Reviews in this issue:
- Trettioåriga Kriget - Efter Efter
- Wobbler – Rites At Dawn
- Johnny Unicorn – Sweet Edith Manton
- AltaVia – Girt Dog
- C-Sides – Devitrification
- Sun Caged – The Lotus Effect
- Jeff Green - Jessica
- Lunocode - The Last Day Of The Earth [EP]
- Alex Wroten - Not Necessarily Like This
- Snatch Magnet – Screw, Nut And Bolt
- Sworn - Sworn
- Burn The Iris - Sovereign [EP]
Trettioåriga Kriget – Efter Efter
Tracklist: Mannen På Bänken [The Man On The Bench] (5:18), Barnet [The Child] (8:45), Tavlan [The Painting] (6:16), The Dance (4:30), Glorious War (7:30), Till En Sputnik [For A Sputnik] (4:56), Paus [Time-Out] (1:32), Efter Efter [After After] (10:20)
Trettioåriga Kriget (Thirty Years War) are now well into their second period of activity with Efter Efter concluding the trilogy started with their 2004 comeback album Elden Av Ar and continuing with 2007’s I Början Och Slutet. Since the very early days the line-up has been stable and the current sextet continues unaltered from where they finished their first phase in 1981. They have stayed true to their original sound and vision, influencing many Swedish groups as can be heard in the work of Anekdoten, Landberk and Änglagård to name but three.
They produce a very engaging sound heavily influenced by their formative early ‘70s years but also maintaining a relevance and validity that other bands who return after a period away fail to achieve. This is no rehash of old glories and the recent work adds maturity and experience to their palette resulting in some quite breathtaking music, most of which is written by bassist Stefan Fredin with lyricist and sixth member Olle Thörnvall. All are sung in Swedish except for a few English phrases in Glorious War but for non-Swedish speakers the booklet contains English translations.
As their name implies there is a bleak and epic quality to the music. Mannen På Bänken opens with a particularly strident pounding rhythm before moving through lyrical verses and storming choruses full of great ensemble playing. I would not be surprised if these guys are a fine live band and one day hope to find out. Robert Zima’s vocals are very impressive and Fredin’s bass upfront Anekdoten style. The material is varied and entertaining, guitarist Christer Åkerberg producing an accomplished solo and there is perhaps a hint of old-time Kaipa in the quiet guitar section.
The melancholy sounds of a Mellotron with main theme picked out on guitar open Barnet which continues with keys working against the rhythm and clashing guitar which gets heavier before melody returns. This track really swings at times and there is a lovely live sound to the recording. Bleak keys and a solitary guitar hinting at Pink Floyd for Tavlan which emerges into a very engaging plaintive vocal with organ before building on an epic and emotional Mellotron. The mood changes and becomes upbeat with a hint of Yes before returning to mournful with a nice keys solo from Mats Lindberg.
The Dance starts slowly on guitar and piano but is soon whirling on a great guitar line from Åkerberg with more Yes influence during Steve Howe like solo sections. Good drums from Dag Lundquist and Åkerberg takes many detours on this varied and rocking instrumental. Glorious War starts small, again reminding of the quieter moments of Kaipa, with sparse bass and guitar interspersed with slow rocking sections. Ominous militaristic drum beats change the mood and it builds into an epic with a finely supported vocal and great guitar solo pushing it to a crescendo. Fabulous stuff.
Nice bass and guitar with a bit of Led Zeppelin stomp for Till En Sputnik telling the tale of how Rock ‘n’ Roll came to small town Sweden in the ‘50s. Yes influence again in the guitar phrasing here and there with plenty of variation to break up the track and add interest. Paus is a brief strummed acoustic number, a true “Time-Out” before the epic finale Efter Efter with thumping bass, guitar and keys that fall away for atmospheric Mellotron flutes and vocals. The momentum builds slowly with a well arranged ensemble feel which blows up into a rocky section and keys solo. Lundquist is excellent and the lovely falling section with Zima really giving it some reminds me of something else, it could be Echo Beach by Martha & the Muffins but I may be way off mark there! Back to low-key with nice guitar & Mellotron to close, this is another great track.
Trettioåriga Kriget have produced a very dynamic album, the easiest DPRP recommendation that I’ve given in a long time. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone with a liking for atmospheric early ‘70s influenced prog with real variety, moody but rocking where required. The writing and structure is superb with no padding and the production by Lundquist a joy. The whole thing is engaging and well played, this is a class act to treasure.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Wobbler – Rites At Dawn
Tracklist: Lucid (1:40), La Bealtaine (7:52), In Orbit (12:30), This Past Presence (6:14), A Faerie’s Play (5:19), The River (10:04), Lucid Dreams (2:19)
In the progressive rock community there has always been a discussion about what is truly progressive rock. I was watching a very entertaining documentary by David C. Robin which also covers this subject (Thanks, Micha!). On the one side you have Echolyn’s Brett Kull who says: ‘It’s not about solo’s, it’s not about mellotrons, that has all been done’. And on the other side of the discussion there is one of the guys from Glass Hammer who says: ‘If sometimes we are accused of rehashing thirty year old musical ideas then I’ll have to say; I plead guilty’.
Personally I think that I do not belong to either side of the discussion. It’s the music that counts. If it’s good I do not really mind if it has been done before or not. Every musician is influenced by things that have been done before. Like it or not. I can thoroughly enjoy modern bands like North Atlantic Oscillation and Jolly but I also like the music of Glass Hammer and The Watch. I must say however that I find it striking that there are a lot of young bands that seem to embrace the sound and the feel of those seventies dinosaurs. Bands like Astra, Diagonal and DeWolff to name a few.
Wobbler also can be placed firmly in this “category” of bands that love the sound of the seventies. They seem to refuse to use instruments that have been made after 1975. Rites At Dawn is the bands third album and a couple of things have changed.
- 1. They have a new singer. Their previous vocalist had a very nice voice but he also had one problem: He didn’t use it a lot. Which made the two previous albums largely instrumental affairs. Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo (Yes, I think it’s a long name too) also has a very strong voice but he chooses to use it far more often. He also wrote most of the lyrics.
- 2. Because of the larger amount of vocals on this album it sounds far more structured and song based than the two previous albums.
- 3. There is a very distinct Yes influence to be heard on this album. Not only musically, (they used a Rickenbacker bass on this album, some of the electric guitar parts are sounding very Steve Howe like and Prestmo does sing some melodies which could have been written by Jon Anderson), but also lyrically. Not unlike Yes the lyrics seem to use nature as a metaphor for our lives. An example:
“You run wild and far. And by your banks we may find rest at last. Our common life is all there is. Your soul equals our reflections. Constantly you drift pas us” (from The River)
“To capture the rites, the cycle of birth-to sow and to follow. To harvest the fruits from the womb of the earth and the seeds of the present sky” (from In Orbit)
- 4. I always thought that Wobbler was keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie’s band but on this album almost all the band members have writing credits. Especially bass player Kristian Karl Hultgren (yeah, I know it’s a long name again) is responsible for some of the best tracks on the album (In Orbit and The River).
All these changes have led to a different album than the previous two albums. Where those albums were based on the instrumental themes, complexity and the stop/start technique that was made famous by Änglagård, Rites Of Dawn is far more song based. More accessible if you like. There is still however plenty of musical wizardry to enjoy and the lovers of those analog sounds need not worry either, (this a very mellotron heavy album!!).
In my review of their second album Afterglow I said that Wobbler had improved compared to Hinterland. Well, on Rites Of Dawn they made a giant leap as I really think that this is a fantastic album. It’s adventurous, thrilling, demanding but if you persevere, then the rewards are great.
The album is bookended by the gentle Lucid and Lucid Dreams but in between a lot is happening. La Bealtaine (the celebration of the beginning of summer) immediately has that Yes feel that I was talking about and is present during the first tracks of the album. And some very Flavio Premoli (PFM) like Moog parts at the end of the track. The long In Orbit has various interesting twists and turns, a bassoon played by Hanne Rekdal, some furious upfront bass playing, fast guitar parts, and a grand finale. Shame about the fade out though, guys. This Past Present starts folky with acoustic guitar and a flute (from guest Ketil Vestrum Einarsen) but then changes to a very straightforward sounding track with a great guitar solo from Morten Andreas Eriksen accompanied by a rocking piano part from Frøislie - a great King Crimson (or Anekdoten) like break at the end of the second chorus and then a mellotron flute solo right at the end. Magnificent!
A Faerie’s Play sounds very positive and has a hint of Gentle Giant during the almost a cappella parts. And then The River. What a fantastic track! It is graced with a killer chorus, but it starts with an incredible opening with some fierce Hammond work, saxophone and a brilliant guitar solo. And then we are only one minute away as a beautiful vocal part starts. The instrumental break has some very good themes, including the bassoon again. I especially like the guitar and bass harmonies in this part. And then the mellotron string break after the second chorus... well you’ll just have to hear it (but it made me think fondly of Yes’ And You And I).
Final introduction - the drummer is called Martin Nordrum Kneppen...
Although I've mentioned a lot of bands in this review - I must stress that Wobbler manages to use all those influences to sound like Wobbler.
This really is an incredible album which displays the band's love for the great bands of the seventies. As mentioned the greater amount of vocals in the material makes the music sound much more focused and because of this it is also more accessible resulting in an album that can be loved by a much wider prog audience than the two preceding albums. I promised Wobbler a DPRP recommended tag if they continued to grow as a band. Well, they did more than that. They blew me away!
Oh, one more thing: It says in the promo material that Rites At Dawn contains prog that the girlfriends of the male progrock fan would also like. Well guys, I tried and failed.
Leonardus Johannes Martinus Koperdraat ;0)...
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Johnny Unicorn – Sweet Edith Manton
Tracklist: Lady Drives (4:28), Date Movie Fever (4:05), I'm On Fire (2:04), Science (3:03), The Last Day (3:57), The Ice Cream That Burned (3:07), 50 Times (2:39), Edith Manton (15:54)
Food before shelter
Shelter before art
Art before leisure
Leisure before vengeance
This album, apparently, “explores the anxiety of modernity and the terror of everyday life using progressive rock and pop sounds”. And a jolly good job it does of it, too. It’s easily a contender for my best-of list, and is something that will be a constant companion, on my many and varied ‘listening platforms’ although I did have to take a hammer and screwdriver to a (not inexpensive) CD player when it sucked in the CD and proceeded to do nothing with it. Not even eject it. So, eschewing the manual, I went straight to a) shaking it, b) swearing at it and c) [a particular favourite of mine] turning it off and back on again; before d) swearing at it again before, inevitably, e) hammer time. And, whilst we’re at it, what’s all this with listening platforms. Time was, you had a record player and that was it. Still...
That I sacrificed an expensive machine for a (relatively) cheap CD might come as a shock to you. My own awareness of my underlying, and sometimes troubling mental fragilities, however, doesn’t make me surprised. Not one bit. We all have stuff to cope with, and some of us cope with it better than others. Many of the rock stars so beloved to us had demons the size of industrial freezers. And, anticipating just how much I wanted to listen to this imbued my ham fisted screw driving fingers with a sense of urgency that, frankly, cheaply cobbled together Japanese circuitry could never, really resist. The entire unit was designed so as to not facilitate easy release of a trapped CD, and so, whilst not proud of myself, I was left with no choice but to resort to violence. This is not something I resort to readily, indeed my heart was heavy. I realise I damaged, through my violent act, something which another had created. But my intention was good.
In these times of post-modernity the angst is multiplied and the terror tripled, but simple conceits, such as hope, love and faith, in something/someone, what/whoever that might be will cast light into the darkest places. And, who knows, bring us a kind of peace. Or love. For something/someone.
And so it starts off, fairground keys and end of the pier humour as a lady has, as they often do, ‘a ring around her finger’. This is a particular bone of contention for me, given my circumstance. But then before I get maudlin we descend into the most delicious of alt/prog territory, the voice and the words perfectly mixed with the swirling, and the monotone before foot tapping, complex intertwined tunes will have you air twangly-guitaring, and Spiralling.
The prog vibe kicks in next up, with a healthy dose of BOC chords and Bontempi stylings, again spiralling, fluttr-ing even.
And so I sit, typing and listening, a long week of work behind me, who knows what ahead. For a keyboard player, Johnny sure plays a mean guitar, that’ll have you strumming in (the) air.
For those wrestling with how and when Johnny Unicorn may have found its way into your CD player before, (minus hammer and screwdriver of course), then think Phideaux. Johnny not only forms part of Phideaux's touring band, but also featured on Doomsday Afternoon, Number Seven and of course this year's Snowtorch.
An emo-vibe sometimes kicks in, insofar as emo can be extremely tuneful and hook laden, but the lyrics take it beyond the ‘I’m 17 and angry with my parents’ puerility of even the most tuneful emo.
In time we will diffuse again
Without familiar conscience
With no more time, and no more space
We’ll never see the end
But then again, in Science, Echolyn traces and strident guitar bring everything back into progressive clarity
The Last Day is a Crimson jam of epic proportions, all the more impressive, given the fat that two musicians are doing this. An angry track, and angular, jagged synth horns and guitar propel us into the ever so slightly grungy next track.
Another day, and I’m still inside
I felt a breeze and I closed the door
I had a chance, let it slip away
(The Ice- Cream that burned)
As I ponder American trips, and futures, I listen intently when otherwise I might not want to.
It’s very English in places, Beatle-esque even and has a lyrical sensibility that should appeal to all but the most thoughtless.
I sometimes wonder if there is anything new to cherish in music. Listening to lots of Porcu-Theater clones depresses me, and diminishes my spirit. There’s no joy in it. Nor, as an aside, is there in most FFPBs. It’s not misogyny, it’s just an inbred dislike of cynical market positioning, absent any real talent and artistry. You can’t airbrush in talent.
Some days I am lost
Some days I am found
Album closer, Edith Manton is an epic, 16 minute long suite in five pieces, two of which are instrumental. Vocally, Johnny does a passing imitation of JMK of Tool in places on this one. And even manages some excellent vocal harmonies – studio jiggery-pokey methinks, unless he has clones.
I drank, I sat beneath, I tried to think
Then after some instrumentalism, joy of joy mellotron choirs do battle with perfectly attuned guitar washes, arpeggios, solos and layered Queen vocal orchestras. Amazing stuff. The accordion could anywhere else have sounded cheesy but here is perfectly attuned to the guitar, the two instruments conversing in counterpoint before the full on, Phideaux-esque chugga-chugga bit. And then a saxophone makes us think…
I think I felt a love before
I can’t be sure unless I melt
The most progressive section is a joyous interlude, lyrically echoing the civil Englishness of 1970s prog. Gentle Giant, and Genesis both get a look in.
In a cage I’m not free, I will not get fights on
I will drink my life in smaller sips
If there’s a ‘science’ to reviewing, then I’m all art. There can be no objectivity in art. There just can’t be. It’s the very definition of art. Anyone who opines that you can objectively critique art is mistaken.
Science can’t explain
Reason enchants my fancy
And as unwanted anniversaries pass, and subside to memory, as\always excellent music soothes the most savage of hearts.
Flesh will always decompose
Unless you keep it fresh
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
AltaVia – Girt Dog
Tracklist: Picture Frame (8:06), The Circle Gallery (8:33), Another Lie (8:52), My Me And You (5:58), In Another Way (6:07), Ghost Caged For Keepsake (6:53), I'll Be There (5:44), Wounded Part I (8:35), Wounded Part II (5:27), Teleselezione (2:53)
In these times of economic uncertainty the launch of a new record label and a new band is welcome news indeed. White Knight Records is a joint enterprise from Magenta’s Rob Reed and Hoggwash’s Will Mackie and their first release is the debut album from Italian proggers AltaVia. Formed in 2008, the band is led by Andrea Stagni (keyboards, vocals) who along with Marcello Bellina (drums, vocals), Mauro Monti (guitars, vocals), Giuliano Vandelli (bass) and Betty Copeta (vocals) has produced a refreshingly unpretentious collection of songs that combines mainstream rock with vintage prog and a hint of pop.
All the songs here display a great sense of melody and structure. Instrumentation is suitably rich as is the vocals with an imaginative use of all credited singers within the band. After an atmospheric synth intro, Picture Frame features a strong choral focal point enlivened by some fine instrumental passages. The rhythm section is both muscular and refined as the mood dictates with excellent interplay between the two leads. With shades of Yes and Genesis, overall I was reminded of very early Marillion (circa Market Square Heroes) although with a tad more polish and sophistication.
The following two songs The Circle Gallery and Another Lie also clock in at the eight to nine minute mark but like the opener they justify their length with strong melodies, dramatic instrumental flights driven by solid riffs and delivered with excellent timing and pace. The latter includes a particularly memorable choral hook which develops into a goose bump inducing coda. With Steve Rothery style rippling guitar, My Me And You provides a lyrical interlude with engaging male and female vocal exchanges.
In contrast the energetic In Another Way explodes from the speakers with weighty power chords and a lively synth line whilst still retaining a firm grip on the melody. It Bites and Pallas both come to mind here whilst the evocatively titled Ghost Caged For Keepsake allows the band’s pop influences to creep through thanks to a suitably catchy chorus. That said it still makes space for a glorious instrumental section, building to a spellbinding guitar and synth led finale. With its gutsy guitar and organ exchanges and a majestic synth solo I'll Be There has The Tangent written all over it with the vocal this time having a distinct Peter Gabriel tone.
Wounded Part I and Wounded Part II may share a common name but musically they have their own distinct styles. Part I has a nervous and edgy feel against a powerful instrumental backdrop which relaxes for a beautiful piano and vocal mid-section before another evocative choral finale strongly reminiscent of the earlier song Another Lie. Part II is in a more neo-prog vein with an energetic delivery to provide a suitably satisfying close to the album. Or at least that should be the case, but AltaVia cannot resist a not so well hidden bonus track Teleselezione which allows for some indulgent and jazzy noodling to play out.
AltaVia may be from northern Italy but the album title (along with the music) reveals their British influences. This is a fine debut by anyone standards and White Knight Records should be applauded for bringing the band to our attention. If the rest of the labels releases prove to be as good as this one then the future looks very bright indeed.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
C-Sides – Devitrification
Tracklist: The Ribbon (5:57), Times For Me (5:17), Master Plan (4:44), Stand Up (6:48), Devitrification Pt.1 (4:53), Devitrification Pt.2 (2:11), Devitrification Pt.3 (4:58), Let It Go (4:26), Way I See (4:26)
Take three former members of Magenta, put them in a studio together and what do you get, a prog rock extravaganza? Well not exactly. Formed in 2007, C-Sides combines the considerable talents of Martin Rosser (guitars), Allan Mason-Jones (drums) and Dan Fry (bass, vocals) into a power trio with the most obvious comparison being Rush. A notably revelation here (for me at least) is the lead vocals of Dan Fry. Whilst his impressive bass work and energetic stage presence will be familiar to Magenta fans, his confident and gutsy singing here may come as a surprise.
The Ribbon is as you would expect a powerful opener with Rosser’s rock solid lead guitar work given added presence by crunching riffs and Mason-Jones and Fry’s monumental rhythm partnership. The expansive Times For Me opens things up a little with its compelling and propulsive rhythm overlaid by searing guitar lines and a catchy vocal hook. The wordless harmonies at the close are just sublime.
Master Plan slows the mood down a little with Fry savouring every word sounding (believe it or not) not unlike Robbie Williams, building to another full blown chorus. During Stand Up Fry adopts a Lou Reed drawl adding to the songs edgy stance although for me (despite some engaging vocalising from guest Emily Bates) it’s perhaps the least memorable track here which is a pity because it’s also the longest.
The title piece Devitrification is divided into three parts and provides the albums anchor point. Part 1 features a particularly catchy central melody and strong choral chant whilst the instrumental part 2 is a lyrical offering created by double tracked acoustic guitars with Martin accompanied by (I think) namesake Matthew Rosser. The acoustic guitars hang around to provide the backdrop for the wistful part 3 which picks up from where part 1 left off and includes yet more fine vocal harmonising courtesy of Fry, Rosser and third guest Alan McCarthy.
Fry’s distinctive bass sound is given much prominence enhancing the measured power of the penultimate and dramatic Let It Go leaving the hard rocking Way I See to provide a tuneful conclusion to a relatively short but otherwise enjoyable set. Rosser’s guitar sounds suitably epic as the track plays out.
Perhaps the only reservation I have, and it’s purely a personal thing, is that the no frills arrangements here lack some of the embellishments I’m accustomed to in progressive rock although there’s no deny that C-Sides deliver the thrills. This is another fine addition to Rob Reed and Will Mackie’s newly launched White Knight Records and one that should find favour with fans of Porcupine Tree, Riverside and Gazpacho in particular.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Sun Caged – The Lotus Effect
Tracklist: Seamripper [& The Blanket Statement] (8:13), Tip-Toe The Fault-Line (6:57), Ashes To Ear (5:18), Shades Of Hades (5:43), Reductio Ad Absurdum (6:18), On Again/Off Again (7:25), Lotus (6:17), Pareidolized [The Ocean In The Shell] (10:00), Parasol (1:43), Wave The Banner (1:41), Fish Afraid Of Drowning (2:14), Moebius Knot (2:26), Full Circle (1:55), Let It Wash Away [The Lotus Effect] (5:49)
The Lotus Effect, or super-hydrophobicity, refers to the ability of certain insects and plants, such as the leaves of the lotus flower, to repel water. The complex micro and nanoscopic architecture of their surfaces, minimise adhesion. Apart from trying to appear far more scientifically aware than I am, the reason I mention this, is that this third album from Dutch prog metallers Sun Caged has shown a similar unwillingness to stick. It’s got all the ingredients which normally allow the musical waters to sink into my brain; complex rhythms, plenty of groove and melodic parts, brilliant solo sections, a superb singer and a band with its own distinctive sound.
Yet try as I might, the vast majority of The Lotus Effect leaves me cold and dry. It may be the nanoscopic architecture of my brain, but as I write this review I still can’t figure out what this album is missing.
After two critically acclaimed releases in the shape of 2003’s self-titled debut and 2007’s follow-up Artemisia, a combination of new families, other projects and a search for a new bassist (Daniel Kohn) led the band to take four years to work on this material.
Musically The Lotus Effect is the most diverse effort yet from Sun Caged containing both the heaviest and most mellow things the quintet has done. Influences range from progressive metal to fusion and jazz, with several ambient explorations. The Lotus Effect also showcases the band’s longest composition with tracks 8 to 14 meant to flow into one 24-minute epic.
This album also saw a change in the song-writing approach. Much of the material was written through jamming in the rehearsal room instead of different members writing at home.
Led by guitar maestro Marcel Coenen, this is a multi-faceted and complex musical menagerie that will require a lot of patience. As I said, all the ingredients are there and I’m sure there are many for whom this disc will be a rewarding and long-lasting listen.
I think it’s the diverse arrangements which are causing me a problem. There are a lot of ideas within every song and Paul Adrian Villarreal’s voice adds a welcome melodic accessibility. What most songs seem to lack is a common groove to tie everything together.
It’s only on the 10-minute Pareidolized [The Ocean In The Shell] and Ashes To Ear that the song generates a desire for me to come back for more in a way that the musically similar Andromeda manages to do.
I’ve really tried but sometimes you have to accept defeat and move on – although I will take The Ocean In The Shell with me.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Jeff Green - Jessica
Tracklist: For The Future (6:29), Vision (0:55), On This Night (9:08), Willing The Clouds Away (7:50), Pride (2:38), Essence (1:26), Woman With Child (5:39), Being (1:01), Jessie’s Theme (7:14), Tomorrow Never Came (8:05), Prittlewell Chase (6:04), Live Forever (5:52)
This album was inspired by events surrounding the tragic stillbirth of Jeff Green’s daughter in 1996, the album being a cathartic process which took nearly 11 years to complete. Jeff and his wife suffered the horror of having to endure the experience in a working maternity ward not kitted out for helping those bereaved in such terrible circumstances so all the profits from this album are going to Southend General Hospital in Essex, UK to help them create a fit for purpose bereavement room.
Californian Jeff cut his teeth in local Sacramento bands before travelling to England in 1986. He was asked to join the Illegal Eagles tribute band in 1997 and played with them until leaving to concentrate on the release of Jessica along with family life at his new home in Ireland.
On this self-produced debut Jeff is joined by ex-Pallas keyboard man Mike Stobbie who provides some great solos such as on Willing The Clouds Away, Pete Riley on drums, bassists Tim Vogt, Glenn Sissons and Mark Cunningham, additional guitar from Phil Hilborne, vocals from Claire Furley and keys from Illegal Eagles’ Phil Aldridge.
The music is a joy comprising set piece tracks with some briefer pieces interlaced. As can be seen from the titles this is an autobiographical work but in no way down-beat or maudlin and there is positivity in the vibrant music. Jeff is an accomplished guitarist with a fine sense of melody as can be evidenced by the Dave Gilmour sound of For The Future but he also has a good voice as can be heard on the four tracks featuring a vocal, such as the heavy riffing On This Night.
The descending bass figure on Woman With Child is, oddly, a distant cousin to an early section of Rush’s The Necromancer and coupled with an emotional see-sawing guitar that could have come from Andy Latimer this is a very strong instrumental. Tomorrow Never Came has a bluesy edge with a vocal that suits Green’s voice before moving into more overly prog territory.
Of the briefer tracks, Vision is a lovely solo guitar lullaby, Pride reminds of some of Steve Hackett’s more pastoral work with acoustic and synth guitars all performed by Jeff, Essence and Being are keyboard pieces from Phil Aldridge.
Jessie’s Theme features some refrains from the shorter interludes but becomes more menacing with Jeff playing some great solos and finally develops an Eastern feel. Prittlewell Chase has a distinct Celtic flavour with harp and whistle sounds and beautiful acoustic guitar before changing dramatically into a not entirely successful Electro backing for some heavy soloing from Jeff. The album concludes with probably the best track, Live Forever, with an uplifting vocal together with soaring chorus and soloing.
Here and there influences from the likes of Marillion and IQ as well as Southern Rock can be heard and Jeff can certainly write an interesting piece that allows his talents as a guitarist to shine through. Hopefully his next album will not take 11 years to complete.
Not only is this album trying to raise awareness for a worthy cause, it is also a damn fine piece of work that deserves to be heard. There is real variety on offer and despite the subject matter is emotional without becoming mawkish.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Lunocode - The Last Day Of The Earth [EP]
Tracklist: Different Meanings (0:55), Flow, My Tears (6:05), Universal Plan (5:58), Heart Of The World (7:33), Silent Thoughts (8:49), Invisible Tears [Acoustic Version] (4:22)
It always interests me these days as to what is considered an album and what is considered an EP. What actually is the criteria that sets these two items apart? Please no answers on a postcard. Back in the day before the world of zero’s and one’s it was so much easier to know and in fact a lot of LP’s released came in at about thirty five minutes, you go figure. This apparently allowed for the best song quality possible. Anyway I digress.
Daphne Romano (vocals), Paride Mazzoni (guitars), Giordano Boncompagni (guitars) Francesco Rossi (bass) and Perseo Mazzoni (drums) are the members that make up this band, a band called Lunocode with The Last Day Of The Earth being their debut release, an EP which is conceptual, being based on philosophical arguments dealing with the universe and the human condition.
We see Lunocode offering up six tracks, six tracks that give a flavour of what this band is about. The genre maybe progressive/power metal but to a degree the emphasis is metal. All the trade marks are here, twin guitar work, sumptuous bass passages, lively drumming and powerhouse vocals, although Daphne Romano seems to strain at times as she tries to reach some of those notes. That is not to say though that this is a poor vocal display, when she hits the spot, boy does she hit the spot, Silent Thoughts being a perfect example of this and for that matter it’s the best song here.
Different Meanings gets the show on the road, a very short atmospheric piece which segues into Flow, My Tears. I am not too sure as to whether, as a piece it serves any real purpose, but one thing for sure is that what it lacks in attitude Flow, My Tears more than makes up for. For me this is where the band is most comfortable, a full on, sonic attack. Mazzoni and Boncompagni’s guitar work is dexterous, powerful, if somewhat formulaic in places, which called to mind Helloween and Gamma Ray. Their guitar riff progressions really grab your attention, whilst Mazzoni and Rossi’s backline adds real depth, which is all complemented by some dynamic vocal work which does add character.
Universal Plan slows things down ever so slightly, with its memorable chorus, managing to stay away from becoming mundane; its musical approach does manage to hold your attention. Guitar shredding is obviously the order of the day, something that Italian prog metal bands are renowned for, Lunocode don’t disappoint in this area either. The drum passage that opens Heart Of The World is rather captivating, but unfortunately from there on it is becomes very bland with its approach. Musically it just doesn’t seem to have any real cohesion and it’s not for the want of trying; there are some really nice passages and ideas featured, but for some reason they just don’t seem to work. The band sound like they are just going through the motions, even the emotional guitar tones working in conjunction with Daphne’s vocals still can’t save it from mediocrity.
Silent Thoughts the penultimate and longest track here is the one that really intrigued me the most. It sees the band really thinking out their song structure, being nice and melodic, a power ballad, this track along with Flow, My Tears, will draw you back repeatedly. This is an exercise that really allows the whole construct to become massive, a wall of sonics, pitch perfect guitar solos, beautiful and soulful piano work, pleasurable crescendo’s and fantastic vocals. This is a song that really displays the bands musical prowess, highlighting what they are capable of. Invisible Tears is an acoustic affair; vocally this is Daphne at her best, which allows her to proceed without urgency supported by some rather excellent acoustic accompaniment, which just imbibes her talents.
There are plenty of female fronted prog metal band out there. To standout Lunocode really needs to up their game and rise to the challange, capitalising on their talent, creating music that is consistently good. The EP serves as a nice taster for their debut album proper, and to be honest has captured my imagination somewhat. I am really interested to see where the band goes from here.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Alex Wroten - Not Necessarily Like This
Tracklist: The Birthday Party (4:32), Rockets (8:44), Tuning Tissues (5:15), Anno Domini Hyperactive Disorder (9:24), Four Words For Turns (6:49), Double Talk (3:52), Buckets (1:51), Alpha Not Omega (20:23)
So I read Alex Wroten’s publicity blurb sent with his album Not Necessarily Like This, a commentary which states amongst other stuff:
“Influenced heavily by Pink Floyd, E.L.P, Return To Forever and The Residents” which goes onto say, “Elements of electronic music blended with fusion jazz, avant-garde and symphonic progressive rock to make a new sound that is both accessible and esoteric”.
Now reading that I starting to feel that I have an affinity with this guy, as all the boxes were starting to be ticked quickly. Very quickly indeed! His music is esoteric in the sense of music intended for or to be understood by particular people, mysterious, almost cult in stature; accessible in the sense of well it’s target market really, for those who move or listen to the more experimental fringes of the genre and that is exactly what this album is and probably will be to most. That does not make it a poor album though by any stretch of the imagination.
Alex is a very talented musician who is classically trained, playing all the instruments himself which includes guitar, drums and all keyboards, having been recorded within the confines of his bedroom over an eight month period. Some of the voice clips emanate from as early as 1996 and some of the drum loops used originate from 2006.
This is an album that is experimental in the truest sense, a tour de force of musical shenanigans, experimental phrasings that fits like a glove. This is an album that needs to be loved, caressed and worked with, which may allow you to gain satisfaction from its dynamics or on the other hand it could just have you just shaking your head and leaving you cold. This album may have the elements of the aforementioned references, although they are not directly obvious by any stretch of the imagination, but the soundstages that have been created are avant-garde and angular in approach, instrumentals that make for a real interesting listen.
This album is by no means commercial in any sense of that description, for me the truest reference that Alex has here is The Residents which is most noticeable on Double Talk. As you listen you can hear not so much the musical interpretations that The Residents use, more the ethos of their approach. It is though the longer pieces on the album that make the most sense as they have time to grow and breathe, where the shorter meanderings are slightly less subtle. The nearest that Alex gets to offering any form of commercialism is the album closer Alpha But Omega a rather stunning twenty minute plus piece, which really highlights his whole experimental approach and his musical dexterity, jazzy passages that integrate some rather interesting solo work, which allows the piece to find a position of merit.
After several listens to Not Necessarily Like This and spending sometime working through his website I feel like I do have an affinity to Alex’s creations. When you start looking into Alex Wroten’s world, it all of a sudden it becomes a whole different place, which allows you to make semblance of his approach. On his website there is approximately seventy five hours of music for you to listen to, which will genuinely interest you, ranging from the bizarre to the beautiful. I guarantee that there will be something there that you like. Do yourself a favour and head over there now and check it out.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Snatch Magnet – Screw, Nut And Bolt
Tracklist: The Window (4:57), Multi-Girl (4:50), Call Of The Maiden (6:16), The One (4:08), Games (5:49), You Will Be Mine (3:22), Hybrid (6:59)
Did you hear the one about the wild and crazy rock band? No, this isn’t a rhetorical joke, it’s the rehash of the rock ‘n' roll idiom repackaged for modern consumption. This time it comes in the form of Snatch Magnet with a self-released 36-minute double (or is it a triple?) entendré titled: Screw, Nut And Bolt.
Here is a band that takes pride in not being taken seriously, but their sound is much more serious than the college punk based rock acts that have dotted the landscapes of both sides of the Atlantic for the past 20 years. By the second song they go from sounding like a sped up metal-laced version of Michael Schenker to a cross between the ‘80s icons XTC and Big Country. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, but it doesn’t exactly fare as billed to me.
The songs have flavour and the variety moves to a toned down 311 then to a throwback generic hard-rock tune and off to some rock-a-billy. The continuity to this album comes primarily from the constancy of the vocals and will be the defining characteristic of the band at this rate. At times the vocals sound uncannily like Ray Alder especially from the Fates Warning FWX album.
The musicianship is good; the sound quality is good, but this shows no real progressive elements and I was never “wowed”. Their live act likely entertains in a way this recording just can’t portray, but either way, this really doesn’t translate well into the prog world.
Snatch Magnet seems like a band of contradictions: different, but so much the same of so much that has come before, wild party band that hangs with a rough crowd, but a fairly tame sound overall with some pretty serious musical input into the final product.
Also, you can check out the iSnatch app released as a further promotional tool. This may – and at the same time – may not be your thing.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Sworn – Sworn
Tracklist: Lunatic (10:06), Silent (5:51), Maria (10:05), Space (9:09)
French outfit (Sworn) have been around for about six years, although this seems to be their first release. It’s an eclectic effort; perhaps not surprisingly given that they cite as influences similarly adventurous bands such as Opeth, Enslaved, Celtic Frost and Faith No More. Unfortunately, as yet the sustained quality isn’t really there. For instance, opening track Lunatic has some decent individual sections – a good rollocking black metal style opening; a chilled acoustic segment a’la Opeth in their mellower moments; some nicely controlled riffing and good (but short) guitar solos. Yet whilst some thought has obviously gone in to the song’s construction, it ultimately feels rather laboured, and at ten minutes way too long. The demo-quality production doesn’t really help, with the drums in particular sounding very boxy.
Unfortunately my main problem with this album are the vocals; singer Florian’s rather arch, deadpan delivery, pitched somewhere between speaking and singing, is interesting for a couple of minutes but pall very quickly; the fact that he wavers out of tune on a number of occasions doesn’t help matters. To be honest his vocals made the songs seem a bit of a trial to sit through later on. I feel that a stronger singer with a far greater range is required for the band to start making any headway.
I do feel I’ve been quite critical with this release, and should state again that there are some decent ideas in play here, but more work is required to gel these pieces together into a satisfactory whole.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10
Burn The Iris - Sovereign [EP]
Tracklist: Holding Time (5:01), Old Son (6:34), (Sovereign) Ghost (9:40)
Burn The Iris is a five piece band from the Netherlands. Sovereign is an EP and only has three songs, but with an almost ten minute song included, the total playing time is above the twenty minute mark. As mutual influence Pink Floyd is mentioned by the band, but the music from Burn The Iris is metal and the style can be compared to Meshuggah, Sepultura, Death Angel and Textures (also Dutch).
Holding Time starts heavy and galloping with loud screams from vocalist Richard Spierings, at times the speed becomes very fast and at times slow like Sepultura in their Roots era. Old Son has a bit different sound, the drums determine the speed and the guitar nicely (and easy) follows. The heavier and mellow parts are constructed very strangely, the heavy vocals continue in a mellow part and then you get hit by a power-chord. Not all transitions are bad though, the break in the middle is very nice. The final part of the song has female vocals by Tamara Clijsen, nicely sung but not really perfect in the mix, the grunting dominates too much.
Now let us see what the almost ten minute song (Sovereign) Ghost has to offer. A long intro before it turns to screaming death/doom metal. During this song they take a lot of, occasionally nice, turns and come up with a pretty descent ten minute song.
Burn The Iris is a good metal band that is clearly looking for a point of entry in the music world, however for DPRP it is to heavy, being clearly labelled as metal and they are not original enough to be considered progressive metal. As a band Burn The Iris is welcomed in the metal scene. Sovereign is not bad, but for a twenty minute album it does not really deliver. If you like metal and see them at a concert or festival then you might end up with this disc, however I do not see any reason for DPRP readers to run to the store for this album.
Conclusion: 4.5 out of 10