Caligula’s Horse, Bloom, 2015

caligulas horse - bloomSomehow I guess that on account of their rather excellent 2013 release The Tide, The Thief and River’s End, Caligula’s Horse were signed by renowned label Inside Out. And rightly so! As far as I am aware, Bloom is the third release from this Aussie prog collective around guitar wizard Sam Vallen and the voice of Jim Grey. The band also consist of Zac Greensill – guitars, Dave Couper – bass and Geoff Irish – drums.

If you haven’t heard them yet, you are really missing out. For me this band is a prime example of how exiting prog can be. Their songs are melodic, dynamic and show a band whose members are masters of their instruments. But that surplus of technique is used to create interesting songs that nest themselves in your system. Especially the play with soft and loud impresses me every time I hear them. And Grey moves along to the music as if it is the most normal thing on the planet. Never afraid to throw you off with a turn left or right, Grey holds all that is happening together with his singing. All I can say is they easily continue the high level of the previous release, and should find a home with every lover of things prog. Awesome band and album!

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Billy Sherwood, Citizen, 2015

Billy Sherwood - CitizenEver since his Worldtrade days I have been following the works of Billy Sherwood. And ever since those days, he has created a signature sound and has become an in demand producer, as well as a prolific writer and multi instrumentalist. Recent years have seen him pick up the pace regarding releases, and as I write this even more music, including a new Worldtrade (YEAH!) album, are in progress. And that besides him joining Yes to fill the gap that the tragic loss of his friend Chris Squire has left.

And where I say multi instrumentalist and a “do it all myself” attitude, on this album we see a load of guests. Probably the last recording of Squire, his Circa: buddy and also former Yes member Tony Kaye, Steve Hackett, Colin Moulding, Steve Morse, Rick Wakeman (Yes again), the list goes on and on, even with more (current and former) Yes members.
The result being an album that is still every inch a Sherwood production. But with more colour because of his guests and that is not a bad thing at all. Even when I know he is more than capable of getting it done by himself, it is a nice fresh feel. The album deals with “the Citizen” who travels to various moments in time. The music is what I have come to expect. Melodic, varied, progressive by nature and just Sherwood doing what he does best.

I love this stuff, and encourage you to have a couple of listens, surely you will fall in love with it as well!

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Magic Pie, King For A Day, 2015

Magic Pie - King For A DayThis band is amongst the first to get a feature here on the blog, and with good reason. It is always hard guessing how many people into prog are into them, but as they seem to keep progressing (hey I love any album from them even if not all are presented here) I am sure many will find at least something to their liking on this album.

Let’s start with the songs. There are 6 on the album, but as it is clocking in at 70 minutes, you will understand we have long ones on board. Something that seems obligatory for some fans to be taking seriously these days. 🙂  Well if 2 songs of 12 minutes and one of over 27 do not tickle your fancy, then I guess nothing ever will.
Other goodies include rhythmic changes lurking around any corner, melodies that nest themselves in your head within seconds and vocals and harmonies that can compete with the best of them. One thing I must not forget to mention is the guitar work. A tad more heavy than before I think, but with a great transparent sound, without losing a punch. And the solos… just plain awesome.

All in all I am tempted to say this may be their best yet and I recommend everyone into the genre to buy it on sight.

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The Wicked Mercy, Sundown, 2015

the wicked mercy - sundownIt took me a while to figure out whom singer Case Bakker reminded me of, but then it hit me, The Cult’s Ian Astbury has a similar voice type. And in some aspects, the music of both bands is comparable too. But on a whole I think The Wicked Mercy are more rooted in dirty rocking blues. A bit of the Southern kind. So that blesses this disk with groove and power. Nice combination!

The young guns are also not afraid to go a bit crazy either. After a blistering start with Tell Me Goodbye, they continue with instrumental track Wonderland. That takes balls, but something tells me that this bunch is willing and able to take risks.  The sound of the album is further proof I think. Fairly authentic and not overly compressed, the album breathes seventies. It is dynamic and some might take a few spins to get used to it, but I like it. It is done well, and highlights the playing from the 5 band members.
A lot of instant songs too, like Fading Fast and Everyone’s But Yours. Great riffs galore and it is impossible to withstand the beat. You will be tapping along before you know it.

So Bad Reputation has delivered again, and everyone who loves the trademarks discussed, should listen in.

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Rah Rah, Vessels, 2015

rah-rah - vesselsA lot of really good new music is coming in from Canada lately, and here is another example. Probably best categorised as power pop, this is an album that instantly creates good moods and gets you tapping your feet along to the music. For reference think of of a cross somewhere between The Bangles, Abba, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, but with the modern edge of say Interpol or Suede.

Opening with the sixties sounding Be Your Man we are off to an energetic and edgy start. Next is lead off single Chip Off The Heart and that deserves to be a hit as I think it is a better song than most we are forced to listen to on the radio. Very uplifting, great female vocals and still with a bit of an indie back-bone. A Love That Sticks is another memorable chorus and keeps making rounds in your head. One of my personal favourites is Fix Me, with a great build and groove and more melodies that stick like glue to paper.
The eleven songs on the album are very varied, with different lead singers and moods. But what they have in common is a superb melody, and a catchiness that seems to come easy for them. A quality that is not available for everyone…

So the 5 piece band (2 ladies and 3 gents) have a good thing going. Catch them on tour if you can, should be fun!

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Black Majesty, Cross Of Thorns, 2015

black majesty - cross of thornsEver since finding out that The Radio Sun‘s Steve Janevski is also part of this band, I wanted to check them out. This is Black Majesty’s most recent release and it has turned out to be a completely different animal when compared to Steve’s other band. Which is in itself a compliment to the man’s talent.

Black Majesty are more of a power metal outfit. So if you are familiar with that, that means galloping drums, often with double kick, double leads and guitars with more beef than your average pig. Singer John Cavaliere has a fairly light voice, but does the typical high pitched vibrato with ease. So it was a surprise when he sang part of the Out In The Fields cover (Gary Moore) in a much lower register. Quite good actually. Both the singing as the arrangement of this classic.
As a whole this is a tight group and the album gets better with every play. With the style come the genre trademarks, but sometimes the band take a turn left or right and that makes for more diversity, which is a good thing in my book. All in all enough reason for me to delve more into their back catalogue, so power metal fans will enjoy this without doubt.

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Library Voices, Lovish, 2015

library voices - lovishThis turns out to be the third album by Library Voices. It is a self produced collective effort from this 7 piece band that I had previously never heard of in all sincerity. But the first track immediately catches my attention. Oh Donna sounds incredibly catchy, yet manages to work around more rhythmic variation than many prog songs. Guitars sound like a pop band that have discovered the fuzz. Mhm, what is going on here? So I start reading the press info. Well some troubles in the past years I read there. (hope you recover fully Carl Johnson!) But that does not translate to sadness or anger.

If anything, this is a very uplifting album with great melodies and moods. And more than enough musicality to be credible. Because it all sounds so deceptively simple. And that is a credit to the band. Yes, some alternative touches here or there, and then sounding a bit like The Kaiser Chiefs or the Julian Cope of long ago, but I must say this is a very pleasant listen.
In essence more pop than rock, playful and melodic so able to attract not only indie lovers, but also mainstream. Not bad. Not bad at all!

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S.A.Y., Orion, 2015

Say - OrionDon’t know what it is, but it seems Sweden is the “go to” country when you want some uplifting melodic rock. S.A.Y. consists of Peter Grundström on vocals and Jan Akesson on guitars, keyboards, bass and backing vocals, with guesting on drums Jens Westberg. Without sounding like a copy, I think the music of Westworld and Grand Illusion is a good reference as to what you will get, especially since Grundström sounds somewhat like Tony Harnell (TNT, Westworld).

The problem with most bands in the genre, at least in my humble opinion, is that they try too much to sound like carbon copies of the greats. This results in albums that sound familiar but, because of the lack of original ideas, rarely surprise. Sometimes you can draw out a song before it’s finished, and that is not really what I am looking for.
So it is nice to see that S.A.Y. have managed to avoid that. Yes the music is melodic, the solos sharp, the vocals supported with harmonies all over the place, but the songs still sound fresh and with enough power in them to pack a punch. So it is easy to see why Melodic Rock Records was eager to release it. For me a highly entertaining album so if you are a fan of the genre, surely something to check out.

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Slivovitz, All You Can Eat, 2015

slivovitz - all you can eatDespite this being the fourth release of this Italian progressive eclectic gypsy jazz septet (what???), and the third on MoonJune Records, it is the first time I hear anything by them. After a 4 year hiatus, they serve us this platter (pun intended) with 8 new songs. And yes, the press sheet rambles on with variations on meals and so on, so we are not going to take that route.

First a look at the instruments within the band: tenor and alt sax, electric and acoustic violin, trumpet and harmonica, along side guitars, drums and bass. Not your average formation. And hints at why MoonJune refers to this as post-Zappa modern jazz, a phrase that certainly caught my attention.
Listening to the album, I am pleased to say it is by far more melodic as I had hoped for. Sure, there are some parts that come across as improvised on the spot, but that is mainly regarding the solos on various instruments. Overal the songs all have themes and melodies that are recognisable as such. And the mood swings within are quite enjoyable as well. Of course this music is not your average radio pulp, there is still too much going on for those who are not into the music this label releases.

But for me Slivovitz succeed in delivering interesting themes and songs and the instrumentation mentioned surely adds an extra dimension to the appeal. Give them a try!

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Ossicles, Music For Wastelands, 2015

ossicles-music-for-wastelandsThe debut by the young cousins Sondre and Bastian Veland was discussed on these page not so long ago. But that was a re-release from their 2012 self released album. So while their follow up seems quick, in reality they had a couple of years to work on it. But that does not take anything away from this album. It is meant as a concept, both in storytelling as in music. That is why it is also meant to be played as a whole. Besides the 2 Velands playing all instruments and singing, there are guest appearances by Erlend Furuset Jenssen on sax and Karin Mäkiranta on vocals.

And while I already was impressed by the Mantlepiece album, this goes a few steps beyond and totally belies the age of the gents. Truly progressive in approach and execution, using any style necessary to get the message across, this has turned out to be an amazing album. And again, it are the songs that do it for me. The melancholy never is far away, resulting in songs that range from dreamy to fierce albeit without ever getting really heavy. But the richness and freshness of these songs is awe inspiring. The fact that they are also not afraid to experiment with production tricks really is the icing on the cake. Call them the bastard children of Steven Wilson, call them what you like, but I think anyone serious about progressive rock should get this album.

I predict that everyone who gives it a listen, will fall in love with it!

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