This 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.
Oh 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.
Yes, 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!
In 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!
Yossie 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!
In 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!
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:
Okay, the press sheet mentions this is progressive, ambient, instrumental, experimental rock. And that is all true. Adrian Jones is responsible for guitars, bass and guitar synthesiser and Michel Simons did the programming and the keyboards.
Some will probably hail this as one of the best releases of 2013. Because one thing is for sure, it is progressive in a true sense. It is original, combines elements of many styles and does not care if the masses like it or not. So that makes for authentic and pigheaded. And yes, especially the dreamy ambient parts are beautiful and moody. Yet in all honesty, I am struggling with this album. For me the main thing lacking are identifiable songs. Thus resulting in 9 tracks of sounds and hints and ideas. When it gets noisy, to me it is just that, noise. Guitars screaming (which I normally do not mind at all) and drowning in effects? Maybe when served with certain substances it becomes a trip. Or maybe it is a state of mind and my mind is not open enough at the moment to enjoy this. I do not know for sure. Still I applaud the balls and the vision.
So for the open minded and the brave, this might prove to be an essential addition to your collection. All others approach with caution…
Ah, and just when you are talking violins, The Night Watch comes by. Not the famous painting from Rembrandt, but a Canadian band that have no singer, but instead a lead violinist that takes that role. This, their self titled debut was conceived since their start in 2008 and after much writing, performing, recording and producing now sees the light of day.
In a way the line up alone is testament of their progressive identity. It takes confidence to make instrumental music and stick to it. So I find it way cool this has turned out to be a very enjoyable affair! The quartet of Evan Runge (violin), Matt Cowan (fretless bass), Nathanaël Larochette (guitars) and Daniel Mollema (drums), must have done quite some soul searching, because their music, whilst not being overly complex, still has a lot of dynamics and a plethora of beautiful melodies. The way heaviness is used is interesting, but because of the violin played melodies you never lose sight of the song. So despite the lack of words, I found it easy to connect with the album. And especially the more intimate parts are plain beautiful. In a way, it is not hard to imagine this supporting some movie, it certainly has a cinematic appeal.
Congrats to the band, and all lovers of things progressive (or instrumental): do not hesitate and go check them out!
A recent new partner for the blog are Moonjune records. From first sight I think they specialize in more challenging music that is influenced by progressive rock and or jazz and often from bands under the radar, from places like the Far East, or Southern America. Challenging in the sense that it will take more spins to familiarize yourself with the music.
First example is Dialeto. One of the things I noticed in the artist info is the service to explain the pronunciation of a lot of names. For example the band´s name goes like “dee-ah-leh-to” , just so you know. This group consists of 3 members, Nelson Coelho on guitars, Jorge Pescara on touchguitars (bass) and Miguel Angel on drums and they hail from Sao Paulo, Brasil. No singer, so yes, this is fully fledged instrumental music. And one that takes no prisoners. It is quirky, unpredictable and rambles ahead with a lot of energy. And thus a prime example of an album that takes time. The fact that the production is fairly dry, only adds to that. But when you give it that time, you will discover that all that press talk does make sense. It is adventurous, filled to the brim with ideas and expert musicianship, moods and feel. Slowly the melodies reveal themselves and suck you into the album. So after a while you will say “actually, I really like this”…