The Contortionist - Clairvoyant
Monochrome (Passive) (4:55), Godspeed (3:47), Reimagined (3:09), Clairvoyant (7:37), The Center (7:13), Absolve (5:04), Relapse (6:17), Return To Earth (5:56), Monochrome (Pensive) (9:24)
They manage to marry the composing style of bands like Haken and Caligula's Horse with the new movement that is called post metal into a whole new unique soundscape. And by combining these opposed styles, their music appears both cinematic and ambient at the same time. But there is much more to it: modern math shred of the likes of Animals As Leaders and Plini have a big part, as well as a certain pop attitude á la Disperse and Ulver. Also influences of Cynic, Tool and Soen unfold throughout the album.
Cool grooves walk hand in hand with complex breaks and time changes. Advanced jazz harmony progressions happen in ambient sound tapestries. Dreamy vocals in the style of Our Oceans ease off the tension of this complex construct.
It is music with may layers to dive in and explore, layers woven into one another in a very sophisticated way. Not only is it a hefty task to explore them all, also figuring out and marvel at how they're all connected to each other.
In short, you can listen to it while doing some work or in the car, but you can also sit down and pay close attention very often. For that the album will keep you busy for many spins. For people like me, who spent much time in the riff-based world of metal, it might take some time to get into the album, because of the ambient post metal part and the vocal lines that sometimes have notes that even last over two bars. But it's the complexity and the pure genius that will make you leave flabbergasted, once you get into it. So don't just pass by the album easily, because this is a real gem of the year. And I'm pretty sure that these boys have a lot more brilliant music in store for us.
Raimond Fischbach: 8.5 out of 10
Deluge Grander - Oceanarium
A Numbered Rat, A High Ledge, And A Maze Of Horizons (11:32), Drifting Inner Skyline Space (8:28), The Blunt Sun And The Hardened Moon (15:25), Finding A Valley In A Gray Area On A Map (3:24), Finding A Shipwreck In a Valley In An Ocean (6:20), Tropical Detective Squadron (14:10), Marooned And Torn Asunder (8:06), Water To Glass / The Ultimate Solution (12:31)
Given the weird and wonderful track titles you would be forgiven for thinking that it's a throwback to the avant-garde world of the early 70's Canterbury scene and Frank Zappa and you wouldn't be far wrong. Fuzzed organ, Mellotron, electric piano and traditional instruments like trumpet, saxophone and violin evoke the sound of jazz-fusion from that era but it's never self-indulgent with symphonic prog also being a key ingredient.
Lead track A Numbered Rat, A High Ledge, And A Maze Of Horizons opens with riffing guitars and strident organ giving it a retro proto-prog vibe. A mellow interlude combines trombone, clarinet and piano to tuneful effect with Mellotron 'strings' hovering on the horizon. Electric piano, organ and guitar blend smoothly for the funky second half.
Drifting Inner Skyline Space has a pre-TDSOTM Pink Floyd spacey ambiance with its restrained rhythm and dreamy guitar. Woodwind, strings and a touch of mandolin add an orchestral gloss. The bass playing and Steve Howe-like slide guitar in particular are quite superb.
In contrast, The Blunt Sun And The Hardened Moon has a touch of Zappa quirkiness about it but it's no less tuneful or engaging for that. The vintage Mellotron, jazz guitar, saxophone and clarinet also brings early King Crimson to mind. And if you didn't think it was possible to combine classical piano, cello and violin with banjo in a coherent fashion, then give Finding A Shipwreck In A Valley In An Ocean that follows a listen.
For Tropical Detective Squadron the eerie Mellotron and fat bass line provide a Middle-eastern setting. An electric piano solo over a skipping rhythm, the memorable trumpet theme and a fine lead guitar break courtesy of Dave Berggren are all worth a mention. Marooned And Torn Asunder is almost a continuation of the same piece but it also benefits from the majestic sound of the pipe organ.
Reminiscent of vintage Genesis, Water To Glass / The Ultimate Solution opens with a beautiful piano theme, later picked up by acoustic and electric guitar. A tranquil mid-section features superb bass playing from Brett d'Anon (who is excellent throughout the album) before guitar, piano, Mellotron and trumpet combine forces for a suitably uplifting coda.
Given the sheer volume of music (80 minutes is about as much as you can squeeze onto a CD) it's perhaps inevitable that Oceanarium is prone to repetitiveness at times. That said, give each track a little time and attention and its individual qualities will shine through. All credit then to Dan Britton and his collaborators for such an ambitious undertaking which for the most part is pulled off with style and panache.
Geoff Feakes: 8 out of 10
Kaoll - Sob-os-Olhos-de-Eva
Sob os Olhos de Eva (6:00), O Exílio da Serpente (3:26), Kopernik (2:52), Julgamento e Morte de Giordano Bruno (3:34), A Rua Contra os Reis (2:50), Dharma em Chamas (5:50)
Kaoll are a Brazilian instrumental band created in the city of São Paulo in the middle of 2008 by guitarist Bruno Moscatiello. To date they have released four albums. Each album has a number of impressive elements that offer an intoxicating mix of jazz and rock. The band's albums are also often subtly flavoured with the musical colours of Brazil. This is apparent in Sob-Os-Olhos-De-Eva, where the piece entitled Kopernik is underpinned by colourful carnival rhythms that are often associated with Brazil. All four releases contain carefully constructed compositions that enable the accomplished playing of the band to come to the fore.
Their debut album Kaoll 4 was released in 2008 and shows a willingness to experiment and incorporate a wide range of influences in their music. The bands second album Auto–Hipnose was released in 2010. It is flamboyantly draped with the artistic intent associated with the Tropicália movement and includes contributions by the well- known Brazilian musicians Michel Leme and Larry Gordin.
The curiously titled Odd was Kaoll's third album and it was released in 2014. It has a much greater rock feel than both Kaoll 4 and Auto-Hipnose. This is probably not surprising, as ex-Jimi Hendrix bassist Billy Cox makes an appearance on a number of tunes. The album's guitar led tunes are accompanied by a plethora of fervent flute interjections.
This combination is displayed to great effect in pieces such as the wonderful Gigalopole Drive and is also a major component of the hard knuckled riff rock of the impressive Even. The accomplished and exciting interplay between the flute and guitar creates an infectious energy that makes the album hugely enjoyable. Odd bristles with measured aggression, but has lots of differing shades as well This is beautifully emphasised in the acoustic guitar parts that sets the atmospheric mood in pieces such as, Retorno De Bonsucesso and Astrolpulse: O Interlocutor Cosmico
Sob-Os-Olhos-De-Eva was conceived as a conceptual soundtrack to accompany the debut publication of a book by the philosopher Renato Shimmi. The music is intended to enrich the set of philosophical essays presented in the book.
The music of Sob-Os-Olhos-De-Eva contains a mixture of styles and is best heard as one continuous experience. Even though the tracks are self-contained, elements that conclude a track are often found at the beginning of the next piece and so when heard as a whole the album appears to flow seamlessly. Although the release only lasts for just under twenty five minutes, there are enough high points to keep things interesting and leave the listener wishing, that the whole experience would last a tad longer.
The release begins and ends with a range of sound effects sounding vaguely and briefly similar to the swirling plug hole noises to be found during the concluding part of Fitter Stoke Has A Bath in Hatfield And The North's The Rotter's Club. The unnerving squeals and rumbles subside to give way to a pulsating rhythmic flute. Later this repeated pattern is harmonised with an additional and highly melodious flute line.
The majority of the tracks offer a change in direction halfway through the piece and the title track of the album is no exception to this general principle. In the second half of the tune the spacious wash of a gentle slide guitar effect is replaced by a hard guitar riff and snarling flute parts. It is altogether a fine opening piece which on occasions shares certain rhythmic similarities with Jethro Tull's Songs From The Wood. The piece ends with a wonderfully expressive guitar solo that is sure to delight and quicken the pulse of attentive listeners.
The contribution of Bruno Moscatiello is excellent throughout and is undoubtedly one of the albums high points. Moscatiello's blazing solo that ends proceedings in Kopernik is particularly noteworthy. His acoustic work in the introductory sections of tracks such as, O Exílio da Serpente and Kopernik provides the album with an extra dimension and offers a welcome change of atmosphere to the riff driven flute rock that is predominant in many of the other pieces.
Flautist Yuri Garfunkel's performance on the silver tube is one of the albums consistent highlights. The flute rich riffing of O Exílio da Serpente creates an overall sound that is reminiscent of the early work of Peruvian band Flor De Loto , but by far the most engaging flute rock occurs in the standout track Julgamento e Morte de Giordano Bruno.
Julgamento e Morte de Giordano Bruno contains three distinct elements that complement each other and work particularly well. The track begins with an atmospheric flute part; this segues into a memorably crunchy guitar riff that has some biting flute parts cleverly interwoven for added effect. The overall effect is reminiscent of the energetic flute and guitar interplay associated with Solaris. The middle of the piece includes a delightful and unexpected transition as a solo piano interlude changes the pace and mood. The original guitar riff later returns, but on this occasion with a flurry of additional aggression that makes the track even more compelling and engaging. The piece ends in in a blaze of guitar pyro techniques that in terms of tone and intensity is similar to that produced by Joop van Nimwegen of Finch on their album Beyond Expression.
Despite its short duration, Sob-Os-Olhos-De-Eva is a satisfying album. I think that I will return to it often, whenever I feel the need to hear some contemporary flute prog rock.
I am delighted to have discovered this highly enjoyable bands work.
Owen Davies: 7.5 out of 10
Lesoir - Latitude
Modern Goddess (4:32), In The Game (5:28), Icon (4:02), In Their Eyes (7:25), Gone And Forgotten (5:31), Eden's Garden(6:46), Zeros And Ones (4:11), Kissed By Sunlight (4:58), Cheap Trade (3:11), Comforting Rain (4:17), Latitude (3:40), Faith Is (6:21), Cradle Song (1:55)
Lesoir consists of Maartje Meessen (lead vocals, flute, piano), Ingo Dassen (guitars), Eleen Bartholomeus (guitar, keyboards, percussion, vocals), Ingo Jetten (bass) and Bob van Heumen (drums). Their first three albums were received quite well (read the review of their former album Luctor et emergo here) but didn't put them in the front row yet. Maybe that was the reason to try something different with this fourth album entitled Latitude. From the album information provided by the band this album should call up wonderful colours, elaborate motives and impressive shades of emotion.
In the latter they succeed quite well but in one particular case not in the way they hoped for. I found third track Icon one of the most irritating songs I've heard in many years. Meessen's voice is recorded in a slightly distorted way here and also mixed too much to the background to give way for a very uniform and irritating rhythm and a melody that is far too repetitive. The instrumentation doesn't make it any better. The fierce guitar solo at the end sounds nice but it doesn't rescue this song.
But so far the negative side of this album that contains 13 songs ranging from almost 2 minutes to well into the 7 minutes range. It takes a few spins to get into the music and most of the times that's a good thing. The songs are a mixed bag with soft ballads like album opener Modern Goddess, symphonic gothic metal in the atmospheric In The Game, the fabulous Gone And Forgotten and the title track. Then I hear spooky doom rock in Eden's Garden and Kissed By Sunlight, power rock in Cheap Trade and finally the acoustic ballad Cradle Song as album closer.
The dynamics within most of the songs is great, making extensive use of Meessens's very pleasant voice that can sound very soft but also quite powerful. The female backing vocals only add to the dynamics. Think of Anneke van Giersbergen backed by Delain's Charlotte Wessels and you have a good impression of how they sound in tracks like Zeros And Ones and Faith Is. The band also dares to create open spaces in the music alternated with heavy outbursts that work very well. Another nice feature is that the band has tried hard to give each track its own unique sphere while the album as a whole still sounds consistent. Too bad there is Icon, but that is just a minor criticism on a fine album.
So there are many positive aspects to mention and yet my overall rating is not too high. That has everything to do with the appeal of the songs as such. They sound as if they have performed a thorough scientific research before recording: "Mind you all, everything should sound different". The spontaneity is somewhat lost to make place for many well elaborated, yet affected melodies and musical soundscapes. These emphasize the potential of this band but also make them less accessible than bands like Within Temptation or, in the more prog-like direction, Frequency Drift. More recognizable melodies that stick to the listener's mind would probably have taken the album to higher grounds. It is very enjoyable, especially for the fans of the artists mentioned, but maybe it could have been better as a whole. But let that not distract you from trying this one, it's worth it!
Theo Verstrael: 7 out of 10
Ne Obliviscarus - Urn
Libera (Part 1) (9:52), Libera (Part 2) (2:35), Intra Venus (7:28 ), Eyrie (11:51), Urn (Part 1) (7:30), Urn (Part 2) (6:38)
The album starts off with nice clean riff which soon evolves into blast beats, technical riffs, clean vocals from Tim Charles before the hard hitting, guttural sounds of Xenoyr's vocals come in. Machine gun drumming and complex breaks abound throughout the song.
Next comes Libera (Part II) - Ascent of Burning Moths. Again, a nice soft clean riff lures you in, followed by a soothing a lovely violin solo by Tim. The third track kicks off gently again with an entrancing bass riff flowing over the top of a clean finger picked riff. The distortion then hits in with the bass line evolving further and playing a prominent role. Before long, you are assaulted by the deep growls bringing an extra element of heaviness in.
The rest of the album follows a similar pattern, with stunning mixes of weaving and flowing riffs, solos, clean and harsh vocals all melding together to create a sublime piece of heavy, progressive and outright enthralling music.
The mix of clean and guttural harsh vocals works well, bringing a sense of give and take which matches with the music with the "epic" sections featuring clean vocals while the growls set the stage. The use of the violin adds an extra element to create some truly beautiful moments amongst the superb controlled chaos of this album.
A incredible blend of extreme metal, progressive riffing and classical song writing. This album, and band, are a treat for any fans of progressive death metal, and indeed I would suspect fans of classical would at least find appreciation for the songwriting abilities. If this album does not become recognised as a classic of the prog metal genre, I will eat my shoes. It is a masterpiece.
For fans of Devin Townsend, older Opeth, Persefone and Perihelion Ship.
Calum Gibson: 10 out of 10