The Fierce And The Dead, The Euphoric, 2018

the fierce and the dead - the euphoricFinally the time has come to discuss the new The Fierce And The Dead (TFATD) album The Euphoric with you. In their ranks Matt Stevens (guitar) who has released a bunch of solo albums that you might want to check out too.

To my knowledge TFATD are a quartet consisting of drums, bass and 2 guitars. Those guitars often enhance their sound with (synthesised) effects, thus giving a nod to King Crimson. Overall I guess their sound combines rock, prog and a tad of post hard-core. But where the soundscapes from KC sometimes tend to linger on a bit, TFATD make sure they keep pumping loads of energy into their songs. And they combine that energy with hooks  and melodies and musicians able to infuse dark and light into their compositions.

The result is, quite frankly, anything but your typical instrumental album. I never once miss the vocals on this album because of the way the songs are arranged. Very detailed, very varied and with room for everyone to shine. Thus making sure you never lose your connection with it.  You keep wondering where they will go next, but because of themes returning, they give you enough anchor points to not loose your way.

Yup, easy one of the most exciting albums in the genre this year. If you haven’t already, make sure you give it a couple of spins.

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OH, Metallia, 2018

oh - metalliaThis is the second time Olivia Hadjiioannou, better known as OH., makes an appearance here on the blog. The first time was the first ever vinyl here (still is I think) and now she is back with a stunning looking digipack and lush booklet. And this is not the only stunner here. Olivia is a true one woman force. She writes, plays, records, mixes and masters all her music herself, is very into (award winning) video, and if I am not mistaken also models for her art. Truly mindblowing. And speaking of mindblowing, here we have a musician that seems to excel at everything she does. Fluent in drumming, bass, guitars, piano and violin!

So how does that translate to the music on this EP?

Red Lion is opening with her voice (used as an instrument on this release), followed by a slapping bass and then frenetic riffing. She can shred like the best of them. The use of her voice is pretty intriguing throughout. Singing multi layered counter melodies, or dramatic wails, she creates atmosphere for sure. Not an easy introduction maybe, but a colourful and energetic show piece of her abilities. Bee opens with acoustic guitar and proves a song that keeps transforming. Androgyny welcomes you with multi layered vocals before the thrashy riffs take over again. But the combination of vocals and metal again creates something special.
Of the 6 tracks, my personal favourite so far is Dragon Kiss. Maybe one of the most melodic pieces, yet still testament of her vivid imagination and skills to pull off amazing musicality.

I can imagine that people get confused because of the frantic pace of change throughout. But I cannot help but be impressed by the creativity on display. Unique!

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Peter Banks, The Self-Contained Trilogy, + The Anthology, 2018

peter banks - the self-contained trilogyPeter Banks, is that not the first guitarist of Yes? Indeed he is, he played on their first 2 albums. And what you might not know is that he suggested the name change from Mabel Greer’s Toy shop! This collection contains 3 of his solo albums, namely Instinct, Self-Contained and Reduction.

Now 3 CD’s might sound like an awful lot to digest. But I think you will be surprised should you decide to have a listen. That is if you, like me, never heard them before. Not only is the material at hand of an enormous diversity, it is also larded with intros or short interludes with spoken word that show a keen sense of humour.
Back to the music, you will find anything from ambient to shredding, to funky, groovy to progressive here. And I must also admit that I like his guitar sound better than that of his successor in Yes, Steve Howe (who is a fabulous guitarist in his own right of course). Banks shows more of a rock vibe in his playing and sounds, and that suits me just fine.
And while I wonder if that diversity might be a reason for some to avoid his music, I was sincerely amazed listening to this. Banks proves to have been an amazing musician and a powerful creative force with the combined abilities of Vai, Satriani and maybe even any other guitarist you can think of.

peter banks - be well be safe be luckyShould you first want to sample Banks’ talents, there is also an Anthology available in the form of this double disc Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky…The Anthology. Disc 1 is a collection of some of his finest work. And disc 2 features a lot of rarities and extended versions. The latter making this release also interesting for the people that already enjoy his music.

For only being familiar with the name, to getting a more deeper insight in this man’s talent, 5 CD’s of discovery for all to enjoy!

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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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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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Sunrise Auranaut, Inserter, 2018

sunrise auranaut - inserterAlbum number 5 already for Russian multi-instrumentalist Vitaly Kiselev. Again with help from Alexander Malakhov on synthesisers. Besides writing and playing and producing, Kiselev is also responsible for the beautiful artwork on the release.

If you already are familiar with the music from Sunrise Auranaut, then expect 10 more songs in the same instrumental progressive rock vein. Influenced by classical composers like Grieg and Tchaikovsky and the prog of the Seventies. So this is once again music meant for people wanting complexity and who are willing to invest time to get to really know the album.
Yet in my ears this album sounds more powerful and focused than ever before. A track like Keeper Of The Forest Castle even has some hooks one can identify easily with! And this happens more often, making this one more attractive for a larger audience. But there is also a track like Fog, built around airy sounds which is breathing a bit of King Crimson styled ambience. Still there is a lot happening of course, like I said, this is complex music. But above all it is well written, and executed with passion and precision. Check for instance how synthesisers and guitars interweave in the opening segments of Identification Man.
Another thing worth mentioning is the tribute to the Black Star himself, David Bowie, in closing track Hello Star Man!  You can check that in the video below.

In my humble opinion Kiselev keeps improving and growing, hats off!

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Matheus Manente, Illusions Dimension, 2017

matheus manente - illusions dimensionThis is the debut from Matheus Manente, a Brazilian multi instrumentalist and one man band. To be honest, when I started listening to this album I wasn’t all too sure about it. Sure, great shredding, a lot of stuff happening in a short time, but missing a bit of hooks and melody. And then track 4, Inner Peace comes on…. Mind blown! What a feel in this song. Absolutely fabulous in delivery, melody and all. So that really peaked my interest in what was to follow. Symmetry Of Evil proved to have plenty of hooks, or had I started listening properly? Then again, any song that plays way past 9 minutes needs positives to keep the listener interested. So it managed to kept the momentum going. Market Garden has quickly become a fan favourite. It is complex and rich in structure, and it’s rhythmic and harmonic changes fulfil the genres standards. Keyboards have a more prominent role as well, so that makes for a nice change.

By this time is was clear to me that Manente is a very impressive player. Maybe the drums need a bit more work to sound less mechanical, but the rest of his playing is without doubt classy. He is not shy of using light and dark in his compositions, so as a whole the album delivers. Because of the sometimes almost serene parts, he avoids flooding you with a wall of sound.

Great debut, job well done!

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Sunrise Auranaut, The Ocean Of Unspoken Words, 2017

sunrise auranaut - the ocean of unspoken wordsOh my! In my review of the previous album from Vitaly Kiselev’s Sunrise Auranaut I suggested he’d try a more focused approach to his music to attract even more listeners. And while I am not sure it is because of that remark, the thing that is sure is that this album surpasses it’s predecessor on every level.

Let’s start with the artwork, I think this is simply stunning! Next the songs of course. On offer are 9 songs and this time Kiselev (electric and acoustic guitars, bass and programming) got help in from Alexander Malakhov on synths. Total playing time is just over 50 minutes and the songs range from around 4 to over 8 minutes. And like before, this is an all instrumental album with it’s feet firmly rooted in Seventies progressive rock, spiced with the influence of classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
But the most important thing for me is the balance in this collection. All songs have room to breathe so the melodies really shine. Since it is a prime example of what is looked upon as the classic era of prog, it is never heavy or flashy. This is all about telling stories with the songs and have the melodies to keep you interested. And that is delivered in spades.

As is the case with all releases on the Rock Company label; limited edition digi, so better grab a copy fast! Excellent stuff.

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Mark Bogert, Painting The World, 2016

mark bogert - painting the worldYes, sometimes one can discuss the quality of artwork. Personally, I do not like the cover chosen for this release. On the other hand, when it comes to music, and more specific playing the guitar, things turn around very quickly. As with the previous release from Bogert, from the get go it is obvious this guy is one heck of a player. And when you get help from Knight Area mates Pieter van Hoorn on drums and Peter Vink on bass, you know you will have all the foundation you will ever need.

What I like most about Mark’s playing is his use of melody. In that aspect he comes from the Satriani way of doing things. Opener Earning The Best is a great introduction to that. Very nice piano playing and then the guitar hits us with melodies. And okay, several flashy bits, but I never once thought he was pushing it too hard. And the same applies to most of the songs on the album. Nature Of Stone is another song that mister Satriani would be proud of. Great melodies and moods. Other songs show the influence of Vai, which of course is no bad reference either. And in songs like Friends On Holiday and especially Missing The Loved Ones, I cannot escape the absolute haunting delivery. Achingly beautiful!

So all lovers of great playing, this is a record you have to check!

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Dolcetti, Arriver, 2016

dolcetti - arriverIn all honesty, I am not too keen on EP’s. But, as they say, no rule without exception. And to prove the point here we have the Arriver album by Dolcetti. Who are a self described crazy duo consisting of Gianni Rojatti on guitar and everything besides drums, as those are played by Erik Tulissio. And believe it or not, this duo plays live on a regular bases and despite the use of loops and stuff, manage to throw in improvisations in between their already virtuoso playing.

There are a lot of things to like about this album. For instance there are 8 tracks and 7 of them last 3:34. The last one, track 5 lasts 0:34. And if you pull a stunt like that off without sounding far fetched, you rank high upon my genius scale. And genius this is. It is very clear why mister Vai took them on board to support his tour. Or why they have played with the likes of The Aristocrats, Paul Gilbert or Tosin Abasi.

Yes, some out of this world playing and wizardry here, especially from Rojatti. And if you think this is all about technical display, you are wrong! No, they keep their eyes strongly on the delivery of songs and melodies. With exciting arrangements and flashy solos, but that is needless to say.

So there you go, a must have for people into the names mentioned. Brilliant!

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