Album Reviews

Issue 2022-120

Comedy Of Errors — Time Machine

Comedy Of Errors - Time Machine
The Knight Returns (6:32), Lost Demigods (5:19), Wonderland (15:29), The Past Of Future Days (4:35), Time Machine (12:21), Disobey (Live At RosFest USA 2016) (6:58)
Jan Buddenberg

Time Machines come in all sort of shapes and sizes. Well known devices are the legendary DeLorean, the (personally much desired) Tardis, the excellent adventurous telephone booth, The Pod, The Map, and the coolest of them all: The Hot Tub. None of them really exist and function obviously, but I can truthfully state there are two real phenomena that do result in actual mindful time travel, namely music and photographs.

The latter for instance takes place once in a while when vocalist Joe Cairney re-posts pictures on Facebook of a time gone by when Comedy Of Errors played the world renowned Paradiso in Amsterdam on September 12th 1987. This fixed point in time shows a band on top of their game cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd that has at least two future team members in their midst. A repeat of this highly memorable night only took 27 years, when after the release of their albums Disobey and Fanfare & Fantasy, the band performed at the Parkvilla Theater in Alphen Aan Den Rijn in 2014.

This marvellous night, in which past and present shook hands through the various old and new songs played from these albums, ended with an impromptu encore of Time There Was. A song from the self-released Steven Wilson (indeed that Steven Wilson) various artists compilation album Exposure, that started it all for me so long ago. Needless to say this delightful neo-progressive flashback effortlessly transported me back to my childhood days and that deeply cherished church night.

In the years following, the band consisting of Cairney with Jim Johnston (songwriter, keyboards, backing vocals), Mark Spalding (guitar), Sam McCulloch (guitar), Bruce Levick (drums, percussion) and John Fitzgerald (bass) would go on to release two other great albums (Spirit and House Of The Mind) and visit our soils in support on various occasions. Although McCulloch recently departed I can only hope this will soon be happening again, for the six tunes of glory entrusted to Time Machine are as soothing as a warm bath.

Dipping right into this warmth with a lovely fizzing bubble of nostalgia, is album opener The Knight Returns which is a remake of Behold The Knight from the band's 1986 EP. Feeling fresh and modern, with an authentic touch of Comedy Of Errors classicism, this ideally short and playful composition has been extended with a beautiful bridge that provides some excellent restrained play with stand out moments on bass and guitar. Sharing a degree of happiness alongside great harmonies, and delicate changes of pace surrounded by superb melancholy from guitars, this song compels just as much now as it did the first time round.

What it also does is instantly show that the band is on their way back to their, personally preferred, guitar-based sound of yesteryear, as opposed to the more keyboard driven style as explored on their two previous albums. There's a much better balance in instrumentation, with lead roles for both guitar and keys, which beautifully reconnects this album with their first two outings. The dexterous rhythm section also packs a fair punch in comparison, which together with Cairney's strong vocal delivery results in Comedy Of Errors best effort in years.

Admittedly, the mighty epic Wonderland plays a big role in this. This wondrous composition exceeds all of my COE expectations and fills my every need for 80s infused neo-progressive rock through its multifold of expressions that reminisce on blissful Pallas memories. The way it moves through various atmospheres is superb, with intricate piano, driving drums, pushing bass and a gracious guitar that all together gradually builds up in threatening intensity with compelling dynamics. There is an aggression added by fierce guitar-play, combined with signals of impending gloom through blazing keys and melodies. It seems to march straight out of depths of The Atlantis Suite (Pallas), and is simply divine and could last me a lifetime.

This excellent movement is followed by a drum-guided atmospheric passage, which through throbbing bass and airy piano/bass conversations, slowly builds into returning melodies, in which darkness fades to light. Lovely sparkling keyboard lit-melodies reincarnate the classical prog style of COE. It sounding hopeful and elegantly cheery, with well-crafted lyrics on humanities' modern-day challenges. With a marvellous array of melodies, the song's dooming prophecy is finally fulfilled when an eruption of keys blast the song into a pinnacle crescendo that ends it all.

Prior to this outstanding highlight is Lost Demigods, which shows equal thoughtful play in lyrics. Together with four world-famous notes and other embedded classical themes, mixed in with the historic feel of the melodies, it results in a lovely flowing composition. An incredibly playful catchy one at that, thanks to the cheerful "na, na, na" vocal lines and the various exercises of excellent interplay draped with happiness of pop. The dreamy instrumental The Past Of Future Days adds a magical touch of bass and symphonic refinement to this, with a showcase of restrained interaction amidst a replete of attractive classical-inspired melodies.

The final new song and title track, Time Machine, will always be inseparable for me, because of the beautiful story written by H.G. Wells. Given the multiple visions that come to life in this song that coincide with the book's most recent screen adaptation, in which a romantic backstory plays a major role, this story probably also played an inspiring role in COE's epic composition.

It starts small, with a long intro of sensitive piano play. This is slowly coloured with the loneliness of Christmas and loss.The sadness in Cairney's vocals is palpable, which provide a strong emotional moment, after which the song is slowly set in motion through excellent work by Levick. Grieving desolation is perfectly captured by stately play and mourning trumpet sounds. The song takes on ever grander forms that ooze empathy, but then this minor mood turns into a wonderful twist with a massive progressive appeal, with dynamic play all around.

When drama, sorrow and a tangible sense of eternal loss that drips from the music, the song takes on the form and atmosphere of a French chanson that radiates an intense sadness through the French poem adaptation of Victor Hugo. Effective and touching, but this quiet passage takes the momentum out of the song a bit too much for me. Luckily, beautiful subdued playing and excellent dual guitar melodies lead the song works towards its beautiful and hopeful ending, proving it to be of no consequence in the song's overall enjoyment.

Final song on the album is the excellent Disobey, as recorded during the band's 2016 RosFest performance. This strongly executed composition, written back in 1985, played in Amsterdam and finally issued in 2011 on Disobey (duh), shows the exact circumstances when COE excel, namely in a live setting. Besides stunning guitar work and tantalising synth moments, this song perfectly showcases that live, their music is delivered with so much more power, energy and oomph. And especially Cairney's sublime vocal delivery in this recording shows he's right up there with all the big ones.

Actually, if I had one small criticism on Time Machine it would be that Cairney's vocals feel more restrained and held back on the studio tracks and shies away from his strong charismatic live performances. When it comes to his amazing vocals, I simply prefer a less polished and smoothened sound.

Regardless of this predilection, Time Machine is a formidable return and a wonderful entertaining album which will/must find its way to fans of Comedy Of Errors and neo-prog enthusiasts in no-time. It most certainly shows that after a short leave of absence, Comedy Of Errors are still a force to be reckoned with and belong to a group of bands that once again Rule Britannia in terms of beautifully created, inventive and artfully arranged neo-progressive rock. Long may they reign!

Djam Karet — Island In The Red Night Sky

Djam Karet - Island In The Red Night Sky
Arrival (6:06), The Master's Palace (5:53), The Continuum (4:39), CODE - T1241 (5:01), The Other Side (7:13), Light Scattering By Small Particles (3:29), Woolsey Town (7:50), A New Dawn (5:06)
Mark Hughes

Djam Karet are rapidly approaching their 40th anniversary as a band and in that time have released near enough thirty albums under that name, as well as numerous other releases by the individual members. Speaking of which, the band line-up has remained consistent throughout the years, a quartet comprising Gayle Ellett (guitars, ebow, analogue synths, Mellotron choir, ukulele, bouzouki, harmonium, Rhodes electric piano, Hammond organ, vibraphone, bowed upright bass, viola, udu, ocean drum, field recordings), Mike Henderson (12-string acoustic guitar, keyboards), Chuck Oken Jr (keyboard sequencing and soundscapes, drums), and Henry Osborne (bass). Island In The Red Night Sky Night is officially the group's 20th studio album, although it's origins date back three years as all of the material on the album was recorded during the A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof sessions.

Whereas the earlier albums released by the group tended to have a rockier, twin guitar approach, the group has expanded their style to include a more diverse outlook that incorporates more acoustic and ambient temperaments, engendering a more naturalistic approach to the music. Such is the case with Island In The Red Night Sky Night, although this should not be interpreted as meaning the music is totally laid back and without excitement. Opener Arrival positively fizzes with energy, the sublime acoustic guitar work weaving against swashes of keyboards and electric guitar soundscapes backed by some driving work from the rhythm section. An Ellet electric solo leads to a surprise break in proceedings before things resume on course into a second section prominently featuring the bass work of Osborne. The Master's Palace continues in a similar vein but is spiced up with guest Todd Montgomery adding occasional sitar inflections. However, the track suffers from a lack of 'narrative': too many disparate sections stifles the flow of the piece making it more suitable for a soundtrack.

The Continuum features another guest, this time Mark Cook who adds classical guitar, fretless guitar, baritone guitar, slide guitar and piano. That's a lot of guitars! Although fortunately (unfortunately?) they are not all present in the mix at the same time and one should not imagine a feast of guitar solos flying about the place as their use is to provide different tones and textures throughout. The backing has an almost mellow spacerock vibe, could imagine Hawkwind producing something akin to this track in their more restrained acoustic moments. In fact, much of the same could be said for the following track, CODE - T1241 which has plenty of electronic throbbing, synth swirls and ethereal winds billowing through it. Again the guitars are interspersed throughout the piece in distinct solo flourishes.

The Other Side is perhaps the most disappointing piece on the album as far as I am concerned, doesn't really achieve much in the seven plus minutes it occupies on the album and it is not until the sixth minute that anything interesting happens, although as that is just a simple repeated riff, interesting is used in a relative manner. Light Scattering By Small Particles is a great title and the music almost lives up to it with a trippy vibe continuing throughout the piece. Montgomery is back with his sitar for Woolsey Town but, again, things never really seem to get going and the repetitive riff becomes rather annoying. Closing track A New Dawn is rather unique in that it features a discernible melody and all-in-all is a lovely piece of music, if the album had contained more pieces like this and Arrival it would have been a stellar effort.

I have an enduring love for Djam Karet and their high levels of musicianship is beyond doubt. However, it feels that this album has not so much been written but pieced together from elements left hanging about from musical experiments. I would dearly love to hear the band produce a new album where they just got together in a studio and played as a band with fire and energy once more.

Galahad — The Last Great Adventurer

Galahad - The Last Great Adventurer
Alive (8:20), Omega Lights (10:05), Blood, Skin And Bone (8:17), Enclosure 1764 (4:07), The Last Great Adventurer (10:46), Normality Of Distance (5:50), Another Life Not Lived (7:55)
Mark Hughes

As interesting and worthwhile as the last two releases from the Galahad fold were (both released under The Galahad Electric Company moniker and featuring just keyboard player Dean Baker and singer Stu Nicholson) it is great to have the full band back to deliver a harder edged assault on the senses. Accompanying Baker and Nicholson are long-term drummer Spencer Luckman, guitarist Lee Abraham and newest recruit Mark Spencer making his first appearance on a Galahad recording. Surprisingly, only one song, the title track, features songwriting contributions from band members other than Baker and Nicholson, which given the writing strengths of Lee Abraham in particular is a testament to the abilities of the album's main composers.

However, the pair are not the sole writers of the remaining compositions; Blood, Skin and Bone has contributions from Koburg, the singer in the eponymously named band who Baker also writes and performs in, and Another Life Not Lived, an older song that was a collaboration between Nicholson and Galahand's late, lamented bassist Neil Pepper. In addition, the lyrics of Enclosure 1764 are a protest poem — it is too violent and anti-political to warrant the band's description as a nursery rhyme — from the 18th century called The Goose And The Common, a biting critique of the Enclosure Act that placed common lands into private hands that, almost half a millennia later, is still relevant.

After 37 years it is fair to say that Galahad now fall into the elder statesmen of prog rock category. Although the albums released in their first 20 years or so failed to capture mass public attention (although they came close with 1995's Sleepers release), their most recent albums have seen an upturn in popularity that comes with the release of several albums that are classic modern prog and worthy of inclusion on anyone's essential listing playlist. The Last Great Adventurer is no exception and is a definite contender for the best album the band has released to date. The band have their own readily identifiable sound occupying a strong progressive ident but with a few unexpected forays into the unexpected.

Opener Alive is the prime example. A driving piece whose opening incorporates some high energy keyboards elements that are more closely associated with the techno/dance scene, except I defy anyone to be able to create any shapes at this tempo. The lyric is about the joys of performing in front of a live audience, something that I suspect most musicians will connect with after the past few years. A slower acoustic middle eight with some nice work from Abraham and Baker delivers respite before things come screaming back with two great solos on synths and electric guitar. The latter shows how redundant it was to have Abraham in the band as a bass player, not surprised he became somewhat frustrated by that role.

The 10-minute Omega Lights is of two parts, the first of which, Alpha, is instrumental with layers of keyboards creating a dense atmosphere. Second part, Omega, kicks in around the three-minute mark and sets the song out to be the "ballad" of the album. I thought the chorus was rather weak, certainly not as uplifting as on Alive, and the performance of it twice in succession in the middle section was unnecessary. Things are redeemed by a fine instrumental middle eight where once again Abraham shines through.

In complete contrast Blood, Skin And Bone is an out and out rocker. The inclusion of some (uncredited) middle eastern female vocalisations on the intro is a rather misleading tease before the throbbing bass of Spencer dives in. Again, Baker's keyboard work is far from the prog playbook and is instrumental in providing the unique Galahad sound. Some frantic guitar orchestrations from Abraham take us into a complete change of tempo for a single verse that is perhaps a tad too wordy, before the bass come pounding back in this time accompanied by more of the female vocalisations.

Anyone who feared that Galahad might be going in for a bit of Fairport Convention folk rock by incorporating traditional lyrics in Enclosure 1764 need not fear, as it is played in a dirge-like fashion with an imbued sadness that fits the lyrics, and the simplicity of the arrangement makes it a powerful statement. Wish I knew who the female backing singer was though!

The Last Great Adventurer is a tribute to Nicholson's father (whose photo adorns the front cover) who not only was a successful climber (he was selected for inclusion on one of the early attempts to scale Everest but had to decline as he needed to support his family) but also had a hand in designing the revolutionary nose cone of Concorde. It is a heartfelt song where the whole band excel in performance. An epic track that does justice to the intrepid exploits of the person it honours. Abraham again excels in his soloing and there is a lovely twist at the end where the song is transposed to a smokey bar room jazz setting with some ace sleazy sax, possibly by Sarah Bolter who usually adds such elements to Galahad recordings but can't be sure as no credit is given.

That is it for the main album and will presumably be the contents of the vinyl version when it is eventually released. Two bonus tracks are included on the CD, neither of which can be considered as songs that were not worthy to be included on the main album. The first, Normality Of Distance is the least complex of the songs on the release and is all the better for it; the life-affirming lyrics are some of the best that Nicholson has penned.

Final track Another Life Not Lived dates back to 2009 and has only ever been previously available in demo form as a free download from the band's website. Written by Nicholson and Neil Pepper this is a great tribute to their former bandmate who sadly died from oesophageal cancer. The band have done an excellent job of arranging the song to give it a fresh and contemporary sheen. Anyone holding out for the vinyl version of the album should head over to Bandcamp and purchase these two bonus tracks as they will be missing out on the complete experience of this release if they neglect them.

The Last Great Adventurer is a near perfect release and is not only a solid addition to the Galahad back catalogue it should take pride of place amongst the best releases of 2022. Credit must go to Karl Groom for his production, mastering, engineering and editing skills as the album sounds crystal clear and, thanks to Paul Tippet, looks great too.

A final shoutout to Spencer Luckman wishing all the best for his recovery following his recent health issues.

Gandalf's Fist — Widdershins

Gandalf's Fist - Widdershins
Sacrament (7:04), Widdershins (13:32), The Haruspex (8:26), Dreamcatcher (5:24), Wisp (6:56), Man of Signs (8:21), Witchmonger (4:18), Cave (19:45)
Sergey Nikulichev

I was most seriously intending to start a review with a common “Gandalf's Fist needs no introduction” introduction. But then it struck me, that although this superb project did establish itself as an ace of 21st century British prog movement — along with Mostly Autumn, Big Big Train and Magenta — they have never really gained the publicity it deserved. Well, at least to me.

I was closely listening the whole of Gandalf's Fist back catalogue a year ago, and wholeheartedly enjoyed most of the material, which blends psychedelic motifs, folk, symphonic prog and classic rock. Many progheads will detest this opinion, but in Gandalf's Fist I vicariously found what I lacked in Ayreon ever since 01011001, in that concept and songwriting enrich each other rather than struggle for a place under the sun.

Starting off with spacey releases back in 2010, the band (actually a creative duo of Luke Severn and Dean Marsh by then) grew with every new release and accomplished a crowning achievement with The Clockwork Saga. Not only a five-disk mammoth of a concept, but what is even more precious, CDs filled with great music and a truly original concept. The present Widdershins story is kept to the format of a single CD, and from a musical point of view seems to summarize the band's career so far.

Thematically, the album takes us away from the Clockwork firelit dungeons to misty faerie forests and witchcraft rituals (only emphasized by fuzzy sound akin to 70s folk-doom bands). The lyrics are abstract and allow for multiple interpretations, but a solid half of songs are devoted to visionaries, seers and their dialogue with the world of the mundane.

Sacrament starts as a heavy flashy rocker in the vein of Uriah Heep or Black Bonzo, something the band haven't tried before. What sold me the track were the Gregorian chants against hard riffage in the middle of the song. The opening composition also features Tim “Ripper" Owens (ex-Judas Priest) – he is a successor to Blaze Bayley, who did some impressive job on The Clockwork Fable back in 2016. I honestly love how the band incorporates heavy metal singers to do prog material.

Widdershins is the folk prog suite – in a Mostly Autumn rather than Jethro Tull way of folk interpretation. The deep, very feminine vocal delivery of Keri Farish here reminds me a lot of Lana Lane.

The Haruspex is a truly eerie track, very dark, twisted and ugly. Maybe not a direct influence, but I would compare it to the roster of Italian Black Widow label (Goad, Il Segno del Commando, Il Bacia della Medusa etc.). Yet another proof that you don't have to sound extremely heavy to sound scary.

Dreamcatcher is a much welcomed back-to-classic-music-theory track with a gorgeous emotional climax, while Wisp gains pace from a dreamy tune to flamboyant energy of a tavern reel dancing. Yes, Uilleann pipes are in the limelight, as well.

The next two tracks, Man of Signs and Witchmonger, are a nod to earlier career of the band, featuring the instantly recognizable vocals of Luke Severn (whose voice always reminds me of Arjen Lukassen singing through a vocoder) and more psychedelic sfumato sound.

And The Cave is the much-anticipated dessert for every little proghead in the house, a 19-minute cinematic suite, filled with Hammonds, guitar duels, memorable hooks and influences from Glass Hammer to Iron Maiden. Everything you might expect from an accomplished prog band is here.

Gandalf's Fist are becoming more confident and rock-oriented with every new release, and Widdershins is their heaviest one so far. I somewhat miss their softer side of the Universal Wanderer times, but cannot deny that this is another step forward. If you yearn for something more complex than Mostly Autumn or less pastoral than Big Big Train, I urge you to follow the path of Widdershins.

Magma — Kartëhl

Magma - Kartëhl
Häkehn Dëis (7:12), Do Rïn Ïlï Üss (4:38), Irena Balladina (5:12), Walömëhnd Ëm Warreï (7:37), Wïï Mëlëhn Tü (8:56), Dëhndë (6:55), Häkehn Dëis (Demo 1978) (6:04), Dëhndë (Demo 1978) (6:18)
Héctor Gómez

Calling a band of Magma's ilk "unpredictable" is probably an understatement. That their latest release, the aptly titled Kartëhl, is unpredictable even for their standards can only be great news. In previous reviews of some of their recent output I already expressed my concern as to whether they were starting to sound tired and strained. After all, this is a project which has been going on (and off) for more than 50 years now, so a lack of freshness and vitality would not be beyond the realms of possibility, and certainly nobody could accuse them of not trying.

This album is proof that artists of such caliber as Christian Vander (Magma's driving force) are a few steps ahead of the rest of us mortals when it comes to vision and ingenuity. With these skills also comes the ability to identify talent, and surround yourself with it. Make no mistake, Vander is a commanding figure and the main reason this legendary band is what it is, but the fact that the best pieces on the record are actually composed by other band members, such as keyboardists Thierry Eliez and Simon Goubert or long-time serving vocalist Hervé Aknin, is rather significant.

Kartëhl's music is presented in six independent compositions ranging from five to nine minutes plus two interesting bonus tracks. Gone are the articulated long-form excursions found on Zëss (2019), Félicité Thösz (2012) or Emehntëhtt Ré (2009); in fact, maybe this album will remind you of Attahk (1978) the most, and actually two of its songs, Häkehn Dëis and Dëhndë, which also appear as the aforementioned bonus tracks, are demos from that era. This means there's less of an ominous and apocalyptic feel to it, although the doom and gloom are not completely absent, and definitely more color and variety. Indeed, the band sounds joyous and reinvigorated in many instances... Who would have thought?

The vocal work on display is simply outstanding, with an expanded seven-piece ensemble which both enriches and enlivens the band's unmistakable sound, projecting it in many new directions; take how Irena Balladina's light bossanova feel perfectly merges with Magma's aesthetics to see what I mean. This "lighter" touch is also present in both opening and closing tracks, a sort of similar pairing to what The Last Seven Minutes / Nono were back in 1978. For those keen on Magma's darker hues, Walömëhnd Ëm Warreï and Wïï Mëlëhn Tü are excellent specimens, with their blend of eerie vocals and angular jazz in full flight.

Last but definitely not least, it helps that the production on Kartëhl is probably the best there's ever been on the band's entire discography, with every instrument sounding simultaneously warm and clear. If only Köhntahrkösz or Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh sounded this good...

So, a late career highlight for an institution which at this stage does not need, if it ever did, to prove anything. Who would have thought?

Oak — The Quiet Rebellion Of Compromise

Oak - The Quiet Rebellion Of Compromise
Highest Tower, Deepest Well (5:57), Quiet Rebellion (4:51), Dreamless Sleep (5:37), Sunday 8 AM (5:54), Demagogue Communion (6:16), Paperwings (13:52), Guest Of Honour (7:03)
Bryan Morey

Oslo's Oak have been my favorite "new" band in progressive rock (or post-progressive, or art rock, or post-rock, or however you want to classify them) ever since I discovered them back in 2016, when they re-released their 2013 album, Lighthouse, on CD. In 2018, False Memory Archive topped my best of the year list, and I ranked it in my top ten best albums of the last decade.

The core lineup remains the same with Simen Valldal Johannessen (vocals, piano, keys), Øystein Sootholtet (bass, acoustic and electric guitars, keys and programming), and Sigbjørn Reiakvam (drums, percussion, programming, keys, guitars), with Stephan Hvinden (lead, rhythm, and slide guitars) joining the band. Ole Michael Bjørndal guests on guitars for Demagogue Communion, and Steinar Refsdal plays saxophone on the record, a key element in Oak's sound.

The Quiet Rebellion Of Compromise, took me a bit by surprise. I hadn't heard that Oak was going to be releasing an album this fall until about a week or two before it was released (or if I had heard, I had forgotten due to general busy-ness). I immediately pre-ordered it and requested to review it here. Upon first listen, I noticed some new elements to the music, along with the soundscapes I've come to love about Oak's music. I enjoyed the album immediately, but at first I thought maybe it wasn't quite as good as the previous two records. At first I rated it a 9, but after giving it several more listens, it all began to click for me. It quickly jumped to a ten and the top of my top ten list for the year.

My favorite moment on the album starts about three and a half minutes into Sunday 8 AM. The band drops into one of their signature instrumental passages that gradually builds, adding layers to its wall of sound as the song swells to a magnificent climax. My favorite part is Sootholtet's outstanding bass line. It's unbelievably catchy, and it creates a solid foundation for the saxophone solo playing at the top of the mix. The bass is at a lower register, but its prominence in the mix almost makes it the centerpiece, even with the saxophone solo. It's a fantastic moment, one I find myself looking forward to every time I listen to the album.

Paperwings is arguably the centerpiece of the album, at just under 14 minutes in length. It is the most divergent from Oak's more recognizable sound, which threw me at first, but it grew on me rather quickly. The beginning of the song is more heavily electronic and relatively simple. Those influences have always been present in Oak's music, but this is more pared back and basic. The song swells and develops, though. There's an instrumental section that has a recording of a hypnotist placing someone in a trance. The recording is a bit scratchy, and in many ways it reminds me of how Dream Theater used spoken recordings in their music earlier in their career.

Perhaps the most surprising influence to appear on Paperwings is black metal, with an atmospheric passage that musically doesn't quite reach a metal tone but features black metal distorted vocals. This shook me a bit when I first heard it, as it seemed a bit out of place. The more I listen to it, though, the more I realize it fits the mood of the song and album really well. It's used like many of the other instruments on the record to impart a feeling.

The opening of Guest Of Honour is quite the opposite, with a gentle drum beat with delicate work on the cymbals and calming keys. It's a relaxing way to end the record, although I don't think it lives up to the way False Memory Archive ended with Psalm 51. That song is one of Oak's best, and the instrumental buildup at the end is absolutely perfect. Guest of Honour is still a great track, though, with its own musical layering leading to a satisfying ending. Like the rest of the album, it also has thoughtful lyrics: "Piercing sounds of footsteps or guns / Racing heart - I'm wearing you out."

Beyond the beauty of Oak's music and the haunting sound of Simen Johannessen's deep voice, their lyrics fascinate me. They create haunting images with words that stick in your mind. They are open to interpretation, which means they give the listener something to think about with each listen. The lyrics deal with a haunting and dark subject: suicide and mental health. That doesn't make the album depressing to listen to, but it is a serious record. The topic fits the melancholic musical aesthetic Oak has. Quiet Rebellion has some of my favorite lyrics on the album:

You wait on the ground below And follow me under water The trembling hands of a tired heart Walk with me all the way In the rain of cold November The promise of winter is just too much Quiet Rebellion, Oak

There are also musical and lyrical call-backs to Oak's albums, which is something they've done before. I really like that because it isn't overdone, but it also makes it feel like you're entering into a special musical world when listening to their records. There's a connection with their past music as well as with music yet to be written.

Johannessen has one of the more unique voices in the progressive music scene, with few having the warmth and depth he provides. If I had to make one complaint, it would be the extent to which he uses electronic layering and distortion of his voice at various points in the album. I don't think he needs it, but I also don't think it takes away from the record - at least not enough to dampen my enjoyment.

Oak is a band that's hard to appreciate fully from listening to any one particular track (although the aforementioned Psalm 51 off their last album comes close). Their albums have to be experienced in proper track order and in their entirety. The records ebb and flow, they climb, descend, and climb some more. Many of the songs, especially Sunday 8 AM and Paperwings have those elements contained within them, but the overall effect is best experienced when listening to the record.

Oak may have mixed up their eclectic sound slightly for this record, but it remains unequivocally Oak. There is no other band like them. Yes, there are elements that remind me of Bjørn Riis and other atmospheric rock artists (Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, Devin Townsend, Riverside), but the similarities are more in approach to musical style or mood rather than what the music itself really sounds like. Oak is, to put it simply, Oak. They have their own sound blending elements of classical, electronic, rock, jazz, and now even shades of metal. I think they're the most interesting band in the scene right now, and every album is worth taking very seriously, including The Quiet Rebellion Of Compromise. This is not a release to be overlooked.

Album Reviews