Since their formation back around in 2009, the multinational ensemble The Samurai of Prog considers Steve Unruh on vocals, flute, and violin; Kimmo Porsti on drums and percussion, and Marco Bernard on Bass. They have released four albums going back from 2011 to 2016. Their music is an odyssey. With renditions of Pink Floyd, Yes, Marillion, and Genesis to name a few. Appearing on a tribute album to the Floyd’s music, The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and the two part compilation albums of Decameron: Ten Days in 100 Novellas: Parts I and II.
This year, they’ve released their fifth album entitled On We Sail on the Seacrest Oy label. Now this is not a concept album, but the material on here, faces the challenges of the odds and scary seas that you as a listener, are about to embark on. The music and storytelling compositions that are on here, will take you through those rough seas to catch the wind and glide at the same time.
On The Samurai of Prog releases, they would bring some guest musicians including Roine Stolt (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Guy LeBlanc (Camel, Nathan Mahl), David Myers (The Musical Box), Linus Kase (Anglagard), and Robert Webb (England). Here with On We Sail, new guests include; Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, Alco Frisbass), Sean Timms (Unitopia, Southern Empire), Kerry Shacklett (Presto Ballet), Michelle Young, Brett Kull (Echolyn), Oliviero Lacagnina (Latte E Miele), and Roberto Vitelli (Ellesmere, Taproban).
This is both orchestral, symphonic, and folk influences that are on here. Not to mention the amazing artwork done by Ed Unitsky. You could tell it is a nod to the stories including Homer’s The Odyssey, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Jules Verne’s classics 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth that are all combined into one.
Now there are nine tracks including two clocking in at 9 minutes and one at 10 minutes. Listening to On We Sail, is like for me going back in the summer of 2001 as I was about to enter my Sophomore year in High School listening to the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis, Bill Bruford-era of Yes, and the golden Pink Floyd albums on a loop at times. But listening to On We Sail, isn’t just a prog album, but an adventure that is worth exploring.
Now I first became aware of The Samurai of Prog back in the summer of 2014 after I had graduated from Houston Community College when I bought The Imperial Hotel on the Kinesis website. When I was listening to this album, I wasn’t just in awe, but I knew that the genre cannot die. It’s a glowing flower that will die out. And it shows that you can imagine either a movie or an animated epic story set as a rock opera done in the styles of Don Bluth’s animation.
I love the nod between Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and Acqua Fragile’s sole self-titled debut that is on the track, Growing Up. It has this reflection of going back in time to remember how amazing your childhood was by reading both Mother Goose’s stories and Dr. Seuss. Followed by the golden age of Television that had a few channels in both black and white and color at times.
The midsection for a brief few minutes is quite Italian Prog Rock and then back to Unruh’s violin as Brett Kull’s incredible lines on his guitar as the time signature gets into the ballad of 3/4 time. But Kerry Shacklett and Steve Unruh share the vocals and I could tell they blended very well together before fading away into the sunset.
Oliviero Lacagnina’s The Perfect Black is his nod to the spirit of Latte E Miele. Not only that but both Le Orme and Banco Del Mutuo Sorcosso. There’s this epic and some of the action moments of the waves and heading towards danger that is right upon you through those thunderstorms. The moog itself has these spooky sequences while classical guitars brings those calming moments of the waves crashing upon the ship.
It’s alarming, but well-written of bringing the spirit of Italian Progressive Rock back on their feet and you can tell perhaps that Poseidon is almost ready for another attack on the ship and it isn’t going to be pleasant. Meanwhile, Thedora which is sung by Michelle Young, it’s very much of a short story that she sings in her calming arrangement.
I love how it starts off with a metallic introduction thanks to Ruben Alvarez as Steve goes wah-wah mode on his violin followed by the Mellotron’s thanks to Luca Scherani’s keyboards. The opening title-track is making you get ready to set sail on a brand new journey.
It has this overture-sque vibe between the organ, church organ, and violin. Steve describes in his narration as they set the courses for bringing families aboard the boat as giving the listener the voyage that is waiting beyond the horizon. Guitars and Moog share a melody and delving layers before being transformed into the styles of Triumvirat thanks to Shacklett’s nod to the Prog trio. It’s a wonderful introduction and opener to get things going.
Ghost Written begin this nod between the Mellotron and Guitar to open up the rusty gates and see what lies ahead beyond those bars. Sean Timms’ arranging on here, is gorgeous and setting the bars and melodies that he wants Unruh, Mark Trueack, and Jacob Holm-Lupo to go into. Timms nails it down.
He’s like a conductor giving directions where he wants to The Samurai of Prog to go. The lyrics near the end have a Yes-like atmosphere as if it’s reminiscing Close to the Edge’s And You and I. It’s very well-structured and well-organized as Alvarez’s lead guitar solo fly off into the skies before Timms’ Piano concerto channels Gershwin and Keith Emerson and Unruh’s Celtic folk on the violin.
The closing 10-minute piece, Tigers recalls the styles of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering-era. The song deals now coming back home and celebrating through the hardship that went on through the journey that you as a listener embarked on. And knowing the stories that they will tell their children of what they’ve embarked on.
Brett Kull knocks it out of the ballpark on his guitar as Daniel Faldt who sings in the vocals, is giving us a farewell by thanking us to being a part of this amazing adventure. No matter what went on, it was a ride they will never, ever forget.
The textures and story-line backgrounds as I’ve mentioned earlier in my review are the adventures to embark more and more to come towards. I’ll admit, I’m not that crazy about The Samurai of Prog, but On We Sail, is a journey that is on the edge of a lifetime that will be with you forever and ever.