Magic Pie, Fragments Of The 5th Element, 2019

magic pie - fragments of the 5th elementAlbum number 5 for these Norwegian musicians. And 3 of the earlier albums you can find on these pages! And if you go look those up, you will find that not only they were the second band to get featured here, but so far I have loved everything they released!

And let me tell you upfront, nothing has changed in that respect. If you, like me, love melodic progrock with a bite and stellar playing, brought with a vibrancy and energy that is impossible to resist, you do not read on. Just go buy the thing!

Okay, if you are still here, you are either curious to read my thoughts, or just have too much time on your hands πŸ˜‰ Whatever the case, I cannot stress enough how I love this band’s music. Always melodic, with loads of harmonies (2 lead singers and 3 additional vocalists), clever arrangements with songs / lyrics that do bring a smile on your face. And last but certainly not least, the musicians… For me Kim Stenberg is a player that can combine lightning fast shredding with above average melodic phrasing. But the whole band play tight and change style, tempo and metre in a heartbeat.
For the occasion they also recorded an epic track;Β  album closer The Hedonist clocks in at almost 23 minutes. And is still entertaining as hell.

Another winner then, kudos!

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Midnight Sun, Dark Tide Rising, 2019

midnight-sun---dark-tide-risingFrom the UK comes this debut album. Yes it is a debut and yes, I am aware the band name has been used before by a Swedish (I assume) band at the end of the previous century.
But while I do not recognize all members by name, one sure popped; lead singer Huw Lloyd-Jones. You might know him from Also Eden or his contribution to the track Glynyd from Cryptic Nature‘s Pandor album.
Anyway the album is promoted as bringing together a mix of metal and progressive rock with keyboard sound-scapes and melodic vocals. And you know what? That is actually accurate! Maybe we can call it an updated form of neo-prog…

So, Scheherazade opens with sequencing keyboards before the guitars kick in the door. Huw’s voice is very recognisable if you have heard him before. Somehow reminds me a bit of Abel Ganz I reckon. And the band gives him many platforms to shine. Be it metallic, proggy, laid back or furious, his characteristic tones lead the way.
The way the songs melt all their influences is quite interesting, especially since I feel they flow really well. Time spent on arranging this must be big. Great playing throughout the songs as well. And with some tracks clocking in at 8, 9 or even almost 11 minutes, those wanting epics are served too.

I do not want to present this as a “pleaser” album though. For me the band have indeed created an original sound that is very much worth checking out if you like progrock and are not afraid if the band wander into other territories. Very convincing!

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The Compounds, Far From Home, 2019

the compounds - far from homeThis is the debut EP from this young Dutch 4 piece. A singer, a drummer, a bass player and a guitarist screams rock doesn’t it? Well yeah, sometimes life is that simple πŸ™‚ There are 5 tracks on this digipack and a good 20 minutes of music.

While listening I sometimes got a bit of a punk energy from the band. The sound is a bit rough around the edges, but I guess that is intentional. For me the drums could do with a bit more power in the mix and the bass sounds a little lightweight in my humble opinion. Or maybe the vocals and guitar are a tad too prominent? Let’s say tastes differ.
And while the singer already puts a lot of swagger in his performance, with a couple more years of experience his projection will get even better. Nice little Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) reference in closing track Rockin’ Machine by the way.

Promising first effort so look out for their new album, which they will be recording shortly.

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Intelligent Music Project IV, Sorcery Inside, 2019

intelligent music project iv - sorcery insideIndeed album number 4 for the Intelligent Music Project.Β  All songs are written and produced by Milen Vrabevski and are dedicated to the searching mind. And when I tell you that this album involves musicians like Simon Phillips, John Payne, Joseph Williams and Carl Sentance, you might already have an idea about what you can expect.

Yes, theΒ  music as made popular by Toto and Asia must be an inspiration for Milen. So in essence this is a melodic rock album. But make no mistake, the project caries its name with pride so expect more complexity within. All done with a class cast and executed to perfection. So the richness in ideas and arrangements will also appeal to people who like their progrock melodic.

The result is a very entertaining album, on many levels. On the surface it has lots of appealing melodies and fantastic playing. But when you dig a bit deeper you will notice the intricate arrangements used in the songs. In short, fans of the bands and music mentioned should check this one immediately as they will not be disappointed.

My only comment is that I would love to hear these ideas in a bit more longer songs. Most of this albums’ 12Β  tracks range 3 to 4 minutes and a couple of 5 to 7 minute songs could give way to even more exiting ideas. But that is just minor, this album is compact and every song packs a punch.

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Inventions, Logica, 2019

Invententions - LogicaThe latest music from Dutch multi-instrumentalist Chris(tiaan) Bruin (Chris, The Black Codex, etc) is being released under the Inventions moniker. This is the 3rd album in the series, and the first I have been able to give a listen. With him on this album are Theo Travis on flute and saxes and the Rotterdam based DOT quartet on strings. Story telling is by Andy Rowe.
Parts of the album were recorded in churches and theatres which suits the album pretty well. Because there is no denying that this ambitious album is leaning heavily on classical music inspired ideas. No wonder it is advertised as having a symphonic, orchestral sound.

As a result this is an album to listen to from start to finish. It is an experience rather than it is a collection of songs. So that repeat button will come in handy as I also feel it needs more plays in order to fully appreciate it. It is a world of its own so to say.
Therefore it will not come as a surprise that the music is carried mostly by the strings and the saxes and flutes. Of course Chris sings here and there and adds his drumming and other stuff, but a lot of musical themes are built on these instruments. And this creates something entirely different which you really have to hear for yourself.

I think it is magical, even when I am not always keen on narrations. But the guy does not seem to know any boundaries in what he can do. Amazing!

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Tragik, The Power Of Suggestion, 2019

tragik - the power of suggestionThe man that never sleeps is back! This time with Tragik and the Power Of Suggestion. Of course I am talking about Phil Vincent, singer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire.Β  On this album he is joined by regular mates Damian D’Ercole and Dirk Phillips, but also by Vince O’Regan. And Tom Bushell, who co-wrote Her, plays bells on that track.

Opening the album are a couple of rockers, Victim, All I Have and Crazy, which are carried by the trademark vocals and harmonies as well as by more guitar extravaganza from O’Regan. Then comes Learning To Live which has hit written all over it. Should there be any justice in the world…
Already Gone is another rocker, where Over You has a pulse akin to Maneater by Hall & Oates. Done in Vincent style of course. Through It All has a nice solo section where the spotlight is on keyboards and guitar. Told You So is another track with a chorus you sing for days. It is kind of a Seventies classic rock track transported into a modern metal song.
The album closes with the epic (almost 10 minutes) of Her. Opening with an a capella vocal line after which the piano comes in and the song really takes off. Of course the song moves through several arrangements, including a couple of beautiful solos.

In short: he’s done it again!

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Crystalline Dream, Seventh Chakra, 2019

crystalline dream - seventh chakraBeen a while since some kind of instrumental ambient / new age typed music arrived. But here we have Crystalline Dream, which is in essence Richard Ross and guests. As far as I can tell this is his fourth album under this moniker. With of course 7 tracks, all clocking in at around 7 minutes.

Opener Grounding is a slow and brooding track. The addition of a guitar finger picking throughout, while the sequencers ebb and flow, is a bit surprising. And on the other hand, the addition of flute(s) is something I hear a lot in chilled music. More flutes on Sensual Waters, the longest track. There is a bit of chirping going on in the first minutes, as well as something that sounds like monks chanting in the background. My guess is that this would be perfect background music for meditating.
Next up is Inner Will, where son Korey Ross (see Volte) adds guitars. For me the combination of percussive sounds with the synth pad layers and the guitar playing really works well. There is also more melody in this one, which always suits me more.
It will not come as a surprise the remaining tracks work just as well within this described frame.

So there you go. Anyone looking for new music to relax to, for meditation, or just to enjoy some chilled sounds, have a listen to this!

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Brighteye Brison, V, 2019

brighteye brison - vBrighteye Brison are a name I had heard of before, but this is the first time actually hearing their music. Well, and if I tell you thatΒ  there are 3 songs on this album, that clock in at almost 67 minutes, I think most of you (when not already familiar with the band) will know exactly what this is about. Yup, progressive rock it is.

I must confess I am usually not a big fan of lengthy tracks. Mostly because they often give me the feeling of a bunch of individual ideas being forced together,Β  “because long songs are so popular amongst the fans”.
Yet when they really flow, and transitions and time signature and arrangement changes are made in a way that I find logical, these songs can work.

So now the question is; how are these 3 songs delivering? Well, let me first say that I really like the multi-part vocals from the Swedish quintet. They sound influenced by bands like Gentle Giant, Yes, Kansas and the like. Also their sound, with a great balance between keyboards and guitars is really up my alley. Especially since the music is melodic and not unnecessary complicated.
Having said that; the first few spins did not convince me that all the tracks and parts flow in a natural way. At least to me.
Of course this type of music needs time and a lot of listening. So over time I might feel different.

Still, lots of good stuff to enjoy, and overall interesting enough to make me want to investigate previous releases.

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Rob Cottingham, Back Behind The Orchard Tree, 2019

rob cottingham - back behind the orchard treeExΒ  Touchstone and now Cairo frontman Rob Cottingham first surfaced with Behind The Orchard Tree in 2002, which was in essence the start of Touchstone. And this release is a new version of that album, an “itch that needed scratching”.
New in many ways: new programming of drums, bass and sequencers. The mighty John Mitchell on guitar and Rob’s daughter Kerry adding vocals, etc.

Not having heard the original, I cannot compare. For people familiar with Touchstone and or Cairo, this sounds familiar. In songwriting and of course because of Rob’s vocals. Also, when the female vocals share the spotlight, the comparison to his bands are even more evident.
Having said that, this is still an interesting album. The man knows how to write a tune… And having John Mitchell on board will always raise the bar. Even when the keys carry lots of the arrangements, the guitar maestro still manages to catch some light.
It turns out there have been a few changes to the songs too. One track was ditched in favour of adding an orchestral version of Hero. And a new song in the shape of Out Of Time was added. Completists might like to know πŸ˜‰

A very enjoyable album that current fans will lap up. And people who like diverse and melodic progrock, should check this one.

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Volte, Self Titled, 2019

volte - sameBasically consisting of Korey Ross (guitars and compositions) and Carter Lane (singer and lyricist), Volte has released their debut independently. I have been listening lots and lots to this album the last couple of weeks. And it is one of those albums that gets better with every play.

A great singer who is able to deliver catchy melodies, powerful riffs, and damn tasty guitar solos. In all honesty I do recall that I wasn’t all that convinced at first listen. But like I said, over time, the album proved its worth. I did find that opener Fire Away, with it’s spoken intro, is a bit of a strange way to lure listeners in. To me, that spoken word does not add much, especially since the song itself is a better way to get familiar with the band. Because lovers of melody and or competitive guitar solos will get a lot of what they like on this album.Β  Many songs on here have hit quality if you ask me. Just listen to tracks like The Weekend, Burn The Ships, Hostage or Breathe, and you will hear what I mean.

And a bonus is that the album is varied, with enough mood changes to keep you interested. So they stay far away from being a one trick pony.

For an album that mixes grunge influences with more contemporary rock styles, this is very convincing and an album that deserves a big audience!

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