Album Reviews

Issue 2022-118

Roland Buhlmann — Emnaloc

Roland Buhlmann - Emnaloc
Umiion (7:36), Assailen (9:22), Sevamcao (5:58), Rithnál (10:45), Yndrun (9:50), Letarladoth (7:15), Berithlan (7:29), Emnalóc (12:22)
Sergey Nikulichev

Solo artists can be roughly divided into three categories.

  1. Those who are tired of their bands.
  2. Those who desperately need a band.
  3. Those who do not really need a band.

Roland Buhlmann, an “orchestra man” from Switzerland, belongs to the happiest (and smallest) third category of professionals who are fine just the way they are. Emnaloc is the fifth release by this multi-instrumentalist, and his previous career was well-covered by DPRP with praising reviews by Jan and Thomas.

Roland plays a wide array of instruments on this record, including electric and bass guitars, synths and some percussion, but doesn't seem to be obsessed with doing everything on his own. He is assisted with some very professional musicians, including Teri Bryant (ex-Iona and John Paul Jones band to name a few) on the drum stool, David Cross (please spare me from telling you who this is) and trumpet player Luca Calabrese (ex-Isildur's Bane and The Nexus Collective).

What Roland's music is about has been quite vividly described by previous reviewers. I can only add that Roland gracefully leaps from an abstract Crimson-esque style, to melodic fusion akin to names like Mind Gallery, Dominique Vantomme and to Oldfield-influenced world music, mixing “cold” and “warm” licks in a very elegant manner. In order to grasp his creativity, one track is not enough, so I suggest that lovers of high-IQ-prog listen to the whole record more than once to enjoy the nuances.

Here are some examples of the mastermind's versatility. The opener Umiion is a mix of ambient experiments with Trey Gunn / Robert Fripp riffing. Assailen sounds like Robert Fripp doing a jam session with Mike Oldfield. Sevamcao brings a Latin feel and nods to South American classics from bossa nova to Villa-Lobos.

Rithnal features the immediately recognisable violin of David Cross. Yndrun offers a wonderful mix of tribal rhythmic patterns with Calabrese's trumpet (remember I told you that Roland is not obsessed with showing off, he is very much on the background here). Letarladoth reminded me of the early days of The Flower Kings' instrumentals with that specific benign atmosphere and smart percussion.

Berithlan is a nice (if not essential) Brian Eno-meets-Steve Howe experiment, and the closing title track unravels as a soothing fusion journey with a trumpet, giving a Nordic jazz feel to the picture. All these riches span across a 70-minute CD, with an abstract but catchy (at least to me) cover.

With a truly Swiss precision, Emnaloc sets Roland's name on the fusion / post-Crimson musical scene. If you are into instrumental prog with an accent on composition and experiments, rather than shredding, this record is not to be missed. A rare occasion when experiments are actually made in a way that is pleasant to listen to. I also bet my salary, that the name of the next release by Roland will start with an "F". I shall wait for it anyway!

Dry River — Cuarto Creciente

Dry River - Cuarto Creciente
Culpable (5:02), Segundo Intento (5:04), La Libertad (4:37), La Serpiente (5:55), Si Estás Tú (4:46), Capitán Veneno (5:47), Calles Inundadas (7:52), Funeral (5:21), Despedida (3:14)
Ignacio Bernaola

Let me be clear from the very beginning: this brilliant album is a full 10. The reason I'm giving it a 9 is because I don't want them to relax, since I know Dry River can do even better in future albums. And I'm sure they will.

But for now you can take for granted that Cuarto Creciente is a true gem from start to finish. By the time you read this I will have placed it as my number one album in 2022, ahead of some big international names that have also released great albums this year.

I know Dry River may be a new band for some of our readers, since this is the first of their albums that we have reviewed, but some of you may remember the concert review we published in 2019. Anyway this is a band that deserves much more recognition, starting with their own country.

How is it possible that Asia's Heat Of The Moment sold millions of copies and has hundreds of millions of streams and Dry River's Segundo Intento is a song that almost everybody is going to miss this year? How is it possible that Dream Theater is still filling big venues, and all the so called metal-prog-heads are going to miss Capitan Veneno? How is it possible that Queen became a total iconic band, and Dry River is never played on radio stations?

You may think I'm exaggerating but please do yourself a favour and check out this album and prove me wrong. I've been thinking this since I listened their first album called El Circo De La Tierra and they confirmed it by releasing the brilliant Quien Tenga Algo Que Decir Que Calle Para Siempre. Their 2018 album called 2038 was even better but this new one reaches higher levels, putting them in a different league.

All the aforementioned albums had very good songs, scoring an average eight and some true masterpieces that deserved a ten, but Cuarto Milenio is full of nines and tens. No low points here, with an overall feeling that only a few albums can provoke. This record also contains what should be considered the best song of the year in Calles Inundadas.

Musically Dry River are a blend of Deep Purple, Dream Theater and Queen. But there are so many more influences thrown into the mix. For prog-metal fans then start with Capitan Veneno, one of the heaviest songs. For those who enjoy an AOR ballad with Queen harmonies and Spanish guitar then try Despedida. The song Calles Inundadas is where the band blends the heavy and the light. The opener Culpable is a great slice of pop-prog.

Now it's up to you if you want to take this review and pretend you haven't read anything or go and check out this magnificent album and start discovering this impressive band. Some of you already know that I don't usually give many perfect scores but this really deserves one of them.

Duo Atanasovski — Liberte Toujours

Duo Atanasovski - Liberte Toujours
Drevored (6:10), Orehi (6:43), Barve Sena (4:38), Balada Za Soncen Dan (7:16), Vrane Na Prepihu (3:44), U2 (6:15), Liberte Toujours (5:31)
Owen Davies

Vasko Atanasovski is a well-known Slovenian musician. I have enjoyed listening to his work as the leader of his own quartet. His Phoenix album was very satisfying and was reviewed by DPRP in 2021. His son Ariel Vel Atanasovski made an appearance on that album.

However, as the name suggests Duo Atanasovski is largely a family affair with the addition of a few guests. The music was written by Ariel, and his guitar and cello contributions throughout the release are quite outstanding.

Ariel's brief guitar solo during the expansive Orehi is cleverly formed. The clean, clear tones that he strikes are perfectly captured by the high sound quality of the release where every instrument can be appreciated in the mix.

Vasko complements his son's performance by providing beautiful embellishments and solos on soprano and alto saxophone and flute. The music is given greater depth by the outstanding contribution of guests Marko Churnchetz (piano), Jost Drasler (double bass) and Marian Stanic on drums.

However, it is undoubtedly the duo's skilful virtuosity that is a standout feature of the release. Ariel's relaxing cello strikes a gentle, soothing path in the late-night cafe bar ambience of Drevored. Another noticeable feature is the palpable feeling of love and empathy which exists between the two featured members of the Duo. This manifests itself in the way that their performance complements each other, and in the spiritually uplifting atmosphere of much of the release.

Their empathy is immediately apparent in the spacious interplay between sax and cello during Drevored. It is a delightful tune which mixes both Slovene folk and jazz and sets the standard and the overall style for what is to follow.

It is doubtful whether the majority of Liberte Toujours will appeal to a classic prog audience. The tunes are skilfully composed and beautifully performed. They possess a gentle, sunset ambience and never allow any unrestrained fling-limb fury or unexpected grinding discordance to distort the elegant melodic impression that they create.

Liberte Toujours contains sophisticated music that rewards careful examination. However its easy-natured melodic style is also very easy to enjoy and appreciate in a superficial way. Consequently it would be superb background music for a candlelit romantic dinner. Yet it would be equally enjoyable as a darkened-room headphone experience, where every sense might be geared towards scrutinising and appreciating the music.

My favourite piece is probably Barve Sena. Vasko's performance on flute is outstanding and his delightful tone is simply breathtaking. It rises and resonates, lingers and loiters, falls and flutters and is a perfect foil for the fluid piano style of Churnchetz and the deep resonance of Drasler's bass. It develops interestingly when a very brief Konnakol-like uttering takes place. The short guitar interlude which follows acts as a bridge for the melody to be repeated by Vasko, to bring proceedings to a satisfying conclusion

The languid Balada Za Soncen Danis is also a highlight. Encountering how it gently unfolds and expands is a delightful experience. Ariel's tasteful and gentle contribution on guitar is particularly stylish.

Indeed the main feeling that pervades the whole release, is that everything is stylish, sophisticated and tasteful. It rarely surprises, but when the music is so accomplished, does that really matter?

The duo's music has an inherent beauty that transcends everything else and it has great overall quality. Liberte Toujours simply oozes love and understanding and abundantly displays the core values of truth and beauty.

I will play it often!

Glass Hammer — At The Gates

Glass Hammer - At The Gates
The Years Roll By (7:34), Savage (6:15), North Of North (4:28), All Alone (6:06), All For Love (6:55), Snowblind Girl (7:45), Standing At The Gate (5:03), In The Shadows & It’s Love (17:10), 1644 In The Garden Of My Dreams (5:14)
Edwin Roosjen

I became interested in Glass Hammer when I bought the album Shadowlands back in 2004. It was a tough nut to crack but when it sunk in, it was there to stay. I remained interested in Glass Hammer for the albums The Inconsolable Secret and Culture of Ascent. But with each album the interest slightly dropped, and with Three Cheers For The Broken-Hearted my interest in Glass Hammer was over (or so I thought).

I listened to some parts of later releases but somehow it never got my interest back. I still regularly listen to these old albums by Glass Hammer but I never got into their newer work (or so I thought).

When I volunteered for the review of At The Gates I found out it is the third album in a trilogy. On Bandcamp I listened to the first two albums, Dreaming City and Skallagrim - Into the Breach and I discovered that I had missed out on some great music.

Always present in Glass Hammer are Steve Babb and Fred Schendel who play almost every instrument. One nice element of the Glass Hammer sound that I like, is the bass by Steve Babb that is melodic and at times very upfront. On the first two albums of the trilogy the female vocals were done by Susie Bogdanowicz. We now have Hannah Pryor.

Glass Hammer is mostly known for being somewhat of a copy of Yes but from the reviews of the first two albums I have learnt that this aspect has changed.

At the start of The Years Roll By I for sure still hear a lot of Yes influences. The opening song reminds me of the Shadowlands album but the melodies and vocal lines are more accessible.

On Savage it becomes clear to me that Glass Hammer have dropped the Yes influences a bit more backwards and indeed the sound on this album is in favour of a somewhat heavier sound. Savage is a rock song; still the keyboards are there but also some very heavy guitars.

Glad to see most of the songs have a duration of around seven minutes. North Of North is the shortest; It starts as an atmospheric keyboard instrumental song but it also has some heavy guitar. At the centre of the song are some nice heavy keyboard solos with that familiar thick organ sound.

All Alone starts with a classic rock guitar intro which evolves into a slowly-pounding melody. A nice heavy song with even some Black Sabbath influences in it. At the start of this review I could never have guessed that the Yes influences would be replaced with Black Sabbath influences. Glass Hammer have surely surprised me.

This slow, heavy stuff continues at the start of All For Love but after just a few bars of music the pace goes up. At the centre of the song again are some slow heavy metal stuff but mostly this is a very high-pace heavy metal rock song. Snowblind Girl is a bit more complex, a bit less easier to digest and needs a few more spins to get into. This is even more the case on Standing At The Gate where I hear the complex vocal lines that I was used to from Glass Hammer when I started with Shadowlands.

The track In The Shadows & It's Love are two songs placed in one song. It is over fifteen minutes of great music. Not as heavy as the other songs on At The Gates, with a lot more piano parts and some lengthy melodic instrumental parts. The vocals by Hannah Pryor are very very nice.

With the review edition, I received a bonus track called 1644 In The Garden Of My Dreams but I do not know on which edition this song is on. It is an instrumental song with dreamy keyboard tunes. For me it is a fine way to end the album after In The Shadows & It's Love. The bonus track is a nice extra but not mandatory.

So Glass Hammer have won me back as a fan. At The Gates is the third album of a trilogy and now I also have the other two in my collection. Just like on Dreaming City and Skallagrim - Into the Breach the sound of Glass Hammer is bit heavier and they have stepped a bit away from the Yes influences.

I have just made my top 10 for 2022 and this one is definitely in there.

Grydgaard — Secrets From The Palace

Grydgaard - Secrets From The Palace
Palace of Peace (4:46), Résumé (4:36), Time Lapse (5:09), In Harmony (4:08), Lifeless People (6:28), Secrets of Egypt (8:34), Quiet One (4:24), Unforgivable (6:04), Stars (4:47), Staccato Dream (5:39) Bonus tracks:
Andy Read

Grydgaard is a new band/project put together by Danish guitarist Uffe Grydgaard. He played the guitar for the first time at the age of 14 and has played in various band (including a Genesis tribute band) on several stages around Copenhagen. He has also studied studio techniques and equipment under the eye of prog-giant Alan Parsons.

Uffe states his influences as being rock pioneers such as Deep Purple, Styx, Be-Bop Deluxe, Supertramp, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Saga, Thin Lizzy, Marillion, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, and neo-prog names such as IQ and Arena.

And those influences shine through on the ten tracks that make up the debut Grydgaard album entitled Secrets From The Palace. Uffe plays all the instruments on the record. He is supported by three different singers: Damian Wilson (tracks 1,4,7), Michael Mills (tracks 2,5,8) and Eric Castiglia (track 3). There are three instrumental tracks (or five if you include the two bonus cuts). Co-producer Torben Enevoldsen plays the guitar solo on one track.

Overall this is solidly performed heavy-prog with plenty of space given to the instruments. At times I'm reminded of early period Pallas. At other times the Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy influences come through in the guitar-work to give things a more metallic vibe.

Not all of the sections and changes in style flow very well. The flow and sense of cohesion is also hindered by the use of three different vocalists. A specialist drummer would also bring in a wider range of dynamics. The songs tend to trudge along at one pace. Uffe is clearly a talented guitarist and producer. I feel that working with some other musicians to create more of a band-thing would take things to the next level.

The Lost Vision of The Chandoo Priest — The Lost Vision of The Chandoo Priest

The Lost Vision of The Chandoo Priest - The Lost Vision of The Chandoo Priest
Floating Down The Valley (4:45), Chasing Time In Oppositre Direction (pt. I) (3:47), Enterind The Void (4:47), The White Toad Majesty (4:48), Droplets (4:05), Chasing Time In Opposite Direction (pt. II) (3:59), Getting Nowhere (3:35), London Underground (3:22), Farewell, Dog (4:11), Dunans Castle (3:54)
Jerry van Kooten

Advertised as "instrumental space/psych/prog", I was instantly interested. This band is a duo made of Francesca Zanetta (of Unreal City and Quel Che Disse Il Tuono) playing guitar, bass and an array of keyboards and organs, plus Niccolò Gallani (of Cellar Noise and Quel Che Disse Il Tuono) playing drums and flute, plus also bass, guitar, keyboards and organ.

Crossover genres have varying levels of each of the genres, and the music of Lost Vision... (what is it with Italian bands and long names?!) consists of a heavy dose of prog. Not unexpected given the duo's other bands, of course.

Played with a nice assortment of old keyboard instruments, we have a more vintage sound than your regular prog. But it's interesting to see that the compositions and melodies have a more neo-prog approach. Then some psychedelic influences are added, which are heard mostly in the effects, soundscapes, some melodies, and a few parts in several songs.

The album contains true instrumental compositions (except for the unexpected and funny "mind the gap!" in the track I think you can guess for yourself when you take a look at the song titles) in the sense on most songs you do not hear verses and choruses without words, which is good.

In several cases, though, I did miss something, could be a vocal melody, as an extra layer or melody or just anything. As you can see the songs are all relatively short, and that raises a problem I am having.

I get the feeling that when just a few ideas have been introduced, we're at the end of the song. Several pieces would probably flow as sections in a larger composition. Although there is still enough going on given the instrumentation, in several songs I have the feeling we're going somewhere, but then it ends.

This results in a collection of ideas and melodies, but not necessarily complete compositions. Especially with psychedelic rock, I'd like to feel as if I am being taken on a trip. A trip in a rocket, not a city bus with a lot of stops. And given the adventurous nature of progressive rock, it also applies to that section of the genre crossover.

A very nice Rothery-like melody in the first Chasing Time ... remains a melody where a spacey guitar solo could have driven the track a lot further. The White Toad Majesty is a really nice basic composition but is begging for lyrics to give it more substance.

And there are more sections where I really dig what is going on. The Camel melodies, especially Bardens-style, in the first track. And I know that I just mentioned the emphasis is more on prog than space or psych. Well, there is an exception. Or three. For some reason, the three tracks are at the end of the album and seem to appeal to me the most. Really groovy riffs and melodies in London Underground. There's great duelling between guitar and keys and contrasts between harder and mellower sections in Farewell, Dog. And although not as heavy, Dunans Castle has a good mix of more Camel and Marillion references. These last three tracks just seem more mature and worked out.

So although there are very nice melodies and ideas, a good deal sounds like it could have been allowed to mature some more from idea into composition. The sound and production are very good, the ideas are there, and I will be listening to those closing three tracks a lot more. It is fair to say that I am keeping my eye on further releases that will appear under this long band name.

Major Parkinson — Valesa - Chapter I Velvet Prison

Major Parkinson - Valesa - Chapter I Velvet Prison
Goodbye Blue Monday (1:11), Behind The Next Door (4:32), Saturday Night (4:06), Ride In The Whirlwind (1:41), Live Forever (7:15), Sadlands (1:14), Intermezzo (2:15), Jonah (6:35), Velvet Moon (2:00), Irina Margareta (5:07), The House (3:27), The Room (4:43), Posh-Apocalypse (2:07), Moma (2:15), Lemon Symphony (1:59), Fantasia Me Now! (6:57), Heroes (4:42)
Edwin Roosjen

When listening to the new album by Major Parkinson, the same thing happened as when I listened to their previous album, Blackbox. That left me completely surprised and after the first spin I was left in confusion. What did I just listen to? Is it rock? Is it prog? Is it art?

Again we have a lot of unorthodox instruments like violin, cello, glass harp and trumpet. Blackbox was a dark album, but Valesa - Chapter I Velvet Prison is more all over the place, just like the earlier albums by Major Parkinson. The new album Valesa is more orientated towards piano and keyboards; you can find many eighties keyboard tunes.

The album has a lot of songs with a variation in duration. Some smaller songs glued nicely together and some longer songs that can be cut into different parts. I will not tell you that listening to Major Parkinson is easy, you need an open mindset.

Opener Goodbye Blue Monday is a small instrumental piece with various sounds. It holds some melodies that are found later on in the album; a prelude you might call it.

Behind The Next Door is one of the easier songs to grasp, being a dark melodic rock song with a bombastic dramatic part. On Saturday Night the bombastic parts are exchanged for poppy eighties tunes with female vocals. Lead vocalist Jon Ivar Kollbotn has a very low, dark voice and the female vocals offer a huge contrast.

After a piano intermezzo, Ride In The Whirlwind, it is time for the longest song on the album, Live Forever. This one is filled with eighties poppy keyboard tunes. The only comparison I could think of is that Major Parkinson mixed their previous album Blackbox with tunes from the Stranger Things soundtrack. Mixed in this song are sounds of a cheering crowd, and that is even more present on Sadlands. Sadlands sounds like an actual live recording but I have no information whether or not this is truly the case. Be it true or not, it sure sounds like a live recording.

Intermezzo is what it is named, an intermezzo with keyboard melodies. Jonah is one of my favourite songs on the album, with an epic, bombastic feel to it. The second part of the song features a gospel choir. I also like the small piece Velvet Moon, especially the melancholic feel it has. This feeling is continued in Irina Margareta, a slow dramatic song but this one has even more different elements of the Major Parkinson sound.

If all these different music styles are too much for you, then beware because it becomes even more dynamic in the next couple of songs. The House and The Room are complex songs with many alternations. It is like listening to a video game where you jump from one world into another. And at the end, you jump into Posh-Apocalypse, another eighties video game poppy keyboard tune.

Moma is an ultra-fast thrash metal song and during a concert you could build a slamming mosh pit to it. Yes, you are reading it correctly, thrash metal for a mosh pit! And from the mosh pit, it is back to a Nintendo-like tune which sounds like it was made for Super Mario or something like that. Fantasia Me Now! has even more catchy eighties synth pop influences. This is a really poppy keyboard song about watching the movie The Neverending Story. The final song, Heroes is just like the opener, a small piece with various sounds and atmospheric vocals.

The way I described the last songs from the album, it must have created some confusion. This is the same confusion you will have when listening to Valesa - Chapter I Velvet Prison for the first time. Major Parkinson does not offer easily digestible music. It requires an open-minded approach. So do not be afraid, if you do not like this album after the first spin. Just like their previous album,Valesa is a grower and good enough to make my top 10 list of albums for 2022.

And some people will probably never get into Valesa. You really need to stretch your musical boundaries. Major Parkinson's albums are something special and I have heard that their concerts are also something else. Sadly some concerts had to be cancelled because vocalist Jon Ivar Kollbotn suffered some health problems. Hopefully he recovers completely and we can enjoy this remarkable band live in concert. I enjoyed this album a lot and I am looking forward to chapter II.

Tempus Cucumis — The Story Of C And The Lowering Skies

Tempus Cucumis - The Story Of C And The Lowering Skies
Hommage (3:36), Lead And I Will Follow (4:25), Tracing Madmen Through The Sky (5:08), The Story Of C And The Lowering Skies (5:26), Manny Goes For Pizza (7:18), The Calm (4:53), The Lizard King (9:44), Sonata For L (10:57), Daybreak And The World Ends (3:29)
Martin Burns

Tempus Cucumis (Cucumber Season) is a duo of classically trained musicians who have released five, in their words "earlier experiments", starting with the wonderfully titled When All Has Gone Tits Up (2017) up to 2021's Mini-Mouton. Their new album The Story Of C And The Lowering Skies is the first to be reviewed here on DPRP. If the rest have similar neo-prog meets jazz-fusion tendencies, then we have missed a trick.

The duo is Jeroen De Brauwer (all guitars, vocals, composition, programming and mixing assistant) and Lukas Huisman (all keys, sound design, mixing, mastering and editing). They make an engaging prog-racket, tuneful and detailed, with arrangements that mean there is always something happening. The interplay between the keys and the guitars is great and the programmed percussion has a good sound quality and doesn't let the songs down.

They continue their self-imposed challenge to write and record nine tracks in nine weeks on The Story Of C And The Lowering Skies, which gives the songs a seat-of-the-pants energy. There was supposed to be a concept for the album about ridiculous conspiracy theories and alternative facts, but it got diverted by tragic real-life events in Ukraine and with a friend of theirs. They abandoned the social commentary, to focus on the private, emotional response to the things that were happening world-wide and more personally around them.

Tempus Cucumis, promo photo

The music that Tempus Cucumis produce has a strong neo-prog flavour, all mixed with jazz-fusion style keyboards. They get right on this style with the opening instrumental, Hommage, where chugging guitars and bass are joined by Chick Corea-like electric piano, a short bass solo and a guitar solo. It shouldn't work, but honestly it does really well.

The next seven tracks are all songs, and introduces Jeroen De Brauwer's vocals, which may for some be an acquired taste, with its 40-a-day smokiness and mix of The Tangent's Andy Tillison and Roger Waters' growl. The songs are all interesting emotionally and musically, with a mix of instruments that keep everything flowing nicely.

One track might have fallen from a Tangent album. The Calm with its whispery-almost-spoken vocal line, crunching guitar and jazzy electric piano has all the hallmarks of The Tangent.

The best song, for me, is Manny Goes For Pizza that moves from a piano-ballad opening to an up-tempo jazzy blast like the Japanese trio Hiromi's Trio Project, before the guitars join in. It is intense and dynamic in equal measure.

The longest piece is another instrumental. Sonata For L has a fast-paced staccato opening with a guitar solo to the fore, supported by great riffs and electric piano runs. It switches about, and it is terrific.

The only drawback, for me, is that on occasion the vocals become a bit too strident and wayward, but the music remains super. To cap it all Tempus Cucumis' The Story Of C And The Lowering Skies is available on a name-your-price offer from their Bandcamp page. Go investigate if you think you will have a liking for music that echoes The Tangent but retains its own fusion identity.

Tribe Of Names — Evolver

Tribe Of Names - Evolver
Tribe Of Names (8:20), They Live To Cry (4:54), Liar, Liar (3:58), Everyday Haunted (2:56), White Nile (8:58), The Last Unsung Girl (6:33), Mayfly (4:34), Dirt On The Inside (14:16)
Geoff Feakes

Talented song-writer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Simon Godfrey is not one to let the grass grow under his feet. He formed Tinyfish in 2004 and released several albums including the excellent The Big Red Spark in 2010. Following the band's demise, he recorded under the moniker Shineback and emigrated from the UK to the USA. Based in Philadelphia, he co-founded Valdez with former Echolyn bassist Tom Hyatt, drummer Scott Miller and keyboardist Joe Cardillo. They released the well-received This in 2017 before evolving into the more guitar-centered quartet Tribe Of Names, with Cardillo replaced by fretman Karl Eisenhart.

Three years in the making (on and off), the appropriately-titled debut album, Evolver, takes a leaf out of Black Sabbath's book by opening with a song named after the band. Musically however, Tribe Of Names are a long way from Birmingham's metal-heads with three seasoned American musicians in the line-up playing a significant part in shaping the band's sound.

Tribe Of Names (the song) features a four-minute instrumental intro, opening with a morse code rhythm, swamped by jagged power chords and a melodic guitar theme. Add a spiky rhythm, reminiscent of The Spirit Of Radio, and the Rush influences are obvious, along with Echolyn. There is also a bolero riff that echoes the rhythm guitar during the keyboard solo in Genesis' The Cinema Show. It's the album's strongest offering. In fact it's so good, the guitar hook, vocal melody and riff are reprised for the sprawling closing song Dirt On The Inside. A similar staccato riff appears at the end of the fifth track White Nile.

Liar, Liar and Everyday Haunted are more mellow offerings with Godfrey's unmistakable vocals to the fore. His voice is not too dissimilar to the late Mark Hollis of Talk Talk fame, with a hint of Tears For Fears. The vocal melodies are not as consistent as they might be however and the soaring guitar solos during White Nile and The Last Unsung Girl are the strongest parts. The album finishes on a high with an uplifting finale that harks back to Tinyfish, particularly The Big Red Spark album, which is perhaps not surprising given that in addition to writing the songs, Godfrey is credited with the mixing and production.

Evolver is undoubtedly a solid debut album, benefiting from the powerful rhythm partnership of Hyatt and Miller. Eisenhart is an exceptional guitarist but a sprinkling of keyboards from Godfrey would have been welcome, adding a touch of colour and variation, particularly to the instrumental sections. Is Evolver worth the three year wait? Venture over to the band's Bandcamp page and judge for yourself. Personally, I have a feeling that we've yet to hear the best from Tribe Of Names.

The Wring — Spectra

The Wring - Spectra
Stilleto (4:40), Stones & Bones (4:58), The Prince (3:54), The Wolf (5:00), Tin Man (5:25), From Mars (4:43), Sins (4:43), Fallen (5:05)
Gerald Wandio

Oh boy, I like this album. And oh boy, I'm glad I have a firm policy to never read a band's promotional materials before I've listened to an album a few times. But we'll get to that.

The Wring is a Canadian band, the brainchild of Don Dewulf, and this is the band's third album. It's a very interesting amalgam of heavy rock and elements of progressive rock, the latter heard mostly in inventive time signatures in several songs. The musicianship is excellent throughout. The band is tight and singer Chandler Mogel's voice is perfect for this material; clear and strong. The lyrics are interesting and literate throughout, and nicely articulated.

When I listened to this album the first time, I had a hard time remembering what Dewulf's guitar sound (and in certain ways his style) reminded me of, but I finally got it. There was a great Canadian band called Wireless in the late seventies and early eighties. The band's third album, 1980's No Static, was produced by Geddy Lee, and Dewulf's guitar sound is reminiscent of Wireless's excellent guitarist Steve McMurray. (I fancy there's a touch of Alex Lifeson in this or that riff too.)

As I said, this band's sound isn't easily pegged. Listened to in one way, it's good old traditional heavy rock (though not metal); If, however, you attend carefully to the twists and turns, you will appreciate all the more the technical ability of the players. Best of all, there isn't a weak song on the album. I suppose opener Stilleto is the best of the lot, but the album manages to be consistent, without being repetitive.

Okay, now I must return to what I said in my first paragraph. In the band's promotional materials, we read that Spectra is "recommended for fans of Rush, King Crimson, and Dream Theater." Well, okay, although I hear little if anything that reminds me of King Crimson, though I do pick up a bit of an Alex Lifeson vibe now and again. But that recommendation should NOT have appeared in the same write-up that says of drummer Marco Minnemann that he is "possibly the best rock drummer on the planet right now." Look, he's an excellent drummer, but the very mention of Rush will call to mind that band's late drummer, whose name I'm sure I needn't mention, who really was the best rock drummer on the planet. Minneman doesn't need to have readers reminded of Neil Peart (oops -- I mentioned him) and such hyperbole is just off-putting.

However, I'm reviewing a very fine album, not its promotional materials and this album is a keeper for me. I've listened to it a number of times already and will listen to it in the future purely for pleasure. This band may well be going places.

Album Reviews