Reviews in this issue:
Greyhaven - Greyhaven
Greyhaven is the self-titled debut album by a young band from the US. Like so many band names in the progressive genre, this one is picked from one of Tolkien's novels. However, contrary to many bands named after characters or places in his books, this band is a great asset to the prog scene in my opinion. The band was formed in December 1996 when the two guitarists Nate Howard and E (Ethan J. Matthews) started jamming with drummer Nick Cipriano. After months of looking for a bass player and a vocalist without any luck, Matthews decided to partly switch to synthesizers to fill the gaps. In the middle of 1997, the trio recorded their first demo/EP, which got very good reviews around the world. Even though many reviewers claimed not to miss a vocalist in their line-up, the band thought differently and started recording the music for their debut album with vocals in mind. Finally, in 1998, they found the perfect voice to fit their music: that of Brian Francis. Now complete, the band finished recording their debut CD, Greyhaven, in June of 1999 and started working on their next album immediately after that.
The artwork of the CD - created by singer Brian Francis himself - looks very dark and mysterious, depicting the atmosphere which the music and the lyrics paint pretty well. (Even though I do prefer the stylish cover designed by Mattias Norén to the crude Japanese temple guardian, which the members of Greyhaven call "the Angry Guy".) The use of black and blue throughout the entire booklet seems to reflect the bruised soul of the first-person narrator in the lyrics.
The first track, Ride The Horizon, is an instrumental one. A sparkling, 80s-like keyboard sound fills the air. What immediately strikes me when the other instruments join in is the crystal clear production of the nicely layered instruments, and also the absence of a bass guitar. The latter is taken over by both guitars and keyboards, and that adds a nice different sound to the music, in my opinion.
Setting Sun is definitely one of my favourites on this album. Heavily
distorted guitars accompanied by light keys and a deep keyboard bass line open
the track. Then the rhythm slows down and choral voices open the way for the first
vocal part of the CD. Sadly though, it seems like the vocals underwent an entirely
different treatment production-wise than the instruments. It actually sounds as if
they were recorded by someone standing outside the studio door and they almost
drown amidst the full guitar, keyboard and drum sound. A real shame, since Francis
has a great voice. His classical training is clearly audible by the amount of
vibrato he uses, but (contrary to some albums I've heard) it never becomes annoying
on this CD.
The lyrics of one verse are missing in the booklet. Since this is the "key verse" (it contains the line "to the setting sun"), this slip is very bothersome. In its 5:46 minutes, the song undergoes various rhythm and atmosphere changes. There are some really good keyboard and guitar bits to be found before the guitars, keys and drums (notably double bass drums) bring the track to a climax.
The next track, Mirror My Eyes, is the second longest of the album. It
features an aggressive intro, again with a deep keyboard bass line, distorted
guitars and relatively light keys. The various melodies of the individual
instruments make this song feel kind of chaotic. The fact that the lyrics at times
do not entirely seem to "fit" into the space left by the instruments adds to that
This track covers a pretty wide range of musical styles. It moves from very heavy metal to atmospherical, almost soundtrack-like keyboard music (the name Jan Hammer, famous for the music of Miami Vice, comes to mind) and back. Floating keys, some great drumming and a guitar solo, which starts at the background and then turns into a full-fledged cutting-edge one (which does not end up in needless attempts to break the world record of playing as many notes per minute as possible), help to make this a very interesting track indeed.
Reverbed and delayed (undistorted) arpeggiated guitar and piano lead us into the fourth track, Downfall. This is a more ballad-like song, which features a heavy chorus, a "dirty" sounding guitar solo. The sound of the guitars and the melody strongly remind me of Stiltskin (known from their 1994 hit Inside and their singer Ray Wilson who later joined Genesis). Apart from that, Francis's voice in this track reminds me a lot of Wolverine's Stefan Zell in their quieter songs. A great song and a nice moment of rest on the CD.
Approaching The Twilight starts with deep, echoing piano tones. When the vocals come in, they are slow and mournful. The guitars and drums are extremely heavy and very much in the foreground during the first part of the song. They are more in the background in the second part - which is distinguished by Omnia Opera-like "electronic"-sounding reverbed keys. The amount of reverberation increases until the music suddenly stops and only the echoes remain. This, however, is not the end of the song; a spoken fragment - the words of which are almost impossible to make out - is played over a dark soundscape painted by the keyboard. It ends abruptly and the next track starts almost immediately.
Track 6, Shards Of Sky, with its duration of 11:09 minutes is the longest track of the album. The beginning of this song features nice, undistorted guitars with a big amount of delay and reverb à la Marillion. This relative quietness is disturbed by some raw guitars and heavy drumming. And that is only the beginning of the brute force the band still has in store for us, because this is by far the heaviest track on the CD. Fast, distorted guitars, double bass drums and a very fast bass pattern set the tone, while the keys fly majestically above them. There are several returns to quieter themes and the song is concluded by a very beautiful guitar solo, which seems to indicate that there is still a beacon of hope once the quite desperate lyrics have faded away.
Tracks 7, 8 and 9 form one continuous piece of music. Solitude Surrounding is the first part of this trilogy. This song is a lot less heavy than Shards Of Sky and includes some really nice instrumentals and a great bass line. There is almost no distinction between verse and chorus; the largest part of the lyrics is sung in a continuous line, interrupted only by some instrumental parts. The last bit of text is sung over a chord progression which sounds a lot like the end of Marillion's King. Then the track transforms into a soundscape with the well-known sound of a train driving over the joints of the rails, turning darker when the train sound fades away. The final 1.5 minute and the start of track 8 call up associations with the soundscapes made by Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree.
In track 8, the title track Greyhaven, the soundscape gets expanded with a great keyboard bass line. The vocals are very soft, almost whispered, and the words are extremely stretched. One by one, more instruments join in until thunder cracks and only keyboard, vocals and the sound of a heavy rainshower are left. A really beautiful track.
The sound of the rain is gradually overpowered by slow drums, keys and spacey
guitars in the last track, Cold Night By The Fortress. After a few lines of
text, sung in the whispered way used in track 8, the speed increases and the vocals
become louder. Another change of gear for the chorus and the sound becomes really
"full". The next verse is again sung like in track 8 and flows into an instrumental
part with some rhythm changes.
After another hard-to-make-out spoken fragment, the band lashes into a very bombastic part with a "dragging" rhythm and desperate vocals. Then very fast, distorted guitars take over with strings filling the air above them. The drums are gaining more and more speed, till the music flows into a part with delayed/reverbed guitars, a deep bass line, distorted guitar and some more soaring keys. The voice is wailing, alone in the distance. All instruments and the vocals are taken away by another thunder crack. Only the keys remain with a melody slightly reminiscent of that in track 1, until they fade away and silence returns...
In conclusion, this album is definitely recommended to those who are into the heavier kind of melodic (neo-)prog where heavy guitars get the same amount of space as the keyboards and where the vocals are not "typical metal vocals" (i.e. largely sung in the higher register of the voice) - for instance people who liked the heavier tracks on Arena's latest album Immortal?. The fact that the vocals sound much less clear than the instruments (this seems to improve somewhat towards the end of the CD) is definitely a shame since this debut is really impressive apart from that. If you want to listen to it yourself, check out the band's website, where several audio files and even an entire song (The Setting Sun) can be downloaded. I for one will look forward to Greyhaven's next release.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Inquire - The Neck Pillow
Sensitive, intelligent progressive rock, with long well composed tracks. A bit in the vein of some of the Twelfth Night tracks of the Eighties.
With lyrics that are part German, part English, Die Bettwurst (The Neck Pillow) tells the story of a man and a woman who "failed in society and seek to escape the threat of destruction into an ordinary life". All this is done in an excellent setting of complex prog rock, with some weird effects and abrupt changes in melody. Somehow the way the songs evolve reminds me of Twelfth Night (The Collector for instance). Some of the keyboard work is related to early Marillion, and parts of Die Bettwurst part one reminded me even of Rush. With the narrator and the spoken interludes it gets almost a musical-like feeling (although with far better music than your average Lloyd-Webber production). The whole spectrum, from light to dark music is covered in the first track alone already.
Circles is an almost completely instrumental section, apart from the philosophical vocoder lyrics. The track has the same type of references as Die Bettwurst. The intricate starting section, where Floydian guitar is exchanged with Echolyn-like melodies, again just adds to my admiration for the compositions. And even the maestros of early Genesis or early Pallas show up! An excellent composition, and a treat to hear live, I'm sure.
After all this complex composing, it is now time for something completely different: a rock version of Edvard Grieg's Death of Ase (from the Peer Gynt suite I). Zillions of bands have already adapted a random piece from the Peer Gynt suite, and this adds nothing special, elevator music. But in the context of the album, it fits really well, giving the by now disoriented listener something familiar to get his/her breath back. Then it's back to business with Swidwin, opening with an organ plus percussion. The vocals here are mildly insecure somehow and could have been more forceful. It reminded me a bit of Asgard's latest album.
After a narrated summary of what has happened sofar, Die Bettwurst continues with a guitar melody I think I have heard before somewhere. From the previous description, it should be clear what the references are. Again, I could relate well to the complex composition, a bit more powerful, darker and threateninger than part one. The Marillion influence is more prominent here (Grendel-esque). Nice guitar playing (as on the whole album). Die Berliner Bettwurst part one is a fun track to end the album on a light footage.
An absolute asset to my CD collection, The Neck Pillow is an album I would recommend to anyone who is into the more adventurous progressive rock. Strong compositions, good story line and good playing make this a piece of work Inquire can be proud of. The production could have been better, it is a bit bare sometimes, a bit fuller sound at times could have improved the album a bit further. Too bad this CD supports the candidacy of Germany for the World Championship of soccer in 2006, and therefore everybody has to boycot this ;-). Oh, Germany has it already? Well, then you can safely buy it. Listen to the whispered prayer at the end of the album and laugh out loud!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
After releasing their debut CD Inquire Within last year, the obscure
German band Inquire return with a new album. I was very curious about the result because
although their previous album wasn't a masterpiece, it had some very good moments and proved
that the band - who have changed bass players since their last release - certainly had potential.
Unfortunately, there are several things not quite well about this CD. First of all, the band suffers from the Falco-syndrom of not being able to choose between English and German. Whereas their previous album only had some German titles for the instrumentals, this album features whole German sections in the lyrics and all narrative is German as well. Even certain words in English sentences have been left untranslated. Personally I don't like that very much, and I think the band limits their potential sales by doing it.
Second, the album sounds quite messy for several reasons. Some sections start and end too abruptly,
with the definite
worst moment being the ending of Die Bettwurst part one when a very nice melody just
suddenly stops for no reason whatsoever. At times the album also sounds too much like a mish-mash
of bits and pieces thrown together without careful consideration.
As Remco said, the production is far from perfect, and I would like to add that some of the lyrics don't really flow with the melody, don't always rhyme well and are forced into the rhythmic timing by drawing out random words in the sentences.
Third, although the guitar play by Dieter Cromen is the strength of the album and Robert Kohler's keyboard parts aren't bad either, I'm really not impressed by the drums, probably caused by a combination of lack of professional skills of the drummer and bad choice of rhythms.
The band doesn't take itself too serious, which is very obvious from the hidden jokes and the
track Die Berliner Bettwurst part one (which is a short rock remake of some German
schlager song). Still, the danger of the joke wearing out after two or three times is very much
The story of the two parts of the epic was seemingly inspired by the movie "Die Bettwurst" and is interesting but nothing to write home about. It could probably be summed up in 4 or 5 sentences, where the band takes 37 minutes to tell it. And let's not forget the cover of the CD, which must be one of the ugliest things I have ever seen.
Finally, at the end of the CD the band promises to tell how the story continues on their web site. However, the site - which is relatively dodgey - doesn't contain a single word about the characters of the story.
But wait, there are some good things as well ! Dieter sings much better in most songs than he did on
Inquire Within. The idea of using an announcer and presenting the
two piece concept as a TV or radio show is very nice as well.
Some of the musical sections in the two parts of Die Bettwurst are very good (therefore the CD still gets a positive rating) and after listening to the CD several times I've really started to enjoy most of the epic. On the other hand I don't care much for Circles (4 instrumental sections that don't go anywhere divided by annoying vocoded bits of narrative claptrap) and Swidwin - although a nice track with Floydian guitar work and an atmosphere that reminds me of Nangyala - is so different in style that it doesn't fit in well with the other songs. The Death of Ase is a nice intermezzo (basically just a guitar solo by Dieter) but also slightly out of place.
Influences that are obvious on the CD seem to be IQ, Marillion, Twelfth Night and Pink Floyd.
I'm sure that if the band had taken some more time to make this CD, had expanded the two Bettwurst sections to a full concept album without the three unrelated tracks, had done something about all of the weaknesses mentioned above and had teamed up with a professional producer it could have become a great piece of work. This might well be the time for the band to decide if they want to become a professional and potentially succesful band or if they want to stay a 'fun band' that releases 'nice and insteresting' instead of 'great' albums.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10
A.C.T - Today's Report
I have been a fan of A.C.T since I first saw them live at a small pub in Göteborg in April/May 1997. I bought their five track demo tape - of which two tracks (Abandoned World and The Chase) appear on Today's Report - pretty soon after that, and have managed to catch their superb live performance at two other occasions. The band is a five piece consisting of Herman Saming (lead vocals, backing vocals, silent trumpet), Jerry Sahlin (synthesizers, vocals, backing vocals, vocoder), Ola Andersson (guitars, backing vocals), Peter Asp (bass, percussion, backing vocals) and Tomas Erlandsson (acoustic and electronic drums and percussion, soundscapes, baking machine and swollen kneecap, backing vocals). I have impatiently waited for an album by A.C.T to be released since 1997 and last year it finally happened. Thus the best band Sweden has to offer in the neo-progressive (though pretty heavy at times, especially guitar-wise) vein, in my opinion, now have a CD available on the market, containing some of the good old stuff as well as some new.
The album opens with one of my all time favourites, Abandoned World. Sahlin demands our attention with his insistent keyboards and my only complaint about this new recording of a track from the five track demo is that the guitars are a bit too much in the front. This is true for the entire CD, and as I have understood it due to demands from MTM Music. Nevertheless, A.C.T show that they know how to play and the track is a brilliant one. Saming's vocals are just superb (as always).
The Wandering is a song I first heard live in spring 1999. It starts with some heavy guitars but then grows softer. There is something in it that reminds me slightly of Yes. Possibly Saming's use of pretty high vocals at several occasions helps to enforce this feeling. I would not hold this as one of the band's better tracks, but it is by no means bad.
Waltz With Mother Nature was a new track the band played in spring 1999 and it is quite wonderful. The band show an extreme skill in moving through different musical sections, mixing gentle passages with hard ones, while having a good time. There is a Hawaii music section, kind of like Disney's The Little Mermaid, in which the guys show their joint vocal potential with wonderful harmonies. It well deserves to be on the CD.
Ever since fall 1997, at least, when I saw A.C.T for the second time, I have waited to get Why Bother on tape or CD. And here it is. Another definite favourite which I thank the band most gracefully for including on Today's Report. It is a soft track with a powerful chorus in which Saming's vocals really come through brilliantly. In some ways, it reminds me a bit of Arena's Medusa, but I must admit to preferring A.C.T in this case. This track would definitely deserve some radio time.
The fifth song is the title track, Today's Report, which I had not heard before listening to this CD. It is in an interesting track based around someone reading the 'news' (Mike Turner acting the part of the reporter), instrumental varieties and a chorus with distanced vocals. The way the song is built up reminds me of Valensia. Not great, but definitely quite funny.
Welcome is another very good track that I think will appeal to fans of Yes, but also fans of Arena and IQ. As a song it is very much in the same vein as Why Bother and maybe that is why I like it so much. However, I still think Why Bother is the better track of the two.
The only song which I think I could have done without on this CD is Cat Eyes. It is a mix of Christmas tune, jazzy bass lines and the 'normal' sound of A.C.T - not a bad song per se, but knowing some of the material that did not make it onto the album, I do find the inclusion of Cat Eyes rather strange.
Track eight, The Chase, is the second one on Today's Report that first appeared on the five track demo. It is a beautiful track with a perfect mixture of soft, gentle parts and harder, mind-blowing passages. Sahlin's keyboards and Andersson's guitars show themselves in wonderful shape (even though I still think that some of the energy from the demo tape and some live performances is lacking in this version). One of the best A.C.T songs around.
The last seven tracks form the over 12 minutes long Personalities (The Long One). The song opens with 24 seconds long 1. Foreplay, which has only piano and vocals. Then the song breaks out in 2. Piece Of Meat. Here the pure joy of playing that I think A.C.T really represent comes forth. Once more, it is an extremely short segment, but very good. 3. Tinnitus is a short instrumental segment in which the band get to show their abilities in playing. The title is, of course, referring to the damage musicians' (and concert goers') hearing can suffer.
In 4. Lord Of Lies, Saming's vocals once more show their qualities. A.C.T can count themselves lucky to have come upon such a resource. Having seen Saming on stage as well, I can only say good things about the man. He is one of those brilliant singers/front men who can hold their audience in the palm of their hand. The section is one of my favourites in the song (even though it is hard to separate them, the continuation of the music definitely works). The section that follows, 5. Emely (Ms Amnesia), is soft with keyboards gently 'dripping' and then turns into the beginning of the longest section, 6. Insomniac. This segment shows the harder edge of A.C.T at its best. As mostly, the instruments work perfectly together. The song ends with the short 7. Concluding Speech, bringing us back to the beginning of the song and giving us harmonies and piano to gently exit the musical world of A.C.T.
So... who should buy this album? Anyone who has not already heard the band, but are into bands like Yes, IQ, Arena, Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings and Iluvatar should give this band a chance. Anyone who likes melodic music but is not afraid of heavier parts in the music. Anyone who appreciates good vocals and nice harmonies. Personally, I am looking forward to the new CD which the band is currently working on. And be sure to look out for the band as a live act, if they come anywhere near you - DO NOT MISS IT!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.
Echolyn - Cowboy Poems Free
Echolyn is back, after an almost five year absence from the prog scene. Easier to listen to than for instance the Finneus Gauge project, this is a worthy return.
During the years of absence several "solo" projects have been produces, among which was
Finneus Gauge,, my first encounter with the Echolyn school.
However, although Cowboy Poems Free certainly has aspects of the complex vocal melodies of Finneus Gauge, it is much more
accessible, as for example the opening track Texas Dust proves. The lyrics are hard to figure out, since the idea
of putting photocopies of the original handwritten lyrics in the booklet is neat, but unfortunately the end result is unreadable
due to the low resolution print.
Poem #1 is a dreamlike musical piece, flowing into the mildly jazzy Human Lottery. Somehow the atmosphere of that track takes me back to The Yes Album, Camel - Camel, or Caravan. Especially the rhythmic section in this track, and throughout the album, is worth mentioning with no less than two percussionists performing!
Gray Flannel Suits has definite Spock's Beard references (e.g. The Light). A really nice track, almost dancable! Poem #2 floats by and High As Pride, early Genesis (The Lamb) meanders through my ears. It is a calm, ballad-like track, perhaps even with a touch of Flower Kings. A lot of effort has gone into making the individual instruments talk, but making sure none of them completely dominates. This is also enforced by the excellently clear production.
American Vacation Tune is more of a traditional Echolyn track, with a more jazzy rather complex melodic and
rhythm structure. Some cool Hammond work in this track! More American than Swingin' the Ax you can't get.
Almost a jazzy version of a some Aerosmith track, Echolyn edging to happy rock! The next track,
1729 Broadway (I wonder what is on that address, a jazz club? Their favorite restaurant? A bakery?) would
have not been out of place on the latest Porcupine Tree album,
Lightbulb Sun. Same atmosphere and almost the same style.
A very nice track indeed.
A moody interlude with Poem #3 follows. 67 Degrees is my favorite track, with a Marillion-esque opening. Ranging from depressing to heavy, it contains all you want to hear in a prog track. In fact it reminded me somewhat of my favorite Dutch band Egdon Heath (unfortunately no longer active since December last year when they gave their farewell concert). Brittany continues this style a bit, but is not half as strong as the previous track.
The last of the Poems, this time actually containing some lyrics, vaguely reminding me of some Yes track, paves the way for Too Late For Everything, a bit Sting-like or even Spock's Beard mildly jazzy song. The middle section is reminiscent of Steve Hackett. (well, at least a couple of bars ;-).
With Cowboy Poems Free, Echolyn has produced a very varied album, containing lots of different styles and references, thus encompassing almost the whole of the (non-bombastic) prog-scene. Highly melodic, but with the necessary edges to the music. Somehow, the whole is still somewhat long to listen to, to keep the attention span, but this is probably due to my own unfamiliarity with the more jazzy styles. For now, I give them an 8 out of 10, but don't be surprised when it turns out that this album will grow on me and will conquer a place in my top 5 of 2000.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Sigmund Snopek III - Trinity Seaseizesees
Sigmund Snopek III hails from Milwaukee, U.S.A. and his biography and discography prove him an established musician and composer, who has dabbled in a great variety of genres, including that most closest to our heart, progressive rock. Yet this man is also largely unknown in Europe. With the release of an impressive concept album Trinity Seaseizesees by the French Musea Records label, I've had the pleasure to acquint myself with his work.
This present version of Trinity Seaseizesees is the product of three decades of composing. Snopek devised the concept in 1973 and the first performance took place in the summer of that year. The earliest recording was then undertaken, resulting in an album version including the present tracks 1-17, released in 1974. Additional live performances took place at Artfest in Milwaukee. When Snopek received a grant to produce a musical related to the celebration of the American Bicentennial in 1976 he included Trinity Seaseizesees music through Flight of the Spirit, the current track 17, in the first act. The performances of the musical, Return of the Spirit, were apparentely a commercial succes and Snopek moved in more commercial directions, relegating Trinity Seaseizeseas to the back of the shelf. Not until 1996 did he begin recording the remaining tracks of the piece, which were drawn out over a three year period. This double cd is therefore the first complete recording of a concept devised over 25 years ago.
The absurd concepts and sometimes comical lyrics of the story, on which more below, remind me of the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, though the music isn't really comparable to this. It shows all the characteristics of what we call progressive rock, with complex time signatures and a fusion of musical influences and styles. Over thirty musicians have contributed to this album, from differing backgrounds, such as rock, jazz and classical music. I have to admit to an almost complete lack of familiarity with these musicians and vocalists, best known of whom are probably Xeno, the original lead singer of Cheap Trick, and Brian Ritchie, bassist with the band Violent Femmes, of which Snopek himself has been part.
The story of Trinity Seaseizesees centers on a nameless extra-terrestrial who has lived on Earth so long he has come to think of himself as human. In the first act he is forcibly returned to his homeworld, Seize, a perfected world created for his race, the Bubble Freaks, by three Controllers - Ockar Thrinking, Blacmar Chrinking and Osmidachoo. Into this world comes the Bubble Man who has traveled to worlds beyond Seize, who convinces the Bubble Freaks they should find a new home beyond the control of the three and find true freedom. The Bubble Freaks travel to Seas, a planet of abundant water. As they press onwards they take all the water with them, leaving a barren planet behind. Their next destination is Sees, a world populated by a race of 1,000 eyes. These are absorbed into their migration as they press on to a distant planetary trinity - Freesfriezefreeze. As the Controllers recognize the devestation left behind in the wake of the Bubble Freaks, they move out in pursuit.
This first act, Discovery, includes most of the tracks recorded in the Seventies. It is clearly a product of its time. It features an abundance of styles, ranging from space rock (Hawkwind), blues, jazz, psychedelics and progressive rock (King Crimson). Continuity is beautifully maintained from the Seventies tracks through the new recordings. Thanks to this the first cd (which covers the first act) turns out a superb composition.
In the second act, Consequences, the controllers force a confrontation, which soon leads to total war. The controllers are killed and the Bubble Freaks are left depleted and demoralized. This act is predominantely instrumental, though it features some choruses and ends with a short, funny song. Snopek's focus is more strongly on space rock here, retaining its progresive character and wild variation, but relying less heavily on the crossovers of the first act. There is a strong sense of (jazz) fusion underlying most of these tracks, though.
Time and space are torn in the heat of conflict and the few survivors are tossed through dimensions, catching glimpses of other times and other worlds. The Bubble Freak from act one lands briefly in the Hall of Godcar, a storehouse for the roots of all the religions and belief systems. An encounter with the Goddess propels him back to Earth. The third and last act, Aftermath, shows greater variety than the second act, but closer harmony than the first. It includes the last track recorded in the Seventies, The Sandking, while some other tracks display an equally Seventies style, such as Square of Air (airaireerreerre). Dabbling with religious themes in the story is reflected in the music. The track The Symphony of Man splendidely mixes elements from opera and rock, but the chorus by Heidi and Lisa Spencer fails to impress me and unfortunately largely diminishes the attractiveness of this otherwise beautiful song and the third act of which it is the centerpiece.
Trinity Seaseizesees is an impressive concept album with original compositions, expertely produced with the remastered Seventies track comfortably incorporated into this present version. Sound quality is therefore high. A wide range of instrumentalists and (lead) vocalists display their skills, of whom James Gorton, who has lead vocals on most tracks deserves special appreciation. This double set ought to be of interest to a great number of progressive or symphonic rock adapts. However, the sheer variety and complex character of compositions and arrangements might scare off some. Definitely give this a try if you're into space rock or early King Crimson. Fans of early Genesis might favour the first CD.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Out Of Phase - The Wall 2000
CD1: In The Flesh (3.19), The Thin Ice (2.28), Another Brick In The Wall (part 1) (3.05), Happiest Days Of Our Lives (1.35), Another Brick In The Wall (part 2) (3.46), Mother (6.11), Goodbye Blue Sky (2.29), Empty Spaces (2.24), Young Lust (3.34), One Of My Turns (3.41), Don't Leave Me Now (4.40), Another Brick In The Wall (part 3)(1.45), Goodbye Cruel World (1.17).
CD2: Hey You (4.55), Anybody Out There (3.18), Nobody Home (3.08), Vera (1.26), Bring The Boys Back Home (0.49), Comfortably Numb (5.55), The Show Must Go On (2.05), In The Flesh (part 2) (4.27), Run Like Hell (4.25), Waiting For The Worms (4.10), Stop (0.42), The Trial (5.56), Outside The Wall (1.50).
Have you ever wondered what a techno-industrial-dance version of Pink Floyd's classic The Wall album would sound like? Well, neither had I, until I had to endure the unpleasant experience of finding out firsthand, thanks to The Wall 2000, an album which claims to be "celebrating the 20th anniversary of Pink Floyd's The Wall" as presented by a project called Out Of Phase. It ends up as a shameless rape of the material. As the original will be well known to most of you, let's cut right to a track-by-track look at The Wall 2000
In The Flesh is brought in a dreamlike fashion. Not at all bad, honestly. But when vocals intrude into this serene environment, I had the first suspicions as to where this was going. The Thin Ice starts off nice enough with sequencers, but soon a horrible techno beat is added and then the song digresses into a mishmash of drum computers, percussion and awful vocals. Another Brick In The Wall (part 1) gets an industrial make over, with keyboards and sequencers added as the track progresses. Quite good guitar is added to this before a fade out leads to Happiest Days Of Our Lives, which track convinces me that Jan Hammer was part of this project, as the familiar Miami Vice sound can be clearly recognised. Vocals are distorted, which may be just as well. Another fade out brings Another Brick In The Wall (part 2) to the fore, during which track an enthousiastic audience is constantely heard in the background. I find it hard to believe any audience would applause this techno crap version, of what has strangely remained PF's greatest hit, so I'm guessing these guys have used their fair share of samples here. Again quite excellent guitar. Samples also?
Mother opens familiar enough, almost a quiet ballad, but when the second verse starts a annoying beat from the drum computer is added to percussion and sequencers. But it gets worse, as soon the track turns into some sort of club mix. Meanwhile the singer struggles to keep his performance on at least a minimal level. Goodbye Blue Sky retains it familiarity at the start, relaxed but not quite capturing the threatening atmosphere of the original, although bass is chilling. Empty Spaces turns out allright in its industrial jacket, with Jan Hammer style keyboards and electric guitar in good unison. But the same keys and sequencing is taken to absurd heights in Young Lust, the drum computer programmed to produce a splitting headache, as the keyboard player keeps forgetting what exact melody he is playing. Some might call it improvisation, I'd prefer to call it a joke. And not a funny one at that.
One Of My Turns starts off trance-like, complemented by the vocalist singing as if he's about to doze off and thus melody flies out the window. Fortunately (for him, not the listener), a crude synthesizer wakes him up in time for the second part of the track. Next up a good instrumental rendition of Don't Leave Me Now, dark and melodic. Turning to industrial towards the end, this cuts to Another Brick In The Wall (part 3) with the by now familiar disco beat, but again a fine guitar solo. Nothing much to say about Goodbye Cruel World. Overall the first cd has its brighter moments with some interesting variations of songs and good guitar playing, but the over the top renditions of several tracks, the incessant use of irritating drum computers and the very poor vocal perfomance throws a dark shadow over these brighter points. However, the worst is yet to come.
A beautiful guitar/bass intro to Hey You is interrupted by wierd space sounds, but vocals are top notch for a change. But as the second verse commences an agonising House beat is added, which ruines this track completely. And when the vocals start to decline, we can add one notch to the list of this album's failed attempts. For Is There Anybody Out There Out Of Phase returns to its industrial sound with added sequencing. Guitar is replaced by synths and soon a disco beat erupts. A horribly dismal result which for some obscure reason ends with the sounds a sheperd herding a flock of cows!
With synthesized violin an attempt is made to prop up the rendition of Nobody Home, but with little result. Somehow vocals deteriorate further. Never my favorite track of The Wall, the Out Of Phase version of Vera adds nothing worth mentioning. The choir on Bring The Boys Back Home is bad enough to send chills down your spine. Thank God it's so short. Next comes the absolute low point of this CD with Comfortably Numb. The off key vocals make me burst out in laughter each time I hear this, while the drum computer is bad enough to make you weep. The only thing that keeps me from declaring this a complete rape of the original is the addition of (synthesized) flute and a nice guitar solo.
The Show Must Go On has been handled with gloves in a soft Vangelis style. The anger and lunacy of In The Flesh (part 2) has been replaced with an upbeat rhythm section and whiny vocals, destroying the original atmosphere. The line "If I had my way, I'd have all of them shot" (which in itself diverges from the original) comes off as if lifted from a sweet nursery rhyme. And is there some special reason vocals are constantely off key on this album? Off course Run Like Hell is messed up in its own way. No guitar, which had been one of the better features on this album, but vague keyboards. Waiting For The Worms has some of weird and most inappropiate keyboard parts, but in no way can they measure up to those of The Trial, which with drums and percussion turn this song into a jolly marching tune which would have been better placed in the movie The Wizard of Oz than on The Wall. Vocals are best left unmentioned. It's all wrapped up with some funky guitar chords. Outside The Wall is treated less harshly and not worth mentioning.
Anyone involved with this project should be ashamed of the mess they've created. Even though The Wall isn't my favorite PF album, it's dear enough for me to hold it in special regard. None of that is shown by these folks. All the emotions and venom Roger Waters poured into these compositions has been removed, leaving a hollow shell. The Wall 2000 belongs in a freak show, not in your CD collection. Only to be purchased by the most devout collector or by adapts of the bizarre.
Conclusion: 2 out of 10.