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Friday, April 18, 2014

Anton Roolaart - The Plight of Lady Oona

It’s been seven years since musician and DJ, Anton Roolaart, host of Progressive Rock Radio (, which started ten years ago and released an album back in 2007 called Dreamer and it’s been a while since he’s released another studio album. He always wanted to take the sound of the genre of the Symphonic Prog sound by staying true to it, and go into different worlds and alternate universes as if it is a score for a film or TV series in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi genre.

This year in 2014, he is back with a follow-up, The Plight of Lady Oona. In this second album, it shows Anton go into stories and tales while going into the sounds of; symphonic, ominous, classical, and melancholic tones here. Like an orchestral ‘80s futuristic opener with Gravity, which was released as a single back in 2011, shows Anton going into the moving backgrounds of the surrounding utopian universe on the story of being uncertain of flying to escape from the crystal laced city.

Featuring a layered guitar line, the uplifting moog solo, heavy chords, and laid-back drum work, it sets the tone on the song with a mellowing yet soaring feel that is in the realm of Steven Wilson and the Meddle-era of Pink Floyd while the moving yet emotional touches between the sound of the Mellotron, Piano, Organ, and Guitar comes in for a romantic beauty with an ambient touch on Stars Fall Down.

Then, in comes the 13-minute title track featuring Renaissance’s Annie Haslam on guest vocals. It begins with a symphonic yet folk-like sounds on the story but with a psych twist on the adventures of Lady Oona for the first two minutes and thirty-seconds as it goes into the resemblance between Yes’ Close to the Edge and Stanley Clarke’s School Days-era for a combination of Orchestral-Prog-Fusion groove as the Church Organ takes flight for Oona to take embark on her amazing journey.

Elsewhere the swirling keyboards sets up the atmosphere before the angelic voice of Annie Haslam comes in and everything comes into full circle as the guitar goes into a moody watery sounds of the Gilmour-sque beauty and the Bass lines help take a touch of hope and renewal as Anton and Annie do a duet and the time changes hit the right note. Meanwhile, the thumping percussion sounds along with the heavy, ominous psych touches on Standing in the Rain resembles at times of Agitation Free’s Haunted Island, is hypnotic and mysterious while Anton gives a chance to take a break from the songs and into watching the sun to come up on the lukewarm fingerpicking crisp from the classical guitar of Memories.

Closer, The Revealing Light, in which it has the electronic touches, but carries the boost for a instrumentation of a psychedelic trip that has a Beatle-sque ‘60s vibe to fly to other worlds and be free. Not to mention the usage of keyboards, the Mellotron, hard guitar rhythm chords, and drum patterns that is back into the Wilson vibe and carrying the menacing sound but goes back into the acid folk sound as the guitar solo just hits the notes fret-by-fret to close the album for the final curtain call.

This is my 10th time listening to The Plight of Lady Oona, and it shows that Anton Roolaart is back to give the Prog genre a real jolt. With the lyrics on defining gravity, searching for a new beginning, and how life can be a mystery, it is a stunning yet striking welcoming return for Roolaart to see what he would come up with next.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Syndone - Odysseas

Now for me, since last year, I have been getting a huge enjoyment of the Fading Records label in which it is a part of the AltrOck family. From bands like; La Coscienza Di Zeno, Not a Good Sign, and Ske to name a few in which they are bringing the sound of RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano) for a complete resurrection to show that it has light and power in the flaming torches. And one of the bands that completely blew me away this year this spring, is a group called Syndone.

I first became aware of Syndone last year when I first heard their concept album, La Bella e la Bestia (The Beauty is the Beast) which featured Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues and they had a huge amount of the ‘70s sound of symphonic and jazz rolled up into one and can they take it into different boundaries. That and their new album, Odysseas, is a magical and breathtaking album. Syndone has been around since 1990 with various line-up changes and carrying the Prog sound is tough, but they have pulled through with this one. The line-up considers Nik Comoglio on keyboards, Francesco Pinetti  on vibraphone, and Riccardo Ruggeri on lead vocals.

And special guests John Hackett (Steve’s brother) on Flute and The Avengers/Steven Wilson’s mastermind on the drums, Marco Minnemann. The album begins with Invocazione Alla Musa. It has an alarming keyboard introduction before the catchy and fast vibraphone beats come onto full play along with some working bass lines and not forgetting the Hammond and moog in there while the signatures changes key in the time they hit the right note. Riccardo Ruggeri, has an amazing voice and at times is gentle and soothing. 

And at times, with his voice, you almost couldn’t turn the album off, because it is beautiful and powerful on the way he sings. Classical and Flamenco touches with Il Tempo Che Non Ho and the reprise Vento Avverso ,classical guitar with an Egyptian sound for an intro turned into a transformation with the ominous concerto piano in the style of Procol Harum’s In Held ‘Twas in I on Penelope, sees Syndone going into an emotional background. And it just hits your heart really well and the usage of the strings on the two pieces just captures the story between Odysseus and his faithful wife as he goes on this journey to reach the Ithaca for ten years and the music itself shows how he has to fight to survive and the danger he encounters between Cyclops, the six-headed Scylla, and the whirlpool Charybdis.

Poseidon and Circe, gives Nik Comoglio an excellent exercise and a chance to go free on his keyboards or “Nikeyboards” for short. He is going through the styles of Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Norman Haines, and Jurgen Fritz. Nik is spellbinding and almost like a conductor as he gives Pinetti the chance on when he comes in at the exact moment in the right measure and at the right note.  And he takes the Hammond organ, Piano for another spell-binding adventure with a fuzztone sound, thanks to the strings and the mellowing touches with a harder edge on Eros & Thanatos while the homage to Kerry Minnear from Gentle Giant comes in handy with Eaeyoepia on the vibraphone that is almost straight out of the Three Friends-era.

But the closer, Daimones, is where everyone is coming together. Features a lot of the symphonic structures and a nice homage to Genesis and ELP, the increasing summit on the lyrics shows that there is a new beginning  by spreading your wings and save you from the abyss as the crescendo from the instruments is a full knockout for the curtain to drop with a lukewarm applause.

I have listened to Odysseas about nine times already and this may well be one of the finest progressive rock albums to come out this year. Syndone have truly embarked on storytelling throughout their music and I can’t wait to hear what they might do next in the future and this is one of the most highly recommended albums to come out for 2014.