Album Reviews

Issue 2024-041

Chatte Royal — Mick Torres Plays Too F***ing Loud

Belgium
2024
34:26
Chatte Royal - Mick Torres Plays Too F***ing Loud
Bonjour (1:17), Victoria Wong Pt 2 (4:39), Zio Nervoso (3:54), Sushi (4:48), Pou Mi (5:13), Interlude (1:42), Marty Mc Fly (5:00), La Trahison (7:45)
8
Jan Buddenberg

After two EPs Septembre and Petit Pansement, released in 2020 and 2022 respectively, atmospheric and aggressive math-rock and melodic post-rock outfit Chatte Royal recently issued their debut album in form of Mick Torres Plays Too F***cking Loud.

Whoever this fictitious (?) Torres character is remains something of an enigma. This can just as easily be stated for the music. Because the talented foursome of Teo Crommen (guitar), François Hannecart (bass), Dennis Vercauteren (drums) and Diego Di Vito (guitar, also known from playing in post-rock band We Stood Like Kings) offer an overly exciting eclectic instrumental mixture of music which in striking contrast to the cuddly regal specimen as pictured on the album's front cover, proves to be as frivolously jumpy and energetically unpredictable as a cornered cat in heat.

This instantly reveals itself in Bonjour. After saying hello with a melodic country styled jig quickly wades into Dixie Dregs-inspired post-rock. And Victoria Wong Pt.2 that offers rhythmically challenging poppy alternative prog, highlighted by a lively touch of jazz and fusion play embraced by post rock guitars. Next to speedy Dregs imagery, this surprisingly brings Baris Dai to mind. A name also somewhat coming into view in Pou Mi. It starts off at the elegant side of the rock spectrum with restrained and delicate structures, until suddenly a powerful riff sets the song fiercely in motion with energetic outbursts in melody. Post rock atmospheres are once again introduced and a final exuberant math-rock sprint takes the song home.

The foursome, with incredible tightness of interplay and replete in time signature changes, rush with terminal velocity past a hyperactive fusion of jazzy, combustible punk-driven rock (Zio Nervoso) and tasty erupting moreish bite of alternating notes and chords in the playful Sushi, which is like Xavier Boscher-meets-Steve Morse. I do have to admit that besides the atmospheric post-rock intermezzo of Interlude I don't fully connect with the band's heralded cinematic qualifications. This is especially true for Marty Mc Fly, named after a character from one of my all-time favourite movies, doesn't present an invitation to the cinema at all to me. Not that this matters much, for this heavy energetic powerful composition designed with exceptionally precise math-rock rhythms and a ravishing touch of Focus riffs is a 1000 times more sensational than the "Back to the Future" ride I once experienced at the Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

After the album is rounded off in La Trahison with rough and raw overwhelming Ape Shifter guitar extravaganza and an ambient, admittedly cinematic, bridge that in turn is concluded by a monumental post-rock coda akin to At The Grove, only one conclusion remains. This excellent debut by Chatte Royal is clearly a well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable uplifting album that everyone in favour of phenomenally executed adventurous post rock with a twist needs to explore and play f***cking loud! Whatever your name might be.

Louise Patricia Crane — Netherworld

UK
2024
58:44
Louise Patricia Crane - Netherworld
Dance With The Devil (7:29), Tiny Bard (3:39), Celestial Dust (6:13), Little Ghost In The Room (4:44), Toil And Trouble (3:01), The Red Room (3:59), Lady Peregrine's Concubine (1:49), Spirit Of The Forest (4:28), Bête Noire (6:57), Long Kiss Goodnight (3:58), Thieves Fools And Crows (6:09), Midnight View (5:09), 日本人形 (Japanese Doll) (1:03)
8
Mark Hughes

Netherworld is the second album from Louise Patricia Crane, the follow-up to her impressive debut Deepest Blue in 2020. As a self-declared King Crimson fanatic, she must be delighted that Jakko M. Jakszyk has reprised his role as a guitarist on the first album but this time expanding his involvement to include contributing backing vocals, keyboards and co-production. More than that, Crimson alumni Tony Levin plays bass on all but two songs (Nick Beggs plays on those) and Mel Collins adds sax throughout. Also returning from the first album are Ian Anderson (flute) and Shir-Ran Yinon (violin) while drums are expertly bashed by Gary Husband. Crane herself adds vocals, guitars, bass, piano, Mellotron and percussion.

The prestigious cast of collaborators speaks volumes as to the quality of the musical performances on the album, but they never overawe the lightness and mellifluousness of Crane's vocals. On the quieter, more acoustic songs, such as Toil And Trouble and Thieves Fools And Crows, particularly the opening, there are affinities with the more mellow side of All About Eve: Crane and Julianne Regan share many similar vocal attributes.

However, it is the opening number, Dance With The Devil that shows off Crane's big influence as it could have come directly from Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love album. And there is no mistaking Ian Anderson on Tiny Bard especially as the song could easily stem from the prime years of Jethro Tull, although perhaps it is rather too upbeat and jolly — well it is apparently written about Crane's cat!

Overall, the album is largely very mellow although there is no doubting that every song has an inherent depth and an almost sublime beauty with Crane's vocals being as flawless as her alabaster skin. The melodies are hauntingly good, the arrangements are exacting and the whole album is a complete delight.

Factory of Art — Back to Life

Germany
2024
54:32
Factory of Art - Back to Life
Abysses (7:25), Burning Wings (4:06), Blessing In Disguise (5:31), Silent Room (7:39), Walking To The Place I Love (5:36), Face Behind The Mask (3:58), Decadence (7:25), The Truth (4:00), Behind The Light (4:49), Back To The Life (4:03)
8
Jerry van Kooten

Factory of Art are a German prog-metal band who are back from a near-20-year hiatus. Bass player Ronald "Ron" Losch, drummer Ralph-Marcel "Ralle" Dietrich, and singer Jens "Petri" Schmikale are there from the previous line-up. Gunter Christian, who used to be the lead singer in a former line-up of the band (as Gunter Lange), has returned on keyboards and shared lead vocals. Guitarist Thoralf Schulze is the newcomer.

Listening to the older albums, the band's style has continued to evolve and have taken a step forward in songwriting, arrangements and production. What a bunch of years of experience can do to a sound! The sound has become a bit more progressive (although a big step into that direction was already taken with the previous album), but that does not mean they leave their metal influences behind.

Prog-metal has become a broad genre. After a spoken intro and rather delicate symphonic guitar intro, we get an impression of where under this banner FOA live.

Some songs have a heavy hard-rock edge with a more conventional song structure. Modern heavy riffing but with a familiar feel and catchy vocal lines. The keyboards add extra melodic layers that will appeal to melodic metal fans. Elements of early Queensrÿche or Fates Warning are shining through. Proggy breaks pop up in many places.

The longer tracks are still heavy but also more symphonic and progressive. Touches of Rhapsody, Vanden Plas, and Helloween can be found in the guitar playing. The keyboards are coming from a symphonic background, mixing nicely in a modern way like Bagheera did in the 1990s rather than the often-found classical-based bands like Rhapsody. The arrangements in these songs are a feast for the ears with a lot going on.

Decadence is very much hinting towards early Dream Theater or in more modern terms, think of TDW / Dreamwalkers Inc.. This brought me back to when I learnt about Dream Theater, which must have been 1990. I wanted very heavy and very melodic prog, and not overly complex. And I still like this style very much! Guitars and keyboards are very prominent, and that is a good thing. Super melodic, and not overdoing it on the flashy side.

Guest vocals by Stephanie Brill adds a wonderful melodic metal voice that contrasts with Petri's voice. Petri has a rough metal voice preferring the lower frequencies, which in itself is a nice variation on the typical opera type of metal singers. Gunter's voice is another type of voice (touches of Geoff Tate when you hear him on the band's first album), which also mixes in perfectly. This combination is a strong feature in the band's sound.

The CD comes with a 16-page full-colour booklet. Instead of printing the lyrics (which in full-colour can become a bit unreadable), every page with a song title contains a QR code for a lyrics page. The mix and production are very good, which was to be expected.

There is a lot that feels familiar and yet enough to make it their own, by taking the melodic part and mix it with modern prog metal riffing, or classic metal taking unexpected proggy turns. A highly enjoyable album!

Marcin Pajak — In The Space

Poland
2024
63:30
Marcin Pajak - In The Space
No More Time (5:07), Building The Rocket (4:34), Liftoff (4:03), Gravity (6:42), Space Travel (10:39), Emptiness (4:41), Kuiper Belt (5:36), Thick Clouds (6:58), Towards The Unknown (4:27), Last Chance (6:12), New Beginning (5:05)
8
Ignacio Bernaola

I don´t know about you but Marcin Pajak is a new name to me. It is clear that you cannot keep an eye on all the artists playing progressive rock around the world, even when they have already six albums under their belt!

Marcin Pajak is from Poland and as his biography indicates he took his first steps in local heavy metal bands just after finishing his music studies. He moved to the UK and kept playing the same type of music in bands until he decided to fly alone and explore new musical territories. Good for us prog-heads, since he ended up making very nice and interesting progressive rock.

His last album is called In The Space, and it's a great example of that. It being a concept album just makes it more interesting since the story is very well linked to the musical instrumentation. The album takes the listeners into a journey through the space accompanying the main character in the search of a new home for all humanity. Each song has a meaning by itself describing the traveller´s experiences in each stage of the journey.

Interesting concept and one that can be easily transferred to any other journey in life. The music is quite diverse and varied depending on the traveller´s mood, from the dark ambient sounds of the opening song representing the need to leave the planet to the more dynamic, and rockier sounds when he is reaching his destination.

I must confess I didn't immediately enjoy this album, but it has grown on me after every spin listening carefully, discovering different nuances, and above all for getting into the story and understanding each stage of this journey. No overly complex instrumental movements or structures here, don't expect the typical progressive rock compositions, just very well executed songs and a great sax on top of that. I think that a greater role for this instrument would give the album a differentiating value. I also miss a little more variety in Marcin's way of singing. A little more expressiveness on some topics, perhaps...

Anyway, if you're looking for something different among the new progressive rock actors out there, don't hesitate and try this musical journey through the space. You may not find a new home for all the humanity, but you will discover a very talented artist for sure.

Album Reviews