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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rush - Beyond The Lighted Stage

It’s impossible to say why Rush are one of the most influential cult bands to come out of Canada since 1974. The title is named after their song Limelight from their classic album, Moving Pictures – the song deals with being the center of attention and putting aside the alienation. For drummer Neil Peart, being a private guy is very understandable and his situation to go inside his life is not a good situation. But for the Camera eye, they finally decided to open the door for us to see their true story from living in the Suburbs in the Canadian circuit to being one of the most important bands of the decade.

As the restaurant menu comes in and breakfast, lunch, and dinner are getting ready to be prepared for us to eat and enjoy. Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee along with Neil are the Three Stooges. Lifeson comes up with more comedic humor before going to have dinner with Neil, “What’s the motivation to keep doing it? Chicks!, “Who’s Going To Clean These Typewriters?! ” and “I quit the fucking stupid band!” You can tell they are having one hell of a time making fun of each other. After filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden already achieved documentary success at film festivals including; Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Global Metal, and Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (a documentary about the band’s Somewhere Back in Time World Tour in 2008), the award-winning film which got a positive reaction at the Tribeca Film Festival, they went back to their hometown in Canada for their next project of their Prog Rock heroes.

Since forming in the late ‘60s, Rush always wanted to do it their way. You can tell that they always wanted to avoid the so-called bullshit of being famous and have fashion written all over them. So let’s cut the cheese and get down to it. Neil has three books, riding his motorcycle in the States and driving in the open road like a ghost rider while Alex Lifeson has a love sponge obsession of hitting a hole in the Golf Course as Geddy has an admiration of Baseball Cards and hitting a home run one day to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. The film interviews not only the musicians that admire Rush, but the fans share their love and how the band remains a huge importance to them.

The movie is played like a double album of the band’s decade in the rise to cult status. Lee and Lifeson become huge stars in the Music Circuit, Neil is the farm equipment kid who replaced the late John Rutsey due to health problems and sugar diabetes (who departed after the debut album). And even though Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Uriah Heep’s Mick Box, Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy, Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, and KISS’s Gene Simmons give kudos and props to a band they have a love and respect, it’s the band’s appearance that is emotional and fun at the same time for fans to share a deep inside of the band’s career.

From the moment we hear the unheard live tracks of Fancy Dancer and Garden Road from an bootlegged live recording in Cleveland and not becoming a dance and moving from the back for the band finished their set as Geddy says in the documentary ,“We bummed out a lot of people on their high school memories”, you can tell that Rush weren’t going for that image. And leaving High School wasn’t the smartest move in the movie, but for them coming from the survivors of the Prison camps in Yugoslavia and Holocaust Survivors as well as Geddy’s father passed away when he was 12 and a young Alex arguing with his family about leaving high school during his senior year, it was tough for them to live in that situation and heaviness, but they wanted to break free of the tough situation and run away from it. You can tell there’s a circle that’s been open and they’re saying, “Here’s something in what you need to know about us.”

If there’s a lot of interesting surprises of the movie, it would be the bonus features on the second disc as if they’re saying to us, “there’s more.” There is never before seen footage of Rush’s original drummer, John Rutsey with the band at the Laura Secord secondary school auditorium in the early ‘70s. John is wearing a glam rock type of outfit as he and the band in the first disc do a raunchy blues metal rocker which has a Led Zeppelin feel. The two numbers on the second DVD features a rare version of Best I Can with John and Geddy on vocals while the roaring 8-minute epic Working Man gets the high school crowd kind of surprised on what they were hearing and knowing that the band were about to be huge. It is one hell of a documentary to enjoy even if you are Rush fan or not. It includes the tragic side of Neil after losing his wife due to breast cancer and her daughter in a car accident and the road trip he took to see where he could find what happened and understanding of the loss one.

This moment in the film took me by surprise of him going on the road to find his true heart. Sending postcards with a different nickname wherever he went to that stretched 55,000 miles. “Travel has always been known as a soothing balm, and even motion, from the time we’re little babies, we want to be rocked and if the baby’s crying, you can take it for a drive in the car and it calms down. That’s the way I described it to myself at that time, I was so stirred up, my little baby soul would only be soothed by motion.” That moment in the film, surprisingly, could understand the pain and the sadness that caught my eye in Neil’s mind.

There is a bit of a sense of humor also in the documentary. Gene Simmons doing an impersonation of Geddy Lee’s high-pitched vocals, heavy metal band UFO making fun of Rush relentlessly during the Farewell To Kings-era when they were opening for them by holding up signs making fun of their songs and a pair of furry slippers on Geddy’s microphone stand nailed beside the mic and calling him, Glee because of the kimonos they wore on the 2112 album back cover. And of course, their first American TV appearance on The Colbert Report with funnyman and part of the Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, who is not just like Rush, but more of the man who can tell that being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is pure bullshit, because the fans themselves, are the hall of fame.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ange - Au-Dela Du Delire

While everyone pays tribute to the Art Rock masterminds of Peter Gabriel from his days in Genesis from 1967 to 1975 and the early King Crimson, it’s hard to describe French masters, Ange thanks to lead vocalist and front man of the band, Christian Decamps and his brother, keyboardist Francis Decamps. Their music is very theatrical and almost a combination of Lewis Carroll and Edgar Allen Poe in a poetic way. It’s been quite clear that they wanted to be quite clear and understood that they are not fooling around since following up to their first two albums, Caricatures and Le Cimetiere Des Arlequins, have already achieved their status.

Since they were the French version of Genesis and opened for them at the Reading Festival in 1973, they knew they were up to something, but it allowed the French progsters the room to take the music into something that was dramatic and added tension than wearing a fox’s head and shaving your head in a funny way. They are not like the Beatles and were never mainstream like also for good reasons. What makes this band so amazing is they would give their heart and souls to expand the follow up to their second album. It was for Christian’s brother, Francis to extend his keyboard mellotron-like sound on the Viscount Organ to make it more orchestral and a flourished dreamland sound along with the members as well.

Guitarist Jean Michel Brezovar isn’t like Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, he is more of a crossover of Robert Fripp, Steve Hackett, and Andy Latimer and he knows where the score will lead, but he’ll know when it’s time for the Decamp brothers to let him know to give some space for other members. Same thing with bassist Daniel Haas, you can tell why he wanted to be in Ange. He adds a bit of the psychedelic and jazz touches on the bass and adding flavor to most of the songs and not trying to show off for any reason.

As for drummer Gerald Jelsch, he goes beyond the boundaries and develops into a mystical touch on the kit to see where Ange takes the music on the magic carpet and see which location they might land on through time signatures, bizarre fairytales, and impressive key moments throughout the songs and instrumental they share throughout. What makes Au-Dela Du Delire so damn good that isn’t just a progressive rock album, but an album that could be as theatrical and hard to understand what they want to do on the fourth album. Again, there is the Genesis or the Le Orme influence in some of the pieces as well as the Greg Lake-era of King Crimson direction in unbelievable moments, but Ange have a huge inspiration and a sound that makes them ahead of their time.

There are no words to describe than the Gothic Symphonic Rock section twist of Godevin Le Vilain. Opening with a haunting introduction and outro violin solo done by Henry Loustau, the track unfolds like a flower and makes it very attractive for listeners to get a taste of this number. It has the Wicker Man meets the Virgin Spring altitude like a disturbing tale from the Grimm Brothers as it unfolds in a harpsichord voltage, shattering mellotron organ sounds, and hard eclectic guitar work.

Les Longues Nuits D’isaac is a heavy metal force. In the number, Jean takes the guitar to uncharted territory with Acid Folk and Sabbath-like sound while Francis creates a layered background on the Viscount Organ as they combine together in a disturbing couple that makes it fit so perfectly, that you couldn’t let go of the number. Christian here, he sounds like a mad scientist and then as Dr. Jekyll in the midsection as he goes back into Mr. Hyde with the shouting as he and the band go up the horror background.

Si J’etais Le Messie has a very moody traditional jazz turned epic rock. Christian begins his narration as if he’s in the Arkham Asylum like a psychotic with hell on wheels as he is calm and crazy like then he lets out like a madman as if he imagines himself if he were the messiah. The lyrics are very twisted and a quirky sense of humor, almost like a nightmare that has come to life to give Religion a good old kick in the ass. Ballade Pour Une Orgie on the other hand, is a whimsical touch in the mind of Steve Hackett’s guitar playing thanks to Jean Michel as he and Decamps paint a bloody aftermath of war as hell comes to life after the ruler takes over the king’s assassination to get pissed and destroy the castle, anarchy style!

Elsewhere, Exode is driven by a weird medieval keyboard introduction, ballad drum style, Renaissance acoustic guitar rhythm sound as the melodies hint here that Ange are paying homage to the 7-minute epic, The Fountain of Salmacis. It has a double track vocal sound that if Christian had cloned himself to sing this wonderful little whimsical ditty as it sounds like a perfect dance composition recorded in the 18th century in the French Opera House and then turned into a climatic driven force with the guitar just flying off the masquerade party. Meanwhile, La Bataille Du Sucre, begins with a carousel sound with Christian doing his Oscar Wilde take.

The lyrics have a strange tale as he and his brother take turns for a moment to sing and give a young man named Eric Bibonne to make a cameo by giving his narration on the piece. The music has a post-apocalyptic background with the organ, bass, and drums have a defining moment as it becomes a haunting melody for the last few minutes to see that the carnival that it was originally a place to be, gone into hell in a handbasket as the guitar comes in to give it a layered yet mourning sound. Fils De Lumiere, could have been a hit single and an anthem for Ange’s career.

It’s one of the band’s favorite and a live one as well featuring with a flaming keyboard and drum works setting up the fire-like explosion. More of the Dramatic touches of the Symphonic Rock sound with ambient and crazy guitar work throughout the finale as it lets the curtain to get ready to close down with the title track that is 8-minutes. The Segue to Fils De Lumeire, is a classical calmness. It’s again the Renaissace festival sound with more of the Gabriel-era sound of Genesis tribute to the core. It’s interesting, though, not only the music is amazing, the lyrics that Christian does, he is doing it like a conductor and telling the band where the second half will take them.

The second half is magnificent. The keyboards, strong driven rhythm section, and a guitar part that you can definitely feel the emotions throughout the piece to give it that climatic closing. All in all, Au-Dela Du Deliere is a breathtaking and magnificent record that can be ranked among the Symphonic Rock sound of the ‘70s from any Decamps and Gabriel homage to get the wagon back on the wheel again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Diagonal - Diagonal

Indie prog label Rise Above Records to me, in my book, one of the greatest prog and doom metal labels to come out of this world thanks to Napalm Death’s Lee Dorrian. And they brought a band that is completely out of this world. Brighton’s Diagonal is bringing prog to the masses: psych-guitar licks, mellotron’s, fuzz tone organs, and odd time signatures that will take your breath away.

Some people might be mistaken for this band to come out of the ‘70s prog unit because of the art design and the way they pay tribute to the music scene and the instruments they bring to the table. So if you admire Van Der Graaf Generator, Nucleus, Pink Floyd, Locomotive, Aphrodite’s Child, and the Canterbury Music scene, this is right up in your alley. But let’s get right into the self-titled debut album and why this album kicks plenty of ass.

There’s a lot of heavy instrumental technique’s from most of the ‘70s sound. In here there’s huge difference, because you can tell that while they were in the studio making the album, they were listening to their heroes and see where the direction might lead them to the yellow brick road. Keyboardist Alex Crispin creates a dark and eerie atmosphere on the keyboards, but you can tell how much he does a lot of twisted sounds on the instrument.

You can tell that he admired keyboardist like: Mike Ratledge, Hugh Banton, Dave Stewart, Kerry Minnear, and Peter Bardens, but adding a strict motive. It goes for the same with the three guitarists David Wileman, Daniel Pomlett, and David Pomlet. They know they just aren’t playing to show off, but how to create some momentum and how they would take turns to solo. You can hear a bit of the Frank Zappa, Robert Fripp, and John McLaughlin homage’s in there.

What they do however, is adding a bit of color to most parts in the compositions. Same thing with Pomlett as he plays the Bass like a madman he could create bass lines to develop a mysterious force. But right now, the band is just getting started and while Diagonal are creating a huge buzz impressively, there are no excuses to say that this is one of the best new bands to come out of the woodwork. Amazingly, the infinite will show the wise men how damn good they really are.

Four songs and one instrumental all prove their time signatures, sinister backgrounds with a melodic sound, makes it sound like the eruption of a volcano that is about to blow. There is not a bad track on here that is absolutely mind-boggling than the opening 10-minute number, Semi Permeable Men-Brain. Opening with a psychedelic hypnotic guitar and keyboards shrieking into uncharted territories as it unfolds with a sneering sax solo, raunchy climaxes and avant-garde madness.

The number has a signature of ¾ and 6/8 and Diagonal is getting their kicks in the Prog dimension. Although epic, like a disturbing grindhouse film set to weird music, the band is extending the horizon. This is a good antidote on how Diagonal can take the 21st century by making it to push the envelope a bit further. At times, drummer Luke Foster plays like Bill Bruford and Elvin Jones at the same time to the mix as if it were the lost track on Larks Tongues in Aspic sessions.

Child of the Thundercloud represents an early take of Nucleus and Colosseum. It begins with a moody jazzy sound of the clarinet and piano and then all of a sudden everything runs like a speeding bullet as the piano goes faster and Luke is going batshit crazy on the drums to keep up with the pace to see who would win in the tournament. At times, it sounds like a futuristic version of Egg and very Space Rock at times.

In the midsection, it becomes a haunting percussion beast waking up and then the pounding piano gives us a wake-up call as the band go for a stop-and-go moment in the piece as they go Italian Prog for the last few minutes as if they were Quella Vecchia Locanda’s stepson, but with a ghost-like vocals setting up the scenery to close the track. Deathwatch isn’t your father’s prog rock, but it’s captures the spirit of Progressive Rock. Starting off with Electric Piano and Vocals setting a quiet eerie tone and then having a mixture of Crimson meets a Fusion version of A Love Supreme-era of John Coltrane, vocalist Alex Crispin keeps the beat flowing as the band follow him to where his vocals takes it to the angelic skies of heaven.

It becomes a vocalization of Gentle Giant in the piece and then the guitars do a virtuoso Gilmour-esque like style on the number that has a layered sound while the bass, keyboards, and drums go into orbit. It almost as if the band were writing a story as if it was a theatrical piece and proved successfully that it would be a benchmark in their years to come in the future. Fortunately, the last 53 seconds has a mellow groove that makes it a perfect introduction to the ‘60s TV series, The Outer Limits.

Cannon Missfire is a fierce instrumental number featuring guitarists Nick Richards and Dave Wileman as they go up and down the scale to pay tribute to Mr. Robert Fripp while bassist Dan Pomlett creates an interesting Jazz Fusion work representing the minds of a crossover with Jaco Pastorious meets Stanley Clarke bass lines throughout the composition. The piece is very laid back and sounding like a fierce cannon that went off like a rocket as they band go into outer space.

And then sax player, Nick Whittaker takes center stage to create a middle-eastern sound that makes it sound perfect to create a spooky version of David Jackson of VDGG fame. It stops for a second and the bass solo closes with guitar, drums, and keyboards to give it that early Peter Hammill style up your ass! The closing number, Pact, a 14-minute epic in the mind of The Nice and ELP is a perfect finale to see the band go off like fireworks. The Hammond and Guitar is spot-on while the Mellotron sets the tone of the atmosphere.

It’s very much in the mind of the Post Barrett-era of Pink Floyd as the lyrics are very disturbing and leading towards a dangerous path and finding out how everyone will go and the destruction will lead them to. The ¾ time signature waltz is a great mode and to give the instruments to go buck wild featuring a soaring keyboard section along with twisted guitar licks and seeing who would duke it out in the battlefield. In the last part of the piece, it sounds like an Ambient/Atmospheric new age sound ala Tangerine Dream Phaedra meets Zeit sound thanks to Ross Hassock on the synthesizer as he goes Edgar Froese to close the piece up as if he’s watching him and is very proud like if he’s his father and passing the torch to Diagonal.

With Diagonal spreading the prog circuit like wildfire, the band is definitely going to be the new kings of Progressive Rock and their intentions to create this magnificent debut monster is in the soaring skies. Their mission is accomplished with the ingredients of the work they might have in the making of their second album in their way and shoulders they might have up their sleeves.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Satoshi Kon 1963-2010

Some Anime had become very childlike in the late ‘90s with Pokemon, Digimon, and the franchise of Dragon Ball Z. But for Anime film director, Satoshi Kon, he pushed the envelope a bit further. He sadly passed away due to a battle of pancreatic cancer at the age of 46. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and of course to Madhouse Studios where Kon directed his animated films.

I first became aware of Satoshi Kon’s work back in the Winter of 2004 after I was finished with High School. The film that caught my attention was the disturbing anime classic, Perfect Blue in 1998. It had the mixtures of Alfred Hitchcock meets Dario Argento. The story of a Pop Idol who makes an announcement of retiring from the music scene to pursue an acting career in a controversial soap opera which I can’t spoil until you’ve seen the film. There was a negative reaction of her fans for Mima to go to another direction including a stalker by the name of Me-Mania who has an obsessive crush on her. While this is going on, Mima’s career goes into a downward spiral and her troubles have only just begun.

After I first watched it on Cable TV, It scared me. It scared me because I didn’t quite get it. But then watching the movie a few times, I could see where Kon was going through. When you look at Satoshi Kon’s work, I became hooked into his work and the way his animation was about to burst down the door like hell on wheels. Whether it’s the designs, the characters, or, the setting, his films took me on a ride I’ll never forget.

I still have a softspot for Tokyo Godfathers, the series Paranoia Agent, and Millennium Actress. I’m not a wild fan of those two movies, but I do enjoy them very much and a huge fan of Paranoia Agent as well. His styles and the tribute to filmmakers Seven Samurai’s Akira Kurosawa and Stagecoach director John Ford. You can tell that he admired the filmmakers and paid homage to his heroes in film. Back in 2007, another trailer that I remember looking at was another project he was completed was, Paprika, based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1993.

The movie itself was like nothing I’ve seen before. The story of a new device done by a researcher who uses it on patients to go on a futuristic world in their dreams which would have made Philip K. Dick very happy to write about if he was still alive today. It’s still one of the most spiritual animated films I enjoyed watching since Ghost in the Shell and Heavy Metal. What Kon did in Paprika, he wanted to bring the moments in film to another dimension.

The beautiful animated art work in the world of 3D and high definition is like you’ve entered the mind of Kon. Now that he’s gone, the legacy of Satoshi Kon will live on as his last project, The Dream Machine is unknown right now due to his passing. Kon is the Stanley Kubrick of Japanese Animation. And his legacy will live on.

Reccomended Kon's Films to Watch:
Perfect Blue (1998)
Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Paprika (2007)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tarja Turunen - My Winter Storm

Finland’s female operatic vocals and the answer to Roger Waters, Tarja Turunen is considered one of the most magnificent vocalist to come out the Symphonic Metal background. After only five albums with Nightwish, she was sacked in 2005 due to creative differences and controlling issues. It was not the smartest thing for the band to do, but they decided to move on with another singer.

But it’s not the end for Tarja Turunen. It was hard for her to accept the fact that being fired from Nightwish was tough, but it gave her an idea on where the direction she would lead in her solo career. It’s very difficult to have controversial debates on Forums, YouTube and Facebook with the bullshit of Anette vs Tarja nonsense by the so-called Nightwish fans to decide who is better. And it surely letting Tarja know that she’s back with vengeance and letting the assholes to tell them to shut the fuck up and let me say it’s very special.

And it just keeps processing power. Take a huge listen to her second album, My Winter Storm and it took me by surprise on the interest on my iPod and in my iTunes library, and not only the songs are brilliant, but the orchestral rock sounds added a lot of strength to the music in which Tarja is doing right now. The melodies, compositions, and a cover of Alice Cooper’s Poison, it just goes to show how Tarja can really push the envelope a bit further before the points can come in to see how well she deserved to give us a huge returning experience and a strong touch of the horror scene. A representative of Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Within Temptation meets Amberian Dawn is a huge combination these days.

But don’t be fooled that it’s not a pop and alternative rock album. Besides Within Temptation’s The Silent Force is very much an alternative rock album at times and it remains a favorite of mine as for me being considered a Symphonic Metal with Female Vocals type of guy. As for the operatic metal sounds on Epica’s The Phantom Agony, this here is the shit and with a length of attitude with some singles that will have your mouths watery.

Look at the influences she grew up listening to – Sarah Brightman, Peter Gabriel, Alice Cooper, Roger Waters, Richard Wagner, and dare I say The Three Tenors – is a good structure to have your apples and oranges to eat for dinner, but the concept on My Winter Storm, almost provided a live performance at the Royal Albert Hall with well used ideas that she brainstormed by the time she was working on her debut album. Opening segues of Ite, Missa Est has a strong connection of Amadeus as the single driven beauty of I Walk Alone, throbs with the kind of gothic background connection of Edgar Allen Poe vibe has a huge effect in the Wagner meets Metal, the eerie Lost Northern Star whirlpools of the heavy guitar driven dalek melodies that would have made Metallica and Tool write a song like this for an orchestra not to mention a strong connection of Gustav Holst’s Mars, The Bringer of War in there.

Meanwhile, The Reign, My Little Phoenix, and Boy and the Ghost shows proof that Tarja can sing like an Angel that has a mourning aftermath, sinister little girl, and an homage to Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone can prove that she can write a score for an epic film set to majestic music. She is the composer, conductor and singer and can definitely win an Independent Spirit Award for Best Score and give the Academy Awards the middle finger. While this is going on, the haunting chant introduction turned into a heartfelt ballad on Sing For Me could have been written for the video game, Dante’s Inferno or God of War III with a guitar and symphonic driven force and it proves that Turunen can go from Opera to a goddess to put an end of the war that Alighieri must face to find his love, Beatrice.

Oasis starts off with a funeral bell-like sound and then turned into sadness that has a Celtic background and you can tell that she did a lot of research to hear different music from the outer world in Europe as she does this wonderful vocalization that is so damn good, it could have been used for the Lord of the Rings trilogy while her take on Alice Cooper’s Poison sounds very much as if it was recorded in 1987. But with an electronic style to pay tribute to the king of Shock Rock, she wanted to capture the spirit of Cooper’s beauty along with a screeching electric violin style with a mechanic structure to it. Our Great Divide filters between drums and a string quartet that gives it an embellished role as Damned and Divide is as much a filtered version of Dream Theater with a rumbling metallic art feel.

By comparison, Die Alive is her tribute to the Progressive Metal sound. To more of the guitar driven sound, keyboards flourishing, and Mike Portnoy drum sounds as Tarja sings about sacrifice to die in a blaze of glory rather than dying as a punk in the battlefield which is very much a militant symphonic rumbling that is desperate to be a part of a dramatic trailer. The ballad is back again with the emotional violin and piano compositions as you can see Tarja dressed up in her white gown barefooted walking into the snowy forest wearing the make-up in the style of her hero Peter Gabriel as she sings up to the sky at the gods singing Minor Heaven.

The rattling yet screeching Pantera driven homage on Ciarian’s Well is filled with a Dimebag Darrell guitar stabs, fast drum sounds like a machine gun flying bullets off the wall, and Tarja singing like a demon as if it was like hell on wheels. Her style and her scream at the beginning, is very jaw dropping and the symbolic of in your face symphonic metal. The closer, acoustic classical guitar style in the mind of Steve Hackett on Calling Grace is another of the Celtic sound. It has the early Genesis lyrics, but its lyrics and almost set in an English countryside is structured very well, closing the album to a T. The bonus live tracks are quite interesting.

You Would Have Loved This has a lot of the Andrew Lloyd Webber influences as if it was left during the sessions of his broadway musical for The Phantom of the Opera while the dazzling live version of Damned and Divine brings the roof down to the Nightwish fans like a bat out of hell. Cross your fingers to the sound of Tarja’s return and you’ll buy this as if she’s coming back from the dead. Like fellow symphonic metal up comers Amberian Dawn, Turunen brings the genre to the core of operatic rock and arrangements, like you’ve never heard it before.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Porcupine Tree - The Incident

It’s hard to understand about Porcupine Tree and the way they play. The Incident, their tenth album to the follow up, Fear of a Blank Planet, is one of the most terrifying yet magnificent albums that Porcupine Tree has released. It still carries the ‘70s vibe of Progressive and Experimental Rock along with Alternative Rock as well. The concept in the production work that Steven Wilson carries the image of the band’s territory comes to work like a flaming fire as the guitar layered sound, ambient/atmospheric background music, and the dynamic grows very well that gives it a wake-up call by giving the band a warm hand shake.

But all in all, The Incident is Porcupine Tree’s baby they have brought to the fans of Prog geeks including myself. Underneath the fireplace that has brought around the mind of Steven Wilson, what is unbelievable about the music is the striking force on the compositions they would bring to the sessions that makes the music sound like it’s the 30th century since Stupid Dream and The Sky Moves Sideways. What Wilson has done, he has been doing a lot of research to come up with another concept album which was based on a motorway traffic jam that he was caught up in.

Since dealing with the issues of Reality shows, MTV, and Alienation on their previous album, their new album has put Porcupine Tree up to the max. Following into the footsteps of Pink Floyd’s story-telling music and the revival of Progressive Rock from eerie and moody music to the world of unbelievable reality for their fans to sink their teeth into by putting themselves on the road that most musicians to pass the torch to a younger new generation of progressive music to see how good music really is instead of all that fucking shit thanks to the so-called being a cocksucking star on American Idol. Where Wilson’s influences from: Robert Fripp, Roger Waters, Thom Yorke, and NEU! Let him embarked in his creation and embarked on an amazing adventure that he would come up with.

While The Incident may have a love/hate relationship with the PT fans because of the weirdness and mind-boggling work that the band put their heart and soul into, it becomes understandable that, since it may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, it makes a powerful shifting magnetic work. They moved away the Radiohead and ‘80s sound of Floyd on In Absentia and Signify, to more of an autobiographical story which instead of fairy-tale lyrics it has become more of a mysterious sketch in a double-CD format style from the loose-ends of impotence and difficult relationships that come aboard the other side of life.

The album kicks off with the shattering, disturbing guitar layered explosion on Occam’s Razor, to the sneering twists of Post Rock sounds on The Blind House that would give a lot of opportunities for Steven Wilson’s emotional sounds that makes it a pounding glowing light. It has a bit of the Tool and ‘90s sound of King Crimson’s THRAK-era, but it is very urgent and galactic of electricity. Meanwhile, Great Expectations acoustical moody last rites lyrics that would give it a calm-like guitar work while Steven’s vocal arrangements, sounds like a flying angel with a ghost-like tone from the state of isolation and having a nervous breakdown.

Alongside the spacey guitar work, there is the driving rhythm section thanks to bassist Colin Edwin, drummer Gavin Harrison, and keyboardist Richard Barbieri who brings an ethnical sound to The Incident that makes it very thrilling and dramatic that surrounds the concept of the music. Drawing The Line at first sounds like a Crimson-like ballad and then turned into a pounding upbeat Alternative rock midsection that would have made Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s feet tickled. The title track is an electrical accompaniment thanks to Wilson as he breaks free in the music format that he loves. You have the fierce guitar rhythm sounding like the apocalypse, keyboards sounding like a cross between the Kid A and In Rainbows format of a mad scientist mixing those two formats together and making it sound like 1978 all over again.

But damn! They are playing their hearts out at this number. With a lot of amazing albums to come out of the 20th century, the sound of music is how it’s supposed to be and how the fans are going to appreciate it with new effects that come along the way. It’s just sounds unbelievable and new the way that the sound is very much of futuristic rock taste of Porcupine Tree.

It’s like you’ve come back home from fighting for your troops in Iraq and seeing you have a brand new baby that your wife has brought to this world to show how much you care and love your family in a big way. That’s how The Incident is very different, but appealing like you’ve never heard it before. The centerpiece of the album is the 11-minute epic, Time Flies. Wilson delivers the line that would remain a history of Progressive Rock. He sings the line as he goes into a Pink Floyd Dogs homage sound on the jingling acoustic guitar strumming with; “I was born in ‘67/The year of Sgt. Pepper and Are You Experienced?/Into a suburban heaven yeah it should've been forever/It all seems to make so much sense/But after a while you realize time flies/And the best thing that you can do/Is take whatever comes to you because time flies.”

You can tell that Wilson is very disappointed and not in a good mood as it deals with how the time goes by very quickly and knowing that during the end of the number you will know that the journey of a song that life goes by really fast. The sections on Time Flies turn into a sorrowful ballad – The heartfelt opening, the disturbing silence on guitar and dalek-like guitar sounds that is very much a representative of King Crimson’s Red-era before going back into a back to normal ending. So the question you might ask, “What the hell happens next?”

Well, there’s the metal touch of Degree Zero of Liberty and then goes back into more of the quality back into the difficult mode format of abrasive fierce competition on; Octane Twisted, The Séance, and Circle of Manias before closing on the folk-like ending twist on I Drive the Hearse. The bonus on the second CD makes it feel like an EP for The Incident and it works well for Porcupine Tree. The ambient, spooky introduction of Flicker makes it very spectacular as it segues into the format of Kraftwerk meets the Dark Side of the Moon-era of Pink Floyd on Bonnie the Cat.

The Black Dahlia gives you a touch of the OK Computer format into a whirlpool dimension of a dreamland sequence while the finale Remember Me Lover closes the four-track album with an on the road trip song. It makes The Incident very comfy and helps cover the bases of Porcupine Tree’s format with the seven-minute number which would make the headphone master have a true love of the band’s music. It ends with a climatic ending with guitars and drums going up to the solar system before ending with a disturbing silence, adding guitar riffs and fierce melodic backgrounds of all guitars.

Porcupine Tree’s music makes it better than ever with The Incident. It is by fare one of the best things that are the amazing things to work on the best of the best. With this album, it puts Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson to put everything a calm after the storm.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bun Chakeze and Odin of London – Whose Dream

The unheard band that will take your breath away in Progressive Rock fire by Bun Chakeze and Odin of London, Whose Dream, the unreleased album shows a lot of lukewarm beauty on their website from Reverb Nation, on the tracks there is a lot of high energy and more high voltage than going for the big stadiums for arena rock. Odin’s formation in 1981 and Bun Chakeze in 1985, according to the bio, Odin had six members in the band it considered; guitarists Colin Tench and John Culley, Cliff Delighton, lyricist Gary Derrick, keyboardist Derek Sanderson, and Luke on vocals. Sadly, there were no gigs for the group as they decided to call it a day and formed Bun Chakeze and founded vocalist Joey Lugassy which has a vocalization in the mind of Peter Gabriel as they took six months to finish the album in 1986 and they called it a day.
Now with the tracks, the unreleased material is like nothing I’ve heard before. The music is a combination crossover of Jazz Fusion, Pink Floyd, and Genesis forming together to create a hypnotic beauty. Indeed this is one of the most dimensional compositions they’ve released online and you need to hear them. Midnight Skies proves to be a pleasant lukewarm coolness sound of Gilmour-esque guitar work and Tony Banks synth beauty in the mind of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway thanks to Colin Tench, the track sounds like it could have been recorded for an animated epic film while the title track goes into an eerie dreamland calmness with an acoustic folk prog sound that is in the mind of Annie Haslam’s Renaissance-era.
The two bands were no strangers for their love of ‘70s progressive music, but on Flight of The Phoenix it has a mixture of crisp finger picking guitar sound and then turned into a hard rock tour de force that is out of this world. The Deal sounds almost like a sequel to Pink Floyd’s eerie synth rumbling number, Welcome to the Machine, with the guitar and synth sound like the Running Man as the vocals soars majestically in this homage to the 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner as Walk in Paradise comes to life. It has the ‘80s synth and sinister vocals and guitar work in different edits, but it’s great to hear by giving the listener to a journey of uncharted territories.
Long Distance Runner has a strong guitar and breathtaking vocal sounds with its complex storytelling beauty that is very much the homage to the game of The Legend of Zelda franchise while the vocalization has a strong element along with the ambient synthesizer setting in the background with more of the Floyd representation. Tench brings a dramatic sound to the guitar and synth as he helps the vocals go into the angelic sky. He is doing it very well and top notch to get you into the unearthed sound of Experimental Music.
A Handful of Rice has a bit of the darkness value in the mind of Van Der Graaf Generator meets Return To Forever. The edit features a percussion solo along with a bass solo that is very jazzy in the mind of Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorious. It is not a bad track, but hopefully we’ll get to hear the full-length version of the track one day, pretty damn good. If the prog bands had a huge comeback probably at Carnegie Hall, Odin of London and Bum Chakeze would be there as well to give us a warm response and will find more light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Black Widow - Black Widow IV

Often confused as being considered for heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath, there was no competition in for early doom progressive rock in the mind of Black Widow. Their music wasn’t considered hard rock nor satanic, but the usage of the occult in their music was very spot on however. Formed out of the ashes of Pesky Gee in 1969 after releasing one album Exclamation Mark, adding vocalist Kip Trevor, guitarist John Culley, keyboardist Zoot Taylor, flute and saxophonist Clive Jones, bassist Geoff Griffith, drummer Romeo Challenger, and Rick E on vocals, they created controversy and quite a stir with the newspapers and religious groups protesting the group by holding crosses and pleading with people who felt that they worshipped witchcraft after doing a mock sacrifice on a nude woman during one of their performances that caused an uproar and created a field day for the tabloids to find out what were they thinking.
Black Widow may have been the mixture of Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath, but Black Widow IV, their fourth album, is one of their finest works of their unsung sound and Heavy Prog for an occult matter of subjecting views of dooming music. The album begins with Sleighride, an anti-Christmas 9-minute song of Reindeer sleighing with the band as they turned into a classical piece done by Prokofiev and turned it into a sort of romping sound of holiday melodic rock with a sound that is almost straight out of the Fragile-era of Yes. More Than a Day is an eerie acoustic folk crisp and flute work in the setting of the Renaissance-era of the 15th century; You’re So Wrong is acid folk to the core as if they were paying tribute to the Stand Up-era of Jethro Tull.
The Waves has a mature fantasy Tolkien-esque background as it stays on the edge of darkness with its story-telling lyrics as if they were in the mind of Genesis Seven Stones, but with a dalek Halloween feel to the core with haunting background vocals, ghost-like sounds on the organ along with a dynamic guitar work that makes the piece work perfectly for an epic horror film done by Dario Argento. Part of a New Day, at first it sounds like a crazy groove done by Krautrocker’s Amon Duul II, but then it goes joyous dance piece as if they were paying homage to Italian Prog Rocker’s PFM meets Canterbury kings Caravan and then it becomes very calm-like and with a jazzy flavor to it to have the beat flowing to a new dimension. When Will You Know is a flavor folk 4/4 time signature ballad in the mind of Love’s Arthur Lee and Tim Buckley as well if he had joined Quicksilver Messenger Service and Moby Grape.
Floating is a dreamland rocker as they soar through the heavenly sky. In the piece of all this glory, is an amazing bass line, echoing vocals, wah-wah keyboards and all of this is a roaring number to fly up to the angelic gods to greet them. Pictures in my Head has a mournful beauty atmosphere of looking through the past, present and future while the last number, I See You has a calmness after the storm of dealing to say goodbye to a friend with a psych-soul sound but with an upbeat tempo that is very much a tribute to Linda Hoyle of Affinity fame.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the album and Black Widow’s voltage can be inside the new bunch of doom prog rock bands that are following in the footsteps of the genre of the eerie adventures: Astra, Blood Ceremony, and The Devil’s Blood.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing on the Wall - The Power of the Picts

No fucking around here at Middle Earth. Prog champion, Chris Welch describes in his liner notes about this unsung band as “the middle of the last century of the sound of Progressive Rock – the way it used to be.” Well there’s no argument there by the time you hear this album.
Released in 1969, The Power of the Picts was Writing on the Wall’s only debut album and their greatest cult classic of unearthed prog rock albums that never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Formed out of the ashes of The Jury from Scotland, the band were moving away from their R&B/Soul sound into more progressive and psychedelic sound. Word of mouth spread like wildfire in the underground scene as they were signed to the Middle Earth label which was a club at Convent Garden and this was their only album that is groundbreaking.
The Power of the Picts sounds like a twisted heavy metal band that was too scary for the Beatles to sink their hands on. With the sound of pre-Doom Prog Rock and the Rod Evans-era of Deep Purple, it suggested that Scotland wouldn’t be a bad place to form a band that were out of their world in such strange company. Yet while the album is like an electric flower that shocks with high jolts, there are five jaw-dropping centerpieces that must be heard in headphone style.
You have the pirate accordion polka opening turned into a sneering rhythm guitar section along with a keyboard that adds the tension to a dramatic background on the introduction on Bogeyman. The flourishing organ along with the pounding drums makes it very much an homage to Vincent Crane and Carl Palmer on Taskers Successor while the bonus track Lucifer Corpus, is very graveyard rock as it goes through a shattering psych/prog journey with twisted song lyrics and Black Sabbath militant licks. Shadow of Man pays homage to Gustav Holst’s Mars The Bringer of War and then it goes into uncharted territory as we hear the band doing their post-apocalyptic spoken word and showing their true colors of how hell isn’t what it used to be.
And then we get to the 8-minute epic, Aries.
This composition lets the band go all the way into a freak out mode. Again with the spoken word narration, mind-boggling organ and guitar licks parts of it making it sound as if Jim Morrison had joined Black Sabbath and Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come with an Avant-Garde experimentation. Also it has a swing blues rock instrumentation that goes beyond the limit of genre of Jazz if Tony Iommi had joined up with Miles Davis to create an unbelievable guitar solo that is almost a score that could have been used for an episode of The Outer Limits.
Writing on The Wall are a reminscient of a hard rock version of Family, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Deep Purple thanks to the vocals of Linnie Paterson and Willy Finlayson by creating a sonic edge to proceed. While Jimmy Hush is bring a force-like boundaries on the drums, Bill Scott defintely pays homage to Jon Lord of Deep Purple on the keyboards as Jake Scott creates some interesting Bass lines. The Power of the Picts could have been a sequel to Arthur Brown’s debut album had teamed up with Music in a Doll’s House by Family at the core. Well, you get the general idea with some metallic background.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hawkwind - Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music

By now, you are familiar with Classic Rock Presents Prog motto: “Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music.” The title comes from Hawkwind’s follow up to Warrior on the Edge of Time as they were going through changes in 1975. Lemmy Kilmeister was sacked from the band after being arrested in the US/Canadian border after being found with Amphetamines as the band were embarking on the US tour. He was replaced by Pink Fairies bassist Paul Rudolph as they were touring while Nude goddess of the Space Ritual cover, Stacia departed from the band after the Reading Festival in 1975. However, the band headed back to the Roadhouse Studios as they were working on their next album. While it’s a divided relationship of drawing lines in the sand of Hawkwind fans on whether they love or hate this album, Astounding Sounds Amazing Music is like nothing you’ve ever heard from start to finish.
Released on the Charisma label in August 1976, it included a dazzling artwork done by Barney Bubbles as the album has a sci-fi comic book feel to it as in the inner sleeves feature parodic ads that would attribute the band’s image and their sense of humor. Years later, the album has been wonderfully re-mastered thanks to Mark Powell and the new Esoteric kid brother label which covers the Hawkwind catalogue, Atomhenge, it can be considered of pointing out the map for the space cadets in which they would push the envelope in excellent compositions and giving the album another chance for the fans to take a listen to again.
Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music is very Jazzy, Spacey, and all of the time Anti-Motorcycle Prog-Punk at its best. One of the tracks, City of Lagoons, goes to pay tribute to Frank Zappa’s Zoot Allures-era with it’s Space Funk attitude that would take listeners by surprise as for the opening track, Reefer Madness, an homage to the 1936 cult classic film as its done by Calvert’s quirky lyrics while guitarist Brock brings magic to this magnificent collaboration as if this was the pounding rockin’ theme song for the movie which would have the cast members roll over their graves to. Steppenwolf sounds like early Jazz-Punk sound of Santana as Brock’s music brings a chugging noir to pay tribute to Herman Hesse while (get this title) The Aubergine That Rangoon (sounds like a B-movie) is Hawkwind going 1982 with the New Wave sound that makes it very experimental as for the metallic raunchiness of Kerb Crawler.
Kadu Flyer starts with a synthesized adventure and then turned into a Middle-Eastern Indian Hard Rock tribe all over yo’ ass! The ambient dreamscape of Chronoglide Skyway has a similarity of Tangerine Dream and Brian Eno’s Music for Films homage to close the album. The bonus tracks are out of this world as well. You have the unearthed single which was originally going to be a part of Reefer Madness with Honky Dorky and the re-mix edition done by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour of Kerb Crawler is out of this world while Back on the Streets sounds like Space Glam Punk sound of T. Rex meets The Damned. The last track, The Dream of Isis is an experimental touch of Synth and Bass lines that makes it very Gong-like. It’s hard to love Hawkwind’s material and listeners are still going back on the ship for an album that needs to be heard again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Magenta – Home [The Complete 2-CD Edition]

Originally released in 2006, the plot line of the album tells the story is set in the early days of the ‘70s of a woman who leaves her home in the Beatles hometown, Liverpool to move to New York City to find herself in America. Just like the special edition of their second album Seven, this is a 2-CD set of the band’s follow up and it comes with the full New York Suite that will take your breath away. What guitarist and lyricist Rob Reed wanted to make it originally like a play set to beautiful music, basically like a Rock Opera, but he decided to make the long compositions as a second CD instead because it wouldn’t fit the Woman’s story of searching for a new beginning in New York City.
Here on this Complete Edition of Home, it allows the piece to blossom like a sequel and helps deal with the Woman trying to fit in the scene as she arrives in New York City and to be a part of the in-crowd. The arranging and composition that is on this amazing 2-CD set, is absolutely glorious from start to finish. There’s a touch of the Steve Hackett-era of Genesis, Starcastle, Pink Floyd, and Yes combining together in a Welsh-like theater rock sound as Magenta makes the concept work on its own.
Vocalist Christina Booth brings a smooth and angelic sound to the Alternative Prog sound on Demons. She delivers a magnetism of energy of her musical backgrounds in her Celtic roots while the lead guitarists Chris Fry and Martin Rosser showcase their solo work for the introduction. The acoustic crystal sound of Morning Sunlight could have been the theme song of the Japanese animated TV series, Maria Watches Over Us as Rob Reed brings a crisp beauty on the rhythm section on the acoustic guitar while Hurt erupts into Genesis-styled Hackett wah-wah guitar riffs and Phil Collins-like drum sound that could have been used in the Trick of the Tail sessions.
They let the eerie balladry flow on the groundbreaking pastoral mourning rocker Moving On as Christina lets it out with emotions as Reed does some beautiful keyboard work as if it was a harpsichord to fit Booth’s image as the band spread their wings to the core. The Journey offers something a ‘70s groove with a Tony Banks style on the organ with a cool bass line done by Dan Fry while the piece is a laidback beauty of Selling England By The Pound as the epics including Arrival, Home From Home, and White Lies all are set to go in an ‘80s neo-prog tradition that Marillion could have done on Script for a Jester’s Tear composed by Rush.
The Visionary has a sinister introduction at first with guitar and synth dueling it out and then the line “The Time has come/the time to face the truth/The time has come/to face the hurt that’s born at youth.”
It has a strong lyrical element thanks to Reed and then Booth lets it out with more of her soaring up-to-the-heaven vocalization in the midsection with a charm that is out of this world. Journey’s End starts off as electric jazz-like fusion piano introduction then it goes into the Symphonic Rock mode which works very well as The Traveller’s Lament is a short number with Celtic Pipes setting the scenery as the last ballad number, Home could have been used in the Art theatre of London as a finale to let the listener know that everything’s okay and the dreams can come true. A great album and worth listening to enjoy Magenta's conceptual rock opera.