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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night

When you have a band that have a lot of sounds that follow in the footsteps of Shoegaze Rock, Baroque Pop, and Psychedelic Post-Rock, and it’s almost the soundtrack to your life in a New Age sound than it’s time to take the music and go on a magical journey. The Besnard Lakes are one of the bands that really capture the spirit of their musical influences. They have decided to push the psychedelic sound a bit forward into a combination of New Age, Atmospheric sounds, and Droning distortion up a notch almost as if they made this album as an alternate soundtrack to the drama FOX TV series, House.

They know the music and keep the similarities of the three genres upward and they’ve got one hell of an album which was released last year. The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night, released last year on the indie label, Jagjaguwar, it proves to show how they share this music into an eerie yet twilight zone episode that is very David Lynch like and almost a twisted yet strange adventure mixing Psych, Jazz, and Indie sounds mixed up together to the darkness. But here, they’ve got enough material to take this into the solar system and make it very much a space rock adventure. Like as if they are space cadets, they journey though the stars through various improvisation’s to get the listener going through time and space.

It’s evidential on the opening suite on Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent that starts the album off with a dream-land beauty of wonder. It goes through waves crashing the beaches as it goes through a disturbing tone on the vocals and guitar that would send a shiver down your spine. Almost as if they have landed in the year 3000 in a post-apocalyptic city of hell, the introduction piece really sends you to another scenery of time and the future while it would shows us what the world will happen after we disappear for a long, long, long time. The early Tangerine Dream and the Sigur Ros combination has really come around like an oil engine that goes 500 miles per hour, exampled on Chicago Train is a moody atmospheric yet emotional touch of life after death.

The whole piece embraces classical music and experimental touches that proves to show that the Besnard Lakes aren’t trying to rip off the Psych sounds, but to really show much they care and love their heroes in a balladry way. Albatross may be the homage to The Beach Boys Pet Sounds and Smile-era thanks to Olga Gorea’s vocals who carries the torch of Brian Wilson and her husband, Jace Lasek does those Beatle-sque harmonic background vocals to keep the ‘60s vibe going. Glass Printer has a lot of the sharp tones and thunderous rhythm section and with a crunchy guitar sound, fuzz tone bass lines, and amps going into vicious feedback while the two-part suite, Land of Living Skies is almost a surf-futuristic rock sound of the future and it’s almost a huge centerpiece on the album. The lyrics almost have a John Lennon and Paul McCartney feel and then at times it’s a psychedelic version of Radiohead throughout the haunting sections as Olga’s ghost-like voice really keeps you going for more of the their music.

Yet the homage of OK Computer comes back into the boxing ring with And This is What We Call Progress. It comes with the fierce guitar lines, thunderous drum sounds, and yet dramatic structures that covers the anger and the frustration of the Roaring Night a disturbing scenery almost as if it’s a crime scene. Light Up The Night sits somewhere between Love’s Arthur Lee and the mysticism of being alone and isolated as the closing track, The Lonely Moan carries a resemblance of Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue’s new age atmospheric underwater beauty of The Whale.

Olga comes in as the music has a synthesized calm-like storm as the thunderous rhythm guitar chord becomes a way to let everyone to take a chill pill that provides an emotional finale. While the Besnard Lakes are about to travel into the deeper waters of the futuristic baroque pop sounds, The Roaring Night is a heartfelt album for a band that embraces their discovery of the indie psychedelic crowd and almost receiving a cult status.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

James Beaudreau - Astral Law

Citing the influences on flamenco, blues, avant-garde, and the experimental music sound from the virtuoso sound that is very much in the realm of the early ‘70s, James Beaudreau makes his guitar sing with telling the story and almost as if he is writing a score for a documentary. Now I have to admit, I really enjoy guitarists that would push the envelope and go beyond the direction and enjoying musicians like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, and Ottmar Liebert, but James here makes a great mellow and acoustic walk in the woods and Astral Law makes it a perfect touch of guitar instrumentals and calming to relax you for yoga exercises for the body to get a lot of treatment.

From the eerie Frank Zappa meets krautrock twist of Faust on the title track and The Leaden Circles to the Ry Cooder influences raging on the haunting slide blues guitar atmosphere on Reginald Earth, you can hear that Beaudreau really has a love of the guitarist’s playing and doing a little tribute to Keith Richards on the sixth track almost as if it’s written for Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s controversial cult classic, Performance. The avant-garde sounds of Germany’s music scene is the really catching touch and it’s one of those things that James might have researched on the scene and was listening to the krautrock scene and understood why they were ahead of their time and almost scared the shit out of listeners.

With the guitar going into a spooky and twisted translation on Quiver, he makes the guitar sound like a computer of the 22nd century and the classical touching tribute to painter Frida Kahlo on The Mirror Wall, they are focused and arranged pretty damn well. What is quite surprising is that James can switch from folksy guitar playing such as the gentle countryside walk in the park as the beautiful At the Foothills and the Liebert-influential sounds on Signal Stations, the gothic haunting post-traumatic-stress-syndrome of war on Good Morning Junction, and the influences of Steve Hackett on Stellar Rushes. Those who might think that James might be considered prog, well let’s say prog-experimental in a big way with his guitar going through various variations through his musical roots growing up and paying tribute to his late grandfather, Zephir Beaudreau which is almost that his three albums; Java St. Bagatelles, Fresh Twigs, and Astral Law, in which I call it the Zephir trilogy, makes this a warm welcome for James to follow in Zephir’s his grandfather's footsteps.

James Beaudreau is an instrumentalist that determines to keep the guitar layered sound going, no matter the costs. And with his homage to The Mars Volta on American Gothic and the final track, the calm jazzy warm countryside of Listening, it really does a successful master work in that direction, and let me say this, Beaudreau deserves a lot of attention in the “progressive rock” world and maybe get the recognition he needs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Van Der Graaf Generator - A Grounding in Numbers

Van Der Graaf Generator has been scaring listeners and surprising fans with their darker lyrics thanks to Peter Hammill’s songwriting. With supporters and fans admiring the music including; The Mars Volta, John Lydon, Fish, and Mark E. Smith to name a few, the band have taken us to the dark side with The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, H to He Who Am The Only One, and the album that would be a risky ride into uncharted territory with their masterpiece Pawn Hearts. Van Der Graaf brought a swarm of screeching saxes and Hammill’s voice as if he was in the asylum ready to attack, keyboards going haywire, and Avant-Garde loops that seemed like something out of a horror film. Cut to 2004 and ’05 when the four members reunited and released Present and performed in Europe and blew the Royal Festival Hall away with their mind-blowing performance. As David Jackson left the band due to creative differences, VDGG was now a trio as they released Trisector which got some acclaim and soon took them to realize that a trio might work according to Hammill. Like an unbelievable swarm of bees as a glorified Punk-experimental album that would have made Lydon squeal like a VDGG fan, A Grounding in Numbers, is Van Der Graaf’s mind-blowing exercise in a ride that makes the mad-scientist into efforts but also makes sure that the band are back with vengeance and getting ready to blow the door open with a hardcore battering ram.

The best moments in Van Der Graaf’s album are not doing the epics in which they did on the eerie suicidal epic, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, but it’s almost like a sequel to Pawn Hearts 40 years later with electrifying crescendos, African-tribe percussion momentum, and swirling into a dark pool of hell that is out of this world and would take you to the next direction. The opening melodic ballad of Your Time Starts Now as it deals with moving forward and thinking about not going back to change the errors of your way, but to deal with your future and how you can handle it as Hammill sings, “All that information/all that warp and weft/for all your patient fortitude you’re patently bereft/of clue of hint of notion/of answers, even vague/You’re ploughing forward nonetheless/as through by simple doggedness/the far side’ll see you saved.” The musician’s create almost like a moody atmosphere as drummer Guy Evans keeps the drum pattern very calm while keyboardist Hugh Banton does an emotional momentum on the organ as they help Hammill to calm down to feel the scenery on how difficult for someone to move forward.

The dramatic dooming touch of Mathematics is grasping as Hammill is back in his Acting role in the realm of Edgard Allen Poe as if he was a Mathematician in the realm of H To He, Who Am The Only One as he screams out the algebratic tone of the pi multiplication and subtraction while Highly Strung is almost a requiem for Peter Hammill’s alias character, Rikki Nadir. But with a touch of King Crimson with a punk attitude, as Peter does his take on the Fripp-riffs as if he’s paying tribute to Robert and giving Rikki a Shakespearean finale, he delivers the goods on the guitar. He isn’t like Jimmy Page, nor Steve Jones, but he plays like a mad scientist as it goes through time changes as the band offers a vicious tone in the realm of Lou Reed’s Transformer-era meets King Crimson’s Red. Red Baron is drummer Guy Evans moment to shine.

He does as I mentioned, the African-tribe feel on the drums as Banton and Hammill create a disturbing yet sinister new age sound on the keyboards as Evans goes through different changes through the tom-toms, snare, and the hi-hat and the gong as well. It’s a 2-minute instrumental piece, but he delivers the goods on the drums as Van Der Graaf goes up to 200 on the temperature to give it a high score. Bunsho (Year Name) offers more Hammill giving the middle finger to the mainstream and how the music business has gone down the tubes, as he delivers in-your-face situation on how real good sound is supposed to be done as he describes on how it’s done with: “I’d just done the best work/To fall into my hands for quite some time/Of night oil I’d burned much/Made sue both style and content were sublime/ So I put it forward/to the public forum in anticipation of my due acclaim.” Makes you wonder that if he and Bowie had teamed up together and went on tour as Nadir and Stardust in 1973, it would have been one hell of a firestorm for these guys to sing this composition as a duet between two heroes, the anti-rock star and the rock musician from outer space.

The warped dimension feel of Snake Oil sounds like an alternative soundtrack to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. At first it starts off like a true calm-like love song as Hammill sings in the realms of the balladry before it descends into a pounding explosive piano chords and explosive drum snares as if the volcano has erupted into massive chaos a-la Lemmings (Including Cogs) style. Splink is a hypnotic folksy slide-bluesy instrumental into a twisted adventure in the realm of Louis Malle meets Tim Burton while Embarrassing Kid is in the touch of Crimson meets P.I.L. as Hammill delivers a roaring addiction to his Nadir disguise about his alias with “It remains pretty strange and uncomfortable territory/where my secrets are hidden, hidden absurd.” You could tell that Hammill is a very private person and doesn’t want to keep stepping in the water of the corporate crime of Hollywood bullshit. The eerie Medusa, will definitely chill the listener to the bone about selling you soul to the devil as you are about to break free from prison and finding out this woman isn’t what you seem to see to be inside her.

Mr. Sands has the band going into a Hunky Dory-era with some heavy duty organ work that Hugh Banton does. The story is almost a mini-rock opera about the life in business as a man named Mr. Sands comes in and the lyrics are almost a warning about who this person is. It has a theatrical setting as if the employees are given the papers and describes the danger of Sands in a messed up way. There’s some time changes in the tune throughout the song, as the characters try to find out a way to get the hell out of the office and go on vacation before all hell breaks loose before going into the funk realm of Smoke.

You can hear Hammill’s spoken ramble as the band go into a Stax free-style fuzzy fusion-sque freak out and the singing he goes into on about how careful you must and choosing your words because you don’t know what kind of shit you might be in as it segues into the numbers guitar chugging futuristic rock surroundings of Frank Zappa’s One Size Fit All-era on 5533. You can tell the band are having fun going into the mysterious numbers of math due to their love of the counting at Manchester University in which the band was formed at. They go into a weird and attacking mode to see who can outrun the singing or the instruments they might go into the finish line before closing the curtain with a 17th century roar on the Harpsichord and drums with the weird and twisted finale, All Over the Place, there’s a moment that everything was recorded at a Gothic Cathedral and deliver the goods from the identity and seeing the real-self to let everyone know it was all just a dream.

There are so many mysterious musical adventures after three listens, it’s hard to see whether you love or loathe Van Der Graaf Generator’s lyrics and Peter Hammill’s vocals. What is very understanding is that the music can be difficult to understand and can disturbed the listener and have them scratch their heads, thinking what the hell have I gone into. Is A Grounding in Numbers an achieving successful record? Given the fact that Van Der Graaf Generator have developed and worked on this album to create a follow-up to Trisector, it’s quite hard to say that it’s one of Van Der Graaf Generator’s best comeback in the darker territory to release the mindless army to attack.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Electric Wizard - Black Masses

Electric Wizard have been around since forming in 1993 and are reviving the Doom Metal genre as if they were carrying the Olympic torch and carrying to the Pompeii Amphitheatre in Rome. Which is why you have to understand this is probably one of the best bands to come out of the genre and are following in the footsteps of; Black Sabbath, Black Widow, and Pentagram. It quite understands that they are carrying the sound and taking it like a little suitcase and seeing where the music would take them into another dimension. With Black Masses, their follow up to their previous album, Witchcult Today, shows that they have a lot of the fierce and sinister psych-proto-metal sounds in their instruments like a flaming tribe.

There is a lot of how Black Masses stands as one of the most powerful albums that Electric Wizard put on from start to finish. Their songs flow like a magic carpet and imagine how they can push the buttons up than ever. The surprising thing is how they work together and create a suspenseful yet dramatic horror film score to be more evil than ever. The guitars and bass sound like a fuzz tone dooming device that makes it a tightrope that is pulled tight and the music is booming than what Sabbath did on Master of Reality. If it was made for a score of the 1973 cult classic, The Wicker Man, Electric Wizard’s Black Masses is one of them and while the songs have a post-apocalyptic atmosphere and perfect to take a puff and smoke the hugest bong ever, then Black Masses is the perfect stoner album to be played up to a higher voltage.

The opening title track starts the album like a Grindcore film as Jus Osburn comes out of the cage with vengeance with his heavy Iommi-guitar riffs that would have made the master proud. There’s a huge roar and sinister feel that makes this number, almost as if the monster has been released violently from the cage and raging attack on a Utopian city. This track has a very disturbing vertigo swirl with a punch that would have had Electric Wizard become working on the Hammer Film revival and would have open Download to a roaring crowd and would have given Black Sabbath a warm reception including the Prince of Darkness and the late Ronnie James Dio as well.

The 7-minute piece, Venus In Furs starts off with a woman’s high-pitch scream as if she was inside the Iron Maiden tortured to death and dying a horrible death before going into a disturbing yet vicious vision of the lunatic ready to kill his next victim a-la Clockwork Orange rape-in-the-woods scenario with its muddy bass lines, sneering guitar licks, feedback chaos, and double-tracking vocals filling the atmosphere into uncharted territory. But it’s not a film score that Electric Wizard might not be interested in doing, which might happen hopefully in the future, the sonic militant pounding rocker Night Child, is a Venom-inspired metallic-razor-blade-roar as Jus Oburn, almost as if he’s Ozzy Osbourne’s stepson and does one hell of a job with his vocals, cries like a madman inside the asylum waiting to be free in his voice, but hallucinations still haunts the lunatic as they are in for the kill for revenge. During the midsection, Liz Buckingham scares the listener with her guitar solo.

She goes through various solos in Stoner, Mud, and Doom on this track while drummer Shaun Ritter does him homage to Bill Ward as Tas Danazoglou’s bass line is a psych-dooming sound in his fuzzy metal tone on his bass to give it a real crunching taste. And the unsung heavy metal bands Angel Witch and the Lemmy-era of Hawkwind sound is quite breathtaking which is evidential on Black Masses and their statement on the 6-minute, Patterns of Evil. There’s a flowing riff that Jun and Liz do as if they were brother and sister team deciding who can come up with the psychedelic wah-wah powder keg guitar sound as the Muddy Bass lines are back in full swing that Taz does to please Sabbath’s earlier days while Satyr IX comes with a mellowing yet evil sound of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath-era meets a dooming version of Krautrocker’s early beginnings of Stoner Metal, Amon Duul II. This is wonderful track as each of the instruments becomes a psych jam groove and then the piece which could have been the Utopia that was a wonderful place becomes hell in a hand basket as vicious virus addicted animals drug-addicts run buck wild to kill the master who build the place and make their city theirs and become folk heroes in a messed up way.

Now we’re back again in the streets with the Black Sabbath sound. It seems that while Electric Wizard were carrying a lot of the Black Sabbath records mixed in with Bloodrock, Steel Mill, Black Widow, Budgie, and Pentagram in their bags. And just before they played the first note, they would listen to the albums and do research on them and ask themselves, “Okay, how do we pull this off? Do we make excuses or just go at it with a bang and give the nu-metal pansy assholes the middle finger?” Turn Off Your Mind has the futuristic hellish prison taste of swirling taste ingredients of flavor and they go into a haywire mode to push the buttons into a fierce bullet train to hell. Scorpio Curse is again vicious, proto-psych metal, and darkest composition that Electric Wizard have written and the closing track Crypt of Drugula is their homage to Krautrocker’s Faust and Amon Duul II as if they teamed up to write a sequel to Dance of the Lemmings. With its avant-garde noises, feedback sonic noises, and disturbing scenes that is straight out of Dante’s Inferno, it’s almost as if the monster has been defeated and the dawn has approach the castle destroying the layers of the vampires in every sense.

This isn’t an album to be played on the top 10 charts nor on corporate radio stations who play Stairway to Heaven for about 500 times, Electric Wizard’s Black Masses is an impressive doom metal album that is evil, dark, hidden, and sinister. One of the revival sounds of the genre has come back with a vengeance and with anger ready to go on the attack. The sounds of Doom Metal and the torch of Black Sabbath is in their palm of their hands ready to see where the road will lead them to.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Barclay James Harvest - Barclay James Harvest

The passing of keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme last year, has mourned a huge loss for the Barclay James Harvest camp and at Esoteric Recordings as well. He was not only just a keyboardist for BJH and Maestoso, but he brought the fire and the energy with him and the voltage’s that gave the music with the band and for the fans how music was meant to be sound and heard. This here on the blog site, is a special edition review of Barclay James Harvest first self-titled debut album released in 1970. It’s been 41 years pre-Once Again area that would open the doors for them and in the realms of the beginnings of Symphonic Prog, early sounds of the psychedelic sound of the underground movement in the U.K., and a huge tribute to one of their heroes, The Moody Blues, it’s shows how the band could have been the next Moody Blues or the next Pink Floyd.

Since forming in the late ‘60s, the four men from Yorskhire: John Lees, Woolly Wolstenholme, Mel Pritchard, and Les Holroyd were now taking in a lovely touch of classical orchestral rock as if they were making a sequel to In Search of the Lost Chord, with a touch Woolly’s soaring mellotron sound and angelic lyrics that was more of a tribute to the Beatles Sgt. Pepper-era. The band released their debut album under the Harvest label (no pun intended) and with help from Norman Smith and The Enid’s Robert John Godfrey to conduct the orchestra on three tracks, makes the album more pastoral and in the realms Beethoven and Bach teaming up and forming a band together, it would be BJH.

After listening to this album about three times, Barclay James Harvest’s music was almost like a mixed sound. From the straight-forward rockers Good Love Child and the opening West Coast Rocker Taking Some Time On, the Renaissance melodic folksy beauty of Mother Dear, the tender yet emotional ballad love song-inspired of The Sun Will Never Shine, to the orchestral homage of Procol Harum’s In Held ‘Twas In I on When The World Was Woken, for a head start on a debut album, the band were on a good start and the music was right between the eyes. The mellotron adds the haunting sound that channels the band with their compositions that flows deep into the river.

The haunting melodic ballad, The Iron Maiden, sees BJH go into the water of progressive folk beauty of the 17th century, but a song describing about a torture device makes it very strange, but beautifully poetic with lyrics like; “She walks on through the night/Her circumstances slight/Are only helping her to fail/And though she feels she’s right/She tries with all her might/And makes the deepest peril pale.” When you have a song about the woman’s doom of inside the torture device, you know this is going to be painful, but a beautiful description on her last days as a survivor.

Not one bad song after another, we come to the 12-minute epic, Dark Now My Sky as the closing finale. Starting off with Woolly Wolstenholme’s homage to Peter Sellers and Laurence Olivier in his humoristic form of Shakespearean way of the spoken introduction and a maniac laughter from composer Robert John Godfrey, really adds the epic score swarm with an orchestral bliss before going into a dooming post-apocalytpic Floyd-sque sound. Some might believe it’s out of place, but the way it’s done it rather is a wonderful touch of the Pastoral Rock sound to give it a real punching feel. As with the 2002 release, the bonus tracks adds the failed singles that would have gotten BJH a warm reception for the Beatles to accept. It has the BBC Sessions with John Peel and makes these sessions, feel welcomed and offer what the band was doing before making the first album.

Sometimes, Symphonic and Orchestral Rock beginnings is much more fun to look at and seeing what the band was doing before deciding where the direction they were about to go into. A magnificent debut album at it’s finest.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jethro Tull's A Passion Play...The album that would skin controversy among critics and fans

As Sid Smith and Stuart Maconie have a love of Yes infamous double album, Tales From Topographic Ocean, in which I have a soft spot for. There is also proof in the realms of Jethro Tull were pushing the concept album over the tightrope in heavy times. You can say that the concept album genre was about to piss a lot of the so-called rock critics from Rolling Stone Magazine when they released one of the most controversial albums of all time, A Passion Play.

The album is considered a cult favorite among Jethro Tull fans and even though they draw a line in the sand deciding whether they approve the album or throw it the dumpster and prefer the lovely golden-era of Tull with: This Was, Stand Up, Benefit, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick. But for me, I enjoy A Passion Play. This was the first album that really got me into the music of Jethro Tull back in 2005.

It’s quite difficult to say this, but when the album first came out in 1973, the same year when Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield released Dark Side of the Moon and Tubular Bells, A Passion Play was damned upon its release including Tull fan, Melody Maker and prog-fan, Chris Welch. I first came across the album when I was having my Bass Lesson with teacher Aric Nitzberg at HCC, he told me about this album and why it received so much negativity upon its release. Maybe because of the issues of religion, the cover of a dead ballet dancer crucified at the Royal Albert Hall as if it was a crime photo for investigation.

So instead of getting Aqualung, I bought the album just for the hell of it. And alongside with going into the deeper waters of avant-garde music with Zappa and Beefheart, Jethro Tull’s A Passion Play is the album that has been on my iPod nonstop. Sure it was slammed by the music critics including the infamous rumor of Tull breaking-up due to bad reviews of A Passion Play which was not true. But that’s how I loved about A Passion Play, not just the concept story line, but how the band can push the envelope a bit further close to the edge.

Like most concept albums released in the ‘70s, this album was way ahead of it’s time and benefitted how Ian Anderson was going to take all the risk and take the chances he was going to make to do this. Yet with all the controversy, I have a love of this album and admire the gatefold sleeve with the fake playbill program of the musical of A Passion Play as the band members went through an alias of different actor’s name.

Whether you admire or want to spit in the ground with it, A Passion Play is the album that took the chances of controversy, haunting court cases, and a short little tale of the hare who lost his spectacles. Now let’s hope they make a deluxe edition of this album for it’s 40th anniversary in 2013.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Steel Mill - Jewels of the Forest (Green Eyed God Plus...)

One can quite understand to be featured here on Music from the Other Side of the Room, is a special edition to feature one of the most amazing lost bands to come out of the ‘70s. With the Internet on our loyal fingertips to search for unknown bands that never saw the light at the end of the tunnel, whether it’s obscure metal or unsung progressive rock bands, they are finally getting the recognition they deserve in the future. As music lovers act like pirates from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to search for unseen treasure in the mysterious Caribbean Islands that Long John Silver believes they are hidden in, the bands hidden gems of their albums are going up for an expensive price up from $800 to $2,000 up on eBay or go to Prog festivals in search of the lost albums as if they are Indiana Jones to search for the missing album that the band recorded and disappeared.

Lucky for Lee Dorrian, member of Napalm Death and Cathedral, whom I praised for working on the Luv Machine album Turns You On and Necromandaus Orexis of Death reissue released last year, he is now the new Sherlock Holmes of unsung gems of the obscure progressive and metal bands that are getting a lot of attention from the Rise Above Relics label. With that and Steel Mill’s only one debut album, Green Eyed God have been considered the mysterious band that never was until Rise Above found only two of the members to tell the whole story about the band that never was. Now in a brand beautiful packaging including a 32-page booklet about the band’s only debut album, has finally been re-mastered since there was several attempts were poorly restored in a bootlegged way, has now sounded much better before than its original release on the independent label, Penny Farthing back in 1971.

Their eerie music sounds almost as if it was recorded through the dark and cavernous caves of early hard rock and tiny parts of the prog sound into a speeding car that drives about 600 miles per hour on the race track. Now under a new title Jewels of the Forest (Green Eyed God plus…), it goes beyond the album with unreleased tracks that Saxophonist John Challenger had in his attic are now getting the best sounding to get as Lee Dorrian mentions in the liner notes, “These tracks have been painstakingly restored and combined with original tapes from those very sessions, to create the best sound quality possible.”

Also included is a new song for the first time from two members with vocalist David Morris and Winds instrument, John Challenger of the zooming sound of Steel Mill’s early days and an homage to Jonesy’s Mind of the Century on A Forgotten Future, A Future Past. It’s been now 40 years since this album came out and let’s say that the Champagne bottle is bubbling with excitement. From the crunching riff opener of Blood Runs Deep, the mellower flute rock haunting call of Summer’s Child, the 7-minute homage to Locomotive’s We Are Everything You See in a middle-eastern rock value on Mijo and the Laying of the Witch, to the single hit that got played a lot on Radio Luxemborug of the sinister title track, for all of the achievements the music wasn’t going into the deeper realms of the mainstream.

The mixtures of Guitar, Flute, and Sax are fierce and angry which dip into the river of Black Widow’s music, goes into a controversial political boundaries that would piss off two members in the audience at Ladbroke Grove with their first approach of a political protest song about the Civil Rights on Treadmill. The lyric, “Curse the Water to hell/Hey you scum dread in time/On the tramp in the line/Tie me down to a stone/Hear my body twist and moan.” It’s disturbing and how you can tell what the scenery in Alabama and the Assassination’s of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had a huge impact on Steel Mill as they were watching the horror unfolding in America’s Southern State of Alabama and Mississippi and in England with the Race Riots before working on the album. Then comes the piano ballad with a sweet and a little break from the heavy sound with Turn the Page Over while Black Jewels of the Forest goes into the inspirations of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft with a dooming tribe calling of hell in the realms of Witchcraft. With no bad track in the expanded reissue, Green Eyed God closes the album with 47-second jazzy short little flute ballad in the time signature of 4/4 on Har Fleur.

As well with the album’s power house lost classic, the expanded edition adds three of their singles and five of the unreleased tracks that were recorded in April of 1970 in mono. By listening to these unearthed tracks, you can tell that these tracks could have been a double album and would have gotten Steel Mill a lot of recognition. There are three centerpieces on the new tracks that would make your feet tickle for joy. There’s the Pounding ragtime piano rocker Get On The Line while the funk soul rocker of Blaxploitation super heroes on Super Clean Man comes in. Mixed with the guitar riff, vocals singing the melody, and stacked pounding drums that is straight out of Curtis Mayfield’s sessions for Superfly. Yet best of the unearthed tracks is the psychedelia jazz sound was Growing Bald, which has the guitar in reverb sound and mournful vocals along with John’s sax filled with Coltrane and VDGG’s David Jackson, could have probably been Steel Mill’s obscure-psych dance track.

Green Eyed God still sounds like a fresh baked bread that had just came out of the oven and add that with some delicious pasta, it’s music still carries the cult following sound with prog and obscure music lovers to get this album a lot of attention. The love of unearthed albums is a lot of worth investigating to check out for detectives and music researchers to see what was left in the record vaults on what was hidden underneath the prog treasure. Always.

Black Mountain - In The Future

This Canadian five-piece band have been around since forming in 2004 and their second album, In The Future released on the Jagjaguwar label back in 2008 is the band’s finest albums to come out of the late noughties. It contains the sounds of the early psychedelic sounds of the late ‘60s, obscure prog entities, and early doom metal in the realms of Black Sabbath and Black Widow have been awaited with a warm handshake. With only 10 tracks and the vocals of Stephen McBean and Amber Webber often sound like a futuristic version of It’s a Beautiful Day when they bring the sound of what the future is like, but here, these things could work like a sci-fi animated score made in Japan.

Alongside from their marvelous artwork on the front cover, In The Future is Black Mountain’s baby. Perhaps to pay tribute to fellow space rockers of Hawkwind with Quark, Strangeness & Charm, here Black Mountain have got a lot of energy in them inside their brains and heart. From the fierce opening of Stormy High, you get the feeling that this is an album to be a roller-coaster ride that you won’t forget. The song features a thunderous riff that blends in with the flourishing organ work with their hard rock solar system momentum. Yet it’s very much have a King Crimson flavor ala Schizoid Man style in there too with the heavy prog sound.

Angels pushes into the melodic groove which goes into an Alternative mode thanks to a cool drum beat that Joshua Well does to give the band members a chance to feel the changes in the song while Stephen creates a spooky rhythm sound on the guitar along with his voice and Webber to set up the scenery along with a teardrop mellotron sound that is the key point of the album. The 7-minute piece Tyrants is in the realms of the militant rocker sound of Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave at first, but then it goes into a dooming section which manages not to make sound like a rip-off of the doom metal sound, but to get the middle-eastern psych flow with a lot of juice to get the energy going that realms into a mind-boggling finale.

Having Stephen McBean and Amber Webber paying tribute to Jefferson Airplane, Blood Ceremony, and The Devil’s Blood, there’s one track to get into an acoustical mode to recall the band’s love of the psychedelic sound. You have Stay Free that offers a bluesy folk rock sound that moves away from the experimental sound and yet into the sound of the ghost-like version of the Kinks Don’t You Fret. Then it’s Amber Webber taking the vocals to home base with her touch of Thom Yorke and Bjork mixed up into one as she demonstrates it in the mournful Queens Will Play – a disturbing song which features a sneering rhythm guitar, organ riff, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez guitar solo licks, and haunting background vocals to give the post-apocalyptic yet gothic scenery that is chess with attitude.

You may find the band go into a swinging metal mode with Evil Ways as Bassist Matthew Camirand creates some dooming bass lines while Josh goes Billy Cobham on the drums, as Stephen McBean does his early Ozzy Osbourne Sabbath sound on his double-tracked vocals as the band go into the sound of the 1930s as if Metal was created in the scenario and performing this track with Duke Ellington teaming up with Coven and Steel Mill that would feel strange, but perfectly comforting to get you in the room to perform with them. Wild Wind is another stripped-down ballad that lets the band to calm down from some of the weird and infinite sounds from In The Future while the 16-minute epic Bright Lights is the centerpiece of Black Mountain’s career.

It has the elements of sessions from Radiohead’s Kid A with the Native American Indian tribe sound that the band does thanks to the thumping sound that Josh does as it dives into the swimming pool of hard rock before going into the ambient/atmospheric finale tribute to Krautrock heroes Tangerine Dream and the Space Rock cadets Ash Ra Tempel and it only goes into the milky way with the finale of Night Walks succeeding the early Floyd sound of the 1968 album, A Saucerful of Secrets as Amber gives her voice and Organ a mournful funeral sound inside the church. Black Mountain deserves to be the next progressive rock band of the 21st century. In The Future also proves to be tested a Space Doom Metal Rock sound that deserves a lot of attention.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Delusion Squared - Delusion Squared

Since their formation in 2009, French trio Delusion Squared have got a long road ahead for them and their self-titled debut album is a mysterious concept album about a Post-Apocalyptic land into four chapters. The story is about a girl that the strong free will against what was to bring peace for the Arcologies. Before that she was against the gene alterations and wanted a DNA to tamper with to get pregnant. She was arrested and soon was found by many years later by the Elders and took her in as if she was their daughter to them. She becomes a leader to them and dies at the age of 97 as they considered to her, the “Mother-of-all-people.”

The story is something straight out of a Philip K. Dick short story ala Blade Runner style, but it’s quite heavy stuff for a band to go beyond the pregnancy act, but the songs and the music are brilliant. The band is clearly in the realms of Porcupine Tree’s Delerium-era and the OK Computer sounds of Radiohead. You can tell that just before the band was working on their self-titled debut album, they were listening to these two bands and researching on how the sound was done, using technology and the way they were recording the music for the future and it is quite evidential when you hear this disturbing sci-fi album. And let’s just say this is not your daddy’s concept album, this is the concept album for all generations to take an understanding of politics, betrayal, renewal, death, and being considered a folk hero.

Opener, The Very Day creates an alternative folk riff futuristic sound of Delusion Squared’s love of the ‘80s New Wave of British Prog. With a train chugging acoustic rhythm guitar sound, burst of Wilson’s homage of atmospheric guitar sound and layered technique, the keyboards sounding like 2518, and Lorraine Young’s vocals sounds like a female version of Thom Yorke, really adds the touch of the power of the future to a soaring roar. Meanwhile on the eerie and moody In My Time of Dying, it firmly belongs to the atmospheric orientation of isolation that Young carries of her vocals about the girl’s life. It has this classical guitar sound in the finger picking technique as the keyboards pay tribute to the early days of Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra sound while the guitar goes into a Gilmour-sque melodic dark sound.

The 7-minute composition, Copyrighted Genes, sees the band make a tribute towards Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet with a jazz-like percussion sound, sneering guitar metallic roars, folky-riffs on the acoustic guitar, and a Vangelis-sque sound that could have been recorded in 1982 for a sci-fi vision of I, Robot. The sinister but suspenseful twist of Betrayal provides the girl’s trial, as the keyboard that Emmanuel De Saint does brings a Floyd-like sound that was taken from the sessions of The Division Bell as Young plays some Ottmar Liebert classical guitar licks in the midsection before the band go into as the judges sentencing the girl to prison as the music really adds the drama inside the room.

The mellower Sentenced that forms the guitar surround sound grips the girl’s isolation in different textures for the first few minutes of the song. At times it’s almost that Lorraine Young has got the torch of David Gilmour to light the Prog Olympics within the flames arising. The time signature is in ¾ and 4/4 as they spent into the storyline to rebuild to find freedom and Saint’s keyboards and drummer Steve Francis almost make the track a bit more of the Pink Floyd sound to make it very peculiar. By the Lake (Mourning) and (Seeding) are both beautiful and haunting tracks and this time it’s Saint’s time to shine as the band go back into the New Age sound that would make you go back and listen to them all over again.

The first part is very Keyboard and guitar layered sound while the second part features a disturbing fuzz tone bass line that Saint does while Young does her homage to Kate Bush in her vocals as she brings the guitar to a spooky yet creative territory as Francis lays down the drum patterns to calm down for the girl to be saved from the Elders. Rebirth starts off as a haunting lullaby opening section for the disturbed children of educational programs and perfect for Argento’s Suspiria before going into a fierce progressive metal experimental adventure in the realms of King Crimson’s Red period. What We Will Be begins with a Stephen Hawking voice which almost sounds like him as he describes the question, “What is the planet Earth going through right now?”

It almost sounds like Radiohead’s Fitter Happier as the atmospheric keyboards come in for the voice and then it’s a mourning ballad, with emotional lyrics dealing on who we are and why are we on this planet right now – even though it’s a situation to go green and being free to bring world peace to the globalization than where we are right now of war and destruction. Yet the last two tracks, The Departure and A Creation Myth that really sets a mysterious finale as the woman dies of old age, she is now a folk hero to the people on the planet and now her message will spread throughout the whole world. Opening with a classical piano sound before going through a layered guitar segment and a funeral song for the woman, Young really sings this peace as if she sang this inside a gothic cathedral while the band members wove into the atmospheric tradition that delivers a huge touch.

The last track has the Mike Oldfield keyboard testament at first before going through the alternative rock format of acoustic ballad through the band’s touching power. Ultimately you may play this album about three times to really get you into the band’s touch of progressive goodness with a ooh-la-la flavor to the Prog Torch. For keeping the concept album torch fire growing from their influential background growing up in France, Delusion Squared has really captured the essence of prog. Not a great album, but taking the step forward very carefully.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wolf People - Steeple

So you want to get into the deeper waters of the Indie Prog scene? Well you are in for a big surprise. Wolf People have gotten a big delicious bite of the apple with their second album. The band was launched in 2005 to capture the elements of obscure psych-prog sounds of: Mighty Baby, Second Hand, Tractor, Black Widow, and Czar, they released their debut album Tidings last year and they have gotten something big in their hands that is beyond a huge measure of real good music for 2011. Perhaps with an album cover that is the realm of Jackson Pollock, Wolf People now find themselves with the underground scene and creating hopefully a following with their retro sound of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s hidden treasure gems of progressive music. Already carrying the footsteps of those lost classics, Steeple is a clever exercise in psychedelic power house guitar feedback and the efforts that the quartet have in them will stand till and give them a huge energetic force that is mysterious or strangely strange but oddly normal.

The best moments are the guitar parts that Tom Hollick does as he improvises with his disturbing fuzz tone guitar licks with all the voltage’s he has with his hands to give Wolf People a real kick in the gut while the flute playing that is portrayed here pays homage to Clive Jones of Pesky Gee and Black Widow fame. But here on Steeple, the album is an inspiration of the scientific thunder of explosive compositions could easily fit for a film score of a Hammer Film-era starring Peter Cushing. The middle-eastern eerie psychedelic opener Salisbury Sands and the pounding flute riff rocker Tiny Circle, a number that could have given The Mars Volta a run for their money with a freak-out boogie with heavy guitar sounds and flute playing the melody together to bend a ghost-like haunting call. If only Andy Votel could sample a beat, it would be the second track to give it a huge jolt for B-Music.

More like a psych-hard rock conjoined twin with Black Sabbath’s debut album and Blood Ceremony’s music, Painted Cross starts off with a thunderous guitar lick that Tom does while Jack Sharp grooves with his vocals as he creates a mysterious place that is post-apocalyptic and people dying by being crucified, he really adds the disturbing elements with the story-line before Hollick creates a moody layered ‘60s guitar sound as it ends with an Avant-Garde Varese spoken-word crescendo. The eerie funeral isolated beauty of Morning Born offers a crunchy sound of being the loneliest person in your home town, but it’s quite pleasing in what Wolf People are breaking the door down and saying, “Look there’s something that you need to know. We are very different from the big Prog names and we take the obscurity by heart.”

Drummer Tom Watt doesn’t play the drums like John Bonham or Neil Peart, but he plays like a vicious Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde combination on Morning Born at first he plays gentle then he goes into the attack mode as Hollick goes in for the syringe with his sneering guitar work while Sharp creates a moody rhythm sound as if he’s finger picking the notes to create the song on a perfect touch of energy while bassist Dan Davies lines are suspenseful and dramatic to the composition that is more emotional and more viciously in your face to give it an anti-climatic finale. What may lay the road ahead for them, Steeple seems like a trip to a world of eerie adventures that is out of this world and very much in the realm of David Lynch meets Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Fitting the void of Ash Ra Tempel’s debut album and homage to guitarist virtuoso Manuel Gottsching, the sinister and tour de force electric power of Cromlech is in the waters of the Krautrock trio as Wolf People pay a tribute to the Space Rock cadets with Joe Hollick creating a solar system ride into the black hole with his Dave Brock and Gottsching guitar sounds to give it a wall of feedback and keeping the space ship into full orbit as it goes into the black hole of a forbidden planet. One By One from Dorney Reach starts off with a crescendo with Tom Watt and Joe Hollick going bat shit crazy for 30-seconds and then it pays tribute in the Amon Duul II Yeti-era sound of psychedelic punk attitude with a chomp to the leg filling the battlefield of the war to rage. Sharp creates a disturbing rhythm sound on the guitar while Hollick does a chugging train sound on the guitar before it becoming a bluesy metallic rockin’ touch as Watt plays like the drum beats with a funky groove as Davies follows Watt with his picking garage rock bass lines.

The sequel to Black Sabbath moody and disturbing ballad of Planet Caravan has just come in with the 7-minute rumbler, Castle Keep. Beginning with the folksy obscure guitar reverb rhythm as Sharp sings, “My Heart is dying.” Almost as if he’s Robert Johnson, the band go into a bluesy-prog feel before going into the Blood Ceremony punch for Wolf People to get in there and move away from the blues sound and into the middle-eastern feel as Watt creates an Egyptian percussion feel on the drums before getting into another space hard rock adventure almost as if they recorded this track in 1972 for Ralph Bakshi to use in his underrated cult animated classic for Lord of the Rings.

The two-part composition closer, Banks of Sweet Dundee is a tribute to the obscure folk rock sound of Comus and obscure hard rock band, The Human Beast. It provides an acoustic and mellowed layered guitar sound that Hollick brings and lay back to give Sharp a chance to shine with his heartfelt vocals as the band take a mystique sound with their instruments to give it a closing to a T. For keeping the Obscure Prog sound alive and the inspirations to come in, Wolf People have released the beast to the wild and Steeple is huge step in the underground rock tradition, but the evidence is in the pudding and the music keeps on growing. The result? A tremendous amount of credit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blonde on Blonde - Contrasts

It’s quite understandable to see where Blonde on Blonde were one of Welsh’s obscure progressive rock bands to come out of the late ‘60s. While I adore their second album, Rebirth, reissued by the Fantastic Voyage label which was originally released on the Ember label, their first album, Contrasts, is an appropriate proto-prog album. The band was signed to the Pye label and released their debut in June of 1969. Contrasts features cover songs and a musical psych approach that was the bands new adventure that would come for them.

Blonde on Blonde brought a mixture of psychedelic and raga-rock with guitar, organ, sitar, and dramatic percussion orientated beauty here. The evidence of early prog is here with the dramatic introduction Ride With Captain Max that sounds like something that was left out of the sessions of the Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request with a pounding percussion roar, sneering guitars, and a thundering bass line that makes it perfect for a roller-coaster ride before going into a calm folk-like lyrics that is yet a breathtaking experience.

And that was only the beginning. Next, we have the early beginnings of raga-rock with sitar and flute on the groove with Spinning Wheel while their cover of No Sleep Blues originally done by Scottish Folkies the Incredible String band. It has a country rock flavor but with a humoristic point of view to pay tribute to them, but according to notes, “a while sequence of trauma in miniature” makes you realize that this piece will give you quite an understanding to the song.

The homage of the Zombies song, Imagine The Swan is evidential on the flourishing and soaring sound of the Hammond on Goodbye. It has a baroque pop sound that is quite surprising for Blonde on Blonde to do as the song deals with moving on and saying farewell to school, family, and friends and into the clouds of heaven to start a new life after death. The garage rocker I Need My Friend, has a great pounding piano work, fuzz tone guitar sounds, and vocals that Ralph Denyer has in the realm of Roger Chapman.

The dooming and explosive Mother Earth is quite an underrated song, but with a menacing folk and hard rock sound dealing with the spiritual world, it’s a crowning achievement for them to deal with social issues on Contrasts. They would also embrace the Beatles music with the medieval, mariachi, and symphonic folk crisp of their cover of isolation, outsider and death on Eleanor Rigby while the psych-pop mood kicks in the B-side single and their homage to Eric Burdon and the Animals on Conversationally Making the Grade. It has a soul sound rather than a funk influence as Ralph just brings the influence of Burdon’s voice into the gospel-like energetic rumble.

Regency is a short instrumental piece that goes into the classical sound of the 15th century with harpischord and Spanish guitar fingerpicking techniques before seguing into the Renaissance Folk beauty on Island on an Island. Don’t Be Too Long has an emotional ballad about moving on and leaving to start a new life at a different city as the song has a Nick Drake element feel to it as the closing track Jeanette Isabella has a bit of the eerie tribute to a psychedelic female fictional singer that has a love-song feel, but with a West Coast sound that could have been a bit more majestic and heartfelt.

The two bonus tracks because if you think that Contrasts is over and done with, well the people at Esoteric Recordings have got a surprise for you. The two tracks from the A & B-sides of the single. Here, we have the homage of Tyrannosaurus Rex of the raga rumble on All Day All Night and the psych-pop marriage issue of Country Life. This rare album is a must have for anyone who wants to get into the deeper realms of the underground-era. It’s so amazing that you can hear what the bands sounded like and never got the achievement they deserve from the past until now.