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Old 12-05-2020, 12:41 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Fair review: I think it'll grow on you. Personally, I think Esoteric Symbolism through I Wonder is a great series of records (which comes out to four albums so far - not a bad run). Plus, any band that can write something as good as 'A Deep State Of Awake' is a top-tier group in my book.

Bandcamp: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism (Remastered)
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Old 12-05-2020, 06:23 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Yeah I reckon you're right. It started off a little meh but it did get better as it went. Only having the one listen always makes it a bit hard to get a fair impression, but I may very well come back to it and, who knows, maybe even update the rating if it starts speaking to me more. Thanks for the rec anyway. Certainly has potential.
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Old 12-06-2020, 03:05 PM   #33 (permalink)
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This, then, is the album I recced Ant in response to his reccing of Teramaze, though he had already heard it. Again we have a Threshold-sounding band, this time Italian, so I kind of wanted to do the two of them together. After this the albums will come from years other than this one, but I wanted to get these two done first.
Album title: Tragic Separation
Artist: DGM
Nationality: Italian
Year: 2020
Chronology: 10
The Trollheart Factor: 1

Track Listing: Flesh and Blood/Surrender/Fate/Hope/Tragic Separation/Stranded/Land of Sorrow/Silence/Turn Back Time/Curtain

Comments: If I had to compare the singer to anyone it would be the late Ronnie James Dio, very powerful and raw. I can see why Metal Archives describe DGM as progressive/power metal; the keyboard runs are very frenetic and “Flesh and Blood” gets the album underway in fine style, though as with the other album on this first track I don’t see the hook. “Surrender” has a kind of mixture of straight-ahead rock/metal and AOR, but at least there’s the hook, in the chorus. Oh yeah. I’ll remember that. More guitar-driven this one, even got some shredding in it!

“Fate” is good, but it doesn’t blow me away to be honest; very much power rather than prog metal, while “Hope” continues the rocking-along pattern, with again quite a guitar-centric song, though I feel this may have a little more about it. Hmm. Still not pulling me in. Here’s the title track now, with a lovely piano intro and some violin. Perhaps this is where it begins to stand out from the crowd? Yeah this has a cool hook and sounds very Threshold, uses the keys well. Like this one. Does retain a very AOR feel in parts, but no bad thing really. Hardly letting up for a moment as we rocket into “Stranded”, and I think I would be inclined to suggest that DGM sacrifice memorable melodies and hooks for shredding and suchlike - not saying they’re anything like the dreaded Dragonforce or anything, but I’m finding it hard to pick out things I can remember about any of these songs.

I might expect “Land of Sorrow” to be a ballad, but I’m disappointed as it hammers and chugs along pretty much like most of the rest of the album, though I’ve now noticed (or maybe it’s just more obvious on this track) that the singer sounds quite a lot like the late Andrew “Mac” MacDermott, who used to be with, you guessed it, Threshold! I continue to hear echoes of that band in the previous track and the next, which is called “Silence”, and of course is anything but. Another hard rocker, “Slipstream”-ish in tone and melody. Hmm, first track to fade. Mildly interesting. The synthy intro to “Turn Back Time” is nice, but then they just kind of jam the pedal down again and they’re off. Very power metal. That leaves the closer, appropriately titled “Curtain”, and it’s the only instrumental on the album. Nice; pretty much single chords strummed on a guitar against some soft percussion, quite the coda to the album.

Track(s) I liked: Surrender/Hope/Tragic Separation
Track(s) I didn’t like: None
One standout: Nah, I still couldn’t really pull one of these out as being so much better than the others though...
One rotten apple: Nothing ruins it either
Overall impression: Yeah, again I really thought I’d be into these guys, and in fairness it’s not a terrible album, but I just am not feeling it. Given that this is their tenth, I may have better luck with earlier efforts, but then again, given that it’s their latest, if I do, what does that say about the future of the band? These, and more questions, will probably never be answered.
Rating: 7/10

Future Plan: I may listen to more of their material, though my expectations have slid somewhat now.
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Old 12-07-2020, 10:02 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Time to look to the classics, and while this album may not necessarily be one of their better known or loved ones, it did gain some more traction in the wake of Kansas’s breakthrough albums Leftoverture and Point of Know Return.

Album title: Masque
Artist: Kansas
Nationality: American
Year: 1975
Chronology: 3
The Trollheart Factor: 2

Track Listing: It Takes a Woman’s Love (To Make a Man)/Two Cents Worth/Icarus- Borne on Wings of Steel/All the World/Child of Innocence/It’s You/Mysteries and Mayhem/The Pinnacle
Comments: Thought that was a Mellotron at the start, but looks like it’s a Moog. Hmm. I’ve always found what little I’ve heard of Kansas to be more in the AOR/Pomp Rock vein than prog, but what do I know? This certainly has more the hard rock vibe to it, as does the next one, very rocky blues. Yeah this is nowhere near prog rock, not to me. S’alright I guess but unless it gets a lot better I can see how this went by with a collective yawn when released. The violins on “Icarus - Borne on Wings of Steel” are nice, kind of an early Rush feel to it, a bit better certainly.

Quite impressive the way everything speeds up, the violins keeping pace with the rest of the band, and they add a lot to the next track, “All the World”, Supertramp-y piano here, and a lot better than the opening tracks. Back to standard blues rock then for “Child of Innocence” with some nice organ work, then I like the piano and keys driving the Irish/Scottish reel-like “It’s You” which bounces along nicely, but again, prog it ain’t. Short, however, it is, the shortest on the album at just over two and a half minutes, with “Mysteries and Mayhem” standing between it and the longest track, the closer.

There is, to be fair, no mystery and little mayhem in the song - it’s a fast boppy rocker, sure, but there’s nothing special about it. That takes us to the closing track, the nine-and-a-half minute “The Pinnacle”, which is, so far as I can see, their last chance to convince me this album should be considered any sort of prog. Big instrumental intro anyway, nearly a third of the song, and yeah I can hear it now. They’ve left it a little late to bring along their prog credentials though.

Track(s) I liked: Icarus - Borne on Wings of Steel/All the World/The Pinnacle
Track(s) I didn't like:
One standout: Nah
One rotten apple:
Overall impression: It’s a decent rock album but a very poor prog one. It recovers well on the last track, but that’s not enough to scrub out the memory of seven other tracks that have little if anything to do with prog rock. I can see why it was so poorly received when released. Doesn’t change my opinion that Kansas barely qualify as prog though. Something of a disappointment.
Rating: 5.5/10

Future Plan: I’ll try some of their other material. I know their new one is excellent so maybe this is an early blip.
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Old 12-08-2020, 10:07 AM   #35 (permalink)
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All right then, time to check out the first album from our

And as noted in the OP, my first featured artist is a band I only got into in the last three or four years, despite knowing of them for decades. Somehow, though they were always mentioned in the same breath as Pallas, Marillion and IQ, I never really checked out their music. Once I did, I was sorry I had not done so earlier and they have quickly become a firm favourite of mine. So let’s delve now into the music of

Formed in 1978 in Gloucestershire in England, Pendragon were originally known as Zeus Pendragon, but quickly dropped the first part, in a similar way to how Silmarillion would become Marillion four years later. Their first album wasn’t released though until 1985, and while I had signposted a different album that I was going to look at first here, I’ve changed my mind because I want to go back to not quite the beginning, but one of their early albums, so that when I mark changes in their musical direction I have something to refer to.

Therefore the first look into this artist is this


Album title: Kowtow
Artist: Pendragon
Nationality: English
Year: 1988
Chronology: 2
The Trollheart Factor: 10

Track Listing: Saved by You/The Mask/Time for a Change/I Walk the Rope/2 AM/Total Recall/The Haunting/Solid Heart/Kowtow
Comments: I love the bouncy, almost “Market Square Heroes” nature of the opener, which fizzes with energy and enthusiasm, Clive Nolan’s peppy keyboards driving the melody along, Nick Barrett sounding in exuberant form, everything about this giving me the impression of a band who have come back after three years revitalised and full of get up and go. I found their debut, The Jewel, flawed (sorry) and disappointing in many ways, and it looks like they’re out to change that here. Great start, but then things kind of grind to a halt when we hit “The Mask”, which is clunky, boring and just doesn’t work for me anyway. “Time For a Change” then shamelessly rips off the main riff from Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield”, another upbeat track which gets the album back on course mostly.

One thing that does annoy me about Pendragon, though I love them, is their blatant plagiarism. I’ve seen them copy Pink Floyd, Supertramp and Genesis by filching often whole sections of melody, lyrics and arrangements, and I just don’t see the need for it. They’re a talented enough band without having to rip their peers off. Good stabbing keys from Nolan here again, and a lot of energy, then everything slows down for “I Walk the Rope”, nice ballad with some smooth sax from Patsy Gamble, and this sax wails on into the next one, another but I think quite superior ballad, “2 AM”, which I love everything about except the end; seems to be rushed and come to an abrupt halt as if Nick couldn’t work out how to finish it.

For a moment it looks as if it’s three for three, before “Total Recall” breaks out of its gentle intro and turns into a bit of a pompy stomper if you will. “The Haunting” has a very Genesis feel with some eighties Pink Floyd mixed in, oh and throw in a slice from Marillion’s “Incubus” off Fugazi too. Great Hammond from Nolan though, and the song being over ten minutes long goes through some considerable changes oh and look! The drum roll from “Assassing” too. Sigh. This is one aspect of Pendragon I just hate. Good guitar solo here from Barrett, and then it’s more or less basic rock for “Solid Heart”, which kind of looks back to “Saved by You” before we end on the title track, which rocks us to a decent ending, with a great hook in the fadeout.

Track(s) I liked: Everything except “The Mask”
Track(s) I didn't like: “The Mask”
One standout: “Saved by You” (though it’s a hard choice between that and “2 AM”, and “Kowtow” nearly got in too)
One rotten apple: The Mask
Overall impression: A huge improvement on their debut. Not a perfect album by any means, but streets ahead of The Jewel and beginning to point the way to stardom for this talented and prolific band who would remain at the forefront of the prog rock movement
Rating: 8.8/10

Future Plan: Lifetime Pendragon fan now, me!
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Old 12-13-2020, 10:38 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Right then, time to check up on a prog rock


I'm not really familiar at all with these guys, but apparently this is the point at which they began to diverge from their original sound, which was characterised by death metal leanings, into a more progressive metal and eventually progressive rock vein.


Album title: Blackwater Park
Artist: Opeth
Nationality: Swedish
Year: 2001
Chronology: 5
The Trollheart Factor: 1

Track Listing:The Leper Affinity/Bleak/Harvest/The Drapery Falls/Dirge for November/The Funeral Portrait/Patterns in the Ivy/Blackwater Park
Comments: This is the album that started to polarise fans of the band. Those who had been brought up on pure death metal albums such as Orchid and Still Life decried the “watering-down” of Opeth’s sound as the band moved in a more progressive metal, and, as it has developed over the years, almost completely progressive rock direction, while those who wouldn’t have been interested in a death metal band suddenly began to see there might be more to Opeth than at first met the eye. Mikael Åkerfeldt remains unapologetic about the direction his band took, more or less telling fans they can get on board or not, but he has no intention of reverting to their old sound.

Much of the progressive metal/rock sound on this album comes from their first, but not last, collaboration with prog wunderkind Steven Wilson, who produced the album and also plays a little on it. The death metal influences, which would fade as time went on, eventually being ditched altogether, are still strong here especially in the sharp guitar and the growly vocal. This latter soon drops out though and we get the sort of clean vocals which will be the norm for later Opeth albums, but you still kind of get the idea of the one style pushing against the other, each struggling for victory. There can be only one… Nice piano ending. More death vocals in the appropriately-named “Bleak”, with a kind of Egyptian guitar riff running through it and some clean vocals from Wilson. Can’t say I’m that impressed so far though.

“Harvest” is a lot better. I like the acoustic guitar motif, and the vocal is mostly clean, perhaps an indication of the path Opeth were forging into the future? Definitely more of a prog metal than death metal feel to “The Drapery Falls” (hold on: this was a single? It’s over ten minutes long!) and it’s worth every second of its length. Even the few death growls seem not to be out of place, and there’s some great guitar work. “Dirge for November” has an almost blackgaze feel to it, starting acoustic and gentle and then breaking into a hammering riff, the death growls working really well here. I also like the almost medieval acoustic guitar fadeout.

A total change then for the very death metal “The Funeral Portrait”, in your face, aggressive and plenty of growling and snarling. Not mad about this one. The vocal harmonies near the end almost save it, but meh, not quite. Settling down then for a nice little acoustic instrumental before we end with the title track, which is also the longest, over twelve minutes. It has a lot to recommend it, but for the length it is I find my attention drifting and there’s still a little too much of the harsh death metal style guitars to it, plus the death growls.

Track(s) I liked: Harvest/The Drapery Falls/ Dirge for November/Patterns in the Ivy

Track(s) I didn't like: The Leper Affinity/Bleak/The Funeral Portrait/Blackwater Park

One standout: There are some good tracks, some very good tracks, but I can’t pick one that really raises itself to the level of a standout.

One rotten apple: Same here; the amount of bad tracks is low and even they’re not terrible

Overall impression: I think it’s almost a visualisation of a struggle, as I said, between the “old” Opeth (with whom I am not at all familiar) and the new one, as the band attempt to throw off the shackles of the somewhat constricted style they’ve been playing for, at this stage, six years, while still mindful of the fans who got them where they are. It’s a painful birth, but eventually they would pull away from the death metal altogether and head in a progressive rock direction. Here I think we hear the first labour cries, though the baby has yet to be born.

Rating: 7.5/10

Future Plan: I will be listening to more of their music, most likely from this point on. I have heard Pale Communion and Heritage I think.
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Old 12-13-2020, 10:52 AM   #37 (permalink)
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^ Solid album, but I think you would have liked 1999's Still Life or the death growl-less 2004 album Damnation more. I consider the latter to be a masterpiece that emphasizes's Opeth's melodic side without being a pure retread of the 70's.
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Old 12-13-2020, 03:20 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Thanks Ant. I did hear some of the more recent albums and liked them a lot. This was good, even great in places but I still sort of felt like I was listening to a death metal band trying to be a progressive metal one. I may check out the ones you mentioned.
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Old 12-13-2020, 03:28 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Time for an album from the 1980s as we move through the decades. Perhaps sir would care for some Rush?

Album title: Signals
Artist: Rush
Nationality: Canadian
Year: 1982
Chronology: 9
The Trollheart Factor: 5

Track Listing: Subdivisions/The Analog Kid/Chemistry/The Digital Man/ The Weapon (Part II of “Fear”)/New World Man/Losing it/Countdown

Comments: In direct contrast to Yes, I prefer 70s Rush to 80s or 90s or later, so I kind of stopped listening around the Farewell to Kings era. This, therefore, will be my first listen to this album, and I must say right off I think the cover is awful. I’ve read the write-up on it, and still don’t know what the deal is with it? What has it to do with the title? It looks, well, terrible. Hopefully the music is better. I’d call myself a Rush fan, though not a huge one, as detailed above: I know the classic albums, but after that you’ve lost me, so I’m glad to see that “Subdivisions” has the proggy spirit of AFTK and earlier albums. Kind of reminds me of “Spirit of Radio” in ways. “The Analog Kid” is a faster, rockier number, with some fine work from Lifeson. No epics on this one as Rush go for a smarter, more stripped-down eighties image - no “Cygnus X-1”, no “Hemispheres”, no “Fountain of Lamneth”.

“Chemistry” has a real bite in the guitar, making me wonder why so many critics claimed that an over-reliance on keys here was to Lifeson’s detriment in the fret department? I don’t hear it personally. “The Digital Man” bears more than a passing resemblance to early Police I feel, perhaps Rush’s first flirtations with reggae (though maybe not; there are two albums between Hemispheres, where I finished listening, and this, so maybe they’ve been pursuing this path for a few years) but it retains its rock sensibilities; Geddy’s throwing in of words like “Zion” and “Babylon” are a little embarrassing though. I can’t quite figure out “The Weapon”. It’s subtitled “Fear Part II” but when I go looking for part I, it can’t be found. I can find part III - on the previous album! Oh, and then finally, here’s part I, on the NEXT album! What in the name of Neal Peart??

As for the song, well now I hear the new-waveish synths taking over certainly, though the guitar is still there. I assume Alex is behind the keys? No, it’s Geddy. Hmm. All right then. Still don’t quite get it: Rush have been using synths for two years now, so why the resistance from critics? I certainly still hear plenty of Lifeson’s work here, so I wouldn’t agree that they’re taking over as some seem to suggest in reviews. It’s a good song anyway, with a nice hook but a certain Visage feel to the synth line. More reggae explorations then in the single “New World Man”, which I did not like when I heard it on the radio and felt Rush were going totally commercial and selling out to get a hit single. Well I guess it worked: highest placing in the US and number one in their native Canada. Still not mad about it though.

The violin on “Losing it” is a nice change of pace, and Lifeson gets to show what we all know he can do on this track, with the synths pushed firmly to the background, then the closer is “Countdown”, and while the radio signals thing (although tying in with the album title) is a little cliched, there’s an appropriate sense of menace and danger about the music, pretty ominous, the lyric quite apocalyptic, and again the guitar is front and centre here. As it should be on a Rush album really.

Track(s) I liked: Subdivisions/The Analog Kid/Chemistry/The Weapon/Losing it/Countdown

Track(s) I didn't like: The Digital Man, New World Man

One standout: I think “Losing it” is worthy of this honour

One rotten apple: But nothing’s terrible enough to earn a spot here.

Overall impression: A solid Rush album. Not necessarily the sort of thing that would make me wonder what I’d been missing and bring me back into the Rush fold again, but I’m sure it wouldn’t turn off anyone wanting to get into the band either. Some decent tracks, some very good tracks, a few duff ones. Not a classic, but a good album. Again, the word solid comes to mind.

Rating: 8.4/10

Future Plan: I expect I’ll get through the rest of their post-1978 catalogue in due course. Can’t say I’m in any particular rush (sorry) to do so though.
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Old 12-15-2020, 01:16 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Album title: El Dorado
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra
Nationality: British
Year: 1974
Chronology: 4
The Trollheart Factor: 10

Track Listing: El Dorado Overture/Can’t Get it Out of My Head/Boy Blue/Laredo Tornado/Poor Boy (The Greenwood)/Mister Kingdom/Nobody’s Child/Illusions in G Major/El Dorado/El Dorado Finale

Comments: Ah, I could review this album without playing it. I know it so well. ELO were the first ever band of any sort I got into, their albums were the first in my collection, the very first being Discovery, which I played on an ancient record player which was operated on a valve system, and heated up after one album so you had to shut it off to allow it to cool down before playing another. Got it for twenty-five pence at a garden fete in the 1970s. Ah, great days! This came in a triple boxset which I was presented with for my birthday, and delighted too (of course I had hinted very strongly at what I wanted) but of that set this was the one that caught my attention and interest, and even now it’s one of my all-time favourite ELO albums.

Their first concept album, it concerns the daydreams of a bank clerk who is bored with his life, and imagines himself in faraway places performing heroic deeds. Well, who hasn’t done that? In apparently a direct acceptance of a challenge from his father, a classical buff, Jeff Lynne wrote the whole thing and it still stands as one of their most cohesive and impressive albums, even earning them an unlikely hit single. It opens on a dreamy, ethereal introduction, a deep, dark voice intoning the opening monologue, then a big orchestral overture slams in, rising to a crescendo before falling gently away and leading us into that hit single, the ballad “Can’t Get It Out of My Head”.

It’s a lovely song, but I have to admit I’ve never rated Lynne as a singer; here he just sounds a little, I don’t know, drunk maybe? Still a great song, and it introduces something ELO would use in years to come, a choir and indeed an actual orchestra. A fanfare then introduces “Boy Blue”, which is a hard rocker where the guitars really get to let loose, and into the much slower, melancholy “Laredo Tornado”, which features nice pipes and a sort of staggered acapella vocal. "Poor Boy (The Greenwood)” then picks up the pace again, rocketing along with a reprise of the overture right at the end.

A very pizzicato strings opening then to “Mister Kingdom”, where Lynne begins with a soft, tender vocal that rises as the music gets more intense, the whole thing ending on a big orchestral blast which gets louder and more intense until it all falls back for another ballad, again quite orchestral and strings-driven with sort of chanted vocals on the chorus. I’ve never been a huge fan of “Nobody’s Child”, but it’s not the worst. Definitely the weak track on the album, for me, though, which stops it being perfect. Rock and roll guitars take “Illusions in G Major” as Lynne just basically rocks out and has fun, particularly with the lyrical matter, before we reach the title track, a heartfelt, empathic, stirring ballad with more than a hint of old Hollywood about it. And we close on the "El Dorado Finale", which reprises the overture, pumping it up to ten and just really going for it right to the end, when the voiceover returns, then fading away in a sparkle of scintillating sound like tiny marbles dropped on the floor.

Track(s) I liked: Everything other than “Nobody’s Child” and “Illusions in G Major”

Track(s) I didn't like: Nobody’s Child/Illusions in G Major

One standout: No; impossible to pick one that stands so high above the rest. Many could qualify, but I couldn’t pick just one.

One rotten apple: No way.

Overall impression: Always one of my favourite ELO albums, beside Out of the Blue, Time and maybe Discovery, I find almost no weak tracks on this, and it hangs together so well. Given the previous albums’ pretty sketchy construction, this is almost ELO coming into their own, and the ones to follow this would only show how they were going to grow and grow as time went on. Sadly, they kind of faded away rather than leave a powerful swan song, then Lynne resurrected the band, but it’s not the same. This was from their heyday, though, and it will always be one of my top albums.

Rating: 9.9/10

Future Plan: n/a
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