Reviews of Progressive Rock, Jazz Rock, Hard Rock, and Stories from beyond.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Ellis Ashbrook - Meridia
Filling the sounds of Frank Zappa and early Porcupine Tree with a vibe of the late ‘60s psychedelic sound of touching the prog elements with a bit of danger mixed with alternative and punk at the same time can be a risky choice because some of the genres would have drawn a line in the sand and see if they would accept it or not, with Ellis Ashbrook, they have taken the sounds of the three elements and take it to see where it would land on exactly at the right spot at the right moment.
The band already has two albums in the can and their new album released last year called, Meridia, is completely twisted. There’s a touch of funk, heavy rock, psychedelic elements that goes through the Zappa realm that would have made the master himself very happy with and coming with a sense of humor that would send a touch of enjoyment through the crowd and a way that this band would take the elements of prog and psychedelic music up a notch and creating some danger that would fill around the room and the sound of their music.
Cat Song, which has this ‘70s guitar rock groove that has the band into the realms of how the band pay tribute to Zappa with a touch that resembles the Apostrophe-era that shines almost a touch for Ashbrook to write a score for a Pam Grier film with a funkadelic soundtrack as Peripheral Declination sounds like something out of Yes sole self-titled debut album that has a touch of the guitar and bass resembling a bit of Peter Banks and Chris Squire that is almost a tribute to their heroes.
With the opening Accelerator that kicks the albums off with more of a garage space rock adventure, it goes on this amazing journey through the milky way that features a lot of guitar and bass lines including some moogy and organ solo work that makes it a fabulous ride that sends you to another dimension that you’ve never been to and making it a fun ride. There’s also some mellowing elements with a bit of the spookiness that you’ve never heard before on Climax and Unbreakable which has some jazzy classical thumping beats to it in a mighty roar and has a bit of a Baroque Rock sound.
They’re back again with the spacey music and sometimes in your face atmospheric music with another 6-minute rocker, Decelerator. Bottomfeeder, a haunting, dark piano melody with a militant drum feed comes in with a touch of the sessions from Pink Floyd’s second album A Saucerful of Secrets as the groovy jazz psych funk of No Please Don’t Watch builds into a moving dance as Slide goes into the tones of the Heavy Rock and Alternative sounds of the ‘70s and ‘90s with a dosage of Black Sabbath and Nirvana.
Psych uplifting finale, 22 is very touching because it shows that while Ellis Ashbrook has the psych and prog influence under their spell, there’s a bit of the jazz and a psych bossa nova sound they carry and that is a real wonder and closing the album off to close the curtain. I have listen to Meridia about three times already and overall, this is a must listen to album and adventure you’ll never forget.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Trocaria - The Dark Nears
This duo band coming from North Carolina may have a future ahead for years to come, and they just got started. When you think of Symphonic and Death Metal, you think of; Opeth, Nightwish, Within Temptation, Dimmu Borgir, and Redemption to name a few as a big band performing in front of Metal festivals and selling out arenas,stadiums,and outdoor festivals like no other. But for a band like Trocaria, they have a long road to go on, but with their debut album, The Dark Nears, released this year, it proves that it’s not your typical metal album, but very much of a tiny practice to see what the band might have in store for us, years to come.
The duo considers Jon on vocals, whose voice resembles an early Mikael Akerfeldt meets a dooming Cookie Monster from Sesame Street and dare I say, Count Cronos, vampire supreme from Venom? You get the general idea while Joan Palmer who launched the band back in 2007, plays all the instruments including guitar, bass, keyboards on programming on the drums, makes her a virtuoso and the captain in charge of Trocaria providing a lot of the sound and atmosphere for what is to come of the genre of Symphonic Death Metal of the 21st century. When you listen to The Dark Nears, there’s a bit of inspiration in the realms of the keyboard sound in the realms of Amberian Dawn and bits of After Forever chunked up in there as the death metal sound comes in through the controversial scene in Norway and Sweden as well.
There is a bit of darkness, medieval storytelling in growling vocal arrangements that show a lot of the power they have in them and while they are still getting an early start, they have a lot of up-and-coming momentum for them in the near future and beyond the infinite. It begins with the rumbling militant fighting for glory on Gates of Hell as Joan plays the guitar in the style of Kerry King and Kirk Hammett with an attitude on the riff attitude as Jon screams about the war that is going inside the hellish prison that is almost a horror movie soundtrack that would send a shiver down your spine.
While Martyr and Suicide are the most fearsome shrieking schizophrenic vocal arrangements and then have a mellowing haunting finale, The Burning Man goes into the medieval machine gun drum section which something out of Mike Portnoy’s technique style that Joan does to pay tribute to him, the lyrics deal with the demon who lives in our souls, the burning man himself will live in this woman’s heart that he loved with, has passed on, and still carries her memories in his heart and soul. The closing title track is the most mellowing and dooming composition pieces because while they have a touch of Symph and Death Metal in them, Jon and Joan lets the beast loose with a grand piano, double bass drums going into full speed, and guitar solo flying into the air.
Again, they have a fresh start and while I’m not crazy about the growling vocals, this group needs a huge amount of the word of mouth they need and see which long and winding road will take them into. Trocaria’s first album is not easy to listen to from start to finish, but it can only be a starting point for them to see where they go to next.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Alphataurus - Alphataurus
Formed in Milan at the beginning of 1970, Alphataurus was an obscure band from Italy that released their only sole-self titled debut album back in 1973. The sound carries a resemblance of Folk, Doom, and Classical music that carries the influential sounds of Genesis, Ange, and Van Der Graaf Generator that they were listening to before working on the album and doing some research as some of the bands in England were making cult status in their hometown and receiving word of mouth.
According to the liner notes, the band started playing in different venues like in theaters, cinemas, sport fields, and at a 1971 new year’s eve party and opened for bands such as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, and ELP. And while the cover itself is disturbing yet beautiful triple gatefold sleeve at the same time featuring an albatross unleashing missiles from his chest attacking civilians and a small homage on the reptile doing his Tarkus war machine look, knowing that this band have shown their true love of the English Prog bands during that time period and science fiction/fantasy.
Now if you have this idea of this band could have written a sci-fi soundtrack for a TV series either for Battlestar Galactica or the Star Trek series, well you’ve come to the right place. Now if you have some comic books or synchronize some of the episodes of the series with the music in the style of Floyd meets Wizard of Oz, you’ve come to the right place. Take for example, the twisted Croma that starts off as a dystopian carousel merry-go-round music gone wrong as it goes into a soaring flying keyboard nightmarish hell of the world gone into a dystopian atmosphere.
La Mente Vola will remind listeners of something that was left off the sessions for Camel and Ange’s Moonmadness and By the Sons of Mandrin as the harpsichord goes into the outer limits for the first three minutes as a jam session before going into the symphonic beauty to synthesizing madness while the 12-minute opener, Peccato D’orgoglio is filled with sadness and tensional structures and adding a dosage of Acid Folk and rumbling eruption of the upbeat swooshing of the Organ going into an overdrive like you’ve never heard before.
The strange combination of Heavy Rock and Organ sounding like the Flute on Dopo L’Uragano, carries on the touches of Doom Prog like no other with an early pre-resemblance in the midsection at the 3:11 mark of Rush’s La Villa Strangiato and then it goes into the style of an earlier incarnation of Black Sabbath meets Jethro Tull ending. The 9-minute finale, Ombra Muta, which shows Alphataurus going into a funk rock mode combining the sound of the passages resemblance to Keith Emerson on the synth that is a ride into the voyages of the milky way.
After the release of this album, the band performed at the Palermo Pop festival and at San Benedetto del Tronto Stadium and while they legal issues wouldn’t let them perform with ELP (which would have been cool for opening for them), the band drifted away. But then after about 40 years back in 2010, they reunited and still are doing new music. And while they released another album back in 1992, which was a demo, they’re still going strong influence up-and-coming young prog bands to discover the mystery of Alphataurus.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Entropia - Evolve
The first time I’ve heard about Entropia, was through an e-mail by one of the band members from Opensight in the city of Colombia and he asked if I could review one of their debut albums, Simetria. It was an offer, I couldn’t refuse. Now even though I have mixed opinions about downloads and iTunes which I don’t want to get into the politics about it, I thought their debut album released in 2010, was pretty good.
Carrying the sounds of Progressive Metal like no other with weird time signatures, growling voices and storytelling complex that would make it a perfect concept album, now in the year of our lord 2012, they released an EP called Evolve and it shows that while they have a long way to go, they have shown that they are not giving up. Thoughts Confined, the new song, which is a video you can find on Facebook and on YouTube as well, is a rapid yet poundering eruption that is completely a well-balanced shredded roar.
With its growling vocals and guitar sound doing lead solos, will remind listeners and metal headbangers including prog fans of Mastodon and an earlier prog death metal thrash version of Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt. And even though the music video shows a man in a strait-jacket trying to break free from the asylum, shows that Entropia that they’re giving MTV, the middle finger. They still carry a bit of the heavy atmosphere and adding a bit of the synthesizers to the core to make it sound power metal and sounding like its 1984 all over again.
Example, Burden which opens the EP, carries a bit of the Power Metal sound with a bit of vengeance. The keyboards are like a hard energetic force in the power that Entropia have brought to the table and in their sound and vision. But they have brought the heavy guitar rumbling with a dosage of fantasy and mellowing passage way to stream like a bullet train going along for the ride.
As for Fragmented, which has this futuristic thrash attitude of anger that is very sci-fi and twisted compositions with the usage of the guitar and keyboards setting the atmosphere to a thunderous finale to close the curtains with a flash of lightning, Entropia’s new EP is a very powerful yet wonderous adventure of the progressive metal sound in the scene in Colombia. And while they are carrying the sounds of Opeth and Dream Theater, I imagine they listened to Mastodon’s Leviathan before working on the EP. This is a listenable metallic playthrough album from start to finish, yet you might want to fasten your seat belts to enjoy the ride.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
The Fierce and the Dead - On VHS
It’s been a while since The Fierce and The Dead have put out a full-length album and an EP. And while I’ve admired what Matt Stevens has been doing since 2010 after reviewing three of his solo albums and The Fierce and the Dead, it has finally shown that Matt himself has now come a long way, and the new EP from The Fierce and the Dead called On VHS, it’s one of the most experimental avant-futuristic rock EP’s to come out this year in 2012. While there’s no singing and vocalization’s on Fierce and the Dead’s music, the band pay a debt to the three genres: Post Rock, Experimental Rock, and a little taste of the Rock in Opposition (RIO) sound of the ‘70s.
Perfect example, 666.6 kicks the album off with a lushful beautiful dream turned into a deadly nightmare. A vicious touch of feedback with an alternative math sound with a blend dosage of Radiohead’s sound, it’s raw, mean, and creepy at the same time. Then all of a sudden, the three pieces that follow along with the opening track, lets you know that this isn’t your grand-daddy’s progressive rock album that he left in the cupboard for a long time.
Hawaii is a full throbbing hardcore Crimson-like punk sound that has a vicious similarity of Matt’s own sound of aloha on the guitar as if he was writing the score for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. As for the title track, which sees the band going into a mellowing sonic soundscape of some of the late ‘60s psychedelic vibe of the American coast, Part 3 closes the EP with a dooming post- apocalyptic sunrise into the valley including a bass line going off into the mountains as Stevens lay some sounds of The Doors and Radiohead that resembles the Strange Days and Kid A period.
The band have finally done their homework well to expect the unexpected and take the experimentations to lift you up from your feet. While they still are very busy lately, The Fierce and the Dead’s EP is an exquisite, twisted, mad, and out of this world album. Let’s hope what they might have in store for us years to come with a follow up to Morecambe in the future.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Leibowitz - The Beginning of the Endless Search for Oblivion
Already have a solo debut with Guitar for Money that was released last year online, it seems that the internet has been the home for up-and-coming bands/artists to release their music and material on; Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and Reverb Nation, to name a few. But for Leibowitz, his follow up album, The Beginning of the Endless Search for Oblivion, a concept album, set in the Sci-Fi universe, about a group called the Fists, who plan to stop corruption from the Music Business by a man named Persona Nongratitus who stole one of their concubines and tries to stop him. So it’s sort of a story set in the Comic-Book world in the realms of the Marvel Universe that could have been written by Stan “The Man” Lee.
The album itself is well made and well produced as Leibowitz carries the sounds of late ‘60s and early ’70 sounds of Baroque, Psychedelic, and Prog all at once with the influences of King Crimson, Cressida, and the Smile-era sessions of the Beach Boys. With hearing loops of the Mellotron and Drum Machines, and the sound of Josh's guitar techniques, Leibowitz himself knows his Progressive musical influences very well and reading comics, fantasy, and a touch of Isaac Asimov.
Opener, We Must Leave the City at Once, takes itself into the melodic groove while having the Retro Rock sound carrying the ‘70s power edge to it as The Fitz featuring Kev Feazey and virtuoso guitarist Matt Stevens, laying down some futuristic upbeat tempos with a sample loop of an alarm synth, that sounds very funky and 21st century resemblance to it, the Organ and Stevens guitar solo, would make you say more. One of the three centerpieces on the Endless Search is Persona Nongratitutus, it has a Beatle-sque ‘60s psych beat tempo with a touch of the Sgt. Pepper sound.
Elsewhere, the chugging acoustical dark tones crisp on A Narrow Escape, has a bit of a heavy uplifting procedure while the 7-minute epic, (get this title) Groove Out at the Grove and the Daring Rescue Attempt of Persona Nongratitutus (Sounds like a Star Trek Episode, doesn’t it?) It has Leibowitz going into a funky hard rock attitude with the 12-bar blues feel as if he was taking the listener for a dance at the prom and having a psych freak out jam session to have the Seniors dance until five o’clock in the morning.
There’s a bit of the Sci-Fi elements in there and suddenly Leibowitz himself could have written this as a Graphic Novel of the album, but he knows his Virtuosity very well and he’s no fluke. He is still going to make it in the Prog circuit one day and go buckwild to make it into outer space and boldly go where no man or prog fan has gone before.
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