Reviews in this issue:
An Evening With Knives - Serrated
Come Undone (4:33), Restless (5:46), Blindman's Guess (6:31), Hysteria (6:41), Fade Out (9:37), Thoughts And Regrets (7:49), Drowning In Daybreak (2:33)
Kicking off with some doom-styled riffs, album opener Come Undone brings you into a heavy sound, that is best heard with plenty of bass to really beef it up. Psychedelic influences are definitely present through the album, particularly with the solos, backed up by heavy riffs, steady-paced drumming and powerful vocals.
Hysteria brings out the wall of sound idea, with a full, bassy, slow wall through the verses, creating a sound reminiscent of some of Solstafir's older work. It is a nice heavy sound, without being "metal" as such, just a well written, well thought out and expertly delivered track.
I would say the second half of the album is better (from Hysteria onwards) as those tracks stuck in my mind a lot more afterwards. I found the riffs to be more memorable, and enjoyed the make-up of the songs more. However, that is very much down to personal preference, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the first half.
So, this is an enjoyable album, and I'll be looking forward to their next one. Now all we need is a few gigs in Scotland.
Tracks of note for me would be Blindman's Guess and Hysteria. I would recommend this for fans of Opeth's latest offerings, or Red Fang and other such stoner-doom bands.
Calum Gibson: 8 out of 10
Long Distance Calling - Boundless
Out There (9:11), Ascending (4:59), In The Clouds (6:00), Like A River (4:56), The Far Side (5:45), On The Verge (6:02), Weightless (6:56), Skydivers (5:36)
But after seven years and three albums, creating atmospheric soundscapes didn't seem to completely fulfill their creative urges. Enter Marsen Fischer, a vocalist with whom the band created The Flood Inside, in many ways a transitory album that combined instrumental epics with lush vocals without diminishing the essence of what the band had become known for. The approach obviously worked, making dents in both the German and Swiss charts. Move on another three years and Trips, featuring a different vocalist in the form of Petter Carlsen, took the band one step further, narrowly missing out on a top twenty place in the German charts. However, by the end of 2016 Carlsen had also departed, leaving the band to celebrate their tenth anniversary back as an instrumental quartet.
Returning to the studio, the band took the approach of "let's just see what happens", allowing intuition and improvisation to come to the fore. The result is a distillation of their inherent musical inclinations and pursuits, which obviously stems from areas that cross over into the heavier, even metal, side of prog. Boy there is some intense riffing throughout this album! But the characteristics of the LDC sound are still present, and in many ways, this is the purest album of LDC music that has been released to date.
The epic opener Out There sums it all up really, and I'm not just referring to the title. The heavier sections are joined by melodic passages, and dips back into the post-rock idiom with effortless grace. Elsewhere, In The Clouds sets off with an airy ambiance before a riff (that would make Tony Iommi weep in frustration at not having come up with it) batters its way through. This is soon joined by the second guitar, in what can only be termed a sonic assault.
As one would expect from the post-rock genre, the essence is all about dynamics. Like A River is tantamount to a bastardised theme from a Western movie, while On The Verge shifts around a bit. It begins with a piano, combined with some interesting guitar effects, before ending with a bright orchestral finale.
There are quite a few keyboards dotted over the album, presumably played by various group members, as no additional musicians are credited. The keys are used for atmosphere and counterpoint. The dual guitars are, as ever, the main thrust throughout. Weightless does have a lightness to it. Even when the whole band break out, there is a lot of space, allowing the lead guitar to soar.
The best is saved for last though. Skydivers is a perfect summation of what LDC is all about; chugging guitars, ferocious solos, thumping bass drums, all concluding with sustained atmospherics that brings the album to a perfect, albeit questioning, conclusion.
Long Distance Calling have yet to release anything that could be described as a disappointment. Even with changes to their sound, they have remained both exciting and relevant. As to what the next album holds, well who knows, but I am sure that whatever it will be, it will be something to look forward to. In the meantime there is more than enough to keep one going on Boundless.
Mark Hughes: 8 out of 10
Rob Luft - Riser
Night Song (5:20), Riser (6.15), Beware (4.44), Slow Potion (2.33), Different Colour Of Silence (3.40), Dust Settles (5.04), Shorty (3.53), Blue, White and Dreaming (3.41), St.Brian 1 (5.57), We Are All Slowly Leaving (8.15)
Making the connection between a tune and a title, is not easy in instrumental music, but there are exceptions. Some artists are adept at choosing titles that match, or complement the mood of the music. For example, Gary Boyle's Spanish Sun, which features in Isotope's Illusion album, simply radiates the warm luminescence and deepening colours encountered during a close encounter with the setting of an Andalusian sun.
Inventive designations also feature on Rob Luft's Riser. Titles such as Slow Potion, Different Colour Of Silence, Dust Settles, Shorty, and We Are All Slowly Leaving, offer just enough pointers to suggest a context, or enough ambiguity to occupy the brain.
When these titles are conjoined with Luft's compositions, a multi-faceted sensory package is created. This is an album able to satiate the ear, stimulate the mind and seductively stir the emotions. Its creative titles, and its wide-ranging tones and timbres act readily as a catalyst for the invention of a succession of imaginary images, that in scope and intensity are only restricted by any limitations of the imagination.
As the album unfolds, its ability to offer a canvas on which one's imagination can colour, is beyond question. A warming vision of a sun-drenched shore effortlessly comes into view. Occupying a central position, lies a bleached branch piece of flotsam. Carefree and without undue haste, the music delicately breaks onto, and wispily wafts over the log. For a fleeting moment, the scene has an air of permanence, as time is suspended in reverence to the calming nature and magnificence of the music.
Rob Luft is a guitarist who has achieved much recognition for his involvement in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and as a principal member of Big Bad Wolf. Riser is his first recording as a band leader and the result is quite special.
Many diverse influences flow and converge throughout the release. Luft is an admirer of South African township music and there is certainly more than a hint of this, and of world music in general, in the playful rhythms that flutter delightfully in pieces like Night Songs and the title track.
Luft is also an admirer of, amongst others, the avant-garde guitarist Derek Bailey, West African guitarists Ali Farka Touré and Lionel Loueke, and the American band Sonic Youth. This wide range of influences helps to explain why this release has a sound and style that is fresh and appealing.
Whilst Riser will probably find itself filed under Jazz, because it uses many of that genre's compositional structures and conventions, there are many unique elements which defy categorisation. Riser is hard to pigeonhole; it straddles a variety of genres and is consistently excellent. Fans of instrumental music with a progressive twist will no doubt enjoy much of what this set of tunes offers.
Any listeners who enjoyed the languid style and deftly-chosen guitar embellishments that enriched Big Bad Wolf's Pond life, will positively purr at the subtlety, and recurring beauty of many of these compositions.
Although the instrumentation is different, as might be expected, some stylistic overlap between Riser and Pond Life is apparent. This is perhaps most evident in the album's reflective and tranquil pieces like Slow Potion, Dust Settles, and Blue, White And Dreaming. In these evocative compositions, Luft's carefully chosen notes and charming arrangements fashion gentle, wave-spun patterns.
The album is a showcase for subtle and sensitive guitar playing. Luft's deft approach caresses, and clasps the music in a responsive manner that brings an appealing human touch to the technically challenging and richly complex arrangements. In Luft's hands, the consistent selection of what should, and what should not, be played gives the release a stunning, spacious appeal. This helps to transform the album from something that is enjoyably satisfying; to one that is completely captivating and thoroughly thrilling.
Some tunes like Night Songs and the funky and intensely rhythmic Shorty have appealing hooks that superficially belie the skill and complexity that lies at their core.
Apart from the quality of its tunes and their capability to fire the imagination, Riser has many positive attributes, not least of which is the skilful ability of all members of the ensemble to contribute to the success of the album. Apart from Luft, the band is made up of Corrie Dick on drums, Joe Wright on tenor sax, Joe Webb on Hammond organ, piano and harmonium and Tom McCredie on bass.
These youthful players have a superb pedigree, and it shows. Dick is perhaps best known as the drummer of Dinosaur, whose superb debut album was shortlisted for a Mercury prize in 2017. Tom McCredie and Joe Wright are graduates of the Royal Academy of Music. Joe Webb is a graduate of the Royal Welsh College of music and is much in demand in the London jazz scene.
Webb's contribution on the Hammond organ is impressive. His fleet-fingered interjections gently simmer beneath the surface and offer a satisfying soundscape that many prog fans will appreciate. Whilst Webb largely plays a supportive role within the ensemble, his bright organ flurries give the music a sense of depth. Webb's tasteful embellishments fully complement Luft's skilful choice of tones, and Wright's tunefully belching sax parts. His sparse piano work during Blue, White And Dreaming is also hugely evocative and plays a significant role in fashioning the reflective atmosphere that is such a distinctive feature of much of the piece.
The album as a whole is a breath of fresh air and displays a discernible sense of adventure and exudes an exuberant freedom of spirit. The attractive rhythms and finely crafted instrumental breaks that feature in pieces like the superb Beware, convey the performers' obvious enjoyment in being involved in such finely crafted arrangements, where structure and improvisation both have a role to play. This creates a satisfying and highly fulfilling ambience that lingers like a sweet-smelling aroma after each tune has ended and long after the album has concluded.
My favourite tune is without doubt Beware. In this piece, a wide range of influences meld and hold together to create something that is altogether quite unique. Beware has an inviting, dramatic and exciting quality and is a composition that simply gets better each time. It includes a combination of fine guitar riffs, exquisite Hammond work and a deeply expressive sax part that groans with bursting emotion. These elements are set against a rhythmic and melodic backdrop, which possesses the intensity of rock and the homeliness associated with traditional Celtic idioms.
Riser works brilliantly on every level. This is an album that I whole-heartedly recommend. Its outstanding compositions and crisp sonic qualities offer a mix of ingredients that are sure to colour the imagination and satisfy the heart. Listeners who enjoy instrumental music, predominantly flavoured by jazz, with several influences added for good measure, are sure to discover much to appreciate in this release.
Oh and by the way; for anybody fascinated by such things, the titles given to each of the tunes are not too bad either!
Owen Davies: 9.5 out of 10
Noah Histeria - Noah Histeria
Fui Rey (4:42), Que No Te Escondes (4:46), Noah (5:34), N5 (5:35), El Viaje (4:41), Ignorar (5:20), Un Lugar Mejor (5:49)
I know it's easy to say this, now that they have gone on to release one of the best progressive rock albums of 2017, but it is true. Although having all the very well known elements of progressive and alternative music, their debut EP sounded fresh. And that is the best thing about Noah Histeria; a group of young musicians playing freely, without copying the current movements and not choosing the easy way to be recognised.
Don't expect classic progressive rhythms. These guys are talking about their musical tastes on social media, and it appears that new bands from alternative metal and djent are amongst their preferences.
Anyway, their songs keep progressing while playing, with many structural changes, atmospheres and very good vocals that make the difference. Shall we call it progressive rock?
Of course you won't find the best sound on this debut release, but the production is really good being their first effort. One can hear that this work was done taking care of the details, in the lyrics, in the playing and with the impressive vocals. The artwork is really nice as well.
You will find the EP available on their Bandcamp site. The version I have, includes the beautiful Ignorar and Un Lugar Mejor, from 2012, both of them are included in the band's Spotify listing. If you haven't listened to any of the band's albums I would suggest trying this EP first. You will discover a great band and you will understand why Hautefaye is not a lucky break, but the result of doing things with passion.
Ignacio Bernaola: 7 out of 10
Noah Histeria - Hautefaye
Hautefaye (7:40), 43 Días Pt.1 (5:09), 43 Días Pt.2 (5:34), Elah (1:21), Djemil (5:43), Coloso (8:40), Shiro (9:26)
One could think how a Spanish band has created one of the best progressive albums this year? In my opinion the answer is simple: doing things with passion. Just after the first listening, you realise that this is something special and the more you listen to the seven songs, the more that feeling grows. Of course this is my personal point of view but all the reviews that you will find say that Noah Histeria is now playing in the major progressive leagues. Along with Cheeto´s Magazine, Pervy Perkin and many other young bands, they are creating a great Spanish progressive rock community.
Noah Histeria has created a conceptual album diving into dualities, and shaping an interesting story with powerful characters that will make you think if you're listening to ancient history or actual life. Also the name of the band is not by chance; it also comes from the French village called Hautefaye and the strange things that happened there in 1870. The lyrics are in Spanish but don't be afraid if you don't understand, you will feel exactly what they want you to feel with this album.
I don't want to point to any song in particular because this has to be listened to from the beginning to the end. But I will offer just a few favourite moments. How about the great and powerful title track, as the first song and introduction to the album, or the beautiful melodies in 43 Días Pt 1 and & Pt 2. There is also the incredible combo with the dynamic Djemil, the perfect Coloso and then Shiro as the grand finalé.
Noah Histeria has put in this album the perfect mix of dent, jazz, alternative and whatever else you can imagine, to build a terrific progressive opus. Great playing, melodies, different rhythms, incredible voices combined with grunts (in the best possible way) and a great production and art on the cover. This is modern progressive rock as its best.
I know, it's only their first proper album, but it deserves a 10 out of 10 without any doubt. The problem is, that I'm fully convinced that their next album will be even better, since one can realise that these guys are doing music with passion. I will probably have to give them an eleven next time!
Ignacio Bernaola: 10 out of 10
Organized Chaos - Divulgence
Apex (3:04), Cinnamon (5:42), Ache (feat. Nick Johnston) (5:22), Hide and Seek (6:02), Broken Divine (feat. Richard Henshall) (7:22), Awake! (1:47), The Mask (feat. Branislava Podrumac) (8:02)
Anyway, the name of his rock band, Organized Chaos, pretty much sums up what to expect when listening to their music, because a strong influence of Pain Of Salvation, Mr Bungle and Fantomas come to mind. Lalic's palette of vocal techniques pretty much matches the one Mike Patton has, and he even outdoes it by including an impressive timbre that often swings between Devin Townsend and Freddy Mercury.
Similarly varied are the song structures. They vary in style drastically from the extremes of metal, to swinging jazzy parts or pop interludes. Ambient sections and modern prog-pop fusion elements walk hand in hand, often even within the same song. But unlike Patton, who simply glues different genres to each other, Lalic and his men manage to weave it all together seamlessly, to create a more substantial emotional compound.
And this is where this album becomes so superior.
Lalic puts his inside-out very expressionistically and he embeds his thoughts and expressions in a heavy, dramatical musical shape. He does that in a way Daniel Gildenlöw usually does it, but unlike the god of prog metal, his intent is not to "save the world" by expressing his thoughts. Very much on the contrary, Lalic is always careful not to take himself too seriously. He continuously throws in a few moments that seem to read between the lines: "Hey, you still relax, right? It's nothing but a great show, it's just entertainment, folks!"
Somewhere in between a clown-esque play and a mindfuck piece rages this album at full power, smithed by a genius with an incredible international band. A band so good that you'd even pass by Richard Henshall's solo spot unnoticed, if it weren't mentioned in the song title.
It is the doom of a December release that kept this album from entering a couple of top 10 lists, but that's where it belongs. The only downtime of the album is the short duration of 37 minutes, which leaves you craving for much more. But hey, on the positive side, this is a perfect moment to also catch up with the band's debut album which is more "Chaos" than "Organized".
Now head over to their Bandcamp site and give both albums a listen!
Raimond Fischbach: 9 out of 10