Legion, Rising, 2019

legion-risingNo matter how hard I try, I just cannot seem to get the backlog in album reviews finished. One of the reasons might be Phil Vincent, because the man that never sleeps just keeps releasing new music. And this time it is with his UK buddies from Legion.

After some problems with their previous record company, they are now part of the Rock Company family and have delivered a damn fine album if you ask me. This time bordering into melodic metal, with Phil taking care of the melodies and vocal harmonies and trusted sidekick Vince O’Regan handling guitar duties. And boy does he shred his way through the 10 tracks on offer.

Kicking the album off in high gear with Nothing To Me, the band prove they have left the past behind and moved forward. Back with a vengeance so to speak. The sound is meaty, with a punchy bass and drums giving you enough oomph to go with the energetic songs. Riff after solo the band sound on fire and take no prisoners.
I know some people are afraid Phil is saturating his fanbase with all these releases. But when the outcome is this good, who cares…

Bring it on! Well, we already know there is no stopping Phil 😉

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Euphoria Station, The Reverie Suite, 2019

Euphoria-Station---The-Reverie-SuiteIf you think the cover of this album hints a bit at Country or Americana music, you would not even be very wrong. But the funny thing is, it is basically a progressive rock album! Although the prominent use of acoustic guitar, as well as some harmonica, flute, banjo, mandolin and violin, adds that different flavour to the album.

The album is a concept based on the childhood life of singer Saskia. And with 9(!) additional musicians featured, it will not come as a surprise that this sophomore effort is as diverse as you’d expect.
The thrill of it however, is that this is a very enjoyable discovery. There are several excellent songs on the album, and for me no filler in sight. The way their influences and inspirations are used in a prog rock setting has taken me by surprise and I find myself enjoying the album over and over.
Key tracks for me are Reverie, On My Way and especially the epic Paradise Road. Great melodies, killer hooks and instrumental sections, dynamics used to perfection, etc. So even when Yes and Genesis are cited as inspirations, this is in no way an outdated memory trip. No, it is fresh, vibrant and authentic.

Incredible that this is an independent release. The 71 minutes and 12 racks fly by! Anyone with a love for quality music should at least give it a try.

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Ruphus, Ranshart, 1974

ruphus ranshartOf course this is not a 1974 CD, but the 2019 remaster of an album that is considered to be one of the best Norwegian prog albums ever.
Now the problem with such a claim is, that when you are not familiar with the original album, there will be no emotional ties to the album. And time is not always kind to such an album either.

Well, on to the album then. When listening to this, it is easy to hear why they were seen as the Norwegian counterpart to Yes. You hear similar polyphonic vocals, extended instrumental parts, a prominent bass, tempo changes and various solos. And of course long compositions with diverse arrangements.

So I have no doubts that people into the original will love it is now again available, even on vinyl. And it is clear why the album is held in such high regard. Both the songwriting as well as the playing are on par with their far more well known colleagues. So no problems there.
But it is clearly an album of it’s time, no matter how good the remastering was done. Yet when you consider how many prog addicts keep returning to the classics, that is not a bad thing either. This will sit effortlessly along all their beloved albums…

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Stamina, Live In The City Of Power, 2019

Stamina - live in the city of powerHow do you get people to buy a live album from you (after 4 studio albums) when you have not yet reached the premier division of power / prog metal bands? Well, you could add a bonus DVD with the concert. You ‘d also have to make sure the band is on fire during the show. And last but not least, you’ve got to have the songs that the fans of bands like Royal Hunt and Symphony X lap up.
Italian band Stamina, with principal songwriter and guitar player Luca Sellitto at the helm, decided to just do all that!

Recorded at their September 2018 concert in Zgierz, Poland, this album serves not only as a fine introduction to the band for those not yet familiar with them. It also is a clear statement that all around the world there are still bands delivering quality music.
The 9 songs on the audio CD and the DVD are packed with very convincing performances from all involved. Not just the guitars, everybody (drums, bass, keys and vocals) gets to shine in their mix of power metal, progressive metal and some touches of fusion here and there.  There are also a couple of bonus features included on the DVD.
I’ve read online that there were some concerns about “fixing things up” afterwards, but Luca has assured me that everything you hear was recorded on that very day.

All that is left to say is that I was so impressed with this album, that I had to have their studio albums too. Says enough me thinks!

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Freya Roy, Ahlke, 2019

freya roy - ahlkeWhen I was reading the press sheet coming with this album, I got a bit sad and ashamed that, in this day and age, sometimes it is still a struggle for people to reveal their sexual identity.  For me, it should be normal for each and every one of us to be who we are!

But okay, this is about music, so let’s have a look at what we have here. A self produced debut by Freya, who wrote the songs, sings and plays guitar and got help on keys, bass, saxophone and flugel horn (!). The music is described as a mix of neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop with jazz. Now site regulars will wonder how this ended up on these pages, as these are not styles I enjoy hearing.
Well, then the good news is, yes, I hear elements of this in the music. But centre stage for me are the sultry vocals of Freya, accompanied by “popified jazz” songs, if you know what I mean. The combination of her great singing, with the jazzy guitar and very tasty and groovy bass parts makes me forget the programmed beats (I assume). Making this something I can enjoy listening to.

So there you have it, sometimes you have to look beyond your borders and discover that in every genre there will be artists that are able to make you question your own “rules”. And that is always a good thing.

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Jordsjo, Nattfiolen, 2019

jordsjo - nattfiolenIn the press sheet I read that this Norwegian band is influenced by old horror movies, German 70’s synth music, Norwegian jazz, Swedish folk, campfires, fantasy novels and nature. Resulting in murky apocalyptic forest prog? Mhm, how does that translate to this album then?

Well, in my humble opinion, I am hearing a band that has its roots deep in Seventies progressive / symphonic music. Think of a cross between In The Court Of The Crimson King, Genesis and early Jethro Tull. Nothing more, nothing less. So for people who are stuck listening to early Genesis, Yes, Tull and the like, they will get a kick out of this. Because the trademarks are all there. Flute, mellotron, acoustic guitar,  dynamic outbursts, you get the picture.

To me, while I can enjoy listening to this, I am just not getting excited about it. It is fine if you want to keep reliving the past, but I prefer to move on. Don’t get me wrong, this is done with taste and a certified love of the sound many people still adore. So if that is your thing, enjoy. I prefer a bit more originality and identity.

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Red Bazar, Things As They Appear, 2019

red bazar - things as they appearOh my, quite the album this! That is, if you like bands like Enchant or It Bites, spiced with a dash of Threshold. Yes dear reader, progressive rock it is, but based on groove and melody.

And I must say I am finding myself pretty impressed with this collection of songs. The press sheet did not tell me much, except this is the Nottingham’s quartet second album with Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) on vocals and keys.
On a track like Nothing Left, Jones sounds remarkably close to Enchants’ Ted Leonard, but in a good way, as the song itself is great. Like any of the 8 songs really. All are built on great ideas and melodies that work and the sum of that sucks you into the music. Lots of dynamics and authentic performances, serve to enhance the attraction.

So it does not matter that most of the songs clock in at around 7 minutes. The diversity and intricate arrangements make sure you will not get bored. To conclude, there is no need to make this a lengthy post, people into the bands mentioned, or into prog rock in general, ought to have a listen to this! Pretty sure you will like it as much as I do.

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Guy Paul Thibault, The Road Between, 2019

guy paul thibault - the road betweenWhen you play over 200 shows per year and still manage to record a new album, you must be dedicated to your art. So welcome back Guy Paul Thibault to these pages. And while it took 17 years to release predecessor It’s About Time, this one took only 2 years.

But many things I wrote about then, still apply now. The Road Between is as diverse and varied as before and carried and held together by the confident vocal performance of Thibault.
But this time I also want to mention his guitar playing. Especially his clean stratocaster tones in tracks like Who Are You or Don’t See Me Cry are worth noting. The latter strangely reminds me of Robert Cray’s Strong Persuader by the way.
Stand out tracks for me are Dangerous Strangers and Talk To Me. But those are amongst the more rocking material on offer, and that remains the more natural environment for me. Especially when compared to the country twang in Take Me. Then again, No One Understands is a pretty good ballad!
Oh, I should also mention that, besides drums, percussion and backing vocals, Thibault did all the rest himself.

Pleasant, solid and enjoyable are fitting words for this collection of tracks.

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The Sighs Of Monsters, Dust, 2019

the sighs of monsters - dustThird album from this London (UK) based outfit and the second one to hit these pages. If you look at my review of previous album Lie, you will find that I quite liked the outcome. So it was really exciting to receive this new album, knowing that the guys still strive to deliver an interesting album, and do not care for singles or EP’s. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I am just more into albums myself too.

Last time I might have called it progressive rock, but I think a better, albeit more generic, term to describe their music is rock. Because the music goes places, but at the core feels like it is based on rock principles.
So don’t be scared if at one song you recall 80’s new wave, then pop rock, then a slice of authentic rhythm and blues (the real kind, not the plastic r&b crap) and of course there are proggy elements throughout too.
These guys never seize to amaze me with blending all these influences and still make sense.  Always with a good hook, a catchy chorus or a riff that grabs your attention, so never a dull moment on this.

Simply put, another album that sounds fresh and diverse, and another one I will be playing for years to come. Well done sirs!

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Bjorn Riis, A Storm Is Coming, 2019

bjorn riis - a storm is comingThe third solo album from Airbag co-founder, songwriter and guitarist Bjorn Riis. Riis plays a number of instruments on the album, and gets help from guests on drums, keys, guitar and vocals.
On the album you will find 6 tracks from 3 to 14 minutes, with a total playing time of 51 minutes.

If you already are familiar with his music, I think you already know what to expect. Unknowing fans of bands like Pink Floyd (Gilmour era), Porcupine Tree and latter day Marillion, might like what is going on musically here.

To be honest, even after numerous plays, I still have a bit of trouble to really get into the album. I am guessing this is because of the overall mellow mood and slow tempo of the album. Sure there are some outbursts, but on a whole the energy level is rather low.
For some that may translate into epic, beautiful and enticing, while others might say it is too much of a good thing. All depending on what you are looking for. For me, the album passes along and I hardly ever tap my feet or hum along. Sure, his guitar playing is spot on as always, but I am just not enjoying it as much as I hoped.

Since this is maybe due to my current state of mind, try for yourself, you might feel it differently.

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