Album Reviews

Issue 2021-165

Here at DPRP towers, we frequently receive some interesting albums that whilst not strictly "prog", would be of interest to many of our readers. We sometimes receive albums that have been released in previous years. Also, with so many albums submitted, it is not always possible to find a writer with the time to give every release our usual in-depth review.

So how best can we still bring you news of such releases?

This is an edition of Prog Bites. Each still has all the usual album information and links to samples and videos (where available), but the reviews are much shorter, and we do not award any score.

We hope you will find some great music that you think deserves further investigation.

Burnt Belief — Mutual Isolation

Burnt Belief - Mutual Isolation
Where It All Began (For TR) (7:32), Month of Moonlight (3:57), Rosso Portofino (5:08), Resistential (4:15), Perilous Terrain (4:58), The Evolution of Disintegration (6:11), Precipitation (5:10), Divine Rascal (5:00), Expanse (11:27)
Andy Read

Described as "a study in universal understanding and global connection", Burnt Belief's fourth album continues the ocean-straddling partnership between acclaimed guitarist Jon Durant and bassist Colin Edwin (O.R.k./Twinscapes/ex-Porcupine Tree).

They first came together with an album in 2013, released under their own names but confusingly-entitled Burnt Belief. That album title then became their band name for the release of Etymology and Emergent.

Utilising improvisation around a thematic compositional base, the duo blend ambient atmospherics, subtle electronics and ethnic traditions. This should appeal to fans whose tastes blur the boundaries between instrumental, progressive and gently-improvised jazz.

This time Colin Edwin has elected to play double bass exclusively throughout the album's nine tracks, grounding the new material with an earthier, more natural resonance.

Mutual Isolation also allows freer than ever reign to Jon Durant's trademark atmospheric “cloud guitar” approach, with his orchestrational guitar perspective meshing seamlessly around an increased application of his singular fretless guitar.

From the free-jazz explorations of Where It All Began, to the rhythmic tensions of the North African-spiced Divine Rascal, this is a natural follow-on from the previous albums. As before, the sound is augmented by drummer Vinny Sabatino and the in-demand Swiss rhythm master Andi Pupato. The most striking contribution comes from Estonian trumpet player Aleksei Saks, whose expressive phrasing makes Rosso Portofino my favourite track.

Chaos Over Cosmos — The Silver Lining Between The Stars

Chaos Over Cosmos - The Silver Lining Between The Stars
Violent Equilibrium (10:46), The Last Man in Orbit (6:11), Eternal Return (4:03), Control ZED (4:14), The Sins Between the Stars (9:57)
Andy Read

Happy to say that DPRP was one of the first to pick-up on this band with their debut EPs getting a positive mention on our new releases blog two years ago and my colleague Calum Gibson giving a recommended review to their last album The Ultimate Multiverse.

Chaos Over Cosmos describes itself as "an international progressive metal studio project". The main song-writing is in the hands of Poland-based Rafal Bowman who adds the guitars, synths and drum programming. This time we have a new singer in the shape of KC Lyon from the USA.

Musically this album continues the 'progression' of the band's sound. Elements from previous releases are still there in the form of a barrage of shredding guitars with a lot of technical solos and harsh vocals, all wrapped around a spacey, science-fiction atmosphere created by the synths. This time however the vocals are stronger and more consistent and the music is heavier, taking a bigger nod towards bands from the sphere of technical death metal.

For the chosen genre, this is an unusually light-sounding album. The guitar tone is bright and very much to the front. There is not a lot of low-end in the mix. The spacey synths enhance the lightness further. Every note of the relentless, syncopated guitar is clear, whether riffing or soloing (or both). The synths are used well to break up the intense technicality of the guitar and to add a soothing pulse to the rest. The (all) harsh vocals are delivered as a rasped scream, rather than a growl, thus continuing this brighter sound. It's a refreshing change.

The ten-minute-plus opener Violent Equilibrium perfectly sums up this album. If this intense, technical death-metal epic, driven by guitar-flamboyancy, works for you, then the rest will provide more than a silver lining to your day or night.

Head With Wings — Comfort In Illusion [EP]

Head With Wings - Comfort In Illusion
Of Uncertainty (7:00), Contemplating The Loop (4:52), In A House Without Clocks (6:02)
Ignacio Bernaola

Head With Wings come from New Haven, Connecticut and this is their latest EP after an early mini-album from 2013 called Living With The Loss and a full album From Worry to Shame released in 2018. To be honest I had never heard of this young band before but I will be following them from now on, because the music here is really good.

The current line-up consists of Andrew Testa on drums, Brandon Cousino playing guitars, Steve Hill on bass, Mike Short also on guitars and Joshua Corum doing the lyrics and lead and backing vocals.

As one can imagine it's not easy (and I don't like to do it) judging a band only from an EP of three songs, so I decided to also check their aforementioned albums. To my surprise I discovered interesting people helping the band with their first release and those were no other than Jamie Van Dyck and Frank Sacramone, from the great band Earthside. Living With Loss was released two years before Earthside's masterpiece A Dream In Static but its members were part of Head With Wings' debut taking credits for vocals and guitars, besides also co-producing the album.

But the sound back then, has little to do with what the band shows in this new EP and even less to do with the cinematic and challenging compositions delivered by Earthside. Instead, those initial four songs showed a very promising band developing a sombere and sad sound related to sad memories.

Their debut album is one of those that I should never has missed. A big step forward in terms of their sound, with more mature compositions but keeping that intriguing dark tone, set within some really beautiful songs. Again there was some help from Earthside's members and also David Castillo, who has worked with Katatonia and Opeth among others. A really great album, that I'm now discovering, full of emotion and a modern progressive rock sound, with just the right touches of alternative rock vibes.

And this new release next is great too; short but great. Head With Wings has released an EP of just three songs but they have managed to summarise all the good things about their music, and go to the next level. Now they have their own style of modern progressive rock and they exploit those abilities of blending alternative rock choruses with odd structures and arrangements, without losing the emotive vibes of the compositions. I really love these songs and all the nuances one can discover after each listen. My only complaint: I wish it lasted longer. I hope they can keep progressing and release some more music soon. I can only recommend checking their Bandcamp site and discovering this very promising band.

Prog Dylan — Home Birth

Prog Dylan - Home Birth
Waiting (4:02), To See (3:24), Lethargy (4:43)
Martin Burns

This debut EP from Australian quartet Prog Dylan is a blast. The three tracks are full of odd twists and turns that upset any expectations you may have from the openings of each of the songs. They have a restless, unsettling energy that channels punk, metal, jazz and the kitchen sink, to end up sounding like a mix of math-core titans Rolo Tomassi, jamming with King Crimson and The Mars Volta.

Adam Martinic (bass, vocals, songwriter) has a voice that blends Thom Yorke with Geddy Lee from Rush's Clockwork Angels. The opening track Waiting starts with strummed guitar from Sam Killick, then it all kicks off. Heavy as heavy-can-be riffs that stop on a dime for Ryu Kodama's drums to take over, before it slows to a quiet passage of singing, before the heavy-riffed chorus comes in. There is also an oddball, off-kilter short guitar solo. Now if this sounds bonkers you would be right. It is, but it works brilliantly.

To See, has Matt Harris' keyboards and synths to the fore, along with funky fusion bass and a disco shuffle, before being engulfed in raging guitars and small disharmonies. The final track, Lethargy, is anything but lethargic. Quiet jazz-infused verses are blown away by a chorus of staccato, pummelling riffs.

Prog Dylan's Home Birth is an extraordinary set of songs where nothing goes as you might expect on a first listen. Don't let the jokey band-name put you off from getting your head re-arranged by this music.

Riverside — Riverside 20 - The Shorts & The Longs

Riverside - Riverside 20 - The Shorts & The Longs
Riverside 20 - Vol. 1, The Shorts (88:18): Story of My Dream (5:47), In Two Minds (4:35), Loose Heart (4:47), Acronym Love (4:43), Conceiving You (3:40), I Turned You Down (4:34), Panic Room (radio edit) (3:52), Through the Other Side (4:05), Forgotten Land (radio edit) (5:10), The Depth of Self-Delusion (radio edit) (4:59), We Got Used to Us (4:09), Shine (4:07). Lost (5:51), Addicted (3:58). Time Travelers (radio edit) (5:19), Vale of Tears (4:48), Guardian Angel (4:23), Lament (5:06), River Down Below (radio edit) (4:25)
Riverside 20 - Vol. 2, The Longs (148:21), The Same River (12:07), DNA Ts. Rednum or F.Raf (7:20), Second Life Syndrome (15:40), Dance with the Shadow (11:38), Ultimate Trip (13:13), Rapid Eye Movement 2016 (12:40), Egoist Hedonist (8:56), Left Out (10:58), Living in the Past (10:15), Deprived (8:24), Escalator Shrine (12:40), Towards the Blue Horizon (8:08), Wasteland (8:25), The Curtain Falls (7:57)
Patrick McAfee

In terms of bands that I am a fan of, I am somewhat indifferent to compilation releases. However, if new or previously-unreleased material is included, my interest escalates. This career-spanning retrospective from Riverside provides some of that via the excellent new song Story Of My Dream, a few radio edits and a remastering of every track. I also enjoy the concept of presenting the longer and shorter songs on separate volumes. This creates an entertaining flow, and showcases the band's ability to be both adventurous and more accessible.

That said, the greatest value of a compilation is to serve as an introduction to prospective new fans. Considering the digital-only availability of this release, that may be the key objective. From an initiation perspective, this collection is outstanding. It provides a comprehensive view of the band's 20-year career and includes a plethora of their finest material.

If I was giving this a score, it would be a perfect 10 out of 10, based on viewing this release as a definitive representation of Riverside. I suppose one could nit-pick certain songs not being included or edits being used. However, with a running time of close to four hours, it is difficult to dispute the absolute depth of what is presented here. Any criticisms that I could present would essentially be futile. Riverside 20 - The Shorts & The Longs is a truly fantastic listen for existing fans and perhaps even more so, for those fortunate enough to be hearing this material for the first time.

Sandstone — Epsilon Sky

Sandstone - Epsilon Sky
I Know Why (3:59), Cuts To You (4:23), Worn Soul (5:54), Fractured Time (5:23), Made Up (5:15), Dies Irae (5:35), Silhouettes Drown (4:03), Critical (6:11); CD-only bonus track: The Last One (3:58)
Andy Read

Dating back to 2003, Northern Ireland's Sandstone have so far released four albums: Tides Of Opinion in 2006, Purging The Past (2008), Cultural Dissonance (2010), and Delta Viridian in 2012.

During this period, they toured Europe as support and backing band for Tim 'Ripper' Owens, then in 2013 they decided to take some time off. Eight years later, their batteries have been recharged, to re-emerge with their fifth long-player Epsilon Sky. This is the first time I have come across this version of Sandstone (I have reviewed the Polish band of the same name). Apparently this album is "darker, heavier and more sophisticated" than their previous efforts.

The emphasis across the eight tracks is a very melodic power metal that incorporates influences from hard rock, and (to a lesser extent) progressive-metal. With the songs all clocking in around the four- and five-minute mark, nothing could be described as complex and most songs take a verse-chorus-solo format. It's the duel guitar work of Dee Kivlehan and Stevie McLaughlin that adds a level of depth and some interesting extra layers to each composition, especially in the soloing sections. Sean McBay sings within his range and combines a great ear for melodic phrasing, with the perfect level of aggression. An easily-enjoyable listen. The album has been released on the Limb Music label.

Diego Spinelli — Some Prog

Diego Spinelli - Some Prog
Molarry 1 (5:34), Tantos Ellos (4:00), Haggis Man (5:04), Molarry 2 (3:31), Fake (4:39), Maremabnun (6:59)
Thomas Otten

Diego Spinelli is a flautist from Argentina. The EP Some Prog is his second release, following Some Horns from 2018. That similarity of album titles hints at an artist wishing to test different waters musically. Unfortunately, info on this release and the musician himself is scarce. Hence, I must assume that, besides playing the flute, and writing the songs, Diego is responsible also for singing, and programming (presumably drums and keyboards, plus some additional brass instruments). Neither other wind instruments, nor drummer, and keyboardist are mentioned in the line-up, except for Andrew Giddings from Jethro Tull as a guest musician on the track Tantos Ellos. Apart from Diego, his "core" band consists of Marcelino Maldonado (guitar), and Sergio Maza (bass).

Basically, the music on this release corresponds to what its title suggests. "Some" being an elastic term subject to personal sentiment. For me the prog element is more present, than less. In a nutshell, I tend to classify this release as Canterbury, not unlike such bands as Caravan, Big Hogg, and Hatfield & The North, with a little Jethro Tull shining through here and there.

All six songs on this EP are different, making this release sound like a varied collection of (prog) ideas. The flute is audible, but not omnipresent. My favourite title is Maremabnun. Its first part consists of (the well-known) theme and variations of L'amour Est Un Oiseau Rebelle from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, the second is inspired by The Nice's track Rondo, as Diego mentions on Bandcamp (however, I had to listen carefully to figure that out).

This is definitely an album worth listening to. As it is nothing that one is likely to stumble upon by accident, it is a bit of a shame that it is being marketed so cautiously.

Wolves Of Saturn — Bunker Tapes Part 1 – Demo

Wolves Of Saturn - Bunker Tapes Part 1 – Demo
Wolves Of Saturn (10:22), Eye Of The Buffalo (5:52), Chile (9:20)
Martin Burns

The stoner rock, power trio Wolves Of Saturn have released their debut EP Bunker Tapes Part 1 – Demo. The EP is aptly named as it was recorded live in a World War 2 bunker near Dresden. However, adding the word Demo does the quality of these three tracks a disservice. The recording and mix is lively and powerful, so maybe they should have titled it 'Live' instead.

The music has the bluesy stoner rock, hard rock feel of 70s rock titans Mountain and the psychedelic edge of Man's live recordings. The mainly instrumental Wolves Of Saturn opens with electronics and spoken word, before the trio kick into a reasonably subtle slice of desert blues and stoner rock that has power to spare; and plenty of fuzzed-up guitar grit too.

The song Eye Of The Buffalo has a hard rock feel and the vocals have a straining blues-iness that matches the music. The wah-wah pedal takes a bashing as the guitar flips from speaker to speaker. Three quarters of the way through, it tips into another song altogether for a short while, in a pleasingly strange way. The final song Chile starts off with a sunnier melody, darkening as it boogies out.

Wolves Of Saturn's Bunker Tapes manages to avoid the predictability of heavy blues, with enough twists and turns, plus their loose-but-tight playing and melodic sense. Not overly proggy but well worth a listen.

Album Reviews