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Old 01-05-2021, 05:12 AM   #61 (permalink)
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Originally Posted in Racing the Clouds Home, December 21 2016

A good start, so let's move on to the second in the trilogy, and indeed the second Riverside album.

Second Life Syndrome (2005)

“After” gets us going with a whispered spoken word then the guitars slide in along with synth and the song seems to be fairly melancholic to start off with, quite dour but I do like it, then “Volte Face” takes off from the start on a rocking guitar line and takes three minutes before the vocal comes in. The song runs for almost nine, so that's okay, and I can see here that things are that little bit heavier than they were on the debut. Some sweet laidback piano in the fifth minute though it then gets pretty intense with the vocals all but snarled and the keys going wild as it hits the eighth. Powerful stuff. Back to soft piano then for “Conceiving You”, a much shorter song which I'm going to say is a ballad. Some very expressive and emotional guitar here.

Another three-minute introduction but in fairness this is fifteen minutes long, and it's the title track. Great sense of urgency in it, riffing guitars and hurrying keyboards. I would say I do like this, though perhaps with a little caution, as it's beginning that kind of technical wankery I so dislike in many prog rock bands. I'll reserve judgement on this one though till I've heard the whole thing. No, actually I think all that was necessary and I did enjoy the track. Faster and more powerful then is “Artificial Smile”, with a kind of angry vocal at times while “I Turned You Down” sounds like it could be a power ballad; certainly some stirring organ there at the start of it. Well it got pretty powerful but I don't know if I'd necessarily call it a ballad. I remember “Reality Dream I” and “Reality Dream II” on the debut were both instrumentals, so I wonder if ... yeah. “Reality Dream III” is too. Very good I must say; quite dramatic with some energetic piano and snarling guitar.

“Dance With the Shadow” is another epic, this one over eleven minutes long, and starts with an almost folkish chant against deep lush dark synth, then in the second the guitar really kicks in, taking the whole thing up a serious notch. The extended instrumental is not this time wankery of any sort, and I am quite enjoying this. The last track, “Before”, starts off very moody and low-key but kicks up with a lot of intensity later on. Good closer.

Track Listing

1. After
2. Volte Face
3. Conceiving You
4. Second Life Syndrome
5. Artificial Smile
6. I Turned You Down
7. Reality Dream III
8. Dance With the Shadow
9. Before

Generally speaking, though this is a heavier effort than their debut, I pretty much still like it. It does tend to noodle and wander a little, particularly on the title track, though given that that's fifteen minutes long that's perhaps to be expected, especially with a prog band. I don't hear anything though that makes me think I would not like this album more on repeated listenings, so it's another score.

Result for this album:
Total result so far:
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Old 01-05-2021, 11:48 AM   #62 (permalink)
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Originally Posted in Racing the Clouds Home, December 31 2016

Ok then, let's wrap this up. We're two for two so far, let's see if we can make it three.

Rapid Eye Movement (2007)

The final part of the Reality Dream trilogy, the album is split into two separate sections, the first consisting of the first five tracks and called Fearless while the second is called Fearland and covers the final four. The album opens with “Beyond the Eyelids”, with a nice soft psych feel to the music before a big organ crashes in on the back of heavy guitar, and it really kicks up. A long enough opener, just shy of eight minutes, and much of the first half is taken up with an instrumental jam. Yeah again it's good but I can feel my attention wandering (probably doesn't help that I'm websurfing while doing this, but really, an album that's good enough should be able to divert me back to it, and, well, this ain't doing it) and on we go into the second track, which is again okay but I can't say anything really positive about it, other than that it doesn't suck. Completely.

Yeah, that one just kinda went by without leaving much of an impression on me. I feel I know “02 Panic Room” (why the figures in front of it? Is it sponsored by the big telephone company?) before, and yes, it's a good song, even a great song. A real cut above everything that has gone so far, though in fairness that's not really saying too much. Oh, thought that piano was starting a new track, but it seems we're still on “02 Panic Room”: almost the reverse of the last time, when I didn't notice one track had ended and the other begun. Best on the album so far, definitely. May have some competition though, immediately, from “Schizophrenic Prayer”, a real slowburner, a kind of concealed menace in the song. Really like this one too. Maybe the album is taking an upswing? All right, the next track is also great. Opening with an acapella vocal before it explodes all over the place, “Parasomnia” is both a great slice of prog and yet another mixing of words to make a pretty cool one. The whispering voice over the piano in the sixth minute is very effective.

And so into part two, Fearland, we go, with a very soft and gentle opener which goes under the title of “Through the Other Side”, a very low-key, almost sotto voce vocal with a really nice understated acoustic guitar and just a little light percussion. “Embryonic” is also driven on acoustic guitar, and I find myself wondering if this second part is all going to be low-key, introspective, ballady material? This has the same almost muttered vocal, but then we get to “Cybernetic Pillow” and it's picking up speed and power again. Some pretty crazy guitar there near the end. The closing track then is the epic, thirteen minutes plus of “The Ultimate Trip”. It's a good closer, though I would question its length, something that is often a failing among prog rock bands.

Track Listing

Fearless
1. Beyond the Eyelids
2. Rainbow Box
3. 02 Panic Room
4. Schizophrenic Prayer
5. Parasomnia
Fearland
6. Through the Other Side
7. Embryonic
8. Cybernetic Pillow
9. The Ultimate Trip

I worried when I began drifting as the album began, but like any good album should it quickly demanded my attention back from the third track and more or less held it from then on. I would say I'm still not totally sold on this band – they can ramble on at times – but on the basis of these three albums I'm willing to keep listening to them in the hope that that special album will hit.

Result for this album:

Total result:

Final Verdict (for now) on Riverside:
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Old 01-05-2021, 02:15 PM   #63 (permalink)
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Our first

For 2020 is another of my favourite bands, certainly in the top ten, even top five, of not only favourite prog bands but overall. I don’t think I’ve yet heard an album I haven’t liked by them, in fact I think I’d be hard pushed to find even a single track I don’t enjoy.

Described as progressive metal - although they describe themselves, rather oddly, as classic rock - Threshold have been going since 1988 and have produced a total of eleven studio albums over that period, along with numerous special editions and live albums, compilations and acoustic sets. Their latest hit the shelves in 2017.

For our first selection I’m going to take a relatively recent album

Album title: March of Progress
Artist: Threshold
Nationality: English
Year: 2012
Chronology: 9
The Trollheart Factor: 10

Track Listing: Ashes/Return of the Thought Police/Staring at the Sun/Liberty Complacency Dependency/Colophon/The Hours/That’s Why We Came/Don’t Look Down/Coda/Rubicon

Comments: Threshold have had an odd history of singers. Damien Wilson was with them for their first and third albums, but not their second, on which Glyn Morgan sang, then for the next five albums over nearly ten years it was Andew “Mac” MacDermott, but sadly by the time they were ready to record what was their ninth album he had passed away the previous year, so they hooked up again with Wilson, who stayed with them for this and the next album, then left, being replaced for their most recent by Morgan. Not so much a march of progress then as a retreading of the past.

But no matter which vocalist has been behind the mike, the music has stayed consistently brilliant with this band, and this their ninth album is no exception. Kicking off with “Ashes” (which contains the phrase and becomes essentially the title track, as there is none) it’s a high-powered affair from the off, with guitarist Karl Groom as usual leading the attack, Richard West on keys making his presence felt in no uncertain terms and Wilson sounding in fine voice after fifteen years’ absence. One of the hallmarks of Threshold’s music is soaring, AOR-like choruses and catchy hooks in their songs, and this is replete with them, while yet retaining the hard, abrasive guitar licks and punches that justify the metal in the description of their music.

“Return of the Thought Police” brings back one of the band’s favourite themes, politics and their distrust in it, as they envision a dystopian world perhaps not that far in the future, perhaps not far at all. It’s slower and more grinding, recalling perhaps the epic “Art of Reason” from Subsurface with some truly amazing hooks and a melody that’s hard to forget once it gets going. I’m more used to MacDermott’s voice, given that he looms large over the bulk of Threshold’s material, but I love Wilson’s work too, and it’s definitely no step down, though we mourn the loss of the former vocalist, taken too soon. Ramping everything back up again then, “Staring at the Sun” blasts in with some powerful guitar and soft piano, backing onto an instantly memorable chorus which really allows Wilson to let rip as he does so well.

Possibly even more in the “Art of Reason” vein is “Liberty Complacency Dependency”, another harshly critical politically-motivated song full of anger and frustration, taped effects, howled vocals, ringing guitar and some real metal riffing too as it goes along. “Colophon” keeps up the pressure, and also gave me a word to look up, as Threshold often do. This one means - according to Wiki; none of my dictionaries had any mention of it - a brief description of a manuscript to which it is attached. Who knew? The wonderful “The Hours” is up next, one of my very favourites on the album, with a hook to die for; reminds me very much of latter-day Asia, to the point even that Wilson sounds like the late John Wetton. Also some gorgeous classical piano from Richard West, though it’s too short.

The ballad comes in mostly acoustic form, as “That’s Why We Came” shows that Threshold can dial it back and go all low-key when required, that they’re not just into pummelling guitars and screeching keyboards - at least not all the time. While many would not even consider them metal, Threshold are for me one of the heavier prog bands, and it’s nice to see them soften the approach somewhat. After a big growling guitar intro it’s a gentler, more relaxed tune peppered with hard guitar riffs that just emphasise the laid back nature of the song. It’s certainly not the best ballad the boys have done, but it’s good that they still chose to include one to lighten things a little and give Wilson a chance to show the gentler side of his vocals.

I find the chorus, or rather, the bridge leading to the chorus of “Don’t Look Down” a little incongruous, as it’s almost poppy in its makeup, while the rest of the song is a hard rock punchy uptempo song, and I guess if there’s a weak track on the album this may very well be it. That doesn’t mean in any way that it’s a bad song, just highlights how great the rest of the album is in comparison to it. Here, too, Threshold use a vocoder, one of the few prog bands, certainly current ones, to do so I believe. Emotional solo from Groom in the midpoint, which leads to a major change in the song a la “Pilot in the Sky of Dreams” off Dead Reckoning though it changes a little too abruptly back in my view.

“Coda” has rapid-fire machine-gun drums and guitar, battering away as it takes us to the closer, the ten-minute “Rubicon” which opens on sonorous church organ before exploding into an emotional march with yet another superb hook; speeding up and slowing down with guitar solos firing off left and right, and a superb church organ solo from West as the song slows right down into a grinding, plodding almost doom metal vein accompanied by the classic Threshold vocal harmonies to take the track, and the album out.



Track(s) I liked: Everything

Track(s) I didn't like: Nothing

One standout: “The Hours”

One rotten apple: n/a

Overall impression: Another really excellent Threshold album. It may not reach the heights of previous opuses, but it’s certainly up there with them. A long time waiting, but worth the wait.

Rating: 9.6/10

Future Plan: Just need to listen to their latest now. I know.
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:32 AM   #64 (permalink)
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Originally Posted in The Playlist of Life, April 22 2015

It's often struck me how many similarities there are between Fish and Peter Gabriel, in terms of their solo careers, and how you could almost consider them


Both were born in the fifties in Great Britain, although Fish would never forgive me for describing him as English I’m sure. He was born in Midlothian in Scotland, about as far north and as far away from the birthplace of Peter Gabriel as you can get. The ex-Genesis frontman was born in Surrey, he attending a public school while Fish went to the usual sort of one. Gabriel began playing in bands from the time he was at Charterhouse, whereas Fish bummed around at various jobs until joining Marillion circa 1981. Although a decade separates the two men in terms of their musical output - Gabriel formed Genesis in 1967 and they released their first album in 1969 whereas Fish did not form, but joined Marillion in 1981, the band having been together for two years prior - the times of their departure from their parent bands and their subsequent solo career timeline exhibits some interesting similarities.

The interrelations between the two, and indeed where their career paths diverge, is something I’ll be remarking on as I go. For now, as Peter Gabriel was the first of the two to make it big, and the one had a profound influence on the other, despite there only being eight years between their ages, it is with the Genesis founder that I will begin, cataloguing his career briefly with Genesis and then more in-depth after his split with the band.

As I mentioned, in 1967 Gabriel formed Genesis with his three schoolfriends at Charterhouse, Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips and Mike Rutherford. Two years later, having been discovered by impresario Jonathan King, they released their first album and were soon in demand. But by the time of their fifth album, the concept The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, relations were being strained and Gabriel decided to strike out on his own, leaving the band under fairly amicable circumstances. However it wasn't all roses and "Good luck Peter, we wish you well": in addition to tensions within the band and his not being satisfied at the direction they were going, he had chosen to stay by his pregnant wife’s side while she gave birth to their first daughter, rather than make himself available for touring or recording. Perhaps unreasonably, this rankled with the other band members and soon a parting of the ways was in the cards.

In 1977 Gabriel released his first solo album. This, and the three that followed, would be characterised by all being called Peter Gabriel. People would differentiate between them either by referring to the year they were released (Peter Gabriel 1977, Peter Gabriel 1980 etc) or by the artwork (Car, Scratch, and so on). Whether this was meant to allow him to distance himself from the tag of having been a Genesis bandmember and try to mystify his new solo music, or whether he was trying to say the artist is nowhere near as important as the music, I don’t know. Maybe he just couldn't be arsed thinking up titles. Maybe there was some deep, esoteric reason. I guess it's not important.

He would later abandon the concept, particularly in the face of opposition from his American label, who demanded a title for his fourth album - although it remained simply Peter Gabriel over this side of the pond - and subsequent ones would all have titles, albeit short, one-word ones. Fish, for his part, would have elaborate, interesting titles for all of his albums. But that’s to come.


Peter Gabriel 1977/”Car” --- Peter Gabriel --- 1977 (Charisma)

The album starts off on a song with a typical Gabriel title, which could have come from the writing sessions for The Lamb, and “Moribund the Burgermeister” starts with an echoey, Tom Waitsesque drum then some accordion and popping noises, again like something off the last Genesis album he made before leaving. His voice is quite sparse and echoing too, harsh and powerful yet restrained. Powerful synth then cuts in and more or less drives the track with a very Genesis-like sound. The similarities to The Lamb, particularly “The Colony of Slippermen” cannot be overstated here. It’s almost like Gabriel stepped from one room having written the music and lyrics for The Lamb and into another, sat down and continued writing in the very same vein. It’s not the greatest start to be fair, but it’s followed by a song which would become a hit for him - his first of many - and for a while be identified with him.

In a cross between a retelling of Jesus’ ascension into Heaven after the crucifixion and his own experiences on departing Genesis, “Solsbury Hill” is a much more accessible song, with a driving upbeat tempo, jangly guitar and a nice line in flute melody, this played by Gabriel himself. His voice too is more distinctive, less dark and it’s not really a surprise that this became the hit single from the album. If there was going to be one - and considering who he was, chances were high there would be - this was going to be it. In lines like ”My friends would think I was a nut/ Turning water into wine” he certainly references, if only obliquely, the miracles performed by Jesus, and his delighted declaration at the end of the chorus, ”He said grab your things/ I’ve come to take you home” has always, to me at any rate, indicated Jesus being taken back up into Heaven after the resurrection.

Whatever the truth, it’s a great song and provided him a platform to build on, a platform that would sadly fail to extend for another five years. We then get what would become known (to me anyway) as the “Gabriel screech”, where he would sound just a little unhinged sometimes when he sang, and on “Modern Love” there’s some great hard guitar courtesy of King Crimson legend Robert Fripp, with a solid organ line coming from Larry Fast. It keeps the tempo high and it’s almost an AOR style song with a lot of balls. “Excuse Me” uses, of all things, Barbershop, showing that even at this early stage Peter was more than ready to look to the past to make the music of the future, and had no problem integrating odd styles and structures into his songs.

It’s a weird song, as you’d expect, with nothing but acapella singing until Fripp comes in with banjo (yeah!) and Tony Levin with tuba (er, yeah…) giving the whole thing of course a very twenties aspect. Gabriel sings a little like McCartney at times here, and certainly sounds like he’s enjoying himself, not so much a man with anything to prove as a man who is glad to be free of the restrictions of his band and able to flex his musical muscle and creativity in any way he feels like doing. “Humdrum” brings everything back down to earth with a low, muttered vocal and dark piano and organ, but it picks up after about a minute, taking on a very recognisable Genesis look, then throwing in some Latin percussion themes. Classical guitar, rippling piano and some lush keyboard work then take the song as it slips along on a very stately, sedate rhythm. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the album.

If “Slowburn” starts as anything it’s a Genesis song but then Fripp cuts in with some tough electric guitar and the drums get going as Gabriel returns to the somewhat manic tone of “Modern Love” and the whole thing rocks out nicely. In fact it’s probably the most rocky track on the album, with bouncy piano joining the party, then “Waiting for the Big One” is another standout, with a thick blues riff and another muttered vocal from Gabriel, the star of the show though the piano work which drives the tune can't be ignored, nor the false endings (about three), not to mention Gabriel’s witty lyrics: ”Once I was a credit/ To my credit card/ Spent what I hadn’t got/ Wasn’t hard.”

A full orchestra (the London Symphony) lends a touch of majesty and class to “Down the Dolce Vita”, and perhaps set a very early marker for Gabriel who would work with orchestras again, most famously in the twenty-first century as they helped him reinterpret his hits on the New Blood and Scratch My Back collections. It’s an odd little song, sort of a combination of an almost funky, dance-ish number with a big brassy effort from the LSO, and I find it hard to get too excited about it, a little too confusing for me with all the styles meshing: it’s a song I never remember no matter how many times I play this album. The closer is the one I do remember, my top favourite on it. Accusations of overproduction and bombast have been levelled at “Here Comes the Flood”, and I’ve heard stripped-down versions of it, mostly with Gabriel accompanying himself on piano, but for me this is the definitive version.

Starting off very low-key with soft, almost otherworldly flute, piano and a gentle, almost whispered vocal it builds to a powerful crescendo in the chorus, a real sense of desperation and passion in the lyric as Gabriel sings “Here comes the flood/ We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood.” In fairness, the first two minutes or so remain the same in the sparser versions, the song just doesn’t explode on them as it does here. Heavy punchy percussion, strong piano and lush organ mesh with Gabriel’s howling vocal, the despair evident in it. There’s a great guitar almost-outro too, courtesy of Fripp, though the song actually ends on a few piano notes and Gabriel’s falsetto.

TRACK LISTING

1. Moribund the Burgermeister
2. Solsbury Hill
3. Modern Love
4. Excuse Me
5. Humdrum
6. Slowburn
7. Waiting for the Big One
8. Down the Dolce Vita
9. Here Comes the Flood

Even despite the big hit single, I find this a low-key affair to announce the solo career of the ex-Genesis frontman, with little in the way of fanfare (though of course I would have been too young to have noticed if there had been any when it was released, but I somehow doubt it) and a real pot-pourri of styles and songs. As I said earlier, it does betray a sense of freedom, in a way something similar to how I described the feeling I got from Roger Hodgson's debut album after leaving Supertramp. It's like suddenly Gabriel can explore all these weird themes and ideas without Mike or Phil going, "I don't know, Peter. Do you think the fans will like it?"

That's the intrinsic dichotomy of which I've spoken before: a solo artist, leaving his band or just taking time off to create a solo project, is free from the expectations of the band's fans. If people don't like it, it's most likely going to be with the complaint (in this case) "But it's not like Genesis!" to which Gabriel would archly reply "But I'm not in Genesis any more." So now the fans have a choice: write Gabriel off as a lost cause, a man who has abandoned the principles and tenets of Genesis, or jump on board with him for the ride and see where it took them.

As his millions of fans worldwide, and the respect he earned not only in the music business but further afield, in the area of humanitarian relations, politics, justice and reform as well as ecological responsibility attest to, most chose the latter.
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Old 01-08-2021, 09:57 AM   #65 (permalink)
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Flash forward four years and a young man called Derek William Dick joins a struggling progressive rock band who are trying to revive interest in the whole idea of prog rock. But it’s seen mostly as a dated phenomenon, with bands like Yes, Rush, Genesis and ELP all consigned to the status of “seventies bands”, even though most are still performing and releasing albums, and will for some time. But the times they are a-changing, as someone - can’t quite remember who - once said, and the abovementioned bands, and more like them, have mostly moved on, changing their sound and their approach to their music and their fans.

By the early 1980s, Genesis had pretty much released their last proper prog album in Duke and followed it up with the godawful Abacab (shut up Neapolitan! ), a nadir in their musical career that would lead them down dark paths towards their eventual breakup in 1997, while Rush had already gone for the more commercial/AOR sound a while ago. Yes had reinvented themselves with albums like Drama and were about to go on to record 90125, which while a great great album is pretty far from anyone’s idea of progressive rock, and ELP had never really recovered after the terrible “Love beach”, and would take another fourteen years to knock out their penultimate album, far from the heights of prog gods they had scaled in the seventies. Yeah, progressive rock as a genre was, to most people’s minds, a thing of the past, dead and gone and good riddance.

Marillion aimed to change that, along with bands like IQ and Pallas. This was to be the rebirth of progressive rock, or neo-progressive rock as it would come to be known. Joining the band in 1981 Fish cut an imposing figure, over six feet tall with a thick Scottish accent and affecting costumes and wearing greasepaint on his face, rather like his role model Peter Gabriel had during his time with Genesis. But it takes more than a gimmick and looking good to cut it in the technically superior world of progressive rock, and though Fish did not play any instrument he was and is a master wordsmith, and like Gabriel was the principle songwriter as well as the sole vocalist for the band. There’s anecdotal evidence from the time to suggest Fish was approached by a label to sign for them as a solo artist but turned it down. If this is true it’s not surprising, but does a disservice to the other members of the band, who all put in a massive amount of work into their music. Also, let’s not forget Fish was not in Marillion when they were formed. But it’s ever the case: the man up front gets all the press.

And Fish garnered some press. His habit of using an imaginary machinegun to “cut down” the audience at the climax of “Forgotten sons” made him something of a star and showed the world this was a talent worth watching. Like Gabriel, Fish used a theatrical style onstage, with costumes and narrations, and his lyrics explored subjects from the human condition to mythological creatures. You know: prog rock! He was also a very vocal person, speaking about a range of subjects and making it clear he was not, unlike the Moody Blues claimed, “just a singer in a rock and roll band”.

But as time wore on and Marillion began to make their mark, scoring hit singles from the Misplaced childhood and Fugazi albums, the stress began to tell on Fish and he reached a decision. Having looked over the figures for the tour to support their fourth album, the appropriately-titled Clutching at straws, he realised that the band were becoming indebted to and dependent on EMI, their label. In his own words, "By 1987 we were over-playing live because the manager was on 20 per cent of the gross. He was making a fantastic amount of money while we were working our asses off. Then I found a bit of paper proposing an American tour. At the end of the day the band would have needed a £14,000 loan from EMI as tour support to do it. That was when I knew that, if I stayed with the band, I'd probably end up a raging alcoholic and be found overdosed and dying in a big house in Oxford with Irish wolfhounds at the bottom of my bed."

Fish gave the band an ultimatum: dump the manager or he would walk. Inevitably the other members of Marillion let him go, and so in 1988 he set off on a solo career path, taking with him his lyrics and ideas which were supposed to have appeared on the fifth Marillion album, and also artist Mark Wilkinson, who had created the cover of every Marillion album up to then, and would continue to work with Fish on his solo material.

Two years later his first solo album hit the shelves, with a typically Marillion/Fishlike title. (Note: for any of you who may have read my thread “The Marillion story”, much of what follows will be recognisable to you, as I am basically pulling most of it wholesale for this review. There’s no point in my writing two reviews, which would say basically the same thing, or letting all that work go to waste. However, I will not be just repeating what I said in that thread verbatim, but will be adding to it and importing it into this review.)


Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors --- Fish --- 1990 (EMI)

It must, in fairness, have been a pretty daunting task, going it alone, even given the fact that he really had no choice, as he said himself above. In the band Fish may have written all the lyrics but he had the other guys to bounce ideas off, and besides that, he wrote lyrics, not music. Marillion as a unit took care of that. After all, let's not forget that great singer and composer though he is, Fish didn't play any instrument in the band. He was purely, first and foremost, a vocalist. So he had to turn to some of his famous mates for help, and his first solo album contains contributions from, among others, Mickey Simmonds and Iron Maiden's Janick Gers. He also used a wealth of talent from uileann pipes expert Davy Spillane to bassist John Giblin and drummer Mark Brzezicki, best known for his work with Big Country.

The album opens on the title track, and it's interesting that his first words as a solo artist are "Listen to me, just hear me out: if I could have your attention?" almost as if he's pleading with that section of Marillion fandom who have cursed his name. Probably not, but it's still a good idea. Although this is a long song (the longest on the album) it would seem Fish had taken some lessons away from his time with Marillion, one of these being that songs that are too long get no radio airplay, and as a solo artist you want as much exposure as you can get. Fish knew, or hoped, that many Marillion and ex-Marillion fans would buy his music, if only to hear the difference to what he had been doing with the band, but he knew too that he could not rely only on the "old guard", and must write songs with one eye fixed on if not the charts then at least radio time. So as an introductory song this is necessarily long, almost an old Marillion song that could have worked on Script, but most of the rest of the songs are relatively short. As there was no acrimonious split with Marillion there's no need for an angry, "Assassing"-style opening shot at the band, and Fish instead blasts consumerism as he pictures himself lost in a "wilderness of mirrors".

The song opens on atmospheric keyboard but soon kicks up on the basis of thick percussion and when it really gets going it takes on something of a Celtic feel, reflecting of course his Scottish roots. He talks about learning that all his childhood beliefs were wrong - "When I was young my father told me just bad guys died, at the time just a little white lie. It was one of the first but it hurt me the most and the truth stung like tears in my eyes that even the good guys must die. There's no reason, no rhyme and I never knew why: even now it still makes me cry."

Further Celtic inspiration is supplied by the appearance of the great Davy Spillane on pipes and whistle, and great guitar screams courtesy of ex-Dire Straits man Hal Lindes as Fish is back to the angry man we knew on albums like Fugazi and Script. The feeling of loss and helplessness runs through the album, and the idea of "the Hill" is first broached here. This is a metaphor for the accumulation of wealth and power, the idea that if you're on "the Hill" you can look down on your neighbours and feel that you're better than they are. There’s a lot of anger in the song, but hope too, that someone somewhere will hear his “voice crying in the wilderness” - ”If there’s somebody out there/ Will they throw me down a line/ Just a little helping hand/ Just a little understanding” - and at the end as everything winds down and the song more or less returns to the musical theme of its opening, Fish sighs ”When I can’t scream no more/ And I need reassurance/ I listen to the crowd.” This may reference society, or it may be talking about his audience, now or before; Fish may be saying that when he needs to be reassured he has done the right thing he remembers the crowds shouting and cheering and applauding Marillion.

That’s the last of the “epics” for a while, as Fish kicks things off with the lead single from the album, “Big Wedge”. An obvious push for the charts, this single was never going to do much in the USA - truth be told it didn't exactly shake up the charts here either - as Fish decries the idea of capitalism and specifically American capitalism. It's upbeat and rocky as Fish sings "A priest got in a Cadillac,/The shoe-shine boy sang gospel/ As God and His accountant drove away!" Showing he was determined also to move a step away from the Marillion music, Fish calls in the talents of a brass section which really "souls" up this track. If there was any doubt about his views on the US of A they're dispelled as he roars "America! America the big wedge! /Am I buying your tomorrow out today?" No US stadium shows for you, Mr. Dick!

Weirdly, although “Big Wedge” was the lead single from the album, “State of Mind” was released months before the album hit the shelves. Seems EMI were afraid of pulling too much attention away from the “relaunch” of Marillion, whose first album sans Fish was due out in 1989, and so they threw out this single as a taster in October 1989, one month after Seasons End hit, but held back the actual release of the full album until the following January. Although also politically motivated lyrically, this is far more restrained and more in the Marillion mode, as Fish fumes about the grip of Thatcher's government over Britain, and foresees a revolution. Driven on a thick bassline from Giblin the vocal is downbeat and restrained, menacing and somewhat paranoid, rising to a hopeful rallying call as he sings "We the people are gettin' tired of your lies/ We the people believe that it's time. /We're demanding our right to the answers: /We'll elect a president to a state of mind." Another example of Fish's talent in making a phrase mean two things, or changing the meaning of a word to fit in with his vision. The title of the album is also mentioned here for the second time. Great crashing guitar and what could be sitar but probably is not.

Perhaps a slight throwback to Clutching at Straws, “The Company” is is a folky tune that sways along with the happy abandon of the drunk but soon turns angry as Fish snarls "You buy me a drink then you think/ That you've got the right to crawl into my head/ And rifle my soul." In fact, this could even go back further, to where on Misplaced Childhood he's singing about a journalist bothering him during the "Mylo" section of "Blind curve". Again "the Hill" is mentioned, quite a lot actually as he says "Here on the Hill, halfway up, halfway down." Nice bit of Celtic violin and flute with an almost orchestral keyboard passage.

The first ever Fish ballad comes in the form of “A Gentleman’s Excuse-me”, and I have to say it’s right up there with the likes of "Lavender" and "Sugar Mice". The imagery goes right back to "Chelsea Monday" as Fish asks, against a lone piano melody, "Do you still keep paper flowers/ In the bottom drawer with your Belgian lace, /Taking them out every year /To watch the colours fade away?" It's an inspired and effective depiction of a life, and the chance of a relationship, wasting away, the more so when he sneers "Do you still believe in Santa Claus?/ There's a millionaire looking for your front door/ With the keys to a life that you'd never understand" but then admits "All I have to offer is /The love I have, it's freely given." Sumptuous orchestral arrangements lift this song right up to the status of instant classic, and if there was a time when you realised Fish - the solo artist, not Fish the ex-Marillion singer or even Fish the Marillion singer - had arrived, this is it.

All through the song Fish tries to compare his real charms, his true love to the fantasies and dreams of the girl, who is waiting for a white knight to sweep her off her feet, and can't see what's under her nose. But in the end, frustration gives way to cold anger and then resignation and acceptance as he tells the object of affection "Can't you get it inside your head/ I'm tired of dancin'? /We're finished dancing."

Probably one of the most uptempo tracks on the album is “The Voyeur (I Like to Watch)”, with a very Europop feel, almost Madonna's "True Blue"! Not the most original of lyrics I have to say, with the television and particularly the news seen as a voyeuristic activity as Fish declares gleefully "I like to watch plausible pledges of black politicians" (almost twenty years before Obama!) and then references shows like Jerry Springer: "Private lives are up for auction/ And a cupboard full of skeletons/ Are coming out to play!" Again, not one of my favourite songs, though there is a nice Marillion-style keyboard passage in the middle eighth. This was not included on the original vinyl album and to be honest, I wouldn't have missed it on the CD. Oh well, not a terrible song but I guess you can't have a flawless solo debut.

“Family Business” is much more like it. As already mentioned in other posts I’ve made about Marillion, and particularly in one of my “Run for cover!” features, the actual lyric for this was used on a song to have been recorded by Marillion for their then fifth album, which was of course never recorded, Seasons end being released instead after Fish's departure. The lyric was in the song then called "Story From a Thin Wall" and used as "Berlin", but here it has different music, the story of domestic violence, as Fish listens to the nightly goings-on next door and wishes he could help. "Every night when I hear you/ I dream of breaking down your door, /An avenging knight in shining armour". It's a slow, plodding song with crying violin and stark piano, bitter and recriminatory. It ramps up for the bridge as the unnamed husband warns his battered wife "If anyone from the Social asks, you fell down the stairs!"

It's a shocking indictment not only of domestic and family abuse, but of how it's tacitly accepted, mostly because people just don't want to get involved, or are afraid of being pulled into what's seen as "family business". The same reason cops don't intervene in domestic disputes. The pathetic figure of the wife as "She's waiting at a bus stop at the bottom of the hill. /She knows she'll never catch it" is heart-rending, and so typical of women who fail to break out of their abusive relationships. But something will have to be done, she realises; her own fear will have to be faced or placed on hold for the good of her children "Cause when daddy tucks the kids in /It's taking longer every night."

The Hill finally comes into view, as Fish teams up with Maiden's Janick Gers for a searing look at the things people will do to get to the top in “View from the Hill”. Fish snarls "They sold you the view from the Hill, /They told you the view from the Hill would be further /Than you had ever seen before!" It's the old story of the grass being greener on the other side, and the song could be misinterpreted to mean that Fish was regretting his solo move, but that's not the case at all. Gers himself guests on guitar and really rocks the track up, Fish's vocal burning with anger and accusation, almost as if the impotent rage of "Family Business" has exploded out of him in a towering wave, directed at those who sell unattainable dreams. Of course there's a great solo from Gers, and the song is definitely the heaviest on the album, not quite metal but coming reasonably close. It fades out on single chords from Gers and takes us to the closer.

Starting out pretty much like the opener did, “Cliche” is the second ballad, though it ramps up near the end. It's carried mostly on piano and synth, with Fish wrestling with how to get across how he loves his lady without resorting to hackneyed lines and methods. With perhaps a lack of humility he declares "I've got a reputation of being /A man with the gift of words: /Romantic, poetic type, or so they say." The fact that it's true makes it a little easier to take, and the guitar moaning in the background adds a sense of power to the song, with backing vocals from among others, Heaven 17's Carol Kenyon giving it a feel of Pink Floyd. A slick bass line from Giblin runs throughout the tune, and a fiery guitar solo from Frank Usher lays the final polish on a great closer. As I say, a ballad but a song that changes as it goes along and ends up being quite a punchy, emotional and stirring final track.

TRACKLISTING

1. Vigil
2. Big Wedge
3. State of Mind
4. The Company
5. A Gentleman's Excuse-me
6. The Voyeur (I Like to Watch)
7. Family Business
8. View From the the Hill
9. Cliche

As a debut solo album, even for someone already well known in progressive rock circles, this stands as one of the best, and certainly among Fish's catalogue I'd rank it among the big three, with Raingods with Zippos and the followup to this, Internal Exile. If nothing else, it did partially exorcise the ghost of Marillion and the breakup, and showed that Fish was able to stand unaided as a performer in his own right. Of course, that same ghost was not completely gone, and in the subject matter and Mark Wilkinson's Marillionesque album covers, the Jester was always looking over Fish's shoulder.
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Old 01-09-2021, 05:28 AM   #66 (permalink)
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Let's return to our


Album title: Clone
Artist: Threshold
Nationality: English
Year: 1998
Chronology: 4
The Trollheart Factor: 10

Track Listing: Freaks/Angels/The Latent Gene/Lovelorn/Change/Life’s Too Good/Goodbye Mother Earth/Voyager II/Sunrise on Mars

Comments: The first album to feature the late Andrew “Mac” Macdonald after the departure of original vocalist Damien Wilson, this loses none of the heaviness or power of previous albums, a gritty, snarly guitar getting “Freaks” underway, the album a sort of concept following the idea of genetic manipulation and, well, cloning. Basically Threshold seem to look on this as a bad thing in general, the whole idea of not playing God written large across the lyrics. A warning about going too far, “Freaks” sets out the band’s view on things, and this continues into “Angels”, opening with a dolorous muted organ from Richard West, rocking along with intent with some great growling guitar work from Groom (yes I know that’s a lot of alliteration) - I’d have to be honest though and say it’s not one of my favourite tracks.

Not so for “The Latent Gene”, another fast rocker which features a truly beautiful midsection where everything slips right back before picking up again for the end of the song, and into “Lovelorn”, one of the more dramatic tracks on the album, with a rising guitar intro and then kind of echoey, haunting guitar backing the opening and some fine keyboard flourishes from West. That takes us to the first ballad, a simple little love song called “Change”, which shows that not everything these guys do has to be layers of keyboard or guitars and vocal harmonies, intricate time signatures or power chords. Kind of reminds me of “Flags and Footprints” again from Subsurface in certain places.

Pedal back to the floor then for “Life’s Too Good”, until things begin to slow down for”Goodbye Mother Earth”, which quickly picks up on Groom’s rocking guitar, but does indeed slow down for a rather stunning midsection and there’s a slow, almost sad fadeaway into the epic, “Voyager II” which seems to continue the theme, even the story begun in the previous track. Warbly keyboards and hard guitar chops open the song before it settles down on introspective guitar and generally takes a slower, more sedate path through its nine-minute run. Just as you think it too is fading out accompanied by radio chatter the melody comes back, a sort of chanting, howling vocal accompanied by grinding piano. The album then ends on one more ballad, one of my very favourite Threshold songs, “Sunrise on Mars".

Beginning and indeed ending all but acapella, it’s driven mostly on West’s lonely piano, with an evocative guitar solo by Groom near the end that just takes your breath away. I’m not all that happy about how it ends though, as it seems to just fizzle out and wastes the big build-up that went before it.

Track(s) I liked: Everything, with the possible exception of

Track(s) I didn't like: maybe “Angels”

One standout: “Sunrise on Mars”

One rotten apple: nah

Overall impression: A great album, very much worthy of Threshold. Can’t quite follow the concept but that doesn’t matter. The change of vocalist didn’t throw me, as I had begun listening to them via Subsurface, with Mac on vox.

Rating: 9.4/10
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Old 01-10-2021, 05:21 AM   #67 (permalink)
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Come with me now, on a musical travelogue as we explore the hidden delights (and shocking disappointments perhaps) that make up

Originally a title for an alternative prog thread, I now want to use this to emulate something I did in one of the Metal Months a few years back, and explore prog artists from all over the world. Essentially, I’m going to stick a pin in a map of the world, so to speak, and then look into a band from that part of the globe. We’ll see how it goes. So where do we head first I ask - virtually only, of course, as I’m sure in this era of Covid-19 everyone else is also being as careful about travelling and potentially spreading or leaving themselves open to infection. Stay at home, as they say, stay safe.

I will be adding other sections and aspects to this, but right now I want to go

So from the comfort of my ancient and moth-eaten armchair, which is losing more stuffing than the long-finished Christmas dinner, I spy

Yep, in case your geography is as bad as mine, that's Serbia

Part of the former Yugoslav Republic over there on the beautiful Adriatic.

And what prog bands, if any, come from there? Not a huge amount, as expected, and of them, mostly in the progressive metal and jazz fusion type sub-genres, but we’ll see what we can find. May as well kick off with the first one whose name stands out to me, and that’s these guys.


Artist: Acid Rain
Sub-genre(s): Progressive Metal
Formed: 2001
City: Belgrade
Members: Nikola Krstovic (Guitar), Zarko Krstovic (Bass), Marko Jankovic (Drums), Matija Andjelkovic (Keyboards), Marko Èapljic (Vocals)
Discography: Alpha (2005), Game of Life (2006), Worlds Apart (2008)

Seems to be a little bit of confusion on the lineup, with Marko Jankovic shown as being the original drummer, though a different guy played the skins on their debut EP, but as I don’t exactly have The Big Book of Serbian Prog to hand, and as Wiki looks at me as if I’m mad when I try for Acid Rain (band), I have to go with the minimal information Prog Archives gives me, and it doesn’t solve this minor mystery. Also, I guess, who cares?

Spotify gives me four bands called Acid Rain, none of which are these guys, and as you can imagine, YouTube isn’t exactly bursting with their output, so the only one I can find is this:

Album title: Worlds Apart
Artist: Acid Rain
Nationality: Serbian
Year: 2008
Chronology: 3
The Trollheart Factor: 0

Track Listing: Worlds Apart/Solitude/Guide the Blind

Comments: Not all that clear on their recordings either. The debut is a four-track EP, all of which are then included on what I guess is their first real album, Game of Life and then there’s this, which is a three-song EP, possibly the precursor to a second (?) album which so far has not seen the light of day, and given that this is twelve years ago now, I doubt it ever will. Well, let’s listen anyway.

A mere fifteen minutes long in total, the EP kicks off with the title track, with some very busy keyboard and nice powerful guitar, rapid drumming and a very accomplished vocal from Srdan Zuvić who is not the original vocalist, but then few of the members here seem to have been on the first EP. One of the Krstovic brothers is gone, he of the bass, and the only other original member than his sibling is the keyboard player. It’s a powerful and well-constructed song, and there’s hardly a trace of his native accent as Zuvić gives it socks. Yeah, very impressive I must say. Next up is “Solitude”, with a more aggressive guitar fronting the melody this time, plenty of keyboard flurries, reminiscent at times of Geoff Downes’s work on latter Yes albums, think this may very well be an instrumental.

Interesting thing about the album cover I just noticed - okay, EP cover! - is that it only has the band name on it, no title. The previous album and EP both sport the title (well, the debut is just called Acid Rain) but no title on this one. Hey, I like the sort of ethnic sounds Andjelkovic puts into the arpeggios! Nice. Yeah it was an instrumental, and a good one at that. Which means we’re already at the end, with “Guide the Blind” showing either that Zuvić is a very versatile singer, or that someone else is taking vocals here. A much harsher, more ragged sound which suits the song as it blasts along. Mixture of guitar lines mirroring both Threshold and Iron Maiden. Colour me impressed.


Track(s) I liked: Everything

Track(s) I didn't like: Nothing

One standout: n/a

One rotten apple: n/a

Overall impression: Hard to get a proper impression when you’ve only got three tracks to listen to, but I certainly enjoyed them all. Three for three, not bad.

Rating: 9.4/10

Future Plan: May listen to more. If I can find any.
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Old 01-11-2021, 09:29 AM   #68 (permalink)
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Artist: Ana Never
Sub-genre(s): Post-Rock/Math Rock
Formed: 2001
City: Subotica (sorry: sounds like some made-up city from a porn universe, don’t it? )
Members: Srđan Terzin (electric & lap steel guitars, bass, keyboards) Dejan Topić (guitar)
Boris Čegar (keyboards, glockenspiel)
Goran Grubisić (drums, guitar)
Discography: Ana Never (2006), Small years (2012), Long Turning (2016)

This time we have a band who have at least, it seems, had some half-decent success. Three albums (though quite a gap between the first and second) and lo and behold! They’re on Spotify! So let’s take their third, and latest album here and give it a spin.

Spoiler for Big picture:

(Apologies for the huge picture, but Google isn't exactly straining at the seams with images of this band's albums, so I had to go with the only one I could get)
Album title: Long Turning
Artist: Ana Never
Nationality: Serbian
Year: 2016
Chronology: 3
The Trollheart Factor: 0

Track Listing: Tomorrow is the Livelong Day/Long Turning/I Saw You Today/Martha/Tomorrow is the Livelong Day 2

Comments: Only five tracks, but one is a seventeen-minuter, so this will either be great or boring. As it’s post-rock/math-rock, no vocals so the music will have to stand on its own. Let’s see if it does. Well the first track is very ambient, not quite but almost drone, not much change in the melody, but pretty cool anyway. A good start. The next one is, I note, also an epic, coming in just short of ten minutes, and seeming to bring the guitars more to the foreground this time, and again I have to say well done, great job. Always hard to point out different things about post-rock of course, much of it tends to sound quite similar, but I certainly like what I hear on this album so far.

The addition of violin to “I Saw You Today” really makes a difference, giving the piece a melancholy, haunting feel, and a certain Nick Cave shape too. And now we’re into that seventeen-minute track, which goes under the simple title of “Martha”, and certainly starts off slow and almost morose, acoustic piano and sharply ringing guitar kind of plodding along. Strange thing is, it’s been nine minutes of pretty much the same thing now, and I don’t mind. I could listen to this forever, so for once I’m not going to say it’s overextended and why is it seventeen minutes long? Rather, my question is, why isn’t it longer? Just stunning.

There are lap steel guitars used by Ana Never, and it’s possible that’s what I’m hearing, though it has a kind of mandolin-y sound so I thought maybe balaika or oud or something? It’s very effective either way. Could probably, on balance, do without the screeching guitar feedback right at the end, though! That leaves us with one track to go, the reprise as it were of the opener, as “Tomorrow is the Livelong Day 2” takes us out with a sort of staggered tape loop thing, a little hard on the ears but the music behind it is lush and symphonic.


Track(s) I liked: Everything

Track(s) I didn't like: Nothing

One standout: Hard to say

One rotten apple: None

Overall impression: Very impressed

Rating: 9.3/10

Future Plan: Will try to make time to hear more of their music.
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Old 01-12-2021, 05:09 AM   #69 (permalink)
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Well so far our little trip through part of the former Yugoslavia has been very rewarding. Let’s try one more before we finish up for now. We’ve heard prog metal and post rock, so while it’s not my favourite sub-genre, and in a lead-up to prepare me for a new section I’ll be showcasing in 2021, let’s try a jazz fusion band, hmm?

These guys look like they may fit the bill.
Artist: Eyot
Sub-genre(s): Jazz Fusion
Formed: 2001
City: Nis
Members: - Sladjan Milenovic (guitar), Dejan Ilijic (piano), Marko Stojiljkovic (bass), Milos Vojvodic (drums)
Discography: Horizon (2010), Drifters (2013), Similarity (2014), Innate (2017), 557799 (2020)

I’ve checked they’re on Spotify, so we’re ready to go. Let’s choose, oh I don’t know, the middle album, so that would be this one.

Album title: Similarity
Artist: Eyot
Nationality: Serbian
Year: 2014
Chronology: 4
The Trollheart Factor: 0

Track Listing: How Shall the Dust Storm Start?/Druids/Similarity/Pools of Purple Light/New Passover/Nirvana/Walking On the Thin Ice With Iron Shoes/Blessing

Comments: As I say, this could be an ordeal for me. I’m no lover of fusion, jazz or otherwise, and my dislike for the “j” word is well documented here, but I do want to try to stretch out to encompass all of prog’s sub-genres, especially the ones I haven’t had any or much experience with, later on in the new year, so this will be, if you like, a proving ground, a toe in the water, a taste of things to come. Hey, maybe I won’t hate it, but even if I do, it’s probably unfair of me to continue to ignore those areas of prog that don’t particularly appeal to me. I’m sure my one reader would like the chance to make up his mind for himself on that score, so I’m going to try to do my best to explore the “forgotten corners” of prog (at least, forgotten in my case) come 2021.

For now, let’s hit play and see how we do with this one.

Okay that’s unbelievable. Un-be-****ing-lievable! I chose this album at random from their discography and it’s the ONLY ONE Spotify does not have! Damn them! Neither are Youtube interested!

Okay, I’ve managed to get it by other means. Bloody hell. I wouldn’t have bothered, only I had gone and written out the track list, and it looks quite interesting so I wanted to hear it. Perhaps I’ll live to regret that. We’ll see. But at least I have it now.

So it’s thick bass and ripply piano to get us underway, mid-tempo piece and gets pretty rocky along the way. Definitely not boring, so that’s a start. Slower for “Druids”, again mostly piano-driven with a kind of recurring motif running through it. Nice. The title track seems a little low in the mix, it’s not until the piano comes in that you really get to hear any proper music. It sure takes off though once it gets going, with powerful snarly guitar, insistent piano and synth right out of Genesis circa 1983. Another uptempo piano-driven track in “Pools of Purple Light”, and you know what? It’s very hard to describe this kind of music so I’m just going to sit back and enjoy jazz fusion music that doesn’t suck there I said it, and I’ll point out any interesting things that occur to me along the way.

Yeah that’s pretty much it. “Nirvana” and “New Passover” are faster, more energetic numbers while “Walking On the Thin Ice With Iron Shoes” (never a recommended action!) is slower and more laconic, very laid back, and “Blessing”, which closes the album, has a nice slow easy shuffle to it.


Track(s) I liked: Everything

Track(s) I didn't like: Nothing

One standout: n/a

One rotten apple: n/a

Overall impression: Considering my dislike of jazz and fusion, this was extremely enjoyable. Never at any point did I feel like switching off, or wishing the track would end. I’d listen to more of this for sure.

Rating: 9.8/10

Future Plan: Jazz fusion, look out! I’m coming for ya! As for this band, definitely would listen to more of their music. May even be downloading as we speak…

And that does it for part one of our visit to the former Yugoslavia. We’re far from done with Serbia though, so keep an eye on this space as we will be back.
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Old 01-13-2021, 12:08 PM   #70 (permalink)
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Time to finish up our first trip through the Five Decades of Prog. I’ve only heard one Glass Hammer album, and that was 2002’s Lex Rex. I did not like it. This could be interesting.

Album title: Valkyrie
Artist: Glass Hammer
Nationality: American
Year: 2016
Chronology: 16
The Trollheart Factor: 1

Track Listing: The Fields We Know/Golden Days/No Man's Land/Nexus Girl/Valkyrie/Fog of War/Dead and Gone/Eucatastrophe/Rapturo

Comments: Would you believe that, with about eighteen albums to their credit, Spotify has the princely number of two albums from Glass Hammer? Just as well I own all their discography, which I discovered after vainly searching for it on the Big S! This is a concept album about a soldier’s return from the war (doesn’t say which war; with a name like Valkyrie for the album you’d think maybe Second World War but we’ll see if it becomes clearer as the album goes on) and his search for the girl he left behind. The opener has a sort of Spock’s Beard/Arena feel to it, some nice Hammond work. “Golden Days” switches the lead vocal over to a female one, Susie Bogdanowciz, and is a slower song though not a ballad. Nice use of air raid sirens in the song. Decent, but I wouldn’t personally be getting too excited about anything just yet.

Okay, well the opening to “No Man’s Land” just got my attention: very dramatic and emotional, lovely work on the guitars, very tense; not sure if it’s going to be an instrumental but we just got choral vocals so maybe. Oh no. Just checked the running time and it’s an epic - fourteen minutes - so this can only be an overture surely. There’s no way anyone does a fourteen minute instrumental. And now we’re going all Spock again and here come the vocals, Susie again. Impressive musical diversity here; changes from bouncy keyboard melody to moody dark guitar grind with mechanised voice. I would hazard from the lyric that we’re talking World War I. I’m really getting into this; almost goes post-rock at the end.

The title track opens on acoustic guitar and that mechanised vocal again, then Susie is back for “Fog of War”, a more uptempo, rocky track, while things slow right down on soft piano for “Dead and Gone” with more fine Hammond or is it Mellotron? Why do I always get those two mixed up? Gets pretty rocky as it winds up; think I would have preferred it as it was. That leaves us with the three-and-a-half minute “Eucatastophe”, a little acoustic ballad on which Susie excels, and the album closes on “Rapturo”, very powerful, slow and stately with a real sense of drama.


Track(s) I liked: “No Man’s Land/Valkyrie/Dead and Gone/Eucatastrophe/Rapturo

Track(s) I didn't like:

One standout: “No Man’s Land”

One rotten apple: n/a

Overall impression: Definitely got better as it went on. When it started I was in a sort of meh frame of mind - this is okay but nothing special. Then I started to take interest, and that interest really never waned. I reckon this could be an album I could get into if I took a few more listens to it.

Rating: 9.0/10

Future Plan: I may have to give this band another chance. With twenty-odd albums, one I found poor and the other quite impressive, I may just have formed the wrong impression first time out. Listen to more? Think you hit the nail on the head. Sorry, sorry...
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Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
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