Album Reviews

Issue 2024-019

4dB — 3ème dimension

France
2024
53:59
4dB - 3ème dimension
Introduction (0:46), Urban trafic (4:00), 2084 (6:00), Wonderland (3:31), Funeste (4:34), Contemplation (4:55), Mer de sable (5:09), 45 degrés (6:17), Dune (4:44), Grain de sable (6:19), Chamane (7:44)
8
Owen Davies

4db released their satisfying Animal in 2018. The follow-up 3ème dimension has recently emerged. The band's latest release has been six years in the making and a lot of effort has gone into the fine-tuning of and development of its tunes. Changes of personnel and several other difficulties were overcome to see this project eventually reach fruition.

It appears that the wait has been worth it. Apart from the opening piece, which is essentially a field recording of applause, piano, and effects, every tune is very appealing.

Numerous influences from jazz and fusion can be discerned as the disc snarls and gently snakes its way through a series of enjoyable soundscapes. The tunes are well constructed and have an ear friendly appeal. There are numerous highlights and the sour and sweet measured tones and impressive phrasing of guitarist and composer Damien Boureau in tunes such as, Contemplation and Urban trafic brightly illuminates proceedings.

In fact, Boureau appears to be the only member of 4db who remains from the line-up that recorded Animal. However, Keyboard player Thomas Cassis who excelled on Animal also features on one piece — the beautifully poignant Grain de sable.

The bulk of the delicate and heavy lifting on the album is performed by Boureau and drummer and percussionist Francesco Marzetti. Marzetti is also a member of Bordelophone

As well as guitars, Boureau is responsible for programming and plays bass on the album, and some banjo. His bubbling interesting array of bass tones and clever use of harmonics in Dune give the piece an unusual tonal ambience.

The core sound of Boureau and Marzetti , is augmented by accordionist Fabien Packo on the outstanding Funeste and by sax and trombone player Damien Hennicker on Urban trafic and Contemplation. Anthony Honnet adds some piano to Introduction. Mer de sable features the vocal talents of Marie Riegel, Odile Meline, Christophe Granmont , Loic Laboulfie, and Francis Perdreau.

One of the most attractive aspects of the album is undoubtedly the wide range of compositional styles that Boureau can bring to the table. Brazilian carnival rhythms abound in the jaunty Wonderland. Boureau's cleanly struck guitar tone is simply exquisite in this delightful piece. Images of a sultry French cafe bar, with lace sculpted napkins are suggested in the atmospheric hugging-squeeze of the accordion, during the finely crafted Funeste.

The low-end introductory section , is somewhat reminiscent of Weather Report. However, after that, the tune finds its own vivid colours and unique voice. For good measure, Funeste also includes a likeable guitar solo. It just colourfully adds to the convivial atmosphere of the piece.

45 degrés is a showcase for the guitar. It's slow burning blues like feel, certainly presses all the right buttons. As an interesting contrast to the instrumental pieces, there is a humorous and quirky world music feel to the vocal chants and pulsing rhythms that feature in Mer de sable.

There are many twists and satisfying subtleties to experience in 3ème dimension, but there are also numerous occasions such as in Chamane when the album has a fiery edge and rock influences come to the fore.

In this respect, 2084 is probably the hardest rocking tune. After an Avant and somewhat ambient beginning it unexpectedly detonates; ferocious and impressive drumming shatters the calm. As the tune emerges and evolves anvil struck hammer riffs are spat out with fiery venom and with rock shattering aplomb. The piece ends unexpectedly with explosive bursts of feedback and then fades gently into grey, in a dimly-misted, back-lit, ambient way.

My favourite tune on the album is probably Grain De Sable. It offers a set of relaxing tints and subtle hues, that work particularly well as a contrast to the other up-tempo pieces of the release. Its gently cascading piano lines have a majestic timeless appeal. In the closing stages of the piece Boureau's subtle guitar lines flutter in the warming breeze of Cassis' piano melodies to rise, glide and fall in perfect harmony to create a unified hand holding sunset tune.

Recent YouTube clips show the band playing live once again. That can only be good news for anybody who enjoys 4dbs varied brand of Jazz Fusion Their performance of the magnificent Vieux Robo which was a highlight of their Animal release is simply outstanding.

Whilst 3ème dimension might not be quite as appealing as Animal, it is nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying album that contains many excellent tunes. I am certain that I will play it frequently.

Groove Therapist — Monologue

Greece
2024
43:42
Groove Therapist - Monologue
The Announcement (0:48), Denial (8:11), Inner Turbulence (1:00), Morbid Alliance (3:25), A Second Chance (5:32), Broken Dreams (6:04), Time To Bow (5:32), The Touch Of Hades (5:04), Dive Into Nothing (4:59), Epekeina (3:07)
8
Thomas Otten

Groove Therapist were formed in Athens in 2012 and started as a cover band. They gained first (positive) recognition with the release of the debut album Mr. Funker The Myth in 2015, which they re-issued in a live format in 2019. Hence, from a song material point of view, Monologue is the band's sophomore album. Groove Therapist consist of Kleanthis Konstantinidis (vocals), Yiorgos Kalodoukas (electric and acoustic guitars), George Konis (keyboards), Katerina Koti (bass), and Thanos Kalodoukas (drums).

Monologue is a concept album about a man named Kassandros. Just like his female equivalent from the Greek mythology Kassandra, he knows the future, his future, but not due to a gift such as it was the case with Kassandra, but in consequence of the diagnosis of a fatal disease. The album thus portrays, from his perspective, the ways and means to cope with this announcement, and the emotions that he goes through in that process. The songs reflect the most common phases of coping with such a situation: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. However, as the band points out: "This sequence [of songs] is outside any patterns whatsoever, as every human being is living those steps in mostly a blur, on a totally different basis and chain of events; it is not even a fact that all humans live such moments with due acceptance or the same acceptance for that matter." Not an easy subject that Groove Therapist lead us through, musically and lyrically, in their own emotional, and prolific way, because it makes us realise the finite nature of our existence.

The music we are offered on this album can be classified as progressive metal, whereby the "metal" (one may also call them hard rock) elements appear to be a bit more present than the "progressive" features. In addition, there are snippets of funk, and even Latin-sounding grooves. Whilst most of the songs thus are rather on the heavier side (with noteworthy exemptions, though), the music overall comes across accessible, catchy, and melodic. Although it displays the considerable musical and technical abilities of the entire band, it successfully avoids undue complexity and gallery play. With the longest song clocking in around 8 minutes, there is not too much time for lengthy instrumental extravaganzas, and the tracks come across in a dense and compact form. The "division of labour" between guitars and keyboards has given me the impression of a slight bias towards the guitars as riffing and soloing instruments, whilst keyboards are used in an efficient way to provide depth and variety to the overall sound. All of this brings us close to the style of music presented by bands such as Vanden Plas, Threshold, Dante, Greek peers Verbal Delirium, but also Ayreon, and Hekz — a non-exhaustive enumeration.

What I particularly like about this album is how Groove Therapist managed to have the emotions inherent in the story expressed and reflected through the music. The anger, the turbulence, the clinging onto hope, the desperation, the coming to terms with the unavoidable, and even the moments before passing away and what comes thereafter are realised musically in such a way that the listener can empathise with the protagonist's thoughts, feelings, and actions. The touching lyrics, written in the first person to form a monologue (hence the title of the album, I presume) reinforce this impression; music and lyrics represent a coherent whole. I consider it as astonishing that hard rock / (prog) metal can evoke feelings of sadness because of, and condolence with the protagonist's fate.

Having received the fatal diagnosis, the protagonist's initial bewilderment, the lack of comprehension, his subsequent anger and denial are reflected in the structure of track of the same name with its spacy intro, followed by staccato heavy metal guitar riffing. The Latin sounding sequence towards the end, which does not fit in with the rest of the piece, could represent the protagonist's feeling of "being in the wrong film". What better way to express the rollercoaster ride of emotions than the polyrhythms of a drum solo - as in the instrumental Inner Turbulence? Morbid Alliance is anger paired with sarcasm - amongst others expressed in the protagonist's adaptation of the Lord's Prayer. A Second Chance, together with The Touch Of Hades the most progressive rock sounding track (both are my favourites on this album), is musically also a kind of rebellion with its energy and catchy refrains. The melancholy, sadness, and despair displayed in the melodies of Broken Dreams, and Time To Bow indicate that Kassandros is about to lose his belief and the battle and is facing The Touch Of Hades. This instrumental controversially evokes a feeling of joy and lightness, if you disregard the disturbing dissonant-sounding opening bars. Is Kassandros' mind already clouded? But has he made peace with his situation? The solemn, dramatic, pathetic melodies and the almost hymn-like singing in Dive Into Nothing hint at that, before Kassandros' soul vanishes into the Epekeine - the "Beyond".

No, this is not a particularly twinkle-toed, and encouraging album, but a realistic one describing a situation that can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone. Regardless of this, bearing in mind that the music should ultimately take centre stage, and hoping that listeners do not feel too concerned, this album is recommended to prog/metal fans looking for emotional, well-played, straightforward progressive metal with strong melodies, and catchy hooks.

Mangrove — Bridge To Friction

Netherlands
2024
66:38
Mangrove - Bridge To Friction
Bridge To Fiction (10:44), Reflexion (6:41), Stay (6:35), Chasing Something (3:42), Touch of Light (8:25), Raindrops Falling (5:47), A Call To Arms (24:22)
8
Theo Verstrael

In 2009 Dutch prog outfit Mangrove released their third studio album Beyond Reality to great acclaim. The combination of lush keys, long instrumental parts, fine guitar solos and strong songwriting established them a firm position in the Dutch prog scene. The subsequent live dvd's of their "black-and-white" show and their acoustic gig received many good reviews too. And then, while the fans waited for new material, nothing seemed to happen. An occasional live gig was the only life sign of this fine band, as I witnessed myself in the Park Theater in Alphen aan de Rijn in 2018. They announced a new album then, but apparently it has taken another six years to materialize. During that period Mangrove and keyboardist Chris Jonker parted ways although the latter is still credited as co-composer of the music. Guitarist and vocalist Roland van der Horst also plays keyboards on the album and is also credited for the orchestral parts and all arrangements. Pieter Drost (bass) and Lex Bekkernens (drums and percussion) are the rhythm section while Bart Laan (Chain Reaktor, Skylake) plays flute on the two last tracks and is responsible for the mix. The modern brown, blue and yellow artwork is designed by Daan Hulshof, the band is responsible for the lyrics except in the last track for which the lyrics were provided by Remco Engels. Unfortunately the lyrics were not with the digital files.

Of course the main question is whether the 15-year hiatus was worth the wait. After having played the album numerous times I can wholeheartedly confirm that the band has again delivered a very fine album with all ingredients that make Mangrove's music attractive: good melodies, great guitar solos, well elaborated compositions and a good production (except from the irritating lisping in Van der Horst vocals in the title track).

This fourth album is again graced with beautiful long, slow and intriguing songs, providing the band with ample possibilities to play different themes, tempos and solos and to use many different sounds. Listen for instance to the long instrumental parts in the title track with its beautiful electric guitar parts interspersed with melancholic violin sounds (apparently from the synths as no violin is credited for). The long guitar solo at the end of Stay is a great example of a well crafted end to a song. The attention paid to the arrangements of the songs was always meticulously done by Mangrove and this album is no exception.

Van der Horst's voice is a bit thin and sometimes he tends to overstretch his vocal abilities but that is hardly the case on this album. His singing is good throughout although his voice might be an acquired taste. The rhythm section is simply fantastic, providing the solid base for the many hooks and changes in pace.

Another important issue is whether the long hiatus and the line-up changes have brought about significant changes in Mangrove's music? Some things have indeed changed considerably in comparison to their former album. First, the role of the keyboards and the musical variety are quite different. Almost gone are the lush Mellotron sounds and the wide orchestral background sounds that were so characteristic of their former album.

Instead, more modern and subtle keys sounds can be heard as well as more organ and those moody violin sounds. There are some really symphonic moments though in Reflexion (Mellotron!) and last song A Call To Arms opens with a beautiful orchestral intro lasting for more than three minutes. Another new feature is the inclusion of the flute in Mangrove's music, a very tasteful addition. The flute parts in the two last songs are played by Bart Laan, son of Erik Laan of Silhouette, a band that has more often made use of a violin and flute, thus illustrating their mutual cooperation.

Furthermore, the band has picked up a wider variety of styles than on their former albums. Chasing Something opens with a jazzy challenge between guitar and keys, subsequently developing into a nice, almost bossa nova type instrumental and ending with the same jazzy musical theme as used in the intro. Second instrumental Touch Of Light has a metallish feeling throughout the song with its recurrent fierce guitar riff. In the middle section some spooky spacerock synth sounds emerge with fine mellotron and wobbling synths in the background before the band returns to the main musical theme. This song is a real grower but works out fine in the end. Jazz, bossa-nova, space-rock and metal are musical moods that have not been used before by Mangrove and thus add significantly to their musical palette.

Last but not least, the album opens with a deep growl followed by the sound of some tom-toms before the vocals take over. The growl returns at the very end of the album, again proving the level of attention that has been paid to details. Fortunately the growls are purely functional and don't last long.

My main criticism focuses on closer A Call To Arms. With its more than 24 minute duration the song has the ambition to be another Supper's Ready or Oceans' Cloud but to my ears it doesn't fully fulfil that ambition. It is full of fine musical moments with excellent bass playing, builds upon a fine recurrent main theme presented in the first ten minutes but loosens its urgency after 20 minutes. Maybe shortening it with some minutes would have made it a very strong epic, now it is "just" a good and very listenable long track.

This album is a strong return to the prog scene for Mangrove. The songs show that the band has grown in musical variety, in incorporating new elements in their music and that their ambition is still high. So hopefully the band manages to stay active and release more fine albums the next couple of years. Fans of Lee Abraham, Abel Ganz, Comedy Of Errors, Rob Reed and Marillion will find much to like here so this album is warmly recommended!

Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella — The Rainbow Tree

Germany
2023
77:43
Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella - The Rainbow Tree
Free Hand - Medley (Gentle Giant) (5:17), Song For America (Kansas) (9:27), Something Happened On The Way To Heaven (Phil Collins) (4:47), Rainbow Demon (Uriah Heep) (4:08), Alleviate (Leprous) (4:09), Teardrop (Massive Attack) (3:00), A Love That Never Dies (Neal Morse Band) (5:21), Secret World (Peter Gabriel) (6:59), Tom Sawyer (Rush) (4:28), Blackest Eyes / The Sound Of Muzak / Halo (Porcupine Tree) (6:00), Hallowed Be Thy Name / For The Greater Good Of God (Iron Maiden) (8:47), Noise (Nightwish) (4:35), Ghost Of Perdition (Opeth) (7:21), Siuil A Ruin (Traditional/Clannad) (3:24)
8
Martin Burns

The husband and wife duo of Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella have released their fourth album of acoustic, unplugged cover of progressive rock and metal song, called The Rainbow Tree. In between these labours of love they have released a couple of albums of originals well, all of which were given recommended and above ratings here at DPRP mansions (see below). And this album gets the same rating from me.

Covers albums rely on two things in my book. The first is a smart choice of tracks to cover and the second is sufficient differences from the originals. Both of which Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella have done. The track choice is like that mixtape given to you by a mate to introduce you to new stuff by leavening it with something more familiar (for our younger readers, a mixtape is a forerunner of the modern playlist. Yes, I'm old!). The sufficient differences are in the uses of layered vocals Moon Safari style, superb acoustic guitar playing, and pipes and whistles to give it all a prog-folk feel whilst retaining the essence of the originals. They also display the melodic heart of the tracks chosen, hearts that are sometimes obscured in the force of their electric prototypes.

If you just look at the opening track Free Hand - Medley (Gentle Giant) you will get the superb gist of The Rainbow Tree. It starts with Martin Schnella's acoustic guitar doing fabulos runs of the complex melody. He is joined by regular collaborators Lars Lehmann on bass guitar (fretless bass on some tracks) and Simon Schröder's percussion. Then semi-regular guest Jens Kommnick adds uilleann pipes, tin whistle, low whistle and cello. Joining in also is Rolf Wagels' bodhrán. Together they make a powerful sound with just acoustic instruments, producing dynamic contrasts and flying through tempo changes. They seamlessly arrange the tracks from Free Hand into a cohesive set of melodies. Then in the last few minutes of the track they tackle the a cappella break from On Relection with Melanie Mau delightful lead vocal joined in exquisite harmonies with Mathias Ruck's vocal and with help from Martin Schnella, Jens Kommnick. It gives a full-bodied end to this terrific opener.

Variations on the acoustic and vocal sound world are spread throughout the rest of the tracks on The Rainbow Tree. Everything here works really well, even if you aren't keen on the original. I have a blind spot for Phil Collins bland pop, and for Opeth's ridiculous death metal growling. But these tracks work surprisingly well in this context.

These covers wanted me to explore some of the songs in their original form where I wasn't familiar with them (Uriah Heep, Massive Attack Iron Maiden) and that just made me admire all the more the artistry of Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella's The Rainbow Tree. It is a covers album that works brilliantly on many levels.

Anyone wanting even more radically reworked covers I would point them in the direction of Easy Easy All Stars' Dub Side Of The Moon a long term favourite of mine.

Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella — The Rainbow Tree

Germany
2023
54:05
Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella - The Rainbow Tree
Rainbow Demon (a cappella) (2:35), Alleviate (a cappella (2:58), Teardrop (a cappella) (1:49), Porcupine Tree Medley (a cappella) (3:39), Siuil A Ruin (a cappella) (3:08), A Love That Never Dies (instrumental) (5:27), Tom Sawyer (a cappella) (4:26), Song For America (reduced version) (9:27), Iron Maiden Medley (reduced version) (8:48), Ghost Of Perdition (reduced version) (7:23), High Enough (Damn Yankees) (4:28)
5
Martin Burns

Along with the main release of The Rainbow Tree, Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella have also released The Rainbow Tree Bonus Tracks. This album gives you some of the tracks as unadorned a cappella vocal versions, other tracks in a reduced mix, and the purely instrumental version of one track. These feel to me of limited interest in terms of repeat plays. There is nothing wrong with them, I just prefer the fully fledged versions on The Rainbow Tree.

There is one additional bonus track that is not on The Rainbow Tree. It is an acoustic cover of the American hard rock band Damn Yankees' hit High Enough. They transform the rather lumpen hard rock of the original into something more interesting. Again finding the melodic nugget.

The Bonus Tracks make for an interesting, if ultimately inessential, companion piece to The Rainbow Tree.


Melanie Mau and Martin Schnella On DPRP.net

The Samurai Of Prog — Omnibus 3

various
2024
65:43, 67:40, 73:15, 68:01
The Samurai Of Prog - Omnibus 3
CD 1 - The Lady And The Lion: Into the Woods (3:06), The Three Snake-Leaves (9:43), Iron John (5:57), White Skies Prologue (3:39), White Skies (10:43), The Lady And The Lion (3:56), The Blue Light (06:44), bonus tracks: From Midnight to Dawn (10:16), A Queen's Wish (remixed) (11:39)
9
Jan Buddenberg

Once upon a time I finished my first ever Samurai Of Prog review with the words "May they prog on happily forever after". Since that statement they merrily do and over time made many a symphonic prog fan deliriously happy. They do so again with Omnibus 3, a sublime box set which next to 35 minutes of previously unreleased bonus material gathers the exceptional albums The Lady And The Lion, The White Snake, The Spaghetti Epic 4, and Anthem To The Phoenix Star.

Like the previous omnibuses, packaging is once again pristinely taken care off by Ed Unitsky. Besides miniature gatefold vinyl-like replicas of the individual albums, it includes a 32-page booklet that omits lyrics in favour of newly made graphic designs, a short synoptic introduction by Kimmo Pörsti, and detailed information on the many guests involved in the creation of the songs.

This list of participants is so extensive (and impressive!) it goes well beyond the boundaries of this review to mention them all again, so for those who like to know I gladly refer to the original album reviews where everyone gets duly highlighted. Seeing these reviews basically reveal all and my opinion on these albums still stands, I will focus my attention towards the bonus tracks on Omnibus 3 and see how they befit the individual album concepts.

Secondo Millenio, added to Spaghetti Epic 4, works out rather nicely. Composed by Octavia Stampalia, the song's mournful opening with sadness of harmonica beautifully prolongs the outcome of High Noon, while moments later marching drums, ritual chants and surf guitar embraced by flute quickly recapture the "Cowboys and Indians" concept. After an enchanting folky fairytale decor akin to Mandalaband this Wild West scenery soon comes fully alive through quick draw synth play and chasing guitar (Kimmo Kilponen) spurred on by galloping rhythms from Pörsti that culminates in a cinematic coda, which strongly envisions a wingspread eagle soaring high up in the sky as flighty melodies drift away.

The Grimm brothers' fairytale The Three Feathers fits The White Snake And Other Grimm Tales II like a glove from a conceptual point of view. Musically however this Mimmo Ferri penned composition offers quite an adventurous twist within Samurai Of Prog's boundless prog standards. Not so much at the beginning where playful Canterbury prog is engaged by spicy sax from Linus Kåse. All the more though when melodies hop onboard a Love Boat for a groovy expedition of funky disco, which would well please Johnny Guitar Watson, followed by dreamy synth flows that ignite memories of Starbuck. A cocktail of tropical vibraphone / xylophone played by Beatrice Birardi spiritedly steers these surprising melodies into a stylish spectacle of prog in Argent style, with delectable guitar work Tony Riverman. This surprising composition ultimately drifts ashore in intricately designed lounge jazz warmed by sultry sax.

From Midnight To Dawn, one of two bonus tracks for The Lady And The Lion is a similarly surprising choice. Composed by Alessandro Di Benedetti (The Guildmaster) this concept-unrelated song also engages in groovy delightful fusion with dusky sax by Marek Arnold and initially wades in delightful prog inspired jazz atmospheres from which Solution impressions emerge. This is followed by a bridge of truly enchanting sensitive melodies, featuring ethereal vocalizations from Lauren Trew, and a succession of perfectly fused grooving interplay highlighted by excellent soloing from guitarist Ruben Alvarez. This joyfully finalises the song on a vibrantly bright jazz note.

One noticeable difference on this boxed version of The Lady And The Lion is the substitution of theatrical fairytale A Queen's Wish with its mirror image White Skies, which was previously featured on Omnibus 2 . An alternate version which thanks to Daniel Fäldt's charismatic vocal performance shows bright Genesis appeal. Normally I'm not in favour of fiddling with perfection. But preceded by Di Benedetti's White Skies Prologue, a serene enchanting overture blessed by emotional guitar and romantic piano play, I find it works out rather well. The fact that a remixed version of personal favourite A Queen's Wish now gets to finalise this magical album on a high surely plays a role in my newly formed opinion.

Speaking of ending on a high, then Rebirth, bonus track to the perfect-score Anthem To The Phoenix Star, may well be the prime example in the whole of TSoP's universe. Awakening in ambient spacious atmospheres polished by gracious guitar that make it shine like a grand Pink Floyd diamond, this song gradually grows into a lovely symphonic entity. Boosted by lush synths from composer Marco Grieco, it glows with Genesis enchantment. Further nurturing caresses of intricate Camel flute and orchestral allure take care of the song's divine melodic upbringing. Once in full maturity, this wonderful and emotively touching composition finally soars off into heavenly stratospheres in which a breathtaking and gravity-defying guitar solo by Peter Matuchniak (Mach One) gives birth to an infinite array of goosebumps, which sees me press the repeat button repeatedly. In other words: if reincarnation is possible as an absolutely brilliant piece of music, then Rebirth is most definitely one of my favourites to be reborn in.

After all this the short overall conclusion is that prog's favourite swordsman have done it again. With over four and a half hours of playing time that includes surprises, eclectic treats and a captivating collection of well-composed and formidably performed songs there's much to explore and enjoy for the progressive/symphonic rock fan in this immaculate box set.

Regardless whether you have the individual albums or not, my advice in light of its limited availability, is to pick up a copy while you still can. Musical satisfaction and exquisite bonus material guaranteed!

So Far As I Know — Awe

Georgia
2024
39:43
So Far As I Know - Awe
Omens (6:12), Tana Mao (4:14), When Stars Collide And Fall Upon Us (5:30), The World Is No Longer A Safe Place, Try To Make It One (6:00), Awe (1:42), For The Heart Seems Hollow (6:38), Daydream (5:10), To Life's Horror Is To Laugh (4:17)
8
Jerry van Kooten

SFAIK is basically Sergei Guselnikov, originally Russian composer and producer currently based in Georgia. Previously he released three full-length albums, the latter two having received a review here: Hidden Poetry from 2015 and Fragments: Disclosure from 2018. There is a number of singles and four EPs (of which Breach from 2021 was reviewed here), and now here is full-length album number four.

Firmly rooted in post-rock, Sergei adds some space rock and a bit of pure prog to make it stand out. What I also liked is that he is on the heavy side of post-rock. With this latest album, Awe, he is mixing in some more elements.

The album opens spacey to make you wonder and invite you in. There's the typical post-rock ways of building up towards a climax, large contrast between soft and heavy sections. But the epic-ness has an emotional layer in a way that I've heard only in the music of Japanese post-rock giants Mono. That was rather unexpected and really good.

Second track Tana Mao is the weird one here. Softer, atmospheric, almost experimental. The weird things is that it's already the second track. The experimental vocals by Katya Zlobina are a little too much for me. I am not a big fan of a lot of human voices in general. Her voice, which has a resemblance to Björk, sings several lines that are OK and fit the music, but it also goes into vocalising with strange effects. There it breaks the attention span for me. So maybe it's good it's the second track?

A brutal musical onslaught follows though, dragging me back in right away. Parts remind me, and I've mentioned this is my review for Breach as well, of Audrey Fall. The end shows a Mono influence again. So heavy, but so emotional. The wonderful mix makes you hear plain piano through the loud storm.

The World ... has a bit of a nice Maybeshewill feeling, which also applies to the following For The Heart Seems Hollow, before it takes you to slightly darker places. And I do like darker places (in musical terms, that is)! The sounds become so overwhelming at times, I sometimes feel the music hurt. Not many songs can make me feel that.

On all singles, EPs, and credits, Sergei is credited for just "music". Guest singers and musicians are mentioned separately, but what Sergei actually plays himself is unknown to me. Does it matter? Nah, not really, it is the music that counts. But I like a bit of extra information as well. A few times, the drums feel like they are programmed. But since most of the whole compositions manage to drag you in, this does not happen often, and probably only rarely when enjoying the album rather than reviewing with a different mindset.

The last track is the most uplifting, what I hear mostly in Maybeshewill and the likes. A great ending, while not forgetting we're still on a post-rock album of course, and it has to end in style.

I have SFAIK in my list of post-rock bands I regularly return to. This album now is in a new league. Awe. Good title.

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