Reviews in this issue:
- Neal Morse – So Many Roads (Duo Review)
- Fjieri – Endless
- Rick Wakeman – Past, Present And Future
- Ergo – Multitude, Solitude
- Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki's Neverland - Ophidia
- The Dust Connection - Trails
- Roz Vitalis - Live At Mezzo Forte, Moscow ~ September 09
- Cheer Accident - Fear Draws Misfortune
- Zevious – After the Air Raid
- Mario Cottarelli – Prodigiosa Macchina
- This Misery Garden – Another Great Day On Earth
- Get–Stas! - And Don’t Lose It…
Neal Morse – So Many Roads
CD 1 [63:36] At The End Of The Day (16:49), Leviathan (6:47), The Way Home (5:03), Author Of Confusion/I’m The Guy (14:12), That Crutch (3:46), We All Need Some Light (4:24), Lifeline (12:32)
CD 2 [78:34] Question Mark Medley (31:17), Help Me (12:13), Testimedley (35:02)
CD 3 [70:55] Walking On The Wind (9:33), So Many Roads (30:16), Stranger In Your Soul/Bridge Across Forever (31:08)
Woody Harris' Review
Neal Morse is already well known to the progressive masses. His time in Spock’s Beard infused the neo-progressive world with an array of concept laden sweeps of sound both majestic and rebellious. Later in his career he attached himself to yet another supergroup, Transatlantic, riding with the prog glitterati Pete Trewavas, Roine Stolt and Mike Portnoy. But there is another side of Neal that we have only just begun to become aware of. Four solo albums after his meteoric success with these superstars, we find that Neal has another story to tell us.
Neal’s solo career, while still forging the creative waters of progressive rock, also calls attention to his recent transformation into a Christian artist seeking to provide witness and counsel through the medium of the music. With the album So Many Roads we find ourselves sitting among packed houses and in front of an energetic band that is ready to witness as both believers and progressive rock heroes all in one go. Neal’s solo touring band meet the challenges offered by this music easily. While there seems to be some missing abrasiveness from the previous two groups, the new band brings flavour and warmth to each outing like a spring thaw. Whether Neal is digging through his past with Spock’s Beard classics such as At The End Of The Day or Transatlantic epics like Stranger In Your Soul/Bridge Across Forever the energy is palpable and innovative.
With 3 discs of live material, a stunning band, and Neal in top form, you may wonder if this album is for you. The challenge for me as a listener is the preachy nature of the concerts. As Neal has moved into his solo career and his new found faith, he has tended to be less creative in his lyrical content. Perhaps it is difficult to write overtly Christian music without doing this. The most beautiful and meaningful music I encounter almost always holds some lyrical ambiguity. This cloud-like nature means that if you have a listen when you are angry, you will find a much different experience than if you come to it looking for a friend when you are sad, or a party when you need uplifting. Certainly there is a great deal of the music offered here that meets this criteria, but when we get to songs that are so obvious such as the Testimedley, I lose my ability to find myself within the music. I am in no way suggesting that the man should not share his faith, or shout his deliberations from the rooftops, I am saying that I need something less obvious.
It has been difficult for me to really give this CD an honest review and I will tell you why. After one listen I was bored. I feel in my gut and heart that the band are fantastic and Neal is a genius and yet still 3 CDs later I could not be bothered further. So I propose a solution at least for myself and perhaps for you. Pick out the five best songs in the mix, and make your own CD. There is definitely something here for everyone, but to listen to the whole slew in one go is a little like riding the same coaster over and over again. The first five times the novelty and thrill are very present but after that, you just want to go somewhere more comforting and quiet. I am an audiophile and there could be something in the sound mix that is grating on my nerves. It could also be that the MP3 mix of this album does not do it justice. Whatever the case, and I mean no disrespect to the fine folks who have created this package, I do not catch the spark all the way through. So here is my five best from this CD and you can also make snips to your playlist accordingly. Author Of Confusion/I’m The Guy (I really can’t fault the addition of one of Neal’s most powerful and overlooked solo efforts), Question Mark Medley (never becomes so specific that the lyrics outweigh the song), At The End Of The Day and Walking On The Wind (can’t get enough Spock’s Beard), Stranger In Your Soul/Bridge Across Forever (well done interpretation of Transatlantic).
When all is said and done, this album nicely navigates already well marked paths. The musicians stand at attention heeding the call of the progressive muse, and Neal puts on his Sunday suit for some preaching to the choir. A little long in the teeth due to being a 3 album package but perhaps it was not meant to be heard in one sitting. If these are what you are looking for, then here is your holy grail. It is lively and powerful and even the most ardent atheist will find something of value here. As for me, I will be back in my album stacks reliving the glory days of Spock’s Beard, and digesting new Transatlantic.
Gert Hulshof's Review
How do you write a review about a live album from a man so renowned in modern day progressive rock music. You sit yourself down notepad in your hand, only to find after listening to the first CD the notepad is as blank as you started more than an hour earlier. Whatever happened here, was there nothing to write or yes once again I lost myself in the music, found myself singing along with we all need some light.
What great music, what great spirit. Ever since I discovered an obscure band from the USA in the mid ’90 I’ve been a huge fan of the man and his music. It took a while before I purchased their first CD and caught the band live. This of course is Spock’s Beard the album in question V. The So Many Roads live registration starts with the opener on the Spock’s Beard V album At The End Of The Day, a classic.
The album has been recorded during the Lifeline tour in Europe, recording took place in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The album is a live compilation of what Neal has to offer to the world of progressive rock music. The live band for Neal on this album again like before on ? Live and Sola Sciptura, were Collin Leijernaar (drums), Elisa Krijgsman (guitars), Wilco van Esschoten (bass), Henk Doest (keyboards) and Jessica Koomen (keyboards & percussion) and what a fantastic band it is. Like before they give us an outstanding performance. Fabulous teamwork, the sound, the atmosphere and music is absolutely fantastic, I am not overstating if I say they could even out perform the work the studio band of Neal's have done. And the people involved here aren’t small names in the business, we all are aware of this.
This 3CD album gives a great overview of Neal’s work, from the Spock’s Beard era, two songs, At The End Of The Day and Walking On The Wind. Some work he has done with Transatlantic, We All Need Some Light and Stranger In Your Soul/Bridge Across Forever. And of course the majority of the set was his solo work, of which there are four songs from Lifeline. The title track, Leviathan, The Way Home and the song that gave this live album a name So Many Roads.
All of the songs have been performed with such an energy and enthusiasm to me phenomenal, This is a band that has not played the studio versions absolutely brilliant. The playing is superb, the solo’s improvisations.
If you’re a fan, you will probably buy the album regardless and even if this review is not any good. If you are new to Mr Morse and his workthen this is live, captured like the music should sound, a little more rough but still very good. So Many Roadswill give a great overview of what Neal Morse’ music is all about.
Highlights on the album to me are: The Way Home and So Many Roads; the well performed dualistic vocals in Author Of Confusion; and a very special one, We All Need Some Light as this song kept me going in the darkest period of my life a few years ago - this song always sends shivers down my spine.
Fjieri – Endless
Tracklist: A Reality Apart (4:34), A Big Hope (5:30), Ad Occhi Chiusi (5:57), Marcinelle (5:37), Breathing The Thin Air (6:13), Endless (7:05), Soul Eaters (4:56), The Breath Of The Earth (5:50) Lotus Flower (2:46)
Fjieri are an Italian four piece consisting of Nicola Lori (guitars), Stefano Panunzi (keyboards and programming), Elio Lori (bass) and Angelo Strizzi (drums and percussion). Each of these instrumentalists have long and varied careers in the Rome music scene, usually functioning as collaborative artists or session musicians though Panunzi has released two solo albums, Timelines (2005) and A Rose (2009), which I can heartily recommend to you, in passing. Their album, Endless is released on the fabulous Burning Shed label with its astonishing roster of artists and clearly, they like to help each other out as many of those labelmates appear as guest artists on this recording. Outlining the various musical exploits of these guests could take up a whole page of the review so I shall simply list them and their respective projects and, not only you will get the drift, but I imagine you will find the nearest internet retailer and place an order for Endless instantly. And you should.
Fjieri originally formed in 1997 and Endless has been in the making for 10 years. Quite why this should be so, I am unable to say, but the “meticulous” level of love, care and craft that has gone into its composition is evident to the ears. Perhaps it has something to do with getting these guest contributors into the studio to actually lay a track that has resulted in the exhaustive time it took to record and release Endless, which does seem an appropriate title if you consider how you may come to view a single project that consumed a decade of your life. So who are they? Who are these mystery men and women that I am being so reticent to reveal? Firstly, there’s Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree, Japan, JBK, Rain Tree Crow) who contributes some keys but is mainly there as Co-producer. Secondly, Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree and countless others) comes in to hits things rhythmically. Mick Karn (Japan, JBK, Rain Tree Crow) adds his distinctive fretless bass. On woodwinds (saxophone and clarinet) we have Nicola Alesini. Tim Bowness (No Man and Centrozoon) sings on Breathing The Thin Air (which is fabulous) and the title track. Peter Chilvers (Henry Fool, A Marble Calm, Brian Eno and co-founder of Burning Shed) does all sorts of things with basses, computers and guitars. Andrea Chimenti adds his lush Baritone to Ad Occhi Chiusi (Eyes Closed Shut) whilst Japanese composer and sound artist, Haco adds a really distinctive, serpentine vocal and lyric to Soul Eaters, coming over all Bjork meets Tori Amos – listen out for the wonderful line: “He knocks at your door and sprinkles dust in your eyes”. It gets a smile and a shiver out of me every time.
An impressive line-up, I’m sure you’ll agree and no prizes for guessing what and who this album sounds like. Their press release describes them thus:
"Ambient and Progressive Rock influences create a sophisticated sound that incorporates delicate atmospherics, rich melodies, looping rhythms and hard-hitting riffs. Recalling aspects of Rain Tree Crow, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Eno, King Crimson and No-Man."
Well, they would wouldn’t they and, to an extent, I agree. Definitely, you can take Rain Tree Crow, PT, and No-Man from that list. The influence that Barbieri, Karn and Bowness (and, by association, Steve Wilson) bring to the studio is palpable without being mere emulation. I do hear some King Crimsonish moments, especially in some of the guitar sounds which recall Discipline-era KC but I don’t really get the Floyd connection and the ‘hard-hitting riffs’ is a total red herring. Having said that, if you are already a fan of any of the bands mentioned so far, you will surely find stacks to enjoy on Endless. I think Fjieri are very much in the vein of Porcupine Tree and No-Man, I also find myself recalling No Sound and, if you are aware of Geir Jenssen’s Biopshere, then you can add glimpses of him to this comparison too. It is ‘ambient-art-jazz-prog’, a genre I’ve just invented, except I didn’t, Fjieri did. They have taken some pre-existing templates from within the contemporary prog and electronic music scene and created their own model, which is a remarkable thing; music that is familiar and accessible, deep and engaging, sonically complex and slightly challenging, fresh and unique.
One of the things I love about this album is the clever and accomplished blend of acoustic instruments with digital ones. The title track is a fine example, opening with a wheezing, feeble sax, and I don’t mean that pejoratively, just as a way to describe the sound. You can hear Nicola Alesini’s breath vibrating the reed, straining for articulation; aurally so close you can hear his teeth and lips closing on the mouthpiece. The sonic detail in each track is amazing, as is the clarity, separation and stereo imaging of every nuance of the sound. With so many experienced producers floating around the studio and a decade in the making, perhaps this is to be expected, but really, no one could ask for better resolution. The musicianship is faultless and the variety is well, endless.
I don’t really want to go into a track-by-track analysis. They are all good, there’s no filler here, though some take longer to seep into your consciousness than others, but once you’re hooked it’s quite an addictive album that I’ve played more than any other this year. My favourite is undoubtedly Marcinelle. This track, I believe, refers to a mining disaster that took place in the Belgian town of Marcinelle in 1956 killing 134 Italian miners and I wonder if there’s a personal connection to this in the lives of one of Fjieri’s members? In any case, it’s a beautiful elegiac piece, aching with sadness and straining with loss, yet somehow full of love at the same time. It clears my mind each time I hear it. Gorgeous stuff.
My only reservation with Endless is its overall somberness and, for all it’s a short album by prog standards, it’s long enough. For all of its beauty and magnificence on many levels, it can be a bit draining emotionally if you really, really get into it and the best way to do this is with headphones on or turn it up loud enough to fill the space you are in and lie back. It requires, no – demands your full attention in order to appreciate it properly and if I don’t feel like going into that contemplative, reflective space then it simply doesn’t work. When I am in that mood, and with burgeoning age this happens more and more frequently, then it is the perfect accompaniment to a meditative frame of mind. Do not be misled by this. It’s not dronecore, nor is it a call to prayer. Quite the opposite. It’s extremely dynamic and you cannot be a passive listener, you must get involved with it in order for it to work its magic. Is this a good thing or not? I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing, but as for its ‘progressive’ credentials, be under no illusion, our wide and embracing prog arms will definitely accommodate Endless, but only as a cousin. Check the samples linked above and then decide whether this is something you’d like to pay for. I have no hesitation in recommending that you do. As for Fjieri, I really hope they manage to speed up their creative process without losing any quality, because I’m already yearning for more.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Rick Wakeman – Past, Present And Future
CD1: A Voyage Of Discovery (2:56), Once Upon A Time (4:13), The First Dawn (5:17), The Ice Age (4:34), Distant Dreams (3:51), Melodrama (6:16), Sepia Moments (4:55), To Those We Loved (3:59), Victoriana (5:17), Eden (5:22), Perchance To Dream (6:09), One Journey (6:31), Mystical Tales (6:26)
CD2: White Light (5:04), Heaven Alone (5:30), Parallel Worlds (5:04), To Capture The Moment (5:20), A View From Above (5:49), In An Instant (5:38), A Test of Time (3:23), Circle of Time (3:58), In A Perfect World (4:42), Living The Dream (7:09), This Moment In Time (3:54), With Open Arms (5:15), As Nature Intended (5:45
CD3: A Galaxy Of Light (5:22), Fear Of The Unknown (4:54), A Second Chance (6:22), Into The Unknown (7:56), The Visionary (5:18), No Turning Back (6:46), Maybe One Day (7:37), The Secret Path (6:14), The Final Journey (7:02), Beyond The Rainbow (5:16)
Although Rick Wakeman is often regarded as first and foremost the keyboardist with Yes he has actually spent considerably more time out of the band than in it. Certainly his compositional contributions to the Yes catalogue have been minimal, using his own (and the English Rock Ensemble) albums as the preferred outlet for his creativity. Take a courtesy look at the discography on Rick’s website and the sheer number of solo releases since his 1971 debut Piano Vibrations is quite staggering. And whist I’ve been a fan of Rick’s keyboard virtuosity for nigh on 40 years it would be fair to say that such is the volume of his output, quality control has occasionally (and understandably) been compromised along the way.
This latest 3 CD collection sees Rick returning full circle to his roots with no less than 36 pieces composed and performed on solo piano. As the album and some of the track titles reveal, it’s loosely based on the passing of time although such is the tranquil nature of the music the subject matter could so easily be the sea, mountains, lakes, forests or any other idyllic setting you care to think of. Whilst it’s not all Morning Has Broken, Rick’s arrangements do have a soothing quality that some (but not me) might term ‘new age’ or worse still ‘chill out’ music.
Put the first of these discs in the player and the style is so typically Wakeman, and whilst the technique is as good as you would expect I was impressed by the subtlety of Rick’s playing which is mostly free of the flamboyant flourishes to which he is often prone. It’s all tastefully executed and at times extremely beautiful, and given the sheer number of pieces performed the melodies are surprisingly rich. The lyrical opening piece A Voyage Of Discovery for example reminded me a little of Birdman Of Alcatraz from 1977’s Criminal Record (still my favourite Wakeman album).
Drawbacks? Well yes, there are certain reservations. The consistent musical style and tone of the piano spread over three discs means that it does begin to sound a tad samey after awhile. And whilst the melodic, easy on the ear sound worked for me it does admittedly lack the classical, jazz and ragtime stylistic diversions that players like Keith Emerson, Patrick Moraz and Jordan Rudess have brought to their solo piano works. It’s also missing that instant recognition factor, there are no cover versions of familiar Yes or Beatles tunes this time around from Rick.
On a more positive note this album, like much of Rick’s best work, is clearly free from production interference and makes no concessions to musical fashions giving it a timeless quality. This is a highly respected and skilled musician doing exactly what he does best. Whilst I found it almost impossible to digest in one sitting this is an album I’ll return to on a regular basis, particularly on those occasions when I’m looking for an antidote to the stresses and strains that life has to offer.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Ergo – Multitude, Solitude
Tracklist: Rana Sylvatica (3:49), Vessel (12:21), She Haunts Me (6:32), Little Shadow (5:00), Endlessly [Multitude, Solitude] (11:39), Actuator (8:54)
When, on looking at the credits on New York trio Ergo’s second album, you’ll see that composer and band leader Brett Sroka is credited with playing ‘trombone and computer’ you might surmise that this isn’t your standard guitar-bass-drums outfit we’re talking about – and you’d be right. Rather than spend a large amount of time trying to describe their music in one or two concise sentences I’m going to cheat and just quote directly from Cuneiform’s press release:
“Ergo combines jazz, electronica, avant-garde rock and ambience, performing music of stark melodic beauty, enveloping electro-acoustic texture and empathic imagination”.
Aside from Sroka, the band features Carl Maguire on Rhodes electric piano, synths and ‘electronic effects’ and new boy Shawn Balthazor on drums. The opening Rana Sylvatica gives a good indication of what the listener can expect; sparse Rhodes piano notes are gradually underpinned by some humming electronica and heavily brushed cymbals, with the three elements intertwining and gradually building in intensity. Sroka’s trombone playing is first heard on the more expansive Vessel; typically, it gives the material a slightly mournful feel. In common with many of the other pieces, there are sections that appear at least partly improvised in addition to more structured parts where the rhythms are tighter and the melodies more clearly defined. The trio reach almost King Crimson (early to mid-seventies era) levels of intensity at various stages, with Balthazor’s complex yet powerful drum work leading the way.
The near-title track, Endlessly [Multitude, Solitude], is a similarly complex and intense piece, with some ethnic-sounding percussive work and sections which features varying levels of discordance, interwoven with more delicate, sparser soundscapes. In contrast, both She Haunts Me and Little Shadow have a laid-back, almost positive vibe to them; at the risk of churning out bad puns, the former does have an – ahem – haunting atmosphere to it. The closing Actuator has a pulsing keyboard-led rhythm – a little like the main theme to John Carpenter’s film Halloween – and a sea of hazy trombones floating around in both the back and foreground. There are some seemingly random bleeps and blips from Sroka’s computer in the rather abstract, avant-garde-esque middle section, before a more conventional build-up in the latter stages, leading to a powerful, bassdrum-heavy climax.
Ergo have certainly produced an original and thought-provoking album here; at different times it’s both challenging and relaxing listening, and what can start as atmospheric music ideal for chilling out to late at night frequently becomes something more claustrophobic and abstract. In common with many albums that feature some improvisation, not everything clicks, and there is some seemingly pointless abstract noodling that goes nowhere fast, but overall this is an interesting and enjoyable listen. I’m guessing that fans of experimental, minimalist modern jazz will be the main fan base this is likely to appeal to, but fans of latter-day Talk Talk, David Sylvian (particularly his more free-from, mostly instrumental albums) and even the aforementioned King Crimson could well find this album to their liking.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki's Neverland - Ophidia
As we have also reviewed Reversing Time, Neverland's debut album, the story of this Turkish/Greek metal has been told before. So I will not repeat that here. It's enough to repeat that Neverland is Turkish Dreamtone's cooperation with Greek Iris Mavraki. Although their second album, Ophidia, is different from their their firstling, it does have the distinctive Neverland (Dreamtone) mark, like the previous one. One of the remarks on Reversing Time was that it is potpourri, a mix of all these different genres and the same is true for Ophidia. But with Ophidia the mix is more coherent, yes the songs are different, but they do belong together on this album.
A good album takes a while to get used to. A fact known by many music lovers and prog lovers in particular. And in that Ophidia is no different. This album is a grower and it will take time to get the full extent of it's beauty. Luckily there are also a couple of songs on the album that one can like right off. It is because of those tracks that I kept returning to this album and came to like the rest of the tracks too. Now that I have given this album the numbers of spins that it required, the album turns out to be such a great one.
This album is a real progression compared to the previous one in so many aspects. The production already very good for Reversing Time is at an even higher level, just listen to the start of Ophidia for example, or the acoustic sound of Will Of God. Oganalp Canatan's singing has improved immensely, which is important as he does take even more of the singing duties for this album. Where Reversing Time was partly carried by the guest appearances, on this album the band can really stand ground on their own. The guests are a great addition but their appearances are not overshadowing the rest of the album in any way. Again the Turkish descent of most of the band members is present in the tracks but not in the in your face as with Amaseffer and Orphaned Land. It is there, but is not what defines the album.
Also it seems Neverland have moved on from the Blind Guardian reference, to a sound more of their own. This album is a melodic, pleasantly bombastic rock opera. Pleasantly bombastic because the tracks that have a full sound are still open of character. It is also clear that the band members have put their talent and emotion into this album.
This Voice Inside, is a great opener to the album. Starting of with a classical theme and a narration by Iris, the song bursts into up tempo metal. People familiar with the Wheel of Time series should pay extra attention to the lyrics. This voice inside my head refers to Lews Therin voice inside Rand al'Thor's head. For days I have been walking around with the ending lyrics in my head: "the wheel weaves as the wheel wills, the wheel weaves as the wheel wills, the wheel weaves as the wheel wills"... (fade out). Silence The Wolves, a track about how man is destroying nature, is at the same pace as the first track, introducing the first guest on this album: Urban Breed (Tad Morose, Pyramaze<), who's voice fits the track perfectly. Speedy guitars, alternated with melodic weeping guitars. This is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days. At first listen it seems to be pretty straight forward but consecutive listens will show that there is so much more to this song.
Ophidia emerges from a keyboard/sequencer sound from where the pumping rhythm section sets the tone for again another firmly paced song. Rich in it's tempo changes but not to an extent that you get lost in them all. Will Of God, is the first track on this album that Iris Mavraki plays a more important role in. Together with Oganalp she carries the melody lines of this song. Lovely acoustic guitars, strings, as if you are in a enchanted forest.
Invisible War is a real love it or hate it track. This is the kind of song people will say about: "Well it is different" and that might not always be meant in a positive way. But as it features Jon Oliva (Jon Oliva's Pain, Savatage). I gave some extra effort here, giving this song the benefit of the doubt. Somewhere around the 10th spin, I started to see why this is such a brilliant song. Quirky choirs (ja lala lalaalla ), the rasping voice of Jon Oliva and again rhythm and melody changes that are not predictable at all.
Places Unknown, starts of as a mellow track but picks up a bit of tempo with the vocals. But the real feature of this track is the weeping guitar following it's own melody line. No One Leaves The Hive, has 2 guitars intertwining melodies, all backed-up by a pacing rhythm again. Speak To Me's most prominent features are church organ like keyboards and the voices of Iris and Oganalp.
And then Ashes To Fall one of the highlights of the album! Following a more traditional prog metal structure the excellent voice of 3rd guest, Edu Falaschi (Angra) totally carries this song. Final Odyssey, starts of like a Madonna (!) song but luckily once Emrecan Sevdin's drums take over from the drum computer the song shakes off that reference. Forest Of Hope is the only real Iris Mavraki track on this album, it has a medieval sound and feel (acoustic guitars and all).
Dying Threads is the second track on this album that takes it lyrics from Wheel of Time, starting with an acoustic guitar, harp and flute, electric guitars soon play the main melody line. Again a very very enjoyable song.
And then, Into the Horizon, how can I describe my appreciation for this track? I can start of by saying that it I have had it on repeat for quite sometime and I did not get bored. I can tell you that it landed a spot in my all time favourite track list from the first moment I heard it. I can tell you that Into The Horizon is a reason in it's own to buy this album. But judge for your self and listen to this instrumental track that has a number of different melody lines, superb guitar and keys, bombast to just the right amount and I hope you will fall in love like I did.
Listening to this album it is hard to imagine what the first encounter, that I had with the boys from Dreamtone, sounded like. All of the members have really matured. I am so amazed by the excellent drumming, the virtuosity of the keys, the emotions in the guitar solo's, the pleasant vocals, the driving bass. And all that in songs that, once they catch on, get stuck in your head for days.
What is most noticeable for this album is that the rhythm section is so important. Although it appears the keyboard loops and solo's are competing for prominence, I suddenly realized that I had been banging my head to almost all the songs, and that of course is produced by the bass guitar and the drums.
Neverland have just announced there tour through Europe at the beginning of October 2010, I will make sure to be there.
With Ophidia Dreamtone & Iris Mavraki's Neverland have again made a big step forward. It does take some listens to understand some of the songs and to discover the rich structures of the others. But in my book that is a good thing. It does however expose a problem for me as a reviewer: this is a big step forward from Reversing Time, (which was a great album too), but I give Ophidia the same rating that I gave Reversing Time, let's say I was too generous then and let this review speak for itself...
Ophidia, Neverland's latest, is a super album!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
The Dust Connection - Trails
Tracklist: The Nameless (4:34), Orbit (3:36), The Grand Final (6:46), Clouds (4:48), Trails [Conduct The Tension] (0:40), Garden Of Remembrance (6:56), Remission Of Sins (5:48), Subconscious World (5:44), New God (4:15), Path (4:55), Nothingness (6:00), The House That Doesn't Exist (9:44), Nine Days' Wonder (5:01), Within The Silence (4:19)
The Dust Connection is a Dutch prog-metal band that rose from the symphonic metal formation Forever Time, who toured with Pain Of Salvation, Evergrey and Threshold, and those three bands can also be named when summing up the influences for the music of The Dust Connection. From Forever Times, Robert Spaninks (drums), Martijn Blasters (guitar/vocals) and Sander Heerings (keyboard) are still present. Completing the line-up are Jorg Kurten (bass) and good vocals of Jeroen Voogd that fit perfectly in the music. The music of The Dust Connection can also be compared with other Dutch progressive metal bands like The Aurora Project and Ullyses and during the very heavy songs a comparison with Textures can be made. Immediately I must say that The Dust Connection with this debut album Trails surpassed these bands already. The music is not only progressive metal but also neo prog with a lot of melodic solos by both guitar and keyboard, although a broad range of interest is provided, you must like progressive metal to enjoy this album.
What can I say about the opener The Nameless? Well, it is a very heavy song, almost pure metal and even has a Helloween like guitar solo in it. People not so keen on very heavy music might put this album aside immediately, but this song covers just a small side of the music of The Dust Connection. Orbit is also on the heavy end of the deal, so caution is advised when judging only on a sample of these first two songs. The Grand Final is where it becomes more interesting for the progressive minded. A little touch of Queensrÿche and Fates Warning, a grand song but not yet the final. Clouds is a first highlight for me, it has the feeling of a gigantic song but still packed within five minutes. The metal element is almost completely gone except in the more powerful and dramatic sounding chorus. Very much like Queensrÿche with very melodic guitar solos, beautiful. This is followed by Trails [Conduct The Tension], an atmospheric short instrumental interlude.
Garden Of Remembrance is another highlight on this album, even more epic tendencies than on Clouds. More piano pieces and at times challenging the listener with a teasing build-up that does not deliver, but later on does. On Remission Of Sins it is back to the neo prog with a climax at the end with many keyboards. Subconscious World continuous that style, less changes in the rhythm department and more keyboards in contrast with the heavy beginning of the album, a more accessible song. It has been a while since the heavy start of the album so on New God it is time to show some more muscle again, with a heavy keyboard riff and a sudden outburst like Sherinian. It does not stay heavy all the way through but still very metal.
Path can also be added to the highlights for me and like the highlights mentioned before, Clouds and Garden Of Remembrance, this song reminds me of Arena. Nothingness is more accessible and does not change in pace a lot like the other material on this album, a match with the song Subconscious World. The House That Doesn't Exist is the song in which progressive rock/metal fans can really sink their teeth in. The first four minutes are ballad like, if it would fade out there it would be a nice compact power ballad but The Dust Connection chose to go the extra mile. Another four minutes of instrumental strength with jazzy and fast parts with a spot for every instrument. The song does not end with the starting tune like most epics do but gently goes on with beautiful piano parts. If the album would have stopped here it would be fine by me. I think the guys must be flooded with inspiration because after over an hour of music they still provide two more songs. Nine Days' Wonder, a powerful pounding song and Within The Silence, a ballad.
Trails would have been a pretty good album to consider for debut of the year, too bad it was released at the very end of 2009. The Dust Connection have delivered a very fine album from start to finish, which contains a variety of styles but progressive metal is the main factor. As mentioned earlier the two songs opening the album might scare some people away because they are really heavy and only cover one aspect of the music. So better also check out some of the more progressive songs amongst the samples the band has provided. If you judge only on the heavy stuff you might miss out on some great songs later one. On the other hand if you really do not like progressive metal then you will not like this album. Highlights for me are Path, Clouds and Garden Of Remembrance. A very good album that I have played many times and will play many times more.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Roz Vitalis - Live At Mezzo Forte, Moscow ~ September 09
Tracklist: Warm Tuesday / Giver [Piano Solo] / Ascension Dream (10:07), Wooden Bear / Annihilator Of Moral Hazard (6:31), Autumn Of Hypocrisy / Disruption [Truncated] (9:51), Destiny Dethroned (5:14), Flown With The Wind / Insecure (10:27), Painsadist (3:42), Autumn Crocus (4:23), Outro (3:28)
I like what I am hearing with Roz Vitalis – Live At Mezzo Forte, Moscow ~ September ’09 very much indeed, which I think has been very cleverly put together. Roz Vitalis is now a five piece from Russia who from inception was the brain child of keyboard player Ivan Rozmainsky, who since 2002 has grown the band into a three and now a five piece which is what we have here on the album. During this time they have clocked up five studio albums, a few EPs and this being their second live release. Their Enigmarden album from 2005 was reviewed by Joris Donkel receiving a mere 4 out of 10.
On this recording the line up is Ivan Rozmainsky (keyboards & winds), Vladimir Polyakov, (vocals, keyboards, percussions, horns & noises), Vladimir Semeov – Tyan-Shansky, (bass) and Phillip Semenov (drums & percussions), who all contribute building some weird and wonderful soundscapes in this live arena.
This is a very arty prog album that reminds me of Gentle Giant and in particularly Islands era King Crimson in its style and approach. How arty? Well not only is its approach in the vein of avant-prog / RIO, but it also uses text from poets, (Elliot, Dryden, Yeats, Davies and Donne), and to very clever effect as it adds atmosphere and dimension to the whole concept.
Prog does seem to have a reputation for being for the elite. Honest opinion time. If you were sat with someone discussing the merits of using classic poets for lyrics with complex musical interludes, how long do you think the conversation would be a two way affair before one of the party got bored? But don’t let this put you off, as it’s not as bad as its sounds in theory, and thinking about it a bit further, what poet / poem would you choose?
Live albums to me are a perfect way for a band to loving craft their songs from across their recording careers, showboating to maximum effect their potential magnificence. One of the important things about a live recording is the mastering of sound, which on this album is very good, as all the musical notes played by all the musicians are captured perfectly, but the one complaint that I have and I know it’s being pedantic, there is no real atmosphere. Let me expand on this statement, as to me this is a real let down. Audience participation at the end of each song is minimal, which I might add is not an issue as such, what I am struggling with though is that it sounds like the band are either playing in a big hall where the audience are miles away or there are hardly any people there? It is also very hard to decipher what is actually being sung and said between songs too, not that I understand Russian mind you.
So putting that to one side let’s move on to what is being offered musically on the eight tracks here.
Warm Tuesday / Giver [Piano solo] / Ascension Dream – has some interesting guitar and keyboard interaction, with text from Thomas Elliot thrown in, although it is hard to decipher what is being said. A beautiful laid back and atmospheric piece with some spacey keyboard work thrown in for good measure with some mid tempo pieces thrown in too. Vocals sound somewhat like Nick Cave singing some pastoral chant whilst on some spiritual ascent towards heaven. Ascension Dream piece is from 2003’s L’Ascensione, and Warm Tuesday and Giver appear to be previously unreleased pieces, almost as if the band are jamming.
Wooden Bear / Annihilator Of Moral Hazard – this time we have text by Dryden and vocal phrasing sounding like Nick Cave in places again featuring some great guitar and wind work. The guitar has a tone of Steve Howe in places and a spine chilling organ tone. The Annihilator Of Moral Hazard is from the 2007 Compassionizer and again Wooden Bear appears to be another unreleased piece.
Autumn Of Hypocrisy / Disruption [Truncated] – Rozmainsky plays some classic style piano with some interjections of beeps and spacey keyboard. I could certainly imagine Zappa writing a piece like this allowing the listener to be challenged and taken on an aural journey of differing tones, that sound like they have just been thrown together, almost chaotic but still having semblance. Yeats text is used this time for great effect and comes across as a male version of Diamanda Galas performing her Plague Mass. Towards the end of the track the sound becomes almost reverential.
Destiny Dethroned – this is to me the most accessible track on the album which is a more rock oriented melody and is lifted from their 2005 Enigmarden. The best way for me to describe this track is Russian folk music updated and played through electric instruments in the style of prog with guitar and piano flowing back and forth. Weird description I know but it’s such a great track, probably the one that I have played the most, and at times it feels out of sync with what else is on offer, and has a Zappa guitar tone that just creeps up on you. Wow.
Flown With The Wind / Insecure – is an unreleased piece which sounds somewhat like an accidental soundtrack with the use of text this time by Davies. These guys certainly love their poets, incurring their work into the poets work adding some serious drama to the whole affair. We also get some building key work with some gentle noodling guitars.
Painsadist – has a church organ feel to it as it starts out on its adventure, and carries on that reverential journey. Some great time signatures had me bopping on my seat. I would have loved to have heard this track being jammed out for ten minutes or so to see what level they would have taken it too. Strangely it’s the song that gets the loudest applause, so maybe I’m onto something here with my line of thought.
Autumn Crocus - now here we have the strangest vocal phrasing on the album which sounds like Vic Reeves doing his Shooting Stars piece of "guess the title of the song" done in the style of... Captain Beefheart would be my nearest reference for this, and is definitely out of place here.
Outro – now here’s a challenge for you. Close your eyes whilst listening to this piece and tell me you don’t hear Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, John Densmore and Jim Morrison playing Russian Orthodox Music. This piece really is spooky. From the opening line of Donne’s work, “No man is an island entire of itself every man is a piece of the continent”, I don’t think that I’ve heard such a fitting closure to a live album in a long time, and then it just ends. I just wanted it to go on.
On reflection of reviewing this album I would like to add some of the following comments.
Firstly whilst I am a great advocate of live albums, of which sometimes I feel a minority, I do believe that you get a truer representation of how a band feels / what they are trying to achieve, and can be a great toe dipper too. The let down for me on this front being that I would have truly loved to have heard some of their studio albums first as a starting reference point.
Secondly and I don’t feel alone on this front at all, as this seems to be common amongst other prog fans, I do like to be musically challenged and Roz Vitalis have achieved and exceed that goal in a positive way.
Thirdly I know reviewing is subjective, and I do read between the lines when reading reviews myself, because at the end of the day you are spending your hard earned cash on a recommendation. Hell I’ve even bought albums purely on the look of the sleeve and been impressed and sometimes disappointed too. Hands up who hasn’t done this in their time. For me, if you are of the more adventurous nature and are willing to try something slightly different, then you aren’t going to go far wrong with Roz Vitalis. I honestly think you may genuinely be surprised with what you hear. I was.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Cheer Accident - Fear Draws Misfortune
Tracklist: Sun Dies (5:50), Mescalito (1:06), And Then You Realize You Haven't Left Yet (1:32), Blue Cheadle (5:49), Disenchantment (3:43), The Carnal, Garish City (4:18), According To The Spiral (2:51), Humanizing The Distance (6:54), Your Weak Heart (9:43)
Cheer Accident hail from Chicago and over the course of the last thirty years have released sixteen full-length albums as well as innumerable cassettes during their early days. Unfortunately, they remain relatively unknown in the US and even more so in Europe, although this first release on the Cuneiform label may make their name a bit more prominent (as will their inclusion in Romantic Warriors, a forthcoming feature-length documentary about modern progressive music). With a rather fluid line-up, the current incarnation of the group is centred around Thymme Jones (drums, keyboards, trumpet, vocals), Jeff Libersher (guitar, bass, trumpet, vocals) and Alex Perkolup (bass, guitars) who are ably supported by a cast of no less than 15 musicians from the Chicago area who add brass, strings and layers of vocals.
In broad terms, Fear Draws Misfortune can be filed under avant garde/progressive art rock, although the variety of music touched on is impressive: Zappa in progressive form; any number of bands that feature Robert Wyatt; Henry Cow with a healthy dose of Van der Graaf Generator and Gentle Giant incorporated for good measure. Indeed, it is this latter band that immediately springs to mind on opener Sun Dies with its layered vocals that resemble a bastardised version of Just The Same. The musical influence of the Giant also appear elsewhere throughout the album and in particular on the epic closing number Your Weak Heart which starts off as a somewhat sentimental piano/vocal ballad but gets twisted by the orchestral brass and strings which sets off a musically complex battle that is all over the place in terms of timings and rhythms - the way Jones keeps a handle on everything throughout is truly impressive. No less engaging are the two short pieces Mescalito and And Then You Realize You Haven't Left Yet, which are as tiring (in a good way!) to listen to as it must be to play. They pack more into 160 seconds than most bands could in 20 minutes! The last time I heard anything like this was when the Cardiacs were in their prime. Humanizing The Distance throws a curve into King Crimson territory with the very subdued ending coming as much as a shock to the system as the more frantic elements of the album, although leads perfectly into the aforementioned Your Weak Heart.
Elsewhere, Disenchantment has an eerie bass sound throughout most of the piece which is rescued by a brief offbeat piano and vocal section and concludes with alto sax; According To The Spiral is essentially a Jones solo piece with a very progressive piano and drum rhythm overlaid with a more regular vocal and an interesting flute melody and Blue Cheadle is a veritable smorgasbord of different ideas thrown together, disassembled, reassembled and laid down in order to confuse and entice wonderment. The only track I couldn't really get into was The Carnal, Garish City as it was a bit too discordant for my tastes, even if there was some more of the Giant-ish vocalisation. Shame as I loved the title!
I am not sure how representative Fear Draws Misfortune is of previous releases by Cheer Accident, although given the fact that they are seemingly pretty much an underground secret I am not sure that matters! However, the album is certainly one that is very interesting and although not dinner part or relaxing evening music is entertaining, engaging and at times downright exciting. If you favour the more out there kind of music, have a passion for weird time signatures and have a brain that enjoys figuring out just how on earth a group of musicians can combine together in such an intelligent and unusual way then Cheer Accident may well be worth checking out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Zevious – After the Air Raid
Tracklist: Where's The Captain? (5:11), Coma Cluster (4:42), Mostly Skulls (5:12), That Ticket Exploded (5:54), The Noose (4:28), iNCITING (4:39), Gradual Decay (4:45), The Ditch (5:49), After The Air Raid (3:20), The Children And The Rats (4:59), Glass Tables (4:35)
Up until recently Zevious were an acoustic jazz guitar trio. Their record company’s suggestion as to what their music should now be filed under is jazz/jazz-rock/punk-jazz/electric jazz.
No capes or mellotrons, then.
The band is now an “instrumental power trio”. So, from A Mighty Wind (kind of) to Spinal Tap (in both metal and free-form jazz incarnations) in just a few short years.
A lot of ‘avant-prog’, much of which seems to be coming out of the States at the moment, seeks to be unique through improvisation and experimentation. Yet to my ears it ends up sounding well, a bit samey. Which is ironic if you think about it.
However, this album does bear repeated listens. But it’s hard work, mind.
The music is often quite melodic, harder edged in places and plain over the top bonkers at its darkest. Rhythms wriggle and weave in, around and over slabs of guitar. Quieter moments provide respite from the industrial cacophony. So what we have here is a veritable cheese board of tastes and textures, and not just a processed lump of Monterey Jack.
For all my distrust of bands who - with progressive rock music now seemingly in the ascendancy - suddenly add “progressive” to their CV, the music is grounded in a progressive tradition that makes it worthy of consideration here. Think a jazzier Red by King Crimson, along with Magma, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Meshuggah.
Opener Where’s The Captain? best exemplifies the influence of Crimson on the band, with free form jazzery, industrial riffage and exploratory electric Frippery.
For the rest of the record Zevious throw their influences, together with a healthy dollop of talent into a big pot, break out the distortion pedals and crank out challenging, complex, sometimes insanely loud music. I’m guessing their amps have 11 on the knobs. Loud is easy, though. It’s the juxtaposition of loud and quiet, frantic and fragile that is harder to do, and to do well. Zevious just about manage to pull it off here.
Not everyone is going to like it, but it will find its audience in the progressive rock world. Those who wish to learn more merely need to head on over to the interweb and listen to samples.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Mario Cottarelli – Prodigiosa Macchina
Tracklist: Prodigiosa Macchina (21:50), Il Pensiero Dominante (11:30), I Cori Della Via Lattea (8:02)
In the seventies, the Italian multi-instrumentalist Mario Cottarelli started to compose prog-music. Unfortunately, his first demos were only ready in 1978, when record labels already had lost interest in prog rock after punk had taken over popular musical culture. He chose a more commercial path, which led him to work with many Italian groups and musicians, including Ivana Spagna, who became rather successful in Italy.
With the release of his album Prodigiosa Machina, Cottarelli returns to his roots by delivering a prog album based on adaptations of the compositions he wrote in the seventies. No wonder then, that this album clearly reflects the influences of his great examples of the golden prog-decade. I can clearly hear references to Genesis, Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield, but also the early albums of Camel.
The information on the sleeve is rather poor and suggests that Cottarelli played all instruments himself, just like one of his examples, Mike Oldfield, also did. Apparently, he is also responsible for the vocals (in Italian) as well as for the production, mixing and mastering.
Don’t expect too much Italian drama. The overall mood of the music is a bit like the Swedish band Moon Safari: positive and light-hearted, sometimes cheerful and mostly up-tempo. It’s a keyboard oriented album, although the many rhythmic variations show that Cottarelli started his musical career as an autodidact drummer.
The album consists of three tracks. The first one, the epic title track Prodigiosa Macchina, clocks 21:50 minutes. It has some nice instrumental explorations, including a “bell loop” reminding of Tubular Bells, as well as a 10/8 rhythmic part in the style of Suppers Ready. This is the best track of the album. The second track Il Pensiero Dominante has some “Oldfieldian” loops that vary over time. However, this track suffers from the lack of melodies that stick to ones mind. The third track, I Cori Della Via Lattea is an instrumental one which starts very promisingly. However, the rest of the composition, dominated by a church organ riff (inspired by Rick Wakeman?), is not going anywhere and sort of “expires” into nothing.
Though on the composition side, Prodigiosa Macchina has its interesting moments, the performance side is less convincing. I had the feeling that the CD is a sort of “attick room” project: there is no real band behind it. I was puzzled by the title. “Prodigiosa Macchina”, which means something like “Miraculous Machine”. It makes you wonder if Cottarelli refers to his work station keyboard, from which most of the sounds seem to be coming from. Strings, organs, pianos, flutes and brass all are based on keyboard samples. Many musicians do that, but you can go too far. Sometimes it is as even the guitar power chords are played with his work station. True or not, the guitars sound rather poor and not at all up to modern standards.
Even more annoying is that Cottarelli seems to have used the wrong settings on the so called autotune software, commonly used nowadays in recording studio’s to correct detuned vocals. This makes the vocals on this album sound too unnatural, “computerised”, and sometimes even a bit funny. At one point the software seems to push a note so far down that we hear another tone than the one which probably was intended.
The release of Prodigiosa Macchina is sympathetic and commendable, being a personal project of a prog musician who finally has been able to put his teenage dreams into reality. Cottarelli clearly is a talented musician and there are many pleasant and original ideas on this album, showing that he has a lot of potential. I really hope Cottarelli will continue on this newly chosen path. But I also hope that he would gather a band around him with real musicians who support him, who tell him when his ideas are good, but also when they’re not.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
This Misery Garden – Another Great Day On Earth
Tracklist: Another Great Day On Earth (4:54), Vermillion River (4:49), Rejection Song (5:25), Instant Recoil (5:49), Force Feed (3:34), Pantomimes (5:14), Bitter Sweet (3:07), On The Edge (3:37), Swan Song (4:00), Dirty Playground (3:48), Fractured Days (3:47), A Tasteless Poison (3:42), Say No Word (3:36), Everything Come To An End (5:24)
This Misery Garden were originally formed in Geneva in 2005, after many changes, the line up has been stabilized and is now composed of: Laurent (ex-Zuul FX) playing the guitar, Jay (ex-Body Bag) playing the bass, Stephan (past member of Oyate and The Learned) playing drums, Antoine (who studied under the guidance of Christophe Godin) as second guitar player and Steve (ex-Middlecage) handling the vocals, only recently replacing Benjamin, but in saying that I played the track Vermillion River with new singer and they sounded the same to me, cue confusion. I have no surnames as none were supplied and no references are made on their MySpace page, and their official webpage doesn’t seem to function?
This is their debut album, and judging by the quality of their craftsmanship they have come up with an excellent product. This Misery Garden are have been heavily influenced by Tool, A Perfect Circle, Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, Pain of Salvation and some Live thrown in for good measure too. All the tracks on the album are extremely short in length, catchy and melodic and will have you nodding your head and singing along. It just got such an air of familiarity about it. Just for the track Vermillion River alone it’s worth the entrance price, and promoted correctly I believe they could be quite a successful band. It really is an album of two halves though, when they are good they are good, but in some places it can become very formulaic and average. This is very evident towards the end of the album where one or two of the songs get a bit weaker, and when I say weaker I mean compared to the high standards of the other tracks on offer, but is does close on a high. Hopefully this is something that they will rectify on their next release.
When I first read the promo material stating they were a dark rock/metal I was a bit intrigued. After listening to them I would personally class them as a commercial orientated prog metal band. From the opening line, “Escaping shadows, I feel I am reborn”, to the closing line “And everything comes to an end everything will just fade away in emptiness”, we have an emotional and heartfelt recording, that has been produced to very high standards by Sybreeds producer Drop.
Their MySpace page states, “They aim to deliver genuine intense music. Melancholy and hope, anger defying serenity, love and death, all of those blended altogether to create a vivid and illuminating sound.” Did they succeed? Absolutely.
Another Great Day On Earth opens the proceedings and the first thing to strike you is how much they sound like tool especially the bass playing and personally I don’t think that is a bad thing. There is some excellent drumming and bass playing throughout this track.
Vermillion River is the best song on the album in my opinion, (and I have struggled to try and choose just one due to the quality on offer), it’s just an emotionally powerhouse with powering guitars, rhythmic bass work, and Benjamin’s emotional vocals
Rejection Song again is another rhythmic and melodic driven song with soaring vocals, guitar work and beat perfect drumming, all tied together by some really clever word play.
Instant Recall is lead by the bass player and drummer with interjections from the guitarists heightening Benjamin’s vocals and the tone of the song, building into a crescendo of brilliant guitar work.
Force Feed is probably the most mainstream track on the album, which might I reassure you doesn’t mean bad, and is one of the heavier tracks on the album, with big guitar riffs and vitriolic sounding vocals and drum breaks.
Pantomimes, presents us with yet another drag me in memorable song, great word play and faultless musicianship with towering guitars, bass and drum.
Bittersweet slows the pace down, yet has no let up emotionally or musically. You certainly get the feeling, as you listen to this album, that this is a group who are not short of ideas.
On The Edge is another heavy track musically, and Benjamin uses his vocal talent to great effect to switching between aggressive and melodic tones. “I don’t need to be like you, just need to be myself”, says it all really.
Swan Song heavy guitar work textured and layer, as this is what this band does best, tight beats and strong structure.
Dirty Playground is probably the weakest track on the album, and at best an average track.
Fractured Days heavy guitar intro breaking into a groovy bass and drum section, reminiscent of Tool, very focused on basic song structure of verse, chorus and bridge.
A Tasteless Poison is a melodic and layer song, with Benjamin hitting all the emotional vocal points throughout, giving the song body and structure but it has a some what feel of going through the motions.
Say No Word has driving bass and drum, featuring a more basic guitar structure through this song with another great vocal performance, which has been solid and consistent throughout.
Everything Come To An End has a moody bass intro atmospheric guitar soundscapes good rhythm and strong vocal presence, a fitting and strong song on which to close the album, and a very apt title too.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Get–Stas! - And Don’t Lose It…
Tracklist: I Breathe (4:38), Dangerzone (4:53), Daily Life (5:17), Catgirl (4:19), Set Me Free (5:25), Priscilla (4:16), It Makes Me Feel Alone (5:07), True Love (5:00), War Ghosts (6:13), Red Shoes (3:00), Garden Of Eden (5:01)
Get-Stas! have a web, MySpace and Youtube presence but despite this I have been unable to find out very much about them. They are a five-piece band, from the Netherlands. So I guess the Dutch Progressive Rock Pages are as good a place as any to review them. They’ve only got six friends (plus me as of today) on their MySpace so pop on over, and cheer them up. They look pretty grumpy in their band picture on the website.
Three of the five band members appear to be from the van der Heijden family, with Marc responsible for writing all the music and lyrics. He plays keyboards and guitars. And he’s also credited with composing, arranging and producing the record. A talented lad, then. He’s definitely got an ear for a tune.
Adopting a ‘CD reviewing is akin to wine-tasting’ approach, I’m getting hints of Rush, U2, Simple Minds, Europe, Arena, IQ, Pallas, Fish-era Marillion, Satellite, with other stadium rock and neo-prog accents. It’s melodic, tuneful and hook-laden. Good ‘in from work at 5pm on a Friday and not ready for anything too challenging just yet’ kind of fare. Indeed, I admit to getting quite a strong sense of déjà vu when I first popped this one into the Watson hi-fi. It’s a highly polished slab of very familiar, easy-listening radio-friendly pop/prog.
Opener I Breathe kicks things off in outright neo- style, and hits the mark well.
Dangerzone sees The Edge jamming with early Marillion whilst Daily Life has some excellent jazzy bass work on what is otherwise a stock power ballad with a solid vocal performance from Marc VDH. There’s even some whistling.
Catgirl is stadium-tastic, with tortured soloing low in the mix. Again, great bass playing by Twan van der Heijden. In fact, his playing has to be singled out as particularly note-worthy.
Set Me Free is a good slow-burner that builds to an anthemic climax, yet again elevated from the norm by Twan’s bass playing.
Standout track for me is Priscilla. More excellent bass playing, jangly stadium guitars, wrapped in a 1980s Rush synth sound and topped off by Alex Lifeson soloing.
It Makes Me Feel Alone is a decent slab of neo-prog with trebly guitar riff and sing-along chorus.
True Love starts with rain, thunder and lightning before we’re into a Fishy ‘on a strange misty morning I met you’ lyric with 80s neo- musical accompaniment. Good solo, too.
War Ghosts is a solid, modern Rush-like affair, with a particularly good vocal performance that sounds Fish-like in places. There’s even a spoken word section and final scream that, well, screams Marillion. Lyrically it’s one of the few tracks that veers away from themes of love and loving, covering, er, war. Which shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to the more astute reader.
Red Shoes is a foot-tappingly rocky Simple Minds / U2 crowd pleaser. Yet again it’s the bass work that shines for me, notwithstanding a solid guitar solo.
Before you know it, closing track Garden Of Eden comes and goes. With shades of all the above and lyrics about gardens. In Eden. Get those lighters aloft, this is the end of the gig. Love, it seems, is out of control.
Reassuringly familiar, this album is like your faithful old Labrador. He doesn’t do much nowadays, save lick himself inappropriately and, if you’re brutally honest, he smells a bit. But you love him nevertheless.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10