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.

Website

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!

Website

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!

Website

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.

Website

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!

Website

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!

Website

Yossi Sassi, Desert Butterflies, 2014

yossi sassi - desert butterfliesYossie Sassi is of course known as the front man of Orphaned Land. Recently he pointed me (via twitter) to this solo album I was not aware of and I am surely glad he did. For those that do not know, the man is a gifted guitar player and has a great feel for melody. So part of this album is instrumental and if I should reference it, I’d say think of Joe Satriani, but with a distinct Eastern flavour and sometimes a bit of Vai’s craziness and a touch of fusion to spice it up.

The result are songs that are easy to get into because of the catchy melodies and impress with their feel and sometimes flashy playing. Of course it is that Eastern flavour that gives Sassi an identity of his own. It runs in his blood after all. But he is not a one trick pony. For me it is obvious that he is a musician that knows how to express himself on multiple levels. And the result works brilliantly. Songs like Fata Morgana, Orient Sun or Azadi prove the point effortlessly. And how can we not applaud a man that wants to unite people instead of dividing them. Regardless of race, belief or country.

Amazing work if you ask me, and even when it is not as heavy as his band, I am confident that everyone into quality will agree that Sassi delivers the goods here. So make sure you pick up a copy!

Website

Mark Bogert, A Story In Parts, 2014

Mark Bogert - A Story In PartsIn the world of guitar shredders, the two big names are of course Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. Both have an instant recognisable style and have paved the way for many others. And yes, I know there are more, but fair´s fair, these two probably are the biggest sellers and most well known names.

Okay and now one Mark Bogert comes along with an all instrumental guitar album as well. You could know Mark from his days with Penny´s Twisted Flavour, or more recently Knight Area. So how does he hold up compared to the big guns? Well, I think Mark has a great and warm tone for one and a fluid style, both in rhythm as in solo´s. Second he puts more emphasis on melody than on strictly impossible guitar abuse. Which makes me think of Satriani more than Vai, although in some parts it is the other way around. And Mark incorporates keyboards, which sometimes even get a chance to shine a bit.
And it is because of the diversity in the material, that this has turned out to be a very enjoyable album. Yes it is a guitar album with plenty of notes, but I did not find it hard to like the songs and get into the album. Worth checking out and this is another release that label Freia Music can be proud of!

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Rock Company presents Earthshine

Independant label Rock Company has just presented the first video for their new project Earthshine. The project aims at delivering instrumental music with touches of ambient, new age and film music. Little guitars, but emphasis on piano, mellotron and synths. With drums and bass where needed.
The first album will soon be released.  So for now welcome Earthshine: