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2017

Leprous, Malina, 2017

leprous - malinaThis is the third time Leprous are featured here. And reading back to what I wrote about 2013 album Coal, (and yes, I did listen to The Congregation from 2015 as well, just never got around to write about it) it seems that I could state about the same thing here. But, to avoid that people think this is “just a repeat exercise”, that is not the way to go. Because then I would really be selling another magnificent prog metal album short.

Because make no mistake, the ingredients might be the same, but Leprous are just too damn good to write the same song twice. They still manage to deliver highly addictive melodies over intricate arrangements that have more twists and turns than your average Sicilian mountain trip. The rhythmic details in their music are still unpredictable. The album still rocks without sounding over the top heavy.
Maybe they have become even more focused on the song and thus manage to create an even bigger impact. And I do think there are some new experiments here and there. Yet I do not think that it is of much use to over analyse. My only criticism being that the beautiful booklet does not mention any contact info for the band itself…

For me another clear winner from an band that still manages to excite. A damn good prog metal album that needs to be heard by anyone serious about the genre. No looking back to the greats of the Seventies, but a band boldly moving forward. Love it!

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Our Ceasing Voice, Free Like Tonight, 2017

our ceasing voice - free like tonightAnyone remember the Crash Test Dummies? Or maybe Dutch band The Pilgrims? Well, yes or no does not really matter, for now we have Our Ceasing Voice to deliver low dark raspy vocals! And with that also comes a slight change of direction for the Austrian trio. From ambient post rock, to more focused and catchy rock with pop sensibilities.

And the result surely is something to be proud of. From opening track The Arsonist to closer Countings, I find myself getting enchanted. Not only with the vocal delivery of Dominik Dörfler mind you. Also the guitars and synths from Sebastian Obermeir and the drumming from Markus Rappold contribute to an intense and atmospheric album.
Okay, the rock part may be subtle, but it is there. Yet in a way I think the band just wants to create dramatic and pure music, regardless of genre tags. And for me they have delivered in spades. Their vocals will always be a focal point, as there are very few singers who deliver them this way. But even such rather unique vocals need a canvas to shine on.

Hats off to the guys, this is a very good album that keeps you interested play after play. In a time where music seems to become bland and predictable, bands like this are needed to keep the flame burning!

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Gentle Knife, Clock Unwound, 2017

gentle knife - clock unwoundThe last couple of weeks has seen, or rather heard, me playing this album a lot. And not because it is such a complex album. Well it is actually. But that was not the point. The point is, that this is a very intriguing mix. A bit like the bastard child of early King Crimson and well ehhh, some more modern prog bands with guitars, organ, saxophone, flutes and brass and stuff. See? I even have a hard time describing this.

But that is all really. I am finding this a very pleasant album to listen to. Yes it may move from whisper quiet to loud and back. Yes, large portions are instrumental with some unusual instruments taking the lead, or using a talking voice like you are watching a movie with a voice over.
And now you think this is a disjointed affair? No it is not. It is diverse indeed, and it really calls for you to pay attention. But I just love what is served. There is always a certain tension flowing, and that keeps attracting me. Even after numerous spins I still wonder what will come next. Yet, the melodies are present and worthwhile.

So what more can I say about it? For me an irresistible mix and an album that grows and grows. Consider me impressed!

Website

Ten, Gothica, 2017

ten - gothicaEver since the first release X in 1996, we have been following the band Ten. I say we, because in this case even my better half is quite fond of the band! And despite numerous changes of personnel over the years, the band has always been about the songs, storytelling and dark voice of Gary Hughes. And of course Gothica is no exception. Anyone familiar with the band will recognise the identity in an instant.

And no, in this case that is not a bad thing! Because the sound may have a certain ring to it, it is the voice of Hughes that takes care of the familiarity. And his knack for writing pompous songs with enough twists and turns to surprise even the most avid fan, but always with a great chorus and enough hooks to catch your attention.

Being a prog lover myself, I love the fact that Ten boldly play 8 minute songs if need be. And manage to do it with panache and energy. The storytelling of Hughes has always been great and this time we get to hear about Jekyll and Hyde, La Luna Dra-Cu-La, The Grail, time Travellers, and so on. The 7 man band all shine. They can rock, they can play fiery solos, and they can bring it all down and get you on the tip of your toes with a piece of piano and vocal.

Even when not all albums of the past are of the same calibre throughout, Ten rarely disappoint, and this one is very consistent and just amongst the best of them.

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Zeroscape, Finish Dem, 2017

zeroscape - finish demYou should never judge a book by the cover but I must confess I was having questions when I read the press sheet accompanying this release. Most prominent genres, but not limited to, are reggae, metal and rap. All because this Canadian band, formed in 2001, believes that all music styles could “melt”.

And truth be told, melting a lot of styles they surely do. Does it all work? Mhm, difficult question. I always try to approach every album with an open mind, but these guys really ask a lot. Though in all honesty, that might be because I rarely enjoy reggae or rap, or even metalcore. And when a song like The Funeral borrows heavily from a famous Survivor song, you ain’t helping your case with me.

Yes I applaud the effort and agree that combining style elements from various genres is possible and can lead to exciting music. But I guess you have to like those elements to be able to enjoy the result. So bits and pieces of this work for me, and others just don’t. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a try if you are curious. I do think these guys enjoy what they do and sound convincing doing it.

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Phil Vincent, XX, 2017

Phil-Vincent-XX-2017Regular readers of the blog will surely recognize the name. It has been a while since I could feature American singer and multi instrumentalist Vincent on these pages, but it is with pleasure I present his latest album XX. Indeed, solo album 20, but the discography is of course much much longer with his participation in D’Ercole, Legion, Cranston, Tragik, etc. Let alone contributions to many other releases.
This is a straight solo album, with Phil handling songwriting, drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and of course ALL the vocals. Not to mention recording and mixing. Yet he did invite some of his friends to play guitar solos, including William Roux, Paul Sabu (also Cranston) and his buddy from the Legion days, Vince O’Regan.

On offer are 11 tracks in 45 minutes. Meaning that there is no epic this time, but songs from 3 to 4 minutes and 2 that play for 5 to 6 minutes. But that has not changed anything style wise. This is still kick ass melodic (hard) rock with sometimes a bit of proggy arrangements. To me it feels that the production skills keep improving with more depth in the overall sonic soundscape. And speaking of depth, impossible it may sound, but is his singing voice really better than ever?
The choruses are catchy as always and the songs are pouring with hooks. So in short another welcome addition!

Website

Cirkus, The Blue Star, 2017

cirkus - the blue starHoliday season is over, so back to writing! And in this case, I do not mind at all. Quite a history behind this band who started in the Seventies apparently, but alas so far were unknown to me. Which might partly be due to this being only their fourth release. The real sad part being that main songwriter Stu “Blue” McDade passed away in 2016, so this album is dedicated to him.

And I am pretty sure this would get his thumbs up. Opener Crossing The Rubicon is a nice mix of old school prog with some more modern guitar riffing and serves as a good introduction to the album. Next Song I’ll Never Know also has great hooks and takes several turns left and right but maintains its attraction with ease. Might be one of the best on offer actually. The album continues with the title track and with lines like “till we meet again” or “now you are a blue star” they obviously pay homage to their mate. The guitar solo is played with a lot of feel and you sense their loss. Next song 19 is quite a surprise with a modern beat and use of synths it almost sounds like an Eighties wave track. Follow up Requiem sits a bit between that and earlier songs, but again has a strong chorus.

With 8 songs clocking in at almost 45 minutes we are served a diverse album, from a band that love what they do and do it well. Sure one to check for fans of melodic prog.

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Ghostly Beard, Infinite, 2017

ghostly beard - infiniteSometimes it is hard to fathom why some releases are independent. Except when it is by choice of course. Anyway, after some 15 years away from music, the entity that is Ghostly Beard (the handle one man band Patrick Talbot chose to release his music under) is treating us with this EP, called Infinity.

I have been listening to this quite a lot over the past week or so and I must say I am totally impressed with what is on offer. The 5 songs in almost 25 minutes of music span a wide array of rock, but every song has multiple reasons to fall in love with them. Opener Close Your Eyes will surely appeal to people who are very fond of Pink Floyd. Including a blistering guitar solo. But also because the feel and mood of the song is just very enchanting. Frozen In Time is carried by some stunning bass playing (sounds fretless) as well as more exquisite and moody guitar work. Let alone the synths and flageolet like sounds throughout it. And good melodies of course. No Return is another moody piece that grabs you and refuses to let go. No need to discuss the last 2 songs, they are equal to the others.

Ghostly Beard proves that there are no limits when it comes to quality in music. Every song hits home, and hits home hard. Essential stuff if you ask me!

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Moma, A Permanent State Of Transition, 2017

moma - a permanent state of transitionMoma are an Italian band and A Permanent State Of Transition is their second release.  And despite their singer making them sound a bit like Belgium rock / prog band Machiavel (which was an Italian of course 🙂 ) their music is probably best described as (classic) rock. And while the songs are sung in English, the booklet is mainly in Italian so was hard for me to understand.

So let’s talk music! Operating as a drums, bass, guitar and vocal unit, focus is on songs and melody. I really like the guitar playing from Maurizio Marsiani by the way. Often deceivingly simple, but the little bits here and there tell you the guy knows what he is doing. Another smart move is that here and there they added additional parts. Mostly from guitar, but also piano. That created extras that work really well in the overall sound of the album. Singer Marcello Valenti has a bit of an accent, but it did not disturb me much. To round off, bass and keyboards are by Alessandro Bozza and Andrea Rossi plays the drums.

All in all it will not be considered a groundbreaking album. But what they do they do well and the album is easy to enjoy and just done with taste and class. So give it a try!

Website

Machine Mass, Plays Hendrix, 2017

machine-mass-plays-hendrixI guess the cover art and the title says it all really. Yet if you know that the album is out on Moonjune Records, you might also suspect that this will not be a regular covers album. And you would be spot on with that assumption.

Machine Mass is a trio consisting of Michel Delville on guitar, samples. loops and electronics, Tony Bianco on drums and Antoine Guenet on piano and keyboards. And they have taken a lot of liberty with the 9 Hendrix songs they choose to record. Even to the extent that many of them are hardly recognisable anymore. To some extent that has to be praised because of the creativity. On the other hand, if it sounds unfamiliar, why cover it?

So I guess it is a double edged knife for me. Musicianship is always tight on the label’s releases. But the rocker in me misses much of the hooks that identify the songs. You have a listen and decide for yourself what you make of it.

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