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progressive

Classic: Kate Bush, Hounds Of Love, 1985

kate bush - hounds of loveJust realised I haven’t done a classic in quite a while, so here we go again. Guess it is pretty obvious that most people know at least 2 songs from this album:  Running Up That Hill (covered many times) and Cloudbusting. Heck, a lot of people from around my age will even remember the videos for those, as this album was released at a time when music TV actually meant something… That is, if you were a teen in the eighties. And I am still not tired of hearing them.

Well for me this album was the start of my admiration of Kate. In all honesty I don’t care much for the dancing, but to me her voice and song writing has magic to it. Well okay, she is pretty as well 😉
Not just for those two hits, this album has a lot more to offer. The lyrics have a bit of mysticism surrounding them, and often this is transferred to the music. Under Ice and Waking The Witch still give me the creeps! But a song like Mother Stands For Comfort is so beautiful it almost hurts.  Originally released on vinyl of course, the album has 2 distinct sides: Hounds Of Love with the singles and the more warm and upbeat stuff. And The Ninth Wave is in essence a 7 song suite depicting the story of someone who is in the water and is visited by past present and future to keep them awake to avoid drowning. Strong imagery here!

For many her best ever, and even more impressive when you realise she wrote and produced it herself, at the age of 27. Still recording and releasing music, even if not very regularly, Kate Bush remains an exceptional talent.

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Moraine, Groundswell, 2014

moraine - groundswellAs this is released by Moonjune Records, it is not hard to predict where this is going. But as far as progressive jazz rock permits, this is actually quite enjoyable. The 5 piece all instrumental band have a violinist and a sax ‘n flute player amongst them, besides guitar / keyboards, stick and drums) and these instruments create either that bit of a progressive feel, or link to jazz.

Many times it is hard to get into albums from the label because of the lack of instant melodies and repetition. Things can sound blurred at first and it really takes endurance to get connected. That probably tells you more about me than about the quality of their releases by the way.
Moraine have accomplished an album that will appeal to both the trained listener, as well as a more casual one. So there are themes as well as extended soloing. There are song formats as well as free styled improvisations. There is groove and it sometimes even rocks!

As a whole the album works for me and has several memorable songs. I like Gnashville, Fountain Of Euthanasia and In That Distant Place for instance. So skilled musicians and a recommendable release, their third I read, even if it’s the first one I hear. If you enjoy the other releases from Moonjune, or just instrumental music with influences from both the progressive as the jazz domain, you know what to do.

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Sonata Arctica, Pariah’s Child, 2014

sonata arctica - pariahs childFor years I have been reluctant in trying to listen to Sonata Arctica, expecting them to be a standard power metal band with syrupy choruses and galloping drums. But over time my curiosity got the better of me and so I finally gave in and got this one, their most recent album.

And I must confess I have been wrong. For years! Of course part of that typical power metal can be heard here and there. But the band clearly have a much broader look at who they are and what music they want to play. Some songs could even be considered progressive in nature and appeal, just take a listen to Larger Than Life. Keyboards not only have a colouring role, but take the lead where the song needs it. And a ballad like Love is a plain beautiful piece of music where the ending guitar solo soars and adds to the feel of the song. There are also some theatrics, but they are playful and show the band are able to add some humour. Still, a good chorus or some heavy riffs and solos are never far away, as all the members are clearly seasoned players and masters of their instrument.

So there is no denying this has turned out to be a very pleasant listening experience from a band I own way too little albums of. A regret that will surely correct itself over time!

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Jet Black Sea, The Path Of Least Existence, 2013

Jet Black Sea - the pathOkay, the press sheet mentions this is progressive, ambient, instrumental, experimental rock. And that is all true. Adrian Jones is responsible for guitars, bass and guitar synthesiser and Michel Simons did the programming and the keyboards.

Some will probably hail this as one of the best releases of 2013. Because one thing is for sure, it is progressive in a true sense. It is original, combines elements of many styles and does not care if the masses like it or not. So that makes for authentic and  pigheaded. And yes, especially the dreamy ambient parts are  beautiful and moody.
Yet in all honesty, I am struggling with this album. For me the main thing lacking are identifiable songs. Thus resulting in 9 tracks of sounds and hints and ideas. When it gets noisy, to me it is just that, noise. Guitars screaming (which I normally do not mind at all) and drowning in effects? Maybe when served with certain substances it becomes a trip. Or maybe it is a state of mind and my mind is not open enough at the moment to enjoy this. I do not know for sure. Still I applaud the balls and the vision.

So for the open minded and the brave, this might prove to be an essential addition to your collection. All others approach with caution…

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Biffy Clyro, Opposites, 2013

biffy clyro - oppositesDespite them having quite a history (as I found out later), my first encounter with this band was the video for the track Black Chandelier. I found that a very intriguing mix of alternative rock with progressive twists and pop rock melodies (besides being a really cool video). So I figured I take a delve in and acquaintance myself. And my first reaction was, I have been missing a lot apparently. So much in fact that I am now busy tracking all their albums down….

But first this CD. Opening song is Different People, and that starts with keyboards before voice and guitar are added. After a minute or two the song suddenly explodes with a high octane riff and frantic drumming. Still the melodic sense is kept alive and the chorus proves that the band is way beyond standard formats and to me that is a huge attraction point. And to strengthen that claim, please do yourself a favour and look up the already mentioned Black Chandelier on YouTube. I find the intensity of this track just magnificent. From the opening lines of `Drip Drip` to the calm verses and the rocking chorus, this song proves the vivid imagination of the band and the ability to create memorable songs and still have musical credibility. Yes that is a clear winning formula to these ears and should have crossover appeal to anyone into various genres within the rock department. So alternative, progressive, melodic, hard, etc. Remind you, these 2 songs are just examples, the band delivers throughout!

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Coheed And Cambria, The Afterman: Ascension, 2012

coheed and cambria - the afterman ascensionEver since I first started listening to Coheed And Cambria, I have been caught. Not only with the music, but also with the fact that a guy (Claudio Sanchez) comes up with a storyline, and is able to fill a whole bunch of albums based on that. And even adding a comic to go with that. As it also is a kind of SciFi theme, there is a faint resemblance to the Star Wars Saga in terms of conceiving a story and start telling it. Yeah I am a bit of a geek.

So now the band is back with The Afterman Saga. In between getting this and writing the post, the successor has already been released, so no rest for the wicked I guess. What I don´t understand is the emo tag C&C sometimes get. To me this is progressive music with some alternative touches. Okay, some people might find it hard to get into Claudio´s voice, but I am loving this. Be it on the more explosive tracks like Mothers Of Men or Holy Wood The Cracked, or the more contemplative stuff like The Hollow, The Afterman or Substraction, I always enjoy the musicianship on offer. Good songs, good melodies and especially in the lighter stuff some chilling moments due to the beautiful arrangements.

So no doubt that new album will find it’s way into the collection as well. Great stuff as always!

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Umphrey´s McGee, The Bottom Half, 2007

umphrey´s mcgee - the bottoThere are some things in life you just cannot prepare for. For instance, let´s take this double disk. The band had been showing off and on on my musical radar but managed to somehow slip away every time. Some time ago my eye was caught by this one, and as it was cheap, I thought “what the heck” and bought the thing. Finally came around to give it a spin and found myself captured immediately. I think I must have held my breath for ages, such was the impact.

So been reading the booklet and found out it was a collection of leftovers… Man, how good are their regular albums gonna proof? So I am a bit overwhelmed here, seems I have been missing out on a very good band. Which brings me to the obvious question, why am I so attracted to this album?

Well for starters it is undoubtedly intelligent music with quality players, yet manages to avoid sounding clever. Does that make sense? It is mainly the numerous styles and changes which all sound effortlessly and still the songs have a charm I find difficult, if not impossible to resist. Songs can groove, they can rock, they play fusion typed licks, they use various instruments and sometimes even shred the hell out of it.
To sum it up, I could be jealous for what is brought to me here, but in reality I just want to visit a shop and buy all their albums. Never knew what a Jam band was, but if this is the average level, I am a fan. Man, this is good stuff!

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Violet Sun, Loneliness In Supremacy, 2011

violet sun - loneliness in supremacyViolet Sun are a new name, but main songwriter and instrumentalist Dario Grillo (guitars, vocals, synths, bass, etc.) is far from the new kid on the block. Together with (his brother?) Allesandro on drums and the talented Alexandra Amata on vocals and piano, the trio surprise with a heavy power rock album that is firmly influenced by the Progressive and Gothic scene. And again brought to us by the MelodicRockRecords label. From all the recent reviewed releases by that label, by far the most complex and heavy outfit, proving that MRR is going to delve in deep in the rock scene to bring us quality music.

And while the albums’ title might suggest that they stand alone in this, I do think Violet Sun are a welcome addition to the roster of bands operating in this field. I have said before that it is hard to write original sounding songs and that it is best to deliver quality and develop over time. Here again, an unique angle is not present.
That is not saying this is a copycat. I do think the band came up with 12 songs that are worth listening to. Melodic, complex at times, well produced with a lot of power. And the vocal interplay between Alexandra and Dario works well. The occasional classical sounding choirs add a lot of drama to the sound. Something I tend to like by the way. So if the mentioned genres tickle your interest, again something worth picking up! And you are supporting a young label as well….

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Jolly, The Audioguide To Happiness, 2011

jolly - the audio guide to happinessWhen I found out that the incredible Jolly (as they like to call themselves) had a new album out, there was no doubt in my mind I had to have it. The first one I really, really liked (read about that here), so this had to be tasted! And to jump to the conclusion: if you like alternative rock, which stretches out into metal and progressive rock, this is one to listen to! Put simple, anyone liking bands like Tool, Muse, Porcupine Tree, all of them, or just one, or whatever band circling these styles, make sure you own this.

There is a warning inside that the disk contains binaural tones. And I don´t know if those are responsible for it, but for me this is a disk that is impossible to resist. I am caught when things kick off, and when the CD is done I wanna hear it again. Such is the energy throughout, that I am in serious addiction risk. The way they play with groove, riffs and dynamics, I am dumbstruck. From soft and gentle to heavy and loud. All with confidence and style. Man, I am jealous of these guys. What a band. On the first album I already hinted at their sense of humour. Plenty of that to be found here as well. Disguised as scientific documentation, or is it?

And the best news? According to the cover this is part one of two. Oh yes, can´t wait!

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Degreed, Life Love Loss, 2010

degreed - life love lossAnother MelodicRockRecords release and man, am I glad I got this one! Coming from out of nowhere for me, this bunch surely took me by surprise. Degreed are a five piece band consisting of Robin Ericsson on bass and vocals, Mats Ericsson on drums, Daniel Johansson and Jesper Adefelt on guitars and backing vocals and Mikael Jansson on keyboard.

To describe their music think this: progressive metal married with AOR and got some children who write damn fine catchy short tunes, but put some more technical stuff in, just because they can. And without it becoming a blur, no, they just intensify the performance!
I know, sounds kinda odd, but this was the feeling I got listening to this. Packed to the brim with energy, opener B.O.D. is a prime example of what I said before. Very melodic and rocking, yet arranged with a lot of solo keyboards that give that progressive idea. And still the song hits home hard.  Actually every song here is killer. Very fresh and impressive. and I don’t know who plays those guitar solos, but I want what they have been feeding that guy. Awesome playing throughout!
So I am not going to spend more words on this, essential buy. (one small remark, next time please no black letters on a dark background…)

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