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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Herba D'Hameli - Interiors


Herba D’Hameli is a progressive rock sextet hailing from Barcelona, Spain that has been around since forming in 2001. They have released five albums from 2001 to 2011. Despite various lineup changes the band considers: Carles Pinos on Keyboards, Vocals, Claudio Trullen on Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, Dani Fabre on Bass Guitar and Vocals, Guillem Roma on Drums, Josep Tardio on Flute and Keyboards, and Valenti Pinos on Electric Guitar.

Their new album released this year called, Interiors, is their sixth. And this is an introduction for me of listening to their music and I have to say, I was completely blown away from the moment I’ve put the album and listened to it in its entirety. There are elements of Symphonic, Jazz, Classical, Canterbury, and the Catalan Folk thrown in also.

It has resemblance of Camel, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis, and King Crimson. The rhythm section between all of six of them, they both have great interaction and I could tell that have some support in each other as they create some magical wonders in their music. The keyboard and flute section from Josep and Carles are magnificent through their improvisations.

Plus it has that lush and adventurous atmosphere that is in Hameli’s music while the Jazz melodies come into play. The thing I love about on their sixth album is that the sextet have a touch of the genres as I’ve mentioned between both Jazz Fusion and the Canterbury scene and the band have done their homework very well and its an excellent mixture of the two.

But Interiors is not just an amazing album, it is a journey into the other worlds and the music itself carries the vibes into the scenery. Usage of Mellotrons, Synths, Guitars, Vocals, and Drums, going in different parts of the time signatures with stop-and-go moments, it was like an unexpected jaw-dropping moment on the four compositions on what they have accomplished.

And the accomplishments are very well done and well structured. So far, I have enjoyed listening to Herba D’Hameli’s Interiors right from the moment I’ve put it on. This is my third listen of their music and I have to say I’m completely in awe and blown away of the band’s sound and achievement and I knew the moment I put it on, I soon realize I’m going to check out their previous work this year.

So if you are ready to go explore the wonders of Classical, Symphonic, Jazz Fusion and Catalan Folk music set to an epic score for a breathtaking animated film as it was done with real 2D animation, then Herba D’Hameli’s sixth album is the soundtrack inside your head. Worth exploring and worth checking out.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Plateau Sigma - The True Shape of Eskatos


Plateau Sigma have this combination between the elements of Post-Rock & Metal along with the sounds of the ‘80s new wave genre and creating this dark and sinister sound with an ominous touch to it as they describe themselves as the New Wave of Dark Rock. Formed five years ago in their hometown in Ventimiglia, the band released an EP back in 2013 called, White Wings of Nightmares.

Last year, they released their first debut album called, The True Shape of Eskatos. The album deals with the elements of: sex, afterlife, death, and the fears of the unknown and what is about to come. The sound has a mixture of a melodic, heavy, and dooming sound with a feel that would send shivers down the spine that makes it sound like it was recorded in 1981.

The band considers: Manuel Vicari on Guitar & Vocals, Francesco Genduso on Guitar & Vocals, Nino Zuppardo on Drums, and Maurizio Avena on Bass. Their debut album is this touch between the combinations of a dooming, prog, and death metal sound with a sinister touch. And it’s also at times atmospheric and jazzy in some of their compositions including the mixture of clean and snarling vocals with spoken dialogue thrown in.

There is a pulsating beat between the guitars that are at times fast-paced and roaring at the same time when it comes to both the riffs and chords that both Vicari and Genduso touch. At times the guitars go into a spooky clean touch and access the gain for the terror on what we are experiencing. It has a gothic atmosphere at times because of the structures in their instruments that give it a sense of loss and it’s a perfect sounding vibe in the compositions on the darker voyages on three highlights.

For example on the track, Ordinis Supernova Sex Horarum, it begins with the throttling guitar duo between VIcari and Genduso and the rapid drum tempo of a firing gun done by Zuppardo for the first four minutes and then the mood changes. They move into the calmer and volatile rhythm between a female vocalization and saxophone crying out into the end. There’s a touch of Roxy Music’s Avalon-era on the piece at the last three minutes.

The 14-minute Stalingrad is a jaw-dropping composition. I could tell Plateau Sigma paying homage to Anathema as one of the voices is in the realms of Vincent Cavanagh. The voice is spot on perfect and captures the darkness and loneliness while the guitars as if its crying in pain between the lead and rhythm and the slowed-down rhythm helps out before back into the swift death doom metal snarling rhythm. And then, back into the calm-like ambient mourning sound as the guitar solo goes into the night to close it off.

With a guest appearance featuring Efthimis Karadimas from Nightfall on The River 1917, it sees Plateau Sigma going into an area of a darker history filled with intense scenery on what is going on behind the scenes and having Giorgio Conforti on flute and with a jazzy acoustic-like touches and having a soothing piano into the mix. It gives the band a chance to relax and go into a touch of resembling one of Jacula’s composition, Jacula Valzer as Efthimis comes in on the growling vocals and dooming lines and guitars closing in with a haunting end.

Plateau Sigma’s The True Shape of Eskatos is not an easy album to listen to from beginning to end. But this is one of the most powerful, sinister, terrifying and astounding albums I’ve listen to. They really have the guts and power to go into those darker areas with Doom/Death Metal, new wave, and gothic sounds and have a melodic touch to it as well. So be prepare to experience the sounds of Plateau Sigma.

Tempest - The Tracks We Leave


Whenever a band has been around for 27 years, it’s a combination between the sounds of World Music, Folk, and Celtic Rock with various traditions of European medleys combined with the countries of African, Arabic, and the Middle Eastern touches thrown in. And one of the bands to carry the sounds is a group from San Francisco called Tempest.

And while this is an introduction for me into their music, I have to say that I was really impressed with their new album released this year on the Magna Carta label called, The Tracks We Leave. The title came from a proverb from the Dakota Sioux, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”

The quote covers between the musical, spiritual and the environmental issues and Tempest have captured the essence of that. There are 10 compositions on here including a bonus track also.

And when I was listening to the new album, I could hear the elements of bands like Strawbs, Steeleye Span, Horslips, and Fairport Convention with a harder edge. There are five highlights on the album that demonstrate a joyous and dance-like beauty that Tempest displays here. Their take of poet Robert Burns traditional Scottish song of the opener, Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin is an excellent way to start things off.

Both Lief Sorbye, the founding member of the group along with and on Fiddle/Vocals Kathy Buys, go into a militant sing-along, but with an exuberant feel at times it reminding me of the Strawbs’ Part of the Union. Both Lief and Kathy pay tribute to the traditional song as if the piece could have been used in the sessions for Bursting at the Seams and it would have been a perfect fit for the album.

Fog on the Bay has thumping percussion introduction done by Adolfo Lazo followed by Lief’s flute along with the organ sounds done by Robert Berry and Fossgren’s bass line. And it makes the beat per minute go from 120 with a calm folk feel into a dynamic hard rocking sound. Kathy’s fiddle and Lief’s flute bring the melody together at the climatic end.

Tempos change on The Brown Coffin. It begins with a jazzy clean guitar introduction before the mandolin, bass, and fiddle come in and the gain guitar sound for the first minute and fifty two seconds. And then, it changes into a foot stomping, hand clapping rhythm as Fossgren does a brief but amazing bass solo that has a funk rock touch before the band increases the groove voltage for an uptempo finale.

Ganesh is a very interesting track with Tempest going into a Reggae sound as the song tells the story about the patron of the arts of the god who is the lord of beginnings, bringing good fortune along with joy, protection, and harmony. The melody however is spirited and vibrant. And I could tell that they are having a blast while have a great time on this composition written by Lief and his wife Patricia Reynolds.

September Jig is a highlight for me. I just love their improvisation on here as the band are from Celtic Folk into Jazz in the midsection. It is almost a perfect combination that Tempest is doing. And it gives Lief and the band members a chance to go into their own ideas in the instrumental piece. Buys is enjoying some amazing solo work on her instrument while Greg Jones and Josh and Adolfo Lazo do a bit of the Jazz walking line in the piece. It has this mellowing dance-line for a couple of seconds and then its back into the foot-stomping groove again before Adolfo Lazo does a drum solo for a stop-and-go moment and they close it off with a bang.

I really enjoyed listening to Tempest’s The Tracks We Leave. And after listening about five times, its an amazing yet high-spirited release this year. And even though I’m not a huge Celtic Rock fan, I do respect the genre very well. So if you are ready to have a blast with lively dance tunes set to a melodic energetic music, then get ready for the music of Tempest. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Steven Wilson - Hand.Cannot.Erase.


I’ve always been a huge champion for Steven Wilson’s career. With his work on Porcupine Tree, the 5.1 mixes for; King Crimson, Jethro Tull, XTC, and Yes to name a few, and his solo career. He is a very, very busy man when it comes to projects on the last two. This year, he’s back in full circle with the release of his fourth album, Hand.Cannot.Erase. It’s Steven’s follow up to The Raven That Refused to Sing and it is a joyous and spiritual adventure with emotional textures told in the story of a disappearance of a woman who was dead for three years which became a mystery before she was discovered.

Steven was inspired by the story of a woman named Joyce Carol Vincent in which she was the subject of a documentary in 2012 called, Dreams of a Life, and he knew that this was a subject that Wilson wanted to touch on and it captures the essence of the mysterious person. It is also a straightforward album with an electronic pop and not to mention the Prog aspects thrown in as well. And also having Israeli singer, Ninette Tayeb and a Boys choir onto the album it’s an excellent combination on what he’s brought to the table.

With the ambient introduction on First Regret and seguing into the overdrive resemblance of the guitar styles of Pete Townshend’s flamenco touches with 3 Years Older, it is a perfect introduction to get you into the story. With the narratives, it is a perfect epic sounding that has a theatrical atmosphere that Wilson gives the band members a chance to go into a lyrical view of isolation and shutting the worlds both in and out upon you.

Katherine Jenkins describes the narration of her teen years of the meeting of her sister and describing of their love of the music on the mix tapes that included This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance, and Felt. Along with books, clothes, and her first cigarette in a spoken dialogue on the electro pop beauty of Perfect Life while the title track featuring Tayeb on background vocals, has an ascending rhythm section and singing the line “Hand Cannot Erase this Love” it is magic when the band are together as one in a soaring melody. Tayeb herself is brilliantly magnificent on her vocals and the moment I played it, I couldn’t turn it off.

Because she along with Steven himself, is brilliant. Simply brilliant. The other two tracks shows how she can take it into the areas of showing that hope maybe there for survival. The nine-minute epic, Routine begins with a haunting and moving ballad for the first four minutes before it kicks into gear in the Orchestral format as they both take turns on the lyrics.

The ominous 12-minute Ancestral goes into a deeper and darker voyage with moody and intense nightmarish tones and the lyrics almost have a dystopian scenery “And hiding there among the wreckage left behind/they see things that haunt them/When they close their eyes.” It has a string section, electronics, keyboards, drums flute, mellotron, and the haunting guitar melodies, capture the composition and hitting the nails on the wall very hard.

The harder rock and mystifying enormous drum beats and Rhodes solo along with the bass line that has a Jazzy groove and futuristic guitar solo on Home Invasion, has this wonderful catchy beat and the double-tracking vocals as well. Both Guthrie, Marco, Nick, and Adam are having a blast on this track and it go into a Floyd-sque beauty and back into the eruptive roar.

But on the closing tracks, Happy Returns and Ascendant Here On… is reminding the listener that the while the story is very much giving a farewell to the character’s brother and knowing that she isn’t coming back, and the aftermath what is about to come. The ballad is a lukewarm chance for the brother that not to give up and hopefully to start a new chapter and the Boys choir is beautifully done that has sadness, mourn, and the flashbacks from childhood to remember and focusing the good times the character had before fading away into the sunset.

I have listened to Hand.Cannot.Erase about eight times. This shows Wilson at his finest hour and it shows that he isn’t just a musician, but also a composer and an arranger at the same time and knowing exactly where the band and choir need to be in. He has done a superb job with this. The DVD features a documentary done by Lasse Hoile about the making of the album at No Man’s Land and Air Studio in London.

It features Anil Prasad from Innerviews (Music Without Borders) talking to Steven about the inspiration behind the process and the album in 5.1 sound, and a photo gallery of the sessions. The booklet is one of a kind and it shows pictures of the character going through the memories of friends, family, her bedroom, and her the paintings thrown in the black & white photograph.

It is perhaps for me, one of Steven’s finest moment of this year so far.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Drakkar - Run With the Wolf


Since their formation 20 years ago in Italy, Drakkar are an epic, drive, and powerful force of Power Metal with an eruptive sound. The band released so far four albums and they took me by surprise. Not just the sound, but with a driven effort and strength inside them and they can give the vitality of the genre into an extent measure.

This year, they have released their fifth album entitled, Run with the Wolf on the My Kingdom Music label. It has sing-along melodies that can you raise your fists and not just headbang, but get into the vibes and the eruptive dueling duo guitar lines, keyboards with the structures of the Prog genre thrown in. There are touches of Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, and Judas Priest that is destined to be playing at a very loud sound with a blaring roar.

The band considers; Emanuele Laghi on Keyboards, Paolo Pirola on Drums, Dave Dell’Orto on Lead Vocals, Dario Beretta on Guitar, and Simon Cappato on Bass Guitar. There are five highlights throughout the album that just taken me to a whole new level that made me realize this is a band that will soon be one of my favorites in the Power and Progressive Metal genre.

The title track goes into a throttling car driven adventure in the styles of the Deep Purple sound during the Machine Head-era as Emanuele captures the essence of the late great Jon Lord as Dario goes into the styles of both Ritchie Blackmore and KK Downing. His styles of riffs in those areas are very powerful in his rhythm between the riffs and eruptive powers he brings into his Guitar.

Dave Dell’Orto’s vocals on the title track, reminded me in the reigns of Bruce Dickinson and Ian Gillian also. It has a mid to late ‘70s/early ‘80s vibe of the beginnings of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal flown in as if they were in awe of what they are doing to pay homage to the movement.

The Celtic Folk Metal composition of Southern Cross begins with the first minute and 23-seconds of introductions between the acoustics as it kicks into the harder edges whilst becoming soon going to become a fan-favorite and soon to be a live song. It has the sing-along melodies thrown into the lyrics that they do and its raising fists in the air and lighting the lighters up in the air to enjoy.

Meanwhile the beat per minute going at 171 is a thumping fast tempo on Invincible, is another blistering adventure. You could tell that Drakkar are paying tribute to the great Thin Lizzy. Dave is going into the elements of Scott Gorham throughout this track. There are some elements between the Jailbreak-era and not to mention the epic, Rosin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend.

And Dave is going through the guitar to show his love of the inspirations of the bands he grew up on to make sure that Drakkar are carrying the torch for them. But its on the EP bonus which covers their first three albums with the current lineup of Galadriel Song, is epic and touching at the same time to show Drakkar with their fantasy side tribute to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It starts with an orchestral epic theme before going into a electronic piano touch as Dave’s voices come in to tell the story of Galadriel as the midsection has gentle touch with the flute solo and string section from the Keyboards done by Emanuele by giving the atmosphere of Tolkien’s book.

And then, Dave and Paolo Correale’s soprano vocals in an operatic style gives it that climatic finale and they nail it throughout the section and Dave wants to make sure that he’s got Paolo’s back to hit those notes in an superb and jaw-dropping moment of the composition before Dave and Emanuele’s piano helps it end to say farewell.

Call of the Dragonblood is one of the tracks I have really enjoyed because of the how it is structured. It starts off with a melodic guitar introduction before kicking into high gear of the riffs and organ-driven beats between both Dario and Emanuele. But it’s Emanuele going into the drive of both Jon Lord and Keith Emerson by taking the keyboards into the Prog treatment that is blistering and powerful.

And he’s is nailing throughout the midsection as both Dario and Pirola help him out before Dario goes into his solo tapping structures and back into the beat and vocalizations and church organ combination. You could tell Drakkar know their touch of the storytelling compositions with the elements of Power Metal, they have done well.

I have listened to Run With the Wolf about ten times now, and I’m blown away each time I’ve listened to Drakkar’s music and I can’t wait to explore and listen to more of their music later on this year or in the near future to see what other surprises they have waiting to go into. So if you are ready to go into the sounds of Drakkar, then Run With the Wolf is the highly recommended album to dive into for the Progressive and Power Metal fans to embark on an an adventure you will never forget.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ske - 1000 Autunni


What happens when you combine the sounds of the Progressive genre mixed in with elements of the Canterbury scene, Rock Progressivo Italiano, Rock in Opposition, Avant-Rock, and Electronic music rolled into one? You’d get a mixture of an unexpected welcome like exploring into another infinite world. And Paolo “Ske” Botta is the man on the job. Botta is a very busy man when it comes to projects like: Not a Good Sign and Yugen to name a few, and he has a nickname that is called “Ske.” And he has released his solo debut released in 2011 on the Fading Records label called, 1000 Autunni.

When you listen to his solo project, Paolo goes into various directions whether it is beautiful, surreal, odd, or mind-boggling at times on his keyboard, he knows exactly where he would take the band members into in which there are 14 players including that some of the members from Yugen and Empty Days to name a few including Francesco Zago, Giuseppe Jos Olivini, and Maurizio Fasoli to name a few. Botta is almost like a conductor and composer that tells them which direction he wants to go into and they would follow him where he would take them into next.

There are some odd time changes and various themes in consonances and the harmonies are in there from the moment the compositions are in the right movement at the right time. Not to mention the elements of Gentle Giant, Terry Riley, Hatfield and the North, Frank Zappa, and Samla Mammas Manna and it shows how much inspirations are inside the project that Botta brought into. And the female vocalizations, reminded me also of the Northettes that show a bit of the Canterbury and Zappa sounds coming into the groove.

The booklet also has this wonderful picture images and the names of the compositions in which it has this black and white atmosphere that has a 1940s touch to it. And it’s a perfect bundle that fits well. This is my fourth time listening to Botta’s solo project of 1000 Autunni. And I have to say I was really impressed of what he had brought here with those twists and turns on here.

And I can’t wait to see what he would do next on his project whether it’s from either Yugen, next solo project or Not a Good Sign, he knows what to do next. So if you love some of the inspirations of the Canterbury sound, RIO, Zappa, and Riley to name a few, then Ske’s solo project is worth the monumental trip to explore and be prepared to experience the different time signatures on what he will come up with the next the moment you put it on from beginning, middle, and end.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cheer-Accident - Fear Draws Misfortune


Since my introduction of labels like MoonJune and Cuneiform Records have peaked my interest thanks to the 2010 documentary of the first documentary of Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga, there was this amazing band that just completely blew me away. And that band was Cheer-Accident. Formed in Chicago in 1981, the band released 17 albums and their previous is their 16th called, Fear Draws Misfortune released in 2009.

This is perhaps one of the most compelling and thunderous albums I’ve listened to. You could tell that the odd and difficult time signatures are bouncing off the wall through ominous twists and turns throughout the entire album. It’s this combination between Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Univers Zero, Magma, The Residents, Present, King Crimson, and Krautrock legends, Faust.

There’s a touch of the RIO (Rock in Opposition), the dystopian roars, and the Avant-Progressive Rock sounds come bursting in as if the door has been blown down through a gigantic bulldozer and Cheer-Accident coming marching in to give the surprising touches thrown in and let me say, they know what they are doing. The band consists of; Thymme Jones on Drums, Keyboards, Trumpet, and Vocals, Alex Perkolup on Bass Guitar, and Jeff Libersher on Guitar and Vocals.

And having 15 musicians playing on here along with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s Carla Kihlstedt on Vocals, it’s a perfect combination to come along for a roller-coaster ride that you will never forget. And with five centerpieces on the album, it can really take note that you will expect the unexpected that you might be on the look out for.

Opening track, Sun Dies, starts off with a blaring haywire guitar introduction that have an antagonistic chords that has a resemblance of the Trout Mask Replica-era. And combined with the vocalizations coming in as if the thumping beats help out before getting into the Zappa vibes of Dog Breath, In the Year of the Plague as if the Northettes from Hatfield and the North and Egg were singing those melodies to capture the dissonance rhythm that makes it out of the blue and wonderous in surreal way.

Blue Cheadle starts off in a rhythm format of the Post-Rock era of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s with a thumping guitar and bass line in 126 beats per minute as the drums capture the ominous atmosphere. Not to mention the chanting of the title track and the doomy piano melodies and synths followed by a hand-held Latin instrument of the Guiro, as it ends into a nightmarish violin duo to give chills and shivers down the listeners spine with an homage to Art Zoyd.

Disenchantment has a laid-back percussion section followed by the drums and the synths make it sound like a car driving off into the night with nowhere to go that has an electronic beat to it.  And the crashing sounds followed by the minor keys in the piano and then going into a midtempo beat as the female vocals come in and trumpets and melodica come out of the blue with a crashing ending as the galloping increasing terrors that wishes that Cheer-Accident could have written a score for either a David Lynch or Tim Burton film with twisted and insanity force on The Carnal, Garish City.

With those odd time changes and their homage to Present, The Residents and Gentle Giant combined into one, it is very complex and off the wall featuring blaring horn sections, and Alex’s tribute to Roger Triguax of Present and Fred Frith as well, he takes his guitar into those darker and sinister areas and almost neo-classical moments followed by the vocalizations going into different areas. And of course, the quacking voices, shows they have an excellent sense of humor thrown in.

But it’s Your Weak Heart that is a nine-minute epic to give the band a relaxing calm after the storm. It’s Thymme taking the vocals and singing through his heart and showing Cheer-Accident’s softer side for the first two minutes before it kicks into overdrive of a symphonic structure with a jazzy section. And then it goes into the styles of a Keith Emerson concerto that is almost straight into the touches of the Trilogy-era and there is some compelling rhythm sections to give it the Prog power before ending with Thymme's vocals to close the curtain for a warmth and soothing finale.

This is my third time listening to Fear Draws Misfortune and my intro to Cheer-Accident’s music and they have released a mind-blowing yet enthralling and absorbing release of 2009 from the Cuneiform label. A must have for the RIO/Avant-Prog fans worth sinking into the deep waters for a twisted adventure of explorations diving into see what they will come up with next.