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progressive rock

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Sunrise Auranaut, The Ocean Of Unspoken Words, 2017

sunrise auranaut - the ocean of unspoken wordsOh my! In my review of the previous album from Vitaly Kiselev’s Sunrise Auranaut I suggested he’d try a more focused approach to his music to attract even more listeners. And while I am not sure it is because of that remark, the thing that is sure is that this album surpasses it’s predecessor on every level.

Let’s start with the artwork, I think this is simply stunning! Next the songs of course. On offer are 9 songs and this time Kiselev (electric and acoustic guitars, bass and programming) got help in from Alexander Malakhov on synths. Total playing time is just over 50 minutes and the songs range from around 4 to over 8 minutes. And like before, this is an all instrumental album with it’s feet firmly rooted in Seventies progressive rock, spiced with the influence of classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
But the most important thing for me is the balance in this collection. All songs have room to breathe so the melodies really shine. Since it is a prime example of what is looked upon as the classic era of prog, it is never heavy or flashy. This is all about telling stories with the songs and have the melodies to keep you interested. And that is delivered in spades.

As is the case with all releases on the Rock Company label; limited edition digi, so better grab a copy fast! Excellent stuff.

Website

The Missing Piece, Dream Rider, 2016

The-Missing-Piece-Dream-RiderWith a band name coming from a Gentle Giant album, yes, this is a progressive rock album of sorts. And while the band was founded in the North West of the Netherlands in 2007, they experienced many line up changes. And after recording this album, their female vocalist left. So where does that leave us with?

Well to be clear, the music on this album is pretty accessible. And while lead singer at the time, Nanna Burger, might not have the most exciting voice, she does provide us with decent melodies. For me the best songs are the opening track Closed Doors, the title track and the song Destiny. My main concern with the overall impression of the album is that is seems a bit bland. Only with they shift to a higher gear (with Destiny and other more tranquil parts being the exception) and get the guitars rocking a bit, I am starting to feel energised.
But then again, I am aware that much of the genre fans love their material sticking to a certain sound and formula. So it might be just me. And I do have to mention they are self supporting, and did the recording and mixing themselves.

All in all it is a good start and I do hope this album will give them the confidence to push it a little bit further next time.

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Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis, The Stone House, 2017

Yes that are 4 names and thus four musicians. Mark Wingfield is an innovative guitar player who constantly is trying to create new sounds with his instrument. Markus Reuter plays TouchGuitars (put simple: 8 string guitar played like a stick) and is also a member of The Crimson ProjeKct and The Stick Men. Yaron Stavi plays fretless bass and Asaf Sirkis is the drummer in this collective. All are seasoned players with many years of experience.

And if Moonjune Records and or The Crimson ProjeKct rings any bells, you will already have a feeling about what you can expect from this album. Indeed there is a King Crimson influence floating around. Not the song aimed melodic KC, but the free floating soundscape version. Maybe with a little more guitar. Because these cats just set up shop in a studio and began improvising and recording. In that sense this is a 100% live album, resulting in 6 songs from 5 to 14 minutes each and a total playing time of an hour.

And while I applaud the stunning capabilities of these men, I also reckon this is not for everyone. It probably takes a certain level of listening experience to appreciate this. So for the adventurous a treat, others better listen in first.

 

The Aurora Project, World Of Grey, 2016

the aurora project - world of greyTwo years back The Aurora Project took a serious blow when rhythm guitarist and lyricist Marc Vooijs suddenly died. The band took a year off to decide on their future and the outcome is clear, the band continues, but without replacing Marc. This means their sound is now more rock than metal, with bass and keyboard filling the guitar gaps.

World Of Grey is a concept album based on an idea from Marc but this time Mox stepped in the writing shoes. It deals with the idea that the established world order is increasingly restricting the people and a grey blanket of control and repression descends over the world. How the album art fits in is not quite clear to me, but I guess that is artistic license.
While listening to the album (which does work as single songs by the way) I noticed it took the band a song or 2 to really find their own feet. Opener Expect Us sounds a bit like your regular neo prog band but from then on it is onwards and upwards. Stone Eagle is a great slow burning song, Deadly Embrace another song with catchy melodies and rather tasty guitar work. Okay, sometimes it still sounds a bit Marillionesque, but with more bite, so no problems there.

The band will resume live duties this year, so be on the lookout for that. The songs on this album will work, no doubts in my mind! If you like your prog melodic and with great playing, make sure to listen in.

Website

Shaman Elephant, Crystals, 2016

shaman elephant - crystalsKarisma Records are again bringing us an interesting new band from Norway. So let me introduce you to Shaman Elephant, a 4 piece from the Bergen region. With a style that is firmly rooted in seventies psychedelic and progressive hard rock. The colours on the front cover already hint at that psychedelic part, but let me tell you, a lot of groove is present in this band.

Opening with the title track, an 8+ minutes cracker, that  showcases all you are to expect from the band. Cool riffs, vintage sounds and power. But also more moody parts, extended soloing on guitar and keyboards (Deep Purple anyone?) and convincing melodies. So what more could we ask for? Well, that might be tracks like Shaman In The Woods. That turns out to be filled to the brim with tasty melodies over a steady groove, but does that in less than 5 minutes, so might attract some airplay.
And you gotta love the bass riff opening I.A.B, with that little distorted sound. But in fact every song on offer (6 in total, running 45 minutes) brings something exciting to the table.

Yes it might be retro in parts and roots, but it also has a modern touch and does not sound outdated at all. The album is very expressive, fresh and convinces on all parts. I loved listening to it, so some addiction warning is in order here 🙂

Website

Classic: Enchant, Wounded, 1996

enchant - woundedMy first album from Enchant was actually their second release. But ever since, I have been buying all their output without a second thought. Something about this must feel right to my ears 😉

And looking back, I think it is safe to say that anyone into melodic prog rock will fall for the opening sequence of Below Zero. Great guitar playing from main writer Douglas Ott and the voice of Ted Leonard does the rest. I can fully understand why Spock’s Beard asked him to join, although many moons later than this. But I do not want to forget to mention the rest of the band, Ed Platt on bass sometimes added a bit of funkiness, Paul Craddick on drums, keeping time whatever the signature and Mike Geimer tickling the ivories, played an equal part in impressing me. Over time the band improved on recording quality, and always delivered the goods. But as often is the case, nothing feels like the first time. So whether it is the melancholy of Fade 2 Grey, the almost singer songwriter opening to Pure, the tasty Broken or the a little influenced by Marillion sounds of Hostile World, this album is a perfect time machine. And more songs to follow of course.

The riffing, the melodic phrasing, flashy guitar interludes, the high vocals soaring, Enchant do just that.

Website

Offworld, Some Circles Are Square, 2016

offworld - some circles are squareWell, I guess this is for the ones who like their music trippy and psychedelic. The core of Belgian band Offworld are the trio of Peter Baart (bass and fx), Stijn van den Bossche (keyboards and fx) and Tom Tas (guitars). Guests are Rob Martin (drums), Pieter van den Broeck (keyboards) and guest solos from Joris van Daele (guitar) and Geert Roels (sax). And if you did not find a vocalist there, you are right, because this is an instrumental album.

And while the combination of psychedelic, trippy and instrumental may sound like something you would want to avoid, in this case you might be missing out on some rather tasty music. I suspect the the band members have some roots in progressive rock and metal music, because the songs have clear structures and are very varied in their arrangements. The guitar playing is of high calibre, both with riffs as with solos. But the fx and keyboards take care of all the moods you will encounter while listening to this. And also add some solos.
So the good thing is, the band never just dabble on, they have a clear vision of what they want the song to bring to the table and they stick to it. In any case, I never once got bored listening to this and they rarely go over the top.

So square or not, I liked listening to this! You might do to if you give them a try. Start with Alien Vocal Chord Trauma and Shaman’s Garden and work your way from there.

Website

Pymlico, Meeting Point, 2016

pymlico-meeting-pointI think a lot of people do not want to listen to instrumental music. And I suppose the main reason for that will be that they expect it to be overly self-indulgent, masses of notes from someone trying to prove how good they are at their instrument of choice.

So for those, and for the ones that do listen to non vocal music, here is the band Pymlico to prove you wrong. For those who are familiar with the name, yes the project from drummer and composer Arild Broter has grown into a full fledged band now. Previous albums already were very good (read for instance this post) but it seems the mix of fusion and progressive rock on this fourth album has never sounded so mature and exciting.
Mixing elements from bands like Pink Floyd, Toto, Joe Satriani, Porcupine Tree and Tears For Fears (and more) this album is a showcase of groove, melody and class. And because of the melodies, these songs speak loud and clear to anybody who wants to listen. Still, the musicians amongst us will still find enough challenge to admire the players.

Speaking for myself, I have found this album to be a serious addiction risk. I think it is absolutely fabulous and I want to encourage every reader to have a listen, this will not disappoint!

Website

Seven Impale, Contrapasso, 2016

seven-impale-contrapassoDon’t know about you, but to me, the name of the band and the album cover just about screamed death metal. Okay, only with the gushes of blood and unreadable text missing. Must be a brain malfunction, because it couldn’t be farther from the truth. This has turned out to be a rather exciting progressive rock album, mixed with some jazz influences. The latter being caused by the use of sax and such. Because let’s face it, complexity is no longer strictly the domain of free spirits…

So the 9 songs on this second album by the band, are a daring display of energy, experiments, dramatics, atmosphere, contrasting rhythms and melody. The latter taking care of you wanting to hear it again, which of course ought to be mandatory hahaha.
Anyway, I liked what I was hearing. It has a rather unique vibe but it is also strangely addictive. Like you know that sweets are not good for you, but still you crave eating one more. The same thing happens here. You frown your eyebrows, thinking about what the !#@#$ is happening, and when the 67 minutes have flown by, you reach out to hit play again. So no matter how you look at it, the band are doing something right here.

In the end the obvious conclusion is that prog heads should really dive in, chances are you fall in love with this…

Website

Airbag, Disconnected, 2016

airbag - disconnectedThe fourth album from this Norwegian band, but I think the first time for me writing about them. This band prides themselves in tying together lyrical themes and music. And this time the content is dealing with alienation between the individual and society.

So, while that sounds like a pretty heavy theme, the 6 songs and 60 minutes of music come across much lighter as to what you might expect. In fact, the overall pace is modest at best. Okay, the soaring guitar leads over the lush soundscapes are a perfect counterpoint for the vocals. But they never let it rip. Which leads to the obvious conclusion that this band is indeed heavily influenced by Pink Floyd.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is a beautiful album. Great songs and arrangements, very thoughtful and passionate. But there is that little devil inside me that would like to hear them explode once in a while. Just to shake everything loose and step out of the somewhat formulaic experience.

But never mind me, lots of people lap this up like birthday cake. And it is a perfect backdrop for an evening with friends, talking about the good old days…

Website

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