Friday, 24 August 2012

Ornithos - La Trasfigurazione (2012)

The debut album from this Italian band. Ornithos though consists of three Il Bacio Della Medusa members and can hardly be called a new band.

Ornithos was set up as a side project to break free of any musical conventions. The music is indeed free flowing and a break with narrow music conventions. The music ranges from heavy rock to prog, pastoral folk, rock, space rock and jazz. This album is everywhere at the same time. It does include every sub genre in the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre.

The music is being performed with a lot of vintage keyboards, woodwinds, guitars, bass, flutes and drums. There are both male and female vocalists on this album. The music is great throughout with a lot of great melody lines.

This is not an easy album to get into because it is so diverse. But it is still a very rewarding listen at the end. I give it a weak great status.

4 points

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Castello Delle Uova - Appunti Sonori Per Una Cosmogonia Caotica (2007)

The debut and so far only album from this very quirky Italian band. Italy has given us a lot of strange quirky bands and albums. This is one of the more strange one of the strange ones.

The music is a sort of funky jazz with frequent detours into both progressive Italian music and avant garde music. Mostly jazz, though. King Crimson is a good reference, though. It is the same kind of mindblowing philosophy behind both bands.

Mindblowing can also mean out-of-your-mind and braincells scattered around without making much of a sense. The latter one is true here. The narration like vocals on the top of some woodwinds (trumpets ?), distorted guitars, bass and drums is a bit of an aqcuired taste. The music itself is good though.

This is not the easiest album to digest. But it has it's qualities and charms. I give it a weak good status and conclude it is not entirely my type of pasta.

3 points

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Pierrot Lunaire - Gudrun (1976)

The second and final album from this Italian band.

Their music is very difficult to pinpoint. A mix of RIO, eclectic prog, folk hall music and folk rock is what I get out of their music. They experiement a lot on this album and also drags in some well known pop songs into this album. Very odd.

Jacqueline Darby's soprano vocals is what I will remember from this album. The use of organs is also very interesting. There are also a lot other instruments here too. Most of them acoustic and chamber orchestra instruments. The list is too long to include in this review.

Gudrun, the album, most of all sounds like ideas thrown together and not really developed well enough. There should be material to at least two albums on this album if the ideas was developed. This though is a good album. Very eclectic and introvert, but still good.

I think this album would appeal to those who are looking for quirky albums. It is a bit too quirky for my taste, though. Still.......

3 points

Sula Bassana - Dark Days (2012)

Sula Bassana is Dave Schmidt's solo project. He is involved in some other German space rock projects too. Dark Days is the fifth Sula Bassana album.

Space rock in the vein of Hawkwind is what we get treated to here. Very dense space rock jams with plenty of keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. A seventy minutes long excursion to outer space, no less. I don't have to say anything more, really. Album track titles like Surrealistic Journey explains everything about this album.

The sound is excellent. Ditto for the musicianship. The average track/journey length is elleven minutes. The first five tracks is good hard core space rock. The final track Arriving Nowhere is starting out as a raga rock track before it offers up a sublime space journey. It is the best track here by many miles.

Dark Days is a very good space rock album and space rock fans should really get this album. I am not entirely won over. It is still a very good album, though.

3.5 points

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Vortex - Vortex (1975)

"Sounds like Soft Machine" is a sure way to get me to splash out hard earned money on an album. Which I did in the case of this album and their two other albums.

Vortex from France started out as a Soft Machine cover band and it is not surprising that their first album has taken a lot from Fifth and Six. The music throughout this album is Soft Machine like, but with a French twist and flavour. Saxophone, flute, bass and drums is the instruments here. The bass sometimes sounds like keyboards and is  pretty dominant here. This is an instrumental album.

The quality of the music is very good throughout. A truly great track is missing and the band is never reaching the mezmerising heights of Soft Machine. But this is still a very good album and well spent money. I like this album.

3.5 points

Cosmic Jokers. The - The Cosmic Jokers (1974)

The debut album from this German band who went on to releasing five albums.

The Cosmic Jokers was more a collective of musicians than a band. Just like Amon Duul I and II, then. The music is krautrock too and it was created through LSD trips, if their biography is to be believed.

The LSD trip that created this, their first album was evidently not a good LSD trip. I am tempted to say the trip was more like a trip on sleeping tablets than LSD. But this album is not that ambient new age. The music is spaced out and in touch with the martians. But the ideas banded around in outer space really never develops into good melodies and coherent music. The ideas is not bad, though. It is not a good album for a stone cold sober reviewer whose only drug is black coffee. This album still has some of the qualities of a good krautrock album from the 1970s. But not enough quality to cover the full album, though.

A decent album, nevertheless.

2 points

Monday, 20 August 2012

Silhouette - Across The Rubicon (2012)

The third album from these Dutch neo-proggers. Across The Rubicon is also one of the most talked about and highly acclaimed prog rock albums this year. It has already earned an astonishing amount of raving reviews and a cult following.

Listening to this album, I understand why. First of all, forget the neo-prog label.  Across The Rubicon is a symphonic prog album. References ? A bit Genesis, Yes, Anglagard...... Well, I am not sure. I would rather label it as dense symphonic prog which is not immediate melodic, but which really grows on the listener. The best label I have seen so far though is majestic symphonic prog. That is spot on. The bombastic for queen & country factor is high throughout this album.

The music is performed with hammond organs, melotron, moog, guitars, bass and drums. That and some really good vocals. Vocals which suits this music. The musicians does a brilliant job.

The songs are not immediate hits and this album requires a lot of time. Majestic symphonic prog is never immediate hit and easy listening. Give this album some time. When this rose opens up and let's all it's fragrances loose in your room, you will find a lot of joys in this album. You will find a truly great album. My only gripe is the lack of a brilliant song. One that would give this album a classic status. Besides of that, this is a truly great album and deserves all the praises coming it's way. I sincerely hope this up to now pretty much ignored band will get the recognition and status it so richly deserves.

4.5 points

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Stolen Earth - A Far Cry From Home (2012)

The debut from a band with four members from the now split up Breathing Space. What this really means is that Stolen Earth is the continuation of Breathing Space.

Stolen Earth ? Breathing Space ? We are talking female fronted art rock here. Neo prog, most will label it as. OK, it is neo prog, then. Stolen Earth (and Breathing Space) has been compared to the first Mostly Autumn albums. I am not so sure about that. But Mostly Autumn is the reference point for 90 % of all the new female fronted bands these days so they may be in the right ballpark, after all.

Stolen Earth does not really score many points in the originality stake. Nill points, more or less, to be precise. Their music is leaning towards country & western with Olivia Sparnenn's vocals. Very good vocals, but she sounds like she has a background from country & western. The guitars too is leaning towards this direction.
This album is surprisingly pretty much dominated by guitars where keyboards is only playing a secondary role. That is what I really like about this album. That and some good songs.

The overall quality is good throughout and my cynical approach to this album in the beginning was blown away pretty early on in my listening process. This is an album I really like. It is solid, good craft from a band I hope will fare a lot better than Breathing Space. Keep an eye out for Stolen Earth as there is a lot of potential here.

3 points

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Caravan - Cunning Stunts (1975)

The sixth album from these Canterbury scene masters.

I don't really know the background for this album. So interesting stories, then. The music is a deviation from the ususal Caravan pop-jazz fusion their previous albums had. The sound is very American and AOR. The songs are also a mix of their usual pop-jazz and AOR. A pretty OK mix and the musicians does a good job here with this big American sound. A sound not particular good, though.

The same can be said about the quality of the songs here. An eighteen minutes long track called Dabsong Conserto falls pretty much flat on it's face. This album is somewhat good when the band goes back to their usual pop-jazz and becomes proper Caravan again. The sound is all wrong and the songs are sub-standard. This is a decent album and nothing more than that. It is so far my least favorite Caravan album too.

2 points

Anaid - Belladonna (1989)

Anaid is a largely overlooked zeuhl band from France. Those who are ignoring this band is doing themselves and Anaid a disservice.

From the first tone, Emmanuelle Lionet very beautiful vocals becomes the focal point for this album. Her soprano operatic vocals is being supported by ex Soft Machine bassist, one of the best ever bassists, Hugh Hopper. Other instruments are vibraphone, drums, woodwinds and keyboards.

Reference points are Pierre Moerlin's Gong, Cos and Zao. Anaid also reminds me a lot about the Norwegian band The Third And The Mortal in their way of building songs around a soprano vocalist. Anaid is though a jazz/zeuhl band. Not really hardcore zeuhl, but with enough zeuhl in them to be labelled as a zeuhl band.

The music is jazzy and slightly avant-garde. The first two tracks Belladonna and Clementine is really superb. Both has superb zeuhl vibes. The album largely fizzle out in vibraphone and vocals after those two tracks. Gong springs to mind. The end result is a very interesting, good album which deserves a bigger audience. I give it a good rating.

3 points

Friday, 17 August 2012

Branduardi. Angelo - Va Ou Le Vent Te Mene (1980)

The ninth album from Angelo and he had retreated from his all too brief venture into Italian progressive rock.

Angelo found fame, fortune and a grateful audience in sugar sweet commercial folk pop. Music the audience could sing to and hum along with. The music on Va Ou Le Vent Te Mene is this type of music. Easy listening and very cheesy at times. Very dated too.

The only saving grace here is Angelo's vocals. The rest of this album is too sugarsweet for me to swallow and devour. Half a point for the vocals is awarded.

1.5 points 

Amygdala - Complex Combat (2008)

The second and so far final album from this Japanese band. A band listed in most archives as zeuhl.

The music is dark as the devil's paintkit. Dark and very claustrophobic one dimentional. It never breaks out of this pattern throughout it's forty-six minutes. Forty-six minutes of unrelenting instrumental RIO in the vein of Univers Zero and Present. The harsh music is performed with hammond organs, bass, guitars and drums and synths. I would not label this album as zeuhl at all. Neither would I label their self titled album from 2004 as zeuhl. Amygdala is a rio band.

The quality of the material is good throughout. The music is very technical throughout. It is not easy to grasp it. It is by no means a great album either and I very much prefer the debut album to this album. I award it a weak good status, but nothing more.

3 points

Sun Devoured Earth - Sounds of Desolation (2012)

A Latvian one man project with a lot of releases through Bandcamp. This is his thirteenth or so release under the Sun Devoured Earth name.

They describe their music as a mix of black metal and shoegaze. The black metal bit has gone on this Sounds of Desolation. What remains is...... well, sounds of desolation. The music is very bleak, set in a desolate landscape. Yes, it is shoegaze/post rock and it is post rock in the Icelandic tradition. Sigur Ros springs to mind. The music is driven by piano, synths and a faint vocal used as a sound effect.

Through it's barren landscape, the music on this album is actually pastoral beautiful. Very beautiful at times. As a sound painting, it works very well. A couple of great melody lines would not go amiss and that is my only gripe here. This though is a very good album and one I can recommend. Maybe I should check out those twelve other Sun Devoured Earth releases too.

3.5 points


Weend'o - You Need To Know Yourself (2012)

The debut album from this French band.

Neo-prog is the music and they are very much in the vein of the female-fronted neo-prog bands from across the English channel. The likes of Panic Room etc etc etc.
The vocalist in Weend'o is Laetitia and she is doing a great job. Her voice is sometimes similar to Sinead O'Connor. The music is run of the mill female fronted neo-prog and the band does not really stand out from the rest of that pretty overcrowded scene. No matter how much the band claims to be "different". This is a run of the mill band.

Original, their music is not. This is still a good album though with some very good songs. The music is pleasing to the ear at the same time as it also sometimes gives my brain cells a bit of a gentle workout. The music is not too taxing on my few remaining grey cells, though. A weak three stars is awarded and a gentle reminder to the band that identity and originality is not such a bad thing. Try that on all further albums.

3 points


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Runemagick - Enter the Realm of Death (1998)

The second album from this Swedish death/doom metal band.

Their first album was a pretty OK death metal album. They have moved a bit closer towards melodic death metal on Enter the Realm of Death. They have also started to incorporate a lot of doom metal influences.
The Swedish death metal sound (Nihilist, Dismember, Grave) is still present here. Some synth are used as sound effects inbetween the slabs of death and doom. The sound is OK and the two musicians does a good job.

The result is a pretty decent album. Decent, but not really that interesting. They are not breaking any new ground with this album and that's it, really.

2 points 

Puzzle King - Anna (2012)

This review is also incorporating the English version of this album called Anna's Revolution from the same year.

So, why two albums ? Puzzle King is the brainchild of François Puzenat. His background is from the French jazz/fusion band Vertigo. The Anna project is his first solo project and has been fermenting in his head for fifteen years. I have been in touch with François on email to get more info about this split into two albums. His answer is that Anna is the French language version. I first got Anna's Revolution, which is the English version and François were kind enough to send me a link to a promo copy of Anna.
Why an English version of the same album ? Unfortunate, this is an English speaking world and Anna is a concept album about Anna and Antonie being caught up in the Russian revolution between 1913 and 1917. The lyrics is important and he felt that the English audience would not grasp the French language Anna album. Which indirectly or even more directly is discrimination based on language. The unfortunate discrimination of the French and other languages by the English speaking world. I understand where Francois is coming from.

I think it is now pretty well known that I am a big fan of French prog and I don't speak a word French. I love bands like Ange. Not to mention Magma and the zeuhl genre. I also happens to really like French people as I happens to like any other decent human beings. Discriminations towards French people because of their lovely language is something I find abhorrent and very offensive. I also happens to believe that Ange's and Christian Descamp's music is great, largely because of the French language. I would never ever want to hear Ange's songs in English.

Speaking of Ange....... Ange is very much in my mind when listening to Anna. François Puzenat has though listed a lot of classical English bands like Genesis & Co as his inspiration. Ange is not mentioned, though. Ange was the first name I knotted down on my notepad when listening to this album. And that is paying François a compliment, btw. That and a reasonable objective observation. Puzzle King and Ange shares a lot of the theatrics and the French folk rock (Brel & Co) which has made the French scene so vibrant and exciting.

The music on Anna is being performed on guitars, keyboards, drums and bass. The music is very flowing and dynamic throughout. It has this great French scene feel from the 1970s which should make every fan of this scene throw money at this album. The overall quality is very good throughout. Anna does not have a great song though and that is my only gripe with it. I am an unrepentant Ange fan and finds a lot of similarities. A half a point upgrade to a great album status may be coloured by my Ange & French prog scene fanboy status.

Four stars for the French language version Anna.

Moving on to the English language version Anna's Revolution. That was the version I heard first and it immediate hit me how unnatural it was. No dynamics and no fluency. This culprit was evident and raised it's ugly head pretty immediate. It was the change of the vocals from French to a pretty bad English (sorry, Francois). It is not a pretty listening and I was cringing many times after been listening to the French version half a dozen times. Yes, I now get the concept story. But this is a story which I gladly would had been happy to read in English if Francois had put it out on Bandcamp as a pdf or straigth out there together with the French version. Anna's Revolution is not a good album and it looses one and a half point from the French version. I can safely say I will never ever listen to that album again.

So, let me repeat this: Anna in the French version is a great album and one every fan of Ange and French symph prog should get. On the other hand; forget Anna's Revolution.

Both albums are streamed on the link below and make up your own mind.

4 points (Anna)
2.5 points (Anna's Revolution)

Both albums on stream 

Prelude - Voyage (1979)

Prelude was a Belgium band and this was their one and only album.

Prelude has been described as a proto-neo prog band and I can agree with that. Proto-neo prog is a good label. Their music is a mix of Pink Floyd anno Wish You Were Here, Yes anno Close To The Edge, Rush anno 2112, space and kraut rock. It was if Prelude were in a prog rock supermarket and filled up their shopping trolley with all these sounds and influences.

The sound is pretty good and the band does their best on keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The vocals are good too.

The music is good throughout. The move to a much more space/kraut rock direction on side B of this album is an improvement and I really like side B. The rest of the album is OK. Which gives this album......

3 points

Portals - A Continuous Spectrum (2012)

An US band from Cleveland. This is their debut album too.

We are -again- heading deep into instrumental experiemental shoegazing metal. This has become a big scene now. Even in my local area where fans of this music now have a lot of gigs and new bands to choose between. Strange...... This is not my generation though.

A Continuous Spectrum though is stretching out a hand to my generation with some classical music kind of pianos inbetween all this shoegazing guitar riffs waves. That piano is interesting though and sets this band a part from name-any-other-bands-here. It is an interesting detail, but it really does not add any quality to this album, though.

The music is decent throughout without really impressing me. I have heard a lot of  instrumental experiemental shoegazing metal lately and this is not among the best ones. An added half a point for the piano and I hope they incorporate that a lot more in the future instead of just using it as an add on.

2.5 points

The name-your-price album

Pane - Orsa Maggiore (2011)

The third album from this Italian band. A band, make that a project, lead by the author and (opera) singer Claudio Orlandi.

I have not had the chance to listen to or even encountered the first two Pane albums. I therefore have no idea what they sounds like. Pane and the Orsa Maggiore is largely a vehicle for Claudio's voice. That voice is dominating this album. His voice is very good though. The music itself is folk rock with a lot of pop influences. It is being performed by flutes, piano, keyboards, guitar and drums. There is no bass here.

Claudio's vocals is everywhere and the music itself never gets the chance to breathe on it's own. There is too much Claudio in my view in Pane. Less is more, I would say. The vocals is also a bit too much in my face and I get the feeling of being screamed at. When that is said, this is a pretty good album though. It has a good ambience and the ballads are very good. That's when Claudio takes his foot/voice of the accelerator and let's his voice and the music breathe.

Orsa Maggiore is not everyone's cup of tea and I think Angelo Branduardi does this genre far better than Pane. It is a good album, though.    

3 points

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Pyramid - Pyramid (1976)

"Musicians unknown" is all it says on the album sleeve of this pretty legendary krautrock album from Germany. It was produced and unleashed by Dieter Dierks (producer on numerous krautrock albums, but most known for being the producer for the multi million selling Scorpions). Either he is going to reveal the band members or he is taking this secret to his grave. I guess the latter. I may send him an email and ask this question, though.

This album consists of one track only, the thirty-three minutes long Dawn Defender. A space rock work out who never really becomes boring. Half an hour is a long time for one track. It's themes varies between electronics to hard psych and cosmic work outs. This is the krautrock genre distilled into thirty-three minutes, to a large degree.

The music is performed with plenty of distorted guitars, hammond organs, flutes, a bass whose in the forefront of the mix, drums and some tabla drums. The unknown musicians is doing a great job and it is my guess that they are from bands like Ash Ra Temple, Amon Duul II and perhaps Popol Vuh. The monicker Pyramid has been used to avoid problems with their respective record labels like Mekong Delta also did on their first albums.

The music is good throughout with the middle bit the best bit. This album has a deserved cult status. Unfortunate, the sound is not that good. This is still a good album and would please any krautrock fans.

3 points

Phideaux - Friction (1992)

The debut album from this now so prolific US prog band.

Friction is not prog, to say at least. Twenty songs in the English indie vein. I only remember The Smiths from that scene and there is some of that band in Friction. The vocals, for example. There was a lot of more light hearted bands in this scene too whose names escapes me. Friction remains me about these nameless bands. The same sound, the same vocals and the same type of music. This is an indie record.

The quality is very poor throughout and this album has a high cringe percentage. No wonder Phideaux has largely disowned it as it has nothing to do with today's Phideaux...... I hope. Friction is an album which deserve to be forgotten.

1 point

Popol Vuh - Affenstunde (1970)

The debut album from this German krautrock band. I recently got their first ten albums and something tells me I am in for a very bumpy ride.

Popol Vuh is basically Florian Fricke's band. An electronic music pioneer in Tangerine Dream. This album is also all about electronic pulses with some tablas and a mellotron at the end. That's after this album has mostly sent me to sleep. I can get the same experience from a vacuum cleaner, hitting some pop corn and strawberry jam. I am not a fan of diddly-daddly electronic soundscapes and this album just falls flat on it's face. Don't bother about this album.

1 point

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sebastian Hardie - Windchase (1975)

The final album of this Australian band's two legendary 1970s albums. I really liked their first album Four Moments and was looking forward to hear this album.

Sebastian Hardie played and probably still plays (on their new album) symphonic prog with emphasis on long compositions. Their sound is a local version of the English symph prog sound from the other side of the planet. Sebastian Hardie very much had their own sound, though. A sound also incorporating fusion and jazz too.

The music is performed with mellotron, keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. There are also some vocals here. This album starts with the long and lingering hymn like title track. A twenty minutes long track where the first three quarters Camel like music are good and the final five minutes are great in it's crescendo like final act. Altogether a great track. The four shorter compositions, which forms the other half of this album, is pretty good too. The title track though is the best composition here.

This album is a very good symph prog album from a band who was too short lived, but still make a pretty big impression on the scene. They were no doubts the best prog band to come out of down under in the 1970s. The legend status of this album is almost deserved too.

3.5 points 

Eclat - Volume 3 (1997)

The third album from this French band I have heard so much good about. It was about time I checked them out myself.

The music is instrumental symphonic prog with some folk and jazz rock influences. It is my understanding that Volume 3 is a transitional album between their symph and jazz rock phases. I got their two new albums too so I will check that out in due time.

The music is pretty pedestrian symphonic prog with really breaking into some great melodies. The great guitars is the best thing about this album. There is something very satisfying in their music though and this make it a good album. I do not find much of the quirkyness I find in most French albums and this is something I find is sorely missing on Volume 3. Neither is this album particular exciting either.

It is a good album, though.

3 points

Lane. Lana - El Dorado Hotel (2012)

Lana Lane has returned after a 4 years long break. Lana Lane who ? Me to asked myself that question. After a research, I have found out she is Erik Norlander's wife and that she has released a lot of albums. Both in her own name and as a co-op with her husband and others.

Lana Lane is the vocalist and probably the songwriter too on this album. Her vocals is great. The music is melodic hard rock with a lot of AOR influences. There are some chugging guitars, keyboards, drums and bass on this album. There is no real hard metal blazing songs here. This album is in the 1980s hard rock spirit. A genre where the likes of the female fronted prog bands in England, Holland and Finland is now trespassing into. This is a crowded scene.

I normally despise this type of music. This album has grown on me a lot, though. A bit worrying, though. This album is not to be overlooked for those into female fronted melodic hardrock and prog. Yes, there are some rather cheesy cliches here. Her use of vocals box is something I hoped we had seen the last of in 1985. Nasty, nasty. Move to jail, Lana Lane. The rest of the album is rather good and I am awarding it a weak good award. Will I ever play this album again ? Probably not. But fans of this type of music should check out this album.

3 points

Hostsonaten - Hostsonaten (1997)

The debut album from this Fabio Zuffanti project. An album which was meant as the new Finisterre album. Long story.........

What was the name Finisterre's loss was the beginning of an impressive Hostsonaten discography. A discography I will review during the coming months. Let's kick it off with this review..

Hostsonaten is also a famous Ingmar Bergmann movie. It is also a Swedish word. It should not come as a surprise that this album has a pretty big Swedish flavour although the musicians in Hostsonaten is from Italy. The music also has an English and an Italian flavour too. Not much Italian, though.
The music here is a mix of Swedish melancholy, as in the Ingmar Bergmann movie with the same name, and classic English symphonic prog. References are Yes, Genesis and Camel. Those and the Swedish band Kaipa. The songs are performed with guitars, flutes, keyboards, bass, drums and vocals.

The music is symphonic throughout with the Hostsonaten track clocking in at forty minutes. This album is not the most technical challenging music, theme wise. What it lacks in technical prowess, it more than reclaim in moods and melodic prowess. Some of the melodies and themes are brilliant. Others again is not that great.
My overall impression though is that this is a great album and one I am glad I got some years ago. Those into symphonic prog should really check out this album. It has certainly made me interested in this band and the other Fabio Z projects.

4 points

Monday, 13 August 2012

Underground Communication Centre - Aporia (2012)

Hmm.... It has taken me a lot to be convinced this is not the new Ahleuchatistas album or that any of the Ahleuchatistas members is involved in this Mexican band. Actually, I would not be surprised to learn if there is a connection here.

Aporia is the debut album from Underground Communication Centre. The music is experiemental, hyper bass driven disharmonic avant-garde math rock. There is hardly any melodies here. The music is entirely rhythm driven.

The music on Aporia is pretty good throughout. I still think Aporia are not in the same league as the first four  Ahleuchatistas which is the genre setting albums. But they are not far off and Aporia is a refreshing album in a my record collection. I will give this band a second chance.

2.5 points 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Rhapsody Of Fire - From Chaos To Eternity (2011)

I have never been a member of this dragons & swords brigade. Those who play computer games like this and listen to theatrical power metal. Rhapsody/Rhapsody Of Fire has therefore entirely bypassed me.

This is their ninth album and it is a totally over the top dragons and swords adventure. The sound is operatic, theatrical and arch-typical power metal. I do detect that this band has moved a lot towards Dimmu Borgir or Dimmu Borgir has moved a lot towards to them. There are some black metal vocals on this album.

I am not sure what to feel about this album. The power metal cliches comes thick and fast. This is simply not my world. There is no songs I really find any good on this album. This is a decent album and that is it. If this has not been a somewhat forgotten promo album I had conveniently forgotten to review until now, I would had bypassed it altogether as I have with their eight previous albums and their brand new album. As I said; this is not my world.

2 points

Volcano - Pinata (2012)

The third album from this US band.

I am not entirely sure what to think about this album as it is a serious challenge. Style wise, they are somewhere between The Smiths, indie rock, calypso, French rock and space rock. That and total madness.
The male vocals is really over the top. They reminds me about some of the sounds coming from the patients which men in white frocks has been chasing down the street outside our local mental asylum. OK, I am half joking there. These great vocals is very special, though. Thom Yorke, they reminds me about.

The music is performed with a lot of electric and half acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. There is a lot of post rock feel over the guitars.

After overcoming the shock, I find this album a pretty good album. It is certainly blowing away the cobwebs in my brain. There is no great tracks here though. It is a good album and one I am glad I learned to know. I don't think I would really become a member of their fanclub, though. Pinata is recommended to those who want something special.

3 points   

Camel - Rain Dances (1977)

The fifth album from this giant in progressive rock.

I have really never warmed to this band. Their music is too much noodle-along instrumentals for my liking and they have inspired far too many bands to issue albums in the same vein. At worst, these albums is as much fun as watching paint dry.

Rain Dances is though Camel in two minds. Maybe due to the arrival of Richard Sinclair from Caravan etc etc on this album. Some of the material here is jazz. Some other material is the usual symphonic prog fare from Camel as per usual on the previous albums. Other songs even makes a detour into pretty commercial rock territory with clear Saga influences (the keyboards).

The result is a mixed bag, to say at least. There are some really bad stuff and some really great stuff here too. Rain Dances most of all sounds confusing and incoherent. It is only just about saved by a couple of great melodies. This album is not an album I will remember with great joy, though. A weak good is awarded.

3 points

Slatter. Tom - Mother's Been Talking To Ghosts Again (2012)

A name your price download EP from this steampunker from England. I have no idea what a steampunker is. Is steampunker a son from a steamtrain driver or is it a punker whose electric instruments is powered by steam ? Answers on a postcard, please.

Mother's Been Talking To Ghosts Again is a four songs EP with (steam powered ?) electric folk music tunes. The title track even takes some bars from an Iron Maiden song before it trundles down a folk music street. Not a bad song and the best here. All four songs are pretty vocals dominated and got some help from electric and acoustic guitars, bass and drums. Pretty basic stuff and the songs and this music reminds me a lot about Ben Rusch. The godfather of this style is off course Bob Dylan.

The songs are all decent in their own right. I am not a fan of this type of music at all so my score reflects that. If you are into the songwriter lone man with a guitar style of music, go to the link below and really get stucked in.

2.5 points

The EP download (and many others EPs)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Paternoster - Paternoster (1972)

A one off album obscure band from Austria. Very little is known about them. This album disappeared into obscurity too soon after it's release. Two re-releases has again brought it to our attention. This album has rightfully claimed a cult status.

The basis here is krautrock and Paternoster should be labelled as a krautrock band. Which they are. Paternoster is not the usual krautrock fare, though. Take a chunk of The Nice, add some pastoral Genesis from the Trespass era and add a lot of Agitation Free to the mix and you get Paternoster, the album. Most of the music has this church or even cathedral organ sound. English vocals and distorted guitars is added to the cathedral organ sound. Bass and drums is added as the final touch.

The result is pretty dark pastoral krautrock which is very gloomy at times. The sound is great, but the vocals is too much in the forefront. That and the lack of a killer track or two is my gripes with this album. A cult album and one I cannot compare with any other albums in my collection. This album is pretty unique and well worth checking out. It is a very good album.

3.5 points

Gatto Marte - Danae (1997)

When researching this band for something intelligent to write about them, I found next to no reviews of their eight studio and two live albums. Which I find both strange and not fair. Danae is their debut album and their music should have gotten them a lot of attention.

Gatto Marte plays a pretty folk rock influenced uplifting form of RIO (Rock In Opposition). A good English translation is chamber rock with cello, violins, piano and other classical instruments in addition to vocals. The most famous bands in this genre is Aranis and Univers Zero. Gatto Marte can be added to the RIO list of bands. The difference between Gatto Marte and Univers Zero though is that Danae, this album, is much more like a trip to the fair than a trip to hell, as you find on most Univers Zero albums. In other words; the music on Danae is rather uplifting and positive. There is even a vocal folk song on this album. There are also some pastoral, piano driven melodies here. Some of them are even somber melodies. The overriding mood though is a pastoral, positive mood.

The material here is very good throughout. Danae is missing one or two great melodies. This though is a debut album from a band who has gone onto releasing some albums after Danae. Including an album this year. An album I have ordered on the basis of Danae. I really like what I hear and would recommend this very good album.

3.5 points

Koenjihyakkei - Hundred Sights of Koenji (1994)

The debut album from these Japanese zeuhl mongers.

They make a great entre with the opening song Loss on this album. A song which very much sounds like Magma. The female operatic vocals and the hell of a racket the band makes in the background makes in the background announces Koenjihyakkei's intentions. This is hardcore zeuhl in the vein of Magma. A brilliant song, btw. It gave me a happy grin when I heard it the first time.

The rest of the album is much more varied and Koenjihyakkei takes a lot of influences from other sources than Magma too. Koenjihyakkei is also a much more adventerous than Magma too. They also includes some Middle-East music on this album. Something that feels a bit awkward and out of place on this album. Experimentations also sometimes means failure. This album is very much an experiement and one heck of a challenge. In particular for the listener who get treated to hyper-active music. Koenjihyakkei has often been described as Magma and zeuhl on caffeine. I do not disagree with that view after some spins of this album.

Strangely enough, the album has only been created by bass, drums, guitars and keyboards. That and a lot of voices like male and female opera vocals. That and some wild male and female chants. The sound is very big though and has this feeling of being created with a lot more instruments than "only" those instruments. It is fair to say that Koenjihyakkei has got the maximum out of their rather limited resources as Hundred Sights of Koenji is a heavy weight sumo wrestler. Where Magma used an army, Koenjihyakkei has gotten the same sound/result with merely a small band of brothers/sisters.

The music on Hundred Sights of Koenji is very colourful and fireworks like. Not everything here is great. But songs like Loss, Zoltan, Molavena and Gepek is brilliant though.

Koenjihyakkei has delivered a very challenging piece of music with this album. It is a very satisfying listening though and one I really like. I highly recommend this album to all zeuhl and avant-garde fans. Koenjihyakkei has just got a new fan in me.

4 points

Horror of Horrors - Sounds of Eerie (1994)

This album was given to me by one of the greats in the death metal scene because he thought this album was rubbish. So I was a worthy owner of this album, then. I picked it up again after finding it during some house cleaning in my office. It was hidden away together with some Japanese zeuhl albums.

Horror of Horrors was a third rate death metal back in those days and never really got commercial success in the death metal scene. They were mostly overlooked throughout their three albums long career (Sounds Of Eerie were their debut album, btw). I can understand why they were ignored when listening to this album. The music is standard death metal without really being that brutal or technical. The sound is good though. This album is just a heavy slab of death metal. Just that.

I kind of like this music though and this album is not that bad. I have heard far worse death metal albums than this. I would not use the words interesting or exciting on this album, though. In small dosages, this music is OK. I award it a weak decent album status.

2 points

Gentle Giant - The Power And The Glory (1974)

The sixth album from this brilliant British eclectic prog band. One of the most fascinating bands there is/has ever been.

The Power And The Glory is all about quirky, intricate melody lines. It is about music which takes some time to get used to. The Power And The Glory is not a commercial album. The music here is baroque prog which has takes a lot from classical music too. The Power And The Glory is probably the most intricate and less accessible album Gentle Giant ever did.

Some of their most loved songs are here. Proclamation, Playing the Game and Cogs in Cogs. They are all excellent songs. The rest of the songs are superb to excellent. I love this album as I have learned to love Gentle Giant. This band knew how to make it difficult for themselves with dense music like they did on this album. Their longviety is guaranteed, though.

The Power And The Glory falls into the masterpiece category and get top score.

5 points

Friday, 10 August 2012

Eloy - Power And The Passion (1975)

This is their fourth album and Eloy has found their style. A pretty unique style somewhere space, symph and krautrock. Eloy is an arch typical German rock band.

Power And The Passion is an album with a lot of everything. Melodic melody lines in the English symph prog tradition. A lot of space rock and some krautrock work outs too. There are also some pretty cheesy pop melody lines here too.

The Hammond organ sound is very rich and satisfying throughout this album. The heavy accented English vocals is very charming and suited for this rather naive music. Naive and innocent is what this music is. There is a heavy flower power smell over this album. A German version of flower power as strong as the one in San Fransisco and the US west coast. This is what I really like about this band.

There is a lot of really great songs on this album and it is the best Eloy album I have heard so far. The best thing about this album is it's ambience and the symphonic spaced out sound. This is a great album and a good start off point for those who want to get into this band.

4 points


Reticent. The - Le Temps Detruit Tout (2012)

Hmm......... I know next to nothing about this band. It is a debut album though.

The Reticent is a band who falls into this Opeth, Tool and Riverside genre. Pretty mellow music somewhere between art rock and metal. The Opeth guitars is included. So is some weird English vocals too.Tool's darkness is here too. The same goes for a pastoral baroque soundscape too. Very arty stuff and very much what I expect from college/university kids. Intelligent music, in other words.

It is a pity that the art of writing good melodies and songs had evaded this band. Their version of REM's Loosing My Religion is the highlight of the album and that is not a good sign. The band shows glimpses of promises throughout and they operates within a very difficult music genre. Don't write off this band yet. Le Temps Detruit Tout is only a decent album though.

2 points

Broken Hope - Repulsive Conception (1995)

I have to admit I got a soft spot for death metal like this. Pretty pedestrian death metal which does not break any speed records, technical barriers or is too gory brutal. The vocals is not particular extreme, either. Death metal like this is pretty cosy. It is not particular challenging on my brain, either.

Repulsive Conception is the third album from this band who really never made it. They were a second rate death metal band, despite of being signed on Metal Blade. This album though was their best selling album. I guess that was due to the marketing by Metal Blade. This album is a decent album with a good sound. It is nothing more than that.

2 points

Electric Light Orchestra - Face The Music (1975)

Their fifth album and the follow up to the great Eldorado album.

Electric Light Orchestra still sounds like the '70s Beatles with symphony orchestra. Face The Music is a departure from the more symphonic Eldorado album and a move into radio friendly territory. The big hit from this album, Evil Woman, is pretty much a move into Motown Tamla and disco territory too. A not so good song. The rest of the album is also pretty radio friendly with some country, rock and pop. Poker is the only song I would label a great song here and it saves this album from really getting hammered. The rest of the songs are decent to good in my view.

Face The Music is a step backwards from Eldorado in my view. A weak good award is handed out.

3 points

Thursday, 9 August 2012

I And Thou - Speak (2012)

I And Thou is a new US band lead by Jason Hart, keyboardist with Renaissance. Annie Haslam has done the art work and members of Izz is also helping out Jason on various instruments. Steve Hogarth from Marillion is also lending a helping hand on one track. Jason is the vocalist and keyboards player throughout. He has also written the material on Speak.

The music is almost a give away. It is classic English sounding symphonic prog (Genesis) with a lot of influences from the US scene too. Izz off course is a strong influence. I also detects some Spock's Beard and Neal Morse influences too. 

The music is pastoral and softly spoken. No bombastic cascades and no fireworks.  Jason Hart's vocals is also very soft. The lack of fireworks is one of the reasons why Speak works so well. It also has this great Genesis feel from Wind & Wuthering.

Speak is softly spoken, but it still throws a big punch. Jason's keyboards is really superb here. The best song is the Genesis like title track. A superb track. There is no real weak tracks here. The material here is both an immediate hit and a grower. I suspect this is an album I will enjoy in the upcoming years and decades. My only gripe is the lack of a killer track. That though is my only gripe with this album. To all Genesis and symphonic prog fans; Christmas has come early.

4.5 points

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Cobalt Blue - Still A Natural Condition (2012)

A new band from Brazil and their debut album/EP. I am not sure if twenty-five minutes qualifies as EP or album. EP it probably is. Question answered.

Cobalt Blue has often been compared to Porcupine Tree and with good reasons. Still A Natural Condition offers up music in that tradition. Cobalt Blue still have their own identity though. They also sometimes stray into jazz, folk and progressive metal too.

The material is a bit anonymouse though. This is their debut offering and this music is not the easiest type of music to master. This scene is also overcrowded. Cobalt Blue is one of the bigger talents in this scene though and I would not be surprised if they becomes one of the biggest acts in this scene. The talent is there. They need to unleash it on their (hopefully) new album. This EP is a free download from the link below. Check out this good EP.

3 points

The EP download

Syrek - Machine Elves (2012)

Syrek is a prog metal band from USA and I believe this is their debut album.

It is pretty obvious Dream Theater is a big influence on Syrek. Syrek though takes their music towards darker territories too. Tool is a good reference. The pretty numetal version of Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar is also pretty dark. The music is pretty complex too with Meshuggah influences. The music is dominated by guitars and some pretty good vocals.

I am by no means a fan of progressive metal and this album does not turn me into a fan either. This is a decent album where the Pink Floyd cover is only an oddity and nothing more. Fans of the abovementioned bands and progressive metal should check out this album and band. Listening samples on Youtube.

2 points

Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works Live (1993)

This is basically a "contracts obligations" album and a 2 CDs variation of their pretty dire Emerson Lake & Palmer In Concert album from 1979. I got both as I am a collector of this band and a fan. Well, maybe an ex fan. I am not sure.

Emerson Lake & Palmer has produced one of the best ever live albums in the form of Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends from 1974. Works Live though is from another era of this band. The Works I & II albums, that is. Those were more like three solo albums, crammed into two albums.

Works Live though has a lot of very good stuff. The sound is pretty bad though and the fun factor from Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends has largely gone. This may have something to do with the inclusion of a full symphony orchestra on this album. A symphony orchestra which almost bankrupted this tour and was sent home halfway through it. This tour is legendary as one of the most insane ideas ever from a rock band.  Emerson Lake & Palmer's ideas was generally well over the top and not particular profitable.

Despite of this, the band still manage to come up with a lot of good stuff on this tour and this double CD live album. They have even included some more old stuff like Pictures At An Exhibition. Most stuff here is from Works and not their greatest stuff, though. I still rate this live album though. I rate it to a three pointer.

3 points

Zaum - Materialismus (2012)

Zaum is an Italian space rock band and I guess PsychUp Melodies has picked up this recording from someone's vault. This is their speciality. A very good thing.

Zaum's music is not as spaced out in the outer cosmos as the other PsychUp Melodies albums. The music on Materialismus is much more song orientated than outer space rock. This is still space rock though.

The sound is the standard muddy space rock sound. The Italian atonal vocals are pretty muddy too. The music is driven by tangents and guitars. Some woodwinds is helping them out too. The bass and drums sounds dirty too.

The major problem here is the lack of any good songs. Materialismus also feels like a compilation album where two or more records has been forged into one record. Which is fair as Zaum deserve to be unleashed on the scene/the scene deserves a Zaum album. This is a decent album in my ears. I am by no means a fan of this scene so I may be a bit biased. It is available through Amazon so head over there if obscure space rock sounds interesting.

2 points

Bondage Fruit - Bondage Fruit I (1994)

Review originally published somewhere else 14. December 2010. Moved over to this blog to get a complete review of their discography.

That's what we are talking about !

This is the debut album from the Japanese band Bondage Fruit. They are labeled zeuhl, but that is a label loosely applied to their music. This album is all over the music scenes. From fusion aka Mahavishnu Orchestra to Magma. In between, they also visit African music through the likes of Osibisa, avant-garde aka Present and Univers Zero, jazz aka Miles Davis and Simak Dialogue, the Canterbury Scene aka Hugh Hopper and hippie pop bands like The B52s. And I could go on and on by mentioning references. But this list should suffice for now.

In short, Bondage Fruit takes us on a heck of a journey on this album. The guitars are both clear, acoustic and distorted. There is plenty of violins here. There is also plenty of female vocals used as sound effects. There is also plenty of drums and bass here in addition to synths. The sound, chaotic at times, is still organic and never plastic or synthetic.

Quality wise, the album is great throughout. Most of all; this is a joyful album with a lot of small details which makes the listener really concentrate hard......... and then enjoy the music. A couple of ideas are underdeveloped and leaves a lot to be desired, but this album is still great and a must have for any zeuhl/RIO fans. Even fusion and jazz fans will find this album very interesting. But be prepared to be challenged.

An excellent album and a real winter warmer is my verdict though.

4 points

Cico - Notte (1974)

Cico is a one off album from Formula 3's drummer Tony Cicco. I picked it up from a local flea market because of the cover and the Italian text on the LP. I was pretty enthusiastic about finding what I thought was a hidden Italian prog rock gem.

I could not have been proven more wrong, though. The music is Italian pop rock with some space and hard rock included too. There are also some toe curling ballads on this album too. Hit singles, I presume. They sounds pretty horrid anno 2012. Forget "pretty horrid". They are horrid. Most horrid. The rest of the songs are not much better, either. The strings arrangements is horrid. The vocals are good. The rest of the instruments are pretty bad, too. A hidden Italian prog rock gem, this album is not. It is an Italian pop rock album which sounds outdated and pretty horrid. Don't be fooled by the excellent art work. Avoid this album.

1 point

Monday, 6 August 2012

Gong - Leave It Open (1981)

Gong is a name and hardly a band in 1981. Daevid Allen is still out and Pierre Moerlen is the owner of the Gong name.

Pierre Moerlen and Hansford Rowe (bass) is the rhythm section and is exploring the rhythm world under the Gong name. So much that Pierre Moerlen's xylophone is in the front of the mix and the guitars and saxophone is pressed into the back of the mix. Melodies does not mean much here where the rhythm kings is alpha and omega. Weird !

The result is pretty good though. The melodies is not the best and it feels like Pierre Moerlen is running a bit empty now. The guitar and saxophone solos are good though and ditto for the melodies. This album is a bit one dimentional and does not throw up any surprises. It is not an album I rate highly among the Gong albums and it is nowhere as good as Gazeuse. A weak three pointer is awarded.

3 points

Grobschnitt - Jumbo (1975)

The third album from this German band. One of the biggest German bands of all time. I though have serious problems with this band. Their first two albums and the Solar Lover stuff is very good. My problem is the rest of the albums which I find pretty weak and lacking in substance.

Jumbo is one of them. Hammond organs with some guitars, bass and drums. That and some strange vocals. I have no problems with German lyrics at all as such. The vocals here is pretty dull though. The music here is pretty standard rock'n'roll with German humour and krautrock liveliness. I am failing to really get into this music. The material here is dull.

A couple of decent melody lines and songs is saving this album from the scrapyard. This album and this type of music is failing to find an appreciate audience in my household.

2 points

Formula 3 - Formula 3 (1971)

The second album from this Italian band. A band which normally is being referred to as an Italian prog rock band.

The music on this album is a mix of somewhat hard Italian pop and space rock. The guitars and keyboards are mostly distorted. Ditto for the Italian vocals. The music also takes a lot from both folk and hard rock.

The music on this album is pretty decent and only that. The very good interplays between the keyboards and the guitars the only positive I takes away from this album. The songs is pretty boring throughout. It feels like this is an album from 1967 and not 1971 though. The Italian scene had moved on in 1971 and Formula 3 was left behind. This is a pretty decent album though.

2 points