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Cryptic Nature, Pandor, 2017

cryptic nature - pandorTalking about a labour of love; apparently it took Koos Thönissen (the full name of the project is Koos J. Thönissen’s Cryptic Nature) some 8 years to finish this double album! From writing the story (a fantasy tale about dragons, unicorns and other creatures), to translating that into 14 songs and finding the right people to add to his creations. So with guests like Huw Lloyd Jones, Sascha Burchardt, Emmelie van Deurzen, Jacqueline van Elsbergen and Cathy van der Valk on vocals, Jeroen van den Biggelaar on a guitar solo or Ron van Rhee on flutes, Koos set out to make his dreams come true. All this meaning he performed all the other instruments himself! Or as he puts it himself, it was a steep learning curve, but so worth it.

For this album it is important to know the context of a song. Thankfully we have a storyteller (Ian Jillings) to guide us. So from the opening sequences of A Dragon’s Tale, the grandeur of Aenoor, the playfull and catchy Glynyd, to the much more extreme Gol Matoo / Meteor Impact or Ael Hathor / Nebuccor Captured, all songs serve a purpose and are shaped to recreate the vision. And it has to be said, a lot of time must have gone into creating the soundscapes used throughout the album. Be it horses, the evil Molgar, or other elements, the music and all around it somehow seem very visual.
This also means the diversity on the album is enormous. From soft, almost folky, to melodic progressive metal to ambient like parts to extreme vocals. In that respect one could compare this to for instance the work of Ayreon!

The culmination of all that hard work was that the album was chosen as one of the best concept albums of 2017 by Dutch radio show Progressive X Grooves, literally on its release day. One to check for sure, for instance via this video:

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TDW, The Antithetic Affiliation, 2017

tdw - the anthithetic affiliationAnd here we have Tom de Wit, a.k.a. TDW returning. With a double disc no less. And there is also a special edition with an added bonus acoustic live DVD. Another change is the inclusion of a band, Dreamwalkers Inc., making this an octet (yes, that is 8 people). Besides probably making every stage seem crowded, I guess there are many benefits for having a band perform your songs. More instruments (violin!) and diversity, more vocals and perhaps even more ideas to enrich your musical concepts.

So where does this leave us? Well disc 1 is called The Idealist, or the light disc. Disc 2 is The Cynic, so the dark side. Every CD holds 4 songs, with one of those being of epic (22 minutes+) proportion. Total play time is over 80 minutes, so you are definitely in for a ride! It’s been a couple of years since his previous release, but if memory serves me right, this sounds a couple of notches better. I also think Tom sounds more confident with his singing now, but that might be imagining on my part.
Since this falls into prog metal territory, y’all know what the genre standards are. And all the boxes are ticked. While this music always requires repeated plays to show its true colours, I think Tom and band deliver in spades. From big, almost operatic parts, to thrashy speed metal, to fragile fragments and everything you could imagine in between. Solo’s in abundance of course, we do want them to show off a bit now don’t we?

All kidding aside, I say hats off to TDW and Dreamwalkers Inc.. Impressive from start to finish and something anyone serious about the genre needs to digest.

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Weapons Of Anew, The Collision Of Love And Hate, 2017

weapons of anew - collisionOn to something different now. In respect to my previous post that is. Weapons Of Anew are a new modern metal band who have managed to capture 8 songs under the productional and engineering skills of James Murphy. Not bad gents! They are an experienced 5 piece in the classic mould; voice, bass, drums and 2 guitars.

While listening to this I was wondering for a while where the singing (especially when there were harmonies added) reminded me of. Anyone remember Grenouer? Of course this is more guitar heavy (do not think there was a keyboard anywhere near the sessions) but this also has that slight alternative touch to it. And I must say, the songs are powerful and melodic. Even the sometimes brutal screaming did not bother me all as the band managed to keep it functional.
Yes, from first track Killshot to closer Undone, the band deliver an energetic bunch of songs that are filled to the brim with killer riffs, breaks and flashing solos. Seems they were not out to take prisoners as they fire on all cylinders from the go. And the good part is, I never felt overpowered by a wall of sound. The songs still have room to breathe. Part of that I contribute to the singing, which, as I already mentioned, is for the larger part very melodic. The other reason will be that there is enough variation in approach and arrangements.

Since this release is a 34 minute work, I hope it gathers them enough attention and sales to justify a longer album, would not mind hearing more at all. Congrats!

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Jordana Talsky, Neither Of Either

jordana talsky - neither of eitherAs you may or may not know, my tastes in music are pretty eclectic. Of course a lot of what I listen to falls into one or the other category of rock. But in my opinion it would make no sense to neglect all the other music that is out there. So when I got a taste of some songs by Jordana Talsky, I did not hesitate to ask for a copy.

And simply put, first track Run is all the prove I needed that this is a special artist. Based solely on all the sounds she can make with her vocal cords (singing, humming, percussive, etc), this track blows me away every time I hear it, catchy as syrup, yet impressive because of how it is set up. Pure bliss! And to prove the point even further, next track Around You All The Time is more into friendly jazz territory, not unlike the early work of Sade. Next up is Ways, which somehow reminded me a bit of Alanis Morissette in her delivery, yet with a far more earthly sound and another catchy chorus. Sick is another track with emphasis on all kinds of vocals, albeit this time with added drums. Last track of the first disk (the release is divided over 2 cd’s, side A and B) is Bitter Sweet Heart, a slow song, where her delivery grabs you by the throat. What a performance here.
Side B starts with Spark, a more light hearted song and still Jordana shines with her singing. This side ends with an acapella rendition of the famous Morissette track You Oughta Know, which still radiates a great vibe.

So even when you have never heard of her before, here is an artist with an amazing voice, and the talent to wrap it in fresh songs that enchant. Class!

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Giant Flying Turtles, Waltz To The World, 2017

giant flying turtles - waltz to the worldAnother new band whose album has been making many rounds in my CD-player the last weeks. The funny thing is, looking at the band name, the album title or the album art, will probably not give you a clue as to what to expect. Well, here’s where I come in I guess 🙂

The Giant Flying Turtles are a 4 piece band consisting of Calvin Bennet on vocals, upright and electric bass, acoustic guitars and cello, Johnny Young on vocals, piano, keyboards and rhythm guitar, Jim Toscano on drums, percussion and whistle and TJ Jordan on guitar and vocals. There are also some guest on banjo and violin.
Looking at that it seems the guys are able to add a lot of colour. And that would be the needle on the head. This album is filled with songs that cover a broad spectrum of genres. Think everything between Rockabilly, Prog rock, Alternative, Americana, Blues, Swing, Bluegrass and Folk. And while some might be put off by that, those would be missing out!
Because whatever is the root of a song, these guys are able to convince. The songs have great spirit and energy. And I for one admire a band with the balls to just go out and do what they like. Especially when served so expertly. Of course for me personally the more rocking tracks (check One Of A Kind for instance) are closest to my taste, but I have found every track to be enjoyable and just very well done.

I think a lot of people could fall in love with this, so please have a listen!

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Mavara, Consciousness, 2017

Mavara - ConsciousnessIntriguing album artwork or? Well, then imagine the first track opening with windy noises and the voice of a storyteller. After over 2 minutes a sequence kicks in and a cow starts to moo. In a disturbing manner. Well it sure kept me on my toes! And then the track really comes to live in a typical prog rock manner with drums, bass, keys and guitar riffing. The first vocals come in after 5 minutes in. No wonder the song (Invasion (636 Gregorian Calendar)) clocks in at over 11 minutes.

Talking of vocals, I noticed that the first couple of tracks somehow sound less convincing that the rest of the CD. Might be me, but it distracted me a little. Maybe because part of the delivery sounds a bit theatrical. This might be because of their Far Eastern roots, but that would be a guess on my part. Anyway, my advice is to keep listening, because there are some tasty things on offer here.
For me, the album really comes alive from track 4, Living The Fast Life. More urgency in all departments it seems. Because make no mistake, even when I had never heard of them before, they have been active since 2001 and have won several prizes in their home country Iran. Since relocating to the US, more people can have the opportunity to get to know the band, and that is a good thing. On offer are 10 tracks and a running time of 67 minutes.

All in all this is an entertaining album with class music and a bit of a special flavour. Check them out and start with track 6, Mandatory Hero.

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Medea, Northern Light, 2017

medea - northern lightAh, yes, the third instalment of Henry Meeuws (songs, keyboards), also known as Medea. And since a lot of people I know are involved, it gives me a lot of pleasure to listen and write about the album. Just dropping some names here: Igor Koopman – drums, Frank de Groot – bass, and on vocals Ernst le Cocq d’Armandville, Joss Mennen, Rob Laarhoven, Sandra Peeters and John “JayCee” Cuijpers. So some rock, some metal, some alternative and some prog coming together.

And ofcourse prog is what is on offer here. From opener Aurora Overture, with a hint of Kansas in the violin, to closer Northern Light. A total of 12 songs and a playing time just short of 70 minutes. The first thing I noticed was the sound of the album. The Rock Inc studio managed to elevate the album into the premier league. It is transparent, with awesome sounding orchestrations, and still enough punch in the guitars to let it rip. And all the vocalists are prominent in the mix.
On to the music then. As you will expect the range of influences is broad. As I mentioned before, the orchestral parts sound very convincing, and they add a lot of sizzle to the songs. Throughout the CD melodies come and go, and whether flute, violin, cello, keyboards or guitar, all are effectively used to add colour.

I am sure no one expects the album to be instant. This needs to be played a couple of times to sink in. And then you have an album that shines. Lush arrangements keep giving you new discoveries. Very well done!

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Guy Paul Thibault, It’s About Time, 2017

guy paul thibault - its about timeFor reasons not disclosed in the press sheet, Guy Paul Thibault has been absent of releasing new music for 17 years. Back in the day he released 5 successful albums, so that makes It’s About Time (duh!) #6. The 10 songs are written, recorded and performed by Thibault, with guest appearances from Shawn Cherry (drums) and David Bradshaw (violin and mandolin).

Opener Here She Comes is a contemporary folk song. Great acoustic guitar and a light footed feel that is easy to catch on to. Misdemeanor is a catchy pop rock tune that will please both the casual listener as well as, well people like me :). Songs like Hills, Tallest Man On Earth, Stay (For Riley) or Saturday Night show a mature writer at work, able to add depth to his songs. And songs like We Just Don’t Care or Saving Grace just plain rock. And then there is still a ballad and a singer/songwriter track. So yes diverse, but all held together by the confident delivery of the man’s voice.

Despite not being familiar with older work, I think that Guy Paul qualifies as an experienced musician who delivers well crafted songs that will appeal to many music lovers. So personally I hope that the next set of songs will not take another 17 years to surface.

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Lifesigns, Cardington, 2017

lifesigns - cardingtonI was fairly late to the party after the first Lifesigns album was released in 2013, but after hearing a lot of their songs on the radio, I loved it. (Yes I said radio, my favourite station One World Music plays rock and prog every Friday!) Anyway, when I heard about the new album, I decided to step in and make sure I got this one early. Alas mister postman refused to cooperate, my first copy was broken so John Young (keyboards and vocals) had to send in another one.

But boy, since it arrived safe and sound, it has been making many rounds! And to put it simple; this is another fantastic progressive rock album. I probably like it so much because it not only gives a big nod to all the great music of the past, but still sounds up to date and contemporary. Don’t know if that makes any sense to you, but that is how I feel about it.
So it has the long epic tracks as well as shorter ones, but they all feel authentic and logical. No throwing together a bunch of ideas and see what comes out. This is coherent and given enough thought. And man, the way instrumental parts in for instance Voice In My Head lift the song to an even higher level, amazing.

In my humble opinion anyone serious about progressive rock should own this one, jaw dropping good!

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B.D. Gottfried, Through The Dog’s Eyes, 2017

bd gottfried - through the dogs eyesA couple of years have past since the previous album from B.D. Gottfried (vocals, drums, keyboards) landed on my desk. And that was quite an enjoyable affair. And now Through The Dog’s Eyes has been released. Even when you might not be familiar with the name, Gottfried is a seasoned pro who has been around. His writing style is probably best described as pop / rock combined with often witty lyrics. In fact, I guess production wise this album rocks a tad more than before. But that extra bite only adds to the charm.

And charm this has in spades. Every song owns the ability to nest itself in your brain for you to hum along to. And while that might make you think that the songs are predictable and simple, they are not. Every track has an edge to it. A break, a non standard bridge, you name it. But the combination of all the used elements is just working. At least for me they are. From the opening track Something You Weren’t, to the should be a hit Blame It On The Money, to the suspense of Frequencies. Any of the 10 tracks on offer brings something to the table.

So it is safe to say that this is another album that the world should hear. Fingers crossed it is listening…

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