Album Reviews

Issue 2024-037

Alase — Beyond Our Imagination

Finland
2024
17:00
Alase - Beyond Our Imagination
Broken Pendulum (3:52), Love Crime (feat. Rioghan) (3:33), When? (5:08), A Night to Remember (4:47)
6
Andy Read

Alase is an atmospheric progressive metal/rock band from Finland. They released eleven singles between 2015 and 2021 and two albums in the form of Vastaus (2019) and A Matter Of Time (2023). Their latest instalment is this four-track EP. This is the first time I have come across Alase.

The core of this band is Janne Lunnas (guitar), Ari Miettinen (bass) and drummer Ville Aatsinki. However, the trio's USP is that they invite guest vocalists to appear on individual tracks. When this vocal-musical-chairs is combined with the band's pledge to never stay within one musical genre, it leads to a very varied output.

As influences, they quote Katatonia, A Perfect Circle, The Ocean, Textures and Tesseract.

The Tesseract and The Ocean influences come with the harsh vocals that bookend the opening track, plus the syncopated riffage on the closing number and the pounding drums used sparingly across the EP. I'm not hearing anywhere the doleful melancholy of Katatonia.

Alase, promo photo

Love Crime, features the lovely voice of Rioghan and possesses a delicate gothic sensitivity. It could be a flip-side of one of the quieter moments of Lacuna Coil. It's an interesting song.

Juha Tretjakov's slightly melancholic timbre makes the closing two tracks more mellow and atmospheric.

The core of their sound here is an alt-rock style where I'm reminded of Australian bands such as Sadhana, Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool, Cog and yes a nod towards A Perfect Circle.

I'm not convinced that these styles are blended in a way that works for me overall, and the melodies and groove don't have the earworm qualities that I seek. But for those looking for something a little different, it's definitely an interesting listen.

Geoffrey Feakes — Rock Classics: Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell

UK
2024
Geoffrey Feakes - Rock Classics: Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell
9
Jan Buddenberg

"I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday"

I sometimes wish these opening lines from Paradise By The Dashboard Light to be true. Some 46 years after these lyrics were first heard on the radio I however have to confess there are quite a few things I don't exactly remember. For one, I don't recall why I didn't buy this evergreen as my first ever single when it stormed the Dutch charts for a five weeks consecutive top-spot run at the beginning of 1978, but instead opted for its rival, taking over the top position, YMCA by The Village People. And secondly, I'm not sure on the exact amount of times during late night escapades that I sang/shouted the male parts of the Let Me Sleep On It/Praying For The End Of Time segments to many an Ellen Foley impersonating female stranger, when the song entered our charts for a second time in late 1988.

As a beautiful memory retriever, this first volume of Sonicbond's new Rock Classics series, in comprehensive CSI style focuses on the history and legacy of one singular milestone album. It unlocks many other recollections associated with this particular song and its accompanying album Bat Out Of Hell. At times, I could almost taste the oven fries and envision the noise-complaining neighbours again from a time long ago when I regularly visited one of my closest friends who, like his dad, took a real shine to the album. The "noise" not being music-related by the way, but having all to do with an innocent, yet spiritedly played, bar game.

I'm convinced returning Sonicbond author and DPRP colleague Geoffrey Feakes will have many recollections of his own. But this time around these remain fairly absent in his once again thoroughly researched, engagingly phrased and formidably insightful words dedicated to singer Meat Loaf and songwriter Jim Steinman.

Compacted in size and condensed to approximate 75 pages, with an additional six-page image collage, Feakes starts off with two chapters that highlight the artistic movements of both Meat Loaf (e.g. his participation on the musicals Hair, Grease and The Rocky Horror Show), and Jim Steinman who grew a love and devotion for the piano, musicals and the theatre. The two eventually meet up sometime 1973 and after a two and a half year run of unsuccessful auditions and rejections, a period in time compellingly elaborated upon by an excelling Feakes, finally get their big break when a convinced Todd Rundgren takes it upon himself to record and produce their efforts. Its result being the overnight sensation Bat Out Of Hell, which Feakes continues to refer to as Bat during his narrative.

After insights on recordings and the marketing decision to release it as Meat Loaf — Bat Out Of Hell: songs by Jim Steinman, Feakes then with in depth analysis and broad attention to detail devotes a quarter of the book to the collection of songs (and bonus tracks added later on) that would surface on Bat. Going all out in knowledge and leaving no stone unturned on the successes of timeless compositions like the aforementioned Paradise By The Dashboard Light, Bat Out Of Hell, For Crying Out Loud, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth and Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad, this inspiring part of the book effortlessly made me Google my way towards a proper listening session of the album for the first time ever in my life.

In doing so I, to my utmost surprise, found out that as an allusion meaning "sexual intercourse in a car", the words (!) "paradise-by-the-dashboardlight" has officially been included in our leading Dutch Language dictionary the Dikke Van Dale since 2005. You won't find this peculiar achievement in the informative chapters Feakes addresses to Bat's reception and its ongoing influences. But it is certainly a fact that perfectly illustrates the massive impact this song has had and continues to have in my country.

Taking a closer look at the eventful tour in support of Bat, Feakes, in his aim to paint as complete a picture as possible, then goes on to spotlight the various highs and lows (of which there are plenty) and other future recordings and ventures undertaken by both Meat Loaf and Steinman. Next to a brief assessment of two additional Bat albums released in 1993 and 2006 respectively, this also involves a short mention of their final collaboration in form of 2016's Braver Than We Are and the successive Bat: The Musical which attended by Meat Loaf opened in London on the 5th of June 2017.

This is where Geoff's entertaining read comes to an end. But listed as number six in the list of the world's best-selling albums of all time, Bat's story is far from over and will live on in the hearts of many forever. In fact, I even start to warm up to it myself nowadays... Thanks, Geoff!

Fully befitting its qualification as a Rock Classic, something I have some doubts on for upcoming volumes on Prince and Bob Dylan whom I personally don't associate with rock, this is overall another solidly written and highly recommendable page turning book delivery by Feakes. One that sets a high standard for this new and potentially promising series. Hopefully Sonicbond's graphic designers can level up to this standard, as for crying out loud the book's spine wrongly credits the book to Opher Goodwin. A mistake that is hard to forget, I imagine having resulted in a noise-complaining visit by Feakes' neighbours...

Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion — Eternal Snapshots

Sweden
2024
47:15
Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion - Eternal Snapshots
All I Wanted to Be (Pt. 1) (4:12), Deserve to Be Happy (5:44), Wherever You May Go (6:17), No Messiah (7:16), Once in a Lifetime (5:14), 6. Only for Me (2:38), The Yard (1:45), Searching for the Dark (4:03), A Sorrowful Mariner (1:09), Blind Dog (6:06), All I Wanted to Be (Pt. 2) (2:45)
7
Armin Rößler

Hasse Fröberg can be heard on all The Flower Kings' albums, first as a guest, then as a permanent member — from their debut The Flower King (1994), released under Roine Stolt's name, to the latest studio album Look at You Now (2023) and the current live album Live in Europe 2023 (2024). When the Swedish prog institution took a longer break in 2007, the guitarist and singer started a new band: Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion (HFMC) celebrated their debut in 2010 with the album Future Past. The namesake not only sings and plays guitar, but also composes the songs and writes the lyrics. Fröberg and his bandmates manage a successful balancing act between the bandleader's musical past, which began with a hard rock band called Spellbound and the albums Breaking The Spell (1984) and Rocking Reckless (1985) (in which guitarist JJ Marsh, later a long-time companion of Glenn Hughes, also earned his first spurs) and the still ongoing liaison with the Flower Kings. With their music, HFMC always move between classic hard rock and melodic prog in a way that is as skillful as it is worth listening to.

The first two songs on the new album Eternal Snapshots are a good example for this. The opener All I Wanted To Be (Pt. 1) begins with a few restrained plucked guitar notes, then the keyboard and electric guitar kick in with a lot of bombast, followed by a brief playful moment in which everything is reduced to almost nothing, and then the powerful drums and bass finally make an appearance. The short outburst is followed by another quieter passage, in which Hasse Fröberg's voice dominates, before the guitar and keyboard savor the indulgent melody – a lot of variety in just four minutes. Track number two, Deserve to Be Happy, then takes a completely different direction: in a good mood (the title sends its regards), it follows the hard rock paths of the eighties and the chorus doesn't shy away from the right dose of pop — a band like Asia comes to mind as a comparison, even if Mr. Wetton & Co. had found the radio-friendly formula a little more perfectly on their first records. Genuine feel-good music, very light-hearted, beautifully played.

Eternal Snapshots is the band's sixth studio album. Hasse Fröberg (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars) is once again supported by Kjell Haraldsson (keyboards, piano, organ), Anton Lindsjö (guitars) and Ola Strandberg (drums, backing vocals). Strandberg has already played with Fröberg in Spellbound and on the album Vol. III of the short-lived hard rock band Solid Blue, released in 1994 (on Roine Stolt's Foxtrot Records label). New on board is bassist Sampo Axelsson, who replaces Thomas Thomsson (also ex-Spellbound). The fact that the Flower Kings are the first reference that comes to mind early on the new album is of course due to Hasse Fröberg's distinctive voice – it has that rocking touch, sounding like a crater, that can captivate and enthrall the listener. The fact that he is allowed to do this in all songs with his own band and doesn't have to limit himself to selected passages allows him to show himself to be a good deal more versatile, almost as if freed from shackles – without wanting to accuse Chief-Flower-King Stolt of keeping the poor man on a tight leash, Fröberg is far too present in the overall Flower-King-sound for that. Nevertheless, he can probably only develop his full potential as his own boss.

Wherever You May Go shows another of these facets. With acoustic guitar and a lot of feeling, HFMC present a beautiful ballad with just the right amount of melancholy, without sounding (or making the listener feel) depressed. No Messiah then mixes progressive rock elements and eighties hard rock in an entertaining way: For more than seven minutes there are on the one hand the extended instrumental passages in which the musicians can shine, but also the comparatively poppy hooks that are good and easy to catch. Less nice: the abrupt ending, that sounds as if someone has accidentally pulled the plug here. Once In A Lifetime, released as a single and video at the beginning of May, which thankfully also provides faces to the musicians' names (apart from Fröberg, most listeners will probably not have seen any of the gentlemen live), requires a look at the title and band name. It's not Journey, is it? No, but you could have guessed it. Well done, without wanting to be a copy of the American melodic rock band. And the misunderstanding is cleared up by the short, playful middle section at the latest.

Keep it simple, stupid: Only For Me is a rather inconspicuous interlude lasting just 2:39 minutes. The Yard, which is even shorter at 1:45, is a lively instrumental that contains a lot, especially a lot of prog — t could easily have been doubled or tripled in length. The sixty-nine-second A Sorrowful Mariner seems a little more random — nothing more than a finger exercise for keyboardist Haraldsson. Between these two very short pieces, Searching For The Dark comes across as hymnic, almost majestic, perhaps not particularly spectacular, but nice to listen to. Here, the proximity to the Flower Kings cannot be denied with the best will in the world (and should certainly not be denied). Blind Dog then has a rocky, almost dirty note, which would also have found a place on a blues rock record from the seventies. And All I Wanted To Be (Pt. 2) closes the arc to the opening, bringing this musical journey through the worlds of Hasse Fröberg to a beautifully rounded and appropriate conclusion.

Is there anything to criticize about this album? You can criticize the fact that it mainly draws on the past in terms of both rock and prog, that it reworks the familiar ingredients very well, but doesn't really have anything new to offer. It can also be said that among the many good to very good songs there are unfortunately no truly outstanding pieces, nothing that is suitable for becoming a classic and that will make your eyes water in twenty years' time when you remember the first time you heard this song. Both are true and may serve as an explanation for "only" seven points (with a slight tendency towards eight, i.e. about 7.4). But Eternal Snapshots is a beautiful album. Worth listening to! This also applies to the lyrics of the songs: they deal with the question of how we become who we are, whether things are predetermined and whether there really is such a thing as fate. Exciting questions, which are treated in a promising musical way.

Perseus — Into The Silence

Italy
2024
44:23
Perseus - Into The Silence
The Clash Of The Titans (1:16), Into The Silence (4:08), Strange House (4:31), The Kingdom (4:26), The Picture Of My Time (3:54), Defenders Of Light (4:17), Il labirinto delle ombre (3:31), Twilight (4:25), I Believe In Love (4:54), Warrior (4:21), Cruel Game (4:40)
7
Bryan Morey

Perseus has been around since 2011, but the Italian power metal band is new to me. They were formed out of the remains of a prog-metal band and Judas Priest tribute band, both local to Brindisi in Southern Italy. The elements of classic heavy metal and progressive metal are both evident in Into The Silence, with the resulting sound reminding me much of Italian power metal legends Rhapsody Of Fire, who no doubt are an influence on this group. The band comprises Antonio Abate (vocals), Cristian Guzzo (guitars), Gabriele Pinto (guitars), Alex Anelli (bass), and Andrea Mariani (drums).

The album has a generous gallop of the drums and bass, with the guitar lines over the top adding a welcome metal crunch. The typical soaring power metal riffs and bel canto style of singing often heard in Italian heavy, power, and progressive metal bands is present in abundance. It doesn't disappoint. The dueling guitars add depth and color to the overall sound, especially when they play in tandem.

The album features many guest vocal appearances alongside lead vocalist Antonio Abate. Most are good, but some of these duets don't really add anything to the songs that Abate couldn't have done as well or better. For instance, I think Marco Pastorino's vocals on Defenders Of Light take away from the song. They felt a little thin. Abate could have done a better job with the track overall.

Far from being a monolithic heavy metal sound, Into The Silence has a few tricks up their sleeves. The Kingdom has a subtle Celtic influence in the keyboard shredding that opens the track. The variety of singers adds another layer that makes each song unique, even when the musical backdrop maintains the same style as on other songs. The album also tends to place the vocals at the forefront, letting them shine atop the heavy background. I suppose that's one of the key differences between power metal and progressive metal, which has far more instrumental wandering.

Il labirinto delle ombre is the lone track solely in Italian, and it also moves into different territory musically, leaving the metal behind in favor of a traditional ballad format. It brings in a heavier rock edge in the second half, but overall the song is a nice break from the heavy drive of the rest of the record. Abate shows that his vocals work well in both a metal context and a gentler song. I Believe In Love is a heavier rock ballad featuring Abate on English vocals and Anja Irullo on Italian vocals. The two duet in English on the chorus, and her more operatic edge is a good balance to Abate's meatier voice.

Fans of Rhapsody Of Fire and similar bands will immediately find much to enjoy in this record. While it may not break particularly new ground in this genre, it is a solid showing of Italian power metal. The vocals are all clean, and they dominate the record. The guitars also make the album worth listening to. Overall it's an enjoyable album to rock out to.

Shumaun — Opposing Mirrors

USA
2024
49:00
Shumaun - Opposing Mirrors
The Perils of Amnesia (8:06), Balance (6:00), Opposing Mirrors (4:26), Anxiety and Daydreams (6:00), That Which Turns (4:54), Beyond Reflection (6:28), Some Memories (4:10), Porcelain Trees (9:26)
8
Andy Read

It's now been 21 years since I first began writing for DPRP. One of the advantages of this lengthy sojourn is that I've been able to follow certain bands from their very beginnings, covering all of their releases. One such band is this American prog-metal combo.

Shumaun initially started as a solo project by Farhad Hossain (ex singer/guitarist/keyboardist of Iris Divine). After recording a few demos, he decided to build the project into a fully-fledged band. Shumaun's self-titled debut was highlighted as one of my fave albums from 2015. The follow-up, One Day Closer To Yesterday joined it as one of my favourite albums from 2019.

Then in 2021, Memories and Intuition became their most progressive effort so far. It made it three-out-of-three in terms of positive DPRP reviews.

The band's fourth album is due to be released by the band themselves on June 28, 2024. They kindly provided me with a copy in plenty of time to give me the chance to properly absorb it before writing a review. Will it be fourth time lucky? Read on ...

Shumaun: Tyler Kim, Farhad Hossain, Jose Mora (promo photo)

The Shumaun sound is shaped by the soaring vocals and lead guitar work of Farhad, the pounding melodic bass-lines of Jose Mora, and the subtle guitar nuances of Tyler Kim. Alongside the trio on this album, Shumaun again employs a stellar line-up of drummers including the return of Thomas Lang and Leo Margarit of Pain of Salvation, alongside Marco Minnemann from the instrumental power trio, The Aristocrats.

I have always been a sucker for bands that blend the melodic rock hook-lines of the 80s, with the prog-metal ambition of the 90s. This trio from Virginia have been one of the best at doing that. This fourth effort sits somewhere between their melodic debut album and their more progressive third. It is bookended by two extended tracks that ably match the ambition of Memories and Intuition. In-between, the songs are more direct, with the melodies being the main focus.

That's not to say that these songs are simple. Take the title track. It starts off as a very palatable melodic-rock anthem but takes a clever division in its mid-section with a slower pace and delicate vocal harmonies.

Favourite songs are the multi-faceted opener that even features a folk-rock accordion phrase. I love the head-banging hook on That Which Turns. This is a real driving-in-the-car anthem that gives a generous nod to latter-day Fates Warning. Beyond Reflection is a modern prog ballad with some joyous guitar work at the end. Anxiety Day Dreams is an instrumental for hazy summer days, whilst the closing Porcelain Trees is another multi-headed beast that spins from a poetic lullaby to tech-metal!

However, the absolute gem is Some Memories which packs a giant hook, a killer riff and a great keyboard solo into its compact four minutes. One of the best songs Shumaun has ever written.

So yes, Opposing Mirrors is another success for those of us who love melodic progressive rock/metal. Four out of four, and still counting!

This album will be available on digital and CD versions. For those in Europe wanting to cut out the high postage costs, it is available from the Just For Kicks outlet.

Paola Taglioferra — For The Love Of Greg Lake

Italy
2024
36:52
Paola Taglioferra - For The Love Of Greg Lake
It Hurts (4:22); Watching Over You (3:50); Stones Of Years (3:41); Lend Your Love To Me Tonight (3:59); The Only Way (3:51); Affairs Of The Heart (4:03); I Talk To The Wind (5:32); All I Want Is You (2:35); The Great Gates Of Kiev (4:55)
5
Armin Rößler

A foreign-language accent can certainly have a sympathetic effect. French characters in films, for example, often have a positive connotation due to the way they speak. The perception of singing can be a little different: if the accent is light, it remains acceptable, perhaps even making some performers interesting. If it becomes too heavy, the language sounds wooden or even completely alienated. Then even non-native speakers have a problem with what is sung in this way. And that brings us to Paola Tagliaferro and her interpretation of Greg Lake's songs.

According to her biography, the Italian singer was already active in the late seventies and early eighties, then turned to dance and painting and returned to music in 2009 with the album Chrysalis. She has worked with Peter Sinfield (lyricist for King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Bernardo Lanzetti (Acqua Fragile, ex-Premiata Forneria Marconi), among others. Her homepage contains praise for Fabulae (2018), her last album of original music to date. It is "magical and atmospheric", Steve Hackett is quoted. And Regina Lake, widow of the late Greg Lake (who died in 2016), confirms that Paola Tagliaferro is "truly multi-talented". Of course, we don't want to contradict either of them.

In 2021, under the title Paola Tagliaferro Sings Greg Lake, the singer has already dedicated herself to songs that Greg Lake sang solo, with Emerson, Lake & Palmer or with King Crimson, including well-known pieces such as Lucky Man, C'est la vie, I Believe In Father Christmas or Still...You Turn Me On. You can listen to the album on Tagliaferro's Bandcamp page.

Now, a second album called For The Love Of Greg Lake follows the same pattern, which inevitably includes songs that are no longer quite so well-known, from It Hurts (originally from Lake's self-titled solo debut from 1981) to The Great Gates Of Kiev (from Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Mussorgsky reworking Pictures At An Exhibition, 1971), but under the official flag of the label Manticore, which is now run by Regina Lake.

Unfortunately, English is neither Paola Tagliaferro's mother tongue, nor does she prove to be a particularly studious pupil – the fact that Regina Lake is said to have taught her a few things and helped her with her pronunciation can hardly be heard if at all. The singer's voice sounds good, no doubt about that. Her backing band, named La Compagnia dell' Es, performs solidly, albeit without any major highlights, but the extreme accent unfortunately ruins a lot for me. Even great pieces such as I Talk To The Wind (from the King Crimson debut In The Court Of The Crimson King, 1969) or the actually beautiful Watching Over You (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Works Volume II, 1977) can hardly unfold their magic in the form in which they are presented. Anyone who knows the originals and/or is proficient in English must simply feel disturbed by the mispronunciation and wrong intonation of many words. Especially as there is not enough excitement musically either – one would wish for more truly inspired moments like the relaxed, jazzy piano in Stones Of Years (originally part of the twenty-minute ELP work Tarkus, 1971).

As laudable as the idea of paying homage to an artist like Greg Lake may be, in this particular case the realization is not very successful. The question therefore remains to whether it would not have been wiser to translate the lyrics into Italian and have the singer sing in her mother tongue instead of targeting the international market. Italian versions could work well and be an exciting affair, especially with Greg Lake's many ballads. French singer Johnny Hallyday proved back in 1977 that this can also be successful with his French version of Lake's song C'est la vie, which was a top five hit in his home country — a story that you can listen to with a smile in Greg Lake's own words on the live album Songs Of A Lifetime (2013). Perhaps Paola Tagliaferro could do the same?

Album Reviews