Issue 2017-091

A Devil's Din - One Hallucination Under God

A Devil's Din - One Hallucination Under God
Country of Origin: Canada
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 41:50
Links:
Track List:
Eternal Now (3:25), Brave New World (4:26), Nearly Normal (4:06), Home (5:15), Who You Are (5:03), Where Do We Go (5:04), One Hallucination Under God (4:10), Sea of Time (5:18), Evolution (5:01)
Proto-prog in the style of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd is the band's self description that got me interested in their music. But that description somehow is true and also not true, at the same time. Because as much as they sound like their heroes in their novice days, the Din miss the core component that would define Pink Floyd totally.

The songs here actually do sound exactly like the song material from the early days, when Floyd barely got out of their teenage period. The compositions match those quite perfectly in terms of melody, chord progression and vocal style. Also the instrumental tones are set exactly to match the late sixties. On that matter, the production of a Pink Floyd tribute band appears quite perfectly. But what's missing is the hunger for experimentation and musical adventures. One Hallucination Under God is nothing more than a handful of songs of old times in traditional structures. There is no such thing as the musical free form of A Saucerful Of Secrets, no extra-terrestrial space impression like in Careful With That Axe Eugene nor the proto metal riff of Let There Be More Light. Not even any ear-candy, like the instrumental part of Remember A Day appears on this album.

Needless to say that the instrumental arrangements don't match the genius of the original. The slide guitar that has no spacey approach to it, and the organs miss the warmth of Rick Wright's attitude, let-a-lone the groovy drumming of Nick Mason. It's all missing. But that's not the main point of my criticism. Because what bothers me much more, is that the band fails to add a personal style to their music. That way, it remains as a blue ,print of the neat, unspectacular part of the early days of a band that wrote music history like no other.

There will be some people who like to listen to harmless songs from the sixties that sound a little different to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and for them this album should be quite pleasing. But for fans that like their music in a progressive form, the album has nothing on offer.
Conclusion:
Raimond Fischbach: 5 out of 10

Himmellegeme - Myth Of Earth

Himmellegeme - Myth Of Earth
Country of Origin: Norway
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 38:57
Links:
Track List:
Nattervan (5:08), Hjertedød (4:05), Myth Of Earth (5:33), Breath In The Air Like It's Fire (5:40), Kyss Mine Blodige Honder (4:03), Fish (3:50), Fallvind (10:38)
From the dark and gloomy west coast of Norway comes a band that found a way onto my headphones and simply blew me away. This five piece band Himmellegeme ("Celestial Body") have crafted a debut that has not only stayed in my car stereo for the last month but also in my head during several moments these past few weeks. Snippets from riffs, and Norwegian lyrics mixed with English, have got in my system and are there to stay for the time to come. What an album and what a success again from Karisma Records to have found and signed this quintet.

The band was founded in Bergen, Norway in 2015 and started building on a sound that focuses on heavy riffing and striking, melancholic lyrics, both in Norwegian and English. While the vocals from Aleksander Vormestrand are clear and absorbing, the band create a sound in which drummer Thor Nordli and bassist Erik Alfredsen never hit a note too much, but are clinical in their execution, and set the pace for Lauritz Isaksen (keyboards), Hein Alexander Olson (lead guitar) and again Vormestrand (guitar) to create the atmosphere in which this album was conceived.

Openers Nattervan and Hjertedød give the album a slow but heavy start and seem to pull you in, before the more progressive title track with a Radiohead-feel does the rest to create the aforementioned atmosphere. You can also hear hints of the blues on this track, something that becomes more apparent on both Kyss Mine Blodige Honder and Fish.

With the album closer, Fallvind, everything comes together again in a 10-minute plus track that pulls you further into the atmosphere and a Floydian-themed section, before fading out and leaving the listener wanting even more.

Myth Of Earth sounds like a band in their prime, but this is just their debut. A very fine debut indeed from a band that further acknowledges the rise of Norway on the (progressive) rock scene and Karisma Records have another gem in a catalogue that already includes great bands such as Airbag, Wobbler, Rendezvous Point and Magic Pie. What Himmellegeme does is combine all of those different aspects of the Nordic progressive scene into one coherent and classy album that is on my best albums of the year list for 2017.
Conclusion:
Arno Agterberg: 9 out of 10

Johannes Luley - Qitara

Johannes Luley - Qitara
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 47:43
Links:
Track List:
The Doer (5:10), Upness (6:27), Seconds (1:42), Sister Six (3:23), Soliloquist (2:58), Moonlight Mesa (4:40), Red And Orange (5:25), Face In Reflection (3:38), Hot Sands (3:53), The White City (3:23), Agni Rahasya (4:49)
Songwriter and guitarist Johannes Luley is an artist with a varied track record that I've been keenly following for the past 10 years. Originally from Frankfurt and currently based in Los Angeles, he was founder of Californian band Moth Vellum whose excellent 2008 self-titled album resonated with the vintage sound of melodic prog rock. His 2013 debut solo album Tales From Sheepfather's Grove focused on Jon Anderson as a source of inspiration.

Two albums with his current band Perfect Beings followed, the self-titled debut in 2014 and Perfect Beings II in 2015. Both albums display a tuneful art rock sensibility that encompasses The Beatles, Yes and Tears For Fears amongst others.

Qitara is Luley's second solo outing, and if like me you are familiar with his previous work, then it will come as a surprise. Recorded in between his Perfect Beings commitments, it's a dazzling display of (mostly) jazz-inflected instrumentals, influenced by several of his guitar heroes.

The opening track, The Doer, begins surprisingly with a classical guitar solo before unleashing a barrage of heavy prog bombast with hard riffs and histrionic guitar and sax soloing.

Sister Six is the album's only song with vocals, courtesy of Moth Vellum singer Ryan Downe, evoking Styx, GTR and Kansas. It has a middle eastern flavour and imaginative acoustic guitar picking in the style of Trevor Rabin.

Although strikingly different, these two tracks are the album's most accessible, whilst the rest demonstrate Luley's more avant garde, jazz-rock leanings.

Upness and The White City both feature mellow guitar picking in the style of Pat Metheny. Soliloquist is Steve Howe in jazz mode (à la Sound Chaser) with guitar harmonics and a touch of distortion, whilst Moonlight Mesa treads an uneasy path between soaring guitar flights and improvised mayhem. Composed by George Duke, Face In Reflection is an album highlight with a sultry, late night vibe and tasteful guitar flourishes that reminded me of Jan Ackerman.

My favourite track however is the incendiary Red And Orange, with bombastic organ and synth soling in the style of Keith Emerson and Chick Corea respectively. Written by Jan Hammer, it's a jazz-proggers delight and even manages to factor in a good tune towards the end.

The concluding Agni Rahasya, with its spiralling rhythm pattern of piano and drums, harks back to 1980s King Crimson. The angular electric and nimble acoustic guitar in particular brings to mind the explosive Robert Fripp / Adrian Belew partnership. Thankfully it fades just as the drum solo kicks in.

There is no denying that Luley's range and scope is impressive here, with full-frontal guitar assaults interspersed with tasteful, intricate solos. It's not all guitar pyrotechnics however. A strong rhythm section and keyboards add depth and colour, whilst sax, horn and piano from the guest musicians provide a more traditional jazz slant.

Not being a great lover of jazz, I must confess I did find the album's excesses a little heavy-going in places. It does however underline Luley's integrity and diversity as a musician and I remain a committed supporter of of his work. Listen to the samples on his website and judge for yourself.
Conclusion:
Geoff Feakes: 8 out of 10

The Pineapple Thief - Where We Stood [CD + DVD]

The Pineapple Thief - Where We Stood
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 78:46
Links:
Track List:
Tear You Up (5:00), The One You Left To Die (4:30), No Man's Land (4:31), Alone At Sea (5:35), That Shore (4:55), Reaching Out (9:28), In Exile (5:00), Take Your Shot (4:36,) Show A Little Love (4:18), Fend For Yourself (4:13), Part Zero ((6:49), Simple As That (4:25), The Final Thing On My Mind (10:24), Nothing At Best (4:58). DVD bonus track: Snowdrops
This the stunning new live CD / DVD by The Pineapple Thief captured live in concert at London's Islington Assembly Hall on the 11th of February 2017 in support of their Your Wilderness album, from which the majority of these tracks are drawn, alongside a few other favourites from their illustrious back catalogue.

I have to confess to not being very familiar with this group, but this set will certainly change that situation very rapidly. This is a great collection with an epic sound and excellent performances from all concerned, the interview segments are illuminating and concise, and the concert footage is sublime. Everything is evocatively shot to create a wonderful, warm and intimate atmosphere.

Musically the band are very tight and are propelled by the dynamic rhythm section of Jon Sykes (bass) and the propulsion machine that is Gavin Harrison behind the drum kit. He is simply astounding here. Ferocious and precise. It is no wonder that King Crimson have snapped him up for the past few tours, as he has a drive, a swing and a stagger to his playing that lifts everything. Guitarist Darren Charles (on loan from Godsticks) is on splendid form throughout and shows himself to be a masterful player.

The songs are not over-long either and each benefit from brevity, although Reaching Out and The Final Thing On My Mind are extended well, yet do not outstay their welcome. The crowd are clearly loving the performance too. And why not, as this is a stellar show and was worthy of capturing for both posterity and as a document of a fine band caught at a suitable high point of their career.

This is a truly fantastic which also serves as a great introduction to _Bruce Soord's modern day take on progressive rock and as I say the DVD is simply superb, well produced and eminently watchable even on repeat and has some nice bonus features too which addd to this being a good package so buy with confidence as they say.

In short: this is an excellent package and comes very highly recommended, as this will be in my Top Ten this year for certain. I truly love it.
Conclusion:
John Wenlock-Smith: 9 out of 10

Three Thirteen - Return To TOX

Three Thirteen - Return To TOX
Country of Origin: USA
Year of Release: 2017
Time: 58:16
Links:
Track List:
The Absent Blue (2:39), Synesthesia (6:09), No True Exit (6:22), Infinitum (6:09), The Concrete And The Stable (4:52), Rotating Topaz (3:44), Those Dreams, Memories (5:26), To Awaken (4:14), Woe Of The Wind (5:28), The Return (4:35), Heptahedron Nightmare (8:34)
When first playing Return To TOX by multi-instrumentalist Mark Harrell (a.k.a. Three Thirteen), an artist I had previously not heard of, I was sure that it was the debut album by an earnest but somewhat inexperienced musician availing himself of the possibilities provided by home recording software. So I was somewhat surprised to discover that it is in fact his thirteenth album. Even more surprising were the artist's claims that the album was "Eclectic Progressive rock in vein of Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips, Camel, and Pink Floyd with a touch of Rush thrown in for good measure" and that the music "moves into heavier, progressive territory". Excuse me if I have slipped into some kind of parallel universe but on hearing the album, I find that neither of these statements bear a reality to any kind of reality that I am familiar with.

DPRP's review of Harrell's previous album, Depletion Region, was largely positive but also doesn't really bear any relation to the music I am hearing on this latest release. Considering Harrell started as a drummer, there are no live drums on the album, the "engaging melodies" singled out as a highlight of the previous album are largely absent and it is no surprise that the review no make no mention of the vocals (if indeed there were any) which are, to be bluntly honest, awful.

I really found it hard work getting through the album. It did not engage me at all, does not even approach anything heavy, let alone progressive, and if any of the five bands mentioned above ever hear the album, I wouldn't be surprised if they seek legal council for misrepresentation.

I did like the front cover though.
Conclusion:
Mark Hughes: 3 out of 10