Jolly, Forty Six Minutes Twelve Seconds Of Music, 2009

jolly - 46 minutes 12 seconds of musicFrom the looks of it, this band must have some serious fun. The incredible Jolly presents Forty Six Minutes Twelve Seconds Of Music… Always a good thing when people don´t take themselves all too seriously.

But then again, it gets a joke when you don´t deliver the goods. Fortunately that is not the case here. Jolly seem to know exactly what they are doing. And yes, they do it in 46:12.

The music is labelled as progressive metal, but I think that is only part of describing their sound. There is a lot of atmosphere here, with the use of very open sounding pieces with little guitar. Almost ambient. But for the lovers of the heavier stuff, no worries, that is present also.
I like the way they arrange and vary their sound. Sets them apart from the majority I feel. Also the vocals are more alternative rock oriented than metal. Perhaps in a way Muse-like. And that is meant as a compliment. Another reference might be the material of OSI, Tool and or Porcupine Tree. Mind you, still with a face of their own.

So yes, it rocks, hard sometimes, but also creates beautiful sceneries. Definitely a band for the adventurous listener. Comes recommended!
Only comment again is the booklet. A pity much of it is hard to read.

Personal play tips: Renfaire, Peril, Downstream.

Website

Daedalus, The Never Ending Illusion, 2009

daedalus - the never ending illusionDespite the Marillion reference through the artwork of Mark Wilkinson, this band sounds nothing like neo-prog. No, this is your typical progressive metal, with all it´s clever use of time signatures, guitar riffs, unison leads, overtones, solo´s and shredding, orchestrations, etcetera. Or is it?

To write this off as another Dream Theater clone does not do the band justice. I think they pride themselves in coming up with adventurous arrangements, adding out of the box influences, and even performing a song in their native tongue, Italian.

Like often is the case with Italian bands, the lead vocals take some time to get used to. They tend to overdo the drama (probably born and raised that way). But Davide Merletto does his job convincingly nonetheless.
I like the way they play with their influences. They do not shy away from clean rhythm guitars, acoustic parts or fusion like pieces. And the album still flows. Which is a major achievement in my book.

So a save buy for lovers of progressive metal, or for the adventurers who like to try something a little off centre.

Personal play tips: Perfect Smile, Cold Embrace, Horizons In A Box.

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Ajalon, On The Threshold Of Eternity, 2005

ajalon - on the threshold of eternityI reviewed a more recent album of Ajalon earlier here, and now this one turned up for playing.

Interesting here is the use of flutes in some tracks. Gives it a folk vibe at times. But other than that, I feel I can repeat myself saying that Ajalon is worth checking out if you are into classic prog or progressive rock.

Is some aspects this album made me think of bands like White Heart or John Elefante. These are also Christian acts who serve very convincing material without preaching their beliefs to the listener all the time. Ajalon are definitely more progressive though. Not unlike (in a positive way) Neal Morse, for which member Randy George is also active.

This material only grows after repeated plays. It is so diverse, yet able to attract with the clever use of melody and arrangements. Great performances throughout. Songs ranging from 4 to 16 minutes. It is all I can wish for in a progressive band. Top notch, so don´t hold back and buy their albums.  Simple!

Personal play tips: play and repeat…

Website

Mr Gil, Skellig, 2010

mr gil - skelligOn the base of a sound sample at the ProgRock Records webstore I bought this album. Not knowing is was sung in Polish, as the impressive sample was purely instrumental.

After playing it a few times I must admit I am a little disappointed by the album. And it is not that it is no good, I just think it is a little pale. The sound puts a lot of emphasis on the melodic phrasings of the lead guitar. Trouble is it has a constant sound throughout the album. Also the other instruments are placed a little soft in the mix. And as there are no keyboards, what you hear is that guitar courtesy of Mirek Gil, the voice of singer Karol Wroblewski, and some bass and drums. In the distance there are some backing guitar parts. The only track where the rhythm guitar plays a role of some importance is, you guessed it, the track that got me to buy the album. And it is an instrumental track, and a beautiful one at that.

So what about the songs? I think this is labelled as neo prog. It is melodic and surely has it´s moments. But I think a more balanced sound would let the material shine more. If you are into this kind of music, give it a chance anyway. The language doesn´t help to understand the topics at hand, but does not distract either. The delivery is still convincing.

Personal play tips: Skellig, Otwieram Drzwi, Czas I Ja.

Website

Mystery, Beneath The Veil Of Winter´s Face, 2008

mystery - beneath the veil of winter´s faceSometimes you start playing an album and as soon as the first song is only half way, you start wondering why you haven´t heard of this band before? And how many albums do they have?

In short, you are blown away!

This is what happened today after playing this really awesome disk by Canadian classic prog band Mystery. This stuff is first class from every point of view. It is no wonder their lead singer Benoit David  is currently on tour with Yes….

If you are into this kind of music, stop reading and visit your favourite store and buy this if you don´t already own it.
For the others, if you are not really into this kind of music, give this band a try, maybe they can convince you otherwise. I mean, there is a really great singer, it rocks, it moves and still it has melodies in abundance. It has capable musicians who can handle their instruments so well that the instrumental parts also have something to say. And besides that, they are no copycats either. The Yes reference for instance, is hardly present.

And maybe some people will dismiss this, saying “classic prog? that stuff is ooooold”. Well I feel this band is very relevant. This is firmly rooted in today, but uses from the past what they see fit.

This stuff I can listen to all day (in fact I have) and I am sure I will check out their other CD´s as well. What a discovery. Oh, and the one comment I do have: I can hardly read the lyrics in the booklet. That´s a bummer guys, please improve that.

Personal play tips: just hit play!

Website

Shadow´s Mignon, Midnight Sky Masquerade, 2008

shadows mignon - midnight sky masqueradeShadow´s Mignon is another project of German musician Henning Pauly (who lives in the USA). If that name doesn´t ring a bell, then I know you are not familiar with his work, be it solo, or under the name of Chain of Frameshift to name a few.
I reckon him as a very talented guy, who writes really interesting music, always has great singers (James LaBrie, Michael Sadler amongst others), has humour, and can shred like the best (guitar being his main instrument, but he does a lot of other things as well).

Owning a lot of his work, I couldn´t resist buying this as well. And though I believe this is a conscious effort to write in a more standard metal kind of style, I felt a bit disappointed after hearing it. I am sorry to say I think it is no where near his best work to date.

That said, I do think this is a quality metal album. Confused? Well you might have guessed I rate his work very highly. And this is something much less spectacular, but still, in it´s style, it is done well. Though I feel that singer Juan Roos is not totally in place here, I am sure that anyone who likes his CD´s melodic and , ehrm, metal, will find this to his or her liking. I just am more fond of Henning doing his “normal” stuff, which is more progressive of nature. But it might be a good start when you want to check out the guy!

Personal play tips: take your pick…

Website

Touchstone, Wintercoast, 2009

touchstone - wintercoastIn a recent post I talked about the bands début. This follow up is in many ways the better record.

First: it rocks harder. The guitars are more upfront in the mix. And I like it!

Second: the 2 vocalists add more to each other on this record. Less duo vocals, more solo, but with counter singing. This really adds to the sound of the band. More freshness, more surprises. I like it.

Third: maybe because of the success of the first album the band seem more confident at what they do. The arrangements became even more adventurous, with some small influences from other styles of music. An average song on the album now lasts about 7 minutes. There are some short tracks, and the title track lasts a fine 10 minutes. Still they manage to keep it all together, with recognizable melodies. Like that a lot.

Alas there are 2 things they did I am not too keen on. There is a storyteller. Not much luckily enough, but that is just not my thing. And I feel the drums are a little too soft in the mix. But as I rated the first disk high already, I do feel this one is even better. Great job, get it if you like progressive rock on a somewhat harder edge.

Personal play tips: Wintercoast, Voices, Zinomorph.

Website

Rich Batsford, Valentine Court, 2009

Rich Batsford - Valentine CourtAnd now for something completely different! I got this from a fellow Thoughster who asked me to review it.
This is an instrumental, all piano album. Yeah you understand me right, piano only!
I must admit I think it is extremely brave for someone to release an album like this. This must feel very naked for a musician.

So what about the music?  There is no doubt in my mind that Rich is a very talented individual with a lot of strong ideas. I am confident that anyone who likes and understands piano, will recognize his skills. In the about 43 minutes the disk lasts he is able to show that. He plays steady, yet is able to express himself with variations in volume, song tempo´s, etcetera, and to project his intentions through his songs.

That said, I have a few suggestions also:
I think he could try some ideas with very little notes. A little Satie like. I would be very curious to find out if he can work with silence. In this collection I feel he is at times too present with his playing. And I do not mean the way silence is used in Just Sitting ;-).
More really slow tempo´s and sometimes fast could also help to variate more.
On the production side I sometimes felt the sound could use a little more room to make the piano sound bigger.
But overall, my congratulations to Rich, great work.

Personal play tips: Lyndall, Namaste, Jewel.

Website

Ajalon, This Good Place, 2009

ajalon - this good placeThis is the first album I hear of this American band. Based on this, it will not be the last! Excellent symphonic rock. But before I get ahead of myself, a step back.

When the disk started I was somewhat confused. I really thought it sounded kinda plastic, especially the guitars. But it didn´t take long to get sucked into listening. Though I still feel that they can improve in some aspects, this has turned out to be a very versatile and upper class disk. The overall sound suits the music just fine, so forget my earlier whining.

The most important member seems to be Randy George, who also plays with Neal Morse live. That gives the direction away a little. But understand me right, Ajalon are no copycats. In fact, most does not resemble Neal, or his former band mates SB at all. Here a lot of material focusses on the excellent vocals and the sometimes incredible guitar shredding. As is standard in this type of music, there is a lot of feel and light and dark in the album. And the inevitable epic track is present here also ;-).
I am sure it will get better with every play. Love this stuff!

Personal play tips: just push play en then repeat.

Website

Highest Dream, Far Away From Here, 2009

highest dream - far away from hereFirst thing I noticed about this melodic rock band is that they are able to steer away from the ever so predictable path of melodic song writing and dare to add different types of musical interludes (keyboard and or guitar solos, instrumental breaks, and so on) in their songs. Compliments! Well actually this is hardly a band. Just a singer (Riq Ferris) and a multi instrumentalist (Leo Mendes) with some help here and there.

That said, I think there is room for improvement also. The production would benefit from a more beefier sound I believe. Despite all the great playing, the overall perception is a little light. But maybe that was just the intention?

If melodic rock is your thing, you will surely enjoy this record. It´s got the hooks, it´s got the songs, and the eighties sound. And enough ideas to keep it interesting for the more critical listener.

Personal play tips: Restless Dreamer, Far Away From Here, All I Want.

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