Jordsjo, Nattfiolen, 2019

jordsjo - nattfiolenIn the press sheet I read that this Norwegian band is influenced by old horror movies, German 70’s synth music, Norwegian jazz, Swedish folk, campfires, fantasy novels and nature. Resulting in murky apocalyptic forest prog? Mhm, how does that translate to this album then?

Well, in my humble opinion, I am hearing a band that has its roots deep in Seventies progressive / symphonic music. Think of a cross between In The Court Of The Crimson King, Genesis and early Jethro Tull. Nothing more, nothing less. So for people who are stuck listening to early Genesis, Yes, Tull and the like, they will get a kick out of this. Because the trademarks are all there. Flute, mellotron, acoustic guitar,  dynamic outbursts, you get the picture.

To me, while I can enjoy listening to this, I am just not getting excited about it. It is fine if you want to keep reliving the past, but I prefer to move on. Don’t get me wrong, this is done with taste and a certified love of the sound many people still adore. So if that is your thing, enjoy. I prefer a bit more originality and identity.

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Red Bazar, Things As They Appear, 2019

red bazar - things as they appearOh my, quite the album this! That is, if you like bands like Enchant or It Bites, spiced with a dash of Threshold. Yes dear reader, progressive rock it is, but based on groove and melody.

And I must say I am finding myself pretty impressed with this collection of songs. The press sheet did not tell me much, except this is the Nottingham’s quartet second album with Peter Jones (Camel, Tiger Moth Tales) on vocals and keys.
On a track like Nothing Left, Jones sounds remarkably close to Enchants’ Ted Leonard, but in a good way, as the song itself is great. Like any of the 8 songs really. All are built on great ideas and melodies that work and the sum of that sucks you into the music. Lots of dynamics and authentic performances, serve to enhance the attraction.

So it does not matter that most of the songs clock in at around 7 minutes. The diversity and intricate arrangements make sure you will not get bored. To conclude, there is no need to make this a lengthy post, people into the bands mentioned, or into prog rock in general, ought to have a listen to this! Pretty sure you will like it as much as I do.

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Lucy In Blue, In Flight, 2019

lucy in blue - in flightThe first thing that popped in my mind while listening to this was King Crimson. Tracks like I Talk To The Wind or Epitaph from their classic debut In The Court Of The Crimson King. Further down the listening path also one Pink Floyd came to mind.
And I guess that tells fans all they need to know. Yes, this is progressive music, heavily influenced by late Sixties, early Seventies progressive rock, with a dash of psychedelica.

But don’t get me wrong, these Icelandic dudes are not copying songs or structures or anything. The way I see it, they have created their own songs, but just wear their influences on their sleeves.
And the result is an album that feels like a warm bath for those who love the references I already mentioned. Their ability to create songs that flow like the tides is a feast. Sometimes they erupt into a more menacing modern machine, but the intense mood of their melodies and song build, is never far away. And with songs ranging from two and a half, to almost 10 minutes, prog purists will be happy as well 😉 Especially when they discover the use of vocal harmonies, soundscapes not unlike the mellotron and soaring solos…

Yes, quite enjoyable, and not only if your head is still stuck in times long gone!

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Monograf, Nadir, 2019

monograf - nadirIf I am not mistaken, this is the second time a band sends in the vinyl edition of their release. And truth be told, it looks beautiful. And of course, a double lp, with a separate lyric sheet, brings back lots of memories… Another thing of note is that the vinyl edition actually holds a 6th track, where the CD and digital version only has 5 tracks to offer. Pretty sure vinyl adepts will dig that!

Okay on to the music then. I have listened to this a lot the last weeks and think I describe it best when I ask you to picture the highlands, in the morning, with a mist clouding the view and hearing the sea in the distance.
With that I mean this is a somewhat intense experience. Not because of heavy guitars or anything, but because this is all about atmosphere and feel. Even when the music sometimes erupts, overall this is a moody, melancholic and mostly laid back piece of art. The 5 piece band take the time to develop melodies and arrangements, in order to create that bit of magic.

I guess the William Booth quote that features on the inside and the lyric sheet says it all: “…. Perhaps we shall fail with many. Quite likely. But our business is to help them all the same.” To me that translates as even if we are bound to fail, try we must.

Believe me when I say this album does not fail at all. Beautiful.

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*Edit; there is no official CD version of this. But you can burn your own if you buy this from their bandcamp page.

 

Joost Maglev, Alter Ego, 2019

joost maglev - alter egoAfter 2016’s Overwrite The Sin, Joost Maglev is back with Alter Ego. This time not only influenced by Robby Valentine or Valensia, but the latter is joining him on the title track too. Making it sound even more like himself…

And while the overall length of the songs on this second release is notably shorter than on his debut, I also think that the album is more varied. Opener Lucid is fairly short, with female vocals creating a lovely mood. After which Angel takes over with high energy and melody, again in the style that has been made famous by Queen / Valentine and or Valensia. But this time Maglev did try to expand on that. Corpus Christie is an example. Very rhythmic and varied, but still highly infectious. As well as a bit more heavy. Ever After holds a phenomenal guitar solo that hits me in the heart every time I hear it. But is also beautiful without that. Judith sounds closer to Ayreon, were it not for the massive vocal harmonies tying it to the sound we come to love and expect.
The biggest surprise might be the track Burning Girl, as it is by far the heaviest outing on offer. But it is also one of my favourites! The driving riffs and synths couples with the dynamics and another great chorus are just killer.

So there you have it, another great release and one where every song counts. Massive!

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Caravela Escarlate, Self Titled, 2019

caravela escarlateOriginally self released in Brazil in 2017, but now out worldwide on Karisma Records, here we have the second album from Brazilian band Caravela Escarlate (Crimson Ship). The 3-piece band sing in Portuguese and are heavily influenced by the classic prog of bands like Yes, PFM, Le Orme, or ELP as well as by traditional Brazilian music.

Since I do not speak Portuguese, I was glad the press sheet told me that lyrically the album deals with science fiction, comics and environmental concerns. The music however, speaks directly to me for it does sound as described. So if you are familiar with those names, you will know what to expect. And it must be said, it does sound authentic, as if written and recorded in the Seventies.
This also means that, even when the songs are melodic, they are also fairly “busy”, with a lot happening and many twists and turns. In all fairness the singing in their native language did not bother me much, it takes nothing away from the music. And instrumental songs like Atmosfera or Cosmos are done really well. In fact Cosmos so far has turned out to be my favourite track amongst the 8 on offer. Genre aficionados will also applaud that the album closes with an 11 minute epic.

Even when you are not stuck in the days long gone by, this is a expressive album that is worth tracking down.

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Skylake, In Orbit, 2019

skylake - in orbitDo not know how often I have listened to this before I could convince myself to start writing about it. And with opening with a sentence like that, I guess many of you will wonder what is wrong with it…

To be honest, it might be just me. I mean, this is a very solid album from start to finish. That is, for those who like expressive progressive rock with loads of dynamics and maybe a bit of alternative touches. The songwriting ticks all the expected boxes, and the band sound confident. And are fronted by a female singer.
You see, it took me all this time to realise that my, eh challenge, with this release probably lies with the vocals. Not that singer Suzan van den Engel has a bad voice or sings out of key. But somehow the vocals don’t grab me. At all. The reason I suspect, is that all vocals are extremely safe, nicely coloured between the lines so to speak. No edges, thus leaving me unaffected by them. Where is the emotion? Even the (male) aggressive shouting in Smooth Skin – War Within lacks depth and true aggression. At least in my ears.

So yes, interesting songs and all, but for me to keep listening to the band, I really need them to show their true colours and add identity to what they deliver. This is too much brain and far too less heart for my tastes.

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Fervent Mind, Tranquilize, 2019

fervent mind - tranquilizeThe last couple of weeks I have been listening on and off to this album and I keep realizing how hard I find it to describe it accurately. I think the press sheet says it best: “the music balances on a fine line between the rough and the delicate, with elements from post rock and metal, as well as dream pop, trip hop and contemporary jazz”. So let’s just call it a progressive rock album…

I know, that description is a mouth full, but while listening to the album, it just proves true. Opener A Series Of Fragments puts emphasis on the voice of singer Live Sollid, and the track segues seamlessly into Torrid, maintaining a somewhat laid-back feel, albeit injected with haunting guitar feedback before suddenly exploding in pounding riffs and wailing vocals. Next track Fervent kicks off in stylish progrock style, before turning into a groovy pop tune. And then back again.
So with 3 songs in, it is clear the band do not shy away from combining all those element I mentioned earlier. And I must say, they are good at what they do. Singer Live can sound delicate, but also bring some power to the mix, and the band follows accordingly.

All in all I find myself pretty impressed by this album. It takes you places, and gets better with every play. A classic in the making?

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Kinetic Element, The Face Of Life, 2019

kinetic element - the face of lifeAlbum number 3 for this US outfit from Richmond Virginia. Although the various members live all over the place. But since the band is founded by Mike Visaggio (keyboards), who still writes the majority of the music, Richmond it is. After the success of previous album Travelog, they have now expanded to a quintet, with St. John Coleman on vocals, Mark Tupko on bass, Michael Murray still on drums and Peter Matuchniak on guitar.

Some may be tempted to write the band off as a Yes / Genesis clone, but I don’t think that would be very fair. Yes it is obvious those bands are at the root and heart of KE’s sound. But especially in the epic tracks like All Open Eyes and The Face Of Life, they manage to add their own music identity. Let alone that both Yes and (old) Genesis have a distinct style, so a melting pot of those ingredients would already be something different.

Anyway, to me it is clear that the guys put their heart and soul into the music. And in doing so, create an album that will appeal to those stuck in the Seventies as well as those that keep track of everything that is going on in today’s scene.
I really like that despite that these 2 epics form 70% of the album, it still feels song based. No ego tripping and self indulgent technical wizardry. But songs that have a story to tell.

Another good effort, recommended!

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RPWL, Tales From Outer Space, 2019

RPWL_Tales from outer spaceI was amazed to discover that this is actually the first time a RPWL album has made it to the pages. Not that this has prohibited them from having a career of course, phew.. 😉 And rest assured, it is definitely not the first time hearing them for me!

As is easy to tell from the front cover, Tales From Outer Space contains 7 tracks that deal with science fiction, without this turning into a concept album in a strict sense. If you already are familiar with the band, I guess their melodic song approach is already known and enjoyed. Should you be new to the band and consider yourself a fan of progressive rock, where have you been?

All kidding aside, with a sound sitting somewhere between Pink Floyd (Yogi Lang could easy pass as a young Gilmour with his voice), Steven Wilson / Porcupine Tree and a tad of Manfred Mann (keyboard solos), this is another album showcasing their knack for songs that are as catchy as they are intricate. All is done with great taste and finesse, without ego’s getting in the way. For me no need to talk more about songs or album, I can listen to this all day.

In other words, have no doubt, this is a gem!

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