Reviews in this issue:
- Fates Warning - Disconnected/Inside Out
- Fates Warning - A Pleasant Shade Of Gray
- Satyrian – The Dark Gift
- Quintessenza – Cosmogenesi
- Absence - X
- Absence - The Gift
- Neverdream - Chemical Faith
- Moonlight Comedy - Dorothy
Fates Warning - Disconnected/Inside Out
Disc One - Disconnected: Disconnected Part 1, One, So, Pieces Of Me, Something From Nothing, Still Remains, Disconnected Part 2 Bonus Tracks: Someone/Everything ("One" demo), It's Over ("Shutdown" demo), Under The Milky Way (THE CHURCH cover)
Disc Two - Inside Out: Outside Looking In, Pale Fire, The Strand, Shelter Me, Island In The Stream, Down To The Wire, Face The Fear, Inward Bound, Monument, Afterglow, Bonus Tracks: Outside Looking In (demo), Shelter Me (demo), Island In The Stream (demo)
Fates Warning - A Pleasant Shade Of Gray
Disc One - A Pleasant Shade Of Gray: Parts I – XII
Disc Two - A Pleasant Shade Of Gray ~ Live DVD: [Previously available only on VHS]
A year or so ago I was trying to track down all the albums by ProgMetal innovators Psychotic Waltz. Long out of print, I was just about to give up hope when those good people at Metal Blade put them into two boxed set reissues with loads of bonus material.
And now they’ve done it again. Along with Rush, Fates Warning is my favourite band of all time. Period. Many bands have produced two or three great albums, but none have been as consistent and innovative in the high quality of their output.
This re-issue package comes in two separate parts. The first contains the CD of what is widely regarded as their best album – A Pleasant Shade Of Grey – plus a DVD with the whole album played live in 1997, which has only previously been available on VHS. The quality of the camera work, lighting and the sound is amateurish by today’s standards, but hearing the songs performed onstage adds an extra dimension to the enjoyment of this classic album.
The second part is the more interesting as it combines the albums Disconnected and Inside Out. The second of these is the reason for my delight as this was the one album from the band I had yet to track down. Often linked to their classic Parallels album, Inside Out displays the band’s mid-period style. It combines the heaviness of traditional heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden with some lush, heavy rock melodies and a constant flow of progressive ideas. Overall it’s not Fates’ best album but there are half a dozen tracks such as Monument, which could easily hold their own in a ‘Best of…’ collection.
Disconnected is the band’s last but one studio album. It has its detractors, being more akin to the style of music to be found on singer Ray Alder’s side project Engine, plus a heavy dose of electronics thanks to former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore. However the quality of the songs and arrangements makes it a winning combination.
The real interest however lies in the three bonus tracks added to each album. Inside Out has the demos from Outside Looking In, Island In The Stream, and Shelter Me, which show how far each song developed from the original idea. Disconnected is even more interesting. There’s a cover version of Under The Milky Way – a hit for 80s pop band The Church which I do not believe has ever been available before. There’s also a track called Someone/Everything, which is the demo for One but with completely different lyrics and arrangements, and a track called It’s Over, the demo for Shutdown which eventually made it onto the first OSI album – Jim Matheos’s side project with Kevin Moore.
Whilst the packaging and overall concept isn’t quite as good as the Psychotic Waltz reissues, the fact that both 2-CD sets are being retailed at mid-price makes this fantastic value. The extras will make it of interest to existing fans and for anyone who only has the vinyl versions. Whilst for those looking to catch up on one of the greatest ever ProgMetal bands, then both packages are too good to miss.
Inside Out/Disconnected - 8 out of 10
A Pleasant Shade Of Grey - 10 out of 10
Satyrian – The Dark Gift
Tracklist: Invictus [Master Of Fate ReMix] (4:05), The Dark Gift [The Lygophilia Remix] (5:57), Eternitas [Infinite Synthesis] (3:56), Fall From Grace [The Fallen Remix] (5:03), The Dark Gift [TimV Fused Radio Edit] (3:40), No Tears, No Embrace [The Satyr’s Cave Remix] (5:38), Ewigkeit [Ikuisuus Chill Out ReMix] (4:52), The Dark Gift [Album Version] (4:33)
Why am I reviewing, on a progressive-rock website, an album consisting of goth-metal songs remixed as techno/dance? Two reasons: Lion Music sent the CD to DPRP for review; and I like it, dammit!
Satyrian, under that name and their former name and former configuration, Dance Macabre, have released several albums; this one features remixes of six songs from their last album (and the only one they’ve released as Satyrian), Eternitas. I should begin by saying (as if I had to) that this album is not for everyone. It may not even be for everyone who likes gothic metal or everyone who likes techno music, though I’m going to recommend it to such people. It’s the combination of those two genres, though, that makes the CD very interesting, even unique. Were it not for the two female singers (Kemi Vita and Judith Stüber), I’m not sure the combination would work, because the growly vocals of Roman Schönsee, which also feature prominently, sound pretty bizarre in the techno setting; but those lovely female voices hold the whole thing together.
Not having heard the original album, I am, I guess, at a bit of a disadvantage, because I can’t compare these songs to their originals. However, it may be that I think as well as I do of this album because I don’t know the original one. Surely if a techno remix album is better than the original, the band is in trouble? So I’ll talk about this album only on its own terms. I’ll start by pointing out that there are three versions of the title song of this album (though which came first – the title or the decision to include three mixes of The Dark Gift? I don’t know). The album’s final track is the original version of the song from Eternitas, and it’s also my favourite. Interestingly, though it doesn’t have the same insistent dance beat throughout, even this version is propulsive and peppy . Like the most effective of the other songs, it features a balance between Schönsee’s growly vocals and the women’s ethereal ones; also like many of the others, it’s heavy on keyboard work, most particularly a lovely but simple piano but also a stabbing Eighties-sounding synthesizer.
But the remixes of that song are good, too, each offering a different enough take on the song to justify the three versions’ inclusion on one short album. Of the other songs, the best is probably Eternitas (on which Schönsee’s voice reminds me very much of that of Christofer Johnsson of the mighty Therion). The techno beat slows down two-thirds of the way through this one, too, and we get a very tasty guitar solo – a nice treat on an album such as this. Another particularly good track is No Tears, No Embrace, which has a Middle Eastern feel to it and which, for all its insistent percussion, is haunting and effective. And Ewigkeit, the last proper track (the original The Dark Gift is a bonus track), eschews the dance beat (though not the electronic percussion) entirely in favour of gorgeous singing by Vita and Stüber – very nice indeed.
So, yes, I like this CD. Is it “progressive,” even given the somewhat liberal range of definitions we allow that term? Hell no! But it’s fresh, fun, even in an odd way experimental. And I’ve listened to the damned thing two dozen times already with pleasure, so I can add that it’s infectious. If you’re interested in Goth music, symphonic metal, or techno, you’ll probably like this album. At the very least, it’ll certainly stand out from anything else in your collection, no matter how large or eclectic that collection is.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Quintessenza – Cosmogenesi
Tracklist: Nel Ventre: L’Origine Delle Cose (3:27), Violentemente Splendido (4:27), Cambiando Forma (2:09), Apri Gle Occhi (6:49), Ascolta I Miei Suoni (3:19), Venere: La Nascita Dell’Amore (8:27), Luce: Rivelati A Me (5:54), Preludio Alla Fine (1:42), Cosmogenesi: Gran Finale (9:01)
Quintessenza are a prog metal band from Italy and have been together for about 10 years, this being their second album proper, though they have also recorded a couple of demos. Cosmogenesi is a good and solid album from a strong band. The pieces are, on the whole, very enjoyable and well played and they don’t seem to have a problem in the vocals department, which is one that many prog metal acts seem to have. Diego Ribechini has a strong voice but sometimes comes across as a bit sharp on the ears, which could be due to the lyrics being sung in Italian. I don’t know what the songs are about so won’t comment on the words, which are all by Diego. The material is well put together and worth hearing with the rest of the band (guitarist Gabriele Moretti, bass/stick man Frederico Razzi, drummer Federico Della Sbarba and keyboardist Filippo Fantozzi) all performing well, the music all being written by Gabriele and Filippo. The band has also done a good job in producing it themselves.
The album starts strongly with a slice of heavy and up-tempo prog in a Dream Theater style. A small issue throughout the CD is in the keyboard sounds. I have found this problem in other Italian CD’s I’ve heard, but the sounds chosen are often very ‘80’s and cheesy when there must be so many other settings available. It isn’t that it’s played badly – it isn’t – but some of the inferior keyboard sounds detract from the whole effect. I sometimes wonder why some settings make it to record as there should be someone making the call on whether an alternative is required. This may be where an outside producer could have been a positive addition in the studio.
The album continues with some good tunes and enough variety to keep it interesting. Cambiando Forma has a very pretty melody of piano and an emotional vocal, which works very well, and Apri Gli Occhi has a slower tempo than most of the album and a nice acoustic feel which counterpoints nicely the heavier moments. The sole instrumental track is the brief Preludio Alla Fine which is, with its spoken word passage, reminiscent of a mellow Rush and, as the name suggests works as a prelude to the last track, the epic three-parter Cosmogenesi: Gran Finale. The first part is mellow and acoustic before the tempo increases giving way to a distinct Dream Theater feel as the piece moves into a more sedate mid-section. The final part sounds like a fairly thin version of late ‘70’s Rush but the vocal is good. The CD doesn’t outstay its welcome and keeps to a concise running time, which is a nice change in this sometimes overblown genre.
Overall then a very pleasant album from a good and worthy band. Prog metal can be a little two-dimensional but the band has got a sound with enough variety to take them above the rest of the pack. The Italian lyrics may hamper their appeal for listeners from outside Italy but they are worth a listen and hopefully will go on to bigger and better things.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Absence - X
Tracklist: Worse Than Elvis (3.49), I'm Back (3.03), Too Short (4.02), Swallow (2.53), Festival (4.44), Don't Lean On Me (2.45), Don't Want To Be There (2.39), Urge (4.51), Need A Challenge (3.29), Struggle (4.02), Tourist Attitude (3.01), Art (3.30), Stampede (0.36)
Absence - The Gift
Tracklist: Any Friends (5.07), Compliments (4.08), No Trouble (3.55), Stay Out (5.32), Things That Change (4.20), The Most Of Us (3.26), Happy Song (4.15), Missing Link (2.52), Bored (5.23), Stampede (3.47), Already In Heaven (5.01)
It's been a decade since three Dutch friends came together to start a band. The aim being just to play some good rock music and be on stage every once in a while. Back then the group was called Armpit. Thankfully they realised the error and changed it to Absence, and what started off as a just a bit of fun, has now become an established band about to release its third album of original material. But before that, the band is keen to bring as many people up to date with their music and hence copies of their first two albums have landed on my desk.
Absence deals in pretty straight-to-the-point, blues-based heavy rock, delivered with a sense of fun, a deft lyrical hand and no desire to build an endless solo into every song. You can take as a reference-point any of the power trios from the past 40 years. The canny sense of rhythm and the lyrics on a tracks like Bored, occasionally bring to mind Freak Kitchen, and the slightly down-at-heel vibe has a sense of modern-day KingsX.
There's not really a lot to choose between the two albums. Being the result of the band's second trip into a studio, The Gift is a slightly more mature release with a few more influences added to the mix. But I must admit I rather prefer the energy and the lyrical fun played out on the debut especially tracks like Worse Than Elvis and Too Short.
The forthcoming album is called 104.5 and according to the band it 'pays tribute to the late legendary Radio Reykjavik. This radio station was located in the capital of Iceland and broadcasted the most fantastic album tracks of all the rock giants that ever walked on this earth. And no boring, bigger than life DJ's.'
So there you have it - a potted history of Absence. I'm don't think this will have too much interest for those who only dabble in music of a progressive nature, but for anyone who enjoys a bit of blues-based heavy rock, with a sense of melody and wry humour, then either album will be worth a listen. More importantly though, if you see the band playing anywhere near you, then I'm sure a good night out will be in store, as this sort of music always works best in a live setting.
X - 6.5 out of 10
Gift - 6 out of 10
Neverdream - Chemical Faith
Tracklist: Mother [I Tear, II She] (8:11), Slave Of Loneliness (5:12), Just A Sacrifice (4:45), Chemical Faith (5:35), Who Am I (4:13), Zoologischer Garten [Hell's Gate] (3:45), Sogni (5:48), Narkonon (5:45), Whispers [Berlin] (8:52)
Neverdream is a rather unknown band from Italy operating in the Emo-metal segment of the modern music spectrum. The band consists of Giorgio Massimi on vocals, Giuseppe Marinelli on guitars, Mauro Neri on keyboards, Gabriele Palmieri on drums & vocals and Federico Griscimanni on bass; special guest Fabrizio Dittori donated some tunes on sax to the album.
Formed in 2000 nearby Rome Neverdream released their first work in 2005 in the form of a 3-track EP Rain Of Sorrow after Federico replaced Alessandro Marinelli (Giuseppe's brother). One year later their first full album saw the day of light and you could call it a sort of concept album since it's totally inspired by the book and film about German's most famous heroin addict Christiane F. This girl, Christiane Vera Felscherinow, came in the news in the late 70's when reporters from the Stern magazine noticed her when she was a witness in a court case. This finally resulted in the autobiographical book called "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo" about the terrible and deplorable life of a teenager drugs-addict that ends up in the prostitution already at a young age. The book had a big impact and was turned into a film in 1981 by Uli Edel. Sound fragments from that film are mixed into this CD from Neverdream, for instance directly at the start of the CD when Natja Brunkhorst, who played Christiane in the film, says "überall nur Piss und Kacke" which means "everywhere just piss and shits". The subtitle of this album is therefore "Christiane F, wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo" and the lyrics, sung in English, except track seven, deal with the contents of the book and film.
So the idea behind the album and therefore the lyrics deals with a serious topic, but how is it brought musically? To be honest I can't say this album does the book and film much right, not so much since the music style this band plays might be not so apt for displaying this tragic story, but more since Neverdream fails to put a true feeling into it. With a few exceptions the music is basically very mediocre, lacks true passion and certainly doesn't leave a lasting impression with the listener. Although they display a very dramatic story the music doesn't really reflect that. So I could easily sink this album and direct it to one corner, but don't worry, I won't deprive it from the attention it still deserves and will try to point out also its strong points.
But first the negative corner: there are several elements of this album that really could do with some improvement: the production, overall sound quality, the songs and compositions. It's especially the very poor production that diminishes the listeners' pleasure an awful lot. The album sounds as if the band, especially the bass, was playing way back in the studio while the microphones were pointing in another direction. The sound quality is not clear, the power and heavy sounds don't really come across, the basic sound is dark and doom, but it sounds more greyish than black. And even the few keyboard pieces lack a clear sound.
I'm also not so enthusiastic about the singing quality since it's rather flat, not really outstanding and sometimes too much tucked away in the music. Normally I often hail any attempt to give the vocals a less prominent place in the music, but with this kind of music you occasionally miss the loud vocals on the foreground, despite the few powerful screams, and Neverdream also don't let the guitars do the talking instead. Giorgio is not really a very gifted singer and the style of his singing is not always apt for the music; when he tries to give some more power to his voice he ends up singing in a rather higher pitched way, sounding a bit like Geoff Tate (from Queenrÿche), but then on a bad day with a serious cold. On the other hand I must say I can appreciate that Giorgio avoids becoming "screamish" and delivering more than he's capable of and also the bands attempt to match the heavy bass riffs with a rather smoother and laidback voice. Several tracks, or parts of them, are less heavy, some almost ballad-like and with these Giorgio can tune his voice down, which sounds much better. So all in all at least they have avoided me being annoyed by the vocals on this album and the chosen overall style combination surely distinguishes Neverdream from many other similar bands.
The musicianship, creativity and the originality on the other hand are acceptable, but not outstanding though. It takes a few more close listening sessions to discover that there's actually more variety on this album than you would judge after a first general listen. Neverdream clearly tried and partly succeeded to throw in several elements in their music, dark looming bass riffs, mellow and powerful voices, some keyboard solo's, ballads and headbanging-suitable bits, bombast and melodramatic and even a sax solo. But it's all a bit of everything and not enough of one and although you can't say it's musically bad it just doesn't grab you anywhere and misses any form of brilliance. If you look closely for them there are some really good bits in there that also display that the musicianship of the band is satisfactory, but unfortunately these moments are smothered by the poor production and sound quality. The song structure of the compositions does lack some inspiration to my opinion, several songs just don't run smoothly through my ears and leave me with a unsatisfied feeling even though the instrumentation is quite alright. With some imagination you can hear what Neverdream might have in mind when recording this album, but for whatever reason they stranded far away from that more spectacular and original intention.
So I don't think Neverdream has made the album they could and might have wanted to make. They are clearly capable of producing a better album than this; they have some original ideas, can probably execute them, but will need to write some better compositions and most of all improve their production and sound quality. Anyone who prefers a more firm sound, but dislikes the in-your-face kind of singing and overall Nu-metal sound and who digs the combination of heavy riffs with some lighter singing, instrumental bits and a few prog elements might be quite interested in this band.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Moonlight Comedy - Dorothy
Tracklist: Int(r)o Desire & Whisper (0:37), Solar Eclipse (7:28), Fallin’ Under (6:11), The Sea And Time Of Mars (4:23), Metamorfosi (11:35), Lunar Eclipse (2:38), Into Whisper & Desire (5:50), Imperfect Mind (4:28), Dust Of The Past (1:08), …And Why Not? (3:41), Side Effects (11:44)
On the face of it, Italian’s Moonlight Comedy have the necessary ingredients in place to make Dorothy (their second release) a fine progressive metal album. They are all clearly talented musicians, and in tandem with the more usual influences (Dream Theater, Symphony X, Queensrÿche) they incorporate same more left-field ones (Pain of Salvation, classic hard rock, jazz fusion, even some electronica). Add the fact that this is a concept album, has a couple of the requisite epics (i.e. songs over ten minutes long!) and the fact that the band are clearly not beyond a bit of pretentiousness (they insist on being known as ‘actors’ rather than musicians!) and you appear to have the raw ingredients for a satisfying bombastic and OTT prog metal disc…
… unfortunately, the ingredients aren’t used to their best advantage here, and Dorothy ends up as something of an over-cooked mess. It's certainly an ambitious affair, with each of the tracks dipping into various musical melting pots, and various narrative devices are used to tie things together. Unfortunately, there is simply no flow to the album, with many of the parts seeming rather bolted together and thus appearing disjointed; the time and mood changes are frequently rather jarring and certainly aren’t executed with the slickness you’d hope for; furthermore, the songs themselves (surely the most important aspect?) simply aren’t there, with memorable melodies and choruses in general conspicuous by their absence. Add a vocalist (sorry, ‘actor’) in Emilianio Germano whose heavily accented voice isn’t really up to the job and begins to grate quite quickly, and you unfortunately end up with a fatally flawed and below par effort which, whilst it does have a few enjoyable moments (generally down to the fine guitar playing), I found rather a drag to sit through, and therefore can’t really recommend even to the most battle-hardened prog metal fan.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10