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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Amberian Dawn - River of Tuoni

Listen, very carefully, you are warned about Amberian Dawn. Think Metallica meets Within Temptation. And it’s a very good description about this Symphonic Metal band to come out of Finland.
When I’ve first heard River Of Tuoni and the band themselves, I realized how much I’m getting a real kick out of this new sound of Metal with Female Vocals to come in the limelight with a study of classical and operatic vocal arrangements thanks to the voice of Heidi Parvianinen. It’s hard to look at bands like; Nightwish, Symphony X, Ayreon, Delain, Leaves’ Eyes, and Opeth to name a few, but with the sound of classical music which have influenced the band to create a knock out debut album would have make Wagner very happy. What Amberian Dawn did with River of Tuoni, which was released in 2008, made one hell of a symphonic power album from start to finish.
There are some great songs which clocks in for 37-minutes are found here with only ten tracks. Now understand, there aren’t any big epic tracks which other Metal bands in Europe are doing to please their fans whether they admire the sound or being Prog-heads which they have their feets tickled by to hear 8-minute stories set in a Viking-era, example including Within Temptation’s The Promise from the Mother Earth album. With the ingredients added together to make a orchestral rhythm section and beautiful hard rock melodies along with Heidi’s vocals, it just goes to show how this band’s train has only just began to chug.
River of Tuoni has the Prog and the Power touch of Metal which is very much an homage to an operatic metal version fist of Iron Maiden, but with the ambient sounds of Tom Sagar’s Keyboards. Combining the sounds of NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) and Thrash Fast Metal everywhere, including the guitar sounding like a machine gun including the drum section thanks to Tuomas Seppala and Heikki Saari and Joonas Pykala-Alo, there are amazingly flaming arrangements since 2006 in which they formed the band in Finland. There are four enduring numbers which could make Amberian Dawn a household name in the Symphonic movement of Europe.
The middle-eastern kettle drum mixed dramatic elements of Passing Bells helped the beauty of power chords, harmonic high vocals, shattering guitar solos, and something straight out of Homer’s Odyssey. More heavy is the opening title track, which features again Tuomas Seppala’s guitar introduction which is similar to Maiden’s guitarist Dave Murray as he plays with magnetism on this mystical track while the haunting beauty, My Wings Are My Eyes, could have been set in a Dark Gothic Cathedral. Yet the best of the album is Valkyries, a pleasant hard rock train bullet track, could have been the opening number for Clash of the Titans with a lot of storm sounding force of keyboards, drums, and guitar bursting through the floodgates.
Now again, the band is just getting started to get the magic of Symphonic Metal going. It’s going to see how they are going the fly through the heavens. But now, enjoy River of Tuoni and you’ll understand why Amberian Dawn is one of the best bands to come out of Finland and being Nightwish’s kid sister is a good thing.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Nodo Gordiano – Flektogon

Bursting through the floodgates out of Italy with their third album, released last year are these four members who are what I consider new wave of Italian Prog Rock, Nodo Gordiano. How do they capture the spirit of the Italian scene of the ‘70s and give the recognition it deserves really importance for this band, but they are staying true to its roots by giving it a twisted mechanism is quite interesting, but with Flektogon, there isn’t any lacking with ambition and atmosphere.
Combining the mix of Middle Eastern sounds, Edgard Varese, a crossover element of art rock meets weird mass madness – imagine if you will Rush performing with Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and King Crimson – Flektogon takes the listener to a world of unknown worlds, different time shapes, opera rock of theatre, with the band doing a lot of work to the credentials.
You might be thinking how a cover band paying tribute to their heroes of prog, started to create their own music as a testament to give it a clear view on how the sound must be important and giving it the eye of a musician’s point of view with great coolness. Bass and Guitar are dynamic during the opening orchestral avant-garde turned haunting opening introduction, Theatro Di Memoria, as vocalist Silvia Scozzi is doing a soprano high voice ala opera style to get the band in a darker mood with a volcanic occurrence of steam altitude that sets the tone throughout the rest of the album. As the outbreak symptom introduction magnetism like the lava erupting through the steamy ocean, they go beyond the darker elements in the tribute to the Frank Zappa motive style of chamber music of Ozymandias Part I which is a short instrumental number which has a lot of percussion and then crashing down into madness.
The 30-minute epic Avventure Di Mastarna, which is really 30 minutes mind you,
it’s very capable by giving it exerting power during the opening is fully a three dimensional journey of the amazing composition. You can definitely hear the King Crimson influence on this track, and you can definitely hear the production of the members doing something quite magnificent. It has the heavy factor and then it calms downs to give it the PFM technique. Jazzy elements meet the Egyptian sounds for this sinister section. And then the last 2 minutes is them jamming away into the night with the ambient mood is very spasmodic as the synths, bass, guitar, and drums drive away into the night to close the piece up.
Ozymandias Part II is back again with the percussion by making it very much an African Militant tribe for a while and then the drums come in by giving it a drum roll on the snare tom-toms and the cymbals by going through a Mike Oldfield Ommadawn sound to Bill Bruford meets Mike Portnoy meets Neil Peart styling on the drums along with a ambient guitar solo. And the finale of the album, Zeitgeist (Hope’s Theme), with a heavy walking bass line along with an escort of the drums done by Carlo Fattorini and Andrea De Luca paying homage to Robert Fripp on the guitar. It’s very high voltage that makes the music very interesting to get your hands onto. It gives it the touch of electric values to the composition, but a little bit of the Mars Volta with a lot of heavy guitar sounds that gives the structure it finally deserves. I’m extremely pleased with Fllektogon because of its experimental rock sounds and the concept of prog not dying after all and giving the golden touch it deserves the flaming fire growing and not burning out.

Hawkwind - Space Ritual

“I would rather the fire storms of atmospheres/than this cruel descent from a thousand years of dreams/into the starkness of the capsule.” The views of a new world through the mind of Robert Calvert and The Awakening is a huge surprise and it’s one of those amazing moments that will blow you away that is found on the double live album of eerie Space Rock or Space Metal to be precise that is damn perfect and spot on to be the angriest live albums to come out of the 1970s.
The band at the time was performing material on what was to be their third album of the follow up to In Search of Space with Doremi Fasol Latido. They recorded these performances in two venues at Liverpool Stadium and Brixton Sundown in December of 1972 in what was their Space Ritual tour in the UK. Already having a hit single in the can with the proto-punk of Lemmy’s vocals with Silver Machine, the artwork which features Miss Stacia and having a sci-fi background, wasn’t just a concert to be recorded, it was a moment that the stoners in the audience would soon be blown away by this unbelievable band to come out of the Ladbroke Grove freak scene to come out of the late ‘60s.
The late Robert Calvert, who was best known for his poetry and spoken word credentials, definitely was looking for a Sonic Attack to the raw sound while Dave Brock’s guitar work and vocals is as heavy as it can be. Meanwhile, Nik Turner’s jazz orientated on the sax by giving it a sneering sound as for Lemmy’s bass pounding away and Simon King’s storming drum patterns makes it perfect to the view of being lonely in space and making no contacts to the earth. The band may have been looking at the Solar Systems to decide which planet to perform that would make a run for their money, but with songs like; Orgone Accumulator, Brainstorm, and Lord of Light were the early sounds of hardcore thrash meets space metal. Alongside the three tracks, there are some aboriginal rock and roll tracks that would send the stoners into full mind-fucked trances.
With the likes of the speed metal sound with Born To Go, the eerie dalek ballads of Down Through The Night, the 28 second guitar work of Space is Deep, and Seven By Seven, the poetry from Calvert with 10 Seconds of Forever and the countdown to nuclear holocausts with Sonic Attack, they have a perceptual input to have a sudden intense of sublime beauty. The closing tracks with another fast-car refuge of the 7-minute live version of Master of the Universe and the calm and shredded hell of Robert Calvert coming back in to welcome life forms to a new world with Welcome To The Future (listen to it and you’ll enjoy a horror ride that you’ll never forget in this extreme terror to live through from start to finish).
The bonus tracks which featured their performance at Brixton shows there is no stop sign for Hawkwind with the 6-minute pounding thanks to Dave and Lemmy’s chugging on guitar and bass along with Simon’s drumming that gives it a run for the money with You Shouldn’t Do That, and the 13-minute trip of Born To Go is as magnificent as the hell in space couldn’t get much better than this.
Space Ritual is an avid favorite among Hawkwind fans including Jarvis Cocker, Henry Rollins, Johnny Rotten, The Clash’s Joe Strummer, and Black Flag to name a few. So if you are ready for the danger, be ready with Hawkwind and be warned when you ride with them to the terror that you are about to endure for the rest of your time.

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - The Crazy World of Arthur Brown [Deluxe Edition]

Although it’s gone through various re-masters since 1991, only now the only debut album from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown finally has got the 2-CD deluxe edition treatment from the help of Esoteric Recordings. And although this album had put Arthur Brown on the map with his infamous flaming helmet, the terrifying make-up, and the bizarre costumes including the silver mask he wore onstage to scare the shit out of audiences in the late ‘60s, he is definitely the king of Shock Rock and the god of hellfire. The 2-CD set features liner notes done by Classic Rock Magazine and Metal Hammer writer, and DJ for Total Rock, Malcolm Dome who also interview Arthur, along with the original artwork, pictures of the band performing including a young Carl Palmer (ELP and Atomic Rooster fame) and Vincent Crane, is just as bewitching as the music is therefore emotionally overwhelming.
42 years later, this album still packs a punch on which the band was the first beginnings of Progressive Rock. The band consisted alongside Arthur Brown on vocals, organist Vincent Crane, bassist Nick Greenwood, and drummer Drachen Theaker. The two including Crane and Greenwood had achieved status with Atomic Rooster and Nicholas Greenwood, but this debut album still represents Arthur’s cult following, as influential among its supporters including; Alice Cooper, Kiss, Prodigy and Marilyn Manson as much as it was to be considered the dark psychedelic rock album to come out of the underground scene of the late ‘60s.
The album kicks off with the eerie jazz psych freak out, Prelude/Nightmare. In the number, the late Vincent Crane is doing a lot of heavy organ solos as the piece becomes dramatic and climatic to give it a dazzling effect while the Fanfare/Fire Poem which is Arthur’s narration of the hit single. It seems that as if Arthur is giving a sermon to the lord our savior as he sings the segue twisted mind-fucked taste of tempo changes mixed with R&B/Soul with the titled track. Come & Buy acts as a calm after the storm with a feel of sinister touches, but you can tell Arthur is not stopping his screeching and screaming vocal arrangements as the late Vincent Crane follows him to give a tone of heavy solos on the organ while Time/Confusion is a haunting song in the mind of orchestral meets jazz fusion with a stimulate music arranging, while the album is strong as it is along with Nick’s bass work and Drachen’s drum work, is very hell-like, but you are inside the mind of Arthur Brown. Now with the 12-bar blues jazz take of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic, I Put a Spell on You, while it’s a blues classic, Arthur brings the house down as Crane helps him out to make it one of the best version of the blues to give it a real kicking ass number.
Spontaneous Apple Creation is a fucked up number, a weird and beautiful song with narration and Theaker’s drumming the brings the speed racing sound of the drums ala Jazz style. The song is weird, but it’s a space trip to go and see the Apples being spontaneous. Rest Cure is very poppy whilst I’ve Got Money is very twisted with Jazz Blues Rock, now if you imagine Coltrane playing this number with Brown, it would be an excellent collaboration with Arthur’s vocals, the bass doing some heavy walking solos as for the organ taking us up on the rollercoaster rides, a magnificent number on how this band were way ahead of their time. The closing 7-minue epic, Child of My Kingdom, is full on blues again to give it a magnificent jam done by the band, now since I don’t want to give away how the album ends, but it has an amazing ending and Crane is on fire along with Nick’s bass lines of Jazz’s take of Monk meets Hawkins. Now if you think the album was over, guess again.
The second CD features A & B sides, Stereo/Alternate Mono Mixes, BBC Sessions, and a film version of the eerie opening number. It begins with the two jazzy rhythm of the dark psychedelic numbers of Devil’s Grip and the quirky sense of humor of the hippie revolution, Give Him a Flower. Meanwhile, Music Man is back to the darker territories as if Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is helping Arthur Brown produce this emotional piano ballad to give the guts it has to push out of the tunnel as the half-sped first version of Fire could have been released as a single. The alternate mono mixes of the first five tracks are very interesting to hear in its mono glory including a female narration before Brown give’s his reverend sermon of the poem on Fanfare/Fire Poem and the title track also along with the eerie Come & Buy while the mono version of Time/Confusion shows a little bit of the original stereo mix, but it has the symphonic qualities that took me by surprise from start to finish. After an interview with Brian Matthew, The band is fierce with this early sessions from the BBC performances. As the film version of Nightmare, which was taken from the short film, The Committee, released in 1968 which featured music by Pink Floyd, is at its rawest moments.
Interesting to buy? Test the god of hellfire and take the magic carpet ride and we’ll who’s laughing now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gentle Giant - Remasters

While the kings of Prog were ruling America by storm by bringing Pomp and Circumstance to giant stadiums and Arena Rock to a standstill to a kind of Epic and Suite sounds that would have audiences enjoy or sleep through in the ‘70s, Gentle Giant’s back catalogue is an itch on people’s head thinking ‘What the hell is this?’ and remains affective to the Pompous sounds of ELP and Yes. Different time signature in a way that some of the Prog Rock names weren’t doing, this unbelievable band made the music sound they recorded it in the 15th century in France. For example, there are the four albums that have been digitally re-mastered of Derek Shulman’s company, DRT, of the band’s cult following could have been bigger than King Crimson. These albums are a sonic tour de force, magnificent, and weird at the same time, performing with changes in the music, and a flash of light that gets the flowing water rumbling with new bands discovering the music of Gentle Giant’s career as much as wearing Wizard’s clothes or Gabriel’s shaved-head in a weird way in Genesis.
As with; Gentle Giant, Acquiring the Taste, Three Friends, and Octopus which featured the oldest of the Shulman brothers, Ray who left the band due to differences with Derek and Phil, the band were now a five-piece band with the release of their fifth album, In a Glass House released in 1973, where the band let loose of their violent energy numbers as Phil and Derek Shulman alongside guitarist Gary Green, drummer John Weathers, and keyboardist Kerry Minnear, brought the race track going high voltage. Beginning with the clustering and shattering devices of 15th century tea sets with The Runaway that makes it the steady rhythm section where Derek is singing about a man running away from the law and becoming a fugitive on the run in a fast section that is unbelievable while An Inmates Lullaby features the pounding percussion with xylophone, timpani, as the group’s singing fills the void with classical take of the prisoner dreams of being free.
Way of Life, is their piss take of parodying Symphonic Orchestral Rock meets Jazz Fusion in a huge changes in the time signatures as if they were paying tribute to the Mahavishnu Orchestra ala Inner Mounting Flame-era district as they have dreamland material go buck wild with the complexual track, Experience with defining keyboard solo, wah-wah guitar licks and the bass doing a Jaco Pastorious walking line as if the metronome was ticking very fast with the instruments going race-car style, it’s a compound rhythm beat, but it’s damn good as it leaves room for more with the 8-minute title track.
It has a pastoral symphony Weather Report sound with acoustic guitar along with the cello and violin as Kerry sings very passionate almost as he sang it as they waltz to the beat in perfect harmony as the choir brings the Glass House to a standstill while the bonus tracks of the live versions of The Runaway/Experience and In a Glass House recorded in Dusseldorf in 1974 and 1976 at the time they were promoting the album and Interview in which I’ll get to later in the review, shows Gentle Giant’s power of electricity now with magnitude than ever. Proving that the band was like hell on wheels of in and out of the studio sessions, it is quite unbelievable on how these five musicians can take the music into a new direction. The proof is in 1974’s The Power and the Glory.
Moving away from the Octopus-era, this saw the band going into a Funk Jazz Rock sound that was good of Gentle Giant’s image, alongside more of the excitement helping the group to produce basic elements for more complex intensity and creating moral force of the changes moving tooth and nail. This construction definitely again helped the band’s career, as featured on the dance beat tempo sounds of the multi-layered electric piano groove of the crazed opener, Proclamation while So Sincere shows their sense of humor of paying tribute to the Canterbury scene. Aspirations is Kerry Minnear’s acoustical calmness breathtaking beauty as he sings with astonishment as Derek Shulman lets him shines through about looking back through the days growing up as a young men to discover the dreams he has to make it big while Playing The Game which starts off very Japanese-like intro with the synthesized bass and the telephone going on, is very weird.
It’s a great number as it has lot of artistic work as guitarist Gary Green does a Fripp/Steve Howe style on the guitar which is featured on each time Derek sings the lyrics. As this is going on, Kerry comes in the midsection has a small part to have his calm-like vocals as Ray Shulman comes in with the explosive bass line while Kerry does some heavy duty keyboard solo which has a Herbie Hancock Headhunters feel to it as it finishes the song with the Japanese Rock flavor to it. The fast-sped composition, Cogs in Cogs, which has become a live favorite among the GG fans, showing the arranging mastermind to direct the vocals along with Derek, Ray, Gary, and Kerry singing together in this baroque symphonic time shifting killing track.
No God’s a Man is a deeply classical track as the vocals again have extended in partial time shifts, has given the concept of the aggregation state of people living in the subways, showing their own situations in how a great hero can quickly become an anti-hero and have the people be turned against you and form a political revolution to tear the bad guy into bits and pieces while The Face is an homage to the New Orleans Jazz scene as if it was recorded today with more of the heavy fusion to the mix ala Gentle Giant style. Green is back with vengeance on the guitar as he goes up and down the frets as the song deals with the utopian mastermind has gone to hell, but lets the people that everything is okay and not to worry about it. The midsection, the instrumental is a fucking tour de force! Again it’s Gary, but the band is doing the homage to the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s road-runner track, The Noonward Race ala Baroque style.
What can I say about Valedictory? Gentle Giant goes Deep Purple! This heavy classical metal right here as Derek sings like if he’s Ian Gillan as the band do a lot of changes while the lyrics of the man is helping the people who are starting the revolution, pleading them to stop and letting them know that he’ll change his way. Seems very Ayn Rand like as the band go faster to close the track with a fast-forward tape sound which is anti-climatic. Of course, Bonus Track of the live version Proclamation, which was recorded for a German TV program to promote Power and the Glory, shows the band revealing their symphonic taste of heavy rock.
While Power and the Glory was a magnetic concept album of the rise and fall of a Utopian city, Free Hand, which has become an essential prog rock masterpiece among their fans, is heavy influenced of the Fantasy and the classical antiquity of the Italian Renaissance movement from 500 to 1430 AD. It was also their American hit on the top 50 from the Billboard charts to crack the big time. The classics keep on coming with the elastic and rough exuberant introduction of Just The Same, the medieval a-cappella turned story telling beauty of folklore singing to the king and queen in the English castle with On Reflection.
The title track which starts off with Minnear’s keyboard introduction that has an Art Tatum then turned into a twisted keyboard riff and strange chords that he would do as the band comes in to do a syncopated hard rock meets jazz fusion taste that is a tribute to Return to Forever. Time to Kill is very quirky while His Last Voyage which has a Jaco bass line again done by Ray Shulman, is very medieval in a 14th century way. As for the homage to Gryphon’s Red Queen To Gryphon Three with the renaissance turned heavy tempo sounds of King Arthur with Talybont, the final track Mobile is a Gentle Giant as anyone can participate to listening to.
Now with only seven albums to make the fans worth the while to see what the band Gentle Giant would do next, it would be a big interesting idea for them to do a concept album with their eighth album, Interview released in 1976. With the album which is the group doing a fake interview for a journalist, a not bad but good idea, it features some amazing centerpieces in the bouncy number of the opening title track, the reggae-twisted cliché of Give It Back, the mind-boggling dancing early new wave sound of Another Show, the a-cappella vocals which were used in the opening with Knots, they do it again with Design as it becomes an Avant-Garde freak out number with the percussions going fucking apeshit, and the timeless beauty of the closer, I Lost My Head. Even though the band split up in 1980 after their train had slowed down with Civilian, it definitely has interesting pieces of the puzzle that should new generation of fans are discovering this unbelievable band and their weirdest and timeless masterpieces to come.
Have a nice cup of tea with Gentle Giant and take a lot of big steps to see what the Giant was listening to.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ramases - Glass Top Coffin

For all of Space Rock’s Great Britain, there were bands who heard and unheard of to go beyond to perform in one of the most unexpected places in the underground movement.Coming from Sheffield, Martin Raphael, who worked in the Army as an instructor and as a businessmen, believed he had the voices of the Egyptian gods claiming that he was the renewal of the Pharaohs and would tell the people on Earth the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what’s going on from our home planet while changing his name. Goodbye Martin Raphael, Hello Ramases.
He signed a deal with Vertigo Records in 1970, the spiral label which had been home to Black Sabbath, Gentle Giant, Uriah Heep, and May Blitz, were very interested to see what Ramases can do. He got a group of session of musicians which would later become the forefront of the music scene of England as 10CC, went to a recording studio in Stockport to work with material of the cult masterpiece, Space Hymns in 1971. After the album was released, Ramases and his wife moved to Felixstowe and were not heard from again four years later when they released this twisted album in 1975. Glass Top Coffin, was a weird album. Ramases wanted a different approach with the follow up to his debut album, he wanted various ideas and more a direct approach to the Fantasy side of Galactic stories of Sci-Fi themes. The neo-classical arrangements with the help of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic, is bizarre, but very good for him to use the Science-Fiction concept album into a Space Orchestral Rock Opera.
Now re-released on CD for the first time from Esoteric Recordings, it goes to show how this album was ahead of it’s time and seeing why the lost adventures of Martin Raphael as the Egyptian Sun God is unbelievable and mesmerizing to hear this twisted journey of Glass Top Coffin. With a sense of humor and paying tribute to Ramases ancestors of the sun god and a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke, Glass Top Coffin pushed the envelope.
Characterizations however, it was to avoid the ice-skating references and the coiling genre of the Space Rock-era. The love of Martians and views of God, Golden Landing opens the album up and it’s a Symphonic Orchestral Folk beauty in itself, but with the vocals and the screeching string quartet that would have make them perfect to score Hitchcock’s last film. Its angelic voices and eerie guitar parts seemed very conspicuously while Long Long Time and Now Mona Lisa are an incarnation of Amon Duul II as Sel takes the vocals on the third track as if she as the portrait singing to the listener. Despite their love of Religion, God Voice is much more imperishable. Another haunting acoustic folk melody, not to be making fun of Zager & Evans hit single, in the year 2525, the song develops into a haunting version of hell then fading into the South African tribes chanting and clapping then segue of the atmospheric ambient synth guitar layered sound of Mind Island.
Resembling with the gothic cathedral sound, Only the Loneliest Feeling has more of a mourning sound of the waves while Ramases’ voice sounds like a ghost, more common of Roxy Music’s Sea Breezes while Sweet Reason pays tribute to the quirky sounds of the ‘60s R&B sound in a German nightclub scene in the ‘30s. Stepping Stones serves as a calmness of crisp lukewarm songs of walking out to the sunny river as getting stoned as Saler Man which could have been a radio hit as Ramases sings with the horn, piano and string section with the heavy rhythm of the acoustic guitar in this glorified number. Moving away from the Symphony, Children of the Green Earth is the eerie signal with the hands to the young children and adults to come to the star field and come to the ship to find new land in a different planet and start a new beginning. The title track, seems very odd to move away the orchestral backgrounds as we get to hear Ramases ala hard rock style with distorted guitar rhythms, jazz-related bass lines, pounding beats on the snare drums as it makes it a dance beat. Though misapplied, it’s mind-fucking-boggling also as the closer of Golden Landing Part II which is a reprise of Part I, it’s very much the climatic climax to see the hero becoming a new leader of the new universe and promising to do good for the people and the right when battle is about to come.
When Glass Top Coffin was released, it tanked and failed to make it on the charts. And soon Ramases disbanded after the failure of the second album along the break-up of his wife Sel. No one knows what had happened to Martin Raphael after what happened to the band. Some say he was like the Egyptian Sun God version of Syd Barrett as he lived back in Felixstowe to retire from the music industry. It was then reported in the ‘90s that he committed suicide which remained a mystery on why he took his own life. Today, it seems very odd and interesting to find out why Glass Top Coffin is the unsung masterpieces of the 21st century since 1975.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Touchstone - Discordant Dreams

Now I must admit, listening to new Progressive Rock bands is really quite interesting to hear. That and this new band coming from Hertfordshire is worth the wait. Touchstone, who formed in 2001 by keyboardist Rob Cottingham who released his debut album in the noughties, decided to get a band together which featured; Vocalist Kim Seviour, guitarist Adam Hodgson, bassist Paul Moorghen, and drummer Alasdair Melville as the band released their EP four-track album, Mad Hatters. The EP definitely received critical praised and soon the band began to record their first album simply called, Discordant Dreams.
Released in 2008, the album especially accepted Touchstone’s sound to create a Progressive sound. You definitely can imagine that the band were in the studio, listening to Dream Theater and Led Zeppelin as much of the time listening to Van Der Graaf Generator, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Yes, and Marillion. Alongside their Neo-Prog characteristics, Magenta and Spock’s Beard, it’s quite blown away that the male/female vocalist concept helps out a lot and while it sounds most of the time Symphonic and Hard at the same time, they bring a lot of energy to the table of Touchstone’s career. There’s another band that would have made Touchstone’s sound and feet tickled is Chicago’s answer to Styx, Starcastle, the sounds and the recording are definitely similar along with the bass line done by Moorghen while Seviour and Cottingham’s voice are almost a hard rock version not to slam the Symphonic Prog treatment.
The album begins with the eerie 1-minute introduction as it segues into the dynamic title track. When you hear this number as the guitar kicks in the high gears, the listener is inside a beautiful atmospheric dreamland lyrical background. The sound is unbelievable in a big way with a melancholic beauty along with a great midsection that Hodgson’s guitar work is very producing a thunderstorm, and the solo is very much a little bit of Michael Schenker’s-era of the UFO period. Now throughout the rest of Discordant Dreams, Touchstone has the melodies cooking up and always wanted to make sure they don’t screw up. Curious Angel is very, a crisp power rock AOR sound in the song as See The Light has that ‘80s mind-twisted vibe of the sessions of Journey’s Escape meets Genesis Abacab. Being Hannah is a perfect masterpiece example of the five-piece working with one another and having a great time performing together and knowing that the Prog Metal/Rock sound is staying true to its form.
The 6-minute number, Shadow in which is a great centerpiece because it’s Kim’s turn to shine the light of Touchstone as she delivers the punching bag on the vocals. In the number she does some high arranging on her voice while the guitar done by Adam is very explosive as he starts with the Pomp sound into a territorial view of hell in the midsection with the Moorghen’s bass paying homage to Geddy Lee as the other instruments takes the listener on a roller-coaster ride of a life time before sending it to the heavens with satisfaction guaranteed chorus. Ocean Down is a piano ballad short number with Seviour and Cottingham doing a duet together while Blacktide is a Hard Rock anthem to a Neo-Classical version of Renaissance.
Dignity starts with another melancholic number with a strong force with the lyrics as Paul’s bass line does incredible bass line as it leads up to the 11-minute epic, The Beggar’s Song. Though it’s very much a tribute to Lewis Carroll and extended, it’s potential, beautiful, and emotional that would make Touchstone a household name. This is deintely a must have in your music collection.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Panic Room - Satellite

A follow up to Visionary Position released last year, it looks like Panic Room are definitely creating a following in 2010 with the release of their second album Satellite. This new album shows them going on an amazing journey and working as the dream team rather than working in a corporal mainstream music business, but as they go on the road, it will show the perfect match made in heaven into how much work of the progressive sound they pulled that would have make their debut album a sequel and make it very much a quintessential album from start to finish.
Now even though the band has gotten into a good start thanks to their work from the cult prog rock heroes, Karntaka, the music is still there and the technique is spot on how the band are definitely getting the attention they deserve from the independent music scene and a little help from Classic Rock Magazine writer, Jerry Ewing. The inclination of the female music scene in the symphonic treatment with; Magenta, Renaissance, The Reasoning, and Within Temptation, not from your own word of mouth to create a huge scene from the New Wave of Female Prog scene of the 21st century. Now with the mainstream media being so fucking stupid trying to get in Rolling Stone Magazine and showing a sexy look like a drugged up Hollywood star of being the next big thing since the Beatles, is not going to cut it. And you get the idea that why it’s been difficult in the music business to get other band members to do other project, does it hurt a lot?
Enough said, now if Panic Room won’t get the recognition they deserve in the Prog Rock scene where the bands might use, if they use a musical manner stand together rather than hide in the closet. Satellite is an okay album, now some fans might love or hate the sound which could have worked better on the first album, listen to it three times would make their second album a process act one and act two rock musical.
Freedom to Breathe, starts the album off with a guitar introduction in a riff style that’s similar to Grand Funk’s I’m Your Captain meets The Beatles I Want To Tell You, becomes very layered as Paul Davies does his Gilmouresque guitar sound, which makes the process to stabilize the beginning of the album, as the riff gets the listener’s attention, along with Anne’s vocals singing about being a strong person, sets the entire album to make it very stronger and kicks plenty of ass. Picking Up Knives is a sequel to the opening track and as for I Am A Cat seems very much of a reminiscent of Alternative Rock version of Radiohead of Cats lurking for mouse to eat and roaming around the city in the nightless sky while The Fall has a jazzy element of a ballad. More likely, the lukewarm crisp of the middle-eastern rock sound continues on Yasuni and the power chord shattering composition of Black Noise that is haunting and magnificent.
Panic Room are back with the love song technique with the calm acoustic ballad, Sunshine, as it shows Helder’s voice from a singer who would bring the stadium down to an angelic voice with mother-like sound that is filled with grace while Into the Fire and Muse has the delight of the Celtic Folk Rock sound. Dark Star is definitely stands together as the eerie Church-like Symphonic Rock sound in which Panic Room wants to conquer with as the closing 8-minute title track goes back into the Solar System boundaries with a keyboard that is paying tribute to Richard Wright and the Floyd-esque sound of the Meddle-era.
Now back with a powerful force as if they going back up again in Outer Space, it is up to Panic Room and Satellite to get the Spaceship going and the word of mouth they deserve.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quella Vecchia Locanda - Quella Vecchia Locanda

Maybe Italy is well-known for Classical and Symphonic Progressive Rock sound in the early ‘70s from the state that gave VDGG, ELP, Genesis, and Gentle Giant the word of mouth they received a huge following in their hometown whilst eating a pasta dinner of Spaghetti and Pizza and enjoying the movies of Federico Fellini’s 8½, I Vitelloni, and La Strada. Go underneath the lost treasures of Italian Prog before diving into yourself into a combining mix of Italy’s answer to Gentle Giant, Curved Air, and Jethro Tull, Quella Vecchia Locanda. Formed in 1970 as a quintet, the band started had a huge following as a pop band on the compilation album, Progressive Voyage and did live gigs at the beginning of ’71. The band is a five piece featuring American violinist, who was an answer to Darryl Way; featured Giorgio Giorgi on vocals and flute, Raimondo Maria Cocco on guitar, Massimo Rosseli on keyboards, Romualdo Coletta on bass, Patrick Traina on drums, and violinist Donald Lax. The first self-titled debut album, released in 1972, it’s a brave underground album to meld the three bands in England and mix it up with classical violin solos, keyboard swirling, and heavy guitar sounds, featuring a magnificent cover that will blow your mind.
If you imagine and close your eyes and dream that this Italian quintet were opening for Yes and blowing the crowd away and coming back for three encores and taking Yes’ show and making it theirs dressing up as if they were Peter Gabriel’s kid brothers in wizard’s clothing. From the moment of Lax’s enormous violin introduction of the opener, Prologo, you’ll understand that this band is not stopping the rollercoaster ride. Adding the orchestral, rock, and jazz fusion technique while making a tribute to the Italian trio, Le Orme, it’s very good along with the vocals and different time signatures and you are at the right time at the right place. Un Villaggio, Un Illusione has the Tull and Focus tribute as the Giorgi’s flute comes in and Lax’s mad scientific playing of the violin is worth the wait, this is a kick-ass track while Realta pays tribute to an Italian Folk version of Premiata Forneria Marconi.
On Immagini Sfuocate, it starts off with Rosseli’s keyboards going SWOOOOOSSH!!! making more Avant-garde as the band go for a crescendo to give it a introductory climax and then it becomes a Hard Rock Guitar layered composition done by Raimondo while drummer Patrick Traina is doing a tribute to John Bonham as if they were paying homage to Led Zeppelin as it segues to Il Cieco which is very chaotic. It starts off with an up tempo beat and then it becomes very Baroque with the flute going fucking apeshit in the midsection as the beat becomes dynamic to go back into the Proto-Metal meets Johann Sebastian Bachtechnique to close the song up. Diagolo is very much the homage to ELP with a lot of high voltage hanging around the band to come up with some swirling keyboard moments as the bass and guitar do a stop and go movements to keep the time changes flowing while Verso La Locanda is a nightmarish hell that would have made Keith Emerson mind-boggled on the arrangement with the Classical atmosphere and sonic fast time beats.
The closer, Sogno, Risveglio E..., is a piano ballad along with the mellotron done by Massimo Roselli who brings the ingredients to the table to do a concerto as Lax’s violin come in along with Giordi’s flute composition to make a lukewarm calm after the storm song that is almost a mourning song that makes you enjoy Quella Vecchia Locanda.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Panic Room - Visionary Position

Now for me being an admirer of Female Progressive Rock, I was taken aback of hearing this new band called Panic Room and their debut album, Visionary Position. Formed out of the members from Fish’s band, Mostly Autumn, and Karnataka, this is an excellent combination for this five-piece band to come out of Wales. When I first heard this album from start to finish, I was a little skeptical at first, but after listening to it, I relalized that this wasn’t just a Prog album, but a magic carpet ride to delight the 21st century off with a bang.
Panic Room are; lead vocalist Anne-Marie Helder, guitarist Paul Davies, keyboardist Jonathan Edwards, bassist Alun Vaughan, and drummer Gavin John Griffiths. And what they do is they bring their compositions right on to the table to make this album a tour de force dreamlike beauty and mesmerizing hypnotic desirable pleasures. Also featuring additional magicians including; Peter Charlton on Acoustic Guitars, Liz Prendergast on the electric Violin, and Gary Phillips on Nylon guitar to bring Panic Room’s music beyond the infinite while pulling a rabbit out of the madman’s hat and seeing how many tricks they can pull together as a team. It’s very understandable that a lot of energy, reproducible in the amount of performing, and composing going together in each song, chord, and experimentations that features throughout the album’s complexity and for only eight tracks for only an hour.
The reaction here is a beautiful and landscape album that would take your breath away. Elektra City, which was featured on the Prognosis 1 compilation CD done by the people at Classic Rock Magazine, starts the album off with a signal to the spaceship and the heavy guitar work, takes a while to get into as it becomes an early reminiscent of ‘70s Floyd material as Anne’s vocals becomes very robotic-like on the Leslie speaker, it has a Space Rock feel for the first few minutes, before it becomes a symphonic rock sound to make it very neo-fusion up tempo beats while Endgame (Speed of Life), an atmospheric twist that is a whirlpool of imagination to open up the doors with a dynamic and tension that would make Panic Room very happy. Firefly is a piano ballad which is very autobiographical and could have been the ending theme song for The Land Before Time while Moon on the Water is almost a sequel to Firefly, but in a Celtic way and shows Anne’s roots in the folk angelic vocal arrangements ala Welsh style from her days in her childhood.
Reborn which is written by Edwards and Helder, has that alternative rock groove as it deals with rebirth and seeing a new beginning in a new decade as the guitar has layered sound as Anne’s half vocal/spoken material fits the song very well. Apocalypstick which features Gary Phillips on the Nylon Guitar, does an Egyptian feel as if the band recorded this eerie number in the Sahara Desert that represents an Indian Neo-Symphonic Rock taste. I Wonder What’s Keeping my True Love Tonight is back again with the Celtic Folk treatment.
It has a mournful taste to say goodbye to a loved one ala Enya style while the 18-minute epic, The Dreaming closes the album to a sonic ambient beauty almost a resemblance of Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra meets Sigur Ros’ Agaetis Byrjun and then reminiscing the sounds of Yes Going for the One-era as the epic takes the listener on a spiritual journey like no other. There’s room for this band, but I still think they got more compositions up their sleeve.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Within Temptation - Mother Earth

For this band, they are the next generation of the New Wave of Symphonic Power Metal, and having a huge success in Europe and refuse to be knocked down, Within Temptation are definitely the King and Queen of Neo-Classical Metal albums that should, in a 15th century way, that would make them the Beauty and the Beast of Female Hard Rock bands to come out of the woodwork, rather than being considered an Emo band, which they are not, they’re Metal to the Symphonic core. Featuring heavy mind-boggling songs and piano balladry with a Sonic force, Mother Earth is the Netherland’s most Progressive Metal albums to come out of the decade of the noughties.
The album has a lot of the operatic rock values thanks to the angelic vocals of Sharon Den Adel and the twin guitarist that would have made Glenn Tipton and KK Downing blow out of their minds of the twin guitar arrangements of Robert Westerholt and Michieal Papenhove while the drumming sound of Ivar de Graaf is the perfect combination of Neil Peart and Mike Portnoy, as for the bassist Jeroen Van Veen he is pummeling the bass like a bullet train. But this band is the shit right here. The album is almost a soundtrack that could have been a Celtic Rock Opera version of Lord of the Rings and that would allow Within Temptation wanted the sound to be older and knowledgeable according to Sharon, but make it more of an alternate soundtrack to Mel Gibson’s academy award winning film, Braveheart. The songs here shine a light with epic-like up tempo rhythms including; The Promise, Caged, Ice Queen, and the emotional titled track, feature a symphony orchestra, dynamic time signatures bright up the stars with tension boundaries and very dutch-like classical ambitions.
Alongside the four tracks, there are four centerpieces that would send goosebumps throughout your whole body. The two colossal of quintessential pounding rhythms which could have been a hit single is the homage to Rick Wakeman’s conceptual take of Journey to the Centre of the Earth with Deceiver of Fools and the homage to german composer, Richard Wagner as if he was to make Rheingold into a Symphonic Metal Rock Opera style with the 8-minute epic, The Promise, which to me, could have been the song for the anime classic, Record of Lodoss War. On Dark Wings, vocalist Sharon Den Adel sounds almost like Renaissance’s Annie Haslam, Magenta’s Christine Booth, and Kate Bush in a weird but interesting way, but the band are really going at it. Throughout the midsection, Westerholt and Papenhove all of a sudden do a guitar battle between each other, un-fucking-believable right there and then Sharon closes the number as she gives one of her high notes as the band closes with a haunting boom! The closing number, In Perfect Harmony, is their homage to the Celtic Folk scene in Wales as if they recorded this in the forest similar to the land of elves.
With the acoustic fingerpicking classical style, they move away from their power roar into an almost closing of a musical play as Sharon sings about peace while the guitar solo comes in to give it a calm of the storm. It is so lukewarm and calm, that you really need to get Kleenex to enjoy a nice cup of tea to hear this song for enjoying the perfect harmony, if you are a metal-head to enjoy a cup, please for god’s sake do. There isn’t any nagging excuses from start to finish, Mother Earth is one of the most worth listening to Within Temptation’s career with some amazing arranging and composition’s. Since you are a die hard fan of the Symphonic Metal-era with female vocals, this here is the starters right here.