Welcome to Trollheart's Fortress of Prog! - Music Banter Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The Music Forums > Rock & Metal > Prog & Psychedelic Rock
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-27-2021, 10:47 AM   #101 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

Like many other artists in my collection, I couldn’t tell you where these guys came from, or at least, why they ended up on my computer, but I was glad they did. With a name like that, you’d think they were Greek or Spanish or something, but no, they’re American. The name, of course, comes from that fantasy classic of all fantasy classics, and is the name of the highest God of the elves, first mentioned in the Silmarillion, another potential link with later prog rock icons. At any rate, this album certainly qualifies as one more of
Trollheart's

Album title: A Story Two Days Wide
Artist:Iluvatar
Nationality: American
Year: 1999
Chronology: 3
The Trollheart Factor: 3

I like the way the band’s name is even written on the cover using a vaguely medieval style font, strengthening the connection with Tolkien. Pretty much all of the tracks here are long ones, with only one below six minutes (well, two). It opens on “Sojourns”, blasting away with a big thick Mellotron from Jim Rezek and some fine intricate guitar courtesy of Dennis Mullin, the song containing the album title, a good bouncy mid-tempo number, the vocals of Glen McLaughlin strong and clear without being overbearing in a sort of Hammill/Gabriel way: they’re there, you can hear them but he doesn’t force your attention onto his voice. The unavoidable comparisons to seventies Genesis, Yes and even Rush persist, though I don’t hear much if any piano yet. Nice spacey sort of synth backdrop to the midsection of the song as it slows down into a very gentle, drifting pace.

Picking up speed now as it builds to the big climax at the end, Mullin showing off his expertise on the guitar without, well, showing off. A soft, introspective opening to “Savant” with very definite Pendragon overtones, really nice bass line and a sense of Mostly Autumn here too. “Dreaming With the Lights On” is much more rocky and uptempo, and indeed shorter, the shortest so far at six and a half minutes. I must say that here McLaughlin does start to sound a little Phil Collins-y, then one of my favourite tracks on the album is “Holidays and Miracles”, which has a lovely, lazy, relaxed feel to it, driven by sparkling guitar and a soft vocal in one of the performances of the album by our man Glen. It is though, to be fair as I always harp on this, the first of their songs here in which I can pick out a hook, and it’s a good one.

Sort of gives me echoes of Gabriel’s “San Jacinto” in certain areas, with a nice instrumental section at the midpoint, some very Asia-style trumpeting keyboards from Rezek building up the intensity till McLaughlin comes back in with the vocal, though the song ends kind of oddly. Big punchy intro then to “Better Days”, which trundles along with almost metal boots, a real sense of urgency in the melody, McLaughlin’s voice sounds slightly modulated - not quite a vocoder but maybe phased or something? The melody seems very familiar, at least the verses, but I can’t quite place it. I’d definitely call this the heaviest track on the album, while the next is the shortest, and actually precedes the longest. “Even Angels Fall” is, I guess, what passes for a ballad, though I kind of wouldn’t necessarily call it such.

It does however as I say lead into the epic, the closing track and by far the longest at over fifteen minutes. “Indian Rain” opens on soft synth and guitar (with the obligatory sounds of thunder and rain in the background) and involves some very emotional work on the frets by Dennis Mullin. Initially at least it’s a slow, morose kind of tempo, dramatic strings creating the backdrop for the guitar and there’s some nice work on what sounds like the Prophet near the end too. A bouncy acoustic guitar ending rounds things off nicely.

Track Listing

Sojourns (7)
Savant (7)
Dreaming With the Lights On (8)
Holidays and Miracles (9)
Better Days (7)
Even Angels Fall (6)
Indian Rain (9)


__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-27-2021, 08:25 PM   #102 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

Discographies, discographies....

You want 'em, we got 'em. Hell, I'll even consider suggestions. No, I will not do that because it is in fact anatomically impossible, but I may accept requests to do a discography of a particular prog artist, if you can make a convincing case for them.

Right now, we're looking at these this year:





More will be no doubt added.
The first of these, soon.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-28-2021, 09:24 AM   #103 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

Before January runs out on me, let’s check out another of the prog albums released this month. Less than three weeks ago in fact.



Title: Archetype Asylum
Artist: Exodus to Infinity
Nationality: American
Sub-genre: Progressive Metal
Release date: January 6 2021
Album number: 1
Familiarity: Zero
RYM Rating: n/a
ProgArchives Rating: n/a

Right, I can find nothing about these guys - well, this guy - anywhere, so I leave it up to his own promotional team to explain: This self-produced one-man-band will take you on a heady journey filled with screaming guitar solos, eclectic arrangements, and a dizzying range of styles and emotions. Using elements of prog rock, metal, blues, jazz, rap, EDM, pop, and classical music, the debut album, Archetype Asylum, explores the depths of the psyche with the psychoanalytic tools of Jung, Freud, and Lacan. It is a story of loss and growth through encounters with archetypal projections of the unconscious, reconciling light and shadow, candor and jest, fear and love.

Indeed. I have to say, it sounds like it might not be the kind of thing I enjoy, but as we say here in Ireland, sure we’ll give it a go. Why did I choose this one, when there were others released that day, and plenty more so far this month? Simple: I liked the name of the band. So if it sucks I only have myself to blame.

I think the doctor, then, is ready to see us now.

“King Other” gets us underway, with a trippy guitar run and the sort of rhythm you might expect to hear on something by Diablo Swing Orchestra, a vocal which mixes the best of Eldritch, Nick Cave and Dave Vanian from The Damned. It’s pretty frenetic, and puts me in mind too of the more eclectic work of The Dear Hunter. He’s got a good range, this guy with the unassuming name of Danny Mulligan, dropping from deep-throated growl to softer gentler vocal and manic shriek. It’s hard to believe this is all the work of one man, but I guess we have to believe him because, as I say, nobody else has any information on him at all, and anyway, why would he lie? But it’s damned impressive. Seems like he even does his own backing vocals, as nobody else is credited at all.

There are, it would appear, two epic tracks on this album and the first clocks in at just under nine minutes, with “Shadow Self” including a pretty damn fine rap, with a real metal vibe in the guitar; this lad really does want to appeal to all bases, doesn’t he? Think he may just succeed too. Some funky guitar thrown in there, kind of channeling Prince in ways. There are recorded samples used too, presumably from some sort of lecture or tape on psychology. Maybe. Great fiery guitar solo here, then it runs into quite a beautiful almost waltzy chorus with some cello I think, lovely orchestral work (I would assume it’s synthesised, but you never know) and I think we’ve moved into the third track, which features the only other collaborator on Mulligan’s album, some guy called Dr. Gabor Mate speaking, but this whole track only lasts for less than two minutes.

Shuffle boogie then for “The Body, the Drive and the Dreamer” with a great chorus - come on, there are female vocals in there, surely? He can’t be doing them too? Going wild on the guitar and keys now for “Trickster”, sort of AOR feel to this in ways, then it’s like going down to see Dean Martin on something for “Plaza Thursday”, again a short track and into “Right Now”, which reminds me of Wham!, or maybe Daft Punk. Totally disco, man. The closer is the other epic, and with a capital E. It runs for over fourteen minutes, opening on some truly lovely cello with a rising guitar line that gives you the feeling this is going to be something special. Well, everything has been special about this so far, but I feel this might be the standout.

Soft piano now joins slide guitar and violin and then it jumps to life in the third minute, vocal coming in now, jazzy little piano run, the song taking a kind of AOR turn. Some really nice Fender Rhodes as we head into an extended instrumental section as the track reaches the midpoint, a lovely laconic guitar solo and some breezy jazzy piano slowing things down for a moment before it picks up again on a sort of Steely Dan style guitar riff which turns into a real slice of funk and disco as we head towards the end, everything then dropping back to solo cello, slow and mournful to take us out.

Track Listing

1. King Other (9)
2. Shadow Self (9)
3. Just Like Us (7)
4. The Body, The Drive, And The Dreamer (8)
5. Trickster (8)
6. Plaza Thursday (8)
7. Right Now (8)
8. Second Innocence (10)

As a progressive rock album, this is stunning. As a debut it’s even more so. When you factor in that it’s apparently just one guy doing all this, it’s hard to heap enough praise on him. So much for not being something I'm into! There’s absolutely no way I could award this any less than the top rating.

Which I will.


__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-29-2021, 09:33 AM   #104 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default


Any prog head worth their salt will know of Prog Sphere, a website that champions new and often unsigned (though not always) prog acts, as well as Prognosis, which in concert with the magazine Classic Rock Presents Prog gives away a CD of selected tracks every publication. From what I know, Prognosis is only available when you buy the magazines, (and over the years I’ve bought a few!) whereas the Prog Sphere compilations, which go under the umbrella title of Progtronics are all available online from their bandcamp page, http://www.prog-sphere.bandcamp.com. Here then I want to feature some of the bands on those discs, and taking a totally random shot for Progtronics to start with I've ended up with this one:

Which as you can see, is number 21 in the series. So let’s see what’s on it.

(Videos where I can find them...)

Track 1: “Vacant Oceans” by The Sway of Mountains
This certainly kicks off with a real punch, not to mix metaphors, which I totally did, but it sounds like progressive metal - or even just metal! Driving powerful drums that sound like a bunch of octopi are playing them, hammering guitars in an almost black metal style, and I imagine this will be instrumental. Perhaps it’s post-rock (post-prog?) but I sort of don’t really see this as proper prog rock myself personally. Not that it’s bad or anything, just sounds definitely more in the post-metal side of things to me. Still, not a bad start.
Rating: 6/10
Spoiler for Oceans lacking something...:

Track 2: “Salvation” by The Waves of Mercury
Very low-key guitar getting this one going by contrast to the previous track, almost acoustic before it ups the ante with a sharp guitar and heavy percussion, vocals this time against an almost power metal ballad I would have said. Good vocal harmonies, definitely built on the guitar riffs though. Like it when everything drops away to just the bass and a sotto voce vocal, then the guitar kind of slips back in quietly as the vocals proper return. Ends as low-key as it began.
Rating: 7/10

Track 3: “Rapture” by Yvan Cluet
Opens on a sort of dramatic piano I think, with echoey guitar, gives the impression of the start of a horror film maybe; low, threatening in a laid back way, quiet, steady, could be building to something. A lot of staggered, almost pizzicato work here then some funky guitar breaking in with what might be orchestral hits. The first track so far to even use keyboards, which I find odd in a prog artist, but there you go. The longest of the tracks at just over nine minutes, and even though it’s only four in I would imagine at this point there will be no vocals here. Guitar getting very rocky and aggressive now, rising into something of a shred. All stopping now for celesta or harp or something, very ethereal, before the guitar snarls back in and the percussion picks up.

Impressive stuff. Apparently this is from his first album, entitled Tryouts and you can catch his music here https://soundcloud.com/yvan-cluet-898845529/rapture
Rating: 9/10
Spoiler for You have been saved!:

Track 4: “Forsaken” by Channel the Animal
Again we’re looking at a guitar intro, this time with a sort of vocalise in the background, then a growly death vocal bursts in, so I assume we’re talking, what, progressive death metal here? Heavy stuff certainly; the vocal harmonies are good, and there are clean vocals too, so maybe an Epica/Leaves Eyes kind of thing? From the album Death of the Dream apparently. Not really my thing if I’m honest. Some rather good introspective guitar, breaks out into a fine solo and without the death vocals I can appreciate this more. But there they are again at the end.
Rating: 5/10
Spoiler for But you have not:

Track 5: “The Furry Traitor” by Hoarhound
Buzzy rocky guitar gets this underway - have none of these people heard of keys? - then it’s a slow marching kind of pagan metal idea with a hoarse, ragged vocal then it settles down into a decent slow guitar groove, but again this ain’t the sort of prog I would be listening to myself. Perhaps, with a vocalist like that, they should have named themselves Hoarsehound? Sorry, sorry...
Rating: 5/10

Track 6: “Perseveration” by Datara
Apart from the fact that the title is not a word, it’s yet another hard metally guitar opening, machine-gun guitar and battering percussion, rising into a sort of Thin Lizzy-style guitar mixed with Iron Maiden, as far as I can see about as far removed from prog as you could be. From the album The Climb, it says here. Keyboards continue to be conspicuous by their absence. Guess we have yet another instrumental on our hands here.
Rating: 6/10
Spoiler for Dat track...:

Track 7: “North” by Pindle
No chance of tracking down a video by these guys, as Pindle is apparently something to do with the computer game Diablo, so we’ll have to do without a video representation of the song. It is, unsurprisingly at this point, another snarling guitar intro with a very heavy tilt towards metal, decent for what it is but where are my keyboards?? Funky guitar runs here, bit bluesy too at times. Good solo in the closing minute.
Rating: 7/10

Track 8: “Flood” by Hallowing

And for this one the best YouTube could give me was “Halloween floodlights.” Right. Well, at least this sounds vaguely progressive, or what I consider progressive anyway, with a kind of cinematic opening and then - oh well here we go again - another blasting guitar punch, kind of in a doomy vein here I think. Very stately and morose, I imagine there’ll be a growly - no, wait: it’s a screechy vocal. Well I knew something would be coming. This is more like black metal really than anything else. With a name like Hallowing, and the way this disc has been headed, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Oh look! There’s a growly vocal too: two for the price of one. That is, two vocals, neither of which I wanted. Introspective guitar section is nice, then himself screeches and growls all over it. Is it the one vocalist or two different guys? Do I care? I do not.
Rating: 3/10

Track 9: “Wake Up” by Sky Factory
Can I dare to hope, with a name like Sky Factory, that these guys will be more the prog I’m used to? The final track, the last chance to get a song even vaguely resembling standard prog rock? No? No video anyway - Gucci Mane and Minecraft are the results I get, thanks a lot - but at least there’s a nice soaring guitar solo to open proceedings, goes through a sort of chunky boogie and again is an instrumental, and again no keyboards to be found.
Rating: 4/10

Overall average rating for this disc: 6/10

One issue I always had with the few of these that I tried was that the music thereon was seldom if ever what I would call prog rock. I look at the bottom of the page and I see such tags as “djent”, “Doom metal”, “hardcore”, “metalcore” and “experimental”, and I would have to say this disc at least continues the trend - and the disappointment for me - of focussing much more on metal and such, guitars rather than keys, instrumentals rather than sung vocal tracks. Overall, not very impressed, which is usually the impression I’m left with after listening to one of these.

Not, as they say, my kind of prog.

This, though, might be.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 01-29-2021 at 09:42 AM.
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-29-2021, 09:59 AM   #105 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

In contrast to the Progtronics disc, the ones given away free with at first Classic Rock Presents Prog and later just Prog, which went under the description of Prognosis, all featured either well--known or at least signed artists, who hopefully will be more in the line of the kind of prog I prefer. This is the third one they released.



Track 1: “Indigo” by Pendragon.
I’ve already covered this when I chose Pendragon as the first Featured Artist, so if you want a deeper review of it check that out. The opening cut from their 2008 album Pure, this track sees Pendragon in a heavier vein, moving somewhat away from the more often pastoral nature of their earlier albums, and tackling real-world issues. I think. Great track anyway. Good start.
Rating: 9/10
Spoiler for Playin' the blues:

Track 2: “Motion” by Konchordat
This band, on the other hand, I know nothing about, but would hazard a guess that with a name like that they’re… French? No. Couldn’t be further. English, hailing from the green county of Kent. Well, so much for my guess. This is from their debut album English Ghosts and immediately there’s a more, well, prog feel to it than I got from any of the tracks on the Progtronics disc. I like the sort of medieval opening and the vocal is gentle but strong. And plenty of keyboards too thank the Great Pixie! The guitar is great too though. See? Already I have a new band to get into, something which did not happen with the other disc. Kind of a slower, majestic pace to this, certainly nowhere near as frenetic or heavy as the Pendragon song.
Rating: 9/10
Spoiler for Get a move on!:

Track 3: “Clear” by Breathing Space
This one should be right up my street. Band put together by the keyboard player from Mostly Autumn, this is from the second album by Breathing Space, entitled Below the Radar and features current Mostly Autumn singer Olivia Sparnenn on vocals; more uptempo than the previous, it of necessity sounds quite like the parent band, but that’s no bad thing, not for me anyway.
Rating: 9/10
Spoiler for I trust everything is now apparent?:

Track 4: “Hollow Hills” by The Wishing Tree
And again, come to papa! The Wishing Tree is Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery’s solo band, and this is also from their second album, Ostara, though to be fair there seems to have been one hell of a gap between this and their debut - thirteen years in fact. But then, Steve’s a busy boy, so we can forgive him the wait I’m sure. As you might expect it’s pretty acoustic-y, very guitar-driven and quite laid back. Female vocals from (let’s see) Hannah Stobart - I think I recognise that name but not sure from where. Looks like it’s just herself and Steve; she writes the songs too apparently, and Steve does, well, everything else. Peter Trewavas lends a hand on the bass too. Nice.
Rating: 9/10
Spoiler for I'm tempted to say the Hollow-Wood Hills. And I did.:

Interesting point: don’t know if it’s intentional but we’re halfway through the disc now and every act has been a British one, indeed an English one. Let’s see if that continues.

Track 5: “Breathe It In” by Darwin’s Radio

Well yes, so far it does. Darwin’s Radio are also English, and this is, again, from their second album, Template For a Generation, which has only three tracks, although they’re nineteen, eleven and thirteen minutes long. This one is the eleven-minute one. Lovely soft piano intro with powerful keyboard bursting through then it gets a bit prog metal. Hmm, I see the singer is one Declan Burke: surely not the same Dec Burke who released Destroy All Monsters? Oh. Yes. Yes it is. Interesting. Seems he left Darwin’s Radio after this album to pursue his own career, and given this is not only the second but also last album by the band, I guess we can assume they split up after he left. Pity. They sounded like they had real promise.
Rating: 9/10
Spoiler for Survival of the fittest?:

Track 6: “The Wretched Fathoms” by Knifeworld
Technically still English, but the brains behind this band, Kavus Torabi, is anything but a Brit, as you might gather from his name. He's actually Iranian. This is from Knifeworld’s first album, Buried Alone - Tales of Crushing Defeat and it’s certainly a heavier track than anything we’ve had on this disc yet since Pendragon. Very much guitar-oriented, it seems to alternate from pounding guitar chords to softer, more soothing riffs, a little disorienting. Vocal seems very Beatles-ish. It’s also the shortest track on the disc, a mere three and a half minutes. Certainly interesting.
Rating: 7/10
Spoiler for Don't bring a knife to a battle of the bands...:

Track 7: “Time Flies” by Porcupine Tree
Ah my old bugbear! Never quite sure what to make of Porcupine Tree. When they’re good they’re very very good, but they can often be not only mediocre but frustratingly inaccessible, for me anyway, as well. This is from their tenth album The Incident, and is a shortened, edited version of an eleven-minute track. It’s pretty uptempo, guitar-driven, fairly simple tune I guess for these guys. Almost a kind of indie rock vibe to it. Not bad.
Rating: 7/10
Spoiler for Tempus fugit:

Track 8: “The Moment Has Passed” by The Resonance Association
And completing a totally English lineup, this is from The Resonance Association’s second album We Still Have the Stars. Sounds a little freaky and spacey and seems to be all instrumental, or at least this track is. The artist is described as “psychedelic/space rock” on Prog Archives, and I’d agree this sounds in that bracket. Lot of feedback, weird sounds, repeating motifs - not quite drone but close in ways - electronic samples, drum loops; gives a sense of early Hawkwind in places. Again, not bad, though I’m not sure I’d listen to a full album of this.
Rating: 6/10
Spoiler for Did it ever arrive?:


Overall average rating for this disc: 8/10

Unsurprisingly, the Prognosis disc has a higher average rating, given that a) I knew at least some of the artists and b) most of the tracks scored around 9/10. As far as checking out further work from any artist on either disc goes, I would consider 4 on the Prognosis one (apart from the ones I am already aware of, that is) and at best 2 on the other one. No big revelation that the disc with what I would consider both more “my sort of prog” and also bands I know wins, but that doesn’t mean future Progtronics discs might not fare better. They’d do well to have some god-damn keyboards on them though to achieve that! Less metal and more prog please!
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-30-2021, 09:33 AM   #106 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

I feel like checking out another random album so let’s

and see where it falls.

Spoiler for Ay yi yi! El picturo grande! No me gusta! Etc...:

Album title: Stop Momentum
Artist: Cobalt Blue
Nationality: Brazilian
Year: 2017
Chronology: 1
The Trollheart Factor: 0

All right well space rock and psych rock is not normally my thing, but all I can say is this random stuff can be for the birds, and after eventually - and I mean with a lot of effort and torn hair, which I cannot afford to lose - I ended up on a band called Gladiator, who stubbornly refused to be on Spotify or YouTube, I said **** this for a game of intergalactic stormtroopers and just picked an album. And this is what I got. So we have a band from sunny Brazil who debuted in 2017 with this, and it sounds kind of laid back as it begins, a lot I think of jazz fusion in it, soft vocal, some nice guitar as “At Due Gesture” (huh?) gets things motoring, and is in fact the longest track on the album at just under nine minutes. Some phased vocal work here now and buzzy guitar, then almost inevitably lots of weird feedback and sound effects and doo-dads. Will this stretch the track beyond what it needs to be, in my opinion? Well it’s six minutes in so let’s see if the other three are justified.

Yeah, kind of not really. Just tailed away into nothing. “Bereaved” has a hard guitar leading it, and while it says that’s a guy singing he sure sounds like a woman at times. A little low in the mix, if I’m honest, which makes it hard to be sure; the guitar player is taking over here. Hmm, that’s intriguing: seems it’s the same guy. Julio H. Miotto sings, plays guitar and bass, Fender Rhodes and Hammond (which are the only keyboard instruments used) so I guess it’s his show really. Getting very Black Sabbath now as “Cataclysm” bursts out with some fine shredding there, but like the few bits of psych rock I’ve heard this tends to wander off on a jam more often than not, and that can get very boring and frustrating.

“Drops ‘n’ Doors”, on the other hand, sounds really interesting. Acapella with vocal harmonies which really showcases the talent of Miotto behind the mike. Only lasts just over two minutes, but it’s different and very welcome. Those are definitely female vocals joining him though, I don’t care what anyone says. After that brief but pleasant interlude it’s back to rocking and screeching guitars for “Catalyst”, which is okay but nothing special, though it does have some nice trumpets and sax, to be fair, then another short piece in “All We Have Are Oscillations”, perhaps the only instrumental, with some cool talkbox, before “Dweller of the Sevenfold”, the other long track at seven and a half minutes, sort of a blues boogie to it, and Miotto is going wild on the Hammond here. Nice. I like the fanfares here too, gets quite dramatic. Some sort of taped audio too I think. It sounds quite sinister, an extra level of disturbing laid over it by the warbly sax break, reminds me a little of that section in Supertramp’s “Fool’s Overture”. Gets pretty frenetic at the end.

Two shortish tracks to end then. “Circadian Clock” has a pretty hypnotic bass line allied to a sweet guitar motif. This goes a bit Deep Purple/Led Zep in the last minute or so, which leaves us with “Luciferase”, another psych freak-out with a vocal I would swear is female. Not bad, I’m sure they’re pretty good at what they do and if you like this it’s probably a good example of the genre, but just doesn’t really interest me.

Track Listing

1. At Due Gesture (5)
2. Bereaved (4)
3. Cataclysm (5)
4. Drops N' Doors (8)
5. Catalyst (4)
6. All We Have Are Oscillations (8)
7. Dweller Of The Sevenfold (7:31)
8. Circadian Clock (4)
9. Luciferase (4)


__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-30-2021, 02:47 PM   #107 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

Continuing on through the Five Decades of Prog, we’re back at the eighties.

Album title: Planets
Artist: Eloy
Nationality: German
Year: 1981
Chronology: 9
The Trollheart Factor: 3
Eloy have been around for a lot longer than I originally gave them credit for. When I heard my first Eloy album, 1983’s Performance, I was quite disappointed because it didn’t sound old-school prog to me. It was more modern, perhaps cutting-edge, at least to me at the time, who had at that time come up on Genesis and Rush and Marillion and Twelfth Night. But this German outfit in fact got together just as the world bade farewell to the “swinging sixties”, and by the time I blundered upon them the album I so snippily disparaged as “not really prog” was, and is, their eleventh, they having been in existence at that point for thirteen years. Shows what I knew!

Well thank you Spotify! Once again, you’re useless to me here. I don’t know why I bother. Oh, there are Eloy albums there all right, but not this one. Fortunately, I have them all anyway, so let’s just select it from my hard drive and hit play. Incidentally, you might be thinking, as I was, this album may be a tribute to Holst’s classical masterpiece, but it isn’t. There’s a short, just shy of two-minutes introduction called, um, “Introduction”, spacey synthy sounds and feedback guitar, then we begin proper with “On the Verge of Darkening Lights”, an uptempo guitar from Hannes Arkona meshing with syrupy synth from Hannes Folberth and the distinctive vocal of Frank Bornemann (who will never be able to deny he’s German with that accent) takes us on a magical journey of exploration. Some very upfront bass from Klaus-Peter Matziol , and the song ends very low-key, sliding directly into “Point of No Return”, which swaggers along on sharp guitar and swirling synth, a much slower beat on this one.

There’s a nice semi-early Genesis feel to “Mysterious Monolith”, some sweet acoustic guitar allied to soft electric, a gentler vocal from Bornemann and lush synth from Folberth too. Matziol certainly makes his presence felt, while Folberth gives a sort of rendition of the riff “The Logical Song” on the keys. The problem though, for me, persists with Eloy, in that while I enjoy what I hear, generally, I really don’t remember any of the songs, even during the album. They don’t make the kind of impression on me they probably should, which is one reason why I don’t and haven’t listened to much from this band. Even that album I mentioned at the start, Performance, I can only remember two tracks from. Nothing here is sinking in and as each track ends I immediately forget it. That might just be me; maybe they’re not holding my attention, but even if so, it makes it hard to get a sense of what they’re about.

“Queen of the Night” comes in very gradually and seems, rather oddly, to be cut lower than the rest of the album. I assume it’s the ballad, led in by soft piano and a vocal that’s next to inaudible for about a minute, then powerful strings swell behind it and it gets a little louder and more coherent. Oh, and suddenly it kicks up on punchy guitar riffs and well, what do you know? It’s not a ballad at all. That was a surprise. Female backing vocals, not credited, certainly add something to this song, as does the string section. Some of the passages take a distinct ELO turn (Eloy without the last letter?) aided by some fine work on the guitar. Nice little relaxing instrumental then in “At the Gates of Dawn” before we meet the “Sphinx”, where everything ramps up again and in fact I’m reminded somewhat of that later album in the rising, blasting keyboard arpeggios, and sadly, in being reminded of their 1983 effort I’m back to not caring. There’s a good bass section here leading in sprinkly keyboards around halfway through the track, Bornemann’s vocal riding over the musical backdrop. Everything drops away then to just drumbeats in the fifth minute, before those stabbing, sliding synths power back in.

That leaves us to be “Carried by Cosmic Winds”, with a very Jean-Michel Jarre feeling to it, winds hissing and waves crashing, soft guitar climbing its way almost unobtrusively into the melody attended by howling synth. The vocal comes in low and soft too, then Hammond breaks into the tune, carrying it along with vocoder work, Eloy being another band who use this quite extensively. The strings section comes in here just at the end too, providing a pretty sumptuous backdrop to the close of the album.

Track Listing

1. Introduction (6)
2. On The Verge Of Darkening Lights (6)
3. Point Of No Return (6)
4. Mysterious Monolith (6)
5. Queen Of The Night (8)
6. At The Gates Of Dawn (8)
7. Sphinx (6)
8. Carried By Cosmic Winds (7)

I’m sure this is a great album, and all Eloy fans love it, but I just can’t get up the enthusiasm to say it does anything for me. It doesn’t: it’s over and I have got little from it, nor do I expect to be returning to it anytime soon, if at all. I guess my sense of meh with Eloy continues for now. Maybe they have an album, or albums, that will change my mind, but this ain’t one of them.


__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-30-2021, 07:25 PM   #108 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

January slips away, the first month almost done....


Title: I Just Wanna Break Even
Artist: The Flying Caravan
Nationality: Spanish
Sub-genre: Symphonic Prog
Release date: January 11 2021
Album number: 1 (I think)
Familiarity: Zero
RYM Rating: n/a
ProgArchives Rating: n/a

This appears to be the debut from these guys, at least I can find no information at all about them anywhere else so much assume this to be the case. Very seventies organ and then synth to open the album as “Get Real” introduces us to The Flying Caravan, and to Juan José Sánchez on the keys. Hypnotic bass lines from Pedro Pablo Molina then the guitar of Antonio Valiente growls in, but so far no vocals. We’re halfway through as Luís Mas pounds out the drumbeats, and I’m thinking this is going to be an instrumental. And a very good one too. Very keys-oriented, though with some nice guitar licks too. This is a long album - almost an hour and a half, and that’s without the extra version of one of the songs, which itself runs for over sixteen minutes, so there’s a lot to get through.

The title track, as it were, is next, or perhaps I should say identity track, as “Flying Caravan” opens again on whirly keyboards and organ, and now we get vocals, and they’re from Izaga Plata, and have they been worth waiting for. She sings like an angel, really changing the focus of the music, and, thankfully for my review, in English. Kind of reminds me a little of Kim Seviour from Touchstone, bouncing along with great enthusiasm as we move into a dark, moody synth and guitar introduction to “Upstream to Manonash”, a lot of Pendragon in this, much more laid back and gives Valiente a chance to shine on the guitar, and there’s some nice soft flute too from Juan Carlos Aracil which really adds something to the song.

“Love’s Labour Mislaid” has a kind of Rushesque feel, slow again with this time a fair bit of guitar leading it in, goes along nicely, really sweet vocal from Plata, and into “The Bumpy Road to Knowledge”, also featuring more of Aracil’s flute and tending along a fairly slower, more relaxed melody. In fact, looking at it now, I believed this to be the longest track, and as such, running for sixteen minutes, it is. However the suite which follows it more than doubles that, so although it’s broken up into seven sections it must qualify as the true epic. I think it’s tenor sax we hear from Manuel Salido here, though I’m no expert on saxophones. Really nice tune though. Has a kind of haunting feeling about it, delivered through Plata’s plaintive vocal and Valiente’s ringing guitar chords.

Beautiful soulful sax break in the tenth minute - maybe that’s tenor sax and the other was alto? Not sure. Superb anyway. A great upbeat keyboard run now which reminds me a little of Marillion’s “Incommunicado” and some fine guitar bringing the piece almost to a close, then some low, rolling percussion and sonorous organ fading in with acoustic guitar and flute as Izaga comes back with a last vocal to finish the song in fine style. And that takes us to the rather phenomenal closing suite, “A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups”.

As I mentioned, this is split into seven sections, and while it all plays as one track there is a breakdown of the times, so I can follow it along. Part I then, “Northern Lights”, opens on uptempo acoustic guitar and synth, sprinkles of piano and then there’s a real build up to a powerful Mellotron piece and into a jazzy piano and guitar run before Mas lets loose with a powerful drum gallop and we head into Part II, “Change of Revue”, bringing in Plata’s vocal behind some expressive guitar and what sounds like violin. It’s a slower piece, warbly organ from Sánchez weaving its way through the melody. Part III, “S.A.D. (Solitude Affective Disorder)” again inches towards those early Rush comparisons, rocking along nicely with Izaga Plata’s voice a little stronger and more passionate now, edging almost into jazz territory on occasions.

Slick little guitar solo from Valiente here, really showing what he can do when he’s given a chance, though before the section ends Sánchez has taken over again as Plata comes back in with the vocal. Part IV is “The World Had Turned Over (And I Couldn’t Hold On)” and opens on single picked guitar notes backing Plata, could be something like a vibraphone in there too, then Valiente winds up for a quick solo as Sánchez comes back in with the organ, Part V, also relatively short at less than four minutes, “Moonlight Labyrinth” come in on thick warbling bass and Fender Rhodes, striding along nicely with a nod to The Doors on the piano run, then punchy guitar and dark synth, a funky guitar solo threading its way through it, while Part VI, “Second Thoughts”, rides on frenetic organ and has, for the first time, backing vocals, kicking up into a boppy little upbeat number and leading into the final section, Part VII, where “The Sum of All Your Fears” brings this remarkable suite to a close with a beautiful duet between Plata and Jorge Aniorte and a soft guitar motif from Valiente.

Track Listing

1. Get Real (8)
2. Flying Caravan (8)
3. Upstream To Manonash (8)
4. Love's Labour Mislaid (9)
5. The Bumpy Road To Knowledge (9)
6. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part I-Northern Lights (8)
7. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part II-Change Of Revue (8)
8. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part III-S.A.D. (Solitude Affective Disorder) (8)
9. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part IV-The World Had Turned Over (And I Couldn't Hold On) (8)
10. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part V-Moonlight Labyrinth (8)
11. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part VI-Second Thoughts (9)
12. A Fairy Tale For Grown-Ups. Part VII-The Sum Of Your Fears (8)

It’s a lot to take in. I mean, we have some serious, serious talent here, there’s no doubt about that. But as I always say, putting massively long epics on your debut album is always a risk. Here, The Flying Caravan have put two, one after the other, and while they’re both excellent I’m not entirely sure people will be able to digest such large slabs of music right away. It’s a lot to eat, to carry the metaphor further, in one sitting. A sixteen-minute track would have been a lot to take in, but a thirty-three minute one too? I don’t know.

It’s certainly an album worth listening to; I just wonder if these guys have reached too far too soon, and overstretched themselves? But I could very well be wrong, and come the end of the year I could be seeing this at the top of charts like Prog Archives. I certainly hope so, as it deserves to be there or thereabouts. Alternatively, it might just go totally unnoticed, which would be something of a crime.


__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-31-2021, 05:25 AM   #109 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

Originally Posted in Bitesize, March 3 2015
(Some slight edits)

(Written almost six years ago now as you can see, and what a suddenly appropriate and unintentionally prophetic title!)


Artiste: Shattered Skies
Nationality: Irish (Yay! …?)
Album: The World We Used to Know
Year: 2015
Label: None; digital release
Genre: Progressive/ Djent Metal
Tracks:
Collapse of Man
The End and the Rebirth
Haunted
15 Minutes
Elegance and Grace
Show’s Over
As the Sea Divides
Flipside
Aesthetics
Saviours
The World We Used to Know

Chronological position: Debut album
Familiarity: Zero
Interesting factoid: These guys are from Wicklow, and my ancestors used to be kings there, so technically they are my subjects…
Initial impression: Oh man I hate … um … love this.
Best track(s): Elegance and Grace, As the Sea Divides, Aesthetics, The World We Used to Know
Worst track(s): There’s nothing bad here.
Comments: Oddly, I had no idea these guys were Irish when I bought the album, which I did just because I happened to like the name, and the few samples I heard. I didn’t even know they were prog metal, so that’s two bonuses. Unless this turns out to be crap. Well I thought I would hate the short intro piece, being just static really but then it broke into an emotional piano piece and I really like it. It’s less than two minutes long though and slides into “The End and the Rebirth”, and for a moment I think I’m hearing an electronica album until the guitar bites through, and now we’re rocking!

The vocalist puts me in mind of Damian Wilson or Sean Filkins, and in fact his name is Sean: Murphy, while the guitars could maybe be pulled back a little in the mix; at times they almost drown him out. Very powerful, energetic stuff though. “Haunted” has a lovely jangly guitar intro before it just explodes all over the place in a really good way, but again the vocals are a little swamped. I am a little disappointed to see on their Bandcamp page they describe themselves as “London-based”. Well, sure, but why not Irish? You know, you can take the boy out of Ireland but … something something. Anyhoo, they do admit to being from Wicklow and Dublin, so I guess that’s okay. Great banging piano intro to “15 Minutes”, whose running time does not reflect its title. Excellent vocal harmonies, when you can make them out, somewhat in the mould of Arena, and I love it when the guitars cut back to allow the piano to take centre stage for a moment.

“Elegance and Grace” presents itself as one of the best tracks so far, but I must admit the guitarist is getting on my nerves a little. It’s like he thinks he has to hammer out the chords all the time and doesn’t know how and when to dial it back. I guess this is what they call djent, from what I read. The track sounds like it should be a ballad, but the man on the frets has other ideas. Still a great song though. The keys, when they’re allowed to poke through the guitar assault, really add a layer of grandeur to the music, such as in the opening to “As the Sea Divides”, before the axes grind (sorry) all over it with, quite frankly, unnecessary violence. You can hear the piano still going in the background but it’s almost completely drowned out till the guitar fades back out and lets it have its head.

We also get to hear vocalist Sean Murphy strut his stuff properly before he’s swamped again, which is a real pity, as it’s kind of ruining the song. If this is djent metal, I’m not so sure I like it. The piano-driven “Aesthetics” is a lovely song, closest they come to a ballad, and the guitarist mostly holds himself back here, which is nice. Is there a choir in there? Could be. Title, and closing track, is pretty brilliant too.
Overall impression: While the guitar may be a little too punchy for me, a bit in-your-face, this is still a fantastic debut, and the fact that the boys are Irish, well sure I have to support them don’t I?
Hum Factor: 7
Surprise Factor: 9
Intention: Follow these guys!
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-31-2021, 09:13 AM   #110 (permalink)
Born to be mild
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 25,038
Default

For our last look at this month’s

I was in a little of a quandary. I got out okay though; you just have to know where the lock mechanism is. But it was kind of between this and Dead Reckoning, and I went back and forth for a while (serves me right for not going before I left the house) before eventually deciding on this, as it’s their most recent that I’ve heard.

It’s also one hell of an album.

Album title: For the Journey
Artist: Threshold
Nationality: English
Year: 2014
Chronology: 10


Track Listing: Watchtower on the Moon/Unforgiven/The Box/Turned to Dust/Lost in Your Memory/Autumn Red/The Mystery Show/Siren Sky

Comments: It’s rare that a Threshold album starts out as anything but uptempo, exciting and pumping, and this is no exception, as “Watchtower on the Moon” kicks things off in grand style, the usual excellent hooks and melodies, vocal harmonies and that good old reliable vocoder. I wonder if Threshold are the only prog band - certainly prog metal I would imagine - who use this effect? Never heard anyone else use it*. Once again the album follows a certain formula, with “Unforgiven” a slower, crunching, more grinding sort of track, and again the kind of chorus you just can’t get out of your head. The first time I listened to this it was a case of “oh yeah, Threshold are back!”

The epic “The Box” runs for just shy of twelve minutes, and opens on a lovely restrained piano from Richard West, a gentle vocal from Wilson and then some sort of audio effect where someone rails against the tyranny of machines, or work practices or something, and it blasts into another dimension. To be honest, Threshold are on record saying this is an easy one to understand lyrically, but it slightly evades me. I think it’s to do with gaining technology before you’re ready for it, or being enslaved by relying on same. Either way it’s a great song, powerful guitar work from Karl Groom, great organ from West, wonderful vocal harmonies and at the end it slips back into the soft piano that began the song, fading out.

It’s back to hard rocking then for “Turned to Dust”, which reminds me a little of “Slipstream” or “Paradox” maybe, very uptempo with a sweet hook aided by those wonderful vocal harmonies, a real hallmark of this band. The usual ballad - though Threshold’s ballads are generally anything but usual - comes in the form of “Lost in Your Memory”, Groom’s rather overpowering opening guitar chords quickly giving way to West’s lovely piano and keyboard lines, and the song takes its place along such other greats as “Mansion” and “Keep it With Mine”. Grinding organ then drives “Autumn Red”, which, if the album has a weak track - and it’s a big if - would probably qualify. I find it extremely Asia-like, and if I heard this on the radio (some chance!) I would have said it was them certainly.

But it’s not by any means a bad track, just shows how good the others are when I single this one out as slightly below par. Phased vocals form a major part of and add to the spookiness of “The Mystery Show” with haunting guitar, very much a slower track though not a ballad by any means. Some lovely piano passages and a great chorus, and the album ends then on “Siren Sky” which like many, though not all, Threshold songs, stands on its chorus, which is fantastic. Very impassioned singing from Wilson in what would be his final performance for the band, bookending a career with them that began almost twenty years ago at this point. A fine swan song, though who knows? We may see him in the future again. A faithful servant to the band and we wish him well in his future endeavours.



Track(s) I liked: Just about everything

Track(s) I didn't like: If you twist my arm, maybe “Autumn Red”

One standout: Really hard to say. “The Box” might just edge it

One rotten apple: n/a

Overall impression: After only two years the boys come storming back, and it’s a triumphant return. It would be three years till we heard from them again, but this would keep us happy until then.

Rating: 9.7/10


* Note: I've since found this not to be the case, as related through these pages in the last week or two.
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is online now   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



© 2003-2022 Advameg, Inc.