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Staring Into Nothing, Power, 2017

staring into nothing - powerIt took me a while to realise that the male lead vocalist and parts of the music reminded me a bit of B.D. Gottfried, discussed here not so long ago. But don’t let that fool you in any way, because apart for the positives vibes that gave me, this is a whole different animal altogether. In essence Staring Into Nothing are a 3 piece, with additional musicians helping out. So welcome Steve Rogers on keys and vocals, Savannah Rogers on acoustic guitars and vocals, and Kurt Barabas on bass, pedals and backing vocals.

The music is very melodic and often with an upbeat, light-footed sentiment. But when a band is not afraid to add 9, or even 18 minute songs, I guess we all know we are entering prog territory here. But I think this is the kind of prog that could make a lot of people realize that, when done this well, prog is entertaining as hell. Because SIN manage to pour their ideas into SONGS. The melody always seem to come first, and breaks, solos, or instrumental parts, serve to enhance, rather than take over.
And the quality of the songs is of the highest calibre as far as I am concerned. Produced to perfection too. Every note belongs and with every play you become more and more addicted.

So even when I don’t know much about the band, I think this is a massive album that deserves a home in any collection. Simply brilliant!


Still Living, Ymmij, 2017

still living, ymmijThe boys from Brazil are back with album 3, a conceptual album called Ymmij. Now that title might sound a bit mysterious, but the artwork gives some clues away I guess. And I hear you think, concept album? Still Living are a melodic hard rock band or? Yes they still are! And apart from a few interludes with spoken word, meant to enhance the story, the songs on the album work very well on their own. So nobody needs to worry 🙂

Opening in a familiar style with Reign Of Pills, we are welcomed by the guitars of Eduardo Holanda, accompanied by the keyboards of Thiago Nascimento and the drumming of Cleber Melo. All soon met with the powerful voice of Renato Costa. Bass and additional keyboards are provided by co-producer Aldecy Souza. Next track On The Edge shows them operate in a more aggressive and harder style. Great riff too! People already familiar with the band probably know they always strive to deliver catchy tunes with melody and still enough power and surprises to avoid genre cliché’s. So while Call Of The Night continues this more powerful momentum with another killer riff and some almost metal vocals, the melodies are always there to guide us. A song like the Man I’ve Become fits seamlessly with older work, yet somehow manages to sound more mature. Haunted on the other hand manages to surprise with a deep emotional vocal delivery by Costa, who surely seems to be stretching boundaries with his voice. Nice power ballad!

As it turns out Still Living are raising the bar on every level and have delivered a strong album that every lover of melodic hard rock will enjoy. By the way, the European edition closes with the stunning bonus track Redemption, a contender for ballad of the year!



fxrrvst - may xxviDon’t break your tongue trying to pronounce the name of this outfit. Simply put this is to be referred to as Forrest. And the members are Holly Forrest and Matthew Fuentes, from Toronto Canada. Influenced by the lyrics and unconventional song structures from Tegan and Sara and the vibes and guitar of Fleetwood Mac, the duo is sees this as their first step in taking world domination.

Now that is quite a bold statement in the press information. I will spare you most of the rest of the press blurb and just focus on what my ears tell me. And there is no denying that the 9 songs on offer are catchy. Every song has a hook and melody that is instant. And much to my enlightenment, they still manage to stay away from all too obvious choices and routines in their songs. So that is indeed a plus, and a big one.
And while this is marketed as a alt-rock band, for me this is not quite true. Alt is a tag that I suspect will put off people, thinking that the weirdness outweighs the primal attraction. And in this case I am quite sure that a lot of people would find it easy to enjoy the music, once they are persuaded to give it a listen.

I have been playing this for quite some time now, and I still think they musical vocabulary goes way beyond your average radio hit. And that without losing the instant lovable factor.  So maybe that world domination aim is not so dumb after all…


Tusmorke, Bydyra, 2017

tusmorke - bydyraThis is certainly a first; a psychedelic progressive folk rock band from Norway delivering their fifth album, aimed at and done with children. Comprising of 2 mini musicals, written for a local school in Oslo, this is indeed something unique. According to their label both children and adults will be able to enjoy the album. But alas I think they forgot that most of the world are not so fluent in Norwegian.

Now I am able to “understand” the music and think the genre description is quite accurate. And while I understand that within the concept it makes sense to add children singing to a lot of songs, it also makes me question the people who will fall for this. Especially since the language barrier isn’t helping me. So I do not understand the humour on display or the stories about urban wildlife, skyrocketing prices of houses, the financial crisis and so on.
On top of that I think the melodies are often fairly simple, aimed to sing along to at schools. Nevertheless, the music is done well and really supports the ideas. So it makes sense to think that in Norway this is welcomed with open arms. For me its appeal is limited alas.

If you are able to listen past language and or enjoy children singing and a band performing folky rock songs, you might enjoy this more than I did.


The Soul Exchange, Vow Of Seth, 2017

the soul exchange - vow of sethThe excellent previous album from Swedish band The Soul Exchange has been making quite a few rounds here at YMB HQ. And while they are working on their next full length, they have released an EP with 5 new songs. Well with 32 minutes of playing time, once that would have been considered an album 😉

Opening with the title track, the mood is set for another slab of that Soul Exchange goodness. Powerful rhythms, mysticism, power chords and that chilling voice of Daniel John. And while the band is on fire as usual, I can’t help thinking that John is the absolute star. His delivery grabs you from the go and he really takes you to other worlds.
But it would not be fair to appoint the attraction of the band solely to their singer. Their music, still a bit of a mix of Metallica and Ghost, proves the perfect platform for those vocals to shine on.

So the conclusion is simple, they have done it again! Now when is that new album arriving boys? Cannot wait!


Wingfield Reuter Sirkis, Lighthouse, 2017

wingfield reuter sirkis - lighthouseYou can agree or not, but much of the so called progressive music of today is in fact quite the opposite. Seventies music redone in various forms and combinations. Not necessarily a bad thing though, good songs and vibes are always welcome in this house. And while I do understand it will be impossible to create something so new it has never been done before, I never understand people arguing about some of the genre style standards.

But anyway, before people want to lynch me for blasphemy, here we have something that is progressive in my book. Recorded in a long improvisational jam in Spain, guitarist Mark Wingfield, touch guitarist Markus Reuter and drummer Asaf Sirkis have created this album of… Is it jazz, rock, progressive rock? Well whatever you want to call it, it is certainly an album for the daring. I guess best recognisable for people into the soundscape side of King Crimson, so this isn’t your regular cup of tea. It is a bold, non conform and really stretching work of seasoned professionals who live to expand their horizons. So no easy songs structures or recurring themes here. Just 3 musicians feeding off on each other.

Like I mentioned, probably only for the brave, despite the undeniable class at work.

Mark Wingfield    Markus Reuter    Asaf Sirkis

Uriah Heep, Raging Through The Silence, 2017

uriah heep - raging through the silenceUriah Heep have also gone independent and this is their second release on their newly formed label. The band are determined to close all the gaps in their discography so the core fans (me included) will be pleased with this double disc and DVD, as this has only been available on a long lost VHS at the time.

What we have here is the 1989 concert of their 20th Anniversary show. Also included is an interview which was recorded at that very same time. Which makes 2018 their 49th year of existence… In the band besides ol’ Mick Box (RESPECT), Bernie Shaw and Phil Lanzon, are Trevor Bolder (RIP) and Lee Kerslake. Besides mandatory pieces like July Morning, Stealin’, Gypsy, Easy Livin’ or Look At Yourself, we also get more recent material from that time. Like Bad Bad Man, Blood Red Roses, Too Scared To Run, Cry Freedom or The Other Side Of Midnight.
Because Uriah Heep never was a band content with delivering another greatest hits set and always look to perform their newer songs. And in the process captivate every audience they can play for. A live band par excellence! And even when I own 5 live albums now, as well as all the studio albums, I never get tired of listening to the band. Classic songs and a bunch of guys thoroughly enjoying what they do.

On to the 50th anniversary! And more music please 🙂


Sonja Kristina, Anthology, 2017

SONJA-KRISTINA anthologyThis double Anthology disc from Sonja Kristina, of Curved Air fame, features a collection of her solo work and rare and newly recorded exclusive tracks. It also features custom cover art and her personal liner notes. Makes sense because she personally picked the songs. Or as she puts it; “these are my reveries on life and love through the decades”. Decades? Yes, after topping the British Music female vocalist polls throughout the seventies and being the first woman fronting a rock band, she is still vibrant and edgy today. And catching the spotlight whenever she performs live.

The 21 songs on the discs are proof of a lady willing to experiment (no wonder after being in a prog band for 50 years), but also does not shy away from delivering intimate songs. And everything in between. So the variety on the album is enormous. From folk, singer songwriter, to pop, Beatlesque pop rock and so on. All held together by her voice and a feel for melodies that are able to seduce you.
I guess it is safe to say there is something for everyone here. For the casual listener, as well as the more demanding aficionado. Not sure this collection will find its way to all who would enjoy it. Alas so many today are so unaware of all the real music that is available…

I very much enjoyed listening to the album and hit repeat several times. That ought to tell you something!


Focus, The Focus Family Album, 2017

the focus family albumDon’t mind listening to Focus, and even better when it is a double album. But wait, it’s a “family” album. Isn’t that supposed to be a kind of best of from Focus and related bands? Well, in this case that is only partly true. Because this is in fact extensive unreleased and new material! On offer are 20 tracks, of which 15 are unreleased, some are alternate versions of the Focus X sessions, solo tracks from current members and tracks from the beginning of the Focus 11 sessions. All wrapped in a cover that can only be from the one and only Roger Dean.

And does that mean that quality is an issue here? Of course not, we are dealing with world class musicians here. They care too much about music to release anything under par. So you will get: 2 songs by Thijs van Leer on flute, over some nature sounds. Very relaxing. 10 Focus songs, all in their usual mix of instrumental and vocal, fusion, blues and or rock. Also 2 songs from drummer Pierre van der Linden, 2 songs by guitarist Menno Gootjes (definitely check Hazel, beautiful), 2 songs by Swung, who are Focus without Thijs and 2 songs by new bassist Udo Pannenkeet, who takes over from Bobby Jacobs.
Besides the art work from Dean, another thing of note is that this is released independently on their In And Out Of Focus label! With their status I guess that is not a really bold move, but still.

Anyone familiar with their output can buy this on sight, class us usual.


Cairo, Say, 2017

cairo - sayThis version of Cairo is not the same as the US band that released a trio of great prog albums between 1994 and 2001. This is an UK band, also of progressive nature, and is the new outlet for singer and keyboard player (and writer) Rob Cottingham, of Touchstone fame. The name might be new, but the sound of the band is not that distant from his previous band. This even has a female singer adding to Rob’s delivery.

The album opens with Cairo, an instrumental with a nice Eastern feel. Next is a prelude to Shadow’s Return, and mainly contains spoken word. And finally after some 5 to 6 minutes into the album we hear the first singing. Not that I got bored before mind you, I think the mood was set to get you to listen carefully.
Of the 13 songs on the album, many are in the 2 – 3 minute range. And of course there are songs that tick the 9 minute mark. It is also obvious experience rules in the band. Many layers, clear production and interesting arrangements galore. Happily all this led to an album that is far from sterile. If anything it sounds warm and convincing. In fact, I’d expect that even non prog lovers would find several songs on this very appealing. Songs like Wiped Out or Say are plain catchy! Another bonus is the band is not afraid to experiment. Just have a listen to Katrina Breath mix, the closing song.

So there you go, if you liked Touchstone, you will not have a problem liking this too. And if you are into quality music with great melodies, you might want to have a listen to this. It is very tasty!


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