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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine

I have to give Iris Hidding a huge amount of credit for getting me into Riverside thanks to her blogsite, Grendel Headquarters. Formed in 2001 in Warsaw, Poland by Maruisz Duda, Piotr Grudzinski, Piotr Kozieradzki, and Jacer Melnicki, they both had a love and share of both the Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal sounds. They have released five albums going back from 2003 to 2013. Last year they released their sixth album entitled Love, Fear and the Time Machine on the InsideOut Music label in the fall.

It is also the last album to feature guitarist Piotr Grudzinski who sadly passed away this year in February of a sudden cardiac arrest. It’s a sad loss for Riverside. They are going to release a 2-CD set on October 21st entitled Eye of the Soundscape which is going to be a compilation with new mixes from 2007 to 2008 from their two previous albums and unreleased material that Grudzinski did between January and February of this year. While it is very sad that it is hard to believe that Grudzinski is no longer with the Riverside family, the sixth album which is now reissued in a CD/DVD format with a 5.1 mix done by Bruce Soord of The Pineapple Thief, it is to honor and dedicate the memory of Piotr Grudzinski.

The opener, Lost (Why Shouldn’t I Be Frightened by a Hat?) begins with the first 2-minutes and 34-second of organ-driven sounds, harmonizing background and scat vocals followed by an acoustic rhythm before it comes a heavier sound kicks into overdrive with a Floydian-sque sound by Grudzinski. Under The Pillow features a clean guitar rhythm through a delay/reverb effect.

It has a psychedelic sound and featuring a darker melody as the lyrics with dealing of being you own worst enemy. Both Mariusz and Piotr work well like an electrical spark of high voltage on Bass and Guitar while keyboardist Lapaj brings forth the moog and organ to create the nightmare sequences throughout his improvisation. #Addicted is a haunting composition.

Beginning with Mariusz’s sinister bass riff as the lyrics talk about the obsessive behavior of social networking and the price we pay from it of our 15-minutes of fame. But it also deals with wearing the mask as it becomes your protective shield and not knowing who you are behind the mask you are wearing underneath it. The first 2-minutes of Saturate Me is an instrumental introduction as Riverside have complete control.

With heavier guitar distortions and bass riffs, it moves into a spacey/electronic melody. Riverside deal on the lyrics throughout the melody of being invisible from the public eye and not feeling you are one anymore. Afloat reminisces Tool’s Lateralus-era as Mariusz channels not just Justin Chancellor, but Riverside honoring both Mike Oldfield and Italian Prog-maestros Goblin.

The DVD contains both the sessions in which the band were working, music video for Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching), trailers for the album which have an eerie David Lynch atmosphere and Twilight Zone-sque, and the music video which is on the DVD, has this homage to the late Storm Thorgerson as if Riverside wanted to honor and stay true to the vision of Storm’s vision and they nailed it on Found.

The 5.1 mixing that Soord on here is amazing. It contains five tracks during the Day sessions as a bonus audio track in hi-res stereo mix, and I can hear the instruments flowing in both sides as he nailed it down one by one. I wish I could go on about it, but it’s not just a great album, but one of the strongest, emotional, haunting, and spectacular albums I’ve listened to. 

While it was a sad loss of the death of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski and this was his last album with the band, it is a moving farewell to him. If you want to delve deep into Riverside’s music, then this is the album to get you started. And it's worth recommended.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Barclay James Harvest - Everyone Is Everybody Else (Deluxe Edition)

This 2-CD/DVD consists of Barclay James Harvest’s fifth album released in 1974 entitled Everyone Is Everybody Else. Originally released in the summer of that year on the Polydor label and reissued by Esoteric Recordings, the group parted with their previous label Harvest Records after putting out four orchestrated and symphonic albums and received word-of-mouth. The band were signed to Polydor as they had to pay off their debt to their old label due to using an orchestra on tour.

Recorded for only a month from March to April at Olympic Studios with Rodger Bain who’s best known for his work with Budgie, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest, wanted the band to give it a strong and powerful sound and move away from their orchestral roots that was shown from their EMI days. You can imagine both Bain and the group didn’t get along and never saw eye to eye with one another. And while there was tension between the two of them, the album is a real gem.

You have their own take of the Bee Gees psychedelic-era with The Great 1974 Mining Disaster. You could tell John Lees has amazing ideas of constructing the melodies of New York Mining Disaster 1941 and going into a mainstream approach and dealing with the political commitment of the 1974 UK Miners’ Strike. The Rhodes riff gets down and dirty as Woolly lays down the rhythm for a dramatic and haunting take before the mellotron swings in to soar of take of the disastrous mission of the Apollo 13 on Negative Earth.

It reminded me at times of a band called Jonesy and their song Mind of the Century and it has these riffs that I can imagine BJH took that as an homage on the riff and take it into the voyage of Space and the crew members decided to head on home. Then, Barclay head into a hard rock approach with power riffs between organ and guitar followed by ascending ‘trons and folk-rock acoustic melodies as it deals with being in with the people that were pretty now are nuts in this Crazy City.

The soaring guitar lines up into the heavens gives me chills with their touch of the Beatles as an homage featuring Woolly’s Mellotron taking the angelic sounds with the harmonic wonders. Lees takes a bit of the Harrison and Lennon-sque guitar styles of the Abbey Road sessions followed by Pritchard’s drumming following to reach the climatic end on See Me, See You.

Barclay James Harvest take into the styles of Jackson Browne as Les takes over on vocals on the deals of the working-class man with the acoustic country rock that would have given the Eagles a bowing down moment with Poor Boy Blues while the closer For No One is chilling and filled with emotions and the deal for peace. Lees’ sings “Then lay down your bullshit and your protests/then lay down your governments of greed/take a look of what lies all around you/then pray God we can live in peace.

It hits you hard in the gut because the lyrics are true and powerful of not of what happening, but happening right now and the struggle for peace is still out there and there’s no hope, but the fight will live on. Lees and Woolly take you share hands and raise up to sing-along this amazing composition and its closes the album off with a powerful chorus and hypnotic wah-wah solo that Lees’ does that will make you just be in amazement.

The new stereo mixes which are on Disc 2 and on the DVD for the 5.1 mix, which are done by Craig Fletcher and the authoring of the DVD done by Ray Shulman of Gentle Giant, is very interesting to hear. Now the multi-tracks on For No One, are missing, which is a bummer, so what we have are 8 tracks of the new mixes including the bonus ones. It's almost very much as if a piece of the puzzle is missing on here.

I can hear some parts on the opener, Child of the Universe that I never heard before including the swooshing Moog, Bells, and the crashing of the cymbals from what I’m hearing and while it didn’t make it on the original mix, it still is powerful and gives it a moving melody on the loss of a violent ways of man. The Mellotron comes in front and Lees’ guitar in the rhythm for Negative Earth as Mel’s drums gives it a real punch of the dramatic pulse of the rhythm.

The acoustic guitars are coming left and right for Les’ rhythm picked guitar on Poor Boy Blues and the same thing with on the situation of the local mining and cotton industries with a dosage of Pink Floyd’s Fat Old Sun homage on Mill Boys. The bonus tracks on here contains the U.S. single versions along with a new mix and a remake of Child of the Universe, the original mixes of The Great 1974 Mining Disaster and Negative Earth.

But one of the bonus tracks which features the late great Stuart “Woolly” Wolstenholme to take over. Maestoso (A Hymn in the Roof of the World) which was recorded at Olympic and mixed at Trident Studios, is a powerful and symphonic rock with an epic sound as Woolly himself takes a shining and roaring beauty that just sends chills down the spine.

When the album was released, it was the first album not to include any songwriting from Woolly himself so that’s why when he wrote this, Producer Rodger Bain felt it was “out of place”. Woolly would later do an expanded version of the song after he left Barclay to pursue a solo career with his 1980 album, Maestoso. The group went on tour on May 31st to promote the album along with Rare Bird from Newcastle City Hall and right into June where they recorded the Live album at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane on June 30, 1974.

The late great radio DJ John Peel was very impressed of what he heard and he would mark each track of the album as a standout. Listening to both the original and new stereo mixes of Everyone is Everybody Else is one of Barclay James Harvest’s masterpiece. The 20-page booklet contains photos of the band, promos, and sleeve notes by Keith and Monika Domone who have done other liner notes for the Esoteric reissues of the Barclay catalog.
It also includes a poster of the upcoming album that the back cover includes the lyrics also

Here, listening to this album again shows why they were overlooked and ahead of their time in the history of the genre of the Progressive Rock movement.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Leon Alvarado - The Future Left Behind

Now I’ve always been a massive supporter for up-and-coming bands and artists who taking the torch of the Progressive genre and making sure it doesn’t burn out. Whether it would be from Bent Knee, Lainey Schooltree, MoeTar, Blood Ceremony, Purson, or Sanguine Hum, I always wanted to make sure that they are not going to give it up, but making sure the flames still burn and keep on burning forever and ever. One of the artists that for me, I’ve always wanted to discover but didn’t have the time, was an artist name Leon Alvarado.

He has released two albums and two EP’s. And has worked with people such as Bill Bruford, Trey Gunn, and Jerry Marotta to name a few. This year he’s released his new album entitled The Future Left Behind released on the Melodic Revolution Records label. I remember it was June of this year where I would always go for my morning or afternoon walks and again I came back home and saw a package in the mail from Glass Onyon.

I opened it and it was Leon’s album. Now as I’ve mentioned before in my introduction, I’ve wanted to discover his music and now here we are in 2016 and I have delved into the musical world of Leon Alvarado. Based on the short story, it is an instrumental concept album that tell the story that our home planet Earth is now an empty and polluted area and the overpopulation itself in which the people are living is to work toward a brighter future.

Leon brought along people such as Billy Sherwood (Yes, CIRCA) on Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Rick Wakeman on Moog and Extra Keyboards, and Johnny Bruhns (CIRCA) on Acoustic Guitar. And to add the story and view of our polluted world is narrator Steve Thamer who is brilliant in what is going on throughout the rest of the short story. And with Pink Floyd engineer Andy Jackson lending a helping hand, you could tell that is a perfect combination.

Listening to the entire album in 42 minutes, is like a Movie in your mind. It has a dystopian atmosphere and I can imagine Leon took inspirations including Rick Wakeman’s 1974 concept album of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Pink Floyd, Vangelis, Yes, and Gandalf’s To Another Horizon. And not to mention, Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic, Blade Runner and the 1966 TV series Star Trek for inspiration.

It has the New Age, Symphonic, Ambient/Atmospheric voyage and rhythmic adventuristic quality. I love how Sherwood’s guitar takes on a life of its own as he creates these movements in the styles of an echoing reverb to rattle the mountains with an rumble thanks to Leon’s drumming technique. There are moments on here that are ascending, ominous, dramatic, epic, and futuristic with swirling textures that Wakeman brings on the extra keyboards to give it life.

It does feel like a continuation to Verne’s story but set in Outer Space as Rick himself captures the effects of the concept and brings it to parallel universes as you’ve seen or heard before. Johnny Bruhns’ classical concerto on his guitar is a romantic and warmth finger-picking virtuoso as he gives the sun a chance to rise for a new morning and a new dawn. There are times he channels Mason Williams and Tony Iommi with the string-section on the keyboards for the light to hit to wake-up to start up fresh.

Throughout my second and seventh listen, I was completely blown away and Alvarado’s music has taken my knowledge and experience of the journey for our Earth to seek out where it will go next. As Captain Jean-Luc Picard says at the final episode, All Good Things on Star Trek: The Next Generation, And the Sky’s the limit.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Junior's Eyes - Battersea Power Station

This 2-CD set contains the re-mastered and expanded edition release of Junior’s Eyes only debut album, Battersea Power Station. Originally released in the summer of 1969 on the Regal Zonophone label and reissued by Esoteric Recordings last year, the band was formed by guitarist Mick Wayne in early 1968 after the break-up of the psychedelic band, The Tickle. He brought along John “Candy” Carr on Drums, John “Honk” Lodge on Bass, and Steve Chapman on Drums. And then, lead vocalist Graham “Grom” Kelly on Lead Vocals and Organist John Redfern.

And the band recorded their debut with Tony Visconti on the production level at Trident Studios in which they recorded their debut. Listening to the suite of Battersea Power Station, it is an overlooked and underrated achievement that Mick Wayne’s concept based on the inspirations of the talismans and the Tibetan Book of the Dead with a dosage of dealing with dystopian atmosphere of War, Peace, and Corruption.

With a dosage of The Fugs to go with it. You have the swirling psychedelic adventure into the abyss thanks to Mick’s Guitar heading towards the spiral vertigo of terror of essence of Status Quo’s psych-beginnings with Playtime while the organ-mellotron shuffling 12-bar blues delves into the Graham Bond Organization and obscure prog band, Gracious for So Embarrassed.

You can hear the folky inspirations thrown in for an acoustical ballad for the beaches of sandy gold turned heavy rock following by the thumping bass and acoustic/electric guitars that both Mick and John do when they go into a harder sound for a couple of seconds and then back into the dreamy beauty of My Ship. Opener, Total War starts off with a toast and applause before crashing into a hysteria of insanity as Mick gets the guitar heading into insanity as John Carr follows him with a mind-blowing crescendo.

It segues into Circus Days with a mysterious bass riff, jaw harp, and the psychedelic childhood of going to the big tent and seeing the greatest show and reaching adulthood that it’s all gone for all the years that went away. And the lyrics deal with that you can’t let go of the past and while there’s nothing you can do about it, the memories of going to see the Clowns, Acrobats, and Animals are inside your head and never forgetting them.

Then Junior’s Eyes go into outer space with a mind-blowing improvisation featuring a clapping rhythm section, tambourine, lead solos, and thunderous percussion work for a short little minute to end with the styles of the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive of the Freak In. The second disc contains the singles, demos, and sessions they did for John Peel’s Top Gear on October of 1968.

There are two tracks of Mick’s original band, The Tickle. They released singles both the A & B sides in November of 1967. Subway (Smokey Pokey World) and Good Evening are psychedelic nuggets of hidden treasures that bring to mind of both the Sgt. Pepper-era of The Beatles and The Pretty Things. Junior’s Eyes debut single featuring pianist Rick Wakeman of Yes and The Strawbs, goes into a humoristic pop brass adventure for the morning with Mr. Golden Trumpet Player.

Black Snake is an eerie composition featuring pounding piano rhythm, alarming vocals and sinister guitars and spooky organ work, gives it a peculiar effect. The two tracks for the BBC Sessions of Top Gear contains the killer roar of Hang Loose and the upward rocking punch of By The Tree, it shows how much not just Junior’s Eyes were amazing, but why they were so far ahead of their time.

The band would later be a backing band for David Bowie with the release of his breakthrough hit in honor the Moon Landing, Space Oddity in 1969 and for one of his BBC Sessions which was released in 2000 2-CD set entitled, Bowie at the Beeb. The band broke up after their performance at the Marquee Club on February 3, 1970 and it was on the same night John Cambridge introduced Bowie to Mick Ronson and the rest is history.

Mick would later be a backing guitarist for Joe Cocker and then became a painter. After doing session work in America, he returned to London to be added with the proto-punk band The Pink Fairies and then left the music industry. He would be later a guitar teacher and continued his work with his painting. It wasn’t until 1994 when he was about to do a comeback album, but it never happened. He died tragically in a house fire while he was staying with his producer.

The 20-page booklet contains sleeve notes about the history of the band by David Wells and Mick’s daughter Sarah Wayne about the legacy her father was doing and talking to people on what Mick had done to lend support. As she says in the end of her notes “One of the best things about the music is that it reflects the musicians behind it – it has great presence and lots of energy!

And believe me, when you listen to the expanded edition of Battersea Power Station, there is a lot of energy and power that Junior’s Eyes brought with their only debut release. Ahead of its time, and psychedelic heavy rock power at its best,  it would have been very interesting if they had continued to move forward and release a few more albums up their sleeve.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lobate Scarp - Time and Space

Lobate Scarp is a 5-piece band from Los Angeles, California that launched back ten years ago. Their music is a combination between AOR (Album-Orientated Rock), Funk, Prog, Pop, and Space-Rock opera. Their music has this combination of Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, Styx, Starcastle, Spock’s Beard, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles. When you listen to their debut album Time and Space that was released back in 2012, close your eyes and imagine it is 1977 all over again.

The album took five years to make and with fifty musicians to record the album from start to finish. The band considers; Adam Sears on Lead Vocals and Keyboards, Andy Catt on Bass Guitar, Hoyt Binder on Guitar, Dustin Prince on Drums, and Adrienne Woods on Acoustic and 5-string Electric Viola. The seven compositions are written by Adam himself along with two of the pieces written by Lonny White (Time and Space and Jacob's Ladder).

It’s for me one of the best debuts I have listened to. Adam and his crew mates have brought along something special to the table. It’s very much as I’ve mentioned on some of the albums again and again whether it’s a conceptual album, the soundtrack and movie inside your head. And with four centerpieces on here, you will definitely take a journey with Lobate Scarp.

The Contradiction gives the melodic and soaring melodies between the strings and the rhythm section that combines the twists of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow-era and a warmth finale as Sears heads into the styles of Vince Guaraldi followed by Wood’s Viola. Meanwhile, the watery synths intro on Moment begins with a world music with an Egyptian rhythm as they channel the styles of Peter Gabriel’s score for The Last Temptation of Christ and then the last 2 minutes and 50 seconds go into very much of a sequel of Games Without Frontiers.

The opening 15-minute title track epic is perhaps one of the most spectacular and unbelievable compositions I’ve listened to. With it’s eerie violin intro to it’s Jazz-Funk soaring grooves, Lobate Scarp lay down the adventure of a life time. They go from Frank Zappa and The Beatles Abbey Road-era with a psychedelic twist as Hoyt’s guitar thrills and excites the time travel towards other dimensions.

Wood’s electric violin brings to mind of David LaFlamme of It’s A Beautiful Day. And then, the climatic section comes as the rhythm sets the course for another time jump to make the course for light speed as if they created their own take of the Millennium Falcon filled with astonishing epics.

And then Catt’s bass pays homage to Bootsy Collins and the late great Chris Squire as his sound reminisces of the Rickenbacker 4001. Beginning of Us is their take of going into a Progressive Pop voyage. I can hear the sounds of Supertramp’s Crime of the Century-era, City Boy, and Adam Sears channeling Jeff Lynne.

Reminded me of course The Beatles that meets the guitar structure of Starcastle but with a killer Howe-sque and homage to Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond as Nate pays homage to David Gilmour for an atmospheric fill of a bluesy cry. I had an amazing time listening to Time and Space. And with Lobate Scarp, I will keep an eye out.

This year, they have announced they are working on a follow up to their debut with an album called, You Have It All on they are raising funds on Kickstarter to reach their goal up to $36,090 and they have 18 days to go. So please help them out and check out the funds to show support and make sure the flame of the Progressive Rock genre will keep on going and never burn out.

Here is their Kickstarter website:

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Tribute to Gail Simone

It was May 2012 and I was still a student at Houston Community College in the Spring Branch area. After I had finished my Final Exam for both Ear Training and Music Theory II, I remember I was going to go see The Avengers at the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24 & RPX. But before I went there my Mom and I agreed to go to Barnes & Noble and went in to get the new issue of PROG magazine which covered the 40th anniversary of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick. That and an issue number 9 of Batgirl covering the Night of the Owls arc.

And I was hooked right from the moment I read it. It was my introduction to Gail Simone’s writing. I remember buying the issues from 1 to 13 from the Lone Star Comics website. I got back into the world of Comics again and I have to give Gail Simone a huge amount of credit for getting me back into it. It felt like being a kid in a candy store all over again. And I got both some of her writings she did for Birds of Prey and the hardcover release of Batgirl’s The Darkest Reflection.

Reading her run with Batgirl from 2011 to 2014, was like a breath of fresh air. Now I wasn’t a huge fan of The New 52 arc that DC did, but there were some good ones including Suicide Squad and World’s Finest: Huntress and Power Girl. But Batgirl was one of the series I would pick up whether I was done for my afternoon or morning courses and go to Bedrock City to pick up an issue or whatever would have taken me by surprise.

But, let’s get to Batgirl. This is Barbara Gordon back into wearing the cape, there was some controversy of a division whether they prefer to be back in the cape or as Oracle. Which is understandable. But I love the reboot of what she did to Barbara. It tells the concept of she is back as Batgirl, but for how long? Despite of what happened to her with the torture of The Joker that was paralyzed from Alan Moore’s controversial story, The Killing Joke, she is struggling and the subject of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and being scared with guns, are the subject matters that took me by surprise.

And Simone nailed it bit by bit. I know Comics fans might agree with me, but my favorite issue is number 19 as Barbara comes back home after being sold out to the Joker by her own insane brother James, she tells Alysia about her past and the struggle she went through as Yeoh herself tells Barbara that she is a Transgender. 

For me, never fitting in with the cool crowd and picked on from Camp and Elementary, Middle, and High School, this was a high water mark. It was like a breath of fresh air as opening up to Barbara to reveal of who she is, is amazing and emotional. And one of the issues where Barbara had a nightmare in issue 4, Shards of Past Lives. Batgirl in the opening sequence of a nightmare was in a Wheelchair as she is confronted with her past with Barbara as she taunts her of throwing her life away and was it all worth it as she yells at her with the background of The Mirror revealing the two faces of Barbara and Batgirl as the past Barbara screams at Batgirl, "WHY CAN'T YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR BARBARA?!" 

Then she wakes up and finds out it was all a dream. I was expecting her to burst into tears at that moment of what happened. It was one of the disturbing and emotional moments in the arc. I just wish that Gail should have gotten the Pulitzer Prize for issue 19 or an award for best writing in comics. When it was announced that she was stepping down two years ago, I was very sad, but for me, she had an amazing run of her role with Batgirl.

Now with stories such as Leaving Megalopolis, Clean Room, Secret Six, Red Sonja and the continuation of the Megalopolis series with Surviving Megalopolis that started back in January of this year, you never know what to expect she will do next. She’s been around writing comics back in 1999 from The Simpsons, Wonder Woman, and Deadpool followed by writing episodes for TV including Justice League United, Tomb Raider; The Animated Series, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, she has never disappointed me.

Whether you love her or hate her, she has never given up. There are a few writers I admire including Brendan Flecther, Cameron Stewart, Peter David, Alan Moore, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marguerite Bennet, and of course Stan “The Man” Lee, Gail is up on one of those amazing writers of the comic books answer to Mount Rushmore. I hope next year, DC Comics will do an animated Batgirl movie based on Gail's arc.

And I would like to close out in the words of The Who's The Real Me from their 1973 rock opera, Quadrophenia, "The cracks between the paving stones, look like rivers of flowing veins, strange people who know me, peeping from behind every window pane."

Tusmorke - Fort Bak Lyset

My love of Norway’s Progressive and Heavy Rock scene still keeps me going. With bands such as White Willow, Wobbler, Hedvig Mollestad Trio, Motorpsycho, Elephant9, Gazpacho, and Gentle Knife, they have always kept my ears going and seeing where I would call it the Yellow Brick Road takes them into. One of the bands that peaked my interest since 2012 when I was in College, was a group called Tusmorke. They have been around since their formation in 1997, and they are a very interesting band with essences of Prog, Occult Rock, and Acid Folk music.

Their third album released on the Svart Records label this year, Fort Bak Lyset which translates to Left Behind the Light is one of the most surreal and haunting albums I’ve listened to. When you put your headphones on, listening to Tusmorke’s new album, is like stories straight out of the Fairy Tales in Norway that have a cross between a darker version of J.R.R. Tolkien, HP Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury.

With the essence of Psychedelic and Prog in their inspirations of the band’s music and sung in Norwegian, this will take a few listens and five centerpieces to delve in to enjoy. Mind you, you might want to get into the covers or not to delve into the haunting tales that they would give you.

Et Djevelsk Mareitt (A Fiendish Nightmare) give us a question. Is the mysterious reality of whether we are in Hell or is it a nightmare? It tells the story of humoristic demons various forms as the music is a cross between Baris Manco, Trees, Goblin, and Camel’s Mirage-era filled with synths, picked bass, and the pied piper taking us through to meet the creatures with it’s improvisation midsection.

The spiritual journey where the locations of the lighthouse is lit as its future lies within with a desolated scenario combined with a space rock adventure into the unknown of De Reiser Fra Oss (They Are Leaving Us) while the elements of Krieg’s Hall of the Mountain King motif gets us into the haunting side of the Oslo ghetto filled with horror. The song that opens the album, Ekebergkongen (The King of Oak Mountain) is like a story told through a campfire, but with a warning that the King is like the puppet master and they will pull the strings back very quickly for the evil spirits to know they are not fooling around.

Nordmarka (Nordmarka Forest) I can hear the essence of Italian Prog bands Banco and the Storia Di Un Minuto-era of Premiata Forneria Marconi followed by Purson. There is a 3/4 waltz section in the middle followed by the Mellotron with ascending melodies. And then the last minute and 48 seconds features an improvisation between the psych-fuzz groove of the Wah-Wah pedal of the Bass and Drums with a heavier groove.

Vinterblot (Winter Solstice Sacrifice) is a twist of Genesis meets The Moody Blues meets Gentle Giant meets Herbie Hancock. Imagine a soaring interesting adventure of the Space Rock voyage, but with a Canterbury Jazz combination. With wah-wah keyboards, and a mysterious section between the Flute, Bass, and Glockenspiel. I have to admit I was very impressed from the second to fourth time I’ve listened to Fort Bak Lyset.

It’s not a great album and while there are a few setbacks, it is a fine follow-up to 2014's Riset Bak Speilet. And I can’t wait to hear more of what will Tusmorke will do next. A haunting Progressive Acid-Folk-Psychedelic gothic rock adventure at it’s best. So be prepare to be told through the stories as I’ve mentioned earlier in my review, to be told through a campfire because it’s not for the faint of heart.

Lorenzo Feliciati - Koi

Lorenzo Feliciati’s music is like a breath of fresh air. From the sounds of Electronic Music and Avant Jazz-Rock, he would push the boundaries of taking it as far as he can go. With his various projects and his band, Naked Truth, you never know what to expect from the bassist. One of his most interesting projects that RareNoise Records have released last year, is a conceptual album based on the life of a re-owned fish entitled, Koi.

Based on traditional Chinese folktales, the Koi fish that swam up the yellow river or Huang He and was taunted by the demons would never give up. And their journey to dive into the waterfalls as the gods would watch and celebrate their determinations and transform the fishes into golden dragons. The Japanese identified the fishes and not just for their beautiful charms, but for their hope of motivation with strange states of perception.

Which would exhibit itself or prosperity of all kinds of our lives. The music is this combination between Krautrock legends from Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, David Bowie’s Outside-era and the Berlin trilogy, Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, and Radiohead’s Kid A. Lorenzo knows what to do when it comes for inspirations and influences to tell the story about the fish.

And with help from Steve Jansen (Japan) on Drums and Percussion, Alessandro Gwis on Piano, Pat Mastelloto on Drums, Angelo Olivieri on Trumpet, and Nicola Alesini on Soprano Sax. Following the Horn sections which include Stan Adams on Tenor Trombone, Pierluigi Bastioli on Bass Trombone, and Duilio Ingrosso on Baritone Sax, Lorenzo knows he not doing it for show, he’s doing it to lend support and knowing that his friends got his back and knowing where he wants them to lead into.

It starts with a haunting string section and acoustic piano set in an oceanic background as we can see the creatures floating in the sea of the opener, Kohaku as it segues between Gwis, Jansen and the Horn section going into an electronic experimental jazz adventure as Lorenzo’s bass takes hold of the sections to delve into a darker tone with New House.

It has a Film-Noir essence in the music as if Bowie could have used the industrial and jazz rock sounds for his sessions of the Outside album and it has a 1940s vibration but with a steampunk scenario. It suddenly moves into the ambient/atmosphere German composers of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, and Popol Vuh’s Aguirre-era of the deep gaping beauty of Kumonryu and the mournful cry turned crime-drama chase sequence a-la Blade Runner style with an homage to Post-Punk band, Joy Division at the end on Oxbow and ending the atmospheric interlude with Black Kumonryu.

Pat and Nicola come into the circle for the Noir Alley Verdigris. I love how Pat comes in with the twists of King Crimson thrown into the essence and the middle-eastern sounds on the guitar and the haunting bass lines that Lorenzo does before Nicola brings his Soprano Sax as if the coast is very clear as if something had went horribly wrong. Then Pat comes back and it’s a chilling scenario.

Narada sees Lorenzo and Steve delving in Radiohead’s territory as if they were continuing where they left off as a sequel to Kid A. The piano near the very end and the sections with the horn, delves deep into a dancing groove and Lorenzo is playing these amazing notes throughout his bass as Alessandro channels Mike Garson as he creates some of the jazz concerto’s that will send goose bumps.

Lorenzo’s fretless bass creates this moody and sentimental improvisation for the Nardada before the break of the electronic vibrations thanks to Steve’s drumming with his programming to create the futuristic beginnings of the 22nd century with Margata. Lorenzo and Steve delve back into the Klaus Schulze territory for the Irrlicht sessions and then Lorenzo segues with his dooming improve for Kuchibeni.

Then, all aboard for the Fish Bowl. Here, we hear Steve and Lorenzo followed by the horn section going into a Black Sabbath fuzztone approach with a Soft Machine twist and Krokofant followed by Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express into uncharted territories! Lorenzo is nailing down the strings as Steve follows him wherever he his fingers land on the frets as the two of them are all around in this big gigantic circle with the dancing twist on what the Koi is about to become.

The closing title track is now the fish becoming the dragon itself. Here, Alessandro takes over on his piano and creating this style of Philip Glass and Terry Riley as we see the golden dragon flying into the air and starting a new life to see where it will go and where the new chapter will await for it.

Lorenzo Felicati’s Koi is one of the most chilling, heart pounding, and scariest albums I’ve ever listened to. It combines everything between Electronic Rock, Krautrock, Avant-Garde, Jazz, and Classical Music that will give listeners a jaw-dropping what just happened momentum. It’s not for the faint of heart and not an easy album to listen to, but Lorenzo and his crew mates, did one hell of a job.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tiles - Pretending 2 Run

Whenever I would buy something either it’s between Doug Larson Imports, Wayside Music, Kinesis, Syn-Phonic Music, or at The Laser’s Edge which has been my go-to site since 2008, I would always wait to see what new arrivals would get me going. It wasn’t until April of this year, I went ahead and bought on The Laser's Edge website perhaps my first introduction to the music of a band from Detroit, Michigan called, Tiles. Their sixth and new album in a 2-CD set is entitled, Pretending 2 Run which is released on The Laser’s Edge record label, is a song-crafting cycle of a story of a man who is blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal.

Formed in 1992, the band were on the heels of getting a production deal with the fire-breathing-tongue-wagging master of KISS, Gene Simmons. And their music is heavier and compositional combining the essence of hard and progressive rock rolled into a complete full circle. They have released five albums from 1994 to 2008. They took an eight-year absence after the release of Fly Paper.

Now in 2016, they are back with the release of Pretending 2 Run. With Terry Brown who worked with Rush, Max Webster, and Klaatu, is returned to the production side. He worked with Tiles on two of their albums (Window Dressing and Fly Paper). And now it’s his third collaboration on working with the band. For me, it’s almost as it’s a friendship that you can’t let go and always being there when the time is right.

Tiles considers Mark Evans on Drums & Percussion, Jeff Whittle on Bass Guitar, Fretless Bass, Keyboards, and Vocals, Chris Herin on Electric/Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Keyboards, Trumpet, and Vocals, and Paul Rarick on Lead and Backing Vocals. They brought along some help including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, The Avengers, Steven Wilson), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, Armonite), Matthew Parmenter (Discipline), and Mike’s son, Max (Next to None) to name a few.

It’s an amazing line-up that Tiles have brought in for a helping hand. And believe me, it works in various formats in the eight centerpieces that will give you a chance to as I’ve always said in my reviews, to take note. Voir Dire is a cross between heavy time-changes from the quartet. Here Chris’ riffs and lead sections come to mind of Alex Lifeson and the late great Dimebag Darrell Abbott of Pantera with pumped-up distortions.

And the last 44-seconds of the song features this cross between King Crimson’s THRAK-era, Diablo Swing Orchestra, and of course, Oingo Boingo as if Danny Elfman had conducted the last section with an odd twist for a stop-and-go change for a climatic end. Taken by Surprise is filled with darker territories with a fast-paced rhythm featuring killer riffs, and organ-driven danger of disloyal right in front of your very eyes.

There is a relevant scenario of Tool, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Deep Purple, and Rush that comes to mind. Inspired by the quote of Antoine de Saint-Exupery (The Little Prince), Refugium features a chilling ominous choir done by the amazing Renaissance Voices and Con Spirito and brings forth of Italian Prog maestro’s Murple’s conceptual album, Io Sono Murple.

Adam Holzman’s synths on the Moog, gives an ambient atmosphere to bring the styles of Edgar Froese and Vangelis. As if he made a continuation between Tangerine Dream’s Rubycon and the score for the 1982 sci-fi cult classic of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner on Other Arrangements and The View From Here.

Jeff Whittle’s Bass comes center stage. He ascends from top to bottom whilst he is off-the-wall with a fuel tank ready to pump out the 4-strings as he and Mike Stern do a duel together. Mike’s solo is a scorching, heightened, and grasping improvisation that is like an all-powerful chainsaw ready rev up and cut down some trees that is ready to hit at the exact momentum on The Disappearing Floor.

Father-son duo Mike and Max Portnoy come into the drums with a Folk-Prog ballad done in the styles of the Strawbs, Yes, and Traffic’s Last Exit sessions. They work well together on the percussion as they help out with the string-section with a sentimental and heartwarming pastoral atmosphere. Both father and son help out in the waltz section finale on Fait Accompli.

Chris takes full control over his guitar on Uneasy Truce. Both rhythm and lead sections, he carries the twists and turns with a classical and virtuoso legacy. He is very much a conductor as if he’s giving Tiles the right moment on where he wants to go in the various time signatures as Joe Deninzon’s violin helps out a-la Eddie Jobson and Darryl Way style!

I’m very new to Tiles’ music, but listening to Pretending 2 Run with the amazing artwork done by Hugh Syme, who’s best known for his artwork with Rush, gives us a brilliant conceptual designs he’s brought. It’s almost as if he is paying tribute to the late great Storm Thorgerson and he nailed it. For me, this is an exhilarating, emotional, haunting, and powerful album I’ve listened to.

It will contain a few listens to sink in, and Tiles a gigantic home run for me of the conceptual song cycle. Tiles have shown they are back and are ready for another amazing adventure and seeing what lies ahead of them next.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Worhol - The Awakening

I always love the Female Symphonic Metal scene since 2010 with my love of early Within Temptation, Edenbridge, Amberian Dawn, Ancient Bards, Stream of Passion, and Edge of Paradise to name a few. It’s been a good while since I’ve done a review on that genre. Now there is this amazing band from the state of Texas. A father-daughter team called Worhol. It’s this combination between of not just Symphonic, but Power Metal and with a few festivals and mentioned in the Houston Press and in Europe also, they are amazing.

Formed in 2013, Larry and her daughter Ashley Worhol wanted to pursue their dreams in music. With a classical background, they went to work and released their first music video entitled, The Darkness and worked on their debut album released last year entitled, The Awakening. Recorded and mixed at Red Room Studios and Sugar Hill Studios. Alongside guitarist/keyboardist Larry and Ashley on Lead Vocals, they brought along Craig Malinowski on Bass Guitar and who also did the album artwork.

And featured musicians including; Cellist Matthew Dudzik, Violinist Noel Martin, Bassists Mark Andes (Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne, and Heart) and John LeCompt (Evanesence), and drummers Foxx Duke, Ethan Brown, and Tyson Sheth. I was completely spellbound the moment I’ve listened to their debut album. Ashley’s voice resembles the styles of Sharon Den Adel, Sabine Edelsbacher (Edenbridge), and Anneke Van Giersbergen while Larry Worhol himself, I can imagine him following in the footsteps of Arjen Anthony Lucassen, Brian May, and Luca Turilli.

There are some centerpieces on the album that I’ve picked five of the tracks that you might want to take note of. Rage and Revenge which is an instrumental track, features Larry’s shredding as his guitar like a battering ram hitting the doors down with a powder keg that is ready to erupt. As Foxx Duke and Larry carry the torches of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with an orchestral twist by elements of Judas Priest’s British Steel-era and throwing in some Jimmy Page and K.K. Downing combinations that will get heads banging with the Deep Purple sound.

The rumbling drumming paced on Bowing Before You done by Duke himself, it features both Matthew and Noel creating the tension on their cello and violin as while we are witnessing the pain and suffering that this character is going through, is begging forgiveness. Ashley nails it down on her vocals and you can feel her pain and knowing that the lyrical structures in the song, is letting the listener know that it’s up to us to decide what happens next in the story. Will the person forgive her or not.

We, The Abused starts with a futuristic introduction from Larry’s heavier riffs and the drumming is a galloping thunder. It deals with being the subject of abuse and learning how to defend yourself and fight back, knowing that you won’t be the subject of being another puppet being slapped and bruised. It’s a difficult subject to tackle, but Ashley just nails it down doing the double vocals.

I love the mid-fast tempos with the ascending midsection as Ashley sends her vocals up into the heavens that you can imagine the styles of Within Temptation’s Mother Earth-era as if it’s a continuation of the song Caged but following in the lead and format of the composition. Jurisdiction which is another mid-fast composition, it has some amazing sections between the guitars and string section that styles with the thumping drums like a pounding heart going at 120 beats per minute and the idea of begging for forgiveness is too late and the decision is made for karma to happen on the loved ones they hurt.

And the song is almost done is a ballad-classical approach as if it is done in the style of the Crack the Skye-era of Mastodon. As I’ve mentioned about The Darkness, which closes the album off, well it is now one of my favorites. I love the synthesized keyboards and the powerful riffs and Ashley’s arrangements that carry the symphonic styles in which sends shivers down the spine between the rhythm and vocal compositions.

After listening about two or three times of The Awakening, Worhol have taken my grand support of what I’ve listened to from beginning to end. They will be performing at the Last Concert Cafe in Houston next Saturday at the Last Concert Cafe for the Space City Music Festival. 

I hope they will continue to do more in the years and years to come. If you love as I’ve mentioned, Female Symphonic Metal, then check out Worhol’s The Awakening. You will not be disappointed.

Armonite - The Sun Is New Each Day

A few weeks ago, It was a sticky and boiling hot day in June and I was coming home for one of my afternoon walks. And after I finished my walk, I went to the mailbox outside and all of a sudden, I received a package from Italy for another review. Now I’ve received packages in different parts of the States and in Europe for albums to review, mind you. But this one took me by surprise.

It was a band called, Armonite. Now again mind you, I didn’t know much about their music. But I listened to one of their samples on their bandcamp website and just completely hooked from the drumming and electric violin eccentrics that took me to different levels. Their album The Sun Is New Each Day was like an opening flower to various locations in different universes.

When I looked at the back cover it was the who’s who. Produced by Paul Reeve, who worked on Muse’s debut album, Showbiz in 1999. It considers Paolo Fosso on Keyboards, Jacopo Bigi on Electric Violin, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on Bass Guitar, and Jasper Barendregt on Drums. Armonite formed in 1996 and released their debut album in 1999 on the Mellow Records label entitled, Inuit. And then they didn’t release another one since.

Until now. Last year, they released their second album after a long hiatus. And with nine tracks, and recorded at PFL Studio in Pavia, Italy along with the engineering and mixing by Paul himself at Cornwall and mastered by Geoff Pesche (The Divine Comedy, New Order, Mike Oldfield, and Dire Straits) at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London with an amazing artwork done by AquaSixio (Cyril Rolando) that has the waves rolling out a basketball court, car, soccer ball, guitar, etc.

You can imagine what the ensemble have brought in. The middle-eastern sitar, Indian percussion and violin sections on Sandstorm which deals with the living energy located in Marrakech, Morocco. There is the electronic vibrations thanks to the synths and intense time-changes in the last couple of seconds of the composition before Bigi kicks it off to an abrupt end.

The opening yet exhilarating track, Suitcase War which deals with workaholics working from 9 to 5 through the rest of the week through a lot of how their lives have been rejected to this situation. Like a cross between Pure Reason Revolution, Frank Zappa, Gentle Giant, and Premiata Forneria Marconi, The climatic riffs between guitar, keyboards, and drums set the fueling scales to a flaming time-signature tempo to get everything ready.

But I love they switch from that to the ‘80s synths and the New-Wave textures they took me by surprise. From the protest against gambling addictions in a nightmarish eerie quality thanks to Jacopo’s improvisations in spooky ascending tones on Connect Four to the wonders of going into putting a token inside a video arcade and travelling to the styles of Devo’s early ‘80s beginnings thanks to Anders “Goto80” Carlsson’s 8-bit sounds of the NES will close your eyes and imagine it’s 1986 all over again for the Insert Coin.

It shows that Armonite can go beyond the Progressive levels and into that era where it was fun and takes you on a scrapbook trip down memory lane while heading towards into the stars and going into different planets with a classical-electronic rock voyages to discover the exploration of space and technology of our Satellites.

Colin’s heavier fuzz-tone bass riffs, gives him a chance to come up-and-front. On Die Grauen Herren which deals with the Men in Grey based on Michael Ende’s Novel, Momo. Edwin himself shows more on where his bass comes to the center stage. He, Jacopo, and Jasper, followed by Paolo’s concerto-esque piano exercise, applies to more of the changes throughout the composition as they continue to paddle before ending with the ticking clock.

This is not your typical progressive rock album, with amazing twists and turns throughout the entire album, that show Armonite are doing a fantastic job to give listeners and surprising opportunity to breathe and take an adventure on where they will head into next. Is it a great album? No. But it shows a return to go through Avant-Garde, Electronic, ‘80s synths, and all in all, an appreciable album.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Frequency Drift - Last

Whenever I would go for either my morning or afternoon walk’s, I would put on my headphones and would listen to an album in its entirety. But I always make sure to take the headphones off and cross the street. One of the albums I’ve listened to, is this fascinating group from Germany named Frequency Drift. I was completely blown away by not just their sound, but how they were taken the essence of Post-Rock, Doom Metal, Post-Metal and the Progressive sonic sounds into a cinematic format.

It’s almost as I’ve mentioned earlier in some of my reviews on albums as if you can imagine a movie inside your head. Well that’s what Frequency Drift’s music is and the score done by them is spectacular and epic. Formed ten years ago by keyboardist Andreas Hack in their hometown in Bayreuth in which it is a sizable town in northern Bavaria on the Red Main River between the Franconian Jura and the Fichtelgebirge Mountains.

And its best known for its association with the controversial composer, Richard Wagner who lived in Bayreuth from 1872 until his death at the age of 63 on February 13, 1883. But let’s get to the band’s music. Frequency Drift have released six albums going back from 2008. This year, they released their seventh album on the Gentle Art of Music label entitled, Last.

I’m very new to the band’s music and the moment I bought the album from the Laser’s Edge website, I was completely spellbound from the moment I put the CD on until the very end. They reminded me at times, White Willow. Almost as if they were following in the footsteps of Jacob Holm-Lupo’s arranging and composition and knowing that they have got it right. And they have.

Alongside Andreas Hack, the band considers Melanie Mau (Seven Steps to the Green Door) on Lead Vocals, Wolfgang Ostermann on Drums, Martin Schnella on Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Nerissa Schwarz on Electric Harp and Mellotron, and Rainer Wolf on Drums. Now I didn’t know quite sure the moment I decided to listen to their music. I was very hesitant at first, but I’ve calmed myself and played the whole thing and as I’ve mentioned earlier, it is the format of a movie and cinematic beauty.

Let’s take a look at the highlights on here. Melanie’s voice comes in with the line “When will you/understand that I just waited/for you/to get my drops.” The second track, Diary starts with her amazing arrangement as Schnella and Wolfgang create this epic scenario as she hits the lines as they raise the bar when she hits those notes for this climbing melody.

The last 2-minutes feature Schwarz’s mellotron setting this gothic and immense section before Schnella’s symphonic metal-sque guitar styles, goes to the higher mountains that sets a beautiful scenario. Merry features this essence of the Meddle-era of Pink Floyd and White Willow’s Ex-Tenebris. Here, we have at first a gothic Leslie-speaker piano section which I would have love to have heard more on here, but it’s so chilling and raw. It goes from calm and filled with power that will make you feel that something has gone wrong inside the abandoned house.

Last Photo has this electronic background from the synths and the Flute section in the Mellotron, set up the memories of the good days from childhood of playing in the snow. The section has a lively rhythm in 4/4 time signature. Melodies swarm as Melanie brings the sounds in her vocals to the composition.

You can imagine of reliving your memories and never forgetting both the past and the present as it changes with the mysterious synths and organ setting up the last farewells. Martin’s bluesy guitars in the style of David Gilmour, sets a scenario of dealing with death as Melanie gives her calm and haunting vocals in the relaxing turned doom-prog approach that almost made me jump on the closer, Asleep.

It’s the last rite of someone dying in front of our eyes and it gave me chills the moment I was stunned and jaw-dropped on the closing track. It’s almost as if both Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath had worked together with Annie Haslam of Renaissance to create this lushful and heavier darker tone as we see one our relative slip away into darkness and never seeing them again.

For me, this is band I’m worth checking out this year. Frequency Drift’s music has taken my musical level to a complete standstill. This is the band worth exploring if you’re a fan of White Willow. I highly recommend it if you want to get into their music, Last is worth checking out if you are into darker themes and cinematic concepts that will take you inside someone closet that has a huge amount of skeletons that they don’t want you to know. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Socrates - Phos

The Greek Rock scene reached upon bands such as Aphrodite’s Child which formed in 1967 and they were one of the most powerful, overlooked, psychedelic and progressive rock bands which started the careers of the late Demis Roussos, Vangelis, and Lucas Sideras. But one of the bands as a trio that formed in 1969 by lead guitarist John Spathas and bassist Andonis Tourkogiorgis who have a hard rock sound was Socrates Drank the Conium.

While Greece was ruled under a military dictatorship, the band performed regularly at the Kyttaro Club in Athens and appeared on a live album entitled Live at Kyttaro in 1971, the band were signed to a Greek division of the Polydor label and released three albums on the label including their sole self-titled debut album, Taste of Conium, and On the Wings.

The band shortened their name to Socrates and a change of music from the sound of Greek Folk as new drummer George Tradalidas joined the band as they were signed to the Greek Division to Vertigo Records. Soon the trio traveled to London to record their fourth album with Vangelis as a producer as he would began his international success as a solo artist and film composer.

Phos was originally released on the Vertigo label and reissued by Esoteric Recordings sees a band moving away from the hard rock sound and carrying a dosage of the Progressive and Folk approach. Vangelis handles the keyboards on the tracks as he created a new dimensional sound for Socrates as their album was recorded at Orange Studios in London.

I remember hearing Socrates’ music on Gregory Kampf podcast La Villa Strangiato in 2012 which is a Progressive Rock/Jazz Radio show every Thursday night at 7:30pm on CHUO FM 89.1. And hearing the blaring essence of Mediterranean Folk-Heavy Rock sounds of Time of Pain I was hooked right from the very beginning. I’ve always wanted to hear the Phos album and I bought straight away from the Laser’s Edge website.

For me, while the album is ahead of its time, it is a joy and revisiting more than just bands such as Aphrodite’s Child to see how Socrates could have continued with this amazing sound. The opener, Starvation which originally had a heavier approach in 1972, is a different arrangement thanks to the Folk and keyboard styles of Vangelis’ synths from a marching fanfare style in the styles at times Van Der Graaf Generator’s cover of Theme One.

Vangelis also lends a helping hand as he co-wrote the composition, Every Dream Comes to an End. Beginning with a melodic-rock, piano, and atmospheric beauty he along with Tourkogiorgis, Tradalidis, and Spathas, work out the ascending roars as it leads up into the heavens as Spathas’ lead guitars just sends chills down your spine. You can close your eyes and imagine the essence of the mid ‘70s sound of Barclay James Harvest on this track.

I love how Andonis' vocals and Spathas’ guitar blend well in the section as they sing both the melody of The Bride. It is a catchy turned emotional day-wedding sequence in the midsection then back into the walking pace section of the rhythm thanks to the drums and guitars as the ceremony is about to begin for the bride to be married with an exhilarating dance.

The 7-minute two-part suite of Mountains that closes the album is a real fantastic and ambient finale. It starts off for the first minute and thirty seconds with a progressive folk-hard rock adventure on magic carpet ride with a stop-and-go moment in a Gentle Giant twist. As Vangelis and Spathas create a lush-lukewarm moody yet bluesy ominous finale for the last 6-minutes of the piece as you can imagine the sun coming up to rise on the higher mountains for a new day and new adventure that will await.

When it was released 40 years ago, it was one of the most successful albums and receiving not only word of mouth in their hometown, but in Europe. The band broke up until returning in the ‘80s with three more albums from 1981 and ’83. They reunited in 2002 to perform several concerts in Greece and they are still going on to this day.

The 8-page booklet contains photos of the band and a history of the group with liner notes done by Mark Powell. This is a must have reissue that is worth recommending. If you love Aprhodite’s Child, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, and Barclay James Harvest, then delve into the music and adventure of Socrates’ Phos.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Naked Truth - Avian Thug

Since my championing of WorldService Project’s For King and Country on the RareNoise label on my blog site Music from the Other Side of the Room this year, I’ve always wanted to discover the label as if looking for new treasures in the Sierra Madre or in the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. One of the bands that took me to a higher level that have completed my eyebrow levels going up is band called, Naked Truth. They have released three albums in the can including released last year entitled, Avian Thug.

The band launched and founded by Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati who alongside his work with Naked Truth, has worked with Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) for Twinscapes and his collaboration with Italian vocalist-multi-instrumentalist sonic provocateur Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (LEF) with Berserk! Lorenzo is a very busy man when it comes to projects for the RareNoise label.

With Naked Truth, the band’s sound was to capture the styles of the Electric Fusion-era of the golden beginnings of 1970s from Miles Davis and King Crimson with a Progressive Jazz Rock attitude that will blow the doors down that will have listeners close their eyes and imagine it’s 1973 all over again. 

I first became aware of Naked Truth’s music a few years ago when I was in College and listening to Sid Smith’s episodes of Podcasts from the Yellow Room and this noise just took me by surprise. It was loud, innovative, and in your face. Very much like giving both Yanni and Kenny G a big gigantic middle finger on how real good Jazz is supposed to sound. And then, all of a sudden, I almost forgot about them. Now I’m onto the Naked Truth’s band wagon this year.

When I first listened to the entirety of Avian Thug on my old CD player with my headphones on, I was blown away from the start. Both Lorenzo, Graham Hayes on Trumpet and Electronics, Roy Powell on Keyboards, and Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Stick Men) on Acoustic and Electric Drums, Percussion, create a mysterious and cavernous sound that will make you think of both of the artist and the band as if Miles and Crimson had worked together and make the Red album, better, stronger, and sinister. And with five enduring centerpieces, it took me back and go through albums of the golden-era of King Crimson, the Canterbury Scene, Rock In Opposition and Electronic Music.

Day Two at Bedlam is a darkened, heavier, musique-concrete, and ominous piece. Featuring sampled Mellotron which I can imagine the homage to King Crimson’s THRAK-era, horn sections, percussions, bass lines going various locations, string-sections, and harsh musical chords that resemble the styles of Edgard Varese’s Ionisation and Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht.

The alarming opener, Rapid Fire starts with a blaring synth and vicious trumpet section between Graham and Lorenzo. And then Ray goes into his avant-swing section on the Organ as he and Pat along with Lorenzo’s bass go into some intense time changing improvisation and then Graham comes flying through the doors and brings the Miles Trumpet to some hypnotic and insane solos before ending on a high note.

I wish it could have been a little longer on the opening track, because I wish we had more than just 3-minutes. But I digress. Trap Door starts with this ambient haunting guitar/keyboard intro before sending the jump to hyper-speed as Feliciatti plays both the Guitar and Bass while Haynes reverb Trumpet effect, brings the echoing twists and turns as Pat bangs on the kit as tensions increases the rhythm while Tense Shaman sees Lorenzo carrying on his Bass Guitar, the fuzz-tone sound.

It has this twisted avant-electronic jazz rock approach that just took me on a higher level. Haynes is going in the elevator of A Tribute to Jack Johnson-era as he walks up towards the spiral staircase to see where he would lead him into as Powell is creating the noise and synthesized surroundings of the strange sounds that makes it surreal and in your face.

The 13-minute finale, Moon at Noon is like going up into our solar systems with a chamber jazz-rock atmosphere and looking towards the milky-way and onto the Moon. Ray Powell moves the keyboards aside and heads into the Piano for a journey into our universe. He and Haynes create the textures followed by Feliciati’s Bass for the first 5-minutes of the piece. It’s almost to me, in my opinion the nod to Soft Machine’s Out-Bloody-Rageous from their 1970 album, Third.

Ray is not doing an homage to Herbie Hancock, but honoring the styles of Mike Ratledge and Bill Evans before Pat Mastoletto comes in for the journey back home as he and Lorezno take the ship back home to Earth for a funk groove. The bass shuffling has not just Funk, but a Blues sounding as it fades away for the roaring synth effect by Ray and then disappearing into the night to head home.

I was stunned and completely spellbound of listen of the entire album from the beginning to the end. Naked Truth have completely taken me by surprise and it showed how real Jazz and Avant-Rock can take it up a notch. 

RareNoise Records is now suddenly going to become one of my favorite labels of this year. Entrepreneur Giacomo Bruzzo and music producer Eraldo Bernocchi, who started the label eight years ago, deserves a gigantic pat on the back. Worth checking out for the Avian Thug.