Fred Mika, Withdrawal Symptoms, 2018

Fred Mika - Withdrawal SymptomsOver here in Europe the name Fred Mika will not ring a bell with all too many people I suspect. However, in South America, and more specifically Brazil, Mika is widely known as the drummer for Sunroad. This band has toured with many great names from the rock scene and released 7 albums so far! And now the time has come to do a solo album. Well solo, playing guitars, bass and keyboards, as well as singing 2 tracks, is Sunroad singer André Adonis. Who proves to be one hell of a musician. Together they wrote the songs, with the exception of Nazareth cover Miss Misery.
Having lots of names in your address book comes in handy when you need singers for your project, so Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch), Michael Voss (a.o. Mad Max), Haig Berberian, Rod Marenna, Daniel Vargas (Adellaide), Tito Falashi, Steph Honde (Hollywood Monsters) and Mario Pastore were found willing to contribute.

The result is more prove that Brazil is host to musicians of high calibre, even outside the more extreme metal scene. Wired In, with Dixon, is a top notch mid tempo song with a damn catchy chorus. Artwork Nightmare features Voss, who feels at home with this rocking song and even seems to push his normal delivery. Sly Side Effect is one of my favourites, with a pulsating riff, a great vocal from Berberian and shining guitar work. Another fave is Dawning Of Aquarius where Honde rules and the song takes on an almost proggy disguise and just rocks from start to finish. Check it for yourself and pick your personal favourite!

This is an ode to the quality rock of the seventies and eighties and delivers on all accounts.

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Lesoir, IV Latitude, 2017

lesoir - latitudeWhile I had heard about the band Lesoir, this is actually my first time hearing one of their albums. And the album in question is (probably) their fourth. In case you are unfamiliar with the band, they operate in the progressive rock genre, are Dutch, but have managed to enlist John Cornfield behind the mixing desk for this one.

The result is an album that, despite deservedly being tagged as progressive rock, breathes a very open atmosphere. This has a mighty (and) transparent sound. The dynamics are awesome and the band really shine. In fact, I found it so hard to find a name that would give you hints about this, I just gave up. As far as my knowledge goes, this is unique.
The best thing about it however, is that the music and melodies keep reaching out to you. The melancholy infused in the writing is impossible to resist, I just have to give it my full attention every time I play it. And whether they rock out or give you a sparse accompaniment of the beautiful singing, it feels good and accomplished in every sense.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the flow throughout the album means you have to hear it from start to finish. It is almost like all the songs need each other to exist.

By now I am sure you will have understood I am very impressed. And if forced to give you a song that showcases all of Lesoir’s talents, try Eden’s Garden. Wow!

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Frequency Drift, Letters To Maro, 2018

frequency drift - letters to maroGerman cinematic rock band Frequency Drift return with Letters To Maro. The band around nucleus Nerissa Schwarz and Andreas Heck deliver 11 songs and 1 hour of music that showcase their many talents and broad musical influences.

However, first song Dear Maro, at least in my humble opinion, might throw some listeners off. While I understand the seduction of dramatising the word “Falling”, after many plays I am still not sure it works for me. Luckily the rest of the song makes up for that, especially the middle section with the cello. Overall, the band cut down the heavy guitars, leaving much more space to vibrant sound designs and intriguing arrangements that spark the imagination of the listener.
Take for instance next song Underground. The instrumental middle section of the song is testament to the resourceful approach. But many more songs bring together the wonderful singing and melodies and the clever use of studio techniques, keyboards and more traditional instruments.

The result is inspiring. Even with the depth of the material on offer, many songs will catch your ear with their melodies. Personal favourites are Electricity, Neon (one of the songs where the guitars come back a bit) or the stunning Nine.

An album that let’s you discover new things after repeated play, but still attracts on the first time you hear it, must be doing it right. Highly recommended!

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Phi, Cycles, 2018

Phi - CyclesJust to show you that there is always something new to learn, I present you the album Cycles from Phi. In my case, that lead me thinking this was a debut album. But as it turns out, this is already the 6th album for this Austrian band lead by Markus Bratusa. And what a surprise it has turned out to be!

When you name a band Phi, it raises the expectation that it is a thinking man’s band. So we are talking progressive rock right? Right! The album holds 6 songs and has a total playing time of almost 48 minutes. But these 6 songs had me holding my breath quite often. Not because of technical wizardry, even when the band is more than capable of pulling of exciting breaks, flashy solos and other genre specifics.
No, this album impressed me with songs that are fresh, diverse and just plain great. Melodic where they should be, rocking where they can. The press sheet says it is progressive metal, but that is only the case if you consider Porcupine Tree or Pain Of Salvation metal. For me this is prog rock, even when the guitars regularly take centre stage.

Every song on this album packs a punch. The use of dynamics shows the maturity of a band in balance. I love this album from start to finish, outstanding and certainly one of this year’s highlights in this genre!

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Murder and Parliament, Self Titled, 2017

murder and parliamentNot sure, but think this is the first Bad Elephant release on the blog. With more to follow, rest assured 🙂 Murder And Parliament is in essence Tom Slatter, with the help of Alun Vaughan on bass and Chrissie Caulfield on violin.

What Murder And Parliament bring is instrumental music that most people will categorize as progressive. When comparing this to for instance Sunrise Auranaut, this turns out a completely different animal. This goes from ambient soundscapes to thriving rock.
I guess for many the complexity will come across as similar to that of SA, but I think the biggest difference is that Murder And Parliament more often use recurring themes and melodies. Sometimes to such an extent that the melodies overcome the complexity and songs like Crookedness or Firecracker nest themselves pretty quick in your system. Which will surely help them to find their audience.
While I understand that instrumental music is not for everybody, when the melodies are good and recognisable, this helps to connect to the music. So in that light, this is a release that should find a home with many prog heads.

It never gets too heavy or too complex, shows a clever sense of arranging and the songs are just too good to ignore. Yes you need to keep an open mind about it, but it will be worth it. Job well done!

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Overwind, I Can Do It Again, 2018

overwind - I can do it againNot sure there are many bands consisting of Russian musicians and a Spanish singer, but this is one. And to me Diego Teksuo seems a find too, as I quite like his voice and melodies. And he needs to be, because he is accompanied by a band that likes to throw a mix of progressive metal, power metal and sometimes even some extreme vocals at him.

To me the result is an album that is mature and professional and can compete easily with anything within the genre that is more known in our western world. All 11 songs clock around 4 minutes so come across as focused and energetic. Considering they are varied too, there is never a dull moment. And despite the sometimes frantic passages, all songs have memorable melodies than makes them easy to listen to. To such extent that even the harsh vocals do not bother me. The band is very tight, with Anton Emelyanov’s guitar providing tasty licks and solos over the foundation laid down by Misha Gigava (bass) and Sergey Krasnozhen (drums). There are also some additional keyboards and guest vocals, to add extra dimensions to the arrangements.

A very pleasant surprise, all songs are good and some are excellent, with my personal favourites being Sleepwalker, Dancing Spirits and Get Over Crisis.

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Widetrack, III, 2018

widetrack -3The story behind this band is quite interesting. And maybe even holds a lesson or two. After he lost his father at the young age of 57 in 2006, Ron Tippin (vocals, guitars and drums) decided to skip all excuses and do something with all the songs he had been writing. The result being a first Widetrack album in 2007, and a second in 2009. After more turmoil, the recently released third album is the next milestone. One which now also includes his young son Zach on bass. Completing the current line up is Brian Burleson on lead guitar.

The music of this trio is said to be a mix of the progressive tones of Pink Floyd, Tool and Porcupine Tree on one hand, and the more grungy sounds of Soundgarden and Queens Of The Stone Age on the other. Well, the excellent singing mostly reminded me of UK prog metallers Awake By Design, with the music indeed baring a more melancholic signature, just like mr. Wilson likes to put into his songs.
The result is an album that listens away with a remarkable ease. Nowhere the band are trying to impress with technical ecstasy. But they impress with bringing songs that hold your attention from start to finish. From opener Burn the Sun to closer Still Here, the 12 tracks show maturity in delivery and a clear focus of what the band wants to be.

Call it alterna-prog, call it what you want. The culmination of said influences  is an album that excites. Bravo gents!

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Syzygy, Misconnected Man, 2017

syzygy - misconnected manFrom Gainesville Florida, USA, comes this trio, an alignment of 3 celestial objects (which is what Syzygy literally means). And while this is not their first release, this is de facto their official full length debut. And when I add that it contains 6 tracks and totals almost an hour of music,  all bets are off as to what musical genre we can expect. But beware of confusion, I know of another US band called Syzygy that released for instance A Glorious Disturbance in 2012, but that seems a whole other band.

I don’t think any progressive rock trio can avoid being compared to Rush, and in this case we are talking pre keyboards Rush. So the music is an amalgam of styles yet will stay firmly within rock territory. In first song, the title track Misconnected Man, we are not only treated with more twist and turns than the average coastal highway, it also features a great lyric! Talking of lyrics, most of them are fairly short, the band seem hooked on throwing in a bunch of instrumental ideas and go places. Luckily they know how to keep it all together so they never lose the plot. Another good thing is they not only vary themes and rhythms, but are not afraid to put dynamics to good use either. So a song can go from almost whisper soft to metallic and will keep you on your toes.

All in all I really enjoyed listening to this and am confident that prog aficionados will too.

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Chinawhite return with a Kiss Of Fire

Finally famed Dutch hard rock band Chinawhite return with a new album. And it was worth the wait! Just check Kiss Of Fire below and you will know what is coming for you…
The album Different arrives June 14 2018 and a pre order is running now at https://rockcompany.nl/shop/chinawhite-different/

Chinawhite 2018 are:
Phil Vincent: all vocals (CranstoN, D’Ercole, Tragik)
Peter Cox: orchestrations, keyboards and all guitars (Forest Field)
Sander Stappers: bass (Souls Of Deaf)
Hans in ‘t Zandt: drums (Praying Mantis)

Sunrise Auranaut, Inserter, 2018

sunrise auranaut - inserterAlbum number 5 already for Russian multi-instrumentalist Vitaly Kiselev. Again with help from Alexander Malakhov on synthesisers. Besides writing and playing and producing, Kiselev is also responsible for the beautiful artwork on the release.

If you already are familiar with the music from Sunrise Auranaut, then expect 10 more songs in the same instrumental progressive rock vein. Influenced by classical composers like Grieg and Tchaikovsky and the prog of the Seventies. So this is once again music meant for people wanting complexity and who are willing to invest time to get to really know the album.
Yet in my ears this album sounds more powerful and focused than ever before. A track like Keeper Of The Forest Castle even has some hooks one can identify easily with! And this happens more often, making this one more attractive for a larger audience. But there is also a track like Fog, built around airy sounds which is breathing a bit of King Crimson styled ambience. Still there is a lot happening of course, like I said, this is complex music. But above all it is well written, and executed with passion and precision. Check for instance how synthesisers and guitars interweave in the opening segments of Identification Man.
Another thing worth mentioning is the tribute to the Black Star himself, David Bowie, in closing track Hello Star Man!  You can check that in the video below.

In my humble opinion Kiselev keeps improving and growing, hats off!

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