Album Reviews

Issue 2022-112

Leo Carnicella — Super-Sargasso Sea

Leo Carnicella - Super-Sargasso Sea
The Place Where Lost Things Go (9:34), Conundrum (5:55), Tell Your Mom I'm Not Coming Home (3:36), Balance (4:40), Oblivion (2:06), The Place Where Lost Minds Go (13:38), Halo (8:40)
Jan Buddenberg

The independent Italian-Venezuelan songwriter Carnicella debuted in 2010 with the demo album Strange Land Of Weird Colors. After moving to Europe, it took him until 2020 before a new project saw light of day with the favourably received and reviewed EP Until A New Dawn. A fine effort filled with well-crafted, harmonious and progressive rock songs that emphasize elegant melodies and dreamy atmospheres.

The references of my colleague Sergey are admittedly all relatively unknown to me, but given the continued approach of Carnicella, I assume these still apply. One aspect I also assume is that Sergey's wish of "the author to develop further and aim at more adventurous music with every new release" is fulfilled, for Super-Sargasso Sea sees a fine growth in every aspect.

Once again, Carnicella (vocals, keyboards, Moog & Mellotron) has surrounded himself with a group of exceptional musicians. Next to the reprising appearances from Tony Franklin (fretless/fretted bass) and drummer Jan-Vincent Velazco, one finds the exquisite acoustic and electric guitar refinements by Beledo. Aided by performances from vocalist Alexis Peña and guitarist Thomas Krampl, there's also a special welcome to Martin Barré (Jethro Tull), who adds his wonderful playing to the beautiful epic album closer The Place Where Lost Minds Go. That is to say if one is enjoying the digital release, for the physical album adds an atmospheric bonus track in form of Halo, a caring and warm embracing soundscape featuring several spoken passages by Carnicella's late father.

In this particular case I would seriously advise to get hold of a physical copy if the music is to your liking, for the packaging of the handsome digi-pack is excellently done, especially in light of the exceptionally designed 3-dimensional lenticular box emphasizing the intriguing darker portentous album theme of different dimensions of loss.

Admittedly the music itself doesn't spiral down this exact kind of ominous darkness, but feelings of loss are however frequently presented. As in the short Tell Your Mom I'm Not Coming Home. Mindful of Barclay James Harvest, its melancholic melodies in combination with Carnicella's voice bring a sadness that is tangible, and the subtly subdued performances and soft embrace of weeping guitars makes this experience even stronger.

This perfectly concise song will also please fans of, for instance, Realisea. It is a fine example of Carnicella's approach in going for a song. Much like the slightly dark tinted and nicely balanced Conundrum. Equipped with wonderful bass work, tight and versatile drumming and beautiful atmospheric variations.A harmonious melody is paramount here and leads to beautiful results sometimes reminiscent of Supertramp, also in light of Carnicella's intricate piano parts.

This songwriting quality is also very satisfactory in Balance which expresses a more upbeat tempo. Receiving a sense of spontaneity as if the song was almost played live it features a lovely "Flamenco"-inspired touch from Beledo and well-cared-for interplay with excellent guitar work and organ and keyboard bravado. The latter being something Carnicella could pursue more often in my view, as these escapades evidently makes this song great.

Another attractive aspect of the album is the transparent and warm production values ase demonstrated in the short and beautifully crafted Oblivion. In which acoustic guitar and keyboards complement each other wonderfully with a soothing satisfying joint result. Especially with headphones these values show a fine balance in sound, which perfectly brings out the astral and serene spatial acoustic blessing the atmospheric entrance of The Place Where Lost Things Go, one of the two epic compositions bookending the album.

With images of late seventies Eloy, with alchemy of Dire Straits and Pink Floyd, it shows a wonderful maturity, with focus on melody and an array of pace variations, with an intricate interplay and lovely guitar work throughout. Gliding along with mellow vocals from Peña, it's not only Carnicella's playful piano versatility that impresses, but also the delightful jazzy musical flavourings and the soothing guitar solo in the song's coda.

The Place Where Lost Things Go transcends this with a beautiful symphonic opening reminiscent of Alan Parson's, after which exquisite sensitive touches on acoustic guitar from Barré takes things further into lovely musical landscapes that surprisingly flows in the same wonderful jazzy way as Wishbone Ash in their prime. After a change of pace, with lush keys and blistering synth, it shortly transforms the composition into a lively rock-filled Jethro Tull-inspired environment. An alienating vocal delivery leads into the song's marvellous bridge of acoustic serenity and gracious atmospheric melodies, guided by piano. A strophe of fabulous guitar work, hovering over the embracing warmth of Mellotron, and heart-warming Moog play, the song ends on a high with a passionate feel of Barclay James Harvest.

The short conclusion is that fans of beautifully designed, easy listening, progressive rock can indulge themselves with this excellent album. The music continues to fascinate and grow over time and simultaneously reveals a rich amount of musical nuances and delightful arrangements. As a third outing, Super-Sargasso Sea also shows a nice progression of Carnicella as a composer and musician, and I look forward to the way he will shape this further in future. Overall a recommendable effort worth checking out.

Evership — The Uncrowned King - Act 2

Evership - The Uncrowned King - Act 2
The Voice Of The Night (3:30), Missive Pursuits (8:30), The Law of Ages (6:57), Coronation (8:22), The Voice Of The New Day (5:04), Nobody (7:31), Fading Away (5:59), Uncrowned (8:06), Pilgrim's Reprise (3:56)
Andy Read

This is the fourth album from this Nashville-based symphonic progressive rock band. As it is the first time that we have covered this band on DPRP, then a bit of background may be helpful.

Evership is led by composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer/engineer Shane Atkinson. Their self-titled debut in 2016 was followed by the equally unimaginatively-titled Evership II in 2018. The Uncrowned King - Act 1 came out last year.

All three albums have received very positive reviews, establishing Evership as one of the most promising independent progressive/symphonic rock bands currently active in the USA. They have been invited to play many of the popular US prog festivals including Rite Of Spring, Prog-stock and Rosfest.

For this new record, Shane played keyboards, drums, vocals, percussion, theremin and 'sound design'. Vocalist Beau West has appeared on all four albums, with the pair accumulating a revolving cast of supporting musicians. As with the previous two albums, the 'band' is credited as including James Atkinson (lead guitar), John Rose (rhythm, slide, classical, acoustic and lead guitars) and bassist Ben Young. In addition to 'strings' and 'brass' musicians, Michael Sadler (Saga) appears on one song.

The Uncrowned King - Act 2 concludes Atkinson's two-part adaptation of Harold Bell Wright's 1910 book Life And Truth, an allegory on our collective search for truth and meaning.

The concept has been referred to by some as a "rock opera". I've found that misleading, as this has very few of the common tropes of the rock opera. The impressive West carries almost all the vocals; there is no extended cast of vocal characters as in the Ayreon rock operas. Neither does it utilise the common theatrical methods such as voice-overs, scene-setting instrumental interludes or sound effects. There is, of course, a lyrical story but the words never intrude cheesily into the music and thus (almost) every song stands on its own. If you enjoy extended storytelling, then this will have more impact if treated as a (delayed) double concept album, and listened to one "side" after the other.

Evership, promo photo

Having listened to Act 1 to make a comparison, Act 2 offers a more focussed set of songs, with a rockier edge to several compositions. For me this is where the vocals of Beau West really shine. Coronation is just a brilliant mouthful of heavy symphonic prog that brings to mind the likes of Kansas or Magic Pie. Missive Pursuits follows a similar path, with a great opening and a successful injection of melodic rock melodies.

Uncrowned offers a suitably bright ending to the story and works well as an uplifting finalé. Despite its over-repeated and annoying guitar motif, Fading Away is an enjoyable mix of the pomp of Styx and Kansas, the modern sympho-prog of Mystery and the retro harmonies of The Beatles.

There is plenty of variety across the remaining songs but the music will be more for those who enjoy the lighter style of symphonic prog. Nobody is a ballad with strong pop sensibility. Voice Of The New Day is even slower in pace, while The Law Of Ages meanders its way through almost seven minutes playing time. Pilgrim's Reprise is a rather superfluous bolt-on. A few of these songs are rather repetitive in their refrains; not really warranting the extended track lengths.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable symphonic prog-rock concept album. Those who have enjoyed the band's previous releases should not hesitate to add this to their collection. For those who enjoy the lighter styles of this genre and are not put-off by a two-album storyline, then I'd suggest that you begin the story at the beginning with Act I, and take it from there.

Lady Lake — Not Far From LLyn Llydaw

Lady Lake - Not Far From LLyn Llydaw
Sèjour Au Gîte De la Tourette (5:09), Nachtfahrer (4:16), Emmy (2:08), Alpenkreuzer (9:24), 24 Mayfield Road (5:35), Yuletide In Glenshee (2:08), Patchouli Girls (6:26), Not Far From Llyn Llydaw (8:09), Llyn Llydaw (1:08)
Thomas Otten

Lady Lake can look back on a long and varied musical career. The band originally was founded 1973 in Deventer in the Netherlands. However, it was not before 1976 that they started performing under their current name. Dissolutions and reunions as well as frequent line-up changes have been a common thread throughout the existence of Lady Lake, the main periods of activity (with occasional interruptions, though) of which were 1973 - 1982 and 1991 - 2012.

The release of their first album No Pictures in 1977 falls into the first period of activity, its reissue by Musea (1997) as well as the subsequent two albums SuperCleanDreamMachine from 2005 and Unearthed from 2006 came in the second period, before the band once more decided to take another (extended) musical break.

Before that, however, Lady Lake provided valuable contributions to some of the Colossus Project compilations, namely Dante's Inferno - The Devine Comedy Part 1, Dante's Purgatorio - The Devine Comedy Part 2, and Decameron -Ten Days In 100 Novellas Part 1. Although having disappeared from the musical scene in 2012, the band members had been working on new material and reunited once more in 2016.

Having started as a sextet in 1973, and frequently altering the number of musicians and the instrumentation, the band played as a trio from 1991 on: founding member Fred Rosenkamp (guitar), Leendert Korstanje (keyboards), with the band since 1976, and Jan Dubbe (drums), who joined in 1991. Fred Rosenkamp did not return to Lady Lake following the 2012 break and was replaced by Jürgen Houwers (violin) on Not Far From Llyn Llydaw. This eventful history, plus the fact that live performances more or less were confined to playing at prog festivals in the Netherlands, might lead to the assumption that the band has something of a music collective or project character. But be that as it may, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of Lady Lake's founding, and they are still there, a fact which has my full respect.

The band called itself after the 1972 album of the same name by the British band Gnidrolog. Lady Lake's latest release coming 50 years later than the eponymous album bears the name of a lake located in the Snowdonia National Park in North-western Wales.

Founded and having its roots in the 70s prog era, the band exudes the nostalgic charm of that time musically, however without sounding dusty. Quite the contrary, the sound quality stands out against what can be heard on the preceding albums and is excellent, fully representative of what technically is possible nowadays. (It is fair to say, though, that the material on those preceding albums consisted by and large of songs recorded during the earlier creative period of Lady Lake, being intended to appear on an immediate successor of No Pictures, which then came out much later).

Generally speaking, the music on this release can be labelled instrumental symphonic prog with some Canterbury style and folk rock influences. Lady Lake therefore joins the ranks of bands that arose in the Netherlands during the same period or slightly later: Finch, Solution, Differences, Taurus, Edgon Heath, Flamborough Head, Lethe, Mirror, For Absent Friends, to name the ones that come to my mind.

The band's sound is fairly retro, mainly owing to the vintage keyboards being used: Hammond, Mini Moog, Mellotron (at least, it sounds like that), Fender Rhodes, and grand piano - the entire range for lovers of analogue keyboards, such as me. I particularly liked the dynamic and clear Hammond sound for instance on Nachtfahrer, and 24 Mayfield Road. The role of the lead instrument is assumed by Jürgen Houwers' violin. This reminds me of violin-influenced peers such as UK, Eddie Jobson, Curved Air, and even Kansas to some extent. However, if I hadn't known that Lady Lake doesn't have a guitarist, I wouldn't have noticed that in a number of passages, since the violin soloing strongly resembles the guitar. Listening to some melodies played on Patchouli Girls, and Not Far From Llyn Llydaw for instance, I found no differences sound-wise. I also gather that some sampling of bass guitar must have taken place either way, since no bassist is mentioned in the credits.

What bothered me a bit sometimes was the fact that song structures were not always clearly recognisable to me, a feature, which, in combination with occasional lengthy soloing, gives the music some kind of a jamming feel to the detriment of a concise arrangement. Patchouli Girls, and Alpenkreuzer (Alpine Cruiser - how does one come up with a title like that), the solos in which go on and on, are good examples of that. On the other hand, there are short and dense pieces of music such as the folk-tingled Yuletide In Glenshee, providing for the necessary variedness and appearing more focussed and arranged. Overall, the music does not display an unduly degree of complexity, but is executed perfectly and keeps the listeners' attention focussed throughout most of the time.

I liked the album and the band. They seem to have gone through ups and down in their musical career, but that has not kept them from playing and releasing music for almost 50 years. That is evidence of a considerable degree of stamina, commitment, and passion. Listening to the album, I got the impression that these guys like what they play, and do not seem to take themselves too seriously, whilst showing all the necessary skills and professionalism to perfectly execute their music. Recommended to fans of symphonic, instrumental, melodic, and accessible, retro-prog with an emphasis on analogue keyboards and electric violin.

The Mighty Handful — Men In Stasis II

The Mighty Handful - Men In Stasis II
The Signal II (8:33), The Crucible II (6:33), The Stand II (5:13)
Mark Hughes

The Mighty Handful — Ralph Blackbourn (keyboards, backing vocals), Tom Halley (bass, backing vocals), Christopher James Harrison (guitars, backing vocals, sound collage on The Signal), Matt Howes (vocals, acoustic guitar, additional keyboards), Gary Mackenzie (drums, backing vocals) — follow up their three-track Men In Stasis EP of last year with Men In Stasis II, a three-track digital EP the titles of which may seem remarkable similar to those that appeared on the previous EP. However, I can assure you that they are totally different songs.

Whilst the first EP dealt with topics relating to "being in a state of in-between: comfortable but suffocated; simultaneously losing and winning; thinking of the past, terrified of the future, but unable to act" the new release examines the relationship between pressures that bear down upon us all and the problems they cause, while now daring to reach for solutions. The similarity in the song titles also extends to the similarity in style of each piece.

The Signal II has a lovely piano introduction before the band join in to provide a driving and insistent number. The treated backing vocals that appear sporadically have a great sound and the various rhythms and counter-rhythms do a splendid job of portraying a search for signals mixed in amongst the melee. Some carefully placed solos and fine band interactions play up the prog credentials.

The Crucible II expands on the first version in that the piano-vocal basis is maintained in the opening but the remainder of the band have a much greater part to play, initially with a succinct guitar solo and then the whole ensemble joining force. The rather languid and sedate vocals contrast with the almost galloping band in the middle section before things calm down for the ending. The subject eschews any references to snooker and looks more to the question of are we carrying around emotional and physical baggage that if we could just discard our onward journeys may become that much easier.

On this EP, for me, it is the final track, The Stand II that is the pick of the bunch. A strong musical and lyrical statement with the band playing perfectly together in a rocking number the ending of which sounds as enjoyable to play as it is to listen to. A great way to end the EP.

I am looking forward to the third and final part of the Men In Stasis triptych to see where they next take the three song titles (I am assuming that they will follow the same approach with Men In Stasis III!). Whereas the first volume had more of a singer-songwriter vibe, this second volume ramps up on the prog aspects of the band's oeuvre. Well worth obtaining along with the first part.

The Samurai Of Prog featuring Marco Grieco — Anthem To The Phoenix Star

The Samurai Of Prog featuring Marco Grieco - Anthem To The Phoenix Star
Anthem To The Phoenix Star (7:17), Burning Silence (6:59), Killing Hopes (7:38), Bones (8:37), Don’t Be Afraid (11:23), Wings (4:02), Behind The Curtain (13:39)
Jan Buddenberg

Small miracles happen all the time. One of those related to music occurred to me just prior to the arrival of The Samurai Of Prog's The Spaghetti Epic 4, when I found myself suddenly completely up to date with TSoP's steadily expanding output. An accomplishment in itself, I'd say, considering the manifold albums released in the varying TSoP universes over the past two years, and the albums preceding this which I simultaneously had to squeeze in for exploration and enjoyment as well.

After The Spaghetti Epic 4, a similar minute pocket of vacuum presented itself, but this didn't last long with the arrival of not one, but two new albums: Pacha & Pörsti's Views From The Inner Worlds (review to follow) and TSoP's own Anthem To The Phoenix Star.

Based on the excellence of The Spaghetti Epic 4 and the preceding video of the title track, I made a prediction in my review that "there's no doubt in my mind that TSoP will push their limits and reach for the sky once again". A prediction that came true for the sheer euphoria experienced from listening to Anthem To The Phoenix Star. It is superb and nothing short of a miracle!

Steve Unruh is still occupied with other projects (Unitopia), but he does make a short visit on violin/flute in Killing Hopes, a song that was premiered previously in a different form on Omnibus 2: The Middle Years. Besides him, there is still Marco Bernard (bass) and Kimmo Pörsti (drums, percussion) at Samurai's steering wheel. With Ed Unitsky delivering a new wonder of artwork, they are once again accompanied by usual suspects like Marek Arnold (sax), Rafael Pacha (acoustic guitar, recorder), and vocalist Bart Schwertmann (Kayak, Galaxy).Their collaborating realm has been expanded again with several very familiar household names.

A first in TSOP's approach is that instead of using several external writers, all songs now emanate from the pen of one songwriter. In this case, hence the extended artist name, the Italian composer Marco Grieco. With his mightily impressive High Noon still fresh in mind, followed by several favourable compositions submitted by him so far in TSoP's legacy, this is a very promising collaboration. And the results more than live up to that promise!

To those wondering whether the use of a sole writer changes anything major within the musical playing field of TSoP's seventies inspired progressive rock, the answer would be "no", "no", "yes", "yes" and "YES", depending on the question.

The first certified "no" applies to naturally expected joyous experience of the music. As before, that is a feast for the ears and an ensured delight those in favour of adventurous progressive rock. The second "no" would involve the excellent classical inspired piano-driven Wings. Usually, this is a presentation given by TSoP regular David Myers who's obviously now absent. Grieco's graceful style resonates with much the same delightful cinematic appeal, so apart from a different player executing it, there's no real change in experience. Laced with theatrical drama this intricately structured varied composition is the perfect overture for the masterful closing piece of the album by the way, but more on that later.

The first "yes" answer applies to the luxurious amount of tantalising keyboard parts and richly decorated and inspired synth solos found all throughout the album. These elements elevate Anthem To The Phoenix Star into the most keyboard-driven symphonic album by TSoP, and I love it. Those in dying need for some astounding guitar work needn't worry, as these are fully catered for as well!

The second "yes", somewhat related to this and the various contributing guests mentioned later on, is the fact that instead of TSoP's usual 70s-honouring prog style, they now fly off in a galaxy of unbridled majestic neo-progressive rock with a distinct feel of the memorable 80s. Especially the one predominantly played at the time in Britain.

The third and final "YES" answers whether TSoP can still surprise and deliver something refreshingly new in a style that's not heard previously on any of their albums. Proof is overwhelmingly presented in the divine finale Behind The Curtain. This marvellous composition boldly goes into a dimension they haven't gone before, and this heading is one I hope TSoP will pursue more often as the outcome is in one word fantastic!

A slight departure from the world of timeless classics as found on various previous TSoP related albums is this album's sci-fi-inspired concept. Showing modern relevance and a mild resemblance to Pohl & Kornbluth's melodramatic Search The Sky novel, it tells the story of a quest in hope of humanities rebirth undertaken by a woman who remains nameless. Travelling onboard the Phoenix Star she shares her feelings, memories, internal scars and other meaningful lessons on humanity to her daughter, logged during various stages of the challenging journey. The lyrics and story, both enclosed in the booklet, tie in beautifully with the various moods and musical expressions found on the album and the overall strengthened results may well be the best example of TSoP's storytelling concepts.

The musical journey itself takes off with the excellent opener Anthem To The Phoenix Star. The atmospheric opening instantly paints a nighttime sky to which Arnold's sensitive sax and Juhani Nisula warm guitar sounds project images of Pink Floyd. It builds momentum with masterful driving drums, powerful rhythms, neo-prog elements and strong vocals from Clive Nolan (Shadowland, Pendragon). This image becomes even brighter as the melodies steer towards an immaculate Pink Floyd feel as in their marvellous Delicate Sound Of Thunder sound. With dazzling synth work from Grieco, spurred on by Bernard and Pörsti, this richly diversified composition is a beautiful start of the album and will give Arena fans much to smile about.

Burning Silence follows. Restraint and light Camel-like flavours in form of flute (Sara Trafacante) soar through carpets of blinding synths with dynamics of indulgent bass. Passionate vocals from Schwertmann add depth and character to the song. This wonderful song is full of tension with lots of drama, musical styled temperament, wonderful drumming and influences from Jethro Tull and IQ. It bursts out of its musical boundaries with stacks of superb keyboard work by Grieco and ends with an astonishing guitar solo designed by Ruben Alvarez.

Not letting go, Killing Hopes continues to impress with a fine a cappella opening and various delightful Yes influences. These are most noticeable in Bruce Botts's magical transitions, reminiscent of Steve Howe. Yogi Lang's (RPWL) vocals, although somewhat monotonous, come perfectly into their own here. Combine that with Unruh's heartwarming violin play, the song's excellent harmony vocals, an abundance of undulated melodic changes, acoustic refinement from Pacha, and a cosmos of swirling key melodies by Grieco, and you get another excellent demonstration of Grieco's compositional strength.

A strength that reaches new heights in the immaculately constructed Bones, featuring lyrics by Daphne Grieco. The main attraction here are the Gentle Giant-like xylophone parts by Beatrice Birardi. They set the song's skeleton, which is given further elegant embodiment by the mesmerising vocals of Olivia Sparnenn-Josh (Mostly Autumn). The purity of her voice is truly remarkable and simply perfect for the song. After an excellent interplay of piano and flute (Luke Shingler), a lush synth melody sways the enlightening body of music into motion and there's no stopping the flow of musical ideas. The song sways onwards through all kinds of wonderful antics, shaped by rhythmic elegance and elements of folk that shimmer with Riverdance vibrancy. Xylophone melodies return and an enchanting embrace from Sparnenn-Josh finally rounds of this wondrous experience in a very satisfying way.

It is nothing short of a miracle that TSoP manage to create a superlative stage after this sublime album highlight. And a major one at that for the two remaining songs surrounding the aforementioned Wings are phenomenal!

First up, it's the darker-shaded Don't Be Afraid. At first, this adds a Genesis expression through John Wilkinson's Gabriel-like vocals. This is only temporary, for the song quickly turns towards old school IQ bombast, intricate melodies and keyboards galore. Provided with various massive and dexterously played synths, this stunning song is a symphonic dream come true for anyone with a neo-prog affection for names like Tamarisk, Arena, and early Marillion. This song just keeps on giving. Bursting at the seams with variations, marching rhythms, acoustic touches (Massimo Sposaro), gulfs of tantalising play, and a classic piano intermezzo. And to top it all off, Marcel Singor (Kayak) delivers not one but two amazing otherworldly solos.

The brilliant Behind The Curtain goes above and beyond it all. I can probably write a love declaration the size of a small galaxy on how much I adore this deeply satisfying and compelling suite. I am already lost for words after its gentle piano opening. It surprisingly bursts into classical inspired bombast with prog-metal influences and reveals a concatenation of musical highlights, each one more beautiful than the last. Think of a spectacular arena of exquisite neo-progressive rock with dazzling interplay, ravishing solos, immaculate musical transitions and an overwhelming array of musical entertainment. Think of Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra meets the theatrical stage production of "The Phantom of the Space Opera", and you're halfway there.

Complete with driving dynamics, a gala of lovely piano conversations, sensitive bass insertions, ripping solos, and excellent guitar work from Cam Blokland, this song is a relentlessly grabbing entity throughout. It's most impressively brought to life in majestic grandeur by the perfectly suited theatrical vocals from Clive Nolan, who gives a performance of a lifetime during the song. A dazzling passage of swing jazz comes amidst all the infectious musical treats that breathes Savatage's The Wake Of Magellan era. Drawing to a close with an astonishing spine-chilling solo from Blokland, I can only conclude that for me Behind The Curtain is TSoP's finest achievement so far. A blinder of a song and an overwhelming finale to a magnificent album.

TSoP have given progressive/symphonic rock fans a lot of beautiful albums in recent years, and Anthem To The Phoenix Star sits in perfectly with this. In fact, with this triumphant record they have exceeded my wildest expectations. I wonder if the band will ever be able to top this. It's an absolute joy to listen to from start to finish, with many moments in which the band transcends themselves, most memorably, obviously, in the heavenly Behind The Curtain. A certified album of the year contender for me.

It's a must-have for any fan of progressive rock, a no-brainer for fans of TSoP, and a mandatory listen for those with a preference for British styled neo-progressive rock that delightfully brings back the sounds of the magical 80s. Engage!

Wheel — Rumination

Wheel - Rumination
Blood Drinker (4:07), Synchronise (4:07), Impervious (4:23)
Bryan Morey

To celebrate their signing to Inside Out Music, Finland's Wheel have released a very short EP, Rumination. While I haven't dug deep into Wheel's catalog, I did listen to their second album Resident Human last year, and I enjoyed it. Our reviewer enjoyed it even more, giving it a 10 out of 10.

Rumination may be brief, but it packs a powerful punch. Each one of these tracks is stellar, and I am left wanting a whole album. It reminds me a lot of Soen, with a similar brooding heavy crunch. Wheel is an appropriate name for the group, as these songs have a sort of gallop to them. Blood Drinker has a djent edge in the guitar tone but without the heavily distorted vocals more typical of that sub-genre. Lead singer James Lascelles does have a bit of grit in his voice, which adds to the overall effect.

Wheel, promo photo

Synchronise uncovers a calmer element of the band, complete with strings (fitting, since they're touring with Apocalyptica). It adds a mellow aspect in the middle of the EP without watering down their sound. Impervious has a catchy melody with a rolling guitar riff. The duel guitar attack is used to prominent effect on this track, with the main riff driving the song and more atmospheric playing filling in the back end.

This short but sweet EP has me excited to hear more from Wheel, as well as dig deeper into their catalog. They were the talk of the prog metal town last year, something I more or less missed out on. I hope not to make that mistake going forward. Rumination is not to be missed. It bodes well for things to come from Wheel.

Album Reviews