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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cressida - The Vertigo Years Anthology 1969-1971

It’s hard to imagine a band staying together for two years before calling it a day and creating something beautiful and magical at the same time. And there was one band that was considered; iconic, influential, and obscure, was a band called Cressida. They were a part of the Vertigo family and it’s just amazing in a way they sounded with only two albums they released from 1970 to 1971 (Cressida and Asylum). And here on this 2-CD set released by the good people from Esoteric Recordings, shows how not just they were Progressive, but a combination of Hard, Classical, Folk, Jazz, and Soul they have in their roots, proves to be something spectacular.

Since I’ve championed them back in 2011, it is quite obvious that they are now one of my favorite bands and how their music can be a touching yet moving experience to discover on why this band were way ahead of their time. Their first sole-self titled debut album is more of a spiritual and sensitive arrangement that Cressida brings to you with a true gift of honor and a warm-welcome to embark on an amazing ride that is imaginative and innovative. Not to mention some beautiful centerpieces on the album as well.

From the moment you hear the symphonic One of a Group, which has some wonderful flourish organ solo work that Peter Jennings does by paying tribute to a Pre-Tony Banks while guitarist John Heyworth just keeps on going and follows Peter’s hands to see where he’s going with this before ending with a Thelonious Monk piano outro. Then there’s the graceful To Play Your Little Games, which starts off as a sermon then goes into the Psych-Prog-Waltz in the ¾ time signature while the folky touches of Time For Bed and the haunting Spring ’69 gives them a chance to take a break on their organ exercises for a mellowing and poignant numbers.

Meanwhile, the homage to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue turned into an elevating structure on Depression, is raw and intense as John Heyworth goes into overdrive with his guitar solo as the band follow his work wherever they take him to into different places while Down Down has a passionate beauty that has a Fantasy atmospheric story-telling structure. Then you have The Only Earthman In Town, which sounds like a short story from The Martian Chronicles by the late great Ray Bradbury has this exciting and sci-fi feel in which the band are in full circle and are in control and captains of the universe as Tomorrow is a Whole New Day which has a militant turned angelic feel, almost sounds like the Rebirth of a new world has begun and a new day has started.

Asylum, released in 1971, as the band stayed true to their sound from the first album, uses a lot of the Symphonic/Orchestral arrangements along with Brass, captures the listener to go into these pieces of songwriting into a whole new level. Again, on Reprieved, Jennings captures the spirit of Monk as Angus Cullen scats as the band into a walking Jazz dance while he has a gentle side on the warm-like sunrise with a spooky organ section on Summer Weekend of a Lifetime.

But it’s the 9-minute epic, Munich, which is where Cullen himself shines in this part. You have this wonderful string section that sets the tone as the band in the mid-part go into some Psych-Soul Waltz before the last few minutes as it goes back into the haunting introduction as Angus just sings his heart out with the line, “Am I reading into this or that is really there?/Do I really care?/Is it just the Aura of Everything combined?/Dogging up my mind?/Mitigating circumstances all you seem to blame/Though it’s all the same/Now I can really say I know cause I’ve been there/Know cause I’ve been there, I’ve been there.”

It is so powerful and emotional, that you could tell how you almost couldn’t play, because of how beautifully structured it is. While Munich is Cressida’s centerpiece, the 11-minute epic, Let Them Come When They Will, is another highlight on the album that deserves some recognition. It has a bit of a Doors resemblance beginning John Culley’s catchy acoustic folk-like chords as Angus sings the melody that John plays before string quartet comes in before he and Peter go into town with some wonderful improvisations between both electric and the powerful Hammond organ along with Iain Clark’s powerful percussion drum work that goes along with it that gets some tempos into a flaming fire.

Then Angus comes back and really nails it with his vocalization by singing his heart out that makes it a perfect way for bassist Kevin McCarthy to go into full swing with some wonderful jazzy bass lines as the band go into finale mode. The elevating piece, Lisa, which has a powerful orchestral arrangement and session musician, flautist Harold McNair, brought some wonderful flute-like work for the melody. The bonus tracks on the album are the real key that features demos that go back in 1969 and never-before-heard BBC sessions they did for Sounds of the Seventies.

There’s the powerful thumping Mental State that features a heavy introduction between McCarthy, Culley, and Jennings doing some magnificent creativity between the three of them while Situation, which was originally going to be on the first album, but never made it on the album, they go into full gear as Cullen sings about a person who is trying to figure what he or she did was right or wrong “Do you remember saying all the words you said?/I can hear them moving round within my head/I’ve got a situation, but I don’t know right from wrong”

It’s a shame the track never made it on the album, but it’s a deep and stand-out track. The band called it a day back in ’71 and the albums are still selling for an expensive price and while they reunited in December of last year at the Camden Underworld, it’s hard to believe where the band could have gone if they were still together. Their music is still part of the underground and obscure prog scene that shows they were ahead of their time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cailyn - Four Pieces

Cailyn Lloyd or Cailyn for short is about to be one of the most up-and-coming guitarist to come out of not just the Progressive Rock scene, but from the symphonic and virtuoso sounds of the future. And her solo instrumental album, Four Pieces, is a tribute to the classical pieces from Dvorak, Tallis, Barber, and one she had written as well. It is a laid-back and calming sound that is a testament to the atmospheric background of a waves crashing like an explosion going off that is beautiful and makes you feel that this album will take you into different worlds.

From inspirations like; Steve Hackett, David Gilmour, Robert Fripp, and Brian May, Cailyn approach to the orchestral genre is well-structured, harmonic, and spot-on that are set as a soundtrack to the wildlife documentaries that you see on National Geographic and on PBS as well. For example, the opening 13-minute suite, Fantasia, which is based on Fantasia on a Theme, is a moving and touching type of instrumental that has a resemblance of Yes and Queen’s earlier days that lifts with a heavenly angelic vibe.

Meanwhile, Largo, which was influenced and inspired by Dvorak’s New World Symphony, has an emotional bluesy feel. Cailyn uses different ideas on the guitar to come up with a view on renewal and rebirth after the storm and starting a new beginning and a new future that will lay upon them as the drums and keyboard section takes Cailyn’s work into an uplifting level and paying homage to Gilmour with some mellowing and high notes that hit you in the gut that comes out of nowhere.

Adagio, has this New Age and Atmospheric dramatic tempo on dealing with a loss one and mourning them and remembering their days in childhood, marriage, and death. Cailyn just takes it into a spiritual journey as she reaches those notes and goes into a different vibe from one point to another while the tension and vibe is emotional and raw coming at you as both drums and the sound of a grand piano moves like a last dance in 4/4 timing.

Then, its Cailyn’s first composition she wrote called, Nocturne that closes the album. Here, she has heart and soul by writing a wonderful soothing piece that has this mellowing structured boundary. Some of the time, it reminded me of Bo Hansson’s Lord of the Rings in where he plays all the instruments except drums as the sound effects of the ocean, birds chirping, and the vibe of dawn approaching of a way to begin your life around.

She pays homage to the guitarist she admired and also to Pink Floyd, Genesis, Queen, Yes, and I’ve mentioned before the late great Bo Hansson, but Four Pieces is almost the soundtrack to a documentary or animated film that is released at the right time at the right place. Let’s see what she might have up her sleeves in the 2010’s for us.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cross - Wake Up Call

Setting in the universe of Science-Fiction and Fantasy atmosphere and with a dosage of the Neo-Prog scene to go along with it, Sweden’s own Cross have taken a dramatic and symphonic approach to their music of the genre and shown how it is done correctly. Since their formation in the late ‘80s and their 11th album, Wake Up Call, has a very surprise influential sound in the Prog universe and following in the footsteps of; Marillion, Yes, Kansas, and the keyboard-era of Rush from the Grace Under Pressure-era that would have made four of those bands be taken aback from what they are hearing from beginning, middle, and right into the end.

Mind you, this is my first time reviewing this band’s music and let me start off by saying how amazing and spell-bounding it sounds from a band that knows the score and takes it up a notch. And while I’m not crazy about the Neo-Prog scene, Cross’s music is beyond your wildest imagination that is almost like going on a fabulous and fantastic magic carpet ride into another dimension that is out of this world and straight out of the ill-fated TV series, Firefly.

Opening 8-minute epic, Human Resolution sets a spectacular roller-coaster ride featuring some dramatic guitar work, punchy and mellowing keyboards, and Hansi Cross, the man behind the band and the boss man behind the independent label, Progress Records, comes into full swing. At times it sounds like a Video Game score for the Nintendo classic, The Legend of Zelda, but it really makes you aware that this band knows what they are bringing into the table with some ingredients to come up with a fabulous potion to make some excellent music.

As the homage to Steve Hackett’s classical guitar playing on the short intermezzo Remembrance, it segues into the thrilling 11-minute piece, Falling Beyond that features swooshing moog synthesizers, strings, bass, drums, and guitar work that shows the band falling under the spell of the ‘70s Prog sounds of not just Genesis, but a combination between a symphonic version of King Crimson meeting a darker version of Premiata Forneria Marconi, and of course I’ve mentioned before, the mid ‘80s keyboard-era of Rush during the Grace Under Pressure-era.

Racing Spirits sees the band go into a militant introduction before Hansi lays some virtuoso guitar playing as Tomas Niort does some excellent drumming improvisation in the styles of Neil Peart and some more of the keyboard work that has some of the spooky passages as bassist Lollo Andersson creates some thunderous bass lines that reminded me of Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, and Stanley Clarke that is beyond the fusion thunder dome.

Meanwhile, the 17-minute epic, Waking Up, sees Cross going into more of an atmospheric keyboard layered sound before going into some adventuring and exciting uncharted territories of an evil fanfare before kicking off into full gear. Notice that the guitar solo sets the mood of life-form creatures coming into our world to start a new life and a new beginning and what will hold for the future for them while it goes into a militant sound again as Hansi’s voice and the violin solo that Hannah Sundkvist does is moving and make it very exciting and in your face.

The last track, which is a bonus track, another epic, Now, which was originally going to be sung back in the early 2000s, but when the terrorist attack that occurred on 9/11, everything changed, and canceled the piece and gave it to another of Hansi’s projects called, Spektrum. Cross has recorded it and it is very touching and yet orchestral to give it that tight adventurous ride back home to Earth. And it’s a glorious, yet spiritual journey on staying alive and finding out who the real you is.

Wake Up Call is an excellent symphonic prog-ride into the outer limits that shows that Cross can really be something quite extraordinary and one of the finest albums to come out of from the Neo-Prog band and it really has something to give a special treat to all. Not to mention the great album artwork done by Tonny Larsen which shows I imagine a love of Science-Fiction artwork and an homage to H.G. Wells for inspiration.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Minstrel's Ghost - The Road to Avalon

By now you’re probably familiar with the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Back in 1975, Yes Keyboardist, Rick Wakeman recorded the album and then took it to the Wembley Arena and performed the entire album with an orchestra and band, and players of the characters on Ice! It is considered laughable, ahead of its time, and pushing the prog genre a bit further into the deep end, but you can tell that Rick was taking a huge leap for it. This year however, there’s this new up-and-coming band formed by Blake Carpenter called, The Minstrel’s Ghost, and their second album, The Road to Avalon, serves as a welcoming hand-shake of telling the true story of King Arthur.

The Minstrel’s Ghost is a supergroup that features Blake himself on lead vocals, keyboards, and guitar, Colin Tench (BunChakeze and Corvus Stone) on Guitar, Marco Chiappini (Gandalf’s Project) on Keyboards, Troy James Martin (Loren Dirks) on Bass, and Zoltan Csorsz Jr (The Flower Kings) on Drums. Done in two compositions for 31 and 29-minute-epics, this makes it a wonderful storytelling and adventurous complex the way it was meant to be and years in the making of an extraordinary project from beginning to end.

It begins with Part One – The Design with the swooshing synthesizers that Mario introduces on The Avalon Overture that sets the tone for an introduction between moog and the mellotron before Colin goes into his spine-tingling electric guitar and acoustic rhythm sound to have more of a folky atmosphere in the styles of Steve Hackett as he helps Marco out to give him a hand while Avalon (Part 1) in which Blake sings so perfectly, has this haunting and touching melody that is evidential throughout. It goes through the virtuoso guitar work, layered drum beats that Zoltan does that will take you by surprise.

Merlin represents a mellowing Renaissance Rock story-tale piece about the wizard who trains and helps young King Arthur, which has some Folky elements as it segues into Lady of the Lake. The fourth piece shows a huge inspiration in the styles of the earlier incarnations of PFM (Premiata Forneria Marconi) and Styx as Excalibur, drifts into a jazzy moog exercise with an atmospheric lullaby as it closes Act One with the second part of Avalon that Marco, Colin, and Zoltan cools the scenery as Blake tells the listener this is what just happened to King Arthur and the characters to help his rise to be the true born of King of all Britain.

The second act, The Life, gets even better. It begins again with the streets in the crowd and a shout of welcoming the people of England to Camelot with a roaring of applause as Zoltan does his homage to Buddy Rich before the band goes into full gear of a sweeping adaption revival of symphonic rock as A Love Betrayed gives Colin a moment to go into an atmospheric Floyd-sque introduction before going into the dramatic and moving sounds of anger and hatred in the touches of A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

Full throttle rumbling guitar chords come at you with a bang as The Minstrel’s Ghost pay homage to the Power Metal scene in the ‘80s on The Son as the battle comes in full swing with swords clashing in a battle to see who would win to save England once again. Meanwhile, the third part of Avalon, is an instrumental styles of the previous third track that sets the tension and the mood after the bloody aftermath for the fighting and sword-slashing as Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur) features some classical emotional touches of Arthur’s brave fight for justice after Mordred gives a powerful blow to the head as the closer, The End, draws the curtain down with a prog-tastic finale between guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and Blake’s vocalization on remembering the true born king of Britain.

While this was a huge project in the works and Blake’s vision and story of King Arthur, The Minstrel’s Ghost idea of a concept album shows that while they are on the yellow brick road to take the Prog genre into a different level, its probably going to become one of the most fascinating stories told by a band who know and embrace it like a flaming butterfly.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tumbleweed Dealer - Death Rides Southwards

Setting in the styles of; Pentagram, Black Sabbath, King Crimson, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tumbleweed Dealer have a lot of different combination of the genres between Doom Metal and Dark Prog-Rock and show how the true sound of the ‘70s genre is with a huge volt of electricity and fire to go along with it. The trio’s first EP released on the Mosh Pit Tragedy website in which you could buy for any price you want. Just like what Radiohead did with In Rainbows back in 2007, has set the tone for the Stoner Metal genre and the band’s music makes it feel like they could have recorded the three compositions for a Grindhouse Double Feature film in 1972.

The 6-minute piece, Crawling Through Cacti, sets the psychedelic groove in this tempo, there is some heavy fuzz tone structured balanced on the guitar doing both rhythm and lead while the drums stay on the beat. It has a mellowing and laid-back sound that makes it feel that you are in the hottest desert in the outskirts of Egypt looking for land and thirsty for water.

Meanwhile, the opening title track, features some more of the fuzz tone sound, this time on the bass which adds in some of the Nuggets Garage Rock territory and the styles of Geezer Butler as well as the guitar makes it a challenging effect of a Bluesy work of Robert Fripp meets John McLaughlin stylization on the frets to make it a perfect scenario and a perfect score of the Wild West set in the Steampunk universe. There’s also some very pounding effects on the snare drum as it follows the bass and the solo both go into this stop and go movement as they collide like a tight fist that is ready for a boxing match in the last few minutes of the piece.

And then there’s the closer, Resurrected Yet Again. This is where everything comes in at the right place at the right time. It gives it a full structured balance with some minor and major tones that swirls beautifully as it feels that the person who was once insane and locked up for good, is back to seek revenge as Seb Panichaud just nails the guitar and bass parts as if there was two people both recording the guitar parts in the studio to come up with the perfect take to put it on the album and would hopefully become a live favorite one day in the future.

This is perhaps one of the best debuts to come out. And even though its an EP, the result of Death Rides Southwards is perhaps one of the most up-and-coming bands to really understand the basics of Metal and Prog like no other. Hopefully, they might do a soundtrack or a score for a Quentin Tarantino film one day and we can hope they will alter the controls of the universe.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sensations' Fix - Music is Painting in the Air (1974-1977)

Oscar Wilde once said, “Music is the art in which is the most nigh to tears and memories.” And when it comes to hearing unheard music that had been lost in the basements or has been waiting to look at the light at the end of the tunnel, you might have come to the right place. When a band releases one, two, or three albums before calling it a day, its maybe because it was right place at the wrong time to release it in a time period as it wasn’t ready to hear something like this before becoming ahead of its time. They might look back on it and think, “What we were thinking? We have influenced a younger generation who admired this piece of music and arrangement and we are finally getting a lot of recognition for this!”

All said, one of the most overlooked bands to come out of the Space Rock and Krautrock scene, was a three-piece experimental band from Italy called, Sensations’ Fix.  Recording these pieces of arranging and composition was almost like a dark science-fiction movie and what made them had a huge cult following. In this 2-CD set, the recordings were made from 1974 to 1977 in Virginia and their home in Italy by using a reel to reel tape recorder (Teac 3340) and the track Machine to make the music sound like it was recorded back in 1982.  

Both Franco Falsini and his son Jeyon worked on a huge painstaking process to find the recordings to re-master and restore the original mixes with positive results with alternate versions and unreleased material that never made it on the first six albums. While they were paving the way for the Electronic Music score of the 21st century of what the future holds for us, the music itself will make you relax, terrify, and take you into another imagination that you are about to embark on. Like the swirling yet mysterious singing that Franco does on the opener, Barnhause Effect with a New Age feel as Franco goes into his layered virtuoso guitar feel and synth structured atmosphere.

As a Virtuoso, Falsini’s usage of his voice and the two instruments he plays makes him feel as if he made one of the earliest home recordings at his house and make him feel right at home along with drummer Keith Edwards and bassist Richard Ursillo to make sure he’s okay and in the clear. His spacey and spooky sounds on the Synths and Guitar work would make him inspirational as if he was listening to Phil Manzarera, Robert Fripp, Klaus Schulze, and the early Tangerine Dream from the Polydor and Virgin period from 1969 to 1975.

However, Franco’s sound is the real kicker. Sometimes his guitar playing can take you into different levels of the music by making different sounds with some strangely strange areas that his adventurous and moody at times. Combinations of acoustic crisps and double-tracked vocals inside someone’s head is evidential on the instrumental take of Warped Notions on a Practical Joke and the spooky yet soaring take on Dark Side of Religion. But on Cosmic Saudade, he uses the synths to make it more of a dystopian nightmare as if he recorded it for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Yet with all the wild experiments the trio has connected and structured, Sensastions’ Fix can really go beyond the infinite with a lot of soothing and poignant energy to hold them into the areas of the risk and the envelopes they go beyond to push in their sound and vision. On the alarming Leave My Chemistry, the band comes in full swing as a siren going off as if the city was under attack in the styles of Can while Crossing Berlin could have been recorded during the sessions of Bowie's Berlin trilogy.

While this is my introduction to Sensations’ Fix, Music is Painting in the Air, is one of the most strangest, yet haunting compilation set I’ve listened to. I’ve listened to it about three times and I’m surprised and blown away from what I’ve heard. Throughout the history of Electronic Music, this band will finally get the recognition they deserve and how they would take the road into unbelievable results that will give you goosebumps for the rest of your life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer [Deluxe Edition]

The original Progressive Rock supergroup, ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) are considered one of the true influential bands to come out of the golden-era of the 1970s that were loved by fans and hated by critics. There’s a touch of Pomp and Circumstance, Jazz, Classical, Raw, and a gigantic eruption that will hit you right in the face with a big gigantic slap that could echo the Mountains at the Grand Canyon. You have the power rockin’ keyboard maestro and wizardy of Keith Emerson, the soft and smooth voice and playing both bass and guitar of Greg Lake, and the thumping and fast-speeding drumming and the Billy Cobham sounds of Carl Palmer.

Both of these members came from different bands including King Crimson, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and The Nice, and what this trio did was they pushed the envelope and not only they brought magic to the table, but what they did was something special and beyond what the locked door what was headed for them. That and their first album released in a Deluxe Edition format this year, features both the original mixes and the remix format that Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree has done.

Their first sole self-titled debut album, originally released on the Island label back in 1970, shows the electricity, explosive, and daring debuts to come out as if the Gods has woken up and sent thunderbolts to attack the Roman Empire that was straight out of the original 1981 classic, Clash of the Titans. Starting off is the Hard-Classical-Heavy Metal opener of Bartok’s take of The Barbarian, is a perfect starter to kick the album off with a bang. Featuring Fuzz-Tone Bass, Organ, Brubeck meets Monk-like Piano work in the bridge, and virtuoso drum work, this is a high voltage roaring beast.

The 12-minute piece, Take a Pebble, is Greg’s moment to shine while it goes through this Jazzy ballad that is romantic and tender while the midsection goes into this Country-Folk dance instrumental between acoustic guitar hand-clapping rhythm that makes it very interesting and odd at the same time and then goes back into the closing finale that makes it a perfect climatic piece. Then, we come to the roller-coaster swooping adventure ride on, Knife-Edge, which is based on Leos Janacek’s 1926 composition, Sinfonietta.

This is where everything becomes like a film score. The result is Keith Emerson’s keyboard and piano work on the instrumental suite, The Three Fates. Its based on the Greek mythology of the Sisters, in which one of them was the daughter of Zeus; one who killed the Typhon with a poison fruit, the second gives instructions to make their soul eternal, and the third is considered the daughter of the night. Clotho starts off with the Royal Church Organ as a haunting fanfare with a booming sound while Lachesis goes into the George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue-era dooming stylization as Keith pays tribute to the composer with his classical piano work like a madman as Atropos is where everything comes together as it goes into a thumping Gershwin Rockin out closer with Drums and Piano and clashing at the end until the sound of an explosion hits the end.

Tank is Carl Palmer’s composition and while Emerson and Lake go to town with him a-la Jazz Fusion style, Carl takes himself on center stage with a thunderous drum solo that again resembles Billy Cobham, Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Bill Bruford, he takes the moment to shine of making it sound like a machine gun that sounds like it has been shot 600 times at 100 miles per hour and he gives you the bullets to say, “Ramming Speed!” Then it’s the closer, Lucky Man, that give Greg Lake to come back for a calm after the storm.

It’s a touching and heartfelt ballad and at times folky with a Medieval theme, not to mention an Electric Guitar solo in the bridge and Keith Emerson swooshing synth solo that closes the album off with the curtain dropping and the audience applauding like crazy and having a hit on the radio with it as well. The bonus tracks which feature the 2012 Remix of the pieces that Wilson has done, deliver some amazing quantity.

There’s the extended outro on Knife-Edge, in which it features a resemblance of The Nice’s Rondo with Emerson attacking the organ like an alarm siren while an earlier studio version of Mussorgsky’s vocal version of Promenade which would later be released on the live album of Pictures at an Exhibition, is quite interesting on where the band would take the classical piece to a higher level as Rave Up is a tribute and an homage to the Jimi Hendrix Experience with a Funky Attitude as Greg comes up with some acid wah-wah guitar solo as Keith goes into the style of Bo Hansson and Carl just stays with the beat and you can hear some of the earliest sounds of Tarkus in there as well.

Steven himself has become a very busy man working on the Crimson catalog, Tull, Caravan, and now ELP, the remixes are amazing and fun to hear the way that it was meant to be. I bet it was very busy finding the original analog tapes and see what was left off the kitchen sink during the sessions and the improvement is amazing and Wilson himself deserves a pat on the back.

In the Liner Notes done by Chris Welch, who was a supporter of the band, and writer of the Melody Maker in its hey-day of the late '60s and early '70s, and helping with the Rare Obscure Prog gems for the Repertoire label, mentions it gave the audience a chance to understand who they really are: "They expected much of audiences and gave them plenty to think about. Yet their ongoing programme of wildly different musical themes and genres was always an emotional and exhilarating experience."

Times Up - Snow Queen

With a touch of Fantasy and Story-Telling Songs, one of the most up-and-coming bands that have took me by surprise is a band that has come from the South of Wales by the name of Times Up. Snow Queen is their second album and after hearing it about five times already, I am completely blown away from what I was hearing. There’s a touch of the ‘70s sounds of Progressive Rock and American Pomp Rock in there that they have been influenced by when they were young and carrying the spirit of the two genres and staying true to the genre as if they had carried them in their back pocket until the timing was right.

Snow Queen is almost the alternate soundtrack to an animated movie as if they could have recorded it for the classics; The Last Unicorn and The Swan Princess and would have gotten them a huge turning point for them and success to those films, but the music itself is astonishing and spiritual at the same time and feels that you are embarking on a Magic Carpet Ride into another dimension. As expected, there’s a huge inspiration of; ELP, Starcastle, early King Crimson, Camel, Genesis, and Styx in there to make it sound like a huge amount of dosage of Symphonic Rock like no other and it’s quite evidential by listening to this from start to finish, that this album could have been recorded back in 1977.

Again, this album feels like a Spiritual Journey. Starting off with Secret Garden, it becomes a swooshing harmonic and melodic melody synth into soaring skies while the thrilling guitar rumbling solo by Mike Hagland makes it an exciting thunderstorm, then it becomes a folky turned into calming movement that Geoff Smith does in his vocals as to let the listener know that the story has just begun. Nightmare Days reminds me of the Grand Illusion-era of Styx with the acoustic rhythm introduction and then becoming a haunting ‘70s power chord rocking touch while The Prophet starts off with a middle-eastern vocalization and whispering spoken word gibberish and then it goes into the same situation of the second track then goes into the midsection of a wonderful Flute and Synth workout, to make it an excellent exercise between the two instruments.

The title track, which is an 8-minute epic, is a mind-blowing experience. A thumping guitar solo, more power riff chords, and Chris Squire-like bass lines between Mike Hagland, Andy Gibbon, and drummer Steve Leman, go into town together for a grand old time with a touch of adventure in their heart and soul as if they were working with Yes on this composition. Spellbound begins with a rumbling militant snare drum and moog/mellotron work in the styles of King Crimson as the battle rages on as it goes into an emotional and wonderous resemblance of Kansas stylization on the Point of Know Return-era that is spot on.

Fall of the Queen closes the album with a wonderful ballad, between electric, acoustic guitar, and double-tracked vocals before kicking off into the sunset with the Keyboards as Geoff sings his heart out on what will the next morning will hold for the survivors who kept as prisoners from the Snow Queen. This is perhaps one of the best albums I’ve listened to and while this is their second album, it’ll probably be one of the best of 2012 to come out.