piano, recorder), Nick D'Virgilio (drums, backing vox), and Toby Holmes (trombone solo); produced and engineered by Kevin Gilbert. The song was re-arranged completely different from the original Genesis studio album, but maintaining the tagline melody as a basic structure. I do enjoy the opening part where he sung with acoustic guitar and I could not at first guess what Genesis tune he was about to play. This wonderful track, of course, became a masterpiece tribute song because Kevin Gilbert did make a successful performance at Progfest 1994 when he and the band (including Nick D'Virgilio) performed "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" in its entirety.
On "Tales From Yesterday" he - under the name of STANLEY SNAIL featuring Kevin Gilbert and Mike Keneally - performed “Siberian Khatru” of Yes' “Close To The Edge” album. It's an excellent performance even though it's not radically different than Yes’ studio album except the inclusion of one of Bruford's melodies taken from solo album during the interlude segment. At the time Nick D'Virgilio (later, popular with his Spock's Beard) wasn't famous yet. With the above background, combined with information available at his website, I could sense the kind of musical style that Kevin Gilbert has adopted. The style has characterized his last album “The Shaming of The True”.
This album represented Kevin's life-long dream - to record a rock opera. Working closely with Nick D'Virgilio, Kevin worked like mad on this project. The concept/semi-autobiographical project is the story of one Johnny Virgil, a broken rock star that battles the demons of stardom and the music industry and comes to peace with his life at the end.
Unfortunately, this was not to be the case with Kevin. Sadly, he never got to see the results of his dream finalized. Kevin Gilbert died on May 17, 1996, of accidental asphyxiation, leaving the project unfinished. After his death, Jon Rubin and Nick D'Virgilio worked for years on the album, picking up where Kevin left off, finishing the album in late 1999. The album was released in 2000 by the Estate of Kevin Gilbert and through www.kevingilbert.com.
At first listen I was not really sure about the kind of music Kevin was going to play as for me the first track “Parade” did not stimulate any typical prog I had been hearing thus far. My preconceived expectation was that he would repeat his wonderful arrangement with Genesis' “Back in NYC” style. So I was dissatisfied for the sake of not fulfilling my expectation. But, one thing struck my mind when I carefully listened to the lyric and this came to be true, especially when I opened the black-and-white booklet of lyrics; it's an excellent rock opera, I thought. And this song is basically about Johnny Virgil's introduction, self proclamation and affirmation about his future as successful musician. "My name is Johnny Virgil and I'm gonna be a Star. Gonna get my share of fame". This ballad opens the odyssey beautifully. It lays a strong foundation for the next tracks with full stream of music rich with variations.
It's worthy to take note here when the album reaches track number 3, “Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)”, the choir performs wonderfully reminiscent of Gentle Giant. Through this track I knew why Spock's Beard's “The Light” (produced by Kevin) was heavily influenced by Gentle Giant; "Hi, John, it's Mel from Meglaphone. I've been listening to your tape for the 19th time. Oh that's another call - can I call you?" performed firmly with transparent voice augmented with nice choirs. Lyrically, it represents John Virgil's mixed feeling of accepting a phone call from a record company about his demo tape that might clear up his pathways to success. But at the same time it creates another feeling of not being important or significant as the caller excused themselves for another call and closed the conversation. Well, I think this also represents Kevin's personal experience on his struggle with record companies. For example, he was rejected by a major label who produced Econium - a tribute to Led Zeppelin when he submitted the Kashmir tape. The reason was that he was no one.
Another standout track that I like is “Certifiable # 1 Smash” with powerful lyrics and messages that Kevin is trying to convey. This track is dynamic as it outcasts a powerful story with articulate lyrics, performed energetically in an upbeat rocking tempo with excellent vocal clarity voicing anger, frustration and dialogue in a dynamic way. It's an exciting track to enjoy.
This album must be enjoyed in its entirety and it's suggested that you listen to this album while flipping through and reading the lyrics of the 40-page hard-bound book with excellent illustrations (mostly dark). Musically, please do not expect that this is the kind of prog you are used to hearing; it's different. But I can tell you that there is an intensive use of acoustic guitar and piano throughout this album. It was critically acclaimed and won a Grammy nomination for its elaborate packaging (the first issue of 1400 was in a beautiful 40 page hard-bound book).
A review by Mellotron Storm:
In my opinion this is the perfect SPOCK'S BEARD album. It sounds to me like it's more mature than past records, maybe not as dynamic as "The Light" or "Beware Of Darkness" but overall better. I would even go as far to say that this is the best album I have heard that involves Neal Morse. Hey, they even kept the time down to 63 1/2 minutes. They thank Greg Walker and Mike Portnoy in the liner notes.
"At The End Of The Day" is the 16 1/2 minute opening track. It's kind of mournful to start with but it kicks into an uptempo, upbeat melody 1 1/2 minutes in. Check out the thunderous bass! Vocals 2 minutes in and I love Neal's voice. A change 5 minutes in as percussion enters and then chunky bass after 6 minutes, followed by a jazzy section. It settles down before 8 minutes with reserved vocals and piano. Mellotron 9 1/2 minutes comes in as the guitar cries. It gets heavy 11 minutes in with some killer organ and incredible drumming, then it goes mellow again 12 1/2 minutes with reserved vocals and piano leading the way. It kicks back in around 14 minutes with some deep bass lines and scorching guitar; a great opening track.
"Revelation" is spacey to start as a pleasant melody comes in with reserved vocals. A powerful sound enters after a minute and this contrast of light and heavy continues. Nice. I like the liquid keys during the mellow sections. Some ripping guitar after 4 minutes with mellotron that continues almost to the end of the song.
"Thoughts(Part II)" is a sequel to "Thoughts" from "Beware Of Darkness" with strummed guitar and vocals before some heavy bass and a fuller sound comes in. Those GENTLE GIANT vocal arrangements follow and the themes are repeated. Killer bass before and after 3 minutes and later on. What a song! Some cello in this one too.
"All On A Sunday" has been described by Neal as prog-pop. This is such an uplifting song, like sunshine and a warm breeze. "Goodbye To Yesterday" is an older Neal Morse song that the band had ready to record for some time. This one is melancholic with fragile vocals and acoustic guitar, then mellotron comes in on the chorus. There are drums before 2 minutes, and some French horn and piano make an appearance too as it comes to life 2 1/2 minutes in. I wished they had kept it restrained all the way through without these fuller sections.
"The Great Nothing" is the 27 minute closer, divided into six sections. It opens with what sounds like mellotron. Acoustic guitar after a minute and a full sound before 2 minutes as drums and bass lead the way. Mellotron and guitar joins in and I like the upbeat section that follows. A calm 3 1/2 minutes in as reserved vocals and piano take over. Nice. Meaningful lyrics are heard and it picks up 7 1/2 minutes in. I like the guitar and bass, there is nice organ play with drums following. A calm 11 1/2 minutes in with piano and mellotron. Chunky bass 12 minutes in as it kicks back in and a catchy section before 15 minutes with a cool guitar/organ passage after 17 minutes. A calm 19 minutes in with a huge mellotron wave, and acoustic guitar follows. It is heavy again after 20 minutes with guitar and bass and an uplifting section 22 minutes in. The album ends in a spacey, mellow way.
In my opinion this is SPOCK'S BEARD's pinnacle.
A review by Gatot:
I knew Spock’s Beard after they released their third album. Based on recommendation from my prog-mate in Bandung, I then purchased all the first three albums. At that time I was not really "into" prog intensely because I thought that the genre was a bit stagnant. When all the three CDs arrived I was bit disappointed with the music as it was too derivative with bits of "Yes", "Gentle Giant" and "Gypsy King". So I decided not to spin their music but I still continued buying their CDs, though I don't know why. It's probably the band's reputation on the webs as so many people are praising them or probably many of my prog mates talked about the band. I just did not want myself to be left behind. Pretentious? They might be, but actually I rarely spun the CDs of the band until I got my Transtlantic “SMPTe” CD which triggered me to spin some albums of the band.
Well, that's history. Sometimes we can only appreciate prog music progressively through a passage of time. When my prog mate, Koni, who lives in Malang (approx 1000 miles away from Jakarta - to the east), urged me to have another try for this album, I accepted. On the first couple of spins I still did not feel "into" SB music especially on the part which sounds like The Gypsy King (the pop outfit that could flow nicely into my ears). For me personally, the music of SB sounds like it is "being forced" in the way the music sounds, so it does not seem natural for me. But okay, this time I am determined to experience the band's music in a totally different perspective, using different spectacles. I found the Gentle Giant's choir at "Thoughts (Part II)" to be excellent, so I pushed myself to enjoy the music and this is my view.
The album opener, ‘At The End of The Days’ is definitely an excellent track and I'm happy that this is positioned at the beginning of the album. It starts very nicely in an ambient mood with soft keyboard/ mellotron sounds. This opening piece that ends approx in a minute is really melodic and has successfully set an uplifting mood for the album. The drum sound enters gradually, followed later with full music in a funky style led by the beats from a combination of great bass guitar by Dave and drums by Nick. When Neal’s voice enters the music for the first time the rhythm section is dominated by the combination of dynamic bass line, drums and organ in the background. The music turns complex with some great variations on drumming; really great, Nick! The music then flows with a variety of styles; keyboard solo in neo prog vein and slower tempo, jazz fusion style and some transitions with acoustic guitar and percussion. The mellotron work by Ryo has enriched the textures of the track and reminds me of the 70s prog packaged in a much more modern sound. The organ solo is stunning! The guitar work by Alan is much indicated as filler but it has augmented the song really well. Oh by the way, I forget to mention, the harmony vocals are excellent! I am really satisfied with this track.
‘Revelation’ starts spacey and flows in a mellow style exploring the keyboard sounds and effects. The voice line enters with slow beat drumming. The music then flows in crescendo with higher register singing style. It turns quieter again and returns to mellow style. The music turns a bit complex with organ providing a great rhythm sound and solo. There is a strong influence of jazz especially when I observe the organ/ keyboard works. Alan contributes his short guitar solo nicely.
‘Thoughts (Part II)’ opens with a nice acoustic guitar rhythm followed with low register notes vocals; "I thought I'd come to you and say, All the things I had on my mind, I thought it might be really great, To show you how I feel inside, Then I think ... MAYBE NOT ..."; it's a great and atmospheric opening, I think. The music then turns into full sounds nicely with keyboard taking the lead melody. When the part enters this passage it is great; "You wouldn't speak to me, I would be left behind, We'd be through if you knew, All the things in my mind," and the music that follows is really SUPERB! It does remind me of the music of Gentle Giant at its best! Quite honestly, this track was the one that made me willing to have another spin of this CD. The drumming is marvellous! There is some exploration of orchestra in some transitions; really wonderful! I think all Gentle Giant freaks would be amazed by this track, as I certainly am! This is a wonderful composition!
I consider ‘All on a Sunday’ as a ballad rock tune with nice organ/ keyboard work that sometimes reminds me of the Procol Harum style of organ. The music flows straight forwardly with a very minimum variation in style and mood. It's a good track but not essential.
‘Goodbye To Yesterdays’ is another ballad and nice song opened with acoustic guitar. I think Neal is better singing in this low register note. It reminds me of "The Distance to The Sun" track of the band’s "Day for Night" album.
Considering the long duration (27:18) of the epic ‘The Great Nothing’, I expect a lot before enjoying it. It comprises 6 parts, opening with ambient sounds followed with acoustic guitar fills. Nice opening, and then the music then enters in a medium tempo with bass guitar taking the lead for the beats and drum as keeper of the bars. When organ starts soaring, Dave performs his dynamic bass guitar work. The vocal enters in a quieter passage with only piano (and a bit of bass guitar) to accompany it. The music turns slowly into a faster tempo. I do enjoy this when it reaches approx. minute 8 when the keyboard/ organ takes a solo (and effects!) combined with great bassline. Great work, Ryo and Neal! I really enjoy it. The smooth music then turns into an intermittent one during a transition. It's a very good exploration, and this epic offers a variety of styles and sounds/ effects exploring all the talents the band has. To note here is that the guitar work of Alan has been fully explored with this track and in general. The whole album does not explore as much of Alan's to his fullest potential. It's probably the figure of Neal (who happens to be a keyboard player as well) that is so central, that he does not allow much guitar sound in the middle of this epic. Indeed, Alan's solo concludes this epic nicely, augmented with piano.
Overall, I think if you like prog, it is essential that you own this excellent album. Not all tracks are of a high quality though, especially those with ballad styles, but I have to admit that overall, the composition is tight and the musicianship is great. Most reviewers have stated that the band's existence was highly due to the central role of Neal Morse, but I don't think so. Even with the departure of Neal, they still have great sounds and composition in two albums (post Neal):"Feel Euphoria" and "Octane". Even, the band has pushed more in the melodic spectrum of their composition under their latest album "Octane". Overall, I put the rating of this "V" album with 4 ½ out of 5 rating. I would give full five stars if there were no ballads and Alan's guitar work was given more attention.
A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:
Until today I had refused to review any Prog Metal album, being that I didn't have anything good to say about the whole sub-genre, most surely the problem should be in my personal taste; but I just found "V: The New Mythology Suite" by SYMPHONY X and I must honestly say that I'm impressed.
The album combines elements of Metal with excellent Symphonic structures, and that's something I'm able to understand or even like, but this doesn't mean I became an instant fan of the genre. However, it's good to see there's some Prog Metal that I'm able to listen to with pleasure.
From the operatic "Overture" it's easy to know you are listening to something different. All those unnecessary solos and contests of egomaniac guitar pyrotechnics are left aside for a coherent structure; loved the opening.
"Evolution (The Grand Design)” marks a change, were in definitive inside Metal territory which somehow reminds me of the galloping style of IRON MAIDEN and their obsession for Ancient Egyptian obsession, but designed in such way that the Symphonic component is almost as important, of course you will find some fast guitars, but in small dose doesn't harm, and at the end there's not Prog Metal without guitars. The vocals are simply impressive, excellent choral work, another high point.
"Fallen" starts slower than the previous track with a keyboard that leads to an "in crescendo" guitar work, the drumming is extremely accurate, but this time the vocals by Russell Allen are a bit over the top, like he's making an incredible effort not to leave the Metal zone in which he sounds a bit less confident than in Symphonic territory.
"Transcendence" is just a pompous intro (those we like so much) for "Communion and the Oracle" which starts with a soft guitar. It is pretty unusual for this kind of music that sends us to less familiar territory, but again it's nice, though I can understand why some hardcore metalheads don't like this album too much, because it's as Symphonic as it is metallic. The most interesting aspect of this track is how it evolves, linking every section with the next one, in such a way that you almost don't feel the dramatic changes, with Michael Pinella and Michael Romeo doing outstanding work.
"The Bird-Serpent War/ Cataclysm" begins heavier than all the previous songs with the expected (even when uncommon in this album) distorted guitar, again that is reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN, and pulls me towards the most familiar and pleasant sound for a non-Metal fan as me. But what impresses me more is the fantastic synth work.
Somebody please stop the world, I'm listening to Prog Metal and I like it. "In the Breath of Poseidon" is full of pompous and ancient atmospheres with soft instrumental bridges to link the harder sections making the gap between them less evident; simply delightful.
"Egypt", as expected by the name, is mysterious but frantic at the same time, using two concepts that usually are not easy to combine. These are managed with enough dexterity to make them sound as natural partners, and again the vocal work is amazing. Of course the soft piano closing section was a total surprise for me.
"Death of Balance/ Lacrymosa" defies what I thought I knew about Metal, with the aggressive guitars blending with traditional piano in the most Classical sense. This is brilliant, and the controlled cacophony is almost as pleasant, reminding me of a harder version of ELP, but the surprises don't end, as there is another amazing choral section that proves to me that SYMPHONY X is different than most of the bands of the genre. Vive la difference.
Despite "Absence of Light" being the harder song of the album and clearly more oriented towards what I could expect from a metal album, I can't say I dislike it. The elaborate vocal work makes it easy to digest even by a person who usually won't listen to distorted guitars unless forced to do so.
"A Fool's Paradise" starts as frantic and breathtaking, and for the second time it seems like Russell Allen puts in too much effort when trying to be a metal singer instead of a Symphonic Metal singer. However, when someone fails to match my taste, another member rescues the song, in this case Pinella with his impeccable keyboards. Around the middle, Allen recovers the calm and everything matches perfectly again, especially when the chorus enter and during a Bach reminiscent organ section; I loved the song.
"Rediscovery" is the short and softer interlude that places the audience in the mood for the final epic, but sadly it is too short, and I believe they could have exploited it much more.
The almost 12 minutes epic "Rediscovery pt. II - The New Mythology" is the cherry on the top of the cake. The band jumps from one style, mood and atmosphere to another one with absolute coherence, but at the same time in a very dramatic and radical way. They are always linking every section with an accurate bridge usually classical or Baroque, sometimes Bach, but in this case Mozart; another high point of the album.
Now, it is time to suggest my biggest problem. I really enjoyed the album but not enough to classify it as an essential masterpiece of Progressive Rock, so five stars are out of my book, but less than four would be unfair and in a lack of coherence with what I wrote. Now I will get "The Odyssey" and "The Divine Wings of Tragedy" to convince myself that this is not a mirage and that I really like SYMPHONY X.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
This record's theme is about being disconnected from people and society and so the feeling of being lonely and abandoned runs throughout this album. Therefore you shouldn't expect a lot of joy and happiness either lyrically or musically when you listen to this recording. Jim Matheos has sort of left guitar solos in the past for now as he concentrates on playing dense riffs and a heavy rhythmic guitar (grinding away). There is a lot of atmosphere on this disc as well as heaviness. Of course having Kevin Moore on board is great when you need to create atmosphere. Zonder and Vera sure know how to bring lots of bottom end. It is good to see Terry Brown co-producing this record along with the band. They thank former member Bernie Versailles and his and Ray's present band mate with REDEMPTION Nick Van Dyk.
"Disconnected (Part 1)" features Matheos playing a single bended note on his guitar several times that recalls the PINK FLOYD song "Welcome To the Machine". The synths answer the machine in this short gloomy opener. The machine comes back at the end of the album. "One" has an uptempo intro. Zonder is incredible. Tempo changes throughout this song. Adler can sure hold a note as witnessed 3 minutes in and there is some intricate guitar work as well. Adler wrote this song.
The next song "So" has been described as DREAM THEATER meets TOOL. Eerie synths to open as heavy drums and bass come in. The synths sound fantastic and Adler is in fine form. The chorus is heavy and aggressive. It's the Zonder and Matheos show 4 minutes in. An atmospheric passage 5 minutes in contrasts well with the heaviness before and after. "Pieces Of Me" really rocks out with blistering guitar to open as Zonder does his thing. Adler comes in as drums pound steadily and Matheos grinds away on his guitar. Matheos tears it up 4 minutes in.
"Something From Nothing" was also written by Adler and it opens with acoustic guitar and bass. There is a lot of atmosphere as Ray sings slowly. An industrial sound comes and goes, and It becomes FLOYD-like 4 minutes in as the sound becomes eerie and dark. There is actually a sinister feeling that raises its head once in a while throughout this tune. 5 minutes in Matheos turns it up a notch and so does everybody else. Adler is really impressive right now. This is my second favourite song on this album.
"Still Remains" is not only my favourite on this record but it may just be the best song they have ever done, it's that good. A 16 minute journey that starts with a slow pace with lots of atmosphere for 2 1/2 minutes. Then it starts to rise out of its slumber, synths are prominent and we can hear some odd metered drumming and piano. Vera shines on this song especially after 11 minutes, but earlier too. This is a must hear song for all metal fans.
The final song "Disconnected (Part 2)" recalls Kevin's song with DREAM THEATER "Space Dye Vest". The FATES WARNING machine is back! That bended note with atmospheric keys answering back to the machine's wail is great.
This album is pure heaven for me. It blends all the elements that I love about music. I am a huge Jim Matheos fan, he wrote all the music for this record and shared with Adler in the lyrics.
A review by Warthur:
Just as the ambient end of progressive electronic had Tangerine Dream's “Zeit”, and as the Canterbury scene had Soft Machine's “Third”, just as symphonic prog (infamously) had “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, so too did post-rock have “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven”. If there were ever any doubt that by the beginning of the 2000s a healthy cross-pollination was occurring between post-rock and classic prog, Godspeed You! Black Emperor proved it by putting out a double album of four tracks, each the length of a vinyl side, nearly three decades after the “Topographic Oceans” controversy made such an approach highly risky in a rock context.
It's also perhaps the band's best work, combining some of their most evocative and intriguing pieces of found audio, the dark post-apocalyptic post-rock style they had developed on their preceding releases, and presenting a bit more variation in the sound. Some parts of the album approach dark ambient territory, whilst some of the louder crescendos represent the most complex and musically busy material the band would ever record. On the whole, the epic structure of the album is absolutely perfect for Godspeed's style; they are, at the end of the day, a band all about creating vast rubble-strewn soundscapes for the listener to lose themselves in and explore. One of the essential post-rock releases.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Spellbinding music to tantalise the senses...
Godspeed You! Black Emperor (GY!BE) is a band that has a massive cult following as an online oddity. I first encountered them on websites and was immediately drawn in by their high strangeness and sonic soundscapes of beauty and darkness. The band have received rave reviews online and have generated a mystique that is unique to the world of music. They rarely picture themselves on albums, in fact even replace themselves for an imposter punk band on this album, and they remain virtually anonymous. The music is made up of lengthy ambience and some chilling crescendos, and scattered throughout are soundbytes of narratives, voices and characterisations that have become synonymous with their sound.
"Lift Your Skinny Fists, Like Antennas To Heaven" is made up of an hour and a half of mesmirising musical scapes over 2 CDs, and is perhaps the pinnacle of the band in terms of atmospherics and emotionally charged climaxes. There is a distinct sadness that permeates the sound, as if one is wallowing in the pits of misery at the depth of their darkest hour, and yet there is something uplifting about the music, almost cathartic to purge the emotions at the edge of madness. It is almost impossible to explain or categorise the music, and even harder to describe what the music is doing to the system, but there is definitely a therapeutic impact that occurs that transcends the normal listening experience. I put this on not really expecting much but as the music gained momentum and became intense I was absolutely moved almost to tears by the sheer beauty and the creative tour de force of GY!BE; there is nothing else like this.
I sat down and read many reviews online as I listened and this even further cemented my impression that I was listening to modern day genius. There are only four tracks over the 90 minutes and they are all jammed with immeasurable dynamism; from the incredible darkness of 'Storm' to the incomparable beauty of 'Static'; and then onto CD2 with mesmirising haunting 'Sleep' to the strange finale 'Antennas To Heaven', this is one of the most compelling albums of the millennium. The sheer synergy of music, effects and atmosphere have the commanding power to absorb the listener and drag them into the sonic intensity. Don't just take my word for it; look at what some of the online reviewers on Prog Archives are stating:
Loserboy: "...easily draws the listener into that relaxed mental spacial void where all one can consider is relaxation. A sonic bonanza for your brain."
BrainRock Ben: "If you only buy one GYBE! album, buy this one."
Jim Garten: "You will not be left humming any melodies, as there are actually very few, you will not have inspirational lyrics to quote to your friends, as the album is completely instrumental, you will not actually know why you like the album, but I almost guarantee you will."
penguindf12: "The post-rock group of the new century. The herald of the apocalypse."
frenchie: "This album offers something new, daring, experimental and heavenly to listen to."
Fitzcarraldo: "Listening to these two CDs is a mesmerising experience. I come away feeling quite refreshed. There are no killer riffs, nothing to make you tap your foot, nothing to make you hum, yet the CDs are compelling."
hitandrun2@gm: "Beautiful, haunting, complex, long, ambient, exciting, gaining momentum, orchestral, voice overs, swept away, GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR!"
Cygnus X-2: "It often feels like you're in a dream when listening to these sections. But then when the band erupts into a bombastic section, the atmosphere changes drastically from light to dark, giving a sense of shock and awe to the listener."
Zac M: "A masterpiece like this cannot be overlooked by anyone."
the scientist: "Great monument of Post Rock. Slowly the band create a threatening atmosphere, which becomes all the more intense near the end."
Ricochet: "Gods of Sounds, of Vision, of Context and of Passion that "goes everlasting." "
ClemofNazareth: "This is a great album, just a razor-thin hair shy of indispensable, but better more intense and lasting than the vast majority of things you could stimulate yourself with today ... and not nearly as bad for you as some of those things. Well worth an hour-and-a-half of your life."
lightbulb_son: "The Holy Grail of Post-Rock."
Man With Hat: "This is one of those albums that shakes music to the core, and I am afraid that I can not do this album justice. I still don't think I can capture the pure power of this music in words."
Pnoom!: "I was left dazed, gasping for air, struggling to maintain consciousness as wave upon wave of admiration and awe washed over every pore of my body. I had never experienced anything like this."
Moatilliatta: "The soaring atmospheres will make you motionless, and the climaxes will leave you breathless."
gandalf31: "It was the only album? that changed my whole life forever and ever."
kaiser willhelm: "...spoken word, climaxes, frantic guitars, atmosphere, horns. This album takes a lot of patience and effort on the part of the listener... its a very demanding album but in the end, extremely rewarding."
Preciousgoo: "The songs themselves are vast, blazing deserts of sonic power, that conjure up images of hope, love, sadness, and fragile beauty. Every track seems to live and breathe."
The Truth: "...an eargasm. Music so hard to describe, so hard to get, and yet... You love it. It's just a rarity among music nowadays, something really refreshing to the ear."
I thought these reviews were over the top until I actually experienced it myself and then I knew I was listening to a masterpiece that transcends music and defies description. In conclusion, I think it is fair to say that this album will not be an easy listen but you will come out the other end feeling quite moved by this album. I believe the music causes certain feelings to surface and it will be a personal journey, depending on where you are at in life and what your circumstances are as to how this will affect you. In any case, I applaud the band for creating music for the senses, and not bowing down to what one may consider to be the essential ingredients of music. GY!BE break the barriers of convention and create music without a melody to hook onto, without sung lyrics, without time limits, infinitely patient, with layered sounds generated to fill the silence with sonic violence, and then move the listener with angelic beauty, and then building ever so gradually to a climax, only to break back to an ambience, before exploding into a new exploration of emotion. The album as a whole must be listened to from start to end and not broken into pieces or it loses it's hypnotic stranglehold. This is true earphone music that must be experienced. It may not grab you immediately but it soon transfixes and refuses to let go until the last spellbinding tone resounds. A maddeningly brilliant and unforgettable album of incoherent beauty.
A review by UMUR:
Transatlantic´s debut album “SMPTe” was a nice surprise to me when it was released in 2000. I was a big fan at the time of Dream Theater, The Flower Kings, Spock´s Beard and Marillion, where the members (Neal Morse of Spock´s Beard on vocals and keyboards, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater on drums and backing vocals, Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings on guitar, vocals, mellotron and percussion and Pete Trewavas of Marillion on bass and backing vocals) of Transatlantic normally spend their working hours. My expectations were of course very high regarding this supergroup and they were met to some extent. By that I mean that I was expecting a new sound for Transatlantic but as it turned out Neal Morse wrote most of the material and “SMPTe” ended up sounding like a Spock´s Beard album most of the time.
I don´t have many reservations about this as I like Spock´s Beard, although I could have wished for a more original sound with four such outstanding musicians. Here on “SMPTe” it just shines through who is in their respective band a little too much.
The album consists of five songs. Three of the songs are long epics while the last two songs are more simple while still in a progressive vein. ‘All of the Above’ is a 31 minute long epic song predominantly written by Neal Morse. It sounds mostly like a Spock´s Beard song and one of the better ones that is. ‘All of the Above’ is followed by the two shorter songs ‘We All Need Some Light’ and ‘Mystery Train’ which are also Neal Morse compositions. ‘We All Need Some Light’ is a ballad type song while ‘Mystery Train’ is a rock song. None of them makes the biggest impression on me.
The epic 16 minute long ‘My New World’ is a Roine Stolt composition and, just as the Neal Morse compositions sound like Spock´s Beard, ‘My New World’ sounds very much like The Flower Kings. I like The Flower Kings so this is a treat for me. The 17 minute long epic ‘In Held ('twas) In I’ closes the album; a Procul Harum cover song, and, even though I don´t know the original, this version is very good.
The musicianship is outstanding as you might have guessed with these musicians, and of course there are millions of parts in the long songs and lots of soloing to satisfy most symphonic prog rock fans. The production sounds very much like a Spock´s Beard album even though the drums have a different sound.
“SMPTe” might not be the most original album as it is very seventies retro in sound, but it is certainly a welcome addition to my prog rock collection. The compositions are of high quality and the overall impression of the album means that I will rate it 4 stars. It´s a long way from being a masterpiece but it´s far too good to only be rated 3 stars, so 4 stars it will be.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
At first glance any prog fan would be drawn into the brilliant album cover of this dream team super group, with its eclectic space blimp soaring across a cloud streaked sky and stagnant seascape. The super group comprises of guitarist Stolt from The Flower Kings, Morse the keyboardist and voice of Spock's Beard, Portnoy drummer of Dream Theater and Trewavas the bassist extraordinaire of Marillion. The mix of musical genius works together to formulate an amazing sound, with incredible musicianship from start to finish.
The first track, 'All of the Above', is an epic and worth the price of purchase alone. At about 30 minutes it moves from song to song with subsections of instrumental prowess unlike anything the band members had tackled in their former groups. Unlike Asia, that virtually shunned the prog style to embrace a more mainstream subculture and indeed the music charts, ala the debut album, Transatlantic are unashamedly and gloriously prog. Time signatures are off the scale and at times they sound like Pink Floyd, or Yes or King Crimson, but mostly like Spock's Beard due to Morse's dominance in the vocal department. It is a terrific debut from the band and definitely one of the best amalgamations of prog legends.
Not every track goes on forever. There is a nice pleasant ballad, ‘We All Need Some Light’, sounding very much like Morse's solo work. The last 2 tracks are mini epics and very well constructed as are all tracks. 'In Held ('twas) In I' sounded familiar and then I realised it was a Procol Harum song, as good as, if not better, than the original.
There is not one filler or throwaway track on the album and it is a very good debut for the band. I for one cannot wait to get hold of more Transatlantic in the future.
A review by Finnforest:
Ohh this is beautiful...
This paralyzes temporarily that part of the grey matter which frets over outside issues and causes the body stress. Frees it up. Takes you in. Not all albums do, not even all good ones. I've always wondered what made Porcupine Tree, this swirl of Beatles, Pink Floyd, Brit-pop, Rush, and Radiohead so able to attract prog fans like moths. The run of great albums from this era through today is admirable under any circumstances, but Wilson has a knack for selling his own visions to a wider swath than most. And none are any lovelier, more poetic, strange, or magical than “Lightbulb Sun”. Those who love heavy crunch will get more bang from the likes of “Fear of a Blank Planet”, but for those looking to lose an afternoon in a cloudy head....is there any better ear candy than this? The harmonies and melodies laced throughout are beyond good, the little aural jackpots come from all directions; biting electric guitar, dreamy acoustic guitars, tight rhythms, soft keys, and devilishly good ideas. The only songwriting pitfall here was trying to do too much in one album. So many colours are introduced, but Wilson absolutely manages to craft a fine album; one of the 90s very best proggy alt-rock mutations. Such melancholic themes of isolation and loss pervade just as the presentation of them leaves one spellbound in a good way.
A few adjectives from the reviews of others... "the PT stuff I love, it has dimension, lush, retro, worldly, best midnight music, transmitting a horde of feelings, cathartic, celestial, has cast a spell over me." I would say it's the musical equivalent of one's first kiss.
The tracks so fresh and alive will be developed further on the next several albums but here they are all in their childhood, and just like with kids, there is a wonder and naivety that hasn't been lost from maturing. Nothing against later work but “Lightbulb Sun” has a very special spark that albums like ‘Rubber Soul” had, as heard in the uninhibited glorious vocals of "Shesmovedon." There is pure McCartney in the piano of "How is your life today." There is the overcast of a good Floyd album, the occasional power of a Rush movement, the coy pop-smirk of certain Brit-pop, the Radiohead guitar solo of "Where we would be." (Side note: while sharing Radiohead's production sheen and control of sound, “Lightbulb Sun” is just so much more FUN than Radiohead.) There are feelings of XTC's "Skylarking" and moments of Graham Nash. There's a slow-motion urgency in some spots, a full-body smooth buzz in others.
"Russia on Ice" is an absolute masterpiece, a 13-minute painting that covers an icy post-rock Mono soundscape, then climbs from a hole in the ground, lumbers, changes shape again, takes flight, lingers, and finally becomes a lightshow seen for miles around. The end stretch is some groove that sounds like putting a Sabbath and Chili Pepper riff into a blender; I'm thinking a young Tony Iommi crushin' it with Flea in some alternate universe. It finally drifts off like a leaf on water. After nine such perfect little vignettes one is left to decompress quietly with "Feel So Low." You look around you, wondering if anyone saw you getting slightly lost in the music. You've just flashed way back to a day you could afford to live with a little more abandon. To smile like you mean it.
Yeah, perfect score here because this one brings a unique charm that the others don't, good as they are. And while there might be more impressive individual tracks on other PT albums, this strikes me as their most memorable and consistent set. 5 first kisses; "The curtains stay closed now on my little retreat."
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
10 songs that made a million...
Porcupine Tree's "Lightbulb Sun" ages well like fine wine, and listening back to this after a long hiatus from Porcupine Tree and indulging in so many other artists and styles was sheer bliss. The relaxing feel of the band, the powerful melodies and Steven Wilson's brilliant crystalline vocals were outstanding. The songs that jumped out and brought instant satisfaction include 'Lightbulb Sun' with such a wonderful melody and serene atmosphere. The heavy guitar riff is never overbearing but such a mark of excellence. The quality of the sound is a high point of the album.
'4 Chords that Made a Million' has such an infectious tune that it was hard to get out of my head. 'Shesmovedon' is absolutely moving and of course had featured on other Porcupine Tree albums following this such as 'Deadwing' and many live albums. The lead break is incredible and rises to a crescendo.
It segues into an acoustic jangly passage and Wilson's vocals are mixed to the front, more intimate and not so distant and spacious as usual on the memorable title, 'Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled'. Barbieri's keyboards are a beautiful chiming augmentation and the starman alien narrative is a nice touch adding to the atmosphere.
The album is the 6th studio release and, after some intricate lengthy spacey projects with huge epic pieces focussing on instrumentation over lyrics, this was a much more mature offering. The songs are short and memorable and I believe it was the beginning of worldwide success for the band. The floodgates well and truly broke open after this 2000 album with the likes of 3 masterpieces in a row, "In Absentia" (2002), "Deadwing" (2005) and "Fear of a Blank Planet" (2007).
The band were exploring new territory from "Signify" onward discarding the massive epic length tracks which had to happen in order to break into a more profitable market. The shift in style worked for the band and of course they have become one of the most well know bands in the prog circuit. The DVD "Arriving Somewhere" features a lot of past songs from the band's history and from "Lightbulb Sun" the intricate 'Hatesong' is chosen, a song showcasing the heavier side of the band especially the repeated awesome 7 note riff that drives the song with the odd time signature. The musicianship is always exceptional. The band have extraordinary talent and this album is the first truly consistent work in terms of musicianship and song structures.
The dreamier side of Porcupine Tree with strong acoustic flourishes is a major focus such as the lightweight 'Where We Would Be', the catchy 'How Is Your Life Today?' and the ethereal 'The Rest Will Flow'. The longer than 10 minutes track on the album, that became obligatory on Porcupine Tree works in more recent years, is the 13 minute 'Russia On Ice'. Unlike 'Arriving Somewhere But Not Here', or 'Anesthetize', that are both works of brilliance and indispensable in Porcupine Tree's catalogue, 'Russia On Ice' is not as well known. In any case it still is a song with some epic playing and very powerful sections. It begins with spacey keyboards and a heavier guitar, slow and brooding, creeps along the temperate drums. Wilson's vocals sound like the post "In Absentia" tones, reflective and distant; "Can't stop myself drinking, can't stop being me, if I call will you come and will you save me?" The slow cadence is very relaxing but melancholic especially the guitars. The bassline becomes the main instrument in the mid section, and then a crunching metal distorted guitar enters. The rhythm locks in and the song changes into a metal style which is jarring, given all the ambience previously. The sound that follows is industrial like Gary Numan, with mechanised percussion and effects, and even the guitars are machinery like, especially at 10 minutes in. A bell begins to toll after this lengthy instrumental section and the ambience returns.
The album closes with 'Feel So Low' which is lulling and dreamy. Wilson sings quietly "I can laugh about it now, but I hated every minute I was waiting for your email, and each day that you forgot to call, just made me feel so low, so low". Once again Wilson injects modern technology into his lyrics such as emails and later on "Fear of a Blank Planet" the X-box. It is a soothing way to close the album, though Wilson is singing about a broken relationship.
At the end of this album one comes away feeling refreshed and satisfied as the music is uplifting and pleasant ear candy throughout. The best was yet to come but this is a solid album worthy of many repeated listens.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
I have so many thoughts going around in my head when I think about this album, with these songs, and that island. With IONA, I've never before sat down and read lyrics that had such an affect on me as those written for this album. I have said before that lyrics really aren't that important to me. Give me great music and I'll be happy. Not surprisingly the best quote I read about this band was from a Prog Archives reviewer, tszirmay, who said IONA is more spiritual than religious. And if you read their lyrics and feel their music you would know exactly what Thomas means. I've talked about growing up in a religious home before, and how you are led to believe that religion (church) and God are almost the same thing. Oh, they would never admit that, but if you leave the church they will say you are turning your back on God. The words written by this band reveal how God is all around us, and they talk about experiencing him through nature in particular. I would imagine that to be on that island called Iona off the coast of Scotland without cars, TV, work, stress and the endless running around that most of us do; that it would be the perfect place to enjoy God. Smell him in the sea air, hear him in the crashing waves, see him in the sun that sets; we can experience him anywhere, but it's just not that easy sometimes. What did God say? "Be still and know that I am God". It's hard to be still, to think, to focus, to imagine. Listening to this music does the trick though. When listening to "Songs Of Ascent (Part 2)" (an instrumental) while driving in my truck I felt transported to his very presence. Or was it just having my eyes opened to him being right beside me? IONA are a band who don't preach but are clearly in love with God. I dig that a lot.
"Woven Cord" is an over 9 minutes instrumental. They open with that spacey atmosphere they are famous for until heavy drums arrive before 2 minutes. Uilleann pipes and drums dominate the sound until it calms down after 5 minutes. The guitar a minute later is so beautifully played by Bainbridge. "Wave After Wave" opens with violin and harp before we hear Joanne sing for the first time as drums beat away. She has the voice of an angel. Flute after 2 1/2 minutes. This is so incredibly powerful in an emotional way; "I witness the power, great mystery telling In every moment, with every swelling wave I feel the depth of your love and devotion, My heart like the bird that dives into this ocean blue."
"Open Sky" features Indian guitar and vocals with background synth-like sounds. A great full sound 4 minutes in follows and then spacey synths and acoustic guitar to end it. This one seemed to get better as it played out. "Castlerigg" is very Irish sounding with the tin whistles, uilleann pipes and later the celtic harp. Fragile vocals come in before 5 minutes with violin, then lots of vocal melodies a minute later. The tempo picks up for the last couple of minutes.
"A Million Stars" is an instrumental of mournful violin throughout. The title reminded me of how as a kid I would lay on the grass and gaze in wonder at the millions of stars. "Light Reflected" is mellow for the first 3 1/2 minutes with the focus on the vocals. When she sings "Around the sun" 3 times, her vocals soar. Check out the guitar solo 4 minutes in. "Hinba" features such a great vocal performance, and I love the atmosphere.
"Songs Of Ascent (Part 1)" opens with what sounds like synths that wash over and over again like endless waves on the beach. It's not until 4 minutes in that drums and vocals arrive. You can feel the love in her voice as she sings, "An emptiness for you to fill, My soul a cavern for your sea". After 7 minutes it becomes spacey like the intro with wave after wave calmly falling again and again.
"Songs Of Ascent (Part 2)" is an instrumental of over 9 minutes long. It opens with I believe the Portugese mandola that is eventually joined by violin and then a full sound. It quickly calms back down to almost a silence. Be still and know. He's here before 5 minutes. No words. Gentle piano comes in slowly 6 1/2 minutes in. Time to reflect for the next 2 minutes until this most beautiful sound rises like a sea of pure love to envelope us.
"Songs Of Ascent (Part 3)" is a meditative piece where she sings these vocal melodies for 2 1/2 minutes, then uilleann pipes and drums kick in. It ends with this wondrous spacey soundscape. "Friendship's Door" is very atmospheric with slow paced, reserved vocals. She sings about the things that take her breath away like trees that sing in the wind, and clouds that chase but never catch. Seeing the invisible through the visible. Uillean pipes before 5 minutes.
This is their masterpiece. It's more than just music.
A review by Gatot:
IQ is a neo progressive rock band that is very consistent with the kind of music they play. Musically, there has not been a major leap that's taken by the band to expand their music horizon. They do however, consistently create wonderful compositions in the same kind of musical boundaries of neo progressive rock. This album is no exception, still maintaining the same sort of music. I consider this album a masterpiece with the following rationales: First, it has great songwriting, whereby the music composition has a strong structural integrity within specified tracks. Listening to this album is like hearing a story, regardless whether it's a concept album or not. You don't even need to know about it at all. Second, IQ is still one of the best rock groups that are capable of creating and delivering tasty, touchy and memorable melodies in most of its musical segments. Take an example of the first track, "The Wrong Side of Weird" and you will find so many tasty melodies, especially during transitions, using soft guitar riffs or keyboard. Third, with a passage of time, the music of IQ has become mature compared to previous albums. The first token of this happened when they launched "EVER". I would say after “EVER”, IQ’s music has constantly become better with the passage of time.
Are you ready to surf with their beautifully crafted music? If you like early MARILLION, PALLAS, ARENA, PENDRAGON, you would definitely like this album, guaranteed!
Let me start with the melodious "The Wrong Side of Weird" opening track. This is rich with melodies and beautiful segments. The guitar fills are typical of IQ and it is effectively used during transitions from one melody to another or during a changing tempo. It's not an upbeat track but it has a changing tempo with smooth transitions. It does happen also with the second track "Erosion" that has a mellow and melodic opening. When the music enters, it reminds me of IQ’s early album "The Wake". I think it is reminiscent of "Headlong" or "Widow's Peak" from that album.
The third track "The Seventh House" is opened with simple guitar fills and some piano touch with the tiny voice of Nichols (many people complain about the voice quality of Nichols that does not fit with IQ music, but I don't care! I think his voice is perfect for IQ!). The intro of this track is very melodic and stunning and stimulates me to sing at the same time listening to this track. The music is wonderful when all instruments are played together with a basic rhythm of guitar work. I honestly like the guitar playing style of Mike Holmes; not so complicated but it's very nice! There is a changing tempo to a more uplifting one around the middle of the track indicated by drumming sound. Rhythm wise, there is some "foxtrot" like music. The rest of the track is an encore part with heavy keyboard sound at background and the high tone voice of Nichols, followed by lead guitar work until it fades away.
"Zero Hour" has an intro part that reminds me of Genesis’ "Turn it On Again". Luckily, it's not the same and even the track is a mellow one. As in “Subterranea” album, this track has a solo saxophone at its interlude. "Shooting Angel" is rather a spacey kind of music intro, combining the soft guitar fills (Floydian) and keyboard sound. It moves to an upbeat music when it enters the body. When it comes to the interlude, this band tries to create something different when there is an atmospheric piece before it continues in a lead guitar solo.
"The Guiding Light" is very melodious and uplifting. It has a touchy intro with vocal line and piano at the beginning. The intro part reminds me of "Speak My Name" of “Subterranea” album, even though the melody is different. It also, for some reason, reminds me of Dream Theater's "Space Dye Vest" of "Awake" album. You may disagree with me, but that's what I feel. Don't get me wrong though, all of these three tracks have totally different structures. The music of "The Guiding Light" slowly enters to a more upbeat tempo with stunning lead guitar solo. Thankfully, it's a relatively long lead guitar act, followed by soft keyboard before the vocal returns.
It's an ESSENTIAL album. IQ is not a psychedelic band, however, its music can create an atmosphere that elevates you to the "other world"; melodic and uplifting! MARILLION post Fish era should have learned a lot from IQ. Rating for "The Seventh House" album is 5/5.
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - June 28 2012 at 06:11
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: June 28 2012 at 06:40|
I like the way Thick as a Brick mercilessly replaces 2112 on your second list. Strong albums eat weak albums, and clearly Thick as a Brick just ate 2112.
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: June 28 2012 at 09:13|
A review by SouthSideoftheSky:
We're all sucked in!
Released between the two fantastic albums, The Visitor and Contagion, Immortal? is definitely less impressive overall than those two. However, it is still a great album by this brilliant band and there are several songs here that should be considered all time Neo-Prog classics. Immortal? is perhaps a bit more accessible and easier to get into compared to the other albums but it does not have the same degree of staying power.
One of the main attractions of both The Visitor and Contagion were the lyrics that I found profound and reflective. With some exceptions the lyrics of Immortal? are more "worldly", containing lines such as 'ghosts in the firewall', 'viruses in the system', 'binary codes', 'TV screens' and (worst of all) 'the rhythm of the fax-machine' (sic!). All this tends to become a bit silly if you ask me, and considering what Clive Nolan and the band produced elsewhere, this is a bit of a letdown for me.
Is the epic Moviedrome about the "dangers" of television? If it is, isn't that a bit reactionary in the year 2000? The only thing sillier would be to make a concept album about the so called 'millennium bug'! Anyone remember that? "Now is a time of foolish fears", indeed!; "Emotions run high and needless tears are shed"! I honestly don't see any problem whatsoever with television in our lives, but maybe I'm just "the optimist" as the song has it? Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the lyrics? Maybe it is a metaphor for something else entirely? Regardless, this song, though musically exceptional, does not "speak" to me in the way that the entirety of The Visitor and Contagion does, for example.
Having said this, there are some very thoughtful songs here too. The lyrics to The Butterfly Man, Waiting For The Flood and Chosen are more to my taste. The sublime The Butterfly Man is a very existentialist song. It is not about a man collecting butterflies, but about what we might call "the human condition"; "I've been here for so long, Don't even know what my purpose ever was, I don't even know where I belong, Through the years I've been waiting, Even time has lost it's meaning... Don't even hope for an end to all of this, I have no choice, but to carry on". Don't all of us feel like that sometimes when we step back from our everyday practices and contemplate the meaning of it all? On my preferred interpretation, the butterfly man is God. But, as with many Arena songs, I can see other interpretations.
Tracks like Chosen, The Butterfly Man and Waiting For The Flood (my personal favourites) are very easy to like and are almost up to the standards set by Arena's best albums. These three songs, together with the beautiful closer, Friday's Dream, are both musically and lyrically the highlights of the album in my opinion. Ghost In The Firewall, Climbing The Net and Moviedrome, though all very good, are slightly less effective.
Immortal? still displays the same excellent musicianship that I have come to expect from Arena, and the amazing guitar work of John Mitchell and the keyboard wizardry of Clive Nolan are brilliant, as usual. This album also introduced new vocalist Rod Sowden and he fills the shoes of Paul Wrightson very well! Sowden would sound even more at home on the next album, Contagion.
Immortal? is a great piece of work and a highly enjoyable album in its own right, even if I prefer several other Arena albums over this one. If you too like other Arena albums, there is no reason whatsoever that you shouldn't immediately get the present album too; I'm very confident that you will enjoy this one very much as well!
Highly recommended addition to any collection that already holds a few Arena albums.
A review by Conor Fynes:
When I was referred to 'Kid A' by a friend, he deemed it as being his favourite album of all time, and that 'once you got into it, it would change your perspective of music forever.' I was warned, however, that the music was extremely hard to get into, and that at first listen, I would think it was the worst thing ever. He was pretty much right about everything.
I must admit, I've never quite listened to anything that's like 'Kid A.' It's one of the weirdest pieces of music I've ever listened to, and a nice kick in the face to anyone that doesn't think of Radiohead as being a progressive band.
This is truly what it means to be progressive; there are electronic and jazz influences mixed into an incredibly dense and rich soundscape. At first listen though, I honestly couldn't even get through it. It was too much for me. It was actually after about a week or so that I actually gave it the full listen it deserved, and then things started to fall into place.
This isn't music you put on just to listen to while working. 'Kid A' requires your complete attention to be appreciated. There are so many musical niches in here that just need to become familiarized with, to enjoy. That's why I would have given this one star on first listen, and that's why I would give it five stars now.
A review by UMUR:
Kid A is the fourth full-length studio album by UK experimental rock act Radiohead. I was very fond of their previous album Ok Computer (1997) when it was released and I remember waiting for the release of Kid A with lots of expectations. Back then I was really disappointed and dismissed the album after having listened to it a couple of times and it´s only now that I´ve given the album a second try. Now I find it almost unbelievable that I didn´t enjoy the album back then but I guess my taste has changed with time.
After the grand artistic and commercial success of Ok Computer, Radiohead seemed to have feared to repeat themselves and opted for a more experimental approach on Kid A. Listening to this album it´s obvious that it is the kind of album that should be listened to from start to end to get the right impression. It´s a journey (a concept album if you will). The music is experimental rock with loads of keyboards and programming in addition to Thom Yorke´s distinct voice and melancholic vocal approach. There are not many guitars on the album which dominated Radiohead´s sound on their first three albums. There are great variations between the songs but the album is very coherent nevertheless. I enjoy the driving bass and the brass section in The National Anthem, the string arrangement in How To Disappear Completely and the electronic beats in Idioteque. I even enjoy the ambient Treefingers, a type of song that would normally annoy me but in this context it works excellently as a part of the whole. The more ordinary rock songs Optimistic and In Limbo also work well.
I´ll take my hat off to Radiohead for experimenting as much as they do on this album instead of following the safe formula. The musicianship is excellent throughout the album. The production by Nigel Godrich is excellent too; professional, warm and pleasant.
I´m baffled that I enjoy this album so much. I remember it being completely different, but it´s a good reminder that you should always take one more listen just before you review an album even though you´ve heard the album many times before. You might find that it sounds very different from what you remember when you have the evaluating glasses on. Kid A gets a fully deserved 4 star rating. I´m gonna listen to this album much more in the future.
A review by Gatot:
At first spin this album did not attract me because to me the music seemed like it was being forced, and the band really neglect the melodic side of a composition. With a couple of spins, my appreciation towards the album grew significantly, I even thought to myself that the key to enjoy this album is the complexity and abrupt change in style offered by the music. Yes, it's similar with my first experience in the mid seventies with Yes’ "Tales from Topographic Oceans" album which I considered too complex and not melodic at all, but it grew significantly later. Now, arises the question of how to enjoy music from a complexity standpoint? I only have one recipe: let the music flow into your mind and cascade down into your heart, steadily, even though it takes a long time.
Having done so, I even now am amazed with the fact that by I can now fully enjoy the whole stream (from start to end) of the opening track "I Am The Sun - Part One" (15:03) when at first listen I had completely rejected it. I don't really know why I hated the song that is now becoming one of my favorite TFK tracks. Consciously, I really now enjoy this wonderful and energetic track from its intro, all the way through the complex arrangements and variations until the music ends. There are so many style changes from upbeat music into avant-garde and jazz improvisations in the middle of the track till the end. It's really a wonderful composition. I can enjoy the mellow track with jazz touches also, "Dream On Dreamer" (2:43).
"Rumble Fish Twist" (8:06) is an instrumental piece that starts off with sound effects followed by hard driving rhythm music in complex arrangements and relatively fast tempo. The keyboard provides great sound effects accompanied with solid bass lines, guitar rhythm and machine-gun drumming. The guitar solo is truly stunning. I like also the part where Michael Stolt is given space to play a wonderful bass guitar solo, even though only in a short time. The music suddenly moves into quiet passages in a spacey nuance. Bass guitar shows off the talent here. What a great musical break!
"Monster Within" (12:55) is really an energetic song with a very uplifting mood, wow! This track really elevates my emotion especially hearing the powerful vocal by Hasse Folberg and Roine Stolt. It's an adrenalin exploder, really. The music changes in style in the middle of the track with guitar solo and inventive keyboard work. The song ends in an uplifting mood at the end with a somewhat blues influenced style. "Chicken Farmer Song" (5:09) and "Underdog" (5:29) are a bit light in terms of composition, but it's still an excellent song. "You Don't Know What You've Got" (2:39) is a ballad with acoustic guitar rhythm.
"Slave To Money" (7:30) brings the music back into a rather complex arrangement, but with a smooth flow from start to middle until it reaches a change in style and complexity. "A Kings Prayer" (6:02) is a relatively slow track with ambient and balladic style, accessible to most listeners as it has memorable choruses. The album concludes with "I Am The Sun - Part Two" (10:48) beautifully. Overall, it's a highly recommended album.
A review by Sean Trane:
What a surprise! Some 25 years after ending the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, Gong is back with a new tome of the Pot Head Pixie and the planet Gong mythology . Although Daevid had reanimated GonG in the mid-90's and the PHP world was its "fond de commerce", there wasn't much in terms of new stuff for the group to expand upon. So the group went on to write another chapter of the RGI and to be honest, the coup is fairly successful. The line-up helps a lot of course, with all of the major actors (bar the then-ever-absent Hillage and the fact that both now-deceased Moerlen and Pyle were then-busy), we can say that 0 2 Infinity is a classic by the classic GonG. Indeed Malherbe leaves graciously space for newcomer Travis and then-third-string drummer Chris Taylor who are today's first string players..... both of which will have their character in the mythology. While the artwork is unfortunately way too technological (but cosmic still), a superb Mike Howlett production, we'd be pretty well indecent not to enjoy this to the fullest; the latest chapter of Zero's adventures.
After a short Gypsy-like intro, the group embarks with the funky flute, doudouk and sax-laden Magdalene track, before entering a You? like trance number with the Invisible Temple (already chanted via the Inner and Outer Temple of Egg) complete with space whispers, courtesy of Gilly. Zeroid and Wise Man are both among the harder-edged tracks with some solid guitar works, with even some histrionics moments from Daevid. A bit later, Gilly Tyoni's passage on Mars is quite interesting and whisperless.
A bit further down the Milky Way, Gong's music gets downright dissonant and weird with some strange telephone calls and sometimes you can think of Devo in the beat of Damaged Man. The following Bodilingus is quite deceiving, despite being really too relaxed (think of I Talk To The Wind on Crimson's debut), and with too many tracks on this album, nothing exciting happens. Tali's Song is another one of those You-era grooves, but it is almost a filler. Of course the new adventures of Zero could only end at tea break and savouring a cup of Infinitea.
The only other criticism I can see with ZTI is that it doesn't bring anything new to the RGI world, except another chapter of adventures, but then again I'm not sure the goal was that much more ambitious. As for the commercial issues, I'm not sure that this album's kinship with the RGI trilogy will provoke a tsunami of sales that would suddenly make GonG members nababs. The music on it is often excellent, but not brilliant or exciting, despite not being groundbreaking, but the proghead's nostalgic ear should do the rest. This writer's usual aesthtetics would have him normally demolish such an easy touchdown, but then again, Gong was always among my weak and soft spot, which means that the group would really have to screw up for me to reject an album of theirs. This is a partizan four star.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
“Universal Migrator” is an intriguing concept epic album from the masterful Ayreon project. As usual this CD features incredible vocal performances from all involved and has some low lights and some highlights, but it all blends seamlessly into one great package.
I purchased this with the special 2 CD package with part one and two together, and when heard together this is the stronger of the two. It is heavier and features blistering compositions such as the magnifique 'Into the Black Hole', Bruce Dickinson's contribution. ‘Chaos’ is also a strong track that rings of the best Ayreon has produced. 'Dawn of a Million Souls' features Symphony X singer and is absolutely brilliant.
CD 2 features the second part to the saga and this is where the double album really takes off if you have that version. It is a much heavier album and features great chunky riffs and soaring lead guitar solos. There are some very riff heavy tracks and these are balanced by quieter moments. The booklet for both CDs is colourful and features iconic imagery. The sprawling concept is bookended on both CDs with the computer program effects.
Overall, I recommend getting hold of the double CD version that features parts one and two as it adds incredible depth to the concept. Part two is definitely the best in terms of a metal sound and great melodies throughout but they are both part of the whole and one cannot really exist without the other. The album is not as good as “The Human Equation” but it certainly is one of the best Ayreon CDs. 4 stars.
A review by SouthSideoftheSky:
Two sides of the same coin?
Flight Of The Migrator is the second out of the two Universal Migrator albums. While the first part was a Psychedelic/Space Rock experience with hardly a trace of Metal, this second part is a full on Metal album (a mix of Neo-Classical Metal, Power Metal, New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and Progressive Metal with traces of Neo-Prog). Even though the two Universal Migrator albums are musically quite different from each other they are thematically connected (and they were subsequently released together as a 2CD package). Again, though they are different musically, they do share many characteristics with each other as well as with the two albums that Arjen Lucassen released under the name of Star One. In my personal opinion, these four albums are definitely among Lucassen's better efforts and as such they are much preferred over some of his overrated and often overblown Rock Operas.
Arjen Lucassen always indulged freely in the worst clichés and stereotypes not only of the musical genres of Progressive Rock and Metal, but also of the literary genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The Universal Migrator albums are no exception, but it is bearable here. Like on Universal Migrator part 1, this second part too shows more restraint in terms of the number of vocalists and diverse musical styles. As I said above this mixes different Metal styles, but it wisely avoids the bombastic Rock Opera format that plagued other Ayreon albums. It does tell a story, but the vocalists are not assigned roles to play as such which I found more than a bit cheesy on Into The Electric Castle and The Human Equation. Here Arjen wisely avoids letting the storytelling take over the music. The almost complete absence of narration and sung or spoken dialogue here helps to lower the cheese-factor significantly and bring focus back to the music itself.
The material is relatively strong and very melodic, but compared to the best albums by the bands from which Arjen gathered his all-star cast of vocalists and instrumentalists - Symphony X, Shadow Gallery, Arena, Pendragon, Iron Maiden, Rhapsody (Of Fire), and more - Flight Of The Migrator (or any other Ayreon album) does not come anywhere remotely near their quality.
Recommended, in addition to Dream Sequencer, but is more likely to impress Metal fans than Prog fans
A review by Bonnek:
If_Then_Else is my favourite Gathering pick; it rocks, it has atmosphere, gorgeous vocals, rich sounds and above all, excellent songs. The album title could have been better though, I don't like being reminded of work when I'm enjoying music!
Each individual track is an adventure. It starts with the stately pounding Rollercoaster, where the Gathering continues the sonic experimentations of the previous How To Measure A Planet, which was a crucial album in their development from melodic doom flavoured metal to something we will call trip-rock, a rocking marriage of trip-hop and space-rock. The dramatic tone and sophisticated arrangement of Rollercoaster is an exemplary achievement in that development.
Shot To Pieces picks up some speed and is one of the most rocking songs they ever did. It is followed by the tender Amity, one of the most beautiful songs in their catalogue. Anneke Van Giersbergen spins her stunning and sensual vocals around a Massive Attack trip-hop beat. There are some occasional vibes, a spacey guitar loop and a blanket of strings in the middle. It's all very minimal but deadly effective.
The Gathering has come a long way since their first album with Anneke Van Giersbergen. The band has converted themselves from a modest doom metal workout into a highly inventive team. Also Anneke's vocals have matured a lot, she uses her powerful chords only scarcely now, only to lay a dramatic accent within songs, such as halfway in Bad Movies Scene and Colorado Incident. Mostly she sings very dynamically, melodious and sensitive. The most spine-chilling moments come in the cleverly sequenced tracks Analog Park and Herbal Movement, both offering textured rock with a delightful balance of experimentalism and catchiness. Also the three last tracks count among their best work.
This album doesn't offer classic proggy features, so you shouldn't visit it on those terms. It's rock with sophisticated sonic experimentations, touching melodic melancholy and a genre challenging stance. Tempted? Besides, who wouldn't want to hear Tori Amos fronting a space-trip version of Radiohead? Now what are you waiting for?
776 - live
A review by Gatot:
True Masterpiece Prog Live Act - great shows, great tracks, great musicians, and crazy audience!
Having watched and being completely stunned with Steve Hackett’s "Once Above A Time" DVD, I played back some of Steve's albums including this live archives from my collection. For some of you, you might have known Steve only from his tenure with Genesis and probably still label him with something like "ex Genesis guitarist" and you might not know of his work after he left the band. That's the same case with me when I got the cassettes of his first two albums, as I still considered Steve as Genesis guitarist instead of Steve as a solo artist and never played the cassettes intensely. Until one time in a rock show performed by an opening act of Uriah Heep Live in Bandung, Indonesia sometime in 1980, I think, there was a local band that played Steve Hackett's "Ace of Wands" excellently. It strikes my mind really, so when I went home I played this song over and over. That's the first love I had for Hackett. I was hooked with "Voyage ..", "Please Don't Touch", "Spectral Morning" and "Defector". For me, Steve has produced many great prog tunes that I consider now as classics, such as, "Every Day", "Star of Sirius", "Ace of Wands", "Narnia", "Clocks", "Shadow Of The Hierophant", and many more great tunes.
When this live archives CD came out, I was not really interested to purchase it because I thought that I would get some standard version of studio tunes performed live. But, finally I purchased the CD because it was relatively cheap for 4 CDs set and for completing my collection. When I spun the CDs, I was stunned with the fact that all 4 contained great show recordings, great performance, great tracks and dynamic nuances indicated by the audience during the show. The four CDs span across live acts in three different venues: Hammersmith Odeon 30/07/79 (CD 1 & CD 2), Castel Sant' Angelo - Rome 13/09/81 (CD 3), and The Grand Theatre - London 08/06/93 (CD 4). As I'm impressed with the contents of all four CDs, each concert deserves a detailed review. For those who do not like to read long reviews, my advise is to get this box set as you will not regret it!
Hammersmith Odeon - London 30/06/79 CD 1: 55:32 and CD 2: 56:29.
The band: Steve Hackett (guitars, harmonica and vocals), John Hackett (flutes, guitars, bass pedals), Dick Cadbury (bass and vocals ), John Shearer (drums ) and Pete Hicks (vocals )
The show starts with an ambient keyboard solo performed very soft to give a nuance for the show. It flows seamlessly with "Please Don't Touch" with the mark of dynamic drum sound in a very energetic mood with excellent guitar and keyboard works. The track is best to open the show as it has an uplifting style and it's a classic prog tune. I can hear clearly how Steve’s guitar plays great sounds and its effects. The next track "Tigermoth" (from "Spectral Morning" album) opens with a classical guitar outfit followed by full music led by guitar work. The track has some segments with quieter passages in avant-garde style. It ends-up with a nice church organ and it continues with my all-time favorite Hackett track "Every Day". This track has a simple structure. At the beginning it seems poppy or as a straight forward rock song with some quieter passages in Hackett style. A true adrenalin-exploding segment occurs when a long guitar solo enters the scene. The guitar melody is really wonderful with some complicated fills by Hackett’s unique style and it goes into higher register notes, combined with flute sound. I usually repeat this track 2 or 3 times because I want to replay this part frequently. Great guitar, Mr. Hackett!
Another classic track "Narnia" (from "Please Don't Touch" album) continues the show in an upbeat tempo. The slow style with eastern music flavor "The Red Flower of Tai Chi" (from "Spectral Morning" album) gives an excellent break on my listening pleasure and it then moves up again to a groundbreaking classic "Ace Of Wands" started with a dazzling drum. The intertwining works of guitar, keyboard and flutes are really good. Oh man . this is a wonderful track performed better in live version! It continues with "Carry On Up The Vicarage" in happy mood because the voice line is performed by children with programmed sounds and effects. Interesting track.
"Etude in A min" - "Blood On The Rooftops" - "Horizons" is an acoustic outfit. The audience seemed longing for this track especially when "Blood On The Rooftops", all of the audience shout and gave applause. It is then continued with "Kim", performed excellently with acoustic guitar, keyboard and flutes. The audience participant becomes really obvious just before and during "The Optigan" - "A Tower Struck Down" (of "Voyage ." album) are performed. A very good track composed in horror mood with variety of styles. CD 1 concludes with a classic prog tune "Spectral Mornings".
CD 2 opens with introductions to the band members. The band then plays Hackett's classic "Star Of Sirius" (from "Voyage ." album) with quiet opening - demonstrating keyboard and guitar fills in mellow style. The music then turns to full stream with bass, drums and other instruments in a faster tempo, the track performed similar to the studio version. An interesting track. The other classic "Shadow Of The Hierophant" that featured Sally Oldfield (vocal) in studio version is now performed nicely with this live record. "Clocks" (from "Spectral Morning" album) is performed dynamically as the audience participate in hand clapping during the tune. From the beats that follow the clocks it turns to a medium tempo beat music with stunning guitar in rocking style. It ends up with an excellent drum and percussion solo. An excellent performance! It seemed like this track was intended to close the show, but the audience give more and more applause to request the band’s return on stage. Finally they make to the stage with Genesis tune "I Know What I Like".
On Genesis' "I Know What I Like" part, the audience is really getting into a much more crazy mood, and more dynamic to participate in the show. It's a great audience with thousands of people in the crowd, I would say. This tune is suitable to play as an "encore" role for the show. The singing style is modified to stimulate much audience participation, and bass guitar is played differently combined with improvised drumming. Guitar work is extended and in some part features the "Dancing and The Moonlit Knight" combined with excellent flute sounds and piano/ keyboard. It's a great and dynamic live track. The ending part of this track is also modified in such a way that it differs with the original Genesis version but it's nice and dynamic.
The music is then continued with "Wardrobe Boogie" in a great guitar improvisation in boogie style. It seemed, again, the audience did not want to leave the venue with this encore. They clapped hands and shouted for approx. 3 minutes - and it is not cut-off in this live record (thanks!) that indicates the "true" stage situation during the show - and finally the band came back on stage!!! What a crazy audience, man! And Mr. Hackett said "It seems you force us to play another one tonight," and the audience replied with "Yeaaahhh!!!" Now the band continues with "Racing In A" (from "Please Don't Touch" album) in relatively long duration (10:15) and "Racing In A Coda" - an acoustic outfit by Hackett.
Even though the sonic quality of CD 1 and 2 is not very good, but it's acceptable for me and the performance and the music are really wonderful!
Castel Sant' Angelo - Rome 13/09/81 - CD 3: 74:50
The band: Steve Hackett (guitars, harmonica and vocals), John Hackett (flutes, guitars and bass pedals), Nick Magnus (keyboards), Chas Cronk (bass and vocals) - usually played with Rick Wakeman and Ian Mosely (drums) - whom later you would know him as permanent member of Marillion replacing Mick Pointer after the performance of Script for A Jester's Tear tour.
As Steve put it in the CD sleeve, "And don't forget the crowd. They couldn't have been more enthusiastic - spontaneously bursting into applause for anything that grabbed them, never mind waiting for solos. What I am saying is, that this show was, I think, possibly the best this line-up ever performed"; this is a dynamic live concert.
The CD 3 starts off with a track from an under-rated album "Cured" with an instrumental piece "The Air Conditioned Nightmare", and it continues with another instrumental from "Defector" album called "Jacuzzi". Both tracks receive great applause from the audience. After the opening two tracks, Steve introduces Nick Magnus and continues with the third track, "Funny Feeling" with vocal line. It's poppy stuff but it's nice. After this track, Steve continues the communication telling the crowd how he felt at home with some local language.
He then introduces the next feature from "primo album" called "Ace Of Wands". As usual, this is my all-time favorite track of Hackett, and it starts with a dynamic drumming. The crowd clap throughout the performance of this track. It has been improvised in this live version. Before it continues with "Picture Postcard" which is another pop outfit, Steve communicates again. The next three tracks are really my all-time favourite; "The Steppes" (from "Defector" album), "Every Day" (from "Spectral Mornings" album) and "Overnight Sleeper" (from "cured" album). "The Steppes" is an instrumental piece in a medium tempo, blues based, with an eastern music nuance on guitar and keyboard styles. It's an album opener for “Defector” and it's very nice and easy to digest. The guitar solo is stunningly performed here with soft touch on the guitar strings.
"Every day" receives great applause from the crowd as they clap hands when the song starts to blast the air. It seems they love this classic track. This has made this track more dynamic and lively. Many times this song is featured in Hackett live performances, and I still enjoy this version. Each version has its own nuance and I love almost all of them. This version has a great drum solo (very short) and some improvisation at the ending. Well, it all confirms that Steve is better solo than as a guitarist of Genesis!
"Overnight Sleeper" opens with acoustic guitar work followed with dynamic keyboard sounds and great melody. I love the opening part. One of my chief reasons of why to buy the "Cured" album which most people under rate, is because of this wonderfully crafted song. In this live version, Steve does perform it with enthusiasm and full of energy as the song itself has a variety of styles - that is also combining some traditional music with woodwind sounds. Oh man, this track is WONDERFUL!!!
Other three tracks are really Hackett true classics with great compositions: "Slogans" - "A Tower Struck Down" - "Spectral Mornings"; another great live performance! "Slogan" is performed really lively and has been improvised to feature extended guitar solo and drumming solo. Really great and it rocks! "A Tower Struck Down" is performed lively and continued without break to "Spectral Mornings"; a killing track.
"The Show" (from "Defector" album) is an upbeat tune that can accommodate crowd applause throughout the performance on stage. It flows seamlessly to the intro of "Clocks" (from "Spectral Mornings" album) that concludes this CD 3.
The Grand Theatre - London 08/06/93 CD 4: 70:54
The band: Steve Hackett (guitars, harmonica and vocals), John Hackett (flutes on "Kim"), Julian Colbeck (keyboards), Doug Sinclair (bass and vocals), Hugo Degenhardt (drums and vocals).
On top of the great performance of CD 4, one thing that stands out clearly with this live performance is the great contribution of Hugo Degenhardt. He is a fantastic drummer! He did contribute to Mark Owen’s "In Your Own Time" which John McLaughlin contributes as producer. I am keen to know about him because his drumming style is top notch! The other great musician in this line-up is Doug Sinclair (bass). You can see how great his and Hugo's playing is on track 10 of this CD. Both musicians contributed on Steve's "Dark Town" album.
From the start of "Medley" where it features Myopia/ Los Endos/ Imagining/ Ace Of Wands/ Hackett to Pieces in relatively fast pace, sounding like a jazz rock fusion tune, it's clear how powerful the drumming style of Hugo is here. I think "The Hugo factor" has in a way made a great contribution to the great performance of this CD! He sets the powerful and energetic tone of the show, I would say; it's very dynamic!
"Vampyre With A Healthy Appetite" starts off with rocking guitar solo and followed with a medium tempo that features guitar rhythm and fills. The harmonica takes the lead during an interlude followed with bass guitar solo. In "Sierra Quemada" and "Take These Pearls" the band offer mellow and nice instrumental tunes. It continues with a classic track "In The Heart Of The City" - "Walking Away From Rainbows" - "There Are Many Sides To The Night". A tribute to Steve's wife "Kim" is also featured.
"Dark As the Grave" explores acoustic ventures with great sound effects. An interesting song. "Always Somewhere Else" is really a GREAT track that explores the talents of Mr. Hugo Deggenhardt and Mr. Doug Sinclair; their dynamic play in this track is really superb! I keep repeating this track because of wanting to enjoy it more and more . Bravo Hugo! Bravo Doug! Bravo Steve! (who has successfully brought together great musicians like Hugo and Doug in this wonderful live set!).
"Lost In Your Eyes" is not my favorite but it's OK. But the "Medley: Spectral Mornings/ Firth of Fifth/ Clocks", "Cinema Paradiso" and "In That Quiet Earth" are really excellent tracks! They are well positioned to close the show.
Before I make my final recommendation, I would emphasize on the sonic quality first. I would say the sonic quality is not excellent but it's okay to my ears. On a ten-scale system, I would rate the overall sonic quality as 6.5 out of 10 - with exception to CD 4: 8 out of 10. But, considering that this is a live archives and I still can grab the music in a detailed manner, I have excluded the sonic quality in my overall recommendation. So, my final rating is 4 out of 5 stars. You are the final judge on your purchase decision. If you love Hackett era of Genesis, I would be pretty sure you would love this live archives. On top of the music, the 40-page booklet is really nice as your prog reference. Long live Hackett!!
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - June 28 2012 at 09:17
Joined: July 02 2008
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: June 28 2012 at 09:20|
Yes, 2112 had one brilliant track only - but TAAB is an amazing album that must take centre stage as a whole.
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: June 28 2012 at 09:22|
2001 coming soon...
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: July 04 2012 at 01:52|
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
One incredible composition after another on one incredible album.
“Terria” is perhaps the greatest thing Devin Townsend has done up to “Ziltoid”, which is masterful in its own quirky way. “Terria” is a serious emotional album reflecting on life and it's source and the emotions of the earth. To capture such beauty Devin delves headlong into darkness and then shines with rays of hope to present some truly uplifting music that will resonate with some listeners in an unforgettable way. At first listen the album washes over and seems to just flow like waves over the listener, and after the first two tracks I found myself forgetting I was listening to a particular song as it all seemed to blend seamlessly. Then ‘Earth Day’ started and I sat up and simply was astonished at the structure, the time sigs, the musicianship and Devin's incredible vocal treatment and the anger that is invoked is unbelievable. A masterpiece track for Devin that will mark his music forever.
Then the album seems to pick up pace with one incredible composition after another. After the brutal confronting ‘Mountain’ and ‘Earth Day’, Devin takes us on an emotional journey through the Canadian countryside and beyond into the very soul of a torn and broken man; there is melancholy solitude in ‘Deep Peace’, the freedom and exhilaration of exploring nature on a freeway in ‘Canada’, the reflective nuances of ‘Down and Under’, the ferocity of ‘The Fluke’, the sense of loss and alienation in ‘Nobody's Here’, the exploration of sadness in ‘Tiny Tears’, and the joyful exuberance of ‘Stagnant’. Then ‘Universal’ takes us to another level again, just as ‘Olives’ sent us into the realm of the imagination at the beginning of the album. At the end of the journey we are released into the bright sunshine; the ray of hope that lifts up the human spirit.
“Terria” is a masterpiece for all these reasons and the fact that Devin did everything right with this album. The songs are multilayered with various instruments and vocals, and it is a veritable wall of sound that lifts the roof off anything he has done previously. There are a lot of subtle hidden treasures to unearth to ensure repeated listens will not get laborious. I can assure you that this album is one you will return to and hopefully by the end of each journey you will feel lifted up and refreshed by a master of his craft; the great Devin Townsend.
A review by Conor Fynes:
Devin Townsend is an artist known for his strange, yet undeniably original and unique music. 'Terria' is no exception. However, it's full beauty did not reveal itself to me until after a good many listens.
At first listen, one may be puzzled by the overtracked recording, surreal lyrics, and incredibly anti-commercial approach to myself. Townsend defies many conventions, and a lot of the songwriting may seem 'odd' or anti-climactic to one that isn't used to it. However, as the sounds become more familiar, it starts to wash over you, and the true magic of 'Terria' unfolds.
'Terria' has such a magic power about it, bestowing upon the artist the power to transport you wherever he wants you to go. A very earth-based album (much like ‘Synchestra’) there are many recurring themes of nature wound around the music. Possibly the most defining quality of ‘Terria’, and Devin Townsend's music (in my opinion) is his unparalleled recording technique. With the incredibly dense overdubs, there is a 'noisy' quality to it that contributes greatly to the 'organic' quality of the album.
'Terria' is one of the most powerful musical journeys I've ever been on, and anyone willing to take a leap of faith and listen to something a bit 'out there' is more than recommended to try out this masterpiece. A top five record for me.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Pain of Salvation's "The Perfect Element Part 1" is the third POS item I acquired and it is a real departure from what I had expected after listening to "Remedy Lane" and watching the wonderful "Ending Themes" DVD. I recognised a lot of tracks from the live DVD such as 'Used' but the studio versions are way more polished and easier to listen to. The production on this album is excellent. I like the vocals better too on the studio versions. The concept of this album is rather heavy handed but you can bypass it for the quality of the tracks. I like the lyrics on this though they are dark and brooding culminating in a final immolation of the protagonist. The tracks range from incredibly heavy to incredibly melancholy.
‘Used’ is a heavy opener that has a great vocal from Daniel, low and ominous in the verses and heavier when he sings; "getting used to pain..." the rapping lyrics are angry and intense; "I am the unclean, The black drop at the bottom of your cup, You'd better drink or throw me up, 'Cause I am on your lip and tongue, God, I'm not yours as much as you are mine, So let me in to be your lung, Just breathe me deep and take another sip So still, A taste so sweet but so bitter the kill, Still on your lip, You are so close..." fairly nasty lyrics with an emo feel in some sense, and a very symphonic sound is present.
‘In The Flesh’ features a quiet vocal on the verses and a lovely guitar lick. It builds in tempo during the mid-section. There is an odd time signature at about 4 minutes into the track. It changes feel after 5 minutes and gets heavier. It mellows out again completely toward the ending and there is an excellent acoustic instrumental section with Fredrik's piano. A very moody, evocative song.
‘Ashes’ is a well-known POS song and has a great vampiric film clip to promote this album. The clip is genuinely creepy with chilling images of a sick old man fondling a mannequin, a couple of lovers romping naked and then covered in ashes, little children, a bath full of gore and a woman lying in it with a snorkel, and Daniel leering into the camera clad in black. The track features a deep menacing vocal in the verses and a louder chorus; "as we walk through the ashes I whisper your name...". The sound is ominous and Gothically dark. There is a musical box chime that plays throughout giving that creepy feeling of innocence lost, the theme of death pervades all.
‘Morning On Earth’ has a pastoral feel, an orchestrated approach, with calming vocals. It flows along with lucid keyboards sustained. There are some fascinating lyrics here; "I am the tears in your mouth, I am the weight on your shoulder, I am the scream that wants out, And my heart just couldn't grow colder, Now this rusty heart is my gift, This fallen love is my gift..." The musical box sound appears at the beginning and end, almost like a toy piano.
‘Ideoglossia’ is 8 and a half minutes of fantastic metal. The guitar riff at the beginning builds with heavy distortion, bass and drums. An awesome sound drives this one headlong with a very unusual time sig. The lyrics spell out the pain of the protagonist encountering death; "Kneeling in whirlpools, Of pink champagne, Celebrating the bravery of my pain, Something broke And no water could ever wash, The anger from that first stain, I scratched the surface to find Someone wicked and blind, Where did it come to that end? Why can't these scars ever mend?" The riffs are very intricate, complex musicianship. The vocals are kind of like rap, the type of thing found on "Scarsick". The track slows suddenly and changes back to fast without warning. It even reprises 'Ashes' chorus. There are some wonderful harmonies too. This is glorious metal, one of the best on this album.
‘Her Voices’ runs for 8 minutes and is dominated by strong keyboard staccato passages. Very gentle vocals of Daniel carry the song again in a beautiful style but with darkly sinister lyrics. It builds to an interesting faster riff and very loud chunky guitar licks. The flute sound is arresting and works well to balance the metal sounds. Once again this is a mini epic that soars into the stratosphere. It is so well played with a very complicated structural framework. The majestic feel is solid and it builds to a crescendo, one of POS' ultimate tracks.
‘Dedication’ is a quiet track with soft vocals, acoustic and piano. It has an atmosphere of impending doom and loss; "I still can't believe that you are not around, That your warm voice won't make another sound, Sure I understand, but I never will accept, That you should be gone, I watched you die, And I have feared this moment Since I was just a child, So why that sunny sky? When my beloved grandfather Lies dead here cold and still?"
‘King Of Loss’ is a 10 minute mini epic beginning with intricate guitar riffs and piano with heartfelt vocals. The piano is creepy, there are some brilliant time sigs that shift at stages. When the vocals are sung; "I am the king of loss!" The track builds to a heavier feel and a delicious chord structure, loud keyboard stabs and ambient sounds. The pace quickens as the next verses are sung; "Mother, I wish that we could talk, You see I'm not fit to play this game, Bound by its rules just the same, My talents turned to talons, Every monetary pile, Will buy me a precious smile... smile... So smile for the King of Loss, Feed from the juices Bleeding from this cross, Then tell me our lives mean more Than this vain thirst!..." The lead break by Johan on this track is divine, very emotional and creative with orchestrated sections.
‘Reconciliation’ has a catchy riff and a moderate rock beat, a more accessible track for the band. Interesting lyrics about the guilt of the protagonist; "I'm sick of running away... I've washed my hands of your blood, Thought it would leave me clean, But with time on my hands, It turned to mud forming this crust of sin, Now to be truly free, I'll let it come to me, So break me if you must, When you break this crust, Freedom is to see, Hear this voice, see this man, Standing before you I'm just a child, Just a man learning to yield... I hate what these eyes have seen".
‘Song For The Innocent’ features Daniel's gentle vocals, ethereal guitars and Fredrik's haunting piano. The moderate rock beat gives it a kick along and it has a great chorus with loud crunching guitars.
‘Falling’ is a beautiful guitar solo by Johan that is very popular with budding guitarists as you may note online with the amount of guitarists giving this a go. It is a very pretty melancholy tune and emotional in line with the context of the concept of a man falling deeper into sin.
‘The Perfect Element’ is a 10 minute album closer that is one of the best from POS. It begins with the familiar guitar riff, then a wall of sound is generated with orchestrated synths from Fredrik. The lyrics are as dark as it gets; "Stealing meaning from this child, We took away his reason, His soul put under lock and key, His heart blackened from treason, But if you take from those you fear, Everything they value, You have bred the perfect beast, Drained enough to kill you...Falling far beyond the point of no return, Nothing to become and nothing left to burn...Watching unseen untouched bleeding, Empty exposed dying eyes closed." At 7 minutes in the beat changes and the track shifts into a fast tempo with multi layered tracks. The album ends with a huge finale, and the chapter is closed on this part of the concept.
The album overall is one to listen to from end to end as the tracks blend together into one seamless track. The concept is creepy but this should not detract from the brilliant music. Daniel's vocals take some getting used to but it is a unique sound that POS generates and one to revel in with blasts of symphonic, Gothic nu metal and passages of deep ambience.
A review by UMUR:
“Blackwater Park” is the fifth album from progressive death metal band Opeth. The album was released in 2001. There were a couple of years in the late nineties and in the new millennium where I got tired of both prog rock and metal. Those are the two genres of music that I have always loved the most but I was fed up at the time and needed a break from both. I still listened to certain favourite bands during my break (bands like Genesis, Psychotic Waltz, Atheist, Cynic, Death and Nevermore) but generally I didn´t listen to those two genres. I buried myself in electronic music, Trip Hop, New Wave, Goth rock; anything that sounded different from what I had been used to listening to. I learned a lot in those years and wouldn´t be without the musical experiences I encountered but I always wondered when I would find the spark again, and begin to appreciate the genres that I left behind. “Blackwater Park” was the turning point for me. This exact album re-ignited my interest in both metal and prog rock. I had listened to lots of experimental metal in the nineties and heard lots of metal bands experiment with progressive rock sections in their music but no one ever did it this convincingly.
A friend of mine bought “Morningrise” in 1996 and he loved the album and played it to me, but I was not very interested at the time, so my first encounter with Opeth wasn´t very successful. My next encounter with Opeth was hearing ‘Bleak’ from “Blackwater Park” on some sampler and this impression was much stronger. I was in fact blown away by ‘Bleak’. What a powerful and brutal song, but then in the middle there´s suddenly a melodic progressive metal part with lots of progressive rock moments. I was totally sold. From that day I have of course purchased all Opeth´s albums and I think they are a very unique force that makes some of the most beautiful extreme metal I have ever heard (and I´ve heard a lot).
“Blackwater Park” will always mean something special to me. First of all because it´s a great album, but also because it meant that I got back on the right track (so to speak) and began collecting metal and progressive rock albums again, and following the scenes even more intensely than before.
The music on “Blackwater Park” is death metal with many progressive moments; lots of beautiful acoustic parts, both death growls and clean vocals and of course crushingly heavy riffing. The mood is generally melancholic and there are some beautiful guitar leads that create the emotional moods in the songs. Opeth generally makes long songs and there are several songs that clock in at about 10 minutes. This means that there is a lot of time for the songs to unfold. Lots of different sections in every song make the songs exciting and they never get repetitive.
All the songs are great but I do have a couple of favourites. ‘Bleak’ is a highlight for me first of all because it´s a great song but also because of the above mentioned reasons. ‘The Drapery Falls’ is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard; soaringly beautiful guitar leads and great acoustic parts. The vocals from Mikael Åkerfeldt are extremely beautiful on this track. ‘Harvest’ stands out a bit from the rest too as it is the only song with no growls and probably a great place to start for more conventional prog rock fans.
The musicianship is excellent. The pace is generally slow to mid but the guitar riffs are still pretty challenging and sophisticated. This counts for both the distorted and the acoustic guitar parts. The drums from Martin Lopez are great and really enhance the music.
The production is great even though I think it lacks a bit of bottom. Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) is the producer and it´s obvious to hear that he is the man behind the sound if you´re used to listening to Porcupine Tree. He also contributes with some piano, guitar and vocals. “Blackwater Park” is one of the most important albums in my collection and I hold it in very high regard. This is a true masterpiece of progressive music and of course it deserves a 5 star rating from me.
A review by Bonnek:
This was my first introduction to Opeth and it completely blew me away. It still does so 8 years later. This is Opeth; this is what they do and how they do it. If you want one Opeth album, take this one. If you want one modern metal album, take this one. Well, this may even be the best chunk of rock 'n' roll ever!
“Blackwater Park” is the perfect merge between the stylistic subtleness of “Still Life” and the intensity of “My Arms Your Hearse”. It is the culmination of an incredibly strong string of Opeth albums and, while you won't find many tricks here that they didn't do before, it's better, more coherent, richer in sound and it's performed with clenched fists. The hand of Steven Wilson is clearly felt on this album. Wilson didn't interfere with the song writing but he brought to Opeth everything they needed to fully realize their talent; vocal harmonies, textured sounds, vocal recording advice and most importantly, guiding Mike's riff wizardry into compositional perfection. Even a lesser song like ‘Dirge For November’ is perfect when considered on its own, it just pales in comparison to the stunning music of ‘Leper Affinity’, ‘Bleak, Drapery Falls’ and the ominous title track ‘Blackwater Park’.
The finishing touch is the artwork. Just like the “Morningrise” artwork, it sets the tone perfectly and completely integrates with the music. Possibly the best Travis Smith cover ever. And it should be, because, as I've just explained, this is the best Opeth album of all time and it deserves an album cover of the same exceptional standard.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Opeth's "Blackwater Park" is another of the more popular Opeth albums that receives high ratings.
I am no fan of death metal growling vocals and when they infiltrate the songs on this I am completely turned off. The final title track closer is simply brutal growling and it just goes on and on, though I know many Opeth death heads will adore this. However, there are true moments that capture my attention on this. ‘Leper Affinity’ is death growling layered over unintelligible lyrics, and repetitive metal riffing. The riffs get better as the song progresses. The drums are double kick speed precision percussion. The lead solos are excellent on this, and there is a breakneck choppy rhythm that locks in at 3:30 and brutal death vocals accompany. Subtle it aint! The acoustic flourishes eventually chime in and very nice gentle vocals with a dreamy quality. Not for long as the aggressive vocals that make it sound like Akerfeldt has been gargling gravel return. These sections are dark. The lead guitar is sustained and ascends and descends as the growls continue. The lead breaks are wonderful and a true highlight for me. It ends with peaceful piano that brings the mood down, though it is still bleak and sombre, perhaps melancholy.
‘The Funeral Portrait’ begins with acoustic guitar patterns. There is the threat that it may explode and eventually distorted guitars crash in slicing up the tranquillity. Very intense death metal vocals follow. This is as heavy as the band gets on this album. There are some brilliant riffs on this and the lead breaks are fantastic. I always admire the guitar work on these lengthy Opeth tracks. It really takes off in the section at 6:33, perhaps some of the best death metal I have ever heard; absolutely spine chilling metal, with an incredible wall of sound. The time sig is frenetic, the drums crash down, and the harmonies are excellent. Lead guitars soar over a very complex sporadic riff, the fret work is incredible; this is a definitive highlight on the album.
‘Harvest’ is as peaceful and well sung as anything from "Damnation" and one of my favourites for that reason. The acoustic work is excellent, and it keeps a steady tempo, and has a pleasant melody. The film clip showing band members recording in the studio is worth digging out too. This is the softer side of Opeth, and really the thing that appeals to me most.
‘Bleak’ has quite a brutal vocal and some bizarre riffs but the melody is infectious. Even as the vocals change to a clearer sound, the lyrics become more grim; "Devious movements in your eyes, Moved me from relief, Breath comes out white clouds with your lies, And filters through me, You're close to the final word, You're staring right past me in dismay, A liquid seeps from your chest And drains me away, Mist ripples round your thin white neck, And draws me a line, Cold fingers mark this dying wreck, This moment is mine, Night fall again, Taking what's left of me, Slight twist, shivering corpse." Certainly the content is centred around death, as is expected with Opeth, but the darkness does not appeal to me, though I can see that it would to others.
I really like the intro melody on guitars to ‘A Drapery Falls’. There are some really ethereal passages of guitars here and Steven Wilson style vocals chime over. The vocals are incredible and the lead breaks are killer metal. It builds gradually into some full on riffs and then death vocals return as expected. The lyrics are interesting; "This test I can't persist, Kept back by the enigma, No criterias demanded here, Deadly patterns made my wreath, prosperous in your ways, Pale ghost in the corner, Pouring a caress on your shoulder, Puzzled by shrewd innocence, Runs a thick tide beneath, Ushered into inner graves, Nails bleeding from the struggle, It is the end for the weak at heart, Always the same, A lullaby for the ones who've lost all, Reeling inside, My gleaming eye in your necklace reflects, Stare of primal regrets." The tension and release between light and dark are inspirational. ‘A Drapery Falls’ reminds me of Riverside sometimes, and has beautiful passages of acoustic and swells of melodic guitar with very emotive vocals. The band play this many times live. The style heard on “Damnation” are always welcome to my ears. Many times Akerfeldt's vocals are actually layered over each other. It is quite a sound he generates with those death metal vocal chords; very deep, nasty, spiteful vocals that always turn the room dark. The lead guitars are chaotic at times, with off kilter drumming and crashes of rhythm guitar distortion. Eventually, the song settles down again and the clear vocals return, a very good tone that resonates or even competes with the aggressive drumming and guitar smashing. The cookie monster vocals cease suddenly and then acoustics and gentle vocals return. The riff to end locks in the head with it's transfixing melody. This track is a definitive highlight of the album.
In general the majority of the album is too brutal and over the top for me, but this will appeal to death prog metal freaks, and there's a lot out there! So I can suggest that this is an album only for those who like their prog metal dark and brutal with death metal vocals as they are prevalent throughout. It is a good album but I have heard better from Opeth.
A review by Conor Fynes:
The side project of Katatonia guitarist Anders Nystrom, Diabolical Masquerade would take a much different direction than the man's flagship band. Whereas Nystrom's may be most widely associated with doom metal or depressive rock, Diabolical Masquerade goes for a theatrical take on avant-garde black metal. Culminating in the project's final record, it is a shame that Diabolical Masquerade disbanded before a fifth release, but it is difficult to imagine a greater swansong from the band than this. With a host of classical musicians and guest artists taking part in “Death's Design”, Diabolical Masquerade has fashioned an album here that is every bit as ambitious as the other great albums in progressive metal. Self-styled as the soundtrack to some non-existent horror film, “Death's Design” is a massive journey, every bit as cinematic as it is made out to be.
Although “Death's Design” is split into a ridiculous amount of tracks, it is essentially one sprawling epic, much in the way of Edge Of Sanity's classic “Crimson”. Think the black metal aspects of a band like Emperor fused with Opeth's melodic sensibilities, with the added vastness of a string section to give Diabolical Masquerade even more firepower. The first thing that arguably stands out about the record is the sheer amount of tracks it has, and this unnecessarily indulgent separation of what is otherwise a running piece of music may be the album's greatest flaw. With some tracks only being six seconds long, the sheer wonder and bewilderment as to why Blakkheim would have chopped up his masterpiece so haphazardly. From the perspective of listening to “Death's Design” as a start-to-finish experience however, this does not affect the enjoyment, and it is ultimately the only way one can go about listening to the record.
In terms of mood, things are very dark, but in a fairly different way than the sort of introspective darkness that Anders' band Katatonia conveys. Instead, the dark mood here is foreboding and very ominous; perfect for whatever imaginary film that this album could score. The entire album is tied together by a narrative and recurring musical themes; much like Edge Of Sanity's “Crimson”, once again. Most of the time, these ideas flow seamlessly from one another, each bringing a new dimension of fear or beauty to the album. Sometimes though, it does feel like Blakkheim and company forgot to add a transition here and there, or that some of the existing transitions could have been polished to lubricate the flow of the music. The musical ideas are almost constantly impressive however, so it is fairly difficult to let these minor flaws get in the way of the enjoyment.
Diabolical Masquerade has blown me away with this masterpiece of an album. Expect great things from this.
A review by Finnforest:
Soundtrack to a shark attack.
Think about the images of the shark attack, before and during. Tool have these two modes that so perfectly fit the imagery. They bob and brood very softly and quietly, chugging away on a single string maybe with a few cymbal brushes, creating immense amounts of tension for the listener. On and on, nervous and tense, building. Perfect music for watching a flailing human in the water trying to stay above the surface as the sharks circle. The panic and adrenalin keep him going and going far beyond the point where he should have succumbed to exhaustion and drowned. Suddenly the water surface explodes in violence, teeth, blood, and pain as the band kicks into full volume assault.
The first thing that captured me about this album was the ferocious drumming of Danny Carey. Tribal, heavy, and consistent but with these perfect acrobatic fills that grab your attention. I can focus on his playing as a lead instrument and be entertained. Add to that the infectious and inventive guitar work of both Jones and Chancellor and you have the whole package. It is mind-boggling how Jones can move from sludge metal to nerve-wracking Frippish mode to updated psych-space-metal textures that almost sound like ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ for the new century. Think about the riffs of ‘Overdrive’ compared to some of the sections in “Lateralus” and while the final product is certainly different, I think the comparison is interesting and I'd love to ask them about Floyd. The music ranges from the crushingly heavy riffing to the bounds of rage, but are made so much more engaging by the progressive elements of theme and explorative instrumentals full of hooks and colour. While generally not a fan of albums that are this long, “Lateralus” has enough high-minded vision and energetic rapport to keep even borderline metal fans on board so long as they can appreciate an overall dark emotional vibe; there's not much cheeriness on display.
Much like some of my favourite symphonic works this album is so dense and full of layers that it is not easily assimilated to memory, meaning repeated listenings get more interesting instead of less. Certain grooves will begin to emerge and thrill you but there is always something else happening in the background that you didn't remember from your last spin. A good snapshot of the album is the title track which builds to a monstrous powerful ending before dissolving into the reflective ‘Disposition’ with its ringing spacey clean guitars, strange whispers, and hand percussions. Then the 11 minute ‘Reflection’ continues with brilliant ethereal guitar-scapes over sound effects and masterful drumming.
Some contend the production is murky and the sound flat, but I honestly think the sound is as intended and conveys the mood of the music quite well. These guys seem detailed-oriented and not prone to letting a work of this scope get out the door without the sound they intended. I think “Lateralus” is quite an achievement and a feather in the cap of progressive metal. It's an album that I enjoyed very quickly but one that could take years to fully appreciate, something I consider a positive attribute for a progressive recording.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Tool's “Lateralus” is progressive metal at its darkest.
Tool compacts metal staccato riffs of varying metrical patterns with cynical lyrics to produce an album of exceptional quality. 'The Grudge' blazes from beginning to end and features very off-balance guitar riffing and time signature changes reminiscent of the best of symphonic prog such as ELP's 'Tarkus' and Yes's 'Long Distance Runaround'. Tool stands alone as an edgy, industrialized prog metal.
Highlights include 'Patient', 'Schism', 'Parabola', 'Lateralis', 'Reflection' and 'Triad'. Of note is the guitar riffing and percussion tremors that pound incessantly.
How do you end an album of this grand scale? Why, with a quirky monologue of course. The monologue in 'Faaip De Oiad' features a filtered voice over an ethereal atmospheric soundwave. The voice explains as follows:
“I, I don't have a whole lot of time. Um, OK, I'm a former employee of Area 51. I, I was let go on a medical discharge about a week ago and, and... I've kind of been running across the country. Damn, I don't know where to start, they're, they're gonna, um, they'll triangulate on this position really soon. OK, um, um, OK, what we're thinking of as, as aliens, they're extradimensional beings, that, an earlier precursor of the, um, space program they made contact with. They are not what they claim to be. Uh, they've infiltrated a, a lot of aspects of, of, of the military establishment, particularly the Area 51.”
Creepy stuff and unforgettable once it penetrates the conscious. The soundwave of sonic white noise is incredible. The same approach is revisited on '10,000 Days' closing track. This track in particular is the most powerful for me as it feels real and continues to haunt the subconscious well after the album has finished,
In conclusion “Lateralus” is a prime example of prog metal genius. Overarching themes and a huge wall of sound metal. It is Tool's finest album, never bettered.
A review by Warthur:
Pendragon were riding high in 1996. As well as releasing “The Masquerade Overture”, another very popular album in a similar vein to “The World” and “The Window of Life”, the band also recorded their best live album to date (“Live In Krakow”), which I actually think is a much better rendition of the “Masquerade” material, in honour of the successful tour to support their Overture.
Then, however, things went awfully quiet, with only compilations and archival releases trickling out of the Pendragon camp; all in all, their longest period of inactivity since they founded their own Toff Records label. What had happened to cease the steady trickle of new studio and live recordings that the band had been issuing from 1991 onwards?
Sadly, it transpired that the band's activities had been disrupted due to Nick Barrett going through an emotionally devastating divorce; a process which was sufficiently messy and financially draining as to take up all his resources for some time. Eventually, however, the band got back together to produce “Not Of This World”, which I consider to be the last of a quartet of studio albums beginning with “The World”.
Part of the reason I look at it this way comes down to its musical style, which is still very much in the school established with “The World”; Floyd-influenced, highly emotional melodic neo-prog is the order of the day here. On top of that, the album has a particular atmosphere of looking back at past experiences, not in a nostalgic way, more as a sort of taking stock of where you've been and what you've endured and what survived the process and what got lost along the way.
Lyrically speaking, it's clear that Nick Barrett's divorce was high in his mind at the time; really, could anyone seriously expect that he'd be thinking of anything else? But rather than merely wallowing in self-pity, Barrett takes the chance to sift through his feelings, examine them, come to terms with them and, through the songs here, depict the process of moving on. There's a hint of the sense of hurt and betrayal that comes with divorce, of course, but there's also an acceptance that things weren't to be, and that it's best for both parties if they can move on to a new phase of their lives. It's tempting, on that basis, to suggest that this is neo-prog's answer to Peter Hammill's “Over”.
However, whilst the theme of Nick's personal loss keeps cropping up, his subject matter is somewhat broader than that. There's a healthy dose of self-examination here and there, as well as consideration of issues of loss and failed dreams in a more general sense. On the whole, in fact, I think this is one of Barrett's best works as a lyricist, and it helps craft the album into a sort of spiritual twin of “The Window of Life”, which in its own way was very taken with themes of bereavement and loss and looking to the future. Perhaps that was Pendragon's reaction to the deaths of Twelfth Night's Geoff Mann and IQ's "Ledge". After all, IQ's own “Ever” came out in the same year and also was stuffed with bereavement themes for those exact reasons.
Combine this with the band's strongest compositions since “Window”, and I think it's hard not to give it full marks. Yes, it's the fourth album in what is essentially the same style, but I think it is the most mature; sober, and sophisticated application of that style the band ever attempted. What better way to close off this very successful phase of the band's existence and move on into uncharted waters?
A review by Marty McFly:
Sometimes, you hear something and know that's it's A class, the masterpiece and you're going to give it 5 star rating, no matter the cost. And you'll defend this decision, until someone (with really good arguments, facts and a sizeable strength in stubbornness) prove something that can change my mind. I'm afraid that even after all this martyrdom, the result will be that I'll still love “Not of This World”.
It has wonderful cover art, in fact, this was the first Pendragon album I got myself into, so I can't compare. Even now, this is everything I need and there is no point in exploring further, because on this album, there are Ideas, and hidden things which will appear even after numerous listening. As I know now, these covers are typical for Pendragon (a name taken from the King Arthur legend, the father, in fact), but this one is somewhat important for me. My dear girlfriend was kissed by a muse one night and drew me into this style and this picture; on a meadow with scenery, sitting and looking to the sun. The music conjures up such lovely pictures, as does most of the music I listen to regularly.
During my reviews I tend to listen to one specific track over and over until satisfied with it, and in this case the track is ‘All Over Now’. I am not used to these kinds of keyboards, but Arena and Pendragon are exceptions, and I like them a lot; no doubt there is some connection here. So let's start with ‘If I Were the Wind’, which sounds typical for neo prog, though I'm not afraid to call it archetypal for this genre, with the one exception of an acoustic guitar. The vocals fit perfectly here, with Nick Barrett contributing a lot and providing emotions. It is well suited to this fantasy story and I can't imagine this music without Barrett. A similar style of singing is even in Arena’s music, where singers changes regularly. When talking about Arena, I have to mention Clive Nolan, a skilled keyboardist of the modern age, and I suppose he has his hands in a lot of Pendragon/Arena music.
5(+) for a work of true art, which is a pleasure to listen to with all the ingredients I admire in this kind of prog. The biggest surprise is everything works perfectly. Also my girl fell instantly in love with this album, the same as myself.
A review by Finnforest:
Very good avant-metal.
This is a fantastic album unlike any of the other prog metal CDs I have heard recently. Maudlin of the Well (MotW) is a previous form of Kayo's Toby Driver and is generally considered to be somewhat easier to get into initially, somewhat more variable in sound, but every bit as challenging, progressive and exciting.
"Leaving Your Body Map" is in the prog-metal category and while there is metal here, there is so much more going on. There is some spacey stuff, some ambient wanderings, some jazzy playing, some non-growl screaming that would make Henry Rollins jealous, and a great variety of mood and texture. “Body Map” also provides a different feel to the art than the stereotypical metal avenues travelled by some (not all!) metal bands. The overall vibe of MotW is more avant-garde/alternative metal and I think there is a clear nod to hard core punk going on here too.
One moment you will find yourself drifting into a daydream with soft meandering acoustic guitar. The next moment you'll be blasted off your chair by raging metal complete with growls and crushing blast, followed by sweet female vocals softly accompanied by a jazzy interlude. Then you may hear a single horn, an organ, or some sound effects. Suddenly, you'll get nightmarish vocal loops followed by a gorgeous guitar solo. Anything can happen and it will. This stuff seems more diverse in character than Kayo Dot and I think that's why some prefer it. Another band that can be compared in spirit (if not totally in sound) to Maudlin is Discus. That same sense of musical insanity present on "Tot Licht" is here, although the metal portion of the mix is way better with Maudlin.
Without any doubt, Maudlin of the Well is a superb musical journey recommended to fans of eclectic prog-metal, punk, and avant-garde. It is a must for Kayo Dot fans but, if you happen to hate Kayo, don't just assume you'll hate Maudlin. They are similar in some aspects but not identical by any means.
A review by Conor Fynes:
Many artists have said one of the hardest things to do is to write a follow up to a breakthrough album. With the first piece of this companion duology, “Bath” swept through the avant-garde metal scene like a tidal wave, spreading a unique brand of psychedelic experimental music to sound systems throughout the progressive world. Taking a bevy of various styles and compiling them together into one beautiful, head-scratching sound and executed magnificently by a host of passionate musicians, “Bath” would later be known as a modern classic only a few years after its release. With this procession, there were definitely high stakes involved in creating something to follow up “Bath”; a so-called classic would not accept a companion lightly. Apparently, this pressure seems to have paid off. Not only is “Leaving Your Body Map” on par with its predecessor, it is a completely unique experience all its own.
Developing on the theme of “Bath”, “Leaving Your Body Map” takes things to another level; fixing problems while ultimately adding a lot of new sounds to the mix. While you can tell these albums are more or less 'brother and sister,' there is a much more experimental and spacy side here that was seldom shown in the former. With this in mind, “Leaving Your Body Map” is certainly a more challenging listen, and a very apparent transition to the even stranger work of Kayo Dot.
The sound here is eclectic, but Toby Driver and company manage to make it work like a charm. Instruments that would otherwise seem out of place outside of jazz, classical and folk music are brought here and meshed beautifully with the typically heavy metal soundscape. However, while things are heavier for Maudlin than ever before, the sense of melody and calming moments of 'mellowness' do not suffer. Much like its sister album, there are two acoustic interludes here, a 'ballad' style track, and an epic which runs through the course of many different dynamics. On that note, much is shared between the two albums; they are the same length, have the same amount of tracks, and even have a similar flow in terms of how the interludes are dispersed and where the mandatory 'epic' sits in the album. Hell, they even use some of the same musical ideas, although the ideas themselves go in completely different directions.
In terms of song highlights or 'standout' moments, something that distinguishes “Leaving Your Body Map” from many other albums, is that it remains incredibly consistent throughout. There are 'more enjoyable' moments than others here, but the overall quality is maintained more or less, throughout the entire album. While this is a good thing on one hand, the songs are not as individually memorable as they were before, which makes it an album that works best listened to from start to finish.
Unfortunately, the collective that is Maudlin of the Well would go on to break up later on in 2001, but we would happily be blessed with the coming of Kayo Dot, and another masterpiece under the Maudlin title almost a decade later. “Leaving Your Body Map” is probably not the best place to start with this band; it is rather something to work towards. This is some of the more challenging metal out there, and the listener must be involved with the music in order to get the most out of it. However, it is a fantastic conclusion to the more accessible (although not by much) and mellow “Bath” and yet another classic of modern metal.
A review by Gatot:
This is the second album of the supergroup with members from other bands: Dream Theater (Portnoy), Spock's Beard (was, Neal Morse), Marillion (Trewavas) and The flower Kings (Stolt). It was kind of a project. The result was a music like The Beard, although sometimes it sounds like The Flower Kings as well. But nothing resembles the music of Dream Theater or Marillion. Even though most songwriting was done together, it seems like Neal Morse (then with Spock's Beard) dominated the style.
‘Duel with The Devil’ is an excellent epic with five parts. The whole concept lies on the main foundation which in this composition is through the keyboard sound. As the song moves from one part to another in some segments, it comes back to the main foundation and moves to another segment. It's hard to deny the beauty of this composition in terms of structure, harmony as well as cohesiveness, that ties together all parts into one epic. Roine Stolt plays a stunning guitar solo here and there and especially during the interlude part. Neal Morse is also quite busy with his tasks as keyboard player and lead vocalist. Portnoy provides great drum beats but very little variations as he does with his band Dream Theater, though it's probably due to the fact that the composition does not require him to do so. Pete Trewavas with his Warwick bass guitar gives tight bass lines.
‘Suite Charlotte Pike’ is another epic with five parts, but this time duration is less than the opening track. It starts with a kind of jamming work with groovy rhythm guitar and chock full of bass lines and keyboard, which only serves as a rhythm section. As it moves into vocal parts, the keyboard and guitar give their intertwining roles altogether. It's much more accessible than the opening track as the tempo and style changes do not happen quite so frequently. The ending part of the track sounds as though influenced by the music of The Beatles.
‘Bridge Across Forever’ is the shortest track with a five minutes duration. It comprises ballad song with Neal Morse as lead vocal and piano accompanies the vocal line. It's not that impressive, but it's okay as a sense of a break after relatively complex arrangements provided by the two previous tracks.
The concluding track is another epic titled ‘Stranger In Your Soul’ which consumes another long duration of 26 minutes, same as the opening epic. Oh, this album is packed with epics. Three out of four tracks are epic. It might be the band (the project) was willing to do something remarkable as Yes' "Close To The Edge" or even "Tales From Topographic Oceans". Usually, by the time my disc is reaching this track my ears have been tired already with the multitude of epics that seemed like they were being forced to be long. Some people think that prog music must be "long", the longer the better. But that's fundamentally the wrong concept. It's a great fallacy to force a composition for the sake of being long. I don't know which one should be shortened but definitely it's boring to have multi epics with basically no significant difference in style. I usually only spin this track on the next occasion, or next spin because I'm tired already being bombarded with long tracks.
Overall, it's an excellent album, put aside that your ears might be tired listening to long tracks many times, as I experienced. It depends on you, because you might be able to bear with it.
A review by UMUR:
“Light of Day, Day of Darkness” is the second full-length studio album by Norwegian experimental/ progressive metal act Green Carnation. While the debut album “Journey To The End Of The Night” (2000) was a very melancholic affair which lyrically evolved around the death of the daughter of bandleader/ composer/ guitarist Tchort (Terje Vik Schei), this second album, while still melancholic in sound, has more positive lyrics inspired by the birth of Tchort´s son. The album consists of one 60:06 minute long song.
The music has roots in melodic doom metal, but there are lots of progressive rock elements in the sound too. The male vocals are clean, with more seldom female vocals. With a song that´s 60 minutes long, I expect to get tired somewhere along the way but “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” actually manages to keep me entertained the whole time. I don´t know if the album has seen a vinyl release, but around the 32 minute mark there´s a short break which could indicate that. The guitar riffing style is slow and melodic most of the time, and there´s also an omnipresent organ which is a big part of the sound. It sounds like there are quite a few different singers who contribute to the album, but they all have enjoyable voices. Note the Dead Can Dance influenced female led part after the short break at the 32 minute mark.
The production is good. Warm and enjoyable. “Light of Day, Day of Darkness” is a rather unique album and it´s very hard to compare it to anything else. Personally, I wouldn´t call it a masterpiece but that´s of course an acquired taste. I´m willing to rate it with 3.5 - 4 stars though and call it a very intriguing album release by Green Carnation. I´d say this one is a must-hear even though it doesn´t really appeal to my personal taste.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
Green Carnation actually formed in 1990 but never got off the ground then as Tchort left to play bass for Emperor, so the Botteri brothers formed a band called In The Woods.... Tchort and the Botteri brothers would record only one album together as Green Carnation called "Journey To the End Of The Night", Green Carnation's debut in 2000. The Botteri brothers would leave after that release. That debut record was about the tragic death of Tchort's daughter, and needless to say, it is filled with darkness, pain and sorrow. I need to say as a father that I can't possibly imagine what Tchort went through and is still going through. That kind of pain is only known by those who have experienced it first hand.
This is the follow up record and Tchort dedicates the music to his new son, while lyrically he dedicates it to the Botteri Brothers. Tchort describes this release as his "musical legacy". And this record reveals the emotions and feelings of Tchort of what he's going through, and went through, but unlike the first album, this is seen through the "joy, inspiration and meaning" that his son has brought into his life. So there is hope in this album, but also a lot of darkness and anger. In the liner notes is a picture of a little white casket with a young woman lying beside it, holding it, with her head resting on it. The other pictures in the liner are beautiful photos of nature. Musically, this sounds more like In The Woods... than anyone else although I was reminded of ANATHEMA during some of the quieter parts. This is a single 60 minute song that tells Tchort's feelings without being interrupted.
The song starts off rather atmospherically with some eerie sounds as the soundscape builds with guitar and drums as we hear a child making noises. Reserved vocals come in at about 3 minutes that change to a full sound 5 minutes in with some good guitar riffs. Great! Organ melodies come and go. The lyrics are so emotional as he sings "insanity reached me it's hand". 8 minutes in the vocals are aggressive and the sound is heavy and angry, and 14 minutes in we get some very heavy drums and bass that accelerate. Nice! This is followed by a spacey, dreamy soundscape that suits the lyrics that are about a dream he had. 20 minutes in we get some Black Sabbath-like guitars and vocals and it gets punishingly heavy again. 22 minutes in it lightens up with some incredible instrumental work.
Some nice organ work and riffs dominate until 25 minutes in when it almost stops, before we get the heavy riffing again as the light and heavy are beautifully contrasted. The drumming is fantastic here and throughout this song. We get some female vocals after 33 minutes with a reserved sax solo. She gets close to screaming during her vocal melody. At 39 minutes the male vocals and the heaviness is back. A long amazing guitar solo 42 minutes in and I'm reminded of Anathema 45 minutes in. More heavy riffing and she's back 52 minutes in. The guitar is incredible and then we hear the child's voice again with synths that are broken by blazing guitar and pounding drums. The song ends with the sound of a music box playing.
There are some heart wrenching lyrics in this song, but I can tell you that the music is as good as the words. This is truly a masterpiece!
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - July 04 2012 at 02:00
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A review by Gatot:
Deep Purple plays Progressive Metal?
Yep! This is how I can describe this album in brief. Why? The music is completely progressive metal with many abrupt changes in style and tempo but the vocal quality and singing style is very similar with David Coverdale of Deep Purple. Can you imagine that? Hope you can. If not, just buy the CD, you would never regret it. For me personally, I knew the band about two years ago from information exchange with my power metal friends who love bands like Helloween, Kamelot, Blind Guardian or Angra. I did not pay enough attention to it but when I listened to it, wow, what a great music offering with varied riffs and styles.
So I did purchase the CD sometime during the 10th ‘Prognite’ event in Jakarta. Two things triggered me to write my thoughts about this album. a couple of weeks ago I got Norway's Magic Pie debut album, and wrote a lengthy review. Two weeks after, in prog program from the Jakarta Alternative Station (radio) Magic Pie was aired with its opening track ‘Change’ (20 minutes) and at the same time the radio aired also ‘Missing You’ from Ark’s "Burn The Sun" album. What a coincidence! Both bands are coming out from Norway and both are excellent bands. So it challenged me to write my views about Ark’s "Burn The Sun".
I am not going to review on track by track basis but for sure if you are not into a progressive metal music, I would recommend you to go straight to the 11th track ‘Missing You’. This track is the most accessible one to a wider range of ears because it's like a melodic ballad with a sort of combination between neo prog with symphonic prog music and orchestra in the background. Some people call this kind of track "ear candy" because you can digest it easily.
The other ten tracks are completely in the progressive metal vein with rich composition and abrupt tempo changes, heavy riffs and powerful vocal. The album opener ‘Heal The Waters’ (6:37) starts energetically with drum solo followed by heavy music. The other great tracks are ‘Resurrection’ (5:31) which has a great melody and nice guitar riffs, that bring us to the 80s hard rock music. The style changes beautifully in the middle of the track. Sixth track ‘Just A Little’ (4:36) is another great track, especially with the use of Spanish acoustic guitar played in fast speed; it reminds me of Germany's guitarist Bern Streidl. This song is so powerful.
Ark’s “Burn The Sun” is a highly recommended progressive metal album.
A review by UMUR:
Although I really liked their previous album “Solitude + Dominance + Tragedy”, this one might be just a little better. “In Search Of Truth” is the album that prog metal fans would probably like most from Evergrey. There are some really intense riffing and the music is keyboard laden. It´s still mostly metal though and the prog leanings are in the sounds and not so much in the way they play. There are a few more slow emotional songs on “In Search of Truth” than on their previous albums, and this is not my cup of tea. The other tracks are so strong that you soon forget the few weak ones though. A song like ‘The Masterplan’ is really godly and a song like ‘Mark of the Triangle’ displays Evergrey´s sense for progressive metal.
I am having a hard time with Tom S. Englund´s voice as always, but I guess it´s a matter of taste. This is a very worthy purchase to anyone into Power/ Prog metal. Just don´t expect it to sound like Dream Theater. The sound quality is even better than on “Solitude + Dominance + Tragedy” and that´s kind of amazing.
So listen to this one if you´re interested in Evergrey because from now on it´s only downhill. This was the last really good album from Evergrey.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
Some of the bands they thank in the liner notes that I like are Pain Of Salvation, Kamelot and Zero Hour. This CD has such a compelling story line to it. The concept is about a man who thinks he is being abducted by aliens. It is rather dark as our subject's feelings are shown to us. You can imagine the fear, pain and frustration our subject would be enduring.
The record starts off with ‘The Masterplan’ and a clip from the movie “The Matrix” that tells us how this man is carrying a tape recorder with him at all times because he hopes it might one day explain the loss of time, lack of sleep and the feeling of never being alone, all because he thinks he's always being watched. The music on this song and album are great. The drummer especially stands out for me as well as the dual lead guitars, and of course the vocalist is very strong. There are synths throughout this album and even a solo as they play a big role on this record. ‘Rulers Of The Mind’ is one of the better tracks. The drums pound with vocals and background synths, and it sounds really good, then guitars come back and some odd metered drumming. In light of the concept just read the titles of the songs and you can see how meaningful each song is.
The next song ‘Watching The Skies’ features synths throughout including a solo 3 minutes in. Man, this guy can sure drum! There is a smoking guitar solo 5 minutes in. ‘State Of Paralysis’ opens with piano and vocals, a ballad-like song. He says over and over, "They're coming, they're coming", evoking fear. ‘The Encounter’ is nice and crunchy with more great drumming and a guitar solo 3 minutes in. The same line of thought from the previous song is continued; “They're coming!"
‘Mark Of The Triangle’ has lots of tempo shifts and some fast keyboard playing with heavy guitar and drums. This one is all over the place. ‘Dark Waters’ has some cool drumming and lots of riffs. A choir is heard as well as some great guitar. Amazing tune. ‘Different World's’ has more synths and piano that speed up and slow down, with a heavy soundscape later. The singer sounds like he's crying at one point, I don't know if I've ever heard this before, as it’s very emotional; read the lyrics. ‘Misled’ is another highlight for me where they really let it rip with heavy riffs and drums, with synths over the top. Nice.
I was very impressed and surprised at how good this album is. Highly recommended to Metal fans. 4.5 stars.
A review by UMUR:
“Imaginary Friends” is the second full-length studio album by Swedish progressive rock/ metal act A.C.T. Rightly put in the Eclectic prog category the music by A.C.T is not easily categorized as neither rock nor metal, and they actually have a very distinct and interesting sound.
The music on the album holds elements from as varied bands as Dream Theater (the “Images and Words” album), Sieges Even (the “Sophisticated” album), 10CC, Queen, ABBA, The Ark (the Swedish pop/ rock band) and Saga. A mix of progressive metal elements and sophisticated pop/ rock makes this a great mix to my ears. The music is very melodic and most songs are easy to sing along to, but they are complicated enough in their structure to keep a prog head like myself entertained.
The album consists of six normal length songs (4 to 7 seven minutes long) and a longer track (25:51 minutes long) called ‘Relationships’ which is divided into 8 smaller parts. The music has an overall cheerful mood and the lyrics are generally tongue in cheek. There´s some great humour involved in this band and one of the biggest praises I will give A.C.T for the music on ‘Imaginary Friends’ is that I feel so much alive when listening to it. It brings so much joy and good feelings into my life. A very positive experience. My favourite on the album is the fast paced ‘A Supposed Tour’ but album opener ‘Take It Easy’ also ranks up there. But as such all songs are excellent. intelligent and memorable compositions.
The musicianship is of high class. This music might have an easy listening pop feeling to it but it´s certainly challenging in terms of technical playing. Keyboardist Jerry Sahlin uses some great sounds in my opinion and lead vocalist Herman Saming has a distinct high pitched voice that might take some getting used to but he is very skilled. His voice will be an acquired taste though.
The production is very enjoyable; sharp and clean. The debut album by A.C.T called “Today's Report” (1999) was a very enjoyable album but “Imaginary Friends” takes their positive and powerful concept even further in the right direction and receives a deserved 4 star rating from me. “Imaginary Friends” is recommended to people who want some positive progressive music. I know I´m happy.
A review by Conor Fynes:
A great thing about heavy metal is that it has reached virtually every corner of the world, and the more recent generation of metal has seen many of its brightest shining stars coming from places one might not first expect. From Japan comes Sigh, a band that is a current frontrunner in black metal of the 'weird' variety. A band that has wandered through a different style with seemingly each new album they release nowadays, Sigh finds a unique and quirky sound on “Imaginary Sonicscape”, staying true to any avant-garde label while being infectiously catchy and fun. These certainly aren't tags one would normally think of when speaking of black metal, but Sigh makes it work. Although the band's experiments here are not all successful, I can't help but love what the band has done here.
Recently, I've been finding quite a few black metal bands that are incorporating ample amounts of psychedelic rock into their sound. Sigh is no exception to this, and they make the combination sound very convincing. Although Sigh's sound is certainly rooted in black metal, many of the songs here use upbeat hooks and melodies to give the music a sense that it is more parts 'fun' than 'funeral', and on some tracks (most notably the ridiculously enjoyable rocker 'Bring Back The Dead'), you shouldn't be surprised if you're rasping along to the chorus. Although pop music is an inaudible effect here however, there is good reason to call Sigh an avant-garde metal band, although the weirdness is not always in full swing.
Sigh takes what have otherwise been largely (although not fully) a straightforward melodic black metal album and adds strange electronic effects over the top of some parts to give a quirkier feel. While it is only to the benefit and credit of the band that they are taking risks, many of the electronic layers they use sound shrill and even a little distracting from the main attraction, which is the wonderful songwriting and delivery. The band takes some big leaps with composition as well; although “Imaginary Sonicscape” is no stranger to the concept of the melodic hook, there are moments here which define any category that Sigh may have been placed in before.
The highlight of the album 'Requiem - Nostalgia' even plunges into something that sounds like an Ennio Morricone soundtrack to some Spaghetti Western film. As a rule, it is the compositional experiments that the band takes that are always more successful than the weaker layering experiments. That is the only flaw that seeks to demerit this masterpiece luckily however, and while “Imaginary Sonicscape”s more adventurous segments may take a little while to get used to, despite the instantly endearing nature of the rest of it, Sigh has made a masterpiece here that defies tradition.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
“The Last Bright Light” is an excellent followup to “The Spirit of Autumn Past”. The songs are a balance of heavy rock to ambient pastoral ballads and Celtic flavours. The lyrics are focussed on searching for answers, to findsecurity and to protect the environment.
The indispensable songs that are played live often are the infectious melodic ‘We Come And We Go’, fan favourite ‘Never the Rainbow’, ‘Half The Mountain’ with Pink Floyd atmospheres, soaring lead breaks and Gilmour-ian vocals, and the amazing mini epic ‘Mother Nature’. This 12 minute treasure has some sumptuous piano and harmonies that are carried along with breezy synths, and a delightful lead guitar break. It builds to a heavy passage with howling wind and a driving beat. The keyboard solo is also a superb embellishment to the music, making this one of the band’s greatest triumphs. The heavier side of the band is also found on the catchy ‘The Dark Before the Dawn’, complete with The Who style synths, and the rhythmic memorable ‘Never the Rainbow’, one of my favourites from the group.
I like the quiet respite of Heather Findlay’s vocals and Angela Goldthorpe’s exquisite pastoral flute on ‘The Eyes Of The Forest’, a soft ballad about the plight of treefelling. Findlay is also beautiful on the vocals of ‘Hollow’, with precious acoustic and keyboard musicianship. There are Celtic moments such as joyous instrumental ‘Helm’s Deep’, and ‘Prints in the Stone’ with gorgeous flute passages and the slow peaceful ‘Shrinking Violet’, haunting and mesmirising with dreamy vocals. ‘Which Wood?’ is also a pleasant instrumental flute driven romp. These quiet moments are of course one of the drawcards to Mostly Autumn, who are concerned about the environment and filling albums up with slow measured beauty. The ambient ethereal ‘Just Moving On’ leads seamlessly to ‘We Come and We Go’, the band in their most melancholy mood. ‘The Last Bright Light’ moves into some uplifting crescendos and an absorbing structure, with gentle vocals and a soundscape of deep bass male choral intonations and acoustics over a layer of synth strings.
The musicianship is excellent throughout especially the organ phrases of Iain Jennings, Josh Bryan’s guitar hooks, Andy Smith’s Bass, Jonathan Blackmore’s drumming and some wonderful flute from Goldthorpe. It is an album of over 70 minutes of compelling music and features some of the band’s most beloved songs. Overall, this is one of the best Mostly Autumn albums available along with the previous album “The Spirit of Autumn Past” and “Passengers.”
A review by Bonnek:
After the Floydian rock marvels called “Alternative 4” and “Judgement”, Anathema changed their style and sound to let a new influence come to the fore: post-rock and Radiohead. It's no huge departure from the previous albums but the dense and less immediate nature of the music will cost you a bit more time to fully absorb it. The music is highly textured and organic; it builds and grows, ebbs and flows like the waves of the sea. It is made up of 9 beautifully arranged high quality songs. It is mostly calm and slow but without a dull second and with an emotional impact ranging from fun emotions like sorrow and pain, to longing and from craving to ecstatic outbursts of passion.
It's also one of those few albums that is more than the sum of its songs. From the first second to the last, this album flows so naturally that it becomes one continuous experience, dragging you along in its lush and brooding atmosphere. It is hard picking highlights again, but the calm and brooding tracks at the end like ‘Barriers’, ‘A Fine Day To Exit’ and ‘Temporary Peace’ rate amongst the most gorgeous music ever for me.
Their style has become a very personal mix of atmospheric rock and melancholy, less in debt to the Wall-era Pink Floyd sound of the preceding albums. But it's no use comparing Anathema to any other band anymore, they have become fully their own and surpassed their idols at their game here.
A review by Conor Fynes:
In releasing another album, another evolution occurs. This can be said for almost every Anathema release, but “A Fine Day To Exit” signifies the end of the doom phase for Anathema, a phase that (to this point) encompasses much of the band's history. “Eternity” showed the band beginning to adopt 'post metal' into their mix; and this fine album shows yet another development in the band’s sound; losing the metal for a more mellow and down-to-earth approach.
What used to be the band that innovated one of the most grim genres on the planet has now changed into something that I'm sure even the 'indie' kids could now appreciate. “A Fine Day To Exit” is by no means a commercial album; but it does have a lot more of an accessible sound than even the predecessor “Judgement” had. What we have here are songs that resonate a warm but haunting art-rock sound.
As far as the songs themselves go, many of the songs are fantastic, with there being only a few moments of exception ('Panic' and 'Looking Outside Inside' both do very little for me.) Still, the band has seen better days. “A Fine Day To Exit” has not the paralysing moments of inspiration that “Judgement” had, nor the overall album cohesion of “A Natural Disaster” but it's a fine album for those looking for a good, melancholic art-rock album to get into, and a fitting gateway for one of the most emotive bands out there.
A perfect example of a four star album.
A review by SouthSideoftheSky:
"How can these mighty opponents be reconciled?"
Despite the fact that the opening track of this excellent Neo-Progressive album is called ‘The Big Bang’, it certainly does not open with a bang. At first I did not understand the point of this very discrete opening sequence, but now I find it quite brilliant. As the title implies it is about the big bang. Make sure you play this loud otherwise the quiet, discrete vocal will pass you by; “From a single point of light, the universe began”. Talk about taking the bigger perspective on things! The theme of this album is about as far away from the typical themes of conventional Rock and Pop as you could possibly get! Yet, while on paper it might sound pretentious, it does not come across that way at all. Rather, I find this profound and deeply reflective.
The title track also begins very quietly, but the powerful bass line that enters about one minute into the track finally breaks the stillness, this time with a bang. We are now treated to a full on band with howling guitars and powerful symphonic keyboards over propulsive bass lines and dramatic choir vocals. All this becomes all the more powerful in contrast with the very quiet opening of the album. This song features an excellent lyric that continues the theme of the first; “In the beginning there was darkness, and in the darkness there was fear, and fear gave birth to God, whose rule was harsh but clear, But reason led to questioning and God became a man, He retreated to the skies, though some began a search to comprehend the universe, the men of God screamed out, you must not question why!” Utterly brilliant!
This song also features possibly the most memorable line of the whole album; “How can these mighty opponents be reconciled?” (the opponents in question being reason and religion, the conflict between which constitutes the overarching theme of the whole album). But as with all great conceptual albums, the individual songs do not stay too close to the theme, allowing them to express something each on their own too.
The vocals of Alan Reed are fragile yet powerful and have a unique tone. On the first couple of listens I thought the vocals were too low in the mix, but I now suspect that this might be intentional and it does not bother me anymore, provided I play this loud! (which is probably the way the band intended it to be played). Though, I strongly recommend following the lyrics on a lyric sheet while listening to the music, because it is often a bit difficult to hear clearly what Alan Reed is singing. This is especially true given that these lyrics contain some words that probably never have been used before in a Rock context! After all, how often do you use the word 'crucible' in everyday speech? Or make a reference to the Dogon tribe of Africa? Or use the expression 'promethian fire'?
I have seldom found such potent and effective lyrics and this clearly gives the impression that the lyrics were written first and the music was composed to fit the theme rather than the other way around. I don't know if this is how they did it, but it comes across that way.
The hard rocking ‘For The Greater Glory’, and the acoustic ballad ‘Who's To Blame’ also feature lyrical passages that will either make you think or make you cry, or both! ‘Towers Of Babble’ and ‘Midas Touch’ are among the longest tracks of the album and perhaps the ones that comes closest to the "typical" Neo-Prog sound with slightly more theatrical vocals, keyboard solos and nice guitar work. Otherwise, I think that Pallas has their very own sound that is not very similar to other bands. My usual problem with Neo-Progressive bands, that they are too derivative and stay too close to other bands (most often 80's Marillion and 70's Genesis), is thus not a problem I have with Pallas. This band is special and this album is their best work by far in my opinion. Dark, heavy and reflective yet full of fragility and emotion.
‘Generations’ is a more conventional song both lyrically and musically, but within the context of the other songs, this too gains a deeper meaning that it would not have had standing on its own, I think. The album closes with ‘Celebration’, which indeed sound a bit like one!
To sum up, “The Cross And The Crucible” is a fantastic concept album with truly intelligent lyrics, distinctive vocals and very strong musicianship. It both requires and deserves repeated listens. This is clearly one of my favourite albums in the Neo-Prog category behind the best works by Arena. A minor masterpiece!
A review by Conor Fynes:
Muse's first album “Showbiz” was a bit disappointing for me, and seeing as I listened to the debut after listening to two fantastic records by the band (“Black Holes And Revelations” and “Absolution”) I found myself in a bit of a rut with the band. The debut had very little going for it, and wasn't very distinguishable from the loads of alternative rock getting spewed out of the UK.
But enough about “Showbiz”.
After having lost my faith with the band for a little while, I decided to pick up the one album of theirs that I had missing “Origin Of Symmetry”. I had heard some very good things about the album; Q Magazine even rated it as the 76th Greatest Album of All Time. Naturally, I was intrigued and wanted to see what the buzz was about.
After having given “Origin Of Symmetry” a fair amount of listening time and consideration, I would have to say that it stands as being the band's second most enjoyable album, after “Black Holes And Revelations”. Despite not being as amazing as the aforementioned winner was to me, this feels like the quintessential Muse album nonetheless. There is everything here that the band is known for, ethereal melodies, soaring melodies, and a bombastic sense of 'epic' that makes the band's sound both memorable and powerful.
This album also has the band's best song (in my opinion) 'Citizen Erased.' While it never really hit me at first (the main riff sounded very noisy and unnecessary initially) I realized how perfect of a composition it was. Being a mini-suite of sorts, it covers a wide range of emotions, and is sure to appeal to prog fans provided they give it the time of day.
All in all, “Origin Of Symmetry” is a good album for someone to start out their experience with Muse. Despite being flawed in a few areas (for example, 'Hyper Music' is frankly hyper-irritating) but there is some fantastic material here, that deserves to be explored. Four stars.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Muse are an amazing power trio of creative visionaries; Bellamy, Wolstenholme, and Howard. Their music has really captured a generation and features proggish elements and downright heavy rock with unusual sigs and very original vocal styles. Bellamy doesn't hide his intakes of breath making it part of the emotion as heard on the thumping rhythmic 'New Born'. His falsetto is a really powerful component of the music. The guitar style is indie style or alternative, very grungy and raw and the lead breaks are usually repetitive figures that are almost neo classical. The bass and drums are an incredible rhythmic device with constant pulsations.
This album is very melodic and injects a decent amount of prog sigs and some intriguing passages of creativity. I have the live DVD and most of these songs appear on it so I am used to hearing these in a live format, seeing the band in full flight belt out these hard driving tracks with so much passion, but they are equally as good in the studio. 'Bliss' and 'Space Dementia' are two of my favourites with incredible musicianship and astonishing vocals. 'Plug in Baby' is a catchy thing with a sing along chorus and strange lyrics. I like the scratchy guitar on this and lead break. 'Screenager' rocks along nicely and always captures me and the awesome version of 'Feeling Good' is mesmirising. It ends with a great showstopper in 'Megalomania'.
I like the album artwork too with iconic field of tuning forks and the simplistic art continues in the booklet. This album along with “Absolution” are excellent albums. I liked “Black Holes and Revelations” also but the enigma of the band exists in their earlier material without a doubt. At the time of release this album really inspired many to be drawn to this new form of music. I must have played this album dozens of times in the car, at home, and even at work while typing up documents, and it did turn out to be an inspiring er... Muse.
794 - live
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
The Metropolis Tour was Dream Theater at the peak of their powers and it is captured here in high quality glory. All of the classic Dream Theater tracks that made up the "Scenes From a Memory" masterpiece are here and played with extraordinary skill, even at times surpassing the original studio album. It is rewarding to hear the earlier material of the band and the best from the earlier albums is played during the set. All of the band members are passionate, energetic and are at their best.
LaBrie is crystal clear on high register vocals throughout and is brilliant on tracks such as ‘Through Her Eyes’, ‘The Spirit Carries On’, and ‘Caught In A New Millennium’. Rudess is an incredible keyboardist and has a showcase to spring from with excellent tracks such as ‘Home’ and ‘Metropolis part 1’ as well as a 6:40 keyboard solo with inventive genius. Petrucci's lead guitar is exceptional and he is unbelievable on compositions such as the epic ‘Beyond This Live’, ‘The Dance Of Eternity’ and blockbuster time change virtuoso ‘Learning To Live’. Of course the bass of Myung is always outstanding and Portnoy's drumming is machine like, keeping the odd rhythmic patterns consistent and complex. Listen to the drumming on ‘The Mirror’ or the mammoth 22 minute ‘A Mind Beside Itself’. The band are a force to be reckoned with and maintain a progressive edge with metal blasts and ambient atmospheres.
One of the real surprises is to hear the live performance of ‘A Change Of Seasons’ clocking 24:33. It is even better than the studio album version. The crowd roar at the end of these epics and one may imagine standing ovations as the natural response to such virtuoso playing. The intricate time sig changes and instrumentation throughout is outstanding. They have never sounded better live. The bonus videos of ‘Another Day’ and Jordan Rudess ‘Keyboard Solo’ are a nice embellishment, though it is more of a tease for those who cannot get hold of the whole concert. The packaging is great with gatefold shot of the band and a rather colourful booklet with band pictures and notes.
The cover is a montage of the band, unless you were lucky enough to get hold of the earlier rarer cover design that has since been banned. It depicted New York City on fire. Nothing wrong with that, though when the Twin Towers were seen up in flames it certainly raised some eyebrows and was seen as offensive to the real disaster of the 9/11 WTC tragedy. It eerily looks too close to what actually happened and, although was a coincidence, it had to be pulled from the shops. I remember this cover causing quite a controversy, as it was released just prior to the 9/11 events. The band were given no choice but to replace the image with a band image.
Overall, this is the best Live record of Dream Theater, with some of their most celebrated material. It is brilliant prog metal that lasts for over 3 hours. It also can be picked up for a reasonable price these days, mine cost about $20, and that is not a bad offer for 3 CDs of Dream Theater's greatest songs.
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - July 04 2012 at 06:42
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2002 coming soon...
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - July 04 2012 at 02:02
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A review by Finnforest:
"Remedy Lane" is another very interesting prog metal album and only my second PoS review so I'm not qualified to rank it amongst their others, but I will say that I prefer the live "Be" material to this one.
That said, this is still a heck of an album. Complex structures, unbelievable musicianship, good vocals; it's all there. One of the things that blows me away about this group are the guitar solos, of which there are not quite enough! But Johan Hallgren has this amazingly interesting style of soloing that will be hard to explain, but I'll give it a shot. I don't know about you but when I listen to many guitarists do their solos, my mind usually assimilates the song and player fairly quickly and I can hear where the solo will go ahead of time, in other words they're often predictable. Even on albums I've not heard a million times, you can get pretty good at just knowing where a player is going with something. But with Hallgren I have noticed that he rarely goes where I expect him to and he frequently surprises me. In addition to this, he will also get to what you think is the end of a given run of notes, and then he'll tack on something extra right there where you would normally expect the next "part" to have already begun. Both of these tricks make it really fun to listen to him play. I only wish he had more time on his own, as he is usually on a short leash due to the rigid structure of PoS songs.
Which leads me to my criticism of the band. As good as the album is, and as much as complexity can be wonderful, “Remedy Lane” at times nearly suffocates in its seriousness and complexity. There are times I would really love to hear this band explode into a different kind of jam, looser and free of Daniel's constant lyrical drama. I'm not tanking the album over this because I still like it very much, just needed to point that out. I'd love to hear these musicians go nuts without Daniel just a little more.
Hermansson and Langell are also veritable forces that raise this band above so many of their peers. The keys and drums are so consistently good you take them for granted after a bit. Very impressive, and then there's Daniel. What can you say? I imagine he's one of those love him or hate him kind of presences for metal fans. You could say that he's too overbearing and keeps this band from reaching where they could if they had more freedom from his epic concepts. On the other hand his songwriting talent is undeniable as is his vocal range, his charisma, and his amazing talent for turning emotion on a dime. He's good mellow, he's good at power, he's good at rage, and he can so smoothly shift gears where lesser singers would have difficulty.
It's impossible for me to find enough adjectives to go track by track on this release because there is so much consistency and thankfully it's uniformly good. If I had to pick one song that knocks me to the floor it might (on this day) be ‘Rope Ends’ with its jaw dropping shifting rhythms, piano parts, and guitar. It's a killer.
I really look forward to hearing “Scarsick” and know what all the fuss is about. That one seems to divide the fanbase which means it must be interesting. As for this one, there's not much division. Recommended to all PoS fans and prog metal fans without hesitation.
A review by Conor Fynes:
One of my all-time favourite records, Pain Of Salvation have crafted a true work worthy of being called a masterpiece. There is a fantastic sense of flow on this album, and the concept (albeit a bit hard to follow) is interesting and emotionally driven. What you get is an incredibly empathetic work, taking you from feelings of Sadness to Fear to Heartbreak and the occasional glimpse of Love and Devotion.
Lyrically, 'Remedy Lane' is semi-autobiographical, concerning different, important times in the songwriter and vocalist, Daniel Gildenlow's, life. Much of the content revolves around the apparently torrid lifelong romance between the protagonist and his love. What comes through is a great amount of sincerity, and a sense that Gildenlow truly means and cares about the music he is writting/performing. The feeling is rare to be felt, especially in the progressive metal genre.
The music is beautiful, to be blunt. Even the heavier parts such as the highly progressive polyrhythmic 'Rope Ends' emit a vulnerable, lamentable beauty about them. An hour of such a gut wrenching, depressing, and invigorating journey can leave one pressed for tears... A true, beautiful masterpiece, and will always hold a special, relatable place in my heart.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
I first encountered this amazing album online, hailed as one of the greatest prog albums of all time so I had to check it out. I was not disappointed. Daniel Gildenlow is the backbone behind this sprawling saga of a woman who decided she could not take it anymore and therefore indulged in the final solution, a walk down 'remedy lane'.
The musicianship is excellent throughout from Daniel Gildenlow Guitars, Vocals, Fredrik Hermansson, Keyboards, Johan Langell, Drums, Johan Hallgren, Guitar, and K Gildenlow, Bass.
There are three chapters that unfold the captivating and distressing emotional story. Chapter 1 is comprised of 'Ending Theme', 'Fandango', 'A Trace of Blood', and 'This Heart of Mine (I Pledge)'. This chapter begins with melancholy symphonic styles and then launches into full blown prog metal with the awesome 'Fandango'. This track is my favourite on the album and features some of the most complex out of synch drumming you will hear. It is stunning how the drums are off kilter at times adding to the sense of madness and alienation. The fractured rhythms and metrical patterns are unburdened by lilting, shimmering keyboards and arresting low pitched guitars. The riffing is hypnotic as are the vocals of Gildenlow that are as bizarre as the lyrics. The other tracks are very solemn, sombre ballads that are at times beautiful but cast a shadow of darkness to come.
Chapter 2 comprises 'Undertow', 'Rope Ends', 'Chain Sling', and 'Dryad of the Woods'. This is the most haunting chapter beginning with the powerfully executed 'Undertow'. 'Rope Ends' is the most memorable track for me as it features the chilling lyrics about how the lady hung herself with her husband's Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore silk tie. The illustrations in the booklet are unforgettable. The chorus is melodic and very sad echoing the pain of the traumatic female's mind. 'Chain Sling' is a very off kilter track with strange harmonies, and 'Dryad of the Woods' is a wonderful instrumental that slows things down acoustically somewhat to prepare us for chapter 3.
Chapter 3 consists of 'Remedy Lane', 'Waking Every God', 'Second Love', and 'Beyond The Pale'. The first track is a veritable summary of all the events thus far. The pace is slowed down with symphonic ambience with 'Waking Every God' and 'Second Love'. One of the best PoS tracks is 'Beyond the Pale' that is also the longest on 'Remedy Lane' at almost 10 minutes. This track features heavy metal guitar riffing and time signature changes throughout. It begins with a repetitive estranged pitchy guitar sweep. All is masterfully executed with glorious lead guitar breaks and the awesome vocals of Gildenlow. It finishes the album on a high note amidst all the darkness, like death coming to life.
So my first taste of Pain of Salvation has been a pleasurable one, with many more to come. I liked how they structure their music and the songs are not as heavy as other metal prog bands I have heard. They have a quiet patient ambience blended with sharp blasts of metal distortion. The tracks are easy to listen to though the concept was a bit dark and heavy handed for me. I have never been a fan of suicide depression themes as they are obviously downbeat and morbid. However, for pure innovation, this album is certainly worthy of any proggers collection.
A review by UMUR:
“In Absentia” is the Seventh full-length studio album by British progressive rock act Porcupine Tree. The band has gone through quite a development in sound since their debut release “On the Sunday of Life....” (1991). Starting out as a one man bedroom recording project playing psychedelic progressive rock and growing into one of the most influential and successful modern progressive rock bands is quite the achievement. I haven´t been much of a fan of the early releases from the band even though most were good efforts (nothing outstanding though). “In Absentia” has totally changed my view on Porcupine Tree though and finally Steven Wilson & Co. have created a sound that fully captures my attention.
While the music is still unmistakably Porcupine Tree, a couple of new elements have been added to their sound. Steven Wilson had acted as producer for progressive death metal act Opeth on their 2001 release “Blackwater Park” and on “Deliverance” (2002) and “Damnation” (2003) both the latter were recorded during the same sessions as documented on the “Lamentations” (2003) DVD release. Maybe the Swedes have had an impact on Steven Wilson because Porcupine Tree have surely gotten a lot heavier than they used to be, especially compared to the two more mainstream oriented and polished predecessors “Stupid Dream” (1999) and “Lightbulb Sun” (2000). There´s an emphasis on beautiful song melodies but there´s certainly also an emphasis on experimenting with song structures and genres. The music is not overtly complex though and the experiments never take away the melodic focus in the songs. The heavy element which is heard in songs like ‘Blackest Eyes’, ‘Gravity Eyelids’ and ‘Wedding Nails’ is only a new added element in the sound, not a dominant feature in all songs, so by all means don´t expect this to be a heavy metal album.
There´s some excellent mellow and beautiful songs on the album in addition to the more experimental and heavy songs. Examples are ‘The Sound of Muzak’ (which has one of the most infectious choruses I´ve ever heard), the ambient .3 (which reminds me of the Dutch pop/ rock act Hooverphonic) and the closing ‘Collapse the Light Into Earth’ are all good examples of the more mellow side of Porcupine Tree on “In Absentia”.
The musicianship is fantastic. Excellent and tight performances by all musicians involved. I really enjoy Steven Wilson´s beautiful vocals (even though he has quite an anonymous voice he really knows how to use it to full effect) and his occasional fierce guitar playing. The rhythm section is outstanding too and ex-Japan keyboardist Richard Barbieri has a tasteful style to my ears.
The production needs a special mention as it is fantastic. Absolutely wonderful clean and modern production. Some people might miss a bit of organic warmth but I couldn´t wish for a better sound.
“In Absentia” is by far the best album Porcupine Tree had released when it came out and finally an album by the band that I enjoy for the whole duration of its playing time. There was always something on the earlier albums that I found dull or superfluous and that annoyed me every time. With “In Absentia” the band have cut away all unnecessary and disturbing elements from their sound and what is left is an almost perfect album of progressive rock. As close to a masterpiece as you get without being awarded the 5th star by this reviewer. A BIG 4 star rating it will be and a recommendation from me that this is a must hear album.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
One of the greatest example of neo-progressive rock by arguably the best in the business. Porcupine Tree have triumphed with their unique blend of soft acoustic melodica merged with heavy crunching killer guitar riffs. Wilson's voice is mesmirizing on every track. Barbieri's keyboards are a beautiful touch that permeate the album from beginning to end. It is a masterfully produced work that deserves all the attention it has garnered. Streets ahead of previous Porcupine Tree material and the best was yet to come following this album. But “In Absentia” is an excellent way of being introduced to this important heavy prog band. They are complex in parts but never over excessive, and the melodies remain in your head well after the CD has ended. The production and art work are worthy of note too; a juxtaposition of sound, visual images and symbolism to paint a picture that is powerful enough to remember.
Highlights include the wonderful 'Blackest Eyes' with the inspired riff that propels it to its sudden conclusion. The time signature shifts are classic prog rock. 'Trains' is an excellent acoustically driven track that even sounds at one point like a train on a track, especially the ending. A lot of this track, and others, sound curiously like Pink Floyd meets Yes. There are undoubtedly huge influences from classic prog bands in this music. 'The Sound of Muzak' has a very catchy melody and Wilson is in full voice, as are the harmonies from other band members. Check this song out for a great example of melody and awesome musical interludes. 'Collapse the Light Into Earth' is a mesmirising slow moving track that uses techniques of minimalism and a huge wall of sound builds up to a crescendo. The track sends you to another place, and has the power to entrance the listener. Close your eyes and let it take you. It is as relaxing as anything the band were producing in their early days.
All the tracks are unique, inspired and demonstrate the musical complexity that is essentially Porcupine Tree. Many tracks appear on the live DVD “Arriving Somewhere...” but the studio versions presented on this album are the best versions.
A real surprise! I was blown away by the musical dexterity and depth of this album. Following this was “Deadwing” which is even better! Both are recommended!
A review by Conor Fynes:
“In Absentia” is the Porcupine Tree record I've always found to be overshadowed by it's two counterparts of the same era, “Deadwing” and “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. Both were complete and utter masterpieces, but what of “In Absentia” itself? There is certainly masterpiece-quality songs on here, and a lot of them at that, but there is little to no flow that ties the songs together. If I was rating this simply based on it being a random collection of songs, sure, I would give it five stars. But I'd prefer to mark it based on how it fares as a complete work.
The only songs that I wouldn't consider amazing are 'The Creator Has A Mastertape,' 'Lips of Ashes,' and 'Strip The Soul' which don't really appeal to me, especially the first mentioned. Everything else is fantastic Porcupine Tree worthy of the band's reputation of creating high quality and uncompromising music.
But how can I listen to something that doesn't feel like it should be listened to from start to finish? Sure, the first few times I listened to “In Absentia”, I went from start to finish and didn't really mind the fact that the songs don't match up and form a whole... But it really got to me after about five listens, and I decided to pursue a different course, which would be to listen to songs out of order in my preference, seeing as it didn't really make a difference due to my lack of appreciation for the set-up of the album.
As always, the sound quality and production is up to a traditional Porcupine Tree standard of excellence. The song 'Heartattack In A Layby' remains one of the most beautiful songs I've ever listened to...
“In Absentia” is great for the music itself, but in terms of what a really effective album should look like, it's a bit upsetting that such a potentially masterful work could have been detracted so much by a relatively easy to remedy issue. However, for the songs themselves, this is certainly an excellent addition to any prog collection, and it's a definite worthy buy, especially if you're not too concerned with album structure.
A review by SouthSideoftheSky:
I am now officially contaminated too!
On the first couple of listens, I thought that “Contagion” wasn't even close to being as good as the fantastic masterpiece that was “The Visitor”. However, to be honest, I didn't realise just how great “The Visitor” was right from the start either. Like with “The Visitor”, it took me several listens to get into this album. Yet, when I finally got into it, “Contagion” didn't stop growing on me and I now think that “Contagion” is almost on a par with “The Visitor“. At some point I even thought it was even more impressive, but it does not quite have the same staying power as “The Visitor”. The two albums are both masterpieces though, and even if Arena have always been my favourite Neo-Prog band, they have now established themselves as one of my favourite bands of all time regardless of genre! And that is no small accomplishment for a Neo-Prog band, given that I have never been a big fan of the Neo-Prog genre. But then again, Arena is certainly not your typical Neo-Prog band, at least not on this album which might be the band's most original and distinctive recording.
Like “The Visitor”, “Contagion” is another concept album where every song is part of a larger whole and the whole album hangs together incredibly well. Again like “The Visitor”, “Contagion” works as an organic whole where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The songs flow into each other and some themes return in several songs to great effect. There is again a perfect balance between vocal numbers and instrumentals and many different moods and tempos are displayed throughout the hour long album. Everything is exactly where it should be and the listener is treated to one great song after another from start to finish. The melodies are all remarkably strong, the musicianship is outstanding and the production is faultless. Even the cover art is amazing! (which is great after the not too interesting cover art to “Immortal?”).
I initially felt that the album's best moments where at the start and at the end with songs like ‘The Painted Man’, ‘A Spectre At The Feast’, ‘Cutting The Cards’, and the reoccurring “surely there is someone who will reach out”, a theme that is first introduced in ‘An Angel Falls’, and that the album kind of lost its direction a bit in the middle. However, after further listens I now think that the tracks in the middle are just as strong as the rest. It is very hard now to pick out favourites; there simply are no weak moments!
Arena have always had their very own musical identity, but with each subsequent album they have made more out of that identity and become more original. It is no longer appropriate (if it ever was) to describe the music of Arena as a darker and heavier Marillion; the influences on this album are broader and include influences from Queen, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis and much more. Arena's music is perhaps still not truly groundbreaking, but I also do not find it derivative at all in any objectionable sense (and I am usually very sensitive to that type of thing). “Contagion” is even darker and harder edged than “The Visitor” was.
The bass guitar of Ian Salmon stands out as being much more prominent and distinctive compared to earlier Arena albums. There is a great, heavy bass sound. The guitar work of John Mitchell is, like always, fantastic and there are many opportunities for him to shine throughout this album. Clive Nolan's keyboard wizardry is also brilliant and he gets his fair share of the spotlight. The instrumental ‘Riding The Tide’ is the only heavily keyboard dominated track, and this one if strongly Tony Banks influenced while the organ solo in ‘On The Box’ is more Rick Wakeman-esque. But Nolan mostly has his own style and identity. One thing to notice is that there is more piano than acoustic guitar on this album, while it was the other way around on “The Visitor”. The frequent use of piano together with the way the songs flow into each other somehow makes me think of Queen's “A Night At The Opera” (which is another one of my all time favourite albums).
Mick Pointer's drumming is sometimes criticized, but I find nothing wrong with it. This is not complex Jazz-Rock/Fusion and neither needs to be. The vocalist, Rod Sowden, who had been introduced on the previous album, has a great voice that fits this type of music perfectly. He sings every single note like he really means it! Arena has really been very lucky to find great vocalists and Sowden's performance on this album is remarkably strong.
One of the things I liked so much about “The Visitor” was the dark, mysterious lyrics. Thankfully, the lyrics are once again back to the standard (at least) of “The Visitor” here after the partly more 'worldly' lyrics of “Immortal?” Clive Nolan has really put a lot of effort into the lyrics that contain many hidden meanings that leave a lot for the listener to contemplate. Apparently, the album is based on a fairly elaborate story. However, they do not make the common mistake of letting the story take over the music. The lyric for each song also has its own meaning and value independent of the story. I honestly think that this is the best story based album I have ever heard! The lyrics are intriguing and unique and they can make you think deeply, but you can also ignore them and simply enjoy the music; this album can be enjoyed on so many different levels!
At first I didn't like the way they used the studio as another instrument i.e. those sampled background noises with muffled pieces of conversation, the morse code sound at the end of ‘On The Box’, and beginning of ‘Tsunami’ (that means something?), or the noise created by a vinyl album being played at the start of ‘Mea Culpa’ initially bothered me. But I started to see how these things integrated with the rest of the sounds and now I don't find it distracting anymore.
I am very restrictive about which albums I rate with the full five stars, but “Contagion” has stood the test and deserves masterpiece status.
A review by UMUR:
The sixth studio album from Dream Theater “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” is a major piece of music. Spanning over two discs and over 95 minutes of music this one takes some time to swallow. The whole of disc 2 is one long epic which doesn´t help to make the challenge smaller. Dream Theater has always pushed the boundaries in prog rock/ Metal and continues to do so on this release.
The music has changed a bit since “Scenes From a Memory”, as the melodies don´t seem as strong as on that one. Given some time the melodies do become more memorable though. The album starts with the very heavy ‘The Glass Prison’ which is a favorite of mine on the album. John Petrucci really plays some nice intricate metal riffs on that one. Some insanely fast soloing is also done by Petrucci. The songs on disc 1 are generally very long but as usual when it comes to Dream Theater they never get boring. ‘Blind Faith’ and ‘Misunderstood’ are good Dream Theater songs but it´s with the fourth song on disc 1 that I get impressed. ‘The Great Debate’ has in addition to some great music also some clever lyrics about stem cell research and the different opinions about it. ‘Disappear’ is a mellow song that I personally find a bit boring, but I guess some people enjoy it and that justifies it´s inclusion here.
Disc 2 is as mentioned one long epic song called ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’. It´s a concept story but even though it´s one long song there are different sub-tracks. These tracks all segue into each other to make a whole. Personally I think this is a typical epic build from lots of small songs and I must admit I like the REAL epic songs better; those where you feel like the song was written in succession. I don´t find ‘Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence’ very exciting as a whole but some of the parts are really great. Most significant are the very heavy ‘War Inside My Head’ which might be the most heavy song ever by Dream Theater. I find that one crushing. ‘The Overture’ is competently composed though not to my preference in style and mood. Symphony X also released an album in 2002 called “The Odyssey” which has a much better Overture called ‘Part I: Odysseus Theme/ Overture’.
Dream Theater are all outstanding musicians and they prove it again on “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”. There are many fantastic instrumental parts throughout the album and they are played with great conviction. Once again I have to mention that I miss Kevin Moore´s more melodic and simple keyboard style as I feel Jordan Rudess uses many sounds that are experimental and not nice to my ears. There is no doubt that Jordan Rudess is a great musician but I´m just not that fond of his style.
The production is good even though I miss the old more clinical productions on “Images and Words” and “Awake”. The mix is much better than on “Scenes from a Memory” though.
All in all this is another excellent prog rock/ Metal album from Dream Theater and even though this is not one of my favourites from the band it´s still outstanding and unique. 4 stars from me and a warm recommendation.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Question: How do you follow up on a masterpiece such as “Scenes From a Memory”?
Answer: Present a heavier album that emphasises symphonic prog and insert a 42 minute song that takes up an entire CD.
The CD2 holds a multi-movement suite that moves from heavy to soft tones at intervals and blends in a series of songs to form one masterpiece. The 8 tracks blend seamlessly and Dream Theater often play this in its entirety in their live shows, and a good example is the version on the DVD “Score”. The wall of sound that Dream Theater create and the way in which it builds to a crescendo makes this epic track stand out as not only one of the greatest Dream Theater tracks of all time, but prog in general. ‘The Overture' begins majestically and then builds headlong into the crunching break neck speed of 'About to Crash'. The piece releases into a soothing acoustic blend with 'Solitary Shell' sung brilliantly with depth of feeling from La Brie. ‘The Grand Finale’ ends the track on a high note; all comes full circle and the story ends with that ray of hope and optimism that is akin to Dream Theater's tracks.
It is worth buying this CD for the epic alone, but there is so much more to this than some fans give credit.
CD1 begins with a bone crunching killer guitar riff in 'The Glass Prison' which is a 14 minute classic. The pace continues to build throughout and awesome guitar lead work permeates the track from Petrucci as well as Portnoy's relentless drum patterns.
'Blind Faith' settles into a driving rhythm that shifts into various time signatures. Not my favourite track but still has some merit for its musical virtuoso performances from the band. I love the vocal performance from LaBrie too, as always he really manages to belt out the lyrics with total conviction. 'Misunderstood' is the weaker track perhaps due to the monotony of the melody, though it has some interesting moments. 'The Great Debate' is a wonderful interplay of lead guitar and drumming as LaBrie sings about the deep matters of a contentious issue that we are all aware of, but what can be done? There are no answers supplied, only food of thought about the debatable topic that I won't go into here. Suffice it to say the music alone is worth a listen.
'Disappear' ends CD1 and for some reason has disappeared from my memory but I recall at least that it was a nice tune and featured some awesome bass and drums throughout. There was experimental work with the keyboards.
So there you have it. A much maligned piece from Dream Theater; at times moving and innovative with brilliant musical virtuosity, at other times not so inspired and a bit tame. However, there is no denying the work on CD2 is as about as good as it gets for Dream Theater. If you haven’t heard CD2 at least, you haven't heard the best of Dream Theater.
A review by Conor Fynes:
While both discs may be great, let me start by saying the second disc of this album (the side with the 'Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence') is one of the best Progressive CDs I own. If considered as a single song, then it would be my favourite Dream Theater song of all time. The band uses the perfect blend of metal, rock, and prog to forge a really memorable epic, dealing with mental disorders (a common lyrical theme for Dream Theater). Musically, it's one of the most consistent (in terms of quality) discs I have, and it's been listened to a lot. The second disc alone would grant 'Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence' a masterpiece ranking of it's own.
But there are two discs, right? So what about the first disc?
It's quite a treat as well. Mind you, not up to par with the second, but it's still great (at the very least, four stars) Although there are only two songs on the first disc I really love ('The Great Debate' and the ballad 'Disappear') all of the songs have merits of their own. From the heavy crowd-pleaser 'The Glass Prison' to the comparatively slow songs 'Blind Faith' and 'Misunderstood,' there's a good dose of greatness to be experienced here. 'Blind Faith' and 'Misunderstood' are usually paired in my mind as being similar, and while they're both good, they've never truly hit me as being outstanding. However, they hold songwriting over virtuosic prowess, which is always a plus in Dream Theater's case. 'The Great Debate' is one of my favourite Dream Theater songs, and deals with the controversial topic of stem cell research. It's a very Metallica-influenced song, but there’s a great deal of progressive nature in it. 'Disappear' is Dream Theater's most underrated song, and is arguably their most beautiful ballad, second only to the Kevin Moore piano tracks.
The second disc is where things really kick in. Despite a rather repetitive ‘Overture’, the rest of the tracks really compensate and flow together perfectly. Songs like 'About To Crash,' 'Goodnight Kiss' and 'Solitary Shell' consist as the highlights of the epic, although the entire thing is very enjoyable to listen to. The majority of it (besides 'War Inside My Head' and 'The Test That Stumped Them All') doesn't use metal, but instead uses a blend of the Dream Theater sound with progressive rock forging into a modern prog sound that should please most.
While “Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence” may not match up to Dream Theater's best works such as “Images And Words” or “Scenes From A Memory”, it's still a fantastic album, and certainly worth the price of a double album. A very ambitious work, and a solid reminder that Dream Theater isn't exhausted of their creativity at this stage.
A review by Gatot:
My first impression is I like the ambient opening of ‘Ancient Winds’ which basically is an introduction of the band's music in orchestral arrangement. It's basically the feel of watching a movie, though it is very long. What follows is a blast of power metal music in style through ‘Here I Am’ where the vocal of Andre Matos is very powerful. He can easily handle high register notes brilliantly. Structurally, this is actually not a straight power metal track as it has many variations and styles. The foundation is power metal but the band has expanded the structure as well as style, combining beautiful high and low points.
The third track ‘Distant Thunder’ is much more captivating in a sense that the music is composed of the metal style, but the structure has some curved lines that make the song very dynamic, and so is "proggy". The poser of this song, in addition to dynamic style / structure, is the memorable basic melody delivered through the unique voice of Matos. I also enjoy the heavy guitar riffs that truly represent the power metal sub-genre. Excellent track!
‘For Tomorrow’ gives another flavour and texture of music through an inventive opening using traditional music (percussion and mandolin). The music then flows naturally with the clear and transparent voice of Andre Matos backed with powerful guitar riffs; another excellent track from the album especially for metalheads, in which case the song would make your nerves vibrate significantly.
‘Time Will Come’ rejects any opinion that metal music must start with heavy guitar riffs. It's not the case with this song as a soft piano touch kicks-off the song followed with full music in a metal vein, augmented wonderfully with orchestration. The musical interlude of this song gives a traditional taste followed with great guitar soloing. It's a stunning composition.
‘Over Your Head’ also starts mellow followed with heavy rhythms and then low register notes of Andre Matos vocal line, augmented with nice acoustic guitar fills. Structurally, this song offers many styles with an excellent melody. Again, Andre Matos delivers his high register notes. There is a musical interlude with a kind of traditional music (in my case, I associate this music with our traditional Reog Ponorogo). Excellent. This is definitely a prog tune to the bone!
‘Fairy Tale’ is a ballad that has become my all time favourite since I heard it the first time. Structurally the music was composed in a "circle", i.e. the song ends the same as it starts. What I mean here is that the melody of the song starts with the low register notes of Andre Matos under, " Fairy lady, who stands on the walls”, and it finishes with the same opening melody. The ballad flows brilliantly from an elegant female choir to melodic piano and Matos' melodic voice. It is not just the melody that is so powerful, I can also enjoy the great orchestral arrangement that follows the music of this great ballad; “Oh darling, hear my soul and heed my cry, Cause all my crying may flood an ocean and in my heart”.
The album title track ‘Ritual’ sounds initially like any metal music in medium tempo. There are some interesting segments in the song that sound memorable to my ears. The use of keyboard and orchestra has made this song enjoyable. The interlude part produces stunning guitar solos and orchestra. It's an excellent song.
Overall, this is a perfect album that you would expect from a power metal band with many prog touches during the stream of the music. My rating is devoted to the fact that this is a power metal band with powerful composition. No wonder this album is perfect because Sascha Paeth is the producer. Highly recommended for those who are hungry for power metal or progressive metal.
A review by Conor Fynes:
Agalloch is one of the few bands that make music that can really move. Sure, there are plenty of bands that make pretty songs, but all too few can really transport you to another place, and make you feel exactly what the artist wants you to feel. Agalloch may be best listened to while walking alone through a snowy forest in the evening. While Agalloch may technically have black metal influences, it shouldn't scare people away, as there is so much more to be heard here.
Although I am a fan of some forms of black metal, it's never really been my thing. However, I can appreciate the objective that black metal aims towards: atmosphere. Classic black metal bands like Emperor never tried to astound audiences with technical-virtuoso playing and shredding; they instead aimed towards creating a haunting sonic atmosphere to give the listeners an emotional resonance. While Agalloch have more to do with folk music than anything else, the attention to atmosphere inherent to black metal is definitely heard here. There is almost no skill flaunting, and everything here would be in the reach of a guitar student's skill to play more or less. However, the way that the simple guitar work is played is beyond compare, and each flowing chord sounds perfect, bringing the listener to an even higher level of musical euphoria.
'The Mantle' is best described as beautifully depressing. There isn't very much of an optimistic sound to be heard, but more the music of someone that has potentially loved and lost all. These emotions manifest themselves as images of nature in it's purest form.
John Haughm is possibly my favourite lyricist of all time (along with Dani Filth and Daniel Gildenlow.) The lyrics are bleak and emotive without being overly melodramatic. The theme of nature is prevalent in the lyrics as well, which works to give definitive descriptions to the images the band's music tries to create. As a vocalist himself, Haughm definitely isn't a technically skilled singer, but that doesn't stop his voice from having a very large (and distinct) presence that compliments the instruments perfectly to the note.
On a personal level, this is music I can listen to when I'm feeling devastated or broken over something, and somehow feel better; simply because I have proof that I am not alone in feeling these emotions. It would be absolutely impossible to write a work like 'The Mantle' without a large amount of sentimental dedication. Through their pure sincerity of voice and perspective, Agalloch has created a beautiful work here, and is something that is yet unparalleled for it's style.
A review by Conor Fynes:
What we have here is one of the most beautiful, moving albums made in the new millennium. There seem to be a lot of people who think that in order to be progressive, you must relinquish some of your emotional impact to be innovative and original. Someone should shut those people up, and make them listen to “El Cielo”.
For 57 blissful minutes, the listener is taken on a brilliant musical journey concerning the medical condition known as sleep paralysis, and the power of dreams. Much of the lyrical content in “El Cielo” revolves around testimonials and anecdotes of individuals that have either suffered or been enlightened by their reveries. Keeping this in mind, Dredg beautifully weave a spectrum of emotions into the musical framework, going from feelings of devotion ('A Walk In The Park') to fear ('18 People Live In Harmony') to melancholy (the most prominent feeling in the album.)
There is such a musical integrity to this album. Despite having a very alternative-rock sound, there's a lot of progressive happenings throughout the album, and a lot of styles being thrown around. There are parts reminiscent of a mellow Maudlin Of The Well, the atmospherics and dramatic buildups of Explosions In The Sky, the jazz breakdowns of The Mars Volta, and a lot of something that can only be described as being trademark of Dredg themselves.
A total emotional masterpiece, and one of the greatest modern progressive albums of all time.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
Pagan Mind are picking up where fellow Norwegians Conception left off. This borders on Power-Metal at times but really this is heavy, melodic and powerful Prog-Metal. The singer Nils K Rue is unbelievable, with a great range and his voice is easy on the ears. What a talent! Twin lead guitarists here although sadly Thorstein Aaby passed away at 35 years of age after a lengthy illness back in 2007. The synths are excellent and often in the background. I have to mention how good this album sounds as the production and sound quality are perfect. This is partly a concept album inspired by the theories of Erich Von Daniken.
‘Approaching’ opens the album with lots of cool sounding atmosphere. Here we go 1 1/2 minutes in as a killer soundscape comes crashing in. It blends into ‘Through Osiris Eyes’ which is very crunchy with synths as vocals come in for the first time. His vocals border on growls at times as he spits out the words in anger. Mostly though they are simply strong and powerful. Check out the guitar solo after 3 minutes. This is one of my top 3 tracks and maybe the best track on here. Incredible!
"Entrance: Stargate" opens with fast paced riffs before it settles with synths and some deep bass, then vocals before a minute. Heaviness comes and goes. What a great singer this guy is! Themes are repeated and I like the calm 4 minutes in, and it ends with some intensity.
‘...Of Epic Questions’ opens with synths as the heaviness arrives and the tempo picks up. Very heavy sound before the vocals come in. Deep spoken words come and go on this one. Double bass drumming is all over this tune and keyboard flurries after 3 1/2 minutes. The vocal melodies that come and go are so good.
‘Dimensions Of Fire’ is heavy duty to start out but it settles when the vocals come in. The contrast continues throughout. This is so uplifting at times but some evil sounding vocals followed by double bass drumming are heard after 4 1/2 minutes. Nice guitar solo follows then synths and it ends as it began.
‘Dreamscape Lucidity’ builds quickly and the double bass drumming sounds like a stampede, then a guitar melody comes in. Vocals are next in this uptempo barn-burner. Love his vocals. Check him out 4 1/2 minutes in especially. The tempo continues to shift in this fantastic tune!
‘The Seven Sacred Promises’ is another top 3 track for me, mainly because this song really reminds me of Fates Warning, especially the guitar that grinds away like Jim Matheos. What a feel good song this is. Some thunder 3 minutes in with a ripping guitar solo to follow.
‘Back To the Miracle Of Childhood’ is a two part instrumental that is my fourth favourite track. Simply gorgeous acoustic guitar to open, then electric guitar comes in after a minute with drums as it builds to a great sound! Some riffs late which continue into part two. The second part is over 9 minutes of heavy and light instrumental work with synths as well.
‘In Brilliant White Light’ is a ballad-like tune with piano, synths and almost spoken vocals. ‘Aegean Shores’ is a good uptempo track with heavy drums. Check out the guitar after 3 minutes followed by a synth solo on this uplifting track.
‘The Prophesy Of Pleiades’ is the other top 3 song for me, so, yes, it ends in style. Experimental and spacey intro gives way to heavy and slow riffs a minute in. Vocals a minute later, that will eventually soar after 3 minutes. The heaviness comes and goes and themes are repeated. Love the background synths too. If you like heavy and melodic Prog-Metal this is essential.
A review by Conor Fynes:
With another album, there are new developments for the avant-garde metal act known as Arcturus. This now-legendary band is something of a Norwegian black metal supergroup, with members collaborating here from, among others; Ulver, Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, and Emperor. What comes as a surprise is that despite these musicians' background, the music here is not black metal, but rather a highly theatrical brand of progressive metal. “La Masquerade Infernale” first planted Arcturus' flag in the sand, taking the dreary atmosphere of black metal and channelling it through what may have been described as astral circus metal. “The Sham Mirrors” sees this project continue down the avant-garde path, but this time around, things are a little lighter, melodic, and, dare I say, accessible. No matter, in many ways, Arcturus have improved this time around, creating yet another excellent and memorable landmark of avant-metal.
My memories of “La Masquerade Infernale” focus largely on the diabolical atmosphere that the music created. While it was far from being black metal in nature, the vibe that came across was not unlike something a frostbitten black metal band would convey. Garm's brooding voice was subtle and disturbing, and there were plenty of tritones for the devil worshipers to dive into. As is even evident from the album artwork, “The Sham Mirrors” is a departure from the darkness, in favour of something a little more melodic. The riffs are faster and more harmonious, and Garm's vocal performance has been swept up from the gloomy bass into a higher-register, theatrical wail that I.C.S Vortex first introduced to the band with his memorable vocal performance on “The Chaos Path”.
All of these changes are best represented on the album's opener, 'Kinetic', which is incidentally the greatest thing that the album offers. 'Kinetic' opens up with fast paced chords and a steady build, with ambient vocalizations, programmed drum beats, and an array of 'sci fi' electronic noises. While Garm did not impress me a great deal on “La Masquerade Infernale”, his voice blows me away this time around. It is as if his voice has been let off its chain, and is now allowed to traverse the depths of his range, which is quite impressive. It is a disappointment that there is nothing else quite as astonishing as 'Kinetic' on the rest of the album, because it is one of the greatest progressive metal songs I have ever heard.
Arcturus may have made their sound more melodic, but it is still very forward thinking and weird. There is a symphonic element brought in via the keyboards, making Arcturus sound like an avant-garde incarnation of Dimmu Borgir, at times. The songwriting has plenty of hooks, but it rarely relies on a chorus structure. However, most of the experimentalism is brought on through the way the music is performed and executed. Garm's vocals are intense and dramatic, as if he was performing in an opera. The dense electronic ambiance also gives the music a coat of production that makes it sound weirder than it would otherwise. The production can get ambitious past its means at times, although the amount of work that's been put into fleshing out the sound is acknowledged and evident in the music. The one musician here who doesn't seem to get a chance to exploit his full talent is drummer Hellhammer, whose normally inhuman grasp of the double-kick and blast beat is muffled and drowned by the dense production, not to mention the thick presence of programmed beats in the album.
“The Sham Mirrors” is another challenging album from Arcturus, although it is nowhere near as shocking as “La Masquerade Infernale” was for me. This is arguably the best thing that Arcturus has released in any case, and it is a shame they stopped making music together at the peak of their work. As it is with many avant albums I come across, there are aspects of this album that don't sit totally right with me, but these are easy to overlook in the face of the resounding strengths the album boasts. An excellent, inventive album.
A review by SouthsideoftheSky:
A nod towards Jethro Tull and a wink towards Genesis.
“A Nod And A Wink” is, in my opinion, preferable over the previous “Rajaz” album in almost every respect. These two albums are like night and day, and if we allow ourselves to take the metaphor seriously, then “Rajaz” is the night and “A Nod And A Wink” the day. The respective sound and feeling of the two albums are very different indeed, with “A Nod And A Wink” having a much "warmer" and "lighter" sound and also being less serious, less mellow and a bit more "whimsical" in a (mostly) good way.
While there were almost no flutes on “Rajaz”, there are a lot of them here. And the flutes are played in a variety of different styles, one of which is a nod towards Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. The drums are also much more elaborate and, most importantly, they feel more alive compared to the somewhat sterile drums on “Rajaz”. The keyboards are much more varied here and the use of organ is part of what gives this album its "warmer" sound compared to the somewhat "cold" “Rajaz”. There are sparkling keyboard solos here, something that was quite rare on “Rajaz”. The vocals are also more varied and Andy sings in different styles and moods (even British dialects!) similar to what Peter Gabriel did on the early Genesis albums. Further, there are more background vocals on this one, also contributing to the warmer sound. The electric guitar work that was excellent on “Rajaz”, is just as good here. Overall, “A Nod And A Wink” feels more like a band effort than an Andy Latimer studio project.
I complained about “Rajaz” that it felt predictable. Not so here. There are several unexpected changes in the music here which I feel is essential in progressive Rock. I also said about “Rajaz” that there were too few fast paced passages. Not so here. There are softer and mellower parts as well as rockier parts. The influences here are much wider as well, with the Folk influence once again being present in Camel's music.
The compositions here are not at all as strong, though, as the ones from the brilliant “Harbour Of Tears” and “Dust And Dreams” albums and “A Nod And A Wink” does not hold together as well as those two brilliant concept albums. But being less good than those masterpieces is not really criticism! “A Nod And A Wink” is still a great album!
If you want to explore 90's/2000's Camel (which you should, it's great!), I would recommend you to start with “Harbour Of Tears” and then “Dust And Dreams” and after that you should get “A Nod And A Wink” and last “Rajaz”.
Perhaps not among Camel's very best this one, but still an excellent addition to your Camel collection
A review by Gatot:
Dedicated to Peter Bardens (1945 - 2002).
That's basically what Andy Latimer wrote on 27th June 2002 for the sleeve note of this album. It has been 30 years that Camel had been in the music industry with many personnel changes; only Andy Latimer remains in the band. This is similar with King Crimson where Robert Fripp has been the only constant member of the band. Camel was recognized and respected as the band with excellent compositions combining mellow to medium tempo kind of music. While King Crimson has evolved their music that started with their "Discipline" album, Camel's music has been generally the same in style from its debut album until this album's release. "A Nod and A Wink" commemorates Camel's 30 years of existence in progressive music. Through this album, Collin Bass, the bass player during the early years of Camel, returned back to the band.
Looking at the artwork, it clicked with me to a novel by Paulo Coelho titled "The Alchemist", especially the shadow of a child (like the shepherd in that novel) and a horse, plus night time nuances. The opening track ‘A Nod and A Wink’ gives a clear picture about the situation, lyrical-wise. It starts beautifully with ambient sounds depicting a night situation followed wonderfully by flute work by Andy Latimer. The flute and its accompanying acoustic setting make the intro of the song truly attractive for those especially who love symphonic or neo progressive music. The song moves beautifully with low to medium register notes singing style, starting with "Goodnight, Tired little eyes, Time to climb the wooden hill", and followed with stunning guitar solo ala Andy Latimer. It's truly an excellent opening track.
The second track ‘Simple Pleasures’ enters beautifully just after the first track ends. The basic rhythm section comprises bass guitar, keyboards, drums and a simple percussion (a tom sound) that falls at the end of the signature and it enriches the song. Latimer sings with the static sound of percussion and some guitar fills in addition to the rhythm section. What's so interesting is when Latimer finishes his first lyrical verse, the music is followed with a relatively long guitar solo in the vein of David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, but with Latimer's own style. Wow! I really love this track, it's so enjoyable and relaxing, really!
‘A Boy's Life’ again has a title that reminds me of "The Alchemist" novel, and starts with acoustic guitar fills accompanying Latimer's singing, "I try to see through your eyes" in relatively flat melody with low register voice notes. Right after the first lyrical verse completes, the music moves with music interlude and at approx 2'38" it provides a break demonstrating acoustic guitar fills and soft keyboard work which is really nice. Latimer also provides howling guitar at approx 4'20 which then brings the music into full blast where electric guitar takes over in a nice solo. It's really pleasurable and I enjoy this song. I am really glad that Camel is still consistent in delivering excellent compositions. Until now I have been listening to three excellent songs and let's continue the journey to the fourth track, ‘Fox Hill’.
It opens in an uplifting mood with relatively medium to fast tempo, at least it's faster than the previous three tracks. Latimer sings in higher register notes and Collin starts to demonstrate his great basslines at 1'20. At approx 1'40 the music provides a nice break with different music styles where the piano provides an accentuated rhythm section (like Supertramp's music) and Latimer sings differently. His singing style this time reminds me of that of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. After that, the guitar solo moves forward dynamically intertwined by the keyboards of Guy LeBlanc. Denis Clemet on drums is also given a chance to do a solo at approx 5'02. Even though this song lacks a catchy melody, the style changes are really excellent and it makes me enjoy this album further.
‘The Miller's Tale’ starts with ambient bird sounds followed beautifully by acoustic guitar fills and then a soft keyboard solo. "And the two friends went home" sings Latimer to start the first verse. The background keyboard sound makes a vintage sound layered by great acoustic guitar work. At approx 1'56 the song moves into a nice interlude which brings the listener to something like a movie soundtrack.
‘Squigely Fair’ starts with uplifting mood music led by a guitar solo in a relatively long period until 1'56 when flute takes over the role, and it moves into nice breaks with Collin Bass’ tight basslines. Flute makes the song very enjoyable, especially when it starts at 2'56 where the sound is as interesting as Ian Anderson's flute work.
‘For Today’ concludes the album beautifully with a very nice piano solo in a mellow mood. When Latimer starts to sing, the piano work is replaced by acoustic guitar rhythm. At 2'20 Latimer gives a great manoeuvre of his guitar with Floydian style, and backed by long sustain keyboard work at the back. The guitar solo is really stunning.
Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection.
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - July 22 2012 at 06:37
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A review by Gatot:
This kind of album is only possible because of the later digital technology which can accommodate non-stop music with a duration of more than 23 minutes. If by the time Jethro Tull was making "Thick as A Brick" or "A Passion Play" the technology had already existed, I'm sure they would have made it one song as well, like this album by Echolyn. Echolyn is fortunate because by the time they have this musical idea, the recording technology was ready to accommodate nonstop music even until the maximum duration of the CD: 80 minutes. The Flower Kings is a good example of bands who have maximized the space of a CD.
The first listening experience of "Mei" was when I watched the live DVD where this album was performed in its entirety with string players. It's an interesting live show and from then on I started to enjoy the CD. Looking at the varied musicians on this record, this is not just the performance of Echolyn but also with strong backup from additional musicians who play the string section.
The music itself, which comprises only one single track non-stop, provides a total adventure for listeners through the journey of Echolyn and string section players. From my experience listening to this track, I assure you that you would not regret owning this album. The band brings us, masterfully, through excellent delivery of their music augmented with a powerful string section. For me personally, it's a great joy listening to this album from start to end.
A review by Conor Fynes:
My first experience with the band Threshold is I was blown away when I first listened to this album. Typically, one expects a progressive metal band to sound something along the lines of Dream Theater or Symphony X, and conform to a certain protocol (in other words; being incredibly unprogressive.) Threshold manages to steer clear of that stereotype; and in melding great melodic hooks with progressive integrity, have created an unlikely masterpiece.
This album was purchased with a completely 'blind' ear; I had no idea what I was getting into and only had the knowledge that the band was progressive metal, and that one of their previous singers had done work with Ayreon. Besides that, I was treading into completely alien territory.
From the first song onwards, I recognized a very strong attention to melody; something that progressive metal has seemed to have long-since forgotten. This alone warranted a heightened interest in the album, and the band. By the time of listening to 'Falling Away,' I was certain that I was listening to something clever and beautiful. The dynamic, beautiful introductory sequence of 'Falling Away' really stole my heart.
In terms of flow, album cohesion doesn't play a huge role with 'Critical Mass' although there's nothing wrong with the way the songs are set up. 'Phenomenon' is a fantastic way to open the album up, while the acoustic finale of the title track puts the listener on a gently soothing closing note.
Unlike 'Dead Reckoning' (a significantly weaker release from the band,') 'Critical Mass' does not give up progressiveness for melody and good songwriting. None of the material here is incredibly progressive... Prog is better described as a part of the musical mold rather than the main attraction.
The voice of 'Mac' McDermott doesn't impress me as much as Damian Wilson's did on the Ayreon releases, but he has a great voice that really fits the music. Some listeners might take a bit of time getting used to his voice due to the fact that his tenor sounds like a lot of hair metal vocalists, but, in the end, that shouldn't get in the way of his talent and the band's ability to create great music in general.
Great melodies, powerful compositions, and something that's a bit different and more down-to-earth than your typical progressive metal band. A fantastic album, and a very rewarding purchase.
A review by Conor Fynes:
It's an all-too common misfortune for an artist's quality of work and material to slope downward in it's quality as a career moves on. The majority of the musical giants of yesteryear that still produce music to this day seem to have lost their creative spirit somewhere along the way. Maybe it was the taste and longing for past greatness that makes them try too hard, or the cold fact that age has caught up to them, it is a grim reality that time wears down on the artist's soul. It is my pleasure however, to announce that Peter Gabriel is certainly not an artist that submits to age.
It is safe to say that Genesis were one of the biggest bands of their time. Early in the youth of progressive rock, they were there to pave the way for generations of forward-thinking musicians to come. While Peter Gabriel is certainly better known for his vocal/front work for that band, it is also safe to say that the man hasn't lost touch with his muse. Adapting with the times of modern music, “Up” is a very futuristic-sounding album, with very little connection to the past. Gabriel isn't trying to keep hold of one trick that works, he's making new ones here. There's a very industrial sound (Nine Inch Nails) on the album here; something that most fans of the man's music wouldn't have expected from him. While the music is dense, and even noisy at times, Gabriel makes the music his own; something personal, and that really shows.
My favourite track on here would have to be the song 'Darkness' which deals with Gabriel's fears, and his quest of overcoming them. He goes so personal in his music as to dissect his psyche in the song, and present his inner self to the world. That makes for a very moving song. Other highlight is the ballad 'I Grieve' which also shares the intimate, personal quality about it, while still being complex in the way it's done.
“Up” isn't an album for everyone however. It's 'noisy' production (in a good way, though) and very different, almost industrial sound might turn some listeners off. What makes “Up” so good is that it's an album that needs several listens to really appreciate. It’s a very dense album sonically speaking, but the feeling encompassed is stupendous.
A review by UMUR:
“The Odyssey” is the sixth studio album from American progressive/ power metal band Symphony X and it was released in 2002. After what I think of as a disappointing previous album (“V - The New Mythology Suite”) Symphony X really made one hell of a heavy album for our fans. They have of course maintained the melodic and more sophisticated side of their music but this album is up until this point their most crushingly heavy effort (that´s excluding their next album “Paradise Lost”).
Michael Romeo is as always the leading force as his compositional skills and guitar playing style is defining for Symphony X sound. His style is a cross between the edgy and thrashy metal style of Dimebag Darrel (Pantera) and the neo classical power metal/ traditional heavy metal style of Yngwie Malmsteen. This is a great mix. I usually get bored with neo classical bands if the neo classical style is all they got up their sleeve, but Symphony X is so much more than a normal neo classical power metal band.
“The Odyssey” consists of eight songs. Seven songs between 4 and 8 minutes in length and the 24 minute long epic title track.
The album starts with the crushingly heavy ‘Inferno’. There are some incredibly heavy riffs in this song and Russel Allen has never sounded more angry than on this track. If you´re looking for progressive tendencies in this song just listen to the opening riff or the epic chorus. Note the sharp and edgy riffing from Michael Romeo. Just beautiful.
The two next songs ‘Wicked’ and ‘Incantations of The Apprentice’ are great Symphony X tracks even though ‘Wicked’ is probably one of the weaker spots on the album (not weak at all compared to other metal bands in this style, but weaker than the other songs on the album).
After three very heavy songs we´re now treated with something quite different on the fourth song of the album ‘Accolade II’ (the II refers to the fact that number one appeared on the album “The Divine Wings of Tragedy” from 1997). ‘Accolade II’ can be compared to other power ballad tracks from Symphony X like ‘Candlelight Fantasia’ from “The Divine Wings of Tragedy” and ‘Lady of the Snow’ from “Twilight on Olympus” (albeit a bit heavier) which means that this song is very beautiful. The vocal melodies are composed so well and there are multiple melodic guitar solos from Michael Romeo. This is one of the best tracks ever composed by Michael Romeo. Very majestic and with some beautifully arranged keyboards.
‘King Of Terrors’ is probably the most heavy song on “The Odyssey” and I mean crushingly heavy. I can see a couple of AOR/ heavy rock oriented progressive metal fans being scared away here. Again Russel Allen´s vocals are aggressive yet still controlled and melodic.
‘The Turning’ is a faster paced track, very heavy and fast. Note the incredibly fast guitar riff that opens the song. This is the kind of guitar playing I love.
‘Awakenings’ is one of the most progressive songs on “The Odyssey” and strangely enough the song I like the least. It´s not bad of course but it just doesn´t seem to fit in. The jazzy piano part in the middle of the song have always annoyed me too. As I said it´s not a bad song just not as good as the others.
The final song is the epic title track and it´s a really impressive work to say the least. The overture which starts the song were planned to be played by a classical orchestra but Michael Romeo ended up programming an orchestral synth to play that part of the song (and a later part in the middle) and it works remarkably well. The lyrics are taken for the ancient Greek work (The Odyssey is about the great warrior Odysseus’ troublesome 20 year journey to his home island Ithaca, where he finds that his wife is being courted by many wooers who wish to take his place. His revenge towards those wooers is classic and you´ll have to read the book or listen to the album to get the ending of this great classic Greek tale). The song has many different styles and moods and it´s a very elaborate and beautiful composition. It´s one of the most melodic songs of the album and it´s generally not as heavy as most of the other compositions (there are of course some very heavy parts, but not as many as in other songs on the album). Be sure to check this one out even if you don´t enjoy the more heavy songs on the album.
The musicianship is excellent and this time around I´m not as annoyed by Jason Rullo´s drumming as usual. Everything seems to work. Michael Romeo and Russel Allen are the most prominent musicians on the album but the three others are also accomplished musicians. The production is the best sound Symphony X had achieved up until then. Very heavy and crisp.
This is without a doubt the peak of Symphony X’s career and they will probably never top this one. I really think Symphony X is something special in the neo classical power metal genre as they also employ a much heavier sound than many of their contemporaries. Something I greatly miss in the sound of other bands in the genre. This is a masterpiece album and it deserves the 5 stars I will rate it. Be aware that this is not Dream Theater progressive metal. Symphony X rely much more on a traditional heavy metal style with progressive tendencies than progressive metal from the Dream Theater school.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Symphony X embark on an Odyssey of blistering riffs and ambient orchestration; a force to be reckoned with.
Immediately the riffing guitars absolutely blaze, the vocals burst out and the guitar lead breaks are as in your face as you would like. The time sigs are all over the place and there is an incessant drum beat from Jason Rullo. Welcome to Symphony X's "The Odyssey".
On 'Inferno' the guitar riff is brilliantly played by Michael Romeo especially the screaming lead solo. There is a trade off between this and the keyboards of Michael Pinella. Russell Allen has a clean dynamic vocal style on this masterful heavy metal opener.
'Wicked' features another killer riff that continues constantly and the rhythms are fractured by drums and great bass by Michael LePond. There are moments that are reminiscent of Riverside or Dream Theater. Michael Romeo trades off again with Pinella's flowing keyboards. The time sig changes momentarily before heading back to the main complicated riff. Great metal at the top of Symphony X's repertoire.
'Incantations Of The Apprentice' begins with a very ominous keyboard sound and the distorted jagged riff fades up till it breaks out with crunching riffs like Opeth. The low bass solo of Lepond enhances the mood. An angular guitar riffs with the thrashing drums. The power metal is fantastic and there is a strong melody that drives it along. There is a twin guitar solo with lots of bends and screams; wonderful metal.
'Accolade II' runs for 7 minutes and is the sequel from the first part on "The Divine Wings of Tragedy" album. The song combines violin and piano and the guitars enhance the atmosphere.
'King Of Terrors' has a crunching riff that tears your ears off and the keyboards are an ambient touch. I love the riff at 4 mins in with the piano breaks and killer keyboard playing. It is very doomy and the time sigs are extraordinary. The lead break is amazing also on one of the best Symphony X tracks.
'The Turning' is a riff heavy metal blaster with more speed playing from the 3 Michaels. It is frenetic metal with very intricate riffing and staccato keyboards. The vocals are quite aggressive and dark on this, much more gravelly than usual for Allen. The blazing riffs go ballistic on this and the layered guitar solo is divine. The keyboards are again a force to be reckoned with. It is the band at their best.
'Awakenings' is an 8 and a half minute quieter track which gives some respite from all the chaos and power chords to provide a melancholy keyboard driven ambience. The intro is an intriguing time sig with nice piano motifs and orchestration. This prepares us for the big one.
The magnum opus of the band is 'The Odyssey' that clocks in at a whopping 24 minutes, the typical prog track. It is a multi movement suite in 7 parts, as good as what Dream Theater achieved on the epic 'Octavarium'. The orchestra is the real deal, a full classical orchestra opens this with a majesty and intense portentous atmosphere like a movie soundtrack. It is of course all about the Greek tragedy that is legendary. This opening section reminds me of what Therion do but it is better.
The parts are separated into distinct pieces that are easy to discern between; Part I: Odysseus Theme / Overture; Part II: Journey To Ithaca; Part III: The Eye; Part IV: Circe (Daughter Of The Sun); Part V: Sirens; Part VI: Scylla And Charybdis and Part VII: The Fate Of The Suitors / Champion Of Ithaca. That is as much as I want to divulge as it would be criminal to divulge the secrets this epic holds, suffice it to say this is a bombastic lavish masterpiece of music. I was in awe of this epic from beginning to end. As good as prog gets; it's seriously got everything.
This is one of Symphony X's greatest albums as it buries “Twilight In Olympus” and only falls short of “Paradise Lost” by a bee's sting. I recommend this to symphonic prog and prog metal fans without reservation. 4 metallic stars.
A review by Sean Trane:
Writing a correct review of a post rock album is maybe the trickiest and hardest thing to do. This is mostly due to the lack of explanation coming from some bands regarding their music. But clearly one of the most mysterious groups is Iceland's Sigur Ros and their obscure but sometimes-exhilarating ambiances come as adventurous as their compatriot Bjork can manage to be. This gives you an idea on how abstract Sigur Ros can get? How can one review an album when the number of tracks are not listed or even named (at least not on the record but apparently they did give names to them on their website). How many musicians? That very album having no name but also being a neat object with the booklet being entirely in plastic and it is sung in a strange invented language (not Kobaian). Not that easy but listening to the album is also not easy, either. Not that the music is difficult, but it will require the average listener a good dose of patience (as it is usually the case with post rock groups) because of the very slow evolution of most of the tracks to climax that sometimes do not happen.
Musically Sigur Ros, although a full-fledged post rock group, are rather different sounding than the usual GYBE! or EITS. In that regard, as far as originality is concerned, they are rather a pleasant surprise even if their music is not experimental in the way Tortoise or some Tarentel albums can be. There is something really amazing with Nordic groups, even if Iceland is not Scandinavia, one can consider that the groups coming from that country all have that typical Scandinavian melancholic feel that one hears and feels with Anekdoten, Anglagard, or Landberk.
To say that the music is sad and depressing is maybe exaggerating a tad, but it is reflective and allows for much room for personal interpretations from the listener. Another thing that sets Sigur Ros apart from many groups is that they use vintage and analogue keyboard and instruments but they manage not to sound like retro-prog, like many other Nordic groups. The album seems to be divided into two parts with the first definitely more positive-minded than the latter half, which is more brooding and even a bit menacing, while remaining calm. The vocals can, at times, be trying on your tolerance level, as the high-pitched yells can get irksome if not in the right mood.
Overall Sigur Ros is one of the more enigmatic groups, but also one of those really worthy of your interest if you enjoy highly atmospheric music bordering on the lunatic spirit of most Icelandic artists; an "Uncanny masterpiece".
A review by Finnforest:
The sound of coldest winter and of thawing.
This album is so slow and brooding, so seemingly monotonous and boring on the surface, so pale and anonymous. It is not music I choose very often. Sometimes when I do choose it I just can't finish it. And yet I haven't been able to part with it either. There is a part of me that understands this and yet I don't really know that part of myself, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
I have mixed feelings about this album. I find it beautiful, constraining, calming all at the same time. Many feel it is quite depressing. But are we always supposed to enjoy our music in the usual way? Are we always supposed to grab our 5-star CDs and have the "up" experience? Is the only role of our music to entertain us or please us? Or are there other uses for this stuff in our lives? These are the kinds of questions I ask myself when I ponder selling a CD like this one. I think being a prog music lover means we need to challenge ourselves occasionally by playing music that confounds us, annoys us, makes us sad, or that we just plain detest.
The cold, barren, white landscapes of Sigur Ros are not where I am or want to be most days in my life. But I do have days like that. There are days where I sink lower than I want to, when life is stark winter, and when I need music that is ambient or drone one-level mood music to share those moments with. I have Eno albums that serve that purpose as well as Voice of Eye's "Vespers".
Sigur Ros pulls the curtains on the outside world and the gentle piano and odd vocals can provide a useful emotional conduit for those days when ice is what our heart feels like. With that said, I also don't feel that this album is completely depressing. Not to me, anyway. I think it has passages that are sad and desperate, but also many that are hopeful and introspective. I find some songs have these nice piano runs that really sound like winter turning to spring. One example would be from about 4:15 to 5:15 in track 3. Beautiful and yes, hopeful. There are quite a few moments like this sprinkled throughout this album and playing this repeatedly lately for this review has made me realize I like this more than I thought I did.
This is an odd review that sounds more like a therapy session and I don't know if anyone will find it helpful. But an odd review for an odd band I guess. I don't know what else to say about Sigur Ros and perhaps that's what the boys want, just for the listeners to absorb and close their eyes for an hour.
Recommended for people who like to turn off their minds occasionally and just float away, for lovers of ambience and drifting. Not for people looking to rock. Definitely not for over-the-road truck drivers trying to stay awake.
A review by Warthur:
Sigur Ros' enigmatically entitled ( ) finds the band moving in the same sort of achingly beautiful crystal wonderland of sound as the preceding album. Many of the tracks on the album had been live staples of the band for some time, which really shows in the way they are polished and judged expertly; of course they develop slowly and organically, that's a hallmark of post-rock, but there isn't one which either outstays its welcome by being too long or fails to realise its potential by being too short.
There's also excellent use of the human voice as an instrument, something which isn't often attempted by Sigur Ros' challengers to the post-rock crown like Mogwai or Godspeed You Black Emperor. On the whole, I actually think this is the band's true masterpiece.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
This is the best Flower Kings record I have heard so far, and perhaps the best double album I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. The first thing I noticed after the first spin was how different it was from past releases. The jazz flavour is prominent, and the band just seems so confident like they can do no wrong. Hence they have no problem going out on a limb and trying new things. The addition of new drummer Zoltan Czorsz, and the relatively new bass player Jonas Reingold forms a powerful rhythm section. Daniel Gildenlow's presence from Pain Of Salvation can't be under estimated. Having one of Sweden's greatest talents on board can only add to the confidence and enthusiasm the band must have had going into the recording studio. Roine himself just finished 2 successful records with Transatlantic. The sky was the limit for this band in 2002.
‘The Truth Will Set You Free’ has some extremely meaningful lyrics penned by Stolt. The sound builds. Check out the bass and drums when the sound becomes full as Mellotron comes in at 1 1/2 minutes. Hasse comes in vocally at 4 minutes, the bass is so prominent, and the chorus reminds me of Yes. More mellotron 16 minutes in, then Roine's warm vocals enter the song a minute later as it has calmed down. The calm breaks after a moving passage 19 minutes in, and the chorus is back after 20 minutes. Check out the drumming! An excellent keyboard solo from Bodin a minute later. Roine's vocals and a calm are back to end the song. What an epic!
‘Monkey Business’ has Roine on vocals until Hasse takes over. Bodin gives a nod to Stevie Wonder a couple of times, then some aggressive guitar before 4 minutes. Some powerful organ in the ending. ‘Black And White’ features some reserved vocals (Roine) and piano. Slide guitar comes in, then Hasse arrives vocally as the tempo picks up with some throbbing bass, and xylophone. I love the drumming after 6 minutes as it rumbles along.
‘Christianopel’ is an instrumental with lots of atmosphere for over 3 minutes and I really like this. We get a keyboard melody with cymbals arriving. So many intricate sounds throughout this excellent track. ‘Silent Inferno’ opens powerfully with a nice heavy rhythm; the guitar is ripping it up. This is an inferno alright, but silent? No way! Vocals before 3 minutes and with them a calm. I like the sound 5 minutes in and the guitar solo that follows is beautiful. It becomes fairly mellow with drums beating away and a jazzy, uptempo sound 11 minutes in. It gets heavy later, and there is a fantastic ending!
‘The Navigator’ has an almost classical flavour to it with Roine's words that are designed to help guide us through life. ‘Vox Humana’ features Hasse on vocals with piano, and acoustic guitar comes in. Again the lyrics are so positive and meaningful.
Disc 2 starts with ‘Genie In A Bottle’, that opens with some good drumming. In between the drum fills we get some beautiful sounding mellotron with piano. Roine is on vocals although Hasse comes in around 2 minutes. It becomes almost silent 4 minutes in and then we hear Roine's soft vocals. Some nice guitar 6 1/2 minutes in with organ almost a minute later.
‘Fast Lane’ has this methodical drum beat throughout. The vocals, guitar and organ shine. Daniel is on vocals here. I like this one and there are some crazy guitars to end it. ‘Grand Old World’ opens with xylophone before some sax melodies and vocals (Roine) arrive. Light drums, and some beautiful sax melodies enter on the wonderful song!
‘Soul Vortex’ is a jazzy instrumental with some great percussion, and very catchy intricate sounds that come and go. I love it. ‘Rollin' The Dice’ is a Bodin song (as was ‘Fast Lane’). Lyrically it's a conversation between the devil and 2 other people, his servant and a young man. Cool track actually, and the vocals are quite theatrical at times. The drumming is killer!
‘The Devil's Danceschool’ is an instrumental composed by Reingold and Csorsz. You can see how these two have influenced The Flower Kings’ sound now can't you? This is mind blowing stuff with great bass, drumming, and brass; Jazz at it's best.
‘Man Overboard’ opens with flute, piano and other sounds before vocals and solid drumming come in after a minute. Check out the Latimer-like guitar that comes and goes. Great track. ‘Solitary Shell’ features piano, strings and reserved vocals on a nice ballad.
‘Devil's Playground’ is the almost 25 minute closer. This one is obviously a ride that twists and turns throughout. I'll be merciful and not take you on this ride but I will say the mellotron before 10 minutes is a highlight, and the guitar during the last few minutes is so emotional; heartbreaking really. An amazing, jaw-dropping track.
The fact that this album sits between two of their lowest rated albums makes this rose smell and look even more beautiful, although it doesn't need any help in that regard.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Another double concept album and another lead singer gone!
Ironically the concept double format has been the bane of at least two legendary solo artists. First Peter Gabriel left for greener pastures and a prolific successful career after Genesis' "Lamb Lies Down On Broadway", and now Neal Morse leaves Spock's Beard for a solo career after "Snow". Both albums are based on a man who leaves behind an old life to embrace a new one going to NYC to become a rock god and falling prey to all the temptations therein. As with the aforementioned Genesis album, "Snow" may be the best Spock's Beard album though I have not heard every one. A double CD full of inspirational songs hung on a conceptual framework is irresistible. The concept is heavy handed and revolves around the story of a young albino boy named Snow, who moves to NYC and is, due to an unprecedented gift, transformed into some kind of legendary rock god, but of course all does not go well on this adventure and there are many hurdles to overcome. It is not a new idea, as mentioned, Genesis have done it on their "Lamb" magnum opus, but Spock's Beard have really created something equally special with this magnificent album.
The way the songs merge into each other like one long track is a compelling device and the whole album works due to the way the songs blend seamlessly. Neal Morse's wonderful clean emotional vocals are as good as it gets. The lyrics are uplifting and innovative with some darker moments telling the cautionary tale. The lead work is excellent, the keyboards are shimmering and strong, and the drums are sporadic and creative. The melodies are infectious and akin to the type of material Morse contributed to both his solo career and Transatlantic. Having heard those albums before this it is impossible to differentiate between the styles, as they are so similar. Morse's vocals are always excellent.
There are some amazing tracks on this opus. The memorable melodies of ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ come to mind, and ‘Long Time Suffering’ with an amazing shimmering organ and lead break and acapella vocal harmonies.
The heavier and darker ‘Welcome to NYC’ features Morse aggressive on vocals and the riffs intensified with organ staccato slamming. It sounds like "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" with references to the tracks on the Genesis classic. It ends with a minimalist piano, gently played with emotion to bring the atmosphere down. It segues to the pretty melodies of ‘Love Beyond Words’; Morse is always terrific on these ballads.
‘The 39th Street Blues’ is a real rocker with grungy riffs and loud vocals. The moment the sax blasts out I knew that I loved this track. This is a jazzy thing with some very powerful melodies. ‘Devil's Got My Throat’ is driven by a staccato organ and guitar riff. It really grabs you by the throat (pun intended) and refuses to let go. The lyrics are very aggressive and well executed. The keyboard solo and guitars soar over each other, you have to love that Hammond sound and howling wind. One of the heavier tracks, very progressive, and one of the best compositions of the band. The a capella ending seals the deal and then it has a passage of sweet flute sounds.
A soft ballad follows with ‘Open Wide the Flood Gates’, sounding familiar to the solo career of Morse. It builds to a majestic feel with solid melodies but goes on a bit too long. I like the jazzy instrumental though the return to the chorus is a bit repetitive. ‘Open The Gates 2’ continues the same theme, with anthemic and loud choruses. The flute sounds and brass in the instrumental is innovative.
‘Solitary Soul’ is one of the longer tracks over 7 minutes, beginning with a beautiful keyboard solo. Morse is quiet and emotive on vocals. The melancholy ambience is punctuated by harmonies and a majestic chorus. There are some high falsetto vocals later heard, and the piano is ever present. A real dreamy sleeper but packs an emotional blast, especially that finishing lead break over a Hammond sound. It segues into ‘Wind at My Back’, acoustic, moderate tempo, heavily reliant on Morse's performance.
CD 2 has some highlights also starting with the sledge hammer riffs and soaring keyboards of ‘Second Overture’ and ‘4th of July’. There is a familiar melody heard on CD1, which ties it together well. The sax is dynamic and a welcome sound after all the balladeering and organ heavy work of CD1. The slide guitar work on ‘4th of July’ is excellent and it has a great chorus, "another 4th of July, another shot hits the sky, another eagle exalts the man".
‘I'm The Guy’ is a great song, and has a wonderful bassline and scratchy guitar. It has a darker feel and Morse gets into a more sinister style; "I'm the mind you're living in, I'm the guy who thinks of the press and interviews, likes to walk a mile in God's favourite running shoes."
‘Carie’ grabs my attention after ‘Reflection’ ends. This ballad is full of tranquil beauty and some sweet lyrics. It is the story of a girl who the protagonist is in love with, but has to ultimately leave her behind to pursue his career. He pursues her on ‘Looking for Answers’, sung well by Nick, working out how he is going to contact Carie again. The melody is very strong and grows on you. The twin lead guitar break on this is well executed.
So the story continues with ‘Freak Boy’, a strange track with a powerful strong heavy riff, where the tale turns darker. The protagonist has a freakish gift, and Carie is turning him away at 2 in the morning, as she can't love such a man, calling him "a magnet for the pathetic". It's a fun song with some great distortion on the guitars, and squealing guitars. It blends seamlessly into ‘All Is Vanity’; "I'm all alone without a friend" says the young man, who is sinking deeper into a depressed state. The keyboard solo and very cool guitar riff is essential listening. There is a very dynamic instrumental break that takes off in many directions, switching time sigs, and is one of the most proggy tracks on the album. The Hammond sounds are grinding and violently juxtaposed with blindingly brilliant synths.
Immediately we launch into the heavy choppy ‘I'm Dying’. Morse is remorseful (pun intended) with depressive vocals, "when they come in the night I won't be here no more, help me I'm dying, my soul is flying, hear the shots in the night and I don't care what for, I had mustard before, I can't eat it no more ". It breaks into a fine instrumental with choral vocals and a majestic keyboard passage. It tends to build to a crescendo till it quietens at the end with a rather odd violin sound, haunting and ghostly.
Eventually ‘Freak Boy 2’ begins with a cool riff and strong percussion, over deep bass. The downbeat atmosphere is augmented by the lyrics, "I'm a freak boy, everlasting, on the street now barely breathing, they don't call me Snow it's too charming, somehow I still have some feeling". I really like the feel of this track, driving with a heavy riff and a melodic lead break.
‘Devil's Got My Throat revisited’ has more choppy Hammond and howling wind, and it is nice to be reminded of the melody once again but this is more effects laden, even with a Dalek voice at one stage. ‘Snow's Night Out’ has a frantic riff and some jazzy sax nuances. The proggish time sig is rather innovative and there are even effects of a night club crowd. The instrumental breaks the singing for a while which is worthwhile as Morse has been dominant. This remains one of the best examples of the progressive side of Spock's Beard.
The fake crowd represents this is the live stage with the protagonist now a rock god playing to a strong audience in a stadium. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen Mr Ryo Okumoto on the Keyboards’, sounds live and is really a showcase for Ryo and why not, he is one of the best keyboardists on the planet. The shimmering Hammond is incredible and reminds me of Emerson in places.
This blends into ‘I Will Go’ with the protagonist sadly singing a melancholy ballad, emotional and endearing. "Help me, I'm dying" he croons again. The song is very quiet at first, bleak piano stabs, and mournful atmosphere. Morse is beautiful here and this sounds more like his solo career, even mentioning God and the idea of searching for something else leading him to God eventually as we know.
The accomplished work of keyboardist Ryo Okumoto and guitarist Allan Morse are prominent on the prog mini epic ‘Made Alive/ Wind at my Back’. This is a definitive highlight full of melody and innovation. The main majestic point is found in the way it builds and the melodic harmonies. Morse absolutely pours his heart and soul into this. So it ends on a high note and a positive theme.
Overall in effect I think the album improves dramatically on the second CD building up all the time with some very strong compositions and melodies. The dilemma I have is the thing is so long and the concept is overblown sometimes. It is a bit poppy for my prog sensitive ears, though the songs grow on you like osmosis over time. It is a compelling album with many great songs and a few that could have been left off but it is hard to complain about such an ambitious passionate project as "Snow". I will settle with 4 stars as this is definitely an excellent addition to any prog addict's collection.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
Science Fiction themes and incredible metal make a formidable combination!
Star One's "Space Metal" is Ayreon's pet project that never disappoints with incredible compositions based on sci-fi themes from novels, TV and movies. There are some genuinely masterful metal riffs, some played at blinding speeds, others breathing melancholy ambience. I love the way the songs are based on well-known sci-fi themes, and one listen to the lyrics makes it obvious to the average sci-fi freak, such as myself. It is a pleasant surprise when one discovers what the songs are about, which are usually excellent sci-fi films. Part of the fun is finding within the lyrics the references to specific sci-fi icons. The players are icons of prog metal including on vocals Russell Allen from Symphony X, Damian Wilson, Floor Jansen from After Forever, Irene Jansen of Karma, and Robert Soeterboek, as well as guest Dave Brock of Hawkwind. Arjen Anthony Lucassen is the main lead guitarist, joined by After Forever's keyboardist Joost van den Broek, Peter Vink on bass, and Ed Warby on drums from Gorefest.
'Lift-Off' is a nice intro with spacey elements leading to 'Set Your Controls', a fast chugging riffer with awesome Ayreon style vocals. Manic keyboard wizardry, and cranking metal riffs drive this. The lead break is amazing, and this is one of the best album openers for Ayreon. Thematically it could be based on just about any saga where a spacecraft lifts off for an alien planet. Actually it is based on "Doctor Who" though you will have to listen carefully to pick up the references as I missed it and had to look it up.
'High Moon' has Deep Purple style grinding organ and the crawling metal riffs are awesome. The sound is huge with deep crunching riffs and slow vocals. It is all based on the movie "Outland" and certainly works as a tribute to the Sean Connery movie of the 70s. It follows the plot closely, the drugs, the deaths and the final shoot out in space. I love it.
'Songs Of The Ocean' has the trademark female and male voices working together that permeates the Ayreon albums. This one is based on "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" where the whales are transmitting important messages that cannot be interpreted or answered when whales are extinct in the future. So the Enterprise has to go back in time to the 80s when whales existed. It is in interesting idea and Star One capitalises on this; "we survived the human race, but don't know the words to the songs of the ocean." It is a memorable melody and has some nice submarine effects. It segues seamlessly into 'Master Of Darkness'.
This latter song is quite heavy with emotional deep vocals trading off with higher register vocals very effectively. Who is the master of darkness? Definitely based on the evil villain of just about any sci-fi story, however this one is based on "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back", though is not as blatant lyrically which is perhaps a good thing as it may have sounded corny if it had mentioned Luke or Darth Vader.
'The Eye Of Ra' is a longer song at 7:34, based on a traveller from another galaxy, finding a comet, gaining powers and finding a gateway to the stars; "Stargate" anyone? I am not a fan of the series but it definitely rings of the Egyptian themes in that saga. The song is great in any case, atmospheric and powerful, with great majestic vocals that are mixed to the front at the end but are a bit too bombastic really.
'Sandrider' must be based on "Dune" I speculated before I heard it, and I was right, Frank Herbert's classic novel is given the Star One treatment with admirable guitar ferocity and some fantastic keyboards. The low vocals are effective; "I had seen places man has never seen, am I the one to fulfil the prophecy on the desert planet in our galaxy." The Arabian style melodies enhance the atmosphere, as well as that brilliant lead guitar.
'Perfect Survivor' had me stumped for a while as to what is was based on until I heard the lyrics; "my secret mission brings me back to reality, I had to bring it back alive," thus it is from the point of view of robot Ash in "Alien". Other lyrics that indicate this include, "you should know that you all are expendable, I have been programmed to put you out of action." The riffs in this track are killer and very dark and it is a definite highlight of the album. The odd time sigs are augmented by powerful lead breaks and the harmonies are great too.
'Intergalactic Space Crusaders' begins with shimmering organ and a steady chugging metal riff. The lyrics are about a prison in space, and a man who has had his memory blanked, innocent dying, and 7 people fighting against the Federation's system, okay it is definitely "Blakes 7". The lyrics "dominator, Liberator" make it even more blatant. Now that I have ascertained what it is about I can enjoy the lyrics even more. I love how Star One are using sci-fi themes from my favourite movies and TV shows. This has a strong melodic chorus and delightful keyboard solos. A fantastic song, and incidentally the title of the 'Star One' name is lifted directly from an episode title in the "Blakes 7" series.
'Starchild' is a 9 minute progressive track based on "2001: A Space Odyssey" of course. I knew that before it even started and then hearing the atmospheric opening with spacey vocal chorus and weird lyrics; "touch me now and feel my force", indicate the Monolith is speaking. Then we hear a different style of vocal singing, "something strange I feel confused I don't know why, I've been designed to tell the truth, I cannot lie," and it is obvious that HAL is speaking. It is interesting to hear from the computers POV here. It is one of my all-time favourite movies, so to hear it in song form is a compelling experience. Star One really captures the awe and mystery of Kubrick's classic, and the lead break soars beautifully. The lyrics even touch on the trip through the stargate, the all-seeing eye and the transformation of Bowman to the Starchild.
Disc 2 is a great bonus on the Limited Edition running for only 41 minutes but well worth it for a couple of masterpieces. One of these is 'Hawkwind Medley' an awesome Hawkwind feast of memorable melodies clocking 9:40. It is made all the better as legendary Dave Brock is on vocals and this is a must for all Hawkwind fanatics. A simply brilliant tribute to the band and very heavy. We have a terrific medley of such classics as 'Master of the Universe', 'Silver Machine', 'Brainstorm', 'Assault and Battery', 'The War I Survived', 'Spirit of the Age' among others. They blend together well and are an absolute delight to the ears.
'Spaced Out' is the next track of note, with a heavy riff and fast pace. The lyrics indicate that this is based on John Carpenter's iconic debut movie "Dark Star"; "emergency override, information overload, we are all about to explode." The keyboards on this are incredible and this rocks harder than a lot of stuff on CD 1.
'Inseparable Enemies' has a cool squealing riff driving it. The song is about the end of a war and coming to the realisation "that we are not alone". The "fortress in space" with men dying in a blood red sky could be based on many sci-fi films or TV shows I have seen, such as "Babylon 5" or "Fortress" for that matter. "The birth of a brand new race, the turning of a new page" gave it away, as this is actually based on "Enemy Mine", though I had no idea till I looked that up. The music is a steady tempo and some accomplished vocals trading off enhance it.
'Space Oddity' is a darker amazing cover of Bowie's well known classic. The vocals have a Bowie-esque flavour but this is way different musically, with low droning synths and keyboard pads. The bridge is atmospheric with echo vocals, and the crescendo is a blast of really heavy distorted crunching riffs, then a clean guitar takes over beautifully. The result is a stunning cover version enhancing the rather sparse original on every level.
There is also a cover version of Donovan's 'Intergalactic Laxative', which works as a curio with some hilarious lyrics about the interminable problems of pooping in space. Moving on. 'Starchild' Mixed In Dolby Pro-Logic) is the same as the Disc 1 version apart from remastered mixing making it crisp and sharp. 'Spaced Out' (Alternative Version) is rather the same musically but the vocals are slightly different. Overall the bonus disc is worth getting for at least the cover versions.
Overall, the album is not the masterpiece of the follow up "Victims of the Modern Age" but this is still quality prog metal and has some fantastic songs and awesome sci-fi themes to revel in.
A review by Bonnek:
I have to join the ranks of praise for this space-zeuhl-drone-rock masterpiece. Nebelnest is the product of a collision between King Crimson and Magma that took place in the deepest outskirts of space back in 1974. At least that's what this sounds like, so forceful are their rhythms and heavily pulsating bass, so chilling are their chromatic guitar riffing and eerie keyboard sounds.
Nebelnest continues in the vein of the darker sound of Anekdoten's 90's albums. Especially the instrumentals on the excellent “Live In Japan” come to mind. Also the avant-garde of Univers Zero is a welcome influence in their nebula, but Nebelnest sure rocks a whole lot harder. Closest of all is of course the blasting avant-rock of Guapo.
Nebelnest do not write your average pleasant rock song. If you look for melodic splendour and tunes you can hum along with, you won't find them here. Their long instrumental suites are driven by the rhythmic energy and muscular bass guitar. Layers of dissonant keyboards, mellotron and guitar flippertronics complete the anxiety attack. The production is perfect for their music, very organic, rocking and harsh. Despite the battery of keyboards the sound remains solid and raw, the atmosphere is dark and alien.
“Nova-Express” is a perfect modern prog trip, it's intense, bleak and nihilistic, but at the same time it's energizing, inspiring and full of vibrating creativity. Not for everyone obviously, but highly recommended if the above description doesn't frighten you away.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
This is outstanding instrumental music from France. I would describe their music as dark, complex avant-garde music with the drums and bass being the most upfront in their sound. Bob Drake from Thinking Plague recorded, mixed and mastered this album. He and band mate Mike Johnson get a thankyou in the liner notes, as well as Present's Roger Trigaux. A good comparison to Nebelnest's sound would be Guapo's "Five Suns" album. A real bonus for me on this album is the abundance of mellotron.
In ‘Blackmail’ the drums are outfront and leading the way while the bass and guitar are simply outstanding. Check out the mellotron though! Some great atmosphere to this amazing 9 1/2 minute opener too. ‘Stimpy Bar’ is incredible as the mellotron absolutely soaks this song. Interesting sound early, then the drums come pounding in with the bass. I like the way the guitar plays over top and the drumming is ridiculously good. It settles before 3 minutes and when the mellotron floods back in after 3 minutes it reminds me of the great Anekdoten. It brightens somewhat after 4 minutes then the mellotron storm returns. Incredible!
‘Redrum’ might be the best track on here. It has a spooky intro with lots of dark atmosphere. Mellotron waves blow in before the drums start to pound away, then bass and guitar join in the fray. Some fat bass here, more mellotron 4 minutes in as it calms down some, then killer drumming and another calm later. Check out the mellotron 7 1/2 minutes in as it pulses. The bass is huge as the guitar plays over top. Anekdoten comes to mind here as well.
‘Cinema 1920’ features relentless drums and raw sounding guitar, and some growly bass, and keyboards. The title track is the 15 1/2 minute closer, opening with an ominous 2 minute intro. That melody stops then different sounds come and go including some weird noises, and drums and a melody return after 4 minutes. Mellotron before 5 1/2 minutes with some nice bass and check out the drumming that follows! The guitar makes some noise 6 1/2 minutes in then turns angular. Mellotron 8 minutes in, as the song continues to go back and forth. It's chaotic 12 minutes in; this is such a ride. Actually the whole album is.
This is such a find for me, it's dark and heavy with mellotron. What more could you ask for?
A review by Conor Fynes:
Even if the only reason to buy this album was the fourteen minute epic 'And Then There Was Silence,' this album would still be well worth buying and score at least four stars, based on the sheer brilliance of that track alone. 'And Then There Was Silence' is quite simply one of the greatest pieces of music composed in modern times; no exaggeration. Over the course of a quarter-hour, a sort of mini-opera unfolds, with orchestral arrangements, melodic counterpoints, highly overdubbed 'choir' vocals and all. It is a true masterpiece not only of metal, not only of prog but in the realm of modern day music. To any that thought of Blind Guardian as sword toting Dungeons and Dragons players, this song alone should stand as a credit to their genius as an amazing band.
...And what about the rest of the album?
I may have said that even if the rest of the album was bad, this would still be a decent release. However, the real beauty in this album is that every song is fantastic! There are tightly composed tracks throughout, and no filler moments to speak of. Each moment and song brings a new, epic thrill and beautiful vocal harmony.
Each song on this album tells a story of some sort, and compared to their earlier high fantasy influenced works, this is much more lyrically mature and tasteful. Not to say that the concept of 'Nightfall In Middle-Earth' was bad or anything, but this is a sharp improvement.
One of my favourite albums of all time, and Blind Guardian's magnum opus. A testament to musical complexity, class and musical virtuosity without pomposity. A truly epic masterpiece.
A review by UMUR:
This is my favourite Blind Guardian album. Not as aggressive as “Imaginations From the Other Side” (Which of course I find sad as I love aggressive music) and much more bombastic than “Nightfall in Middle-Earth”. But overall it´s the most symphonic and progressive album Blind Guardian has made so far.
The style is German Heavy Metal (at this point there is not much power metal left in my opinion) with folky and symphonic tendencies. It took me a couple of years and many listens to understand the greatness of this album. When I first listened to “A Night at the Opera” I was completely overwhelmed by the many layers in the music. There are just so many things going on under the lead melody that you really have to concentrate to appreciate this fully. Let me warn you that if you like your music mellow and subtle, stay away from this one, as “A Night at the Opera” might be the most symphonic and bombastic album I have ever heard.
Pick any song on this album and you will be thrown back in your seat trying to figure out what hit you. It´s just a massive wall of sound but what a beautiful sound. This is a really original album as no other artist has ever sounded like this. I can give no less than 5 stars for this masterpiece.
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - July 22 2012 at 06:33
Errors & Omissions Team
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: July 22 2012 at 05:53|
Six degree of Inner Turbulence does not have a 42 minute track. You may call it a 42 minute song if you wish ( I don't) but it is defintely several tracks.
Joined: July 02 2008
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: July 22 2012 at 06:39|
You are right! I missed that blooper. I fixed up UMUR's review too who called it a track. I checked my CD and it is definitely 8 separate tracks to form the one song. Interesting. Thanks for reading the review.
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: July 26 2012 at 21:33|
A review by Finnforest:
Like the sound you hear before the plane crashes. Like floating through a dark thunderstorm cloud, or surfing waves of grey ash. Pure hell. Pure beauty. I've read reviews calling this noisy, aimless drudgery. I've read reviews calling it absolutely sonic beauty. Yes. And Yes.
"Choirs of the Eye" is an album to experience after years of more conventional listening when you really crave something unique and different. The next step of Toby Driver's evolution (after Maudlin of the Well) Kayo is so many things and must be allowed many plays over a period of months to be absorbed properly. It will require patience and perseverance for some. It is at times harsh, abrasive, obnoxious, and disturbing. Other times it is distant, calm, and meditative. I need to be in a certain mood to enjoy listening to it but when I am, it is exhilarating.
‘Marathon’ begins with something that sounds more like avant space rock than metal with our grey ambient landscape being laid out before us. Occasionally we are hit with the sound sledge hammer, the wall of distorted guitars and other instruments which Driver uses with complete effectiveness. This song is almost preparation work for the journey that will soon follow. The majority of the track is calming as he tries to get you to open your mind and really listen, though the threat of the aural violence is never far away. Electronics and spoken words augment the hypnotic cloud and by the end you are ready for the roller coaster to follow.
‘A Pitcher of Summer’ is the shortest track and begins just like an old Cat Power song with a fragile lilting vocal against clean guitar in search of a melody. The bus eventually hits us as we're crushed by the big guitars and brass and the vocal builds to a desperate end scream.
‘The Manifold Curiosity’ is layered electric guitars that see-saw back and forth in conversation with a clarinet in the lovely first section. Then an acoustic begins strumming with mumbled vocals and spacey electronics in the background. It builds until the perfect moment when a hint of feedback signals the wave crashing down again into a wall of distortion. Eventually you can hear the Sax trying to swim through the rough waters. And all of this in just the first half!
The second half begins with moody guitar that recalls Durutti Column. Strange spoken word voices come in along with gorgeous violin floating to the fore. Finally all succumb again to a most furious climax.
‘Wayfarer’ presents gentle acoustic guitar and strings that begin to pull you under the water until Driver's naked falsetto begins around 2 minutes in. Around 4 minutes there is a crescendo and things get very chaotic and loud briefly. It ends as it began with the simple acoustic.
‘The Antique’ has discordant alien guitar chords strummed casually for a few minutes until bass and drums step in. Slowly the chords begin to find form as they crawl out of the shadows and gain power. Growls and screams are the soundtrack of a nightmare. Finally a guitar solo tries and fails to cut through. Then, near the 10 minute mark the clouds part and the sun (piano) breaks through. A stoic trumpet appears. Fragile, unpleasant vocalizations lead to a rather unremarkable ending. This track and TMC are the two masterpiece songs and together they encompass more than half the album.
Love or hate Driver's vision, "Choirs" is another triumph for the adventurous listener. Just don't judge this album until you've spun it at least a dozen times in different situations. It requires thought and consideration. It is not entertainment fluff to bob your head to’ it is music that wants to challenge you and change your perceptions.
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
An exploration of psych prog, Avant metal and deconstructed space rock; a ferocious species that cannot be easily captured.
I first encountered this strange beast on a hunting expedition for new prog and once I caught and shot the creature I was at the mercy of this entirely new species. A mixture of aggressive thrashing guitars and ambient atmospherics, you are never quite sure where you are placed with this music. This excursion into psychedelic post metal is ear opening and at times alarmingly beautiful with textures of dark and light.
'Marathon' is a wonderful blend of beauty meets the beast; beauty in the flute playing and beast as in the growling contorted vocals and distorted guitar crashes. At 3:40 there is a freakout of piano grunge guitars, sporadic drumming and woodwind; it is totally and gloriously chaotic. It settles into a weird time sig and guitars ringing out as a chiming sound takes over creating ambient shades. The guitar nuances are compelling on the instrumental passage though it threatens to roar at any moment. The beast is quietened with subtle drumming and soft keyboard bells and guitar embellishments. The atmosphere is peaceful but still has a dark quality for some time. There are some contorted sounds that are disturbing, overlayed in the musicscape. Then a very dull voice speaks some poetic reflections about a woman; "her eyelashes weaken ... and this feels like frogs and spiders in the sweet outside... unfathomable and good, the beauty of everything is cruel... an airplane.. a spoon, the stars and the moon." This is quite a disconcerting track but a great intro to the band's experimental style.
'A Pitcher of Summer' begins quiet and patient with a guitar gently swaying in the breeze. There is no time sig as the vocals come in falsetto style. There are long gaps and odd time changes making it difficult to grasp the melody. Yet there is no ad libbing; this is carefully constructed or rather deconstructed in timed complexity. The music builds to a heavy distortion and some wailing singing. It builds and then falls to silence and cascading sounds of guitar before another cataclysm of distortion drowns out the ambience. The scream of pain at the end is suddenly mercifully cut off.
'The Manifold Curiosity' is the epic of the album and my first Kayo Dot song, after much recommendation from KD listeners. The build up with sonic distortion is brutal. There are some rasping vocals and very grungy guitars, a dirty sound that reverbs like Sunn O))) guitars tuned down to A. The freezing atmospheres are backed by chilling keyboard sounds. At times the lights in the room seem to flicker with the intensity of the music. There are massive passages of instrumental prowess, and these are balanced by short outbursts of distorted vocals phased through a vocoder or effects mixer. The clarinet battles it out with the guitar flourishes, a lonely sax fights its way through the thick fog of electronics and keyboards; this will take you to another realm of music.
'Wayfarer' begins with sad melancholy guitar and violin, the very quiet vocals accompany the sounds with heartfelt emotion. The violins are rather eerie, reminding me of VDGG, Comus or Maudlin of the Well, the band that morphed into Kayo Dot. Violin can be rather screechy if misused but the shimmering notes played here are building unrelenting tension. This tension overflows at 4:14 when the drums come in on a steady beat and a space guitar riff, it builds with ascending violin shrieks and then the time sig is completely changed without warning to a slow droning distorted guitar and very off kilter vocals. The layered music is slowed to an extreme crawl at 5:50 and then silence before a pleasant sounding guitar picks a motif over sustained keyboard pads. The beast becomes dreamy though the threat of violent chaos is prevalent. It feels too comfortable for a time, and you may wonder when the metal will return. The music keeps you on edge and you tend to hang onto every note, waiting for new directions of sound. The violin is louder until the metal guitars crunch in on the climax and a huge lead riff well executed until it just stops and we are back to silence. The haunting vocals are there in the shadows with lurking violins sliced quickly till they cease and the minimalism of guitar and vocals return. Of note is the method in the way Kayo Dot are able to fill songs with silence that are so well juxtaposed, the pauses become an instrument in themselves.
'The Antique' is a heavy exploration of dark aggression and white sonic noise. It begins very slowly with minimalist guitar and many rests and pauses building a sense of dread. I turned the sound down in case it was going to erupt into violence. The music has me on edge after all the chaos of RIO/Avant Prog. It continues painfully quiet for some time but there is an unnerving uneasy atmosphere and then some distortion slowly creeps along like a stalking monster ready to pounce. Some wretched vocals scream along inaudible lyrics to slow metal chords that have no framework and play sporadically. The darkness of the atmosphere is akin to horror, augmented by piano runs and screaming guitar solos with off kilter drum signatures. There is no pattern to the music as it builds to a thrash style, but without a repetitive riff. The whole thing builds climactically and drops to tranquillity as if the monster is asleep and the piano is gently caressing it's hide. The soft vocals are sung too close to the microphone warping them into inaudible moans and falsetto sounds like a flugel horn.
The album ends on a sombre note, quiet and displaced, hypnotically impotent vocals and raw guitars drift off and close the eyes of the album not with a bang but a whimper. Perhaps it was the only direction to take after so much innovation. The sun goes down ready for a new day; a return to the beginning when the beast will wake from its slumber. Adventurous, bold, inventive and complex; it is impossible to pin this music down to one genre though Avant space rock may be close. I was not as overwhelmed as Maudlin of the Well, it is too bleak or dark at times for my tastes, but Kayo Dot are still a force to be reckoned with and demand attention as one of the most ferociously original bands in years.
A review by Conor Fynes:
For one reason or another, multi-instrumentalist and composer Toby Driver's flagship band Maudlin of the Well fell apart, and from its ashes came its new incarnation, Kayo Dot. Although many of Maudlin of the Well's familiar quirks translated onto this new name, there was a decided change in the sound; a move towards a more experimental and avant-garde sound. To me, Maudlin of the Well's sound was very curious and dreamy, like a nostalgic childhood summer. Of course, childhood does not last forever, and enter Kayo Dot, leading Toby Driver's music out of the proverbial childhood nostalgia and into a much darker and challenging adolescence, one that is much more ambiguous and even frightening. Kayo Dot's first album “Choirs Of The Eye” therefore is something of a transition album for Toby Driver and company, featuring elements of both the carefree innocence of his earlier band, and the Avant darkness of his future material with Kayo Dot. The result is a multi-faceted album that may very well be Driver's greatest achievement, but one of my favourite progressive albums ever.
Unlike Maudlin of the Well - which featured comparatively accessible songwriting and a clear sense of direction - Kayo Dot's “Choirs Of The Eye” changes the approach, leading to many moments that could feel aimless to someone who is not paying close attention to the ever-changing textures and build up. While some have described this album as post-metal, the majority of “Choirs Of The Eye” relies on quietness rather than heaviness to get the mood across. This is an album which hits that sweet spot between variety and cohesion. There is a dreamy, otherwordly vibe to all of the music here, but the tone and dynamic is always changing. Each track encapsulates a variety of emotions. For example, the closing number 'The Antique' goes from crushingly heavy, sludgy metal to jazzy piano and muffled vocals that could have easily been plucked out of a Radiohead album. There are plenty of surprises here, and until the very end, like some sort of quiet, intellectual action movie, the listener is kept on their toes.
These compositions do not have the same cohesive feeling to them that Maudlin of the Well's music had, so really besides the potential single 'A Pitcher Of Summer', these will not be tracks that get stuck in your head. Instead, you will probably find yourself getting hooked onto certain parts of each song, and it will only be after many intent listens where a listener is able to predict each of the twists and turns in this masterpiece. “Choirs Of The Eye” can get very heavy, but these spurts of metal are usually only momentary; much of the album instead leans towards mellow tones and textures; perhaps I may use the term 'avant-post rock'? The guitars are filled with echoes and reverb to rattle around in the listener's head, but the joys of the performance here are really about the non-typical instrumentation.
Above all, violinist Mia Matsumiya's performance here is jaw-dropping, taking any violin arrangement and making the strings sing with beauty. Another fairly strange aspect of Kayo Dot's sound is Toby Driver's voice, specifically his wide range of styles that he employs. Throughout the album, a listener will hear him go from mellow, mid-register singing, spoken word poetry, and soft falsetto, to choatic howls and screams. Often, all of this will be heard within the course of one song. In his work with Maudlin of the Well, I was unsure whether or not I considered him to be a good or bad singer, but Kayo Dot has set me straight on the matter; although his voice does not have a great technical skill to it, he is able to express himself with great diversity, and pulls off most of what he tries quite impressively.
“Choirs Of The Eye” is one of those albums that listeners will take a lot of time to wrap their heads around, although some of those coming off of a Maudlin of the Well binge may be initially put off by the change in pace and style. After giving this many nights of engaged listening and awe, I could safely say that “Choirs Of The Eye” is the most impressive, exciting thing that Toby Driver and co. have done to date; a sweeping epic that soothes, excites, and challenges. A masterpiece.
A review by Sean Trane:
Although I had heard fairly soon of this band's debut (like almost everyone I heard mainstream rock medium speaking about prog in a different tone for the first time in decades), I had to wait for the second album's release to get a shot at listening to this album. So after being repulsed by their second album, I decided to give their first one a shot, hoping it would hold more clues to dig the band. The least we can say is that TMV does bring something a bit different to the usual prog mainstream, but it is not easy to pinpoint exactly what they bring. One can't say that their sound is brand new: they borrow quite a bit from many previous groups, but surely manage their own sound and even a bit of originality, something rather difficult in an era where everything's been done 1000 times before (or almost), but this is done at the expense of a sort on continuity, their music being extremely eclectic.
What TMV does in this first album is mix influences from Yes, King Crimson, Rush with more modern groups like Porcupine Tree's impenetrability, Spock's Beard's extreme wide spectrum and excellent execution of the music and a touch of Radiohead's paranoiac emotive mental states fuelled by Yorke's frustration ulcers while keeping a 90's funk- punk energy that is obviously induced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Yes, this makes TMV's music rather abstract and the fact that this is yet another concept album on mental derivations, deviations and the accompanying stages of anguish, anxiety, depression, alienation and finally complete recess from reality leading to suicide (well coma before a second more successful attempt) is not fundamentally convincing. Yet there are many good if not excellent traits to this album and this debut is possibly one of those rare albums that should be held as truly inventive and influential in its decade. Another rather discouraging hint is the Rick Rubin (I am NOT a fan) production slapped on the back of the album, but all these "ifs, buts, how and since" do not manage to hide the intrinsic qualities of this debut.
While there are some tracks that are relatively hard to digest because of their voluntarily noisy and energetic quagmire: ‘Inertiatic ESP’ and ‘Apparatus’ (hate the vocal effect) being the two loudest tracks on the album and for no apparent good reasons except to show that the band can reach such levels of intensity, but fortunately those tracks are among the shortest (the separate intros excepted) on the album. But there are some much more convincing tracks like the concept's centrepiece ‘Cicatriz’ - where the "hero" comes out of the coma - (and its psyched-out lengthy guitar passage), ‘Roulette Dares’ (and its wild middle instrumental sections), ‘Drunkship Of Lanterns’ (difficult start, but smooths out nicely), ‘Eriatarka’, the calmer ‘Televators’ and the sometimes brilliant finale ‘Cerpin Taxt’.
Among the features of the group is the bass/drum combo, which can sound like Bruford/Levin but also like RHCP's wild rhythm section. Omar's guitar work is maybe less prominent than on TMV's follow-up but remains very noticeable, while the unsung hero is definitely Isaiah Owens, very subtle yet defining much of their sound and often underlining the ultra-powerful passages with delicate layers of synths. The fact that the album's story is really closely related to a member of the group not only push the group beyond their reasonable limits and boosts the loudness a bit excessively, but in their case, they come out of it successfully. By the time you reach the album, there will be a sense of saturation and tiredness, because some of their typical twists come back a little too regularly.
Although this album requires all the respect from every proghead, it will probably be always a controversial album, because of its flaws and "baroque" leanings on almost every sphere of music. While there are some albums that pride themselves of not letting you win them too easily, on the other hand there are countless modern prog albums who hide their lack of depth with obscure unexplained concepts and difficult music and impenetrable presentation. But I am rather sure that this is not the case with TMV. I think that at least everyone should spin this album once or twice a day for a week before eventually rejecting it (Cedric's voice is an acquired taste), because it does take a few listens to surrender its secrets, but unlike many of its actual competition, it does so fairly quickly. Maybe because it has enough depth to allow it
A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:
One of the most determinedly original heavy prog bands of the new millennium.
The Mars Volta blazed onto the scene with this incredible debut album that was unlike anything we had ever heard, borrowing elements from free form jazz, to heavy riffing and psychedelia, every track becomes part of the whole. The conceptual framework is based on the heavy sense of alienation and loss of sanity.
The intro, ‘Son et Lumiere’, is a rather hypnotic guitar motif that introduces the next track. ‘Inertiatic ESP’ includes the repetitive vocals, "Now I'm lost..." over fast guitar work and raucous off kilter drum patterns. The lead instrumental section is strange and frenetic and became a signature trademark of the band's inimitable style.
‘Roulette Dares (The Haunt of)’ is a lengthy track that twists and turns in a myriad of musical directions. The vocal performance of Cedric Bixler-Zavala is monotone and estranged, at times sounding like Led Zeppelin or Muse, and hard to pin down in sections. There is a complexity of musical styles underlying each track that rises and falls in crescendos. The lyrics are non sensical but become part of the performance as we hear of 'exoskeletal judges at the railroad...' whatever it means, it becomes an extension of the soundscape.
‘Drunkship of Lanterns’ is a highlight with the abrupt guitar riffs of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and quirky jazz drums and metrical patterns of Jon Theodore that would send any metronome into overdrive. At times the pace is chaotic and this is balanced with moments of quiet beauty. "Is anybody there, nobody's hurt" Bixler-Zavala wails in desperation. The invigorating display of group dynamics is evident on the excellent ‘Eriatarka’, with an interplay of guitar and bass and unexpected elements of jazz fusion thrown in the mix. It begins with bird calls and ends on a long sombre note.
‘Cicatriz ESP’ is the killer 12 minute mini epic that begins on one riff and ends on another, frenetic and immersed in clanging guitars and bass. The surging keyboards add to the effect of guitar heavy sounds feeling at times like free rock improv.
‘Televators’ is another highlight and a softer track than the others almost entirely acoustic. This prepares us for the intensity of ‘Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt’. The sound is very unfriendly at times and not for all tastes but it’s a wash of heavy guitars and screaming vocals with many abrupt stop and starts in the music. The electric modalities are undisputably progressive and there are virtuosic leaps of guitar mastery that express the chaotic atmosphere. It all becomes isolated in a drone towards the end
The conclusion is this is a debut album any progger would be proud of. It set the scene for great things to come with “Frances The Mute”, the best of the band, and the excellent “Amputechture”. The Mars Volta should not be ignored and this would appeal to anyone who love their prog unusual and heavy and laced with lashings of the psychedelic.
A review by Bonnek:
21st Century Schizoid Prog.
Overwhelming, excessive, nerve-shattering, unique, emotive, innovative, original, boundary-breaking, progressive. This might well be the first album since the early 70's that corresponds to every possible definition of what progressive rock is about. And the best thing of all is that it reached far beyond usual prog audiences. Together with Porcupine Tree this is a band that makes you proud to be a prog-rock fan.
The music is so tremendous that I kind of feel out of place to analyze everything that is going on here. What this music demonstrates is an experience of totally free musical expression that is nevertheless wrought into something consistent and catchy.
Much like King Crimson's and Yes's early albums you have the feeling this band takes you on a rollercoaster ride through musical fairyland, taking you just anywhere they want. Yet, with attractive melodies and strong compositions, they always bring you back on your feet in the nicest possible way. Even though you might be left slightly dizzy from the experience you're quite sure it was the most exciting trip throughout.
This album is every bit as defining and excellent as “In the Court of the Crimson King”, “Foxtrot”, “Close to the Edge” and “Dark Side of The Moon” were 30 years earlier. And it looks like Mars Volta are equally successful commercially. Well deserved. Pure bliss.
A review by Bonnek:
No-man's music has always intrigued and appealed to me, but the Wilson - Bowness tandem had never entirely convinced me. I always had some kind of issue with the poppy nature of the music or Bowness' vocals. Also their 5th album “Together We're Stranger” did not entirely engage me at first. The slowly meandering atmosphere did take a lot of time to leave its mark on me, but ever since it did, I've been truly astounded by this album.
None of the previous No-man albums had prepared me for this one. Wilson stripped the arrangement to the bones, only leaving minimalist sketches of slowly flowing ambient guitars and keyboard sounds. It makes for a sombre, moving and very poetic album detailing the break-up of relationships and other hardship. Bowness delivers some of his best vocals ever here. Very quiet and subdued, almost hesitant, but evoking a feeling of fragility and truthfulness.
The slowness and bare approach of the album might put off many listeners, spoilt as we all are by very busy and action-packed music. This is a typical example of an album that takes a while to sink in and I wouldn't recommend it if you are into harsh metal, busy Prog or hot techno right now. That's where I was when I first heard it and it didn't really register then. But if you feel you're ready to be overwhelmed by slow and delicate melancholic mood music, then this is the album you need.
Slow, sad and sometimes almost lethargic, this will register as boring to some, but as fascinatingly beautiful to others. This is an album to listen to when you cannot be diverted by any distractions, so wait until dark and put on those headphones, or surrounded yourself by the lush 5.1 mix.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
It took me a long time (too long) for me to appreciate this album. It was hard to get past how slow moving and ambient it is. The atmosphere is so thick, and the lyrics so well done that when I finally came around I was left in awe of what they've done.
The title track has so much atmosphere as Tim sings slowly. ‘All The Blue Changes’ has a little more life instrumentally but not vocally. Incredible sound 3 1/2 minutes in that doesn't start to let up until around the 6 minute mark. ‘The City In A Hundred Ways’ is a short track with horns and again lots of atmosphere. It blends into ‘Things I Want To Tell You’. Acoustic guitar comes in and then the vocals. So much spacey atmosphere here as well.
‘Photographs In Black And White’ opens with strummed guitar and spacey sounds as vocals come in, with emotional lyrics. And talking about emotion check out my favourite track ‘Back When You Were Beautiful’. It's cool that Stephen Bennett is playing organ on this one. He is an important part of the Henry Fool band that Tim Bowness sings on. ‘The Break-Up For Real’ could be on a Porcupine Tree album. Strummed guitar and vocals lead the way, Steven's backup vocals are great and the piano is a nice touch too. Again the lyrics are moving.
A solid 4 stars and no doubt one of their best yet.
Review update: 10/29/10 Wow it's been over 4 years since I reviewed this album. I originally gave it 3 stars but bumped it up to 4 stars and here I am giving it the full blown 5 stars! It's almost shocking how much atmosphere is on this disc. It overwhelms me and the emotion is right at the surface when listening to this album; wondrous, simply wondrous.
A review by UMUR:
I have already reviewed “Second Life Syndrome” and “Rapid Eye Movement” from Riverside so very unlike the way I usually review a bands discography I have done it backwards. It doesn´t matter much in the case of Riverside as all three of their albums are very similar in sound and style. This doesn´t mean that there hasn´t been a development in their style, it´s just not that significant. It doesn´t matter to me though as I think of all their albums as excellent pieces of prog rock with metal tendencies.
“Out of Myself” is no exception to that. The music changes from melodic metal inspired pieces to more mellow prog rock pieces. It´s a nice mix even though I feel their metal riffs are a bit generic. Mariusz Duda is a real treat of a vocalist. He has a very personal style and he means a lot to the sound of Riverside. The Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Tool and Dream Theater influences are very clear, but it doesn´t mean that Riverside are clones. They mix all their influences into their own style.
Even though I like “Rapid Eye Movement”, the best of their three albums, this one is definitely also an excellent addition to your prog rock collection. Don´t be fooled by the fact that Riverside is in the progressive Metal category, they are generally a very soft prog rock band. The metal only shines through few places on the album. 4 stars is a fair judgement here.
A review by Gatot:
Riverside’s music is a blend of space, psychedelic and symphonic with some influences of progressive metal. Band-wise it's a sort of blend of influences from Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Ozric Tentacles, early Marillion and Dream Theater/ Pain Of Salvation. Quite a lot of influences, composed in an excellent harmony with catchy melody in many segments. The vast majority of the music style is symphonic in the vein of space psychedelic music (50%) with some neo prog (35%) and progressive metal (15%). This is an excellent debut album.
‘The Same River’ starts off with an ambient intro dominated by electric guitar work in the vein of Gilmour backed with symphonic keys and soft bass line at the background. It reminds me of the beginning part of ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ of Pink Floyd’s "Wish You Were Here" album. Superb opening! The music then flows naturally with drums entering softly and brings a beat to the music. The keyboard sound is still maintained at the background to deliver the nuance. It reminds me of Ozric Tentacles' music. The guitar riffs then come in the music followed by stunning solo guitar in the vein of neo prog music. This is really cool! The first half is purely instrumental, and the vocal line is also nice; excellent track!
‘Out Of Myself’ kicks off with dynamic bass line followed with voice and soaring keyboard in space style (reminds me of Ayreon). The music turns slowly to faster tempo but still maintaining the space and psychedelic nuance.
‘I Believe’ starts with voices in the crowd followed by powerful vocals. The acoustic guitar brings the music in a rather ballad style at the opening and moves to a continuous feel. It ends with acoustic guitar fills, and with some quieter transition the music turns to a kind of prog metal style with heavier guitar riffs and faster tempo, accompanied by dazzling bass and symphonic keys as part of next track ‘Reality Dream I’. The influence of Ozric’s music is obvious. Electric guitar solo is backed with excellent percussion sounds in the background.
The music flows to the 5th track ‘Loose Heart’ which is in medium tempo neo prog style with nice electric guitar (performed softly). It continues with short drum soloing to start the next track ‘Reality Dream II’ through a soft guitar solo. At some transitions the guitar turns to a heavier style with some riffs to accentuate the transition. If you know the Dutch band Flamborough Head, this part reminds me of that band. Some guitar solo is Floydian on this excellent superb track.
‘In Two Minds’ is a song heavily influenced by Porcupine Tree. Even if this song is played without knowing who the band is I would say this is PT! At the opening, the voice line is very similar to Steve Wilson. The song has great acoustic guitar rhythms and soft electric guitar solo; another excellent track.
The intro of ‘The Curtain Fall’ reminds me of Arena’s "Immortal?" album. It is then followed with a catchy Floydian guitar that is really cool! This is a psychedelic song with a sort of Steve Wilson singing style. The album is concluded with ‘OK’, a song performed with the mellow clear voice of its singer.
Well, I admire the band despite the fact that it's their debut album. It's really an excellent album: beautifully composed and excellently performed. I tend to give a 4.5 / 5 rating with a potential upgrade later, with the passage of time to a full five star rating. Highly recommended.
A review by Conor Fynes:
There are not many metal bands I know out there that integrate jazz fusion so well into their sound as do Italian progressive metal band Ephel Duath. Although they have been first brought to my attention as a black metal band, their second album “The Painter's Palette” shows very little of this style, instead going towards a very forward thinking style of jazz metal that sounds often like a progression of what Atheist was doing in the early nineties. A highly inventive and quirky band, Ephel Duath finds an energetic masterpiece with “The Painter's Palette”, that reinvents their sound greatly into something altogether unique.
Ephel Duath splits their sound evenly between abrasive metal and a more melodic, jazz-infused sound. To the band's great benefit, they manage to put the two together seamlessly, making a chaotic barrage flow into a classy jazz break as if it came naturally. Although Ephel Duath do both sides of their sound with great skill and talent, it is indeed the jazzy side of their music that distinguishes them and makes “The Painter's Palette” an underground masterpiece. To make the jazz jump out even more, there are even a nice number of trumpet solos that almost make one forget that they are listening to what is otherwise an extreme metal record.
On the more metal side of things, Ephel Duath relies on some screams that sound more like they come out of metalcore than anything else, but noisy guitar textures and some beautifully organic drumming makes it all sound as if it is in place. The harsh vocals of Luciano Lorusso are nothing special, but help accentuate some of the album's heavier moments. Where the vocal work really compliments the sound however is with the clean vocals of Davide Tolomei, who takes the points for most of the band's melodies. The melodies are not normally particularly catchy or memorable, sounding all over the place. For Ephel Duath though, it works fairly well, and instead the memorable effect of “The Painter's Palette” is shifted over to the instruments, which are all not only performed, but also produced beautifully.
Ephel Duath's “The Painter's Palette” is an album that takes a while to grow, but with each passing listen, the experience does ferment into a level of appreciation that I can only associate with a masterpiece. An essential album for jazz-metal fusion.
A review by UMUR:
"The Painter's Palette" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Italian avant garde/ experimental extreme metal act Ephel Duath. A couple of major things have happened since the release of the debut full-length studio album "Phormula (2000)" which was released through the Italian Code666 label. After signing to Elitist Records (which is a subdivision of Earache Records) Ephel Duath repackaged "Phormula" and included the tracks from the "Opera (1998)" demo, releasing it in 2002 as "Rephormula".
The band originally started out as a duo consisting of Giuliano Mogicato on bass, guitar, synthesizer, vocals and programming and Davide Tiso on guitar, synthesizer, vocals and photography, but before the recording of "The Painter's Palette", Giuliano Mogicato had left the band and Davide Tiso started to assemble a new lineup. In addition to Davide Tiso on guitars, the new lineup consists of Luciano George Lorusso who handles the raw extreme vocals, Davide Piovesan on drums, Fabio Fecchio on bass and Davide Tolomei who handles clean vocals. In addition to that lineup Maurizio Scomparin plays trumpet on a couple of tracks while producer Paso acts as arranger, plays synthesizer and adds electronic noise.
The music on "The Painter's Palette" is vastly different from the music on "Phormula". It´s not long ago I reviewed "Phormula" and my description of the music on that album was something like this: "Symphonic black metal with twisted adventurous riffs and electronic drums". My description of the music on "The Painter's Palette" probably goes something like this: "Avant garde/ experimental extreme metal with twisted dissonant riffing, fusion drumming, extremely aggressive vocals but also calm clean vocals, jazzy non distorted breaks and occasional free jazz trumpet playing". That might sound pretty confusing, but Ephel Duath actually make those ingredients work together extremely well. It´s a long time since I´ve heard anything this unique from a metal act. Sure there are references to John Zorn´s “Naked City” and Mr. Bungle too, but the music on "The Painter's Palette" is in the end an entirely different beast. The music is dark, aggressive and complex. Yet there´s that important memorability element present in the music at all times, that is vital in music as diverse and complex as this. After a few listens the music actually becomes a bit more accessible which I certainly didn´t feel that it was upon my initial listen.
The musicianship on the album is simply outstanding. The diverse nature of Davide Tiso´s guitar playing and his adventurous approach to composing is simply a treat. The new rhythm section is outstanding too. New drummer Davide Piovesan is positively on fire with his busy, fast-paced and complex fusion drumming. While the raw vocal/ clean vocal approach isn´t exactly new and wasn´t in 2003, it works very well on "The Painter's Palette". Harsh styled vocalist Luciano George Lorusso is in the same extreme league as post hardcore vocalists in acts like Burst, The Ocean, Converge and Breach. Clean vocalist Davide Tolomei has a pleasant calm vocal style which suits the music very well. No honey dripping emo vocals here, thank you. While the instrumental part of the music most of the time is handled by guitar, bass and drums, the addition of the occasional free jazz trumpet part is really a great feature and brings lots of atmosphere to the music. There are a few electronic elements and keyboards in the music too which also help enhance the atmosphere.
The album should be listened to as a whole but there are of course highlights. The opening track ‘The Passage (Pearl Grey)’ kicks the album in gear with a blast. You´ll find just about everything that is great about "The Painter's Palette" featured in that track. The instrumental jazzy ‘Praha (Ancient Gold)’ also stands out from the rest of the tracks on the album.
The production is professional and it´s got a raw organic feeling to it that I greatly enjoy. It´s not too sharp and clean like many other contemporary metal productions.
It´s quite amazing how much Ephel Duath have grown and developed their music style since the release of "Phormula" and if I didn´t know I would never have guessed it was the same band who released both "Phormula" and "The Painter's Palette". "The Painter's Palette" is a unique experimental extreme metal album and has, since its release, influenced loads of other acts. It´s one of those few groundbreaking albums in the genre that you have to have heard at least once. The chaotic nature of the music and the extreme vocals might put off a few people but for most who are able to appreciate the music on the "The Painter's Palette" the album is deservedly considered a classic. This is a must hear album and fully deserves a 4.5 star rating. I´ll let time and further listening sessions decide if I´ll upgrade this one to a full 5.
A review by Conor Fynes:
Even first judging by the album cover alone, it is clear that “Il Grande Labirinto” may see La Maschera Di Cera wander into stranger territory than they did with their self-titled debut, an album I found myself quite impressed with. All the same, La Maschera Di Cera did not see this skilled quintet modify any formulas that the Italian progressive rock scene had not already refined to a fine science. “Il Grande Labirinto” holds true to the band's origins in vintage 1970's-style prog, but the stakes are raised with a few quirks and surprises along the way. Although La Maschera Di Cera's debut was fairly easy to pinpoint as a traditional RPI record, here we see the group take a more challenging, and potentially rewarding route.
Now just sneaking over the hour mark, La Maschera Di Cera has really toned up their ambition with “Il Grande Labirinto”. In the years since its release, it seems to have earned its throne as the most respected of the band's accomplishments, and when compared to my previous experience with the band's debut, I am seeing this band outdo themselves. Even so, this more left-of-centre approach to the vintage prog sound is not executed quite well enough to merit that fabled 'masterpiece' rating for me that many have given it. “Il Grande Labirinto” is an overall improvement from what they did before, but I am finding that, in their expansion to new sounds, they have sacrificed some of the immediate charm that first endeared me to the debut. Regardless, it goes without saying that “Il Grande Labirinto” is an album that begs for a listener to pursue it in-depth; with a two part epic bookending the album that stretches well over half an hour, there are no holds barred with the band's approach this time.
Comparisons to Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso may still be made, although La Maschera Di Cera do seem to have broken out of that pure 70's worship mindset here. All sounds heard here are those of the classic 70's Italian prog, but the music often focuses on dark atmosphere over musicianship and traditional composition. La Maschera Di Cera still retain their penchant for letting their epics run wild and loose, although with the less solo dense performance, the music becomes easier to settle into. This time around, keyboardist Agostino Macor deserves the highest props, for delivering both lush rhythm orchestrations and tastefully energetic synth solos. As was the case for the debut, the guitars here feel a little too subdued, often letting Fabio Zuffanti's throbbing bass work take over. While not a fault in the music per se, it would have been nice to hear the sound of the guitar find a place in this music.
Although “Il Grande Labirinto” does not quite reach the plateau of being one of my favourite RPI records ever, I would say that it's damned close, and may even become one of them, should it grow much more on me. La Maschera Di Cera are evidently an incredibly technically skilled act, but I was not expecting them to incorporate such a tasty dose of atmosphere into their music as they have done here. This is an album that becomes more enjoyable as the various ideas become more familiar to the listener.
A review by UMUR:
What a great album from former Dream Theater keyboarder Kevin Moore (Now Chroma Key), Jim Matheos from Fates Warning, Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater and Sean Malone from Cynic/ Gordian Knot.
The music is a mix of mostly Chroma Key and newer Fates Warning. If you like the guitar sound and riffs on Fates Warning´s “Disconnected” mixed with the more ambient mood of Chroma Key you just gotta love OSI´s debut album “Office of Strategic Influence”. Kevin Moore sings on most of the songs with his mellow and nice vocals. Some say his vocals are indifferent and leaves them cold, but I really like them and even though they can seem emotionless, I think they suit the music well. Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree guests on the song ‘ShutDOWN’ with his good vocals.
Needless to say, that the musicians are outstanding, and the production is very good. The songs are very well composed and very emotional even though there are some really heavy parts too. Songs like ‘The New Math (What He Said)’ and ‘OSI’ are pretty heavy songs but I think these two songs which are the first songs on the album are the most heavy songs here, so listen a little further if this puts you off.
I have just rated the limited edition version of this album, and I would strongly recommend that you get that one if you have the chance. 28 minutes of extra music is worth mentioning, though it is still an excellent album in any format that deserves 4 stars.
A review by Bonnek:
OSI is a project consisting of a couple of musicians from bands that stand very far from what I want to hear in progressive metal. And yet, bringing them together for this album creates pure progressive metal bliss. Many thanks to singer/keyboard wizard Kevin Moore I'd say. Jim Matheos and Mike Portnoy are great musicians and they both shine on this album, but Kevin Moore understands the art of crafting meaningful songs out of the available talent.
Moore's vocal skills tend to divide options though. He's as far from the expected metal cliché vocalist as you can possibly get, and his seemingly detached and subdued delivery will disappoint many metalheads. For me it works just fine. It's one of the aspects that make this project stand out from the rest of the progressive metal scene.
Another element is his keyboard playing of course. Again it is very different from the symphonic keyboard bombast you get in the usual prog metal deal. Moore's interests are rather in techno, dub and sampling, meaning the electronics here brings the sound close to NIN; another factor that might frighten away metal fans.
The songwriting is great throughout but the highlight comes from Steve Wilson's contribution. He is partially credited for the songwriting on ‘ShutDOWN’ but I guess his mere presence already suffices to bring out the best in every musician that comes within reach of his halo. The man is a genius. Other highlights are the instrumental ‘Dirt From A Holy Place’ and the techno space rock of ‘Memory Daydream Lapses’.
To sum it up, “OSI” is the perfect metal album for non-metal fans. 4.5 stars.
A review by Gatot:
Cabaret Symphonic Prog Rock - a true masterpiece album!
Who says prog music must be dark? Well, some people say the darker the music, the more it is prog. But A.C.T. has proved the other spectrum in which their music, mostly upbeat and in a fast tempo, gives a humorous nuance even without knowing the lyrics. It’s funny, but it's very enjoyable and I started to love the band. When I look deeper in greater details at their music, it's composed neatly with an excellent melody and top notch arrangements. On the basis of tight and neat composition, the musicians deliver their contribution flawlessly. This is my only CD of the band. Previously I reviewed their debut album “Today's Report” borrowed from my prog mate's CD collection, and I loved the music. That's why I purchased this album from a local music store where I was very fortunate that it was available down here in Jakarta, and it's worth the investment because it’s great music! Unfortunately, very few prog bands DARE to come here.
‘Intro’ as the name implies, sets the opening theme for the album. It comprises a real orchestra arrangement in an overture style. Nice. ‘Wailings from a Building’ blasts the music off with a fast tempo intro using keyboard solo as the lead, accompanied with a guitar rhythm, bass and drums performed in fast speed, but it does not sound like a typical power metal rhythm. It's a really cool intro, and the music suddenly turns into a quieter passage when the vocal starts to join the music; "No, it cannot be the morning light.". What's so unique is the music riffs that accompany the first singing part; it's a very neatly arranged violin/ cello combined with keyboard. It reminds me of prog metal music but it's not that heavy, though a wonderful arrangement. For me personally, I never found this kind of music before, but it sounds amazing! The vocal is so powerful, and during the interlude part, the guitar does a stunning solo with no distortion at all. Well, everything in this track has been neatly arranged making me speechless.
‘Mr. Landlord’ starts off with a humorous style lyrical part, "You better honour him, don't jeopardize your stay, Put on that perfect smile and start sucking up! Hey! Mr. Landlord, nice to see you again." It is in a relatively medium-fast tempo, with a great opening part. The song flows dynamically with great variations of high and low register singing style by the lead vocalist. Violin/ cello plays beautifully during the musical transitions. The guitar solo plays shortly with great melodies, and it sounds like a cabaret symphonic prog rock music, I would say. Is there any kind of that sub-genre?
‘Torn by a Phrase’ has a catchy intro, and it starts off with soft and inventive guitar riffs. However do not imagine that this is something like a prog metal riff, as it's so cool and soft. The keyboard sound enriches nicely with beautiful repeated chords. When vocals start to enter the music, acoustic guitar and violin/ cello plays beautiful music in the background. During the singing part, the music plays beautiful chords in a riffs mode. There is also a lovely transition with classical touch and improvisations by multi instruments. ACT’s music is so unique and I would say that it's very hard to classify their music, though it's not derivative.
‘Ted's Ballad’ begins with a violin/ cello sound that brings the vocal to start in a mellow, melodic way, accompanied with beautiful piano sounds in the classical vein. I thought that this was gonna be a sad song, nuance wise, but when it reaches the chorus, it does not sound that way. The interlude part explores a light orchestral arrangement dominated by cello and electric piano. Oh, what a great arrangement!
‘Dance of Mr. Gumble’ brings the music in a very fast tempo again with excellent keyboard and guitar works, composed neatly, performed flawlessly. The keyboard sound provides a symphonic nuance but with soft musical riffs. The guitar solo is stunning, even though it's not a long one; it's an excellent instrumental piece.
‘Wake Up’ show-casts how the band plays the game again through providing music that makes you laugh. It starts simply with a reggae style, though it's not truly reggae as the band has included orchestral arrangements as well. The interlude features a guitar solo with a different rhythm section that sometimes gives me a surprise such as a sudden change to a quiet passage with a short bass guitar solo.
‘Manipulator’ is probably the most symphonic as far as the opening part. What surprises me then are guitar riffs followed with a powerful vocal tone. This track has a variety of melodies whereby sometime the music turns mellow with melodic vocal line backed with violin, and sometimes having heavy riffs. It's so dynamic as far as composition. I cannot picture precisely how great the composition is of this song. Top notch and very original, and I cannot identify any influence by other bands.
‘A Loaded Situation’ explores dynamic keyboard solos in fast speed with technical capability at its best. The music suddenly changes to another form with great combination of guitar, bass, drum and keyboard. Another great instrumental piece in a very discrete structure but it produces an awesome music, and I love it.
‘The Observer’ opens with a short choir recorded in a sound effects mode. The music flows in an upbeat tempo with an uplifting mood. Vocals play an important role where the vocalist sings in his full swing that is able to bring the music dynamically. It has a powerful keyboard solo and a great symphony at the back.
‘The Cause’ is fast tempo music with a combination of a distanced singing style. The mood is still uplifting especially during the chorus with backing vocals. This is probably the simplest form of ACT music as the composition is less complex than the others.
‘The Effect’ has a different singing style; it's performed in low register notes accompanied by a nice cello augmented with piano. The chorus brings the vocal line into higher register notes. Light orchestra is inserted in between segments, and the nice thing is that in some segments the lyrical part has a very catchy melody.
‘Summary’ is a very powerful song with great composition whereby it contains fast tempo music and melodic singing during mellow passages with excellent violin/ cello. It sounds like ACT’s music has a very dynamic style whereby tempo changes happen frequently and in an unpredictable way. For example, there is the inclusion of wonderful keyboard soloing in the middle of the track that happens suddenly beyond my anticipation. Well, it's hard to say it but it's better if you buy the CD and find your own words to best describe this song's composition, so wonderfully crafted!
‘Outro’ comprises melodic light orchestra with short lyrics, "Now you've heard a tale been told, It's up to you, could this be true".
One thing for sure that is true is this is a highly recommended album. Full five stars rating (because I cannot go higher than five!). The production and sonic quality are great and this is truly a masterpiece.
A review by Bonnek:
Efflorescing indeed but slightly Oversized.
Called progressive against their own will, Oceansize's music is nevertheless packed with progressive tendencies and bears many similarities to prog-related indie like Radiohead and emotive prog like Riverside and Porcupine Tree. Of course their music has nothing to do with playing faster than what the human ear can follow, nor with music that does reproductions of old prog rock glories, nor with any definition of Progressive Rock that concentrates on style and form. Oceansize is a modern rock band that takes in whatever idea, influence or sound that fits their songs, just like King Crimson, Genesis or Yes did in their time.
For all those reasons I would really want to love them with all my heart, but regardless how overwhelmed I was in the beginning, this debut suffers from a typical child disease called too many ideas. It makes the album both hard to sit through in one go and diminishes the overall quality with repeated listens. The problem is that some songs are too long for their own good and that the entire 75 minute album overstays its welcome.
There is spectacular material aplenty though, like ‘One Day’, ‘You Wish’, ‘Saturday Morning Breakfast Show’. Oceansize are named after a song by Jane's Addiction (one of those early 90's bands that screamed prog at me from the first time I heard them) and sonic outbursts as in ‘Saturday Morning Breakfast Show’ or as in ‘Massive Bereavement’ are a clear indication of their influence. Other songs like ‘Remember Where You are’ and ‘Amputee’ offer too much of the same and distract from this band's obvious talents.
Oceansize's debut is an impressive album, mixing an equal part of post-rock, emo, indie and modern progressive rock that lovers of Porcupine Tree, Anathema or Radiohead should lend their ear too. It could have been a 5 star 60 minute album, but it has become a 75 minute 4 star. I'm sure some people will say that's mathematically the same thing but music is no math for me, this album suffers under the bulk of material and would have greatly benefited from careful editing.
A review by Mellotron Storm:
Very alternative sounding with lots of instrumental outbreaks and spacey soundscapes, this is Oceansize's debut and they made quite a splash. Some call this Indie, Psychedelic, Progressive or Metal so they offer up an interesting blend. The vocals remind me of the Brandon from Incubus at times.
They open the album with an instrumental called ‘I Am The Morning’ that goes from mellow to intense then back to mellow. ‘Catalyst’ has a heavy, industrial sound to open, this song reminds me of Incubus, as it gets pastoral with outbreaks, and ends with some scorching guitar. I like the heaviness of this tune. ‘One Day All This Could Be Yours’ is quiet to open before a nice drum section takes over and vocals follow. This is great! It's heavy and intense 3 minutes in. ‘Massive Bereavement’ is a great tune that builds with a nice guitar melody that gets crazy around the 5 minute mark; it all ends with a wall of sound.
‘Rinsed’ is a laid back but dark instrumental. ‘You Wish’ is one of the heaviest songs with aggressive vocals and heavy riffs. ‘Remember Where You Are’ opens with percussion as it builds to a mid-paced tune. Some heaviness 4 minutes in with some great guitar, then it settles again. ‘Amputee’ is a straight forward rocker with some excellent guitar. ‘Unravel’ has this trippy beat with spacey sounds and keys; cool track. My favourite on the album is ‘Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs’. Gotta love the picked guitar in this one, and it kicks in heavier after 3 minutes then settles again with a spacey ending. ‘Saturday Morning Breakfast Show’ is another guitar driven song but it opens with an electronic beat. ‘Long Forgotten’ is relaxed with reserved vocals and it does get fuller. A calm 4 1/2 minutes in then it picks back up; beautiful track.
A great debut and I like the next one even better.
A review by Gatot:
A concept album with grandiose design.
I was not really "into" Spock's Beard’s music when Neal Morse was there for the illogical reason that I did not like how the music of Spock's Beard flows from one segment to another, as it did not sound natural to my ears and my mind. I was also aware that Neal's voice was not bad at all but I did not really favor the way he sung therefore I did not really admire the band's early albums. After Neal Morse left the band, I started liking Spock's Beard's music especially when "Octane" was released. The band was in limbo to strive for a new frontman and composer but they were okay with their life without Neal.
As for Neal's solo career, I did not really expect that he was going to release an album as I understood from some friends that Neal would focus his life on religious activities. This album shocked the prog world at that time or at least right here in my country. Most of my friends who admire Neal's tenure with The Beard were surprised and very happy with the release of this album. I was not interested at all to buy this CD even though most of them told me that it's worth owning. Having owned "One" and "?" albums which both sound good to me, it's kind of weird not having this "Testimony" album. But I'm quite reluctant with the double CD for merely listening to Neal's music and voice. The first time I spun the CD, it did not attract me but it grew with a number of spins. Most of the time, I get bored with the first CD and not willing to continue with CD 2. I still have trouble with the flow of the music which sounds to me like it is being forced in a way.
Storyline. I believe some people adore an album with a strong storyline, which is the case with Neal's "Testimony". As a person who believes in God, I always admire people who can make a music with an orientation towards God and how human beings behave in their relation to God and other lives. For this, I don't need to talk about prog or rock music, I also love other kind of music which has an orientation towards God. Neal seems quite serious with the storyline as it can be heard clearly right from the beginning of his story with a thought provoking title ‘The land of beginning again’ (3:10). Through this opening track he conveys a message proposing we can start all over again with a totally new life where all the bad things we have done are truly gone.
He then brings his story through a journey with music on ‘Overture no. 1’ (5:58) which then leads to his praise on God's grace through the following track ‘California nights’ (5:46) where he says "it’s only by the grace of God that I’m still alive!" You bet, Mr. Morse! And the story goes on his life journey and his relationship with God until his praise "Cause you are, You are the tongues of angels, And you are, You are the winds of time, That's what you are, The soul that feeds my freedom," followed by the ending part of the story ‘Oh lord my God’ (3:54) on CD 2.
Composition. Of course, one of Neal's strengths is his virtuosity in composing his music. From the opening until the end you might find the variety of styles he presents through "Testimony" even though some of them are not new and very similar to Spock's Beard’s music during his tenure. You might find at Disc One track 8 ‘The Promise’ (2:52) which has proximity with Gentle Giant's choir. It's really nice and it reminds me of the music of early Spock's Beard. He combines segments with complex arrangements and those with simple ones which comprise acoustic guitar and/ or piano. My favorite track which has excellent composition is track 10 of Disc One: ‘Overture no. 2’. Oh yes, it proves that Neal Morse is a good composer.
Conclusion. It's definitely a concept album with grandiose design, composed with rich textures. It favors those of you who can appreciate music with a strong storyline and well-crafted composition. The only caveat, probably, is that you might get bored listening to the story with double CDs (or even three CDS!). "Oh You are my soul, You are my soul. Thank You."
Eclectic Prog Team
Joined: May 29 2006
Location: United States
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: July 26 2012 at 22:08|
Yijkes, I only own 128 of these. I have a lot of work to do.
Joined: July 02 2008
Online Status: Offline
|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: July 26 2012 at 23:36|
2003 to be continued...
Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - August 03 2012 at 09:15
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