Weend’O, Time Of Awakening, 2018

weend'o - time of awakeningAh, a French band. And with a female vocalist, should be interesting. Especially when the press sheet talks about a subtle (!) mix of rock, atmospheric prog and metal. Think Pink Floyd mixed with Tool with Anneke van Giersbergen singing.

Well I am not so sure about the name dropping, but what I am sure about is that the band did manage to pull off an interesting album that is indeed succeeding in mixing atmosphere and rock. With a message calling out to keep faith and hope in a world in conflict, as an added bonus.

In true progressive style, the album holds 3 parts of Time Of Awakening, a seperate track in Angel Dust and then 2 parts of Elea.. Together the 3 part title track clocks in at 20 minutes and is a showcase of the styles and talent present in the band. I am not sure about the history of the band, but it all sounds very mature. Lots of dynamics. And they can rock too, with the transparent voice of Laetitia Chaudemanche (who also wrote the lyrics and played keyboards) able to shine over anything the band throws at her. Talking of the band, Terence Nguyen Van has a crisp guitar sound and plays in service to the song, even when it becomes clear he is a gifted player. Bass is provided by Maxime Rami and Nathanaël Buis drummed and created the beautiful artwork. Together they lay down a solid foundation.

All in all a very pleasant surprise, a very moody and melodic album. Will be interesting to see how they develop!

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Hadal Sherpa, Self Titled, 2017

hadal sherpaFrom Finland comes this 5 man instrumental progressive rock band. And while we have discussed instrumental prog here before, Hadal Sherpa manage to add a new dimension to the sounds previously under scrutiny. The album came self released in June 2017 and landed on my desk earlier this year.

So what sets these guys apart from for instance Sunrise Auranaut or Murder And Parliament? Well, one of their main melody instruments is the flute. I think that this not only gives a sometimes folky feel to the melodies, but because of the nature of the instrument, also creates leads that are easy to follow and very melodic. Some of their work has a wonderful Eastern flavour to it. Check for instance Chafa Azeno.
And now on to the guitar. It is of course obvious to use the guitar as a solo instrument. But these guys treat their rhythm guitars a bit more different than usual. It’s often more about the groove and feel of the songs, than it is about power. One could consider it more funk than rock, but in this case it works just fine.

I think the best thing about an album like this is that you never miss the vocals. All songs grab you, with good melodies, from whatever instrument they chose to put central stage.  So the 8 tracks and over 68 minutes entertain me with ease.

Great job, beautiful artwork too by the way, and an album that crosses borders so should also be of interest to people outside the prog community.

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Tonochrome, A Map In Fragments, 2018

tonochrome - a map in fragmentsBeen listening to this album on and off the last couple of weeks. Released on Bad Elephant Music, this is not your typical prog album. And of course that is a good thing in my book.

Singer and main songwriter Andres Razzini is aware the music does not fit in a neat little box, so when the press sheet talks about a mix of jazz, pop, rock and grunge, you’d better believe it.
And while mixing things up is truly progressive (at least in my humble opinion), in this case it does not result in a disjointed affair at all. The music is moody and often melancholic. It also caries an embedded emotion which, combined with the lush arrangements, makes it a pleasant listening. It never is heavy or overly technical, yet the interested ear will notice the deceivingly simple sounding stuff that is testament of the quality on offer. A couple of interludes add extra dimensions to the songs, and serve as a way to give them even more depth.

For me personally the wealth of styles and the quality of the songs creates an impact. Especially when played back to back, the 41 plus minutes of music fly by and leaves you wanting more.

So not fragmented at all, just a beautiful album that deserves your attention. It should also interest people that are more into mainstream music.

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The Aaron Clift Experiment, If All Goes Wrong, 2018

the aaron clift experiment - if all goes wrongIt has been a few years since the previous ACE album was released, so it is nice to see them return. And it seems there have been changes. Of course Aaron is still singing and providing keyboards. Bassist Devin North is also playing guitar now and co-wrote most of the songs. And on drums we now find Tim Smith. Several guests are joining for additional guitar, mellotron, piano or violin, cello or viola.

The result is an album that gave me the feeling this was less brain and more heart when compared to Outer Light Inner Darkness . Meaning it feels more organic and more song based. The 8 minute track Absent Lovers still hints at Kansas because of the violins in various parts, but the metal has made room for rock. Somehow it seems this makes it more easy for Aaron to deliver his vocals. Or he just kept growing as a musician, but he definitely sounds more up for the task.
I quite liked former guitar player Gutierrez’, but while the playing on this album might be less technical, it sure is served with passion and a keen sense of what lifts a song. Often based upon quality lead melodies.
The Queen similarities in Better Off Before are a treat for me. Mind you, it’s not a rip off of one of their songs, more some style ingredients serving as a tribute. Castle In The Sky brings back  some of the more technical side of ACE, but because of the more vintage sound it sits nicely besides a track like Savage In A Fancy Suit. Here the hammond makes you think Deep Purple hired Clift to do their bidding. And returned to their more progressive earlier days.

All in all it is a different album which appeal is the more vintage sound and the quality of the songs and the delivery. So my advice remains: check them if you are into progressive rock!

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Sunroad, Wing Seven, 2017

sunroad - wing sevenSo while we are talking about Fred Mika, I might as well tell you about the latest effort from Sunroad as well (thanks Fred for sending it to me!). Obviously already album number seven for this band and when you listen to it, it is crystal clear they are an experienced outfit.

The band play a mix of hard rock and metal with slight progressive overtones. Singer André Adonis has a bit of a raw edge to his voice, but nowhere near as sharp as one Axl R. And because of the added vocal harmonies, it stays melodic. Guitarist Netto Mello is an absolute find who combines flashy shredding with melodic phrasing. Listen to the instrumental Day By Day and be amazed. The band is rounded out by bass player Akasio Angels and of course Fred on drums.
That the band know how to write classy tunes is clear from the start. Destiny Shadows and White Eclipse waste no time in introducing a band on fire. In The Sand has also been released with a video on YouTube and combines a firm riff with all the qualities the band has to offer.
They also not shy away from a surprise like Tempo (What Is Ever), which is a full a capello intro to Whatever. Skies Eyes on the other hand is a ballad typed song with acoustic guitar and keyboards in the intro, after which the band takes over.

This is a band that many would enjoy, they deserve a much bigger audience. I include the In The Sand video to help spread the word 🙂
Also, Rock Company has limited quantities available.

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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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