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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dawn - Darker


When you listen to Dawn’s second album, you can have this amazing experience as if it was recorded in 1972 as if it was released during its golden-era of Progressive Rock.  Dawn has been around since their formation nine years ago in their hometown in Montreux, Switzerland. They capture the vintage sound of the genre and have opened for Kansas and Fish. Alongside as opening act, Dawn also performed in Prog festivals as well including Montreux Prog Nights, Progsol, and Prog’sud Festival in France.

The band released their debut album, Loneliness back in 2007 and now this year with Darker, it shows that it has an eerie, haunting, and touching wonder on their follow up released on The Laser’s Edge label. In Dawn, the band considers; Rene Degoumois on Lead Vocals and Guitar, Nicolas Gerber on Keyboards, Julien Vuataz on Bass, and Manu Linder on Drums.

Opener, Yesterday’s Sorrow, begins with a mourning organ and rises of the cymbals setting the tone before the synth and mellotron come kicking off in with a homage to Premiata Forneria Marconi’s Storia Di Un Minuto-era as it segues into the sinister heavy guitar lines along with the keyboards get buckling up for unbelievable results with Cold. Degoumois and Gerber create these wonderful atmospheric spacey yet symphonic structures between the two of them as their instruments are in the outer limits ready to go into infinite worlds.

The 10-minute title track, goes into the voyages of Space Rock as it heads into the veins of a haunting reminiscent  of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here-era in there for the first three minutes before adding the classical touches flown in with the organ and mellotron bringing the sounds of early Genesis flowing by. Then Julien’s bass comes onto the movement as he, Rene, Nicolas, and Manu do some laid-back improvisations as Nicolas’ guitar, has a crying sound in the passages as Rene’s vocals and Nicolas’s organ sing the melody together, it’s a perfect fit.

Lullabies for Gutterflies, is a whimsical, ominous, and graceful instrumental. It begins with this Merry-Go-Round dystopian carousel that Nicolas does with Rhodes, Mellotron, ‘80s Synths as it first is happily enjoyful, but then turns into a nightmare as if something terrible has happened as he goes through this loop but then changes from major to minor chords before the groove kicks in. The next epic in which is 18-minutes long, 8945, is one of the most mind-blowing pieces I’ve ever heard that has an anti-war filled with emotions, horror, and the aftermath of the bombings that occurred sixty-nine years ago when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by the “Fat Man” nuclear bomb on August 9th, 1945.

This piece sets the atmosphere and tone of the aftermath. It just hits you so hard you can imagine what the survivors had to go through. And Dawn creates the tension and the mood of the composition as it has a lot of emotional touches from the keyboards and guitar that has the touches of Robert Fripp, spoken word dialog by 33rd President Harry S. Truman, and haywire effects that is straight out of Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway of haywire guitar effects, cluttering drum kits that has Linder off the wall in the style of Jamie Muir, glass breaking, and moog setting the screeching noises before the organ gives it a mourning call and then back into the climatic finale of the instruments coming together as one.

Out of Control is a joyous and embracing composition that gives Gerber himself some free rein. You can imagine him having a great time playing the Organ and Synth that almost as if he had done a score for one of the games of the ‘80s during Nintendo’s heyday and there at times that reminded me of Yes and Triumvirat. However on Lost Anger, its back to the haunting symphonic structures as Gerber, Vuataz, and Linder do an improvisation with a Jazzy vibe before Rene comes in the picture and they are now as one with a stirring effect before they close the curtains on the 10-minute piece, Endless.

The band are now combined into one and set the controls inside the ship to head back home to Earth as they take their instruments to bring the adventure to a stimulating ending that would make you give them a standing ovation and applause of how much they have done an amazing job from start to finish. This is my introduction to the band’s music and I have to say I am blown away from what I’ve listened to after listening about five times and they are the band to really check out.

So if you love bands like; Anglagard, King Crimson, Cressida, and Caravan to name a few, Dawn is highly recommended to enjoy the sounds of the inspiration and influential sounds of what you are about to experience the moment you put your headphones on and embark an amazing journey that you are about to embark on.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gentle Giant - The Power and the Glory


Gentle Giant for me, are one of the most influential, overlooked and mind-blowing progressive rock bands to come out of the ‘70s. And among supporters including Snooker legend Steve “interesting” Davis and the late great Frank Zappa, they would take different time changes into unbelievable results in the sounds of Classical, Blues, Folk, Avant-Garde, Jazz, and Chamber Music in their early days. Here in their sixth album, The Power and the Glory, the band took it into a different view in the concept about corruption, poverty, and someone coming into power and abusing it as it goes horribly wrong.

An amazing digipak of the reissue features the new stereo mix by Steven Wilson including an 10-page liner notes done by Sid Smith along with talking to Derek and Ray Shulman, Gary Green, and Kerry Minnear about the making of the album. And it features a DVD/Blu-Ray release featuring illustrations of the album that tells the story and the 5.1 sound is spectacular that Wilson himself has done that adds the surround mixes along with the original 1974 mix and shows how much work he brought to clean it up and bring it to light.

The opening track, Proclamation, begins with a roaring applause before Kerry Minnear electric keyboards, and Derek’s voice come kicking in as the story begins before Ray’s bass comes in. And then they come in with a boost from the groove on John Weathers drums as the vocals from Derek are almost double as if there was two of them while Gary and Ray take a duel between each other as Kerry goes into his organ and his homage to the Flight of the Bumblebee on the piano before the sinister line of “Hail to Power and to Glory’s Way.” It let’s the listener know that this is a dystopian world that they have landed on.

Then everything becomes almost chamber rock if you will between sax, violin and bass playing the melody with a darker tone on So Sincere. Kerry comes in with his calming vocals on who the person really is and the skeletons in the closet he has, doesn’t want anyone to know by keeping it a low profile and making the person signing a deal with the devil himself.
And then the intense signature comes in with the vocals and Gary Green’s guitar lines fits the mood as if someone was kicking you in the gut with the lines “So! Sin! Cere! Green is all over on his solo on the wah-wah with a bluesy touch before the haywire effect for a brief second from Minnear and then back into the vocals.

Aspirations, is a very moody and mellowing ballad which gives the band a break from the signatures of time changes and Kerry’s calming voice and his Wurlitzer Electric Piano has this moving emotional boundary that has a Jazzy vibe as if you can imagine this song being performed in a smoky nightclub and the audience moved by the lyrics. Playing the Game begins with xylophone, keyboard, bass, and telephone ringing which makes it a perfect way to start the song off and Green’s classical guitar introduction.

It has a lot wonderful melodic boundaries and Derek and Kerry in which he changes the mood, take turns on the vocals, it is has wonderful ideas they would come up with before they go back into the introduction phrase to close the piece off. The riveting Cogs in Cogs features some throttling keyboard, drumming, and bass lines that is almost like a swirling tornado coming in as Derek comes in with the line “Empty promises broken the path have not been paved any way/Cogs in cogs the machine is being left where it lay/Anger and the rising murmur breaks the old circle, the wheel slowly turns around.”

The tempo goes through various changes from the instruments like a Merry-Go-Round going round and round and ends with a stunning boom as they go back into the mellowing mood from their previous third composition, but more of the elaborate movements following in on No God’s a Man. The vocals go through the intricate styles, but it’s really amazing on how they handle it as well the guitar, clavinet, organ, and bass coming in and having almost like a renaissance jazzy touch reference to a waltz.

But they are coming in for a full landing on the classical touches with the same style on The Face with cello, shrieking violin solo, bass lines, alarming sounds from Green, and John Weathers all over on his drum and percussion kit. The closer, Valedictory, is a reprise of Proclamation. It’s hard rock like no other with a Zeppelin vibe as Derek is shouting almost as if he’s screaming through a bullhorn that its time to go through some changes in the town before ending with the tape rewinding back to the beginning.

The bonus tracks feature the Clavinet yet voltage tapping foot vibe of the single of the title track and an instrumental outtake of Aspirations. When it was released in 1974, it was only released as an import in the States along with In a Glass House because the record label thought it was too un-commercial but they had received word of mouth in North America. But 40 years later, Gentle Giant’s sixth album pushed the boundary of storytelling in a dystopian universe and they nailed it very well along with Steven Wilson’s mix on here, he did a superb job along with the Crimson and Tull catalog to name a few. I can’t wait to see what Wilson will do next with the Gentle Giant catalog in the near future.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pixel - We Are All Small Pixels


Pixel, for me, is one of the most amazing Jazz quartets to come out of Norway and it has a touch of the Indie-Jazz-Pop sound in their music thanks to the voice and string bassist, Ellen Andrea Wang, they carry a dosage of it. And while this is my introduction of the band’s music, their second album, We Are All Small Pixels, released last year, which is a follow up to their 2012 debut, Reminder, which is released on the Cuneiform label, it shows that the band can really go up the stairs and take the music into unbelievable results.

Alongside Ellen Andrea Wang, the band considers; Harald Lassen on Sax, Jonas Kilmork Vemoy on Trumpet, and Jon Audun Baar on Drums. Farris has a slowed-down beat with a Brazilian vibe as Ellen, Jon, and Jonas create this beautiful vibration between the three of them on this track. There are some elements between both John Coltrane and Miles Davis on the Sax and Trumpet as Harald and Jonas do this duet together in the last couple of seconds before they go off into the sunset.

However it’s the opener, Be Mine that is the real kick. It begins with a fretless introduction on the string bass that Ellen does before Harald and Jonas comes in and everything is magic as Ellen sings along with the instruments performing the melody with her. With a very gentle surrounding, it has a romantic touch on who the person he or she falls in love with to be with forever. It’s a great way to start the album off and knowing that the listener and admirers of Jazz are embarking into the world of Pixel.

On the catchy and exuberant Space, Ellen goes in the styles of Charles Mingus and Jimmy Garrison and then sings together with Harald’s Sax to capture the harmony and you can imagine the band having fun and working hard on the compositions to see what is about to happen next for the door to open into. The trip-hop dance percussion beat intro thanks to Jon Audun Baar’s dynamic beats for Edge, gives him some free rein to go into some funk grooves on the Bass as Lessen follows him with some improvisation. 

Ellen just shines on her vocals and the melodies are spot on to play as one throughout the climax while Night Dreamer begins with sax and drums playing this ‘60s rocking beat for the first two minutes before bass and trumpet come in on a quiet movement before they get back into gear to an intense conclusion that hopefully will become a live favorite.  The short piece is an atmospheric sax virtuoso and Ellen’s vocalization on the avant-dreamy piece, Easter Song before it goes down into some elements of Soft Machine’s Third and at times sessions that could have been used during A Tribute to Jack Johnson as the Sax channels Bennie Maupin and the late great Elton Dean on Passport.

Harald’s alarming sax just wakes you up for the sun to rise and dance to the Trip-Hop percussion beat turned swinging rhythm and it’s a perfect combination as it goes into the sounds of the late ‘50s before going into the Soul double-tracking vocals along with tenor and alto sax playing as one in rhythm on Dreaming. But then he goes back into the Elton Dean sound and adding a dosage of the Coltrane as well with some intensity of a mid-fast tempo between Ellen and Jon with Sigma.

The dramatic Daylight has a lot of emotion as Ellie brings her energy out with her voice as the horn section follows on where she goes on dealing with tension between loved ones and needing each other. It has a starling, yet angry beat to it from the instruments and you could tell that someone who had a fight with someone they care and storming off and remembering the regret and trying to call them to apologize the night before over that for forgiveness.

Time closes the album off featuring percussion beat, bass viola and the horns to give it a haunting ballad. The song is telling the listener that while there are some good and bad times, it gives a chance of hope and remembering when you had all the good fun, you keep it inside your pocket and never forgetting it.

This is an absolute amazing experience I had listening to Pixel’s second album and I have listened to it so far about nine times now and the label, Cuneiform Records, show no sign of stopping of releasing some amazing music from Avant-Prog, Jazz, and RIO. This is one of the bands I'm really proud and blown away by. Pixel is a band worth checking out in the years to come and We Are All Small Pixels is that the Jazz sound can take it up a notch and I hope they do a North American tour one of these days.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Disasterhate - Mirroring the Abyss


When you have the sounds of Melodic, Death, and Thrash Metal as if it was in a giant blender creating an eruptive explosion, you know something brilliant and extreme is about to happen for this up-and-coming quartet from the east coast of Sicily, Catania, is a band that is going to bring the doors down with a heavy bulldozer. That band is called Disasterhate. They have been around nine years ago and receiving word of mouth the Sicilian Metal scene by working on their EP back in 2007 called, Sacrifice to Eclipse.

And now this year, they have unleashed the beast to rein terror with their debut album from the Club Inferno label called, Mirroring the Abyss. The band features three females and one male and that is a perfect combination as they bringing the ammunition with their instruments with a rapid express train going into a mode of attack and you can imagine no one is stopping them. There is the soft and growling/screeching voice in which it is at time referred to the Beauty and the Beast or Cookie Monster vocals and one of the vocalists does an amazing job doing that.

At times the vocals reminded me of both Mikael Akerfeldt and Phil Anselmo rolled into one. Which is evidential on the first three tracks; Me = Android, the calming turned nightmarish Desecrated Sink Reality and Shining Black Mirror. The guitars have a pummeling rhythm and chords that come at you out of nowhere with a head banging quality and for a quick second the bass does a quick little solo before getting back into the rhythm as the drums going into a measure of 153 beats per minute going extremely fast by carrying the homage of Pantera, Mastodon, and The Dillinger Escape Plan thrown in there.

On Blank, Disasterhate takes a break from their growling vocalizations into softer and tender yet heavy ¾ time signature on the first minute and thirty-six seconds and then its vocals and guitar coming in for the finale before going back into full gear. The band give us, the listener, a real journey of not just terror, but real maximum and radical deep ideas they bring into the table for their debut.

The track The Abyss, has this doomy introduction between guitar and drums with a homage to the Lateralus-era by Tool before they go into the car of severe and penetrating momentum and not to mention the spoken vocals for a minute before the growling voices come swarming back in along with In a Rarefied Morning Sun and also the last four tracks to give us the energy and electric juice they have in their power to give us more right into the very end. You can imagine them recording one of their compositions for doing a score of the return of the resurrection of the Giallo horror films and giving the audience a real treat on what is about to come next. 

Disasterhate’s music is not easy to get into. Now does it say they are the greatest up-and-coming bands ever? No, but they have a lot of capability in their music and the vision in them. I imagine they might have a great future up ahead for them of giving the audience in Metal Festivals in Europe and Italy as well, by giving them a knockout performance like no other and Mirroring the Abyss is an album that will keep you ready for where they are going to next and seeing what the journey will lead them into.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Red Zone Rider - Red Zone Rider



Imagine if you will, the year is 1975 and the AOR (Album Orientated Rock) sound is born thanks to the minds of bands like; Led Zeppelin, Mountain, Grand Funk Railroad, and Deep Purple to name a few and somehow it is been revived from a band that are carrying the spirit of the genre. A new project in the form of a trio from the realms of three artists who worked with bands including; UFO, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the Blue Man Group to name a few, will make you realize that this is a heavy rocking adventure that you, as a listener, is about to embark on.

Red Zone Rider are bringing the sound and carrying the raw energy and force of the genre by creating a blistering yet incendiary debut this year to make you get the records out of the cabinet’s to go on a special journey. The trio considers Vinnie Moore on guitar, Kelly Keeling on Lead Vocals, Organ and Bass, and Scot Coogan on Drums. The trio is like magic between the three-piece.

And Vinnie’s guitar playing just hits you the moment he takes it to the sounds of Metal, Hard Rock, Classical, and the Blues rolled into one as Kelly Keeling, in which his voice at times reminded me of David Coverdale, Roger Taylor, and Leslie West while Scot himself carries the force on the drums and making sure that both Moore and Keeling are in top gear and in full power. With the pummeling homage to the sounds of Leslie West and thanks to Keeling’s voice, you could tell that the spirit of Mountain’s music of Mississippi Queen, is in there with Vinnie’s heavy chords, solo and riffs that captures the harder rock, is soon going to become a live favorite among them on By the Rainbow’s End.

Opener, Hell No, begins with a sliding Jimmy Page-like intro before getting into the heavy bluesy powder keg riffs and powerful virtuoso workout exercise solo along with Keeling’s vocals both in front and backing fit well and at times it reminded me of fast-driven touch version of Procol Harum’s Long Gone Geek and out of Bad Company’s Straight Shooter-era. Red Zone Rider shows their softer side on the relaxing and comforting composition, Cloud of Dreams.

It has an angelic and romantic view of talking with a loved one on what kind of dream they had while they were asleep as the vocals, organ and soul-like guitar rhythm is soaring and touching while going into the highest note on the fret to reach up to the top of the grand canyon along with the adventures into space with driven organ and Vinnie’s soaring sounds into the milky way and finding the answers on a spiritual journey with Obvious.

Meanwhile, the sing-along touches on The Hand That Feeds You, with thunderous drum patterns and the eruptive solo and riffs come into swing, has a wonderful homage to Saxon’s Strong Arm of the Law as Vinnie’s roaring sliding elements of the heavy blues but with the Hard Rock touches of Kelly’s vocals going into the mind of Ian Gillian, is right at home on Never Trust a Woman.

The band then go into the road on the highway with a Soul/Funk groove as if you can imagine this performed to a mind-blowing morning service at church to get the crowd in the mood with a lot of Organ sounds and the shuffling rhythm sounds as well on Save It. The organ that Kelly plays has a lot of moving he has in his head which is evidential on the ¾ waltz-turned-soul-hard rock elements on finding out the truth and the person’s real hope is with There’s a Knowing and the elements of going back in the harder material with the sliding sounds coming in again with the dosage of Led Zeppelin and bits of the Steve Miller Band flown into the mix on Hit the Road.

Then, the sounds of Deep Purple and the homage to the late great Jon Lord is in full circle and you can tell Keeling is paying tribute Lord’s powerful combination of bringing the Purple sound and Vinnie’s Blackmore-sque surroundings is a unexpected moment with There’s a Knowing. And then just before you know the sun goes down for the night, Red Zone Rider brings the riding into the highway by ending it on a high note with the Count’s 77.

Red Zone Rider will bring smiles on faces for fans that admired the sounds of the genre of; Blues Rock, Hard Rock, and the resurrection of AOR. For me, I had an amazing listening about 5 times of their debut. I can imagine myself driving in my ’58 Corvette as if it was 1976 all over again as I put the 8-track of Red Zone Rider’s music on the deck and cranking it up to maximum volume from start to finish of a trio that know the two genres and bringing Classic Rock to a whole new level of old and a new generation of real good music.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Marbin - The Third Set


Marbin have always been for me, one of my favorite bands in the Jazz Rock sound. Since my introduction came to their work with their mind-blowing, Last Chapter of Dreaming, they always wanted to achieve some to expect the out of the blue moments from them. This time, it’s a live album they have unleashed this year from the Moonjune label with The Third Set. 

This was recorded in various locations from March 3rd to April 14th, 2013 at different gigs from Wisconsin, Iowa, and New England to name a few and you can imagine yourself being in one of the shows and watching the group in an eruptive yet strong performances they gave to an audience that are jaw-dropped to the floor from start to finish. Danny Markovitch is channeling at times Karl Jenkins of the Soft Machine and Nucleus on the fierce touches, The Depot, as it’s homage to them which you could tell it’s a tribute to a heavier version of Song for the Bearded Lady combining with Red House with a Metallic touch stop-and-go from the Sax and Page meets Hendrix meets Zappa-sque styles that Dan Rabin does. 

It is a perfect match of Jazz, Metal, and 12-bar Blues into one which is evidential on the tribute to the 1930s sound of the fast tempos of Swing on Redline that I could Jimi himself could have used during the sessions for Electric Ladyland. Speaking of Hendrix, Rabin carries Jimi’s torch as if the master is watching him being blown away of what he is about to bring next to the table. With pieces like; Rabak, Splaw, and Vanthrax to name a few, 

Dani just goes in the shuffling blues rock touches and not to mention the melodic solo between him and Markovtich that at times is almost an excellent combination of not just the Hendrix touch, but also Stevie Ray Vaughan and I can imagine Dani Marbin himself playing guitar behind his head to pay tribute of both Vaughan and Hendrix. On Crystal Bells, Marbin goes into the Sahara desert and it has this atmospheric beauty thanks to Justyn Lawrence cymbals to create the tension as Jae Gentle’s moving bass line and Markovitch’s sax come in as you can feel the wind blowing and reaching to see if you have found freedom before the band come in with a heavy rhythm and mellowing sliding touch. 

Northern Bells is a very soothing and softer touch as if you are walking around midnight in the streets of Paris and watching the lights go on between the Eiffel tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and the Seine as Markovtich just takes it to town by his Sax as he goes in the sounds of Dexter Gordon. I have listened to The Third Set about six times now of and Marbin have scored another home run for me here and I always imagine what they will do next in the few years to come of the sounds of virtuosity, progressive, and improvisational jazz rock like no other! 

So get ready to embark on Marbin’s adventure on this amazing roller-coaster ride with their live album because it will be an amazing ride that you will experience from beginning, middle, and end.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Moraine - Groundswell


Moraine has for me, one of my favorite Progressive/Jazz-Rock bands from the Moonjune label since listening of both of their two albums including their live album in which they did a performance back at NEARFest four years ago with Metamorphic Destiny, and their debut album, released in 2009, Manifest Destiny. They always bring this touch of bringing both of these genres and take it into a different area with their music and the power of those five people they can do no wrong for me. That and their new follow up, Groundswell, show that Moraine is back in action and taking it one step further.

Gnashville starts off with a sliding guitar introduction done by Dennis Rea as if he’s paying homage to Ry Cooder with a heavy bluesy twist as James and Alicia DeJoie go into town playing the melody on Bartione Sax and Electric Violin. But it’s Alicia taking center stage on her violin as she is going into an eruptive workout on her instrument by paying tribute to King Crimson’s David Cross and High Tide/Hawkwind’s Simon House by going maximum speed before Rea is revved for a solo to take into driven force thanks to newcomer on the drums Tom Zgonc. Not to mention the band’s six centerpieces that will make you know that Moraine are in action.

Opener, Mustardseed is where the album starts off with its stick bass introduction done by Kevin Millard before James, Alicia, and Tom come in with a moody jazz vibe that is reminiscent of Steven Wilson’s Grace for Drowning-era before it goes into an insane avant-rock territory with an electronic haywire effect that Alicia does on her violin to give it that twisted jolt. Elsewhere, Fountain of Euthanasia carries the spirit of the Rock in Opposition movement as the band goes into with a Roger Trigaux twist at the end while Synecdocke shows the golden era of the beginning of 1970 with an ominous rumble jazz nightmarish feel.

It starts with this post-rock late ‘70s feel between Keith Millard’s stick bass lines along with Rea’s chaotic guitar intro before it goes down to business as Dennis, James, Alicia, and Tom come into the circle and it’s a touch of Beefheart-meets-Crimson-meets-Miles Davis combination of the three as they swirl into taking turns on the solos and it’s a conquering stunner touch and not to mention the two time changes they go into.

The inspirations of the music from Asia, is a perfect evidential fit. On, In That Distant Place, is Dennis’ tribute of traditional music in which it was on his solo album, Views from Chicheng Precipice, but on the fifth track, it is very relaxed and comforted to give Moraine a chance to lay back on the heavy material as if Dennis is telling the band, “Let’s put the harder stuff aside now and lets have a chance to go into a pleasing atmosphere.”

Kevin and James do this amazing improve melody between each other on the Stick Bass and Flute along with Zgonc’s drums to create this Van Der Graaf Generator-sque intro on Spiritual Gatecrasher they do to create the tension on here. You can imagine parts of the pieces that could have been used during the sessions for Pawn Hearts as the monster-like roaring chords that Rea does captures the keg ready to explode at any second as if the beast has unleashed its cage and reigning attack, but James captures the Flute with a lot of insane movements as if he is channeling both David Jackson and Mel Collins.

I had a complete blast listening to Moraine’s Groundswell. It really shows that Moraine have brought a lot on what was on the list to bring into the sessions for the album and its eruptive, mind-blowing, challenging, and seeing what is going to happen next in the years to come. A big hats off to Moonjune Records for a job well done.