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 4.Wymiar by PROAGE album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.00 | 1 ratings

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4.Wymiar
ProAge Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

— First review of this album —
4 stars PROAGE is a Polish group founded in 1985, dissolved, reformed in 2008, line-up changing until 2016. Three albums are coming out including this next "4th dimension" from January 1st. Soundings of metal, rock, pop, a little new-wave, art-rock in fact where the progressive wanderings arrive without omen, a mixture of FM, climatic and spatial titles. An album rather complicated to read but strewn with unforgettable and intense moments; tunes so varied that I cannot provide you with a particular musical genre. Come on, let's go for the last ... or the first column of the year. "System" starts with a rock-hard sound with keyboards present, we immediately notice the voice sung in Polish; a well sustained riff and a solo keyboard; the voice is choppy, the air well rhythmic on greasy and nervous rock, brief hard rock fusion and some oriental notes. "W Cieniu Izolacji" follows on a more pop-rock sound there, a little memory of what NENA was doing in his time at the time of "99 Luftballons" with here again a beautiful rhythmic, fresh and jovial synth solo; but I'm looking for the prog side still there; hit title more than anything else. "Człowiek Z Wysokiego Zamku" and a beautiful title with a soaring atmospheric intro, synth and sax that denotes the beginning of the album; then mounted with the bass on a sound mixing riff and musical tracks tinged with keyboards; we are more on a melodic prog track of fact with a finale on a delirious aerial saxo stange of any beauty. A simple title that stays in memory quickly, beautiful piece. "Sensorium" for a title that seems to come from the cold Scandinavian regions, a little spleen, serious acoustic guitar, text limited to phrasing in their native language, also reminding us that it is not only English that can be sung. Malgorzata's flute brings calm, astonishing fullness and magnifies the voice. "4th Dimension" and one, the centerpiece of the album: sung intro, start of a sound like coming from another group, the instruments are well in place and leave in modern progressive rock without concession; the nervous synth, bringing the rhythm, helped by the energetic bass; solo of this synth then arrival of a sax taken as ambient instrument just behind. Note the text in English otherwise the singular phrasing of Mariusz still seems to be in Polish. The progression starts with an Andalusian tune for a few moments with the guitar, then on Canterbury fringes, on GENTLE GIANT, on KING CRIMSON with this sax put forward in this way; a bit of jazz-rock even. Moving moving sequence with synth pads and an immense Slawomir Gilmourian guitar solo; paf, jazzy delirium, synth, drums then it starts in a duel of all the instruments with even a drum solo, the schizoid sax at will then jazzy. Return of the voice, the flute for a smooth ending, well what you might think, but we are dealing with a change of pace with hard riffs, nasty and always those omnipresent keyboards; the finale ends with the enhancement of the clearer voice on a pompous piano; white is still part of the sound while "Wyspa Czasu" tumbles with a drenched rock, rock prog metal tune; again the very noticed presence of the synth in the background musical line, then a guitar solo by guest Janek Mitoraja (OSADA VIDA), which goes well on a prog metal tune here, nervous and enjoyable, confusing like the other titles. PROAGE, do not forget them just for this masterpiece coming from elsewhere out of time, PROAGE or the uncompromising sound with the omnipresent synth of Krzysztof, the expressive voice of Mariusz, a wandering in the 4th dimension speaking of the bad moment of time through the tasting of a cup of tea; singular harmonies that can start with the progressive of the 70's, the revival of the 80's and 90's, heavy riffs as well as acoustic passages; a record that struck me with this daring fusion of various sounds.

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 There / Not There by BAKER, AIDAN album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.00 | 1 ratings

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There / Not There
Aidan Baker Progressive Electronic

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars Aidan Baker is quite a prolific artist who's specialty is in manipulating music, expanding on styles that are well-used these days, like shoegaze, drones, electronic manipulation, ambient and other styles, to create some interesting, experimental soundscapes that definitely stretch genres to new territory. As a result, he has produced many albums over the years, not limiting himself to just one or two releases each year, but going far beyond that.

The album "There/Not There" is an example of this, in this case combining post rock, ambience, noise, drones and shoegaze to come up with this 3-part masterwork. For those that love exploratory and experimental music, this is a great album. As many times as not, Baker works with various musicians, while other times he produces all of the sounds and textures himself. On this album, he takes care of all of the guitars and vocals while guests Dana Schechter (bass) and Fiona McKenzie (drums) add their input as needed.

The title track "There/Not There" takes up the first half of the album at just over 20 minutes. This track begins softly and pensively, moving slowly to a slow and unassuming rhythm, building very slowly. The first part of this track takes it's time, yet has a nice melodic quality to it. There is a bit of a shoegaze vibe here, especially when his vocals kick in, softly, but not really buried in the mix. The slow build continues along with the vocals, but as the track reaches the 10 minute mark, the listener will notice that things are getting more and more intense, until a solid wall of sound shuts out the rhythmic pattern and a more droning style takes over, building layers upon layers of dark noise. This continues and follows right into the next track "(Found)", where this heaviness has reached its peak. The noise drone continues, but as it goes on, some texture starts to peek through the cacophony of noise, and there is a rather symphonic texture that somehow seems to pierce the wall of sound. The last track, "Paris (lost)" suddenly cuts out the noise as the music drops back to the ambient style again. The sudden change will probably evoke some kind of reaction from the listener as you feel relief from being freed from the solid noise. This track continues along with a pensive sound, the shoegaze more prevalent this time around. Vocals come back in on this track, the music will build a little, but stays far from reaching the pinnacle of before as it soon backs off again. The track ends the album in the same mood as it begins, ambient and pensive.

The music here is not the typical drone/shoegaze sound that you might usually associate with this kind of music. With this album, you get the professionalism and experience of a musician that really takes you on a voyage, not just following established styles as much as he pushes the boundaries of those genres. But you also feel like you are experiencing something when you listen to his music, and that is the case with this album. I wouldn't go so far as to call this essential, however, it is quite an excellent album especially with the territory it covers with these neo-genres that so many other artists are exploring, but when it comes to listening to Baker, there is no one that can take you on an actual journey like he does.

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 Outer Space by HAEKA album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Outer Space
Haeka Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

— First review of this album —
4 stars Not being outer space at all, moreover here we have a really grounded music performance. The moniker HAEKA stands for a promising new quartet coming from Milan, Italy. They recently have self-released their debut, roundabout 32 minutes with pure excitement factor, you won't believe. That's my impression at least, the more I'm listening. One can say the album is embraced by two progressive psychedelic space rock masterpieces. Besides nice reverb modified guitars the opener Stable As Change shows well harmonized male (Vitorio Zambon) and female (Marta Ceccarini) vocals, wholeheartedly arranged. Instruments and voices are perfectly composed.

They are surpring when turning the mood from charming to heavy in between, maybe even agressive if you will, just take the song Shadow for example. 'And my voice is getting louder ...', for the purpose of variety the mid-tempo From Above comes more balladesque styled. Finally the title track rounds it all up with much more entertainment. Top sound! Take your chance! 'Outer Space' is a short though nevertheless multi-layered psychedelic rock album. Bravissimo! This music project successfully flows, awesome melodies and guitar appearance plus challenging compositions are making it really worthwhile to purchase and support them. I'm eagerly waiting for more coming soon. 4.5 stars (so far).

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 Oh! Thee Glory Days of Ignorance by KOMAS MIDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Oh! Thee Glory Days of Ignorance
Komas Mida Post Rock/Math rock

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

— First review of this album —
3 stars KOMAS MIDA is one of those chill post-rock groups emerging from the central Swedish city of 謘tersund. This band is known to be a five-piece and has released two albums which include the self-titled debut of 2008 and this following 2011 release OH! THEE GLORY DAYS OF IGNORANCE.

Somewhat mysterious as little info exists, the band formed in 2004 and consists of Erik For (guitar), Idan Cheaproot (drums), Mikael Junchag (guitar), Alexander Landstr鰉 (guitar, keyboards) and Daniel Bj鰎k (bass). Finding a decent biography on this band seems all but impossible so we'll just have to call them them the Northern Keepers of the Post-Rock Paradigm!

The band's scarcity becomes more clear when listening to OH! THEE GLORY DAYS OF IGNORANCE. Despite excellent performances that release beautiful emotive displays of chamber orchestra style post-rock with occasional distortion flare ups the band very much comes across in the same style as bands like Explosions In The Sky with those predicative cyclical loops that nurture a melody and add subtle counterpoints as they precede.

Despite not finding it in the credits, there is a violin and cello on this album which add those beautiful chamber rock elements. OH! THEE GLORY DAYS OF IGNORANCE features seven tracks that add up to just over 50 minutes of playing time and crafts that type of post-rock that is light and airy employing slow tempos, warm guitar tones and conservative percussive accompaniments.

The album is completely instrumental and the production is soft and sensual with a few moments of more upbeat rock moments but they rarely last long and are designed to provide contrast. Unfortunately this album comes off as a bit generic as KOMAS MIDA doesn't really add anything new under the sun to the post-rock universe. If someone were to tell me that this is a long lost Mogwai or Explosions In The Sky album i would have no reason to doubt that.

In the end it seems KOMAS MIDA may have abandoned their project since any info at all is scarce and the only real listening opportunities are on YouTube. This is a very beautiful album for sure but lacks any sort of creative mojo that sets it apart from the myriad post-rock bands that came before. Decently done but exhibits the nagging reminder that we've already been there and done that in some nebulous nook of the post-rock world.

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 Sleeping in Traffic - Part One by BEARDFISH album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.07 | 510 ratings

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Sleeping in Traffic - Part One
Beardfish Eclectic Prog

Review by Muskrat

5 stars What happiness!

Never rock band will have deserved so much its qualification of progressive. Because make no mistake, Beardfish is above all rock. And if it only took one track to prove it, "Harmony" would suffice. From the first notes, romanticism springs from Rikard Sj鯾lom's accordion, and bewitches us with a ritornello that we begin to whistle for the rest of the day. Then with its alternation of softness and violence "Sunrise" puts us directly in the bath. From "Roulette", the pieces reveal an incredible intensity and the high level of inspiration does not let us go until the last notes, a final taste of very addicting come back. I have literally loved this record for many years! When it comes to interpretation and mixing, the listener that I am is always happy to hear clearly guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and not an indistinguishable magma. It is moreover from "Sleeping In the Traffic P1" that Robert Hansen really imposes his powerful bass playing. Great!

A true masterpiece and one of the best rock records I have ever heard. No doubt.

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 Paracletus by DEATHSPELL OMEGA album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.81 | 74 ratings

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Paracletus
Deathspell Omega Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Completing the third installment of the Satanic metaphysical trilogy that shocked the world with black metal being taken to unthinkable technical complexities with themes that focused on the highly advanced Satanic theology inspired by the philosophies of George Bataille, Michel Leiris and Pierre Klossowski, the French black metal band DEATHSPELL OMEGA released PARACETUS which is the Latinized form of the Greek world παράκλητος (par醟letos), meaning "comforter," and synonymous for the Holy Spirit. Released in 2010 after a couple of EPs and a split, PARACLETUS served as a recording that resolves the band's three act magnum opus that made 90s black metal look like schoolchildren.

As anonymous and mysterious as ever DOS ended the trilogy with a collection of ten tracks that are more tightly constructed and really does have a feel of conclusion as if PARACLETUS is the final act where the resolving battle and judgment allow the dark forces' reign comes to fruition. It wasn't until i finally heard this third episode of DEATHSPELL OMEGA's Satanic saga that it occurred to me that the trilogy really runs together, musically as well as thematically, as a single cohesive unit where each album resonates as an entire act of a much larger black opera for the lack of a better term. Following 2004's "Si monvmentvm reqvires, circvmspice" and 2007's "Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum," the latter of which introduced bizarre new dynamics that included dramatic pauses and stylistic shifts, where the final track "Obombration" essentially served as a two minute symphonic intermission designed to be followed.

That's where PARACLETUS comes in as it eschews the subtle atmospheric swirls of "Fas - Ite" and instead jumps into the bombastic caustic and atonal jangle chord swarms of din of "Epiklesis." The album overall is a much heavier and rampaging one with less moments of downtime in the form of slower creeping, almost doom metal in its processional prowl. Like the band's previous album's DEATHSPELL OMEGA doesn't employ many new tactics on PARACLETUS as all had been established therefore this third installment of the trilogy comes off as less impacting as the shock value had been exhausted and the main focus is on the highly advanced compositions that tackle the complexities of progressive rock and 20th century classical music in black metal regalia.

Generally speaking the beginning and end of the album are heavier with rampaging stampedes of sound while the mid-section around "Phosphene" offer those cooling off periods with slower, less complex and more introspective ones often with choral chanting replacing the snarling raspy shrieks of Mikko Aspa's effective vocal approach. The atonal jangle guitars appear in abundance as the tale of the virtues of advanced Satanism employ the multitude of stylistic shifts that DEATHSPELL OMEGA has mastered with nary a misstep in execution. While less depend on symphonic accoutrements, there are moments as in "Epiklesis II" where a parallel sound effect accompanies the jangle guitars but tracks like "Malconfort" with faster tempos and caustic sonic assaults are more the norm on PARACLETUS.

While excellently performed as usual it surprises me that PARACLETUS remains the most popular DEATHSPELL OMEGA release in some circles which perhaps is the result in that it's a bit more accessible than its predecessors but is less effective for that otherworldly experience that the perfection of "Fas - Ite" delivered. For that reason PARACLETUS is my least favorite of the Satanic metaphysical trilogy of albums as it's a bit more predictable and doesn't really offer anything new to the DSO sound and rather relies on simply changing things around a bit. Despite the connective tissue that clearly links it with previous material, make no doubt about it that PARACLETUS is still worthy of concluding what many deem as black metal's most effective multi-album run. For those who prefer the most bombastic of the trilogy, this one probably wins but i personally prefer the greater spectrum of stylistic shifts that "Si Monvmtvm" and "Fas - Ite" offered.

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 Dissonant Minds by FATAL FUSION album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.43 | 52 ratings

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Dissonant Minds
Fatal Fusion Crossover Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

1 stars Dissonant Minds is the fourth album from Fatal Fusion. Like on the albums before the band delivers a mix of classic sound with modern sound of prog rock. For me personally Fatal Fusion so far did not make an album that gave me a wow factor. This release brings nothing new to the table.

There is some good music nice Hammond and good guitar solos, but what distanced me from the band are the vocals, it's just not a good fit and every time when the vocals come in I just want to skip to the instrumental part.

Musically compositions are not that bad, a mix of hard rock, some classical elements, metal, blues, jazz, but comparing it to the other bands that released albums this year it just sounds lumped together.

The band does not give anything to its sound and only delivers a pale copied blend of hard rock and prog music from the 70's.

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 The Sane Day by BEARDFISH album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.93 | 276 ratings

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The Sane Day
Beardfish Eclectic Prog

Review by Muskrat

3 stars Although Rikard Sj'blom's compositions exude a certain neo-classical influence ' la Tati and we find big nods to Gentle Giant (Tall Tales, Waiting Room), The Sane Day is a rather pop record, very marked by what Franck Zappa did. (Note, however, that not liking Zappa - which I do - won't stop you from enjoying this record!) Suddenly, the result is both eclectic and homogeneous, with beautiful solo pieces on the piano. The Sane Day is far from my favorite Beardfish album and I think this band would have benefited from reducing this double album to one in one. That said, even if it does not include exceptional moments, there are no truly dispensable pieces either.

Not essential, The Sane Day is nevertheless an excellent appetizer to discover the musical world of this group.

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 Deathspell Omega/S.V.E.S.T. by DEATHSPELL OMEGA album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2008
4.94 | 13 ratings

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Deathspell Omega/S.V.E.S.T.
Deathspell Omega Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars After the groundbreaking milestone of black metal complexities delivered by DEATHSPELL OMEGA with its lauded "Fas ? Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum," the band released two EPs before concluding the trilogy of albums that ended with "Parcletus" with themes that focused on the highly advanced Satanic theology inspired by the philosophies of George Bataille, Michel Leiris and Pierre Klossowski but then again pretty much everything this band unleashes on to the world is about those topics so in reality makes little difference how you approach them from a chronological point of of view.

The EPs "Mass Grave Aesthetics" and VERITAS DIABOLI MANET IN AETEMUM: CHAINING THE KATECHON were both released on 8 December 2008 however VERITAS was released both as an EP and as a split with the other French black metal band S.V.E.S.T. (stands for Satanas Vobiscum et Spiritum Tuo) which i suspect may have been DEATHSPELL OMEGA's side project as a pseudonym because stylistic approaches and especially vocal style are suspiciously similar.

The DEATHSPELL OMEGA EP consists of the sole track "Chaining The Katechon" which refers to a New Testament term used to describe the one who prevents the rise of the Antichristand therefore stopping the second coming of Christ. The track clocks in just over 22 minutes but features the classic jaw dropping characteristics of the band's Satanic trilogy that were instrumental in taking black metal into a much higher level of philosophical and progressive credibility.

Laced with the hallmark dissonant jangle guitar riffs and the transmogrifications from creepy slow tempos to buzzsaw blastbeat fueled black metal fury, CHAINING THE KATECHON essentially served as an intermission between the final two chapters of the Satanic trilogy but was every bit as intricately designed and fueled with some of the scariest combinations of sound that have ever haunted the metal universe. Ranging from Meshuggah-like swells of dissonant metallic passages to moments of Orthodox choir chanting, CHAINING THE KATECHON excels in conjuring up demons and dwells on dreadful sounding progressive black metal with the complexities leagues above the competition.

While DEATHSPELL OMEGA has been far from what one would call a melodic black metal band, the fact that scant melodic passages are inserted into the works ensures that just enough hooks keep the listener intrigued enough to prevent them from losing their minds as the atonal jagged guitar riffs chug along with creepy atmospheres and top notch precision percussive workouts. Mikko Aspa's unmistakable vocal style dominates the chilling soundscapes with raspy declarations of darkened ideologies but finds more moments on VERITAS to offer clean narrative proses that add to the overall diverse rotisserie of progressively infused weavings of stylistic shifts.

While very much in the ghoulish spirit of the Satanic trilogy which bookmarks this EPs place in the overall canon, VERITAS DIABOLI MANET IN AETEMUM: CHAINING THE KATECHON more than stands up on in its own in the near indescribable freakery that DEATHSPELL OMEGA is capable of crafting. The beauty of this one is that it feels more like a condensed version of the longer albums where certain segments are truncated and serves as a sampler for those brave enough to dip into this band's world of terrifying and horrific sonic assaults. This sole track is for sure one of the band's finest moments and a mandatory extension of the brilliant triumvirate that remains the band's finest hours.

(((O)))

The S.V.E.S.T. part of the split was also released separately as an independent EP. Side B of the original 12" vinyl release features three tracks but appears in some databases as the 23 minute track "Le Diable est ma Raison." The slightly weaker of the two sides, S.V.E.S.T. supposedly was formed in Nantes, France around 1997 and tackles the identity subject points that deal with theistic Satanism, devil worship and metaphysics. The similarities both musically and artistically are suspiciously identical to those of DEATHSPELL OMEGA which has always led me to wonder if these are indeed the same artists and since little is known of any of these bands' identities it's very possible that they may be the same band or an overlap of members. S.V.E.S.T. is purportedly the duo of vocalist Spica and multi-instrumentalist Darkkarma.

S.V.E.S.T. delivers a less atonal black metal assault and also one that is more focused on repetitive riffs as opposed to sudden stylistic shifts. The frenetic nature is very much in sync with DSO's most furious moments and Spica's vocals sound exactly like Mikko Aspa's. The music is more hypnotic and less jittery but still features those same progressive bouts of time signature deviations. This split emerged after S.V.E.S.T's sole full-length album "Urfaust" which crafted the same Satanic mysterium only exuding a much more kvlt lo-fi production that was common with the early second wave black metal scene of the 1990s. Whereas DSO's side of the split sounds more like a highbrow theological society with the cash to employ the best technological goodies for optimal production value, S.V.E.S.T. on the other hand sounds as if the thundering ruckus was recorded live in the bowels of hell during some ritualistic demon summoning through music. Yeah, it's just as creepy and manic but more reserved in its delivery but perfectly complements Side A thus making VERITAS DIABOLI MANET IN AETEMUM: CHAINING THE KATECHON one of the most sought after splits in all of black metal.

4.5 rounded up

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 Veritas Diaboli Manet In Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon  by DEATHSPELL OMEGA album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2008
4.80 | 26 ratings

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Veritas Diaboli Manet In Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon
Deathspell Omega Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars After the groundbreaking milestone of black metal complexities delivered by DEATHSPELL OMEGA with its lauded "Fas ? Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum," the band released two EPs before concluding the trilogy of albums that ended with "Parcletus" with themes that focused on the highly advanced Satanic theology inspired by the philosophies of George Bataille, Michel Leiris and Pierre Klossowski but then again pretty much everything this band unleashes on to the world is about those topics so in reality makes little difference how you approach them from a chronological point of of view.

The EPs "Mass Grave Aesthetics" and VERITAS DIABOLI MANET IN AETEMUM: CHAINING THE KATECHON were both released on 8 December 2008 however VERITAS was released both as an EP and as a split with the other French black metal band S.V.E.S.T. (stands for Satanas Vobiscum et Spiritum Tuo) which i suspect may have been DEATHSPELL OMEGA's side project as a pseudonym because stylistic approaches and especially vocal style are suspiciously similar.

The DEATHSPELL OMEGA EP consists of the sole track "Chaining The Katechon" which refers to a New Testament term used to describe the one who prevents the rise of the Antichristand therefore stopping the second coming of Christ. The track clocks in just over 22 minutes but features the classic jaw dropping characteristics of the band's Satanic trilogy that were instrumental in taking black metal into a much higher level of philosophical and progressive credibility.

Laced with the hallmark dissonant jangle guitar riffs and the transmogrifications from creepy slow tempos to buzzsaw blastbeat fueled black metal fury, CHAINING THE KATECHON essentially served as an intermission between the final two chapters of the Satanic trilogy but was every bit as intricately designed and fueled with some of the scariest combinations of sound that have ever haunted the metal universe. Ranging from Meshuggah-like swells of dissonant metallic passages to moments of Orthodox choir chanting, CHAINING THE KATECHON excels in conjuring up demons and dwells on dreadful sounding progressive black metal with the complexities leagues above the competition.

While DEATHSPELL OMEGA has been far from what one would call a melodic black metal band, the fact that scant melodic passages are inserted into the works ensures that just enough hooks keep the listener intrigued enough to prevent them from losing their minds as the atonal jagged guitar riffs chug along with creepy atmospheres and top notch precision percussive workouts. Mikko Aspa's unmistakable vocal style dominates the chilling soundscapes with raspy declarations of darkened ideologies but finds more moments on VERITAS to offer clean narrative proses that add to the overall diverse rotisserie of progressively infused weavings of stylistic shifts.

While very much in the ghoulish spirit of the Satanic trilogy which bookmarks this EPs place in the overall canon, VERITAS DIABOLI MANET IN AETEMUM: CHAINING THE KATECHON more than stands up on in its own in the near indescribable freakery that DEATHSPELL OMEGA is capable of crafting. The beauty of this one is that it feels more like a condensed version of the longer albums where certain segments are truncated and serves as a sampler for those brave enough to dip into this band's world of terrifying and horrific sonic assaults. This sole track is for sure one of the band's finest moments and a mandatory extension of the brilliant triumvirate that remains the band's finest hours.

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 Darwin! by BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.38 | 1195 ratings

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Darwin!
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars If you find a clock in a forest, you understand that there is a designer behind it, you do not think that he formed himself. So said the theologian William Paley to justify the argument that Nature was created by a Creator, according to an Intelligent Design. Banco del Mutuo Soccorso in 1972 dismantled this theory, saying that THE CREATED HAS CREATED ITSELF since the first lines of the album. And they anticipated in this the English Richard Dawkins, one of the most important living evolutionists, who in 1986 published The Blind Watchmaker, overturning the saying of William Paley: natural selection is the Blind Watchmaker

Second album for Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, a concept album based on Darwin's theory.

1. L'Evoluzione (13:59). Beginning that combines epic and melody, immediately reaching a notable pathos. You immediately notice that the arrangements are much more pumped than the debut album, and that the synth is now king. Around 7-8 minutes the music stops and you hear the clarinet, which together with the synth is the trademark of this record, and which will be the protagonist of the second side of the disc. The rock progression restarts, then there is a long instrumental digression and in the finale the initial melody returns but is immediately marred by the virtuosity of Nocenzi, who seems to want to show off his technique. It's a great song, but I have the impression that something of the immediacy of the debut album has been lost: the greater instrumental refinement actually prevents the melody from taking flight. Rating 8,5/9

2. La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta (8:42). The second song seems to be the continuation of the first, with Nocenzi producing virtuosity. It is an almost instrumental song: Di Giacomo's vocals arrive only in the finale, as had already happened in the last song of the first side of the debut album. The musical difference lies in the rhythms, much more sustained, in the arrangements, much more charged, and guided by the synth. In short, music is more complex and layered, and this can be good or bad. Then the music slows down, and finally Di Giacomo's voice arrives, always very beautiful. Final falling with the wind. Rating: 8.

Side B: 3. Danza Dei Grandi Rettili (3:42) is an instrumental piece, pop-jazz music, it's a nice ballad for piano, bass and clarinet, with synths making a progression. Rating 7,5.

4. Cento Mani E Cento Occhi (5:22). It is the weakest song of the album. too forced, too based on rhythm, without melody, without the possibility of Di Giacomo's voice emerging, here the negative influence of Gentle Giant seems evident. The Banco in my opinion is wasted for a rock song of this type. In fact, the best part is the slow one. Here perhaps the defect is due to the will to narrate. The fact is that Banco continues to show a very high potential, and wanting to put too much meat on the fire with its sumptuous arrangements: when you have such excellent compositional skills, virtuosos like Nocenzi and Di Giacomo, a beautiful melody, piano and voice is enough to being at the top of music, you don't need to waste energy on a thousand sounds. Rating 7.

5. 750,000 Anni Fa ... L'Amore? (5:38) is a masterpiece. And it is no coincidence that Banco give its best with a piano and voice ballad, these two elements are enough for the Banco to record a masterpiece, thanks to Di Giacomo's vocals, what is needed is just a beautiful melody, and here is the case . Masterpiece. And it is surprising that the instrumental interlude is so little melodic, and lowers the tension of the song, and is similar to certain pieces of Gentle Giant (Acquiring the Taste) and also the ending in crescendo, immediately truncated. This song is definitely a masterpiece but at the same time it is definitely imperfect: the instrumental interlude is of low quality and the ending could have been longer and more powerful. Banco makes the same mistakes as Pfm by chasing English music in its formalities instead of focusing on the melody. And despite these imperfections, the rating of the song is 9, if it had been arranged at best it would have been one of the absolute masterpieces of the whole melodic prog. Rating 9.

6. Miserere Alla Storia (5:58) .It is a song that at first seems instrumental, the clarinet recalls Stravinsky's Spring Festival, but with sounds almost like Kletzmer music, then the theatrical vocals arrive, which make the piece grotesque, and finally an alienating music starts, very ad effect, the Banco now pursues new sensations and the music is more and more colorful and baroque, they have definitely created a particular, sumptuous sound, which starts from the melody and reaches the sumptuous and sometimes mad rock. Vote 8

7. Ed Ora Io Domando Tempo Al Tempo Ed Egli Mi Risponde ... Non Ne Ho! (3:29) Final with a melodic song but with a circus flavor, which tries to close the circle with the wheel of time that comes and goes. Very well done, but in the second side the Banco has given himself above all to ironic, mellifluous, grotesque, aggressive, and finally circus melodies: great performance but where it gave its best: in the piano and voice piece, where the melody was epic and dramatic. Anyway, rating 7,5/8.

Ultimately, with the second album in the same year, 1972, Banco turns towards more English sounds and proves to conform to a much more refined and pyrotechnic prog rock, as Pfm did with Per un amico (which actually had a sound more American than English). But what happens when these two groups want to imitate the British or the Americans? Pfm with Per un amico, in my opinion, produces a very good record, for heaven's sake, but clearly inferior to Storia di un minuto, because it loses immediacy, melody, pure emotion, and doesn't gain enough virtuosity to make the music enjoyable as much as the debut.

Does the Banco end up the same? In my opinion, the Banco produces a second masterpiece, which is a masterpiece for reasons other than the debut album of the same name: Darwin loses in melody, simplicity of arrangement, immediacy but gains in arrangement, virtuosity, extension of the musical contents, and sound: here the Banco creates its own characteristic sound, with rhythmic progressions, synths superimposed on the piano, clarinet, and an alienating and grotesque mood. On the first album the sound is very heterogeneous.

Darwin is better or worse than the debut? I do not know, we are more or less on the same level, it is certain that Banco in my opinion demonstrates with Darwin that it has taken a step forward in outlining a new music that Pfm cannot claim to have done with Per un Amico because despite being a very refined disc, compositionally is less inspired than Darwin.

Banco demonstrates with this album that it has enormous potential, and if only Nocenzi had been more inspired in composing memorable melodies here he would have obtained one of the greatest masterpieces of the whole prog.

Masterpiece. Rating 9+. Five stars.

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 Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis by KENSO album cover Studio Album, 2002
4.19 | 66 ratings

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Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis
Kenso Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progpositivity
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Sometimes genius simply cannot sit still long enough to endure the inconveniences of trivial matters like song style categorizations and constructing a well thought out running order for a CD. Fortunately for us, Kenso's leader Yoshihisa Shimizu did not allow his musical genius to distract him from such pragmatic matters of attention to detail. This is a fabulous collection of well constructed and skillfully performed hard rock jazz fusion tunes.

My only complaint is that many of the shorter sound experiments/pastiches which are sprinkled throughout the second half of the album are not given an opportunity to develop into anything substantive. Perhaps Yoshihisa was concerned about them overstaying their welcome. Well, they don't do that, but in most cases, neither do they establish a satisfying and/or memorable musical statement.

Don't allow that to deter you though. If you are a fan of jazz-rock fusion, this is a "must listen" album IMO!!

Track by track:

The first track (Fist of Fury) clearly establishes that this will essentially be a guitar led hard rock jazz fusion album (with soaring synth solos and a strong rhythm section).

The second track (The Cunning Madrigal) is a beautifully interwoven composition of various lines and instrumental voices. Keys, guitar, bass and drums all shine (often simultaneously as a synergistic whole). Highly recommended.

Track #3 is a similar hard rock jazz fusion tune which curiously introduces a palpable ethnic twist toward the end. This ethnic element will come and go, ebb and flow throughout the rest of the album. I like the way this track introduces it so very prominently. I think this helps make the many re-introductions of ethnic intricacies seem much more subtle and less surprising than they might have been otherwise.

Track 4 (Wooden Horse Pathos) is a more straight-forward jamming slice of fusion with some humorous outbursts which remind me of classic RIO a bit. There is a rather short but very melodic and elegant piano interlude toward the end which cannot restrain the song for long. In the end, it wraps up with a familiar outburst of energy.

Track 5 - The Split Gate The first minute or so features ethnic instruments in what sounds like a street performance. A unique instrument reminds me of tuned drums. Whatever that instrument (or patch) is, it will reappear to play prominent role again before this album's running time is complete.

There is much more 'back and forth' sharing of leads between guitar and "tuned drum" as well as keyboards and "tuned drum". And this should go without saying... the drums and bass are powerful and tight throughout the entire album.

Track 6 - Rebellion This jazz rock fusion tune is a bit more straight-forward on the rock side. We catch our breath a bit at about the 2 minute mark with a passage of slower more melodic interplay between keys and guitar. But worry not! The intensity starts to pick back up a little before the 3 minute mark. Nice syncopation adds energy and spice at around 3:14. The song wraps up festivities by letting us down quickly yet gently which sets the stage for the lighter mood of the next piece.

7 - The stairs for dreaming This song features relaxing acoustic guitar which soon encounters a subtly experimental collage of sounds including a loop of a semi-intensely spoken word.

I'm not typically a huge fan such noise patchworks experiments, but for some reason the various noise elements are treated so musically that I does seem to actually "work" for me.

This song foreshadows that additional shorter experimental collage pieces will be coming our way later on in the album.

8 - Echoes From Romano is a beautiful symphonic piece. There is a Renaissance feel to this tune that is not entirely unlike the general "feel" of track #2 (A Stunning Madrigal). But it is less bouncy, more smooth and serene. It is reminiscent of some of Gentle Giant's more melodic pieces.

Somewhere around 1:40, a rock beat kicks which Kenso would typically be expected to followed with blistering electric guitar or synth leads. But instead of rock guitar - SURPRISE - accordion takes the center stage! But the intensity doesn't totally drop. The juxtaposition of rock drums and bass with accordion is quite interesting. It is a bit hard for me to tell when the accordion ends and organ begins in this song. It has its frenetically energetic passages. But it is also very memorable for shimmering with utter beauty.

NOTE: Five of the next seven songs will be shorter pieces many of which in some way or another will be either "experimental" or at least venture a bit "outside" the normal musical range of the rest of the album.

9 - The Daughter of a Recluse The Renaissance feel continues on this short and tightly composed piece. This is wonderful music. If someone had told me this was a restore, remastered and newly published demo from Gentle Giant's hey day I just might have believed them!

10 - A way of living as Taro recalls shades of track 5 (The Split Gate) but in a shorter less satisfying manner IMO.

11 - Doppelganger in the night begins with a quasi-Hendrix styled guitar lead. This piece feels too much like an INTRO to something that unfortunately never happens for my taste. Right when I got the feeling that the prelude had been established and we were about to TAKE IT somewhere, the piece suddenly ended, leaving me cold. I feel like there is a more full SONG to flesh out from these melodic phrases when suddenly our progress is stilted and the entire proceeding is suddenly truncated. Game over.

12 - Isolated Jiro could be considered a bit related to the previous track. It explores some similar ideas where the previous track left off - but not convincingly. Fortunately, it is a much more satisfying piece in its own right. This is remarkable music. It jumps effortlessly from idea to idea

13 - The Understanding is exquisitely beautiful pastoral piece featuring whistle-like synth, piano, organ and clean melodic electric guitar. Alas, it is too short IMO. This is another piece that DESERVES a FULL SONG IMO. When you have as many great IDEAS as Yoshihisa Shimizu, I suppose you can afford to leave many of them unexplored. But it is a bit disappointing to me as a listener. To speak in terms of food, it is like being given a SAMPLE TASTE of a wonderfully appetizing new dish which I will NEVER get to eat. Am I happy for the sample? Or am I frustrated by it never turning into something I can sink my teeth into? It is a bit of both - but I'm afraid it is a touch more the LATTER. I would gladly trade in 3 of these shorter tastes for 1 more fully developed main course.

14 - A grim diary - This is an experimental jam piece which manages to interlock contrasting rhythms into genuinely interesting poly-rhythms. Well done.

15 - Amalgamation of Self and Others. This is the one short piece which does not leave me wanting more. The idea may have potential but the competing sound sources of music and noise just don't do much for me. Your milage may vary though so be sure to check it out!

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 Animal by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2018
2.02 | 8 ratings

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Animal
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

1 stars After "Blackjazz," SHINING got increasingly more commercial by jettisoning its prog and jazz complexities after adopting a heavier extreme metal style with vocals but after that high note that caught the world's avant-garde metal and prog communities by storm, this Norwegian band led by J鴕gen Munkeby seemed to be going for a crossover appeal that would hopefully thrill alternative metalheads and hard rockers worldwide. By the time we get to the band's eighth studio album ANIMAL everything progressive and jazz had been totally abandoned and even the metal was tamped down in order to make a watered down form of alternative heavy rock that sounded more like heavier versions of the Stone Temple Pilots or Foo Fighters than anything that came before.

ANIMAL was recorded by the same lineup as "International Blackjazz Society" except that it added bassist Ole Vistnes who replaced Tor Egil Kreken. Most surprisingly of all is that the famous saxophone squawking that had been one of the few common denominators starting with the early post-bop albums and through the experimental King Crimson inspired prog era had been completely dropped for the first time leaving a completely jazz-free album that was focused on the more commercial side of alternative and industrial rock. Gone too are Munkeby's frenetic Marilyn Manson vocals (for the most part) and replaced by cleaner bad boy band style parts. It goes without saying that SHINING was not interested in pleasing prog and avant-garde crowds any longer and wanted to make some ca$H.

Some tracks like "Fight Song" sound a bit like if Soundgarden hooked up with Muse but ultimately comes off as a cheap imitation rather than something either original or interesting even as pop rock. The album features nine tracks and plays for 38 minutes while featuring one of the least diverse albums of the band's career although there are a few slow numbers amongst the rather by the numbers hard-hitting alternative rock guitar riff fueled tunes. For anyone who thought that SHINING's inspiration was limitless, ANIMAL will prove that even a once highly creative and fertile wellspring of ideas can suddenly dry up when hair brained ideas of commercial crossover potential creeps into the picture.

Who's to say why Munkeby steered the band in this direction. There are many reasons artists go for a more commercial direction and some of them may be quite legit but when it comes to actual execution on ANIMAL, all i can is that this is a very hard one to sit through as it's completely devoid of inspiration and about as canned as it gets. It reminds me of some of the prog bands of the late 70s that grasped for straws to see if they could fit in with the pop hits of the day but even Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Love Beach" sounds like a classic masterpiece in comparison to this limp biscuit. This is one to be avoided at all costs even if you happen to love commercial leaning alternative rock. This is just shamefully bad in about every possible way. Will Munkeby pull off another inventive move to revive SHINING's sagging career? It's anyone's guess but if ANIMAL is any indication, SHINING's moment has long expired.

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 Not All Those Who Wander are Lost by BRONS, DAVE album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.62 | 9 ratings

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Not All Those Who Wander are Lost
Dave Brons Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Every year, there are a few surprising, out of the blue and frankly world-class prog releases from lesser-known artists or bands that really keeps the flame of discovery alight. The wretch of 2020 is no exception, as I had heard of guitarist Dave Brons on the "Celestial Fire Live in the UK" 2017 release from Dave Bainbridge, a thoroughly exceptional masterpiece in an audience setting. My expectations were not very focused but I caught myself looking up regularly with a huge grin of surprise and contentment, the very first listen, a rather rare event. "Not All those who Wander Are Lost" is a colossal monument to inspired Celtic-tinged prog-rock in the fine tradition of bands such as Iona, Colin Masson, The Morrigan, Dave Bainbridge solo etc..., a style I particularly love, as Irish/Scot and otherwise Celtic traditional music has an aura of melancholia that just cannot be denied, especially when blended with rock and prog tendencies. Most of the usual suspects are present to lend a hand or a lung, starting with Bainbridge who delights in mixing and playing keys and guitar. Sally Minnear of Celestial Fire sings brilliantly throughout, and Iona's Frank van Essen adds violin to a few tracks. Newcomers Catherine Ashcroft on Uillean pipes and various whistles, John Biglands on drums, bassist Daniel Day and pianist Mark Swift are all major contributors, as well as a large selection of woodwinds, brass, and flutes.

The theme is Middle Earth and Tolkien, probably the most overt prog influence of all, but fear not, this is not laden with endless narration (there are some wee bits here though) and maudlin orchestrations, as the tracks and arrangements pack quite a punch, verging at times on metallic riffs propelled by huge choir work, delicate piano motifs and lots of variety in the voice department (from spoken word, to whispers, to tranquil singing and finally out right belting). Dave Brons plays guitar with indisputable passion and elegance, putting his considerable talents on display, but the remainder of the band are no slouches, as the bass carves impressively, in sync with superb drumming and that ornate piano hitting all the emotive buttons. The biggest thrill on this recording and its number one asset is the unrelenting contrast between the gently reflective moments and the buildups to immeasurable symphonics that verge on bombast. Case in point: the achingly beautiful "Under the Same Sun" that starts out misty and serene, eventually evolving into sheer sonic magnificence, with a sizzling, over the top, guitar solo, a wild violin rant from Van Essen, dabs of pipes and whistles. All 14 pieces contribute to the whole much like a well-chaptered book, each one a mini jewel, tumbling forward at a prefect pace, keeping the listener transfixed and with bated breath. Yes, it can get "whole lot of Irish" with traditional swerves such as on pieces such as "Ea", "Into the Perilous Realm", "Awakened by Starlight" or "The Shire" but when Brons kicks in with a blistering lead, you know that your ears are quite satisfied! The thunderous choir work throughout, courtesy of Maria Mullen and the Yorkshire Chorus, adds considerably to the organic spirit of the music.

The soft moments are simply breathtaking as Mark Swift's majestic piano weaves a sorrowful path, such as on the mournful "A Prayer for the Fallen ", or the deft Brons acoustic guitar intro to "The Ring Bearers "before the piano and voice enter the fray, and the subsequent build up into an explosive expanse. The stunningly haunting piano reappears on "The House of Healing" before that morphs also into utter bravado. The feverish pieces are sensationally blitzed and desperate, such as on "Ea" with rapid-fire cannonades from all the soloists, mainly Brons who can rip with the best of them but kudos the Irish pipes as well, especially when the two get to duel as on the "The Riders of Rohan". On "Minas Morgul", the symphonics are cleverly crafty, solidly buoyed by enormous bass and drum support, almost a "Kashmir meets Carmina Burana" feel giving Brons the platform to blaze on guitar with Satriani-Vai-Holdsworth influenced licks.

The final two tracks really aim for a crescendo of emotions in consecrating the merits of this incredible recording, that covers the entire spectrum of sound and fury, the deliberately clever weaving of contrasts and styles. In perhaps typical fashion, the end comes with an anthemic, choir-infested farewell, as the glorious "White Shores and A Swift Sunrise" put this one ever so gently to bed. This album is absurdly entertaining, with an infinite sense of fairy tale magic, propelled by commitment, power and passion. No mush, no filler, no weak patching the blanks with needless notes. As such, this masterpiece is in my top 10 of 2020 releases, without the slightest hesitation.

5 Unearthed travellers

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 Distant Memories - Live in London by DREAM THEATER album cover Live, 2020
3.41 | 9 ratings

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Distant Memories - Live in London
Dream Theater Progressive Metal

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

3 stars 'Distant Memories - Live in London' is Dream Theater's ninth live album, following up 'Breaking the Fourth Wall' from 2014. Recorded at Hammersmith Apollo, the album was released on November 27, 2020. The legendary progressive metal band has a double celebration going on - the release of their fourteenth studio record 'Distance Over Time' and the 20th anniversary of their beloved and absolutely iconic album 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory'.

This is another very solid addition to their broad and stellar catalogue, as the album portrays the band at a point in time where we could say that there is nothing left for them to prove. A regular studio output and a mind-blowing live act, Dream Theater rarely disappoint when it comes to live albums, and 'Distant Memories' is no exception.

This is the second time when 'Metropolis Pt. 2' appears played in its entirety on a Dream Theater live album, the other occasion being on their 2001 concert album. As one would expect, it is graceful, emotional, and masterful after all these years. The only difference, some would say, is in James' voice that has obviously changed throughout the years, yet he still sounds glorious and unpredictably passionate about his singing.

Apart from that, the band play half of the 'Distance Over Time' album, alongside 'A Nightmare to Remember', a true DT classic, and 'In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1', another fairly recognizable metal track. Overall, this is a really good live album, enjoyable and excellently mixed, heavy and proggy - everything that one would expect from a legendary band.

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 International Blackjazz Society by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.19 | 13 ratings

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International Blackjazz Society
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Having scored with the their international breakthrough "Blackjazz" in 2010, SHINING had hit upon an ever evolving formula that focuses on caustic extreme metal as the main driving force of their once jazz and prog fueled escapes that dominated the first four albums but despite this cementing of sounds into a more cohesive whole still wriggled around a bit from album to album as "One One One" tried to tighten things up even further in order to create a more accessibly although equal brutal listening experience.

It seems that after "Blackjazz" bandleader and main creative force J鴕gen Munkeby tasted a bit of success and pondered the possibilities of the much desired crossover success that many less complex bands consistently enjoy. The result was in yet another simplification in the industrial metal approach that "One One One" refined yet still had elements of extremity beyond the comfort zone of all but the most hardcore extremophiles. Having adopted the "Blackjazz" album title as sort of a musical ethos of sort, SHINING attempted to capitalize on its notoriety and titled its seventh studio INTERNATIONAL BLACKJAZZ SOCIETY.

As was a given at this point, this album features another lineup change only this time with the departure of longtime original drummer Torstein Lofthus whose technical drumming prowess was becoming less relevant as Munkeby strived for a greater crossover appeal. Taking his place was Tobias 豶nes Andersen whose simpler approach took SHINING's industrial metal sound out the more frenetic world and more in the direction of mainstream artists like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. Despite the simplification the band once again became a quintet with the addition of keyboardist Eirik Tovsrud Knutsen.

Despite the "Blackjazz" title appearing in INTERNATIONAL BLACKJAZZ SOCIETY, there is not much on this one to bring back all those extreme adventures into prog complexity laced with jazz and avant-garde Western classical compositional fortitude. Instead this one is more of a simplified form of alternative metal with easy to follow song structures that adds a bit of industrial heft as well as the occasional saxophone squawks that have become less and less significant after "Blackjazz" to the point where Munkeby dropped the sax altogether on the following album "Animal."
 While the guitars have that ballsy bluesy alternative metal sound that was common in the 90s, the drumming styles often mimic industrial metal bands like Ministry, Marilyn Manson and other late 90s / early 2000s similarly minded artists. Once again Munkeby's vocal style mimics Marilyn Manson with those scream as loud as you can from beneath the swells of distorted din affect and still maintains an eccentric edge despite the music being tamped down for broader acceptance to the point where tracks like "House Of Warship" are more hard rock than metal however these less frenetic tracks also feature more saxophone squawks. On slower parts his screams are replaced by a more generic alternative rock style of vocals.

Overall this one is a major step down in SHINING's quality control and clearly geared towards crossover appeal but unfortunately the result is a rather boring album for those on the prog side of the fence and not melodic or interesting enough for a straight on industrial metal type of albums. The melodic hooks aren't memorable, the tracks while somewhat diverse aren't as interesting and the overall effect is fairly weak not only compared to SHINING's previous canon but in the context of both alternative metal and industrial rock. It's not a bad album by any means and decent enough but unlike everything that came before comes off as a bit hollow.

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 One One One by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.51 | 24 ratings

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One One One
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Anyone who has kept up with the Norwegian band SHINING can only come to the inevitable conclusion that the mastermind and band leader J鴕gen Munkeby is one of those restless creative types who can't sit still for too long and with the exception of the band's two debut albums which focused on a retro style of avant-garde post-bop jazz in the spirit of 60s John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, SHINING has practically reinvented itself every step of the way but somehow retained a bit of what came before only teased things out in unexpected directions that the fans could hardly see coming.

After 2010's breakthrough album "Blackjazz," SHINING latched onto a heavier extreme metal sound that caught on with a fanbase no doubt inspired by a lengthy tour with fellow Norwegiains Enslaved but that album still retained those extreme journeys through myriad musical genera that not only adopted the more extreme sounds of black industrial metal but retained the reverie of a classic King Crimson album as it equally reveled in dark psychedelic atmospheres laced with psycho-jazz interludes and over the top progressive rock workouts with the compositional fortitude of 20th century classical avant-gardists.

Never content to simply repeat a formula, for their next act SHINING reinvented its sound once again with that same tightrope act of keeping just enough of what came before to make it obvious it's the same band (first two albums excepted) and thrown onto the work table to craft an entirely new Frankenstein. As evidenced by the stark contrast of the album cover art of "Blackjazz," with the band's following sixth studio album ONE ONE ONE sported a glowing neon orange packaging and so too did the musical style shift gears and take a complete 180 into a more direct extreme metal experience that focuses on quick streamlined molten attacks rather than sprawling prog fueled eccentricities.

Another album, another lineup change with the two members Even Helte Hermansen (guitar) and Bernt Moen (keyboards) leaving the band and the addition of newbie guitarist H錵on Sagen thus making the band a quartet once again with absolutely no guest musicians to be found. This new streamlined attack of jazzified industrial metal featured an incessant barrage of guitar and bass riffs and hefty percussive workouts in conjunct with Munkeby's eccentric vocal screams that in this case sound a bit like Marilyn Manson in his 90s heyday although the keyboards still exist as supplemental atmospheric generators despite not appearing in the credits. Another unique feature about ONE ONE ONE is the tamping down of the jazz elements with Munkeby's sizzling sax squawks only making a rare appearance now and again.

ONE ONE ONE for all its wild and rambunctious metal mania sounds more based compositionally speaking in good old-fashioned rock and roll with a boogie-woogie swagger but dressed up in extreme metal regalia with extremely fast tempos and dissonant guitar distortion. This is one incessant noisefest from beginning to end with only brief moments of contrast such as the solo saxophone intro of "How Your Story Ends." Other than that it's high octane guitar, bass and drum rampage for the album's run which at 36 minutes of playing time is significantly shorter than the band's sprawling escapades into the avant-garde universe and beyond of its previous three albums.

As with all SHINING albums, this one is certainly an acquired taste but compared to everything that came before also the most accessible with instant gratification as far as melodic hooks getting under your skin however it wouldn't be SHINING if there wasn't some sort of barrage of elements that make its products difficult listening music. As far as the prog goes, ONE ONE ONE seems more early Yes than King Crimson with riffs that resemble that intro part of "Heart Of The Sunrise" ramped up in both speed and volume but ultimately ONE ONE ONE is much more interested in fleshing out pop hooks nurtured in the context of caustic industrial metal bombast. It's true that SHINING will find few who stick around for long but for hardcore extremophiles, ONE ONE ONE is another interesting twist in this unique band's alternate reality.

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 Guitar by ZAPPA, FRANK album cover Live, 1988
3.38 | 126 ratings

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Guitar
Frank Zappa RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Uruk_hai

2 stars ZAPPA in the eighties was not good. I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't be that direct and make such a daring statement but with the exception of "Ship arriving too late", all the ZAPPA albums in the eighties are extremely hard to swallow for me because most of them sound as they have a lot of instruments playing all kinds of stuff at the same time and making the music incomprehensible or, like in this case, there is only one instrument taking all the space of the album.

"Guitar" is a double live album released in 1988 and, as its name implies, it is only a guitar and guitar and guitar. Yes, Frank ZAPPA was a very good guitar player, there's no doubt about that, but we can appreciate that in several brilliant guitar solos he played in some of his 70's songs such as "Black napkins", "Muffin man", "Zoot allures" and the immortal "Watermelon in Easter hay", but all of those songs were in albums with other songs that showed the brilliance and creativity of the other musicians who played with Frank: the drums by Terry BOZZIO, the keyboards by George DUKE, the saxophones of Napoleon MURPHY BROCK or the xylophones of Ruth UNDERWOOD (just to name a few and those names depend on the album we're talking about), in "Guitar" it's just that: guitar.

The album starts with "Sexual harassment in the workplace" which is a really good song when you hear it isolated from the album; my first encounter with this song was in the compilation "Strictly commercial" and I thought (and I still think) it is a great song with a powerful guitar line filling it almost entirely. Further than that, the album falls in the "everything sounds exactly the same" kind of record and it is very hard to tolerate it because it lasts a whole hour and just when you thought it is over you realize there is one more CD with another hour of the SAAAAAAAAAAAAAME stuff.

Maybe "In a gadda Stravinsky" would be the second song that I'd save from this album: you don't have to be extremely smart to understand that it is a weird (ZAPPA-like) cover of IRON BUTTERFLY's "In-a-gadda-da-vida" with a touch of Igor STRAVINSKY's influence; this song reminds me a lot to the early albums of ZAPPA & THE MOTHERS (especially "Burnt weeny sandwich" and "Uncle Meat"). It is a good (but not that much) song.

If we talk about an artist who has sooooooo many records as Frank ZAPPA it is easy to find some albums that are not that amazing. Even when I adore Frank ZAPPA and almost everything that he recorded from 1966 to 1982 I sincerely wouldn't recommend to listen to this or any other ZAPPA album recorded after 1982 (it is important to mark a difference between recorded and published and in this case I think it is especially important) in it's entirely; however, I would recommend to listen maybe one song of this album today, another one in two or three days, then another one after a week and maybe listening to it song by song with a lot of huge intervals and maybe then it would be a nice (not great) record.

DO NOT LISTEN TO IT AT ONCE!!

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 Cortex by MINDWORK album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2021
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Cortex
Mindwork Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams

— First review of this album —
3 stars Oh a fantastic moment has passed without any breath. Obviously with getting inspired by Opeth, Death or Tech / Extreme pioneers, a Czech unit MINDWORK have launched their metallic appearance in a deep, heavy manner. They've announced their latest ep "Cortex" would be released in January 2021. We have got their pre-release kit provided by Martin (thanks Martin!) and I wish this ep would be another sunrise in the next brilliant year. Guess every single artist suffer from coronavirus pandemic and cannot work enough for gigging nor recording, but MINDWORK should try to blow such a depressive atmosphere away in this stuff. They would squeeze all of their energetic, magnificent music power into this 17 minute long album, a bit short though.

There is complicated essence blended with darkness and delight. The first short opening "Beyond The Cortex" shows the surface of their inner mind. Quiet but anxious texture hits our heart. "Depersonalized" would be one of their sincere opinions for the current problematic situation all over the world. This is my favourite one, filled with gloomy but sincerely beautiful sound texture like one of authentic grunge combos Alice In Chains. "Last Lie Told" shoots harder, tougher attacks to the audience. The last distorted repetitive movements to encourage everyone are quite impressive. On the other hand, the last "Grinding The Edges" is pretty straightforward, maybe featuring expectation of upcoming bright, fantastic seasons. Yes for wonderful scenery, we must hold 'our cortex' out against such a terrible enemy ... they might say.

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 Pusi (Hichhanigua Hikjatata) by WARA album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Pusi (Hichhanigua Hikjatata)
Wara Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars It might not be unfair to state that WARA was the Bolivian LOS JAIVAS, though their atypical debut is much heavier and less folk oriented than anything by those Chilean pioneers, and it doesn't appear they ever dared be as adventurous as the iconic "Alturas de Macchu Picchu". Their use of traditional Andean instruments does seem to eclipse that of their proposed role models, and, not surprisingly, their mid 1970s albums are probably the ones that lean in closest for a prog folk kiss, albeit a chaste one. This is not to imply that they went new wave in the 1980s, and, from a sampling of all that is readily streamable, I think I might enjoy "Pusi" the most.

At times the elasticity of the lengthier and more ambitious pieces of the earlier albums was tested and found a bit lacking, as enjoyable as they were, but here the shorter track lengths retain an appealing blend of intricacy and accessibility. I admit that the vocal styles, rhythms and song structures seem more mollified for these Anglo/North American raised ears, and that might be seen as a flaw. But honestly, it would be hard to find fault with the lovely and uplifting instrumental "Encuentros", the charango propelled "Indio Joven", and the electro acoustic "Siento" with its subtle sparkly keyboards. And if you really crave the earlier days, you always have the live version of "Fiesta Aymara" to tie an 11 minute ribbon around this gift.

It's fascinating to consider that "Alturas" was a contemporary of this release, LOS JAIVAS propelling themselves above and beyond the converging walls of drum machines and synthetic keyboards at such a late date and WARA buying themselves more time by simply pushing back ever so gently. A different path yes, but, based on their longevity, equally successful.

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 Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.69 | 177 ratings

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Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This was pretty much the first time a Traffic album had sounded much like the previous Traffic album - it's even got a very similar cover conceit - but alas, this second incarnation of the band was already losing steam. The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys had a similar style of jazz-tinged, smoothly delivered light prog, but that had hooks in it which remain fresh in the memory long after the album's done; Shoot Out is pleasant to listen to at the time, but lacks the same staying power.

Roll Right Stones is a similar attempt at a long song with regular repeated refrains as the title song from Low Spark, but there's diminishing returns at play here; the instrumental Tragic Magic has some fun contributions from Chris Wood which help things a little, but the obvious joke about the title of closing number Sometimes I Feel So Uninspired really rings true: even Steve's singing feels unenthusiastic about proceedings. It's not a terrible album - I won't skip any of the songs if they come up on shuffle - but it's not a memorable album.

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 Blackjazz by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.83 | 102 ratings

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Blackjazz
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars After two albums of classic 60s avant-garde tinged post-bop jazz and two more of dark experimental progressive rock laced with auxiliary reserves of tripped out electronica and partitioned metal music bombast, SHINING led by the eccentric composer and band leader J鴕gen Munkeby decided to delve into the heavier world of extreme metal that trimmed down the musical instruments even more and focused on a caustic rambunctious style of guitar driven metal with crazy jazz flair ups courtesy of Munkeby's frenetic saxophone squawking.

Another sound shift also signified yet another change in the lineup. Out was keyboardist Andreas Hessen Schei replaced by synthesizer wizard Bernt Moen and gone was basset Morten Str鴐 who found a replacement in Tor Egil Kreken. Torstein Lofthus stuck around for this third wave of stylistic shifts as drumming powerhouse extraordinary and the band added one extra member in the form of Even Helte Hermansesn as a second guitarist thus making the new version of SHINING a provocative and quixotic quartet. While the previous albums were primarily instrumental, SHINING's fourth album BLACKJAZZ was their breakthrough and featured a frenetic fast-tempo paced style of industrialized metal with Munkeby taking on the newfound duties as lead vocalist.

One of the major inspirations behind this sudden shift into extreme metal was the band's 2007 tour with Enslaved and also due to the fact that the previous two ridiculously complex albums didn't translate so well live therefore BLACKJAZZ was designed to represent how the band performed in a live setting with the album title referring to this new bizarre amalgamation of black metal, industrial rock and of course jazz! The album exists in the same league as fellow Norwegian band D鴇heimsgard and in many ways Munkeby's frantic vocal style reminds me of Devin Townsend especially from his earlier years on Steve Vai's "Sex & Religion" album as well as with Strapping Young Lad.

BLACKJAZZ doesn't waste any time slapping you in the face with caustic swells of guitar riffs, bantering bass lines and spastic drum rolls but for all its direct assault on the senses, the musical flow is much simpler with less detours into psychedelic atmospheric journeys into another universe. The second track "Fisheye" dates back to the 2008 when SHINING performed with Enslaved at the 90-minute "Armageddon Concerto" and was mined to create the studio version of the first movement. It seems that this decision was the impetus to switching to the avant-garde industrial metal style on BLACKJAZZ and for those hoping for another dark prog journey in the vein of King Crimson's debut, they must have been as disappointed as the jazz purists who first heard SHINING's third album "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster."

Ubiquitous caustic bombast aside, BLACKJAZZ is filled with creepy and oft eerie atmospheric backdrops that keep the incessant high octane metal rampages into the world of darkened progressive rock with highbrow time signature workouts, intricately designed atmospheric generators and brilliant execution through highly energetic but adventurous virtuosity. While saxophone jazz mixed with metal has become a bit cliche some ten years after this release, nobody has pulled it off quite as well as SHINING did when such a concept was still a novelty. All those King Crimson attacks are still quite present to the trained ear with the most striking example coming on "Exit Sun" which mimics parts of "21st Century Schizoid Man" which also happens to appear as a more metal cover version as the album's closer.

As the album entered mid-point with the crazed "Healter Skelter," the jazz and metal parts become ever more entwined with the saxophone parts dueling in a death match with the rampaging guitar and bass lines. This particular score is daunting in its virtuosic delivery. For those who appreciated the less bombastic approach of the previous two albums, BLACKJAZZ does deliver some darkened prog goods in the form of Anekdoten or Morte Macabre on tracks like "The Madness and the Damage Done" and most importantly "Omen" although do be warned that the quickened pace fo the drums, vocals and guitar parts which contrast quite starkly with the chilled out atmospheric backdrop offers a stunning contrast of stylistic approaches somehow woven together seamlessly as only true seasoned composers can master but it's probably the excesses of "Blackjazz Deathtrance" that i find most memorable here.

After a more extreme version of "21st Century Schizoid Man," the classic King Crimson song from 1969 that pretty much was the firing canon of the entire prog explosion that followed, the album ends and leaves you with the initial perception that you're not entirely sure what you just experienced. BLACKJAZZ performed an incredible mastery of fusing completely disparate musical styles into a seamless whole. The caustic metal mixes with jazz and what sounds like symphonic classical music is uncanny in how well it all gels together. Sure this isn't black metal and it isn't jazz but elements of both are here hanging out on the same playground along with their buddies prog rock, electronica, industrial rock, 20th century Western classical and moments of psychedelia.

This is not an easy listen for sure and will take some time for it to unleash its magic but once those sonic spores have hatched in your head, you cannot unhear it! In my world this is the second masterpiece in a row from the Norwegian band SHINING and although they wouldn't keep the world's attention very long after this lauded breakthrough, for a brief moment in time they were actually one of Norway's most promising bands. Warning: not to be listened to if you have severe reactions to extreme stimuli! Symptoms may include sanity loss, ringing ears, excessive desires to bang head against wall and possible sudden outbursts that could leave hotel rooms in shambles. However if you have all those uncontrollable impulses firmly under lock and key, this album may provide that exhilarating excitement that extremophiles crave but rarely find in such abundance.

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 Grindstone by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.18 | 69 ratings

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Grindstone
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars Traversing the soundscapes like a majestic bird soaring over ever changing terrains of the land, the Norwegian band SHINING started off as a pure acoustic jazz tribute to the 1960s biggest post-bop avant-gardists including the legendary John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman but after two albums of excellent altar worshipping decided to add a bit more of experimental conviction to the mix as bandleader J鴕gen Munkeby bravely plunged into a strange new world of sonic possibilities which equally dazzled critics and fans of unhinged experimental music. With the eccentrically designed "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster," Munkeby deftly crafted the intricacies of classical composer Olivier Messiaen and freeform jazz with the sonic textures of electronica and progressive rock and caught the world's attention with this bizarre new agglutination of disparate musical genera.

The transition may have been necessary but came at a cost. Two of the original members jumped ship and wanted no part of this pioneering pilgrimage to the altar of some bizarre musical chimera as Munkeby cast his intent on following in the more esoteric sounds of early King Crimson. Out was pianist Morten Qvenild who was replaced with Andreas Hessen Schei and quickly following his exit strategy, bassist Aslak Hartberg was replaced by Morten Str鴐. Having updated the band into a modern 21st century powerhouse of musical mojo, SHINING now gleamed like a shiny diamond and released its lauded followup GRINDSTONE which found a much more focused and oft direct stylistic approach after the airy abstract improvisational sounds of its predecessor. Instrumentation was tamped down from the excesses of "In The Kingdom" and found the simpler rock setup of keyboards, bass guitar and drums accompanied by Munkeby's usual jazz standard of saxophone, flute and clarinet with his extra guitar contributions finding greater roles. Likewise the guest musicians were limited to a gong, extra organ touches and backing vocals.

Ironically GRINDSTONE opens with a track that bears the title of the previous album. "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster" actually refers to a reference in the novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" but puts an extra emphasis on the "monster" part as the title which signifies a newfound love for the bombast of metal music with crunchy distorted guitar riffs chugging away in a caustic bravado worthy of scoring that role as opening act with extreme metal stalwarts Enslaved which the band opened for at the end of 2007. During these concerts SHINING would end their show with a cover of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" further cementing comparisons to the great KC. GRINDSTONE certainly comes off as a 21st century counterpart to KC's classic debut "In The Court of the Crimson King" with an ineffable trans-genera journey through myriad stylistic approaches that incorporate everything form the metal bombast experienced at the beginning of the album to the more fluid avant-garde classical and jazz experiments that meander unexpectedly throughout GRINDSTONE's 44 minute running time.

After the slap in the face chug-fest of the opening track, "Winterreise" follows the energetic delivery but adds an interesting mix of Baroque piano runs, atmospheric gloominess in movie soundtrack form and special detail to mixing heavier prog guitar heft with more symphonic escapades. "Stalemate Longan Runner" delves deeper into the Crimson court with angular guitar riffs coinciding with avant-jazz motifs and more heavenly atmospheric constructs. This trilogy of heavy rock bombast is separated from the rest of the album with the short "To Be Proud of Crystal Colors Is to Live Again" which evokes a music box and sets the stage for Act II which beings with another Crimsonian allusion in the title of "Moonchild Mindgames" which takes an avant-garde journey into the bizarr-o-sphere much like KC's 69 classic "Moonchild" as it meanders from classical light as a feather motifs to the heavy jazz rock bombast "The Red Room" which takes a jazzier approach on KC's "Red" only with hyperactive sax squawks that would make John Zorn proud.

"Asa Nisi Masa" in its brevity delivers the bombastic heft of metal guitar punctuated with off-kilter time signatures with a unique atmospheric dread and processed vocals followed by the second coming of "Crystal Colors" in full music box form. "Psalm" gets even weirder with the same processed vocal parts, a dramatic horror flick melody and the female soprano parts of Ashild Sikiri Refsdal which collectively sounds like the diva dance otherworldliness out of the movie "The Fifth Element" as it lollygags through rich percussive drives, manipulated electronic effects and a series of production techniques. The tracks followed by the clever 10th track which is morse code for Bach and is indeed a short devotion to period Baroque classical sounds. As the album wraps up, it unleashes the noisy fuzz-fueled "1:4:9" that would make a good alternative soundtrack clip for horror flicks like "The Exorcist." The closing "Flight Dusk With Dawn" continues the melody and mixes the guitar heft of KC's "Red" with avant-garde creepiness of Univers Zero's "Heresie" thus ending the album on a very noisy yet surreal unnerving effect.

Despite the extreme guitar elements which guarantee a slot in metal databases, GRINDSTONE will appeal much more to aficionados of darkened heavy prog in the vein of not only classic King Crimson but Anekdoten, Morte Macabre and even a bit of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. The album is exquisitely crafted and i find to be one fo the best dark progressive rock albums of the 21st century with its incessant zigzagging through myriad musical motifs that take on the sonic dexterity of bands like Goblin but evoke more of a creepy reverie of some of the more out there avant-classical composers of the 20th century such as the Transylvanian born Gy鰎gy Ligeti. The music is dynamic and crafts a menagerie of stylistic shifts throughout it's normal album playing time and straddles its tightrope act through various layers of heavy prog, atmospheric electronica and avant-garde jazz. It would've been impossible to comprehend such wild and innovative music coming from SHINING just a few years back when they were very much focused on early 60s jazz but somehow Munkeby channeled the zeitgeist of the aforementioned artists and crafted a veritable and often frightening compilation of sound effects that resulted in GRINDSTONE. This is one of those unsung masterpieces that will hopefully resonate more with others.

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 Overture by OVERTURE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.03 | 17 ratings

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Overture
Overture Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Overture come from Mores, a small town in the province of Sassari, Sardinia, and came to life in 2010 rising from the ashes of another band called Sons Of The Rascals. The first line up included Simone Desogus (drums), Samuele Desogus (guitar), Mattia Serra (keyboards, vocals), Salvatore Sassu (flute, guitar) and Stefano Sanna (bass). After a good activity on the local scene where they started to perform progressive rock covers alternated with their own compositions, in 2018 the band recorded and self-released an excellent eponymous debut album with a renewed line up featuring Luigi Ventroni (vocals), Simone Desogus (drums, percussion, vocals), Stefano Sanna (bass), Samuele Desogus (guitars), Fiorella Piras (flute, vocals) and Simone Meli (keyboards, backing vocals) plus the guest Sara Cuzzupuli (violin, vocals). The overall sound is well rooted in the best tradition of Italian symphonic rock and, as music goes through many changes in rhythm and mood, every now and again I'm reminded of another band called Unreal City. Anyway, I think that the art cover by Mauro Mondiello describes the musical content of the album better than many words...

The dreamy opener "Intro" is just a short instrumental track that sets the atmosphere and leads to the excellent "Lux et Ombra" (Light and Darkness), an amazing piece sung in Italian and Latin and dealing with the eternal contrast between Evil and Good. The music and lyrics evoke dark fallen angels, winged demons and damned souls burning in the flames of hell waging war against the illuminated, divine power of science and knowledge: everyone expects to win on the border between Darkness and Light, in an endless fight raging in a world without glory...

The melancholic "Il mendicante" (The beggar) starts by a touching, classical inspired, solo piano passage, then soaring vocals backed by the other instruments begin to portray the image and feelings of a desperate, solitary beggar who's on the brink of committing suicide by jumping from a bridge into the icy waters of the city river...

The following "A Deer In The River" begins with an acoustic guitar arpeggio and is a bitter-sweet piece dealing in a surrealistic way with the problem of emigration. The music and lyrics tell of the fate of a woman who had to leave her little country village on the banks of a river and go in a big city to earn a living. She never feels at ease in the metropolis and her feeling of nostalgia is always strong. Eventually, before passing away, she comes back to her old hamlet and becomes a deer longing for peace in the river...

The following "Crop Circles" is a long track with a mysterious atmosphere and a science-fiction theme. At night a spaceship lands in the middle of a wheat field. Suddenly the wheat start to dance under a strange green light but there's no sound nor fear... Meanwhile a farmer sleeps and dreams in his house, unaware of what's happening in the field. At dawn, when the farmer and his family wake up, everything seems in order but in wheat field there's something new... It's up to the listener imagine what!

The last track, "Ephesia's Chime" is a dark, disquieting piece where the music and lyrics tell about a child game turned into nightmare. There's murder and betrayal, hidden secrets that lead to madness and a storm of haunting melodies and voices coming from the unconscious... Here every now and again the music and the subject matter could recall the deep red colours of Goblin but the band manage to add their own strokes of colour to the musical tableau in an effective way.

On the whole, I think that this is a really good work although the band seem definitively more at ease when using their mother language...

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 Momentum by MORSE, NEAL album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.97 | 458 ratings

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Momentum
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

4 stars 'Momentum', or one of Neal Morse's most finely crafted prog albums. This one was released in 2012, in a particularly strong period for this kind of music. Of course, this record does not go too far away from what the listener would expect from this creative supernova. The typical symphonic prog with catchy hooks, memorable choruses, and quirky (and sometimes corky) riffs is displayed with fabulous musicianship and graceful exploration of what Neal Morse is best at. Joined by Mike Portnoy on drums, Randy George on bass, and the young Eric Gillette providing backing vocals on one of the tracks, we could say this is proto-Neal Morse band. However, this album is much more reminiscent of the light-hearted but musically astonishing early years of Spock's Beard, when Neal was the frontman.

The title track sets an uplifting mood to the record, that Neal & Co. manage to maintain throughout the whole 61-minute album, with the great guitar work and memorable chorus. Following this up is the very interesting 'Thoughts Part 5' from the Thoughts Cycle that began with Spock's Beard's fan-favorite tracks from the mid-90s. Here the vocal harmonies of Morse and Gillette come forth to establish one of the most enjoyable songs from Neal's catalogue. 'Smoke and Mirrors' is another great song, 'Weathering Sky' has a jolly Beatles taste, and 'Freak' is a softer, slower composition. Finally, the grand 34-minute 'World Without End' closes off this excellently made album, a true contender for the 'Best Neal Morse epic' title (and we all know what the competition would be for such a prize). I truly recommend this magnificent track to any Symphonic Prog fan, along with this excellent album.

Great melodies, memorable songs, graceful playing, fun lyrics, yet nothing very unpredictable or innovative for the Progressive genre, but a successful execution of many interesting ideas, a real achievement for Neal Morse!

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 In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.70 | 36 ratings

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In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars After two albums of pure acoustic jazz that in reality resulted in competent tribute sessions to early 1960s John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, SHINING's mastermind J鴕gen Munkeby decided to radically change the band's musical style on the third album IN THE KINGDOM OF KITSCH YOU WILL BE A MONSTER. The musical style was inspired by fellow Norwegian band Motorpsycho who itself had transmogrified from a typical stoner rock band to a unique classically infused progressive rock band. While this stylistic shift saw the same quartet that performed on the first two albums, there was a great shakeup of instrumentation as well as including a few guest musicians that added touches of French horn, trombone, trumpet and even tubular bells.

Munkeby continued to play his usual avant-garde jazz saxophone, flute and clarinet parts but also took on the additional duties of electric and acoustic guitars, electric bass, piano, mellotron, church organ, celestra, harmonium and accordion. He also added the unthinkable sounds of drum programming which gives the album an electronica crossover feel thus bringing SHINING into the world of nu jazz which they had decided to avoid when they started out. Pianist Morten Qvenild continued with an expanded keyboard palette that included Rhodes piano, synthesizers, clavinet, celesta, mellotron and drum machine programming but clearly was not on board with these new experimental sounds and left the band before the album was even released.

Likewise bassist Aslak Hartberg would switch to electric bass and doubling on drum machines and samplers but was also not feeling Munkeby's passion for this new weirder experimental music and left before the next album "Grindstone." The only other member that wasn't significantly affected was drummer Torstein Lofthus who continued to perform his technical percussive prowess and stuck around for the next several albums which experienced the band's most successful period. After existing in the world of jazz for a few years, the band had to reinvent itself and moved to the Rune Grammofon record label which specialized in experimental and improvisational music. From this point on SHINING would never look back at its jazz origins and continue to pioneer some of the most bizarre jazz hybridization in all of the rock universe.

IN THE KINGDOM OF KITSCH YOU WILL BE A MONSTER was strongly influenced by the French classical composer Olivier Messiaen and his complex mode of limited transposition which by definition refers to musical modes or scales that fulfill specific criteria relating to their symmetry and the repetition of their interval groups. Although inspired by the more avant-garde world of Western classical music, IN THE KINGDOM was more of a bizarre mix of progressive rock and experimental jazz that included moments of metal bombast, the latter of which would be fully unleashed on future releases. The album also featured a plethora of electronic noises by means of synthesizers and drum machines and sounds more like something Squarepusher would release than SHINING's early two albums.

While jazz purists who reveled in the band's effort to revisit the early 60s with uncanny purity may have felt betrayed, for those who long for the next prestigious example of art rock that includes an ecstatic orgy of sonic differentials, IN THE KINGDOM OF KITSCH YOU WILL BE A MONSTER is a monster indeed with avant-garde classical underpinnings teasing the sounds of acoustic jazz, industrial noise effects and progressive rock accoutrements into a spell-casting series of dreamy sequences punctuated by random sounds of cathedral organs and accordions which collectively allude to a plethora of cultural references. While this album serves more of a transition album between the jazz beginnings and the prog metal experimentalism that followed, despite existing as a unique entry in the band's canon is an intriguing and oft exhilarating listening experience.

While retro-jazz is a satisfying tool of mastery for up and coming musicians, the wealth of classic jazz negates any true need for modern releases that don't have something new to offer and luckily Munkeby got that memo. The decision to take the plunge into the unknown was a wise one as IN THE KINGDOM was well received by critics and caught the proper attention outside of the confines of Norway and despite tamping down the jazz still won the Alarm Award for best jazz album in 2006. This is indeed one of those extremely complex heady albums that dwells in abstractness and surreality and for those not indoctrinated into the complexities of avant-garde jazz and 20th century classical music dressed up with weird as [%*!#] electronica, this will probably come off as a bunch of random noise for most the album's playing time but for those who relish these rare moments of competency then this album is quite satisfying indeed. While the metal aspects are minimal at this point, the right ingredients had been sowed for a fruitful harvest that would culminate on the band's following release "Grindstone."

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 The Wrong Object & Elton Dean: The Unbelievable Truth by WRONG OBJECT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.43 | 15 ratings

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The Wrong Object & Elton Dean: The Unbelievable Truth
The Wrong Object Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Miss me? THE WRONG OBJECT are a Jazz band out of Belgium and they have an Avant flavour to their sound. This is actually a live album recorded in Paris October 18, 2005. Elton Dean is the featured guest here with his sax and saxello. We get seven tracks over 68 minutes. The band are very much big Zappa fans but they're also big SOFT MACHINE fans so having Elton on board must have been amazing especially since he passed not long after this.

No keyboards here but three horn players including Dean along with bass, guitar and drums. The guitarist has a very interesting style almost like scratching, it's hard to describe and I'm not a fan. He does play normally later on the title track which happens to be a top two track for me. The horns are great on this one plus the guitar. It turns fairly powerful after 2 minutes and Avant sounding. A calm after 6 1/2 minutes and that's when we get that guitar I like and he's ripping it up 10 minutes in.

"Seven For Lee" which was on a SOFT HEAD album is a Dean composed tune as is "Baker's Treat" and "The Basho Variations". The guitarist composed three tracks and the band one. Vocals on "A Cannery Catastrophe" the only tune that has them. Love the rhythm section after 3 minutes on "Cunnimingus Redux" with the sax over top. Actual fuzz bass to start "Millennium Jumble" along with experimental sounds. An Avant flavour for sure on this one. "Baker's Treat" is my least favourite as it's like an instrumental ballad. That opener though "Seven For Lee" I could spin on repeat for most of the day, it's so good.

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 Sweet Shanghai Devil by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.03 | 13 ratings

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Sweet Shanghai Devil
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars SHINING continued its all acoustic avant-garde jazz style on its second album SWEET SHANGHAI DEVIL which featured the exact same lineup as a quartet that included founder J鴕gen Munkeby on saxophone, flute and clarinet with Asiak Hartberg on acoustic bass, Torstein Lofthus on drums and Morten Qvenild on piano. While the musical compositions which were almost exclusively created by Munkeby were originals, this album found the track "Sink" composed by Morten Qvenild and a cover of John Coltrane's sizzling "Herbert West - Reanimator / After The Rain" which showcases the band's infatuation with the more avant-garde side of post-bop of the early 1960s.

While the debut "Where The Ragged People Go" was so authentic that it really could've passed as a long lost Coltrane album, the band really stepped things up on this sophomore release and therefore SWEET SHANGHAI DEVIL is chock full of more creative moments that while still sonically sounding like it could've existed on the 60s timeline, infused more avant-garde ideas that never would've been found in the world of jazz during that time and although it's still impossible to predict that the band would change gears into the more caustic world of extreme metal after this release, it is obvious that the band was finding its own voice although still distant behind the barrage of bop-fueled bass runs, jazz drumming workouts and incessant squawks of sax, clarinet and occasional flute.

The album starts off much like the first but the phrasing is much more adventurous and the four musicians have become true jazz masters by finding a completely separate musical role that conspires to become a vital sum of the larger whole. The music is every bit as talented as some of the 60s legends and the production is top notch and due to the fact that there is more creative mojo flowing on SWEET SHANGHAI DEVIL, it makes a more interesting listening experience of the two pure jazz releases. While starting out more traditional, the album really is on fire by the time the sixth track "Misery's Child" cranks out. Lofthus has become a drum playing machine with incessant barrages of complex rolls but the most prominent feature of this one are the excellent piano rolls of Morten Qvenild who has mastered the art of impressionism.

While those seeking the metal part of SHINING's career, you can skip to the next album "In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster" which begins to adopt new ideas and to "Grindstone" for the full metal approach, SWEET SHANGHAI DEVIL is a decent pure jazz album for sure and much more developed than its predecessor. While much of the album is pure Coltrane and Ornette Coleman worship, the band had clearly honed its chops to the point where it was capable of crafting some excellent experimental rock which would put these guys on the world's stage for a short time. All in all if you are a serious jazz buff this probably won't get you overly excited as the 60s classics will forever dominate that jazz world but it's certainly not a waste of time either. The intricate musical parts is fascinating to follow. A small step up from the debut.

3.5 rounded down

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 Sadako e le mille gru di carta by LOGOS album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.21 | 164 ratings

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Sadako e le mille gru di carta
Logos Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I first encountered Logos with their previous album, "L'enigma della vita" which was a top-rated album on this web site for that year. I was slow to get into it, but after a few listens I really enjoyed it. One thing I appreciated was a more modern style of Italian prog. I felt there were newer sounds and ideas in the music that distinguished the album from classic Italian prog.

"Sadako e le mille gru di carta" is based on the story of Sadako, a girl who was a victim of the atomic bomb and dying of cancer. She thought that she could beat the cancer if she made 1,000 origami cranes. Sadly, she never reached her goal. The album opens with a big Italian prog boom that reminds me a lot of Le Orme's "Felona e Serona". There are certain chord or note combinations that just seem so indicative of Italian prog, and the first couple of tracks here are loaded with them! It fact, this album strikes me as being very different from "L'enigma della vita", so much so that I would hardly have guessed it's the same band.

The keyboards make up a big driving force in the music, another reason for the Le Orme semblance. Guitars are either used sparingly or they just don't come to the forefront very often, unless I'm getting so wrapped up in the heady keyboards that I rarely notice the guitars.

The album plays out with much texture and excitement to the music. There are subtler moments and beautiful moments, but there is a lot of action going on as well. It's very easy to just hitch a ride with the music and enjoy the scenery. There are vocals though the instrumental parts seem to be where the real show is at. Female vocals appear as well which adds a nice touch.

I see that other reviewers have offered detailed descriptions of the music and the tracks, so I will not delve in deep in my review. However, I will say that this is an album that impresses right from the first listen and it continues to produce new delights in the music with subsequent listens. I am sure I will take me a few more spins before I can become truly acquainted with this music. But there is no doubt about the creativity and talent that has gone into making this album. I'd actually give this 4 and a half stars if I could. Maybe I might even want to give it five stars later on. It is surely an album of prog lover's delight!

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 Going For The One by YES album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.04 | 2065 ratings

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Going For The One
Yes Symphonic Prog

Review by Mark-P

4 stars Eighth studio album by YES, with Rick Wakeman rejoined the band replacing Patrick Moraz, and therefore the band returned to the 'Tales from Topographic Ocean' line up. The band change the concept towards a bit more accessible music, compared to preceding albums. But wait .. it does not mean the songs are shallower, at least not those in this album. For me, the band can maintain a great deal of beautiful complexity in relatively shorter compositions.

The opening track 'Going For The One' has a vibrant intro (with a bit of rock'n'roll feel) that sets the mood of the entire song. Steve Howe's pedal-steel guitar playing in the entire song is very impressive and gives this song a distinct feature. My favorite moment in this song is that closer to the end, the song is getting more and more intense (pretty much contributed by increasingly aggressive pedal-steel guitar melody) but then suddenly changes in a nice lick to conclude the song.

'Turn of The Century' is one of my favorite YES songs. It has a heart-warming tone with great guitar playing by Steve Howe both acoustics part in the first half of the song, and electric guitar-vocal duet part at the end of the song. Although this song has a ballad pace, Steve Howe can still demonstrate his virtuosity in a splendid way. A nice alternate version of this song is also performed by Steve Howe with Annie Haslam in the tribute album 'Tales from Yesterday'.

'Parallels' is perhaps my least favorite in this album. The instrument sections are nice but it does not have strong theme to be elaborated. 'Wonderous Stories' is a short but killer song, and is one of YES signature songs. The vocal harmony in the chorus is great. Rick Wakeman's keyboard fills, unique timbre from Steve Howe's Portuguese guitar in the intro and electric guitar fills at the end of the song are great.

'Awaken' is the epic composition in this album, with great theme and structure that has some signature styles of Rick Wakeman (including the unique sound of church organ) who composed a great keyboards work and also arranged the choral passages in this song. I love the Howe-Wakeman duets that scattered throughout the song.

This is indeed a good and strong album, with the band try a new look (well .. this applies as well to the artwork which is no longer Roger Dean's unique surreal landscape). In my opinion, this is a good introduction for those who want to know the band, as this is a bridge between former artistically more complex and later more accessible albums.

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 Where The Ragged People Go by SHINING album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.13 | 12 ratings

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Where The Ragged People Go
Shining RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Not to be confused with the Swedish depressive black metal band of the same name, the Norwegian band SHINING is the baby of mastermind and primary composer, singer, guitarist and saxophonist J鴕gen Munkeby who started this band as an avant-garde freeform jazz band in 1999 but had drastically shifted gears in its two decade existence ranging from extreme avant-garde jazz-fueled metal to industrial rock. In the beginning the band started as an acoustic instrumental jazz quartet that featured Munkeby on saxophone, flute and clarinet with Asiak Hartberg on acoustic bass, Torstein Lofthus on drums and Morten Qvenild on piano.

In the early 2000s Norway was the hotbed for nu jazz artists such as Jaga Jazzist and Bugge Wessesltoft who focused on fusing electronica with jazz and other genres such as soul, funk and free improvisation but SHINING which formed while the members were attending the Norwegian Academy of Music decided to go the route of the avant-garde acoustic expressions forged in the early 1960s by the legendary John Coltrane and pioneering Ornette Coleman. For anyone familiar with albums like "Black Jazz," it may come as quite the surprise that on this debut release WHERE THE RAGGED PEOPLE GO that there is no trace of rock or metal and features a pure post-bop ethos laced with avant-garde freelancing.

All eight of the tracks are original scores by Munkeby and range from disharmonic antics of "Spooks In The Hall" and "Small Steps" to the more placid numbers like "The Fool" and "Randomizer" but the album shows a strong allegiance to the early 60s stylistic approach and seems rather achronistic for an album coming out at the beginning of the 21st century. In fact if you told me this was some long lost Ornette Coleman album that was thrown in the vaults around the time "The Shape Of Jazz To Come" was released in 1959, i can't say that i wouldn't believe it to be so as the attention paid to the authenticity of the era is uncanny and there is little to distinguish SHINING from a huge number of similar jazz acts that have come and gone throughout the decades.

Considering how Munkeby ventured into the caustic cauldrons of extreme metal a few albums later, it is utterly shocking how this album sounds nothing like those future releases and may possibly qualify as the most pure jazz album to appear on metal music databases. Overall the performances on here are top notch although the creativity level is non-existence as this is very much by the books post-bop with avant-garde leanings from the classic era of jazz just before psychedelic rock and prog pushed jazz out as the dominant musical art form once and for all. While metal fans will find nothing noteworthy here and even hardcore jazz fans will not find anything revolutionary, WHERE THE RAGGED PEOPLE GO is a worthy listening experience with all those trademark 60s instrumental roles such as those cool bass runs and sax squawks. A decent jazz album for sure but if you're looking for metal skip the first two albums and go straight to SHINING's third album "In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be a Monster."

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 Dai Kaht II by DAI KAHT album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.31 | 14 ratings

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Dai Kaht II
Dai Kaht Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Perhaps the only zeuhl band ever to emerge from the other F country in Europe, namely Finland, DAI KAHT formed in 2013 and took four years to release it's self-titled debut album in 2017 but unfortunately was still at the alter of Magma worship and came off as a bit too derivative for my tastes. What separated this band from its competition from the getgo was the fact that as a quartet DAI KAHT embraced the traditional rock instrumentation of guitars, bass and drums which by zeuhl standards is quite unique to have a barrage of guitar sounds performing those bubbling zeuhl rhythms. The heavy psych influences from the early 70s timeline cast the band in a more bombastic mood in the traditionally guitar-o-phobic world of zeuhl.

Three years later the returns with a slightly different lineup, a greater number of instruments and a much more developed sense of self thus taking the band out of the gravitational pull of Magma-isms and more into a stylistic approach that sounds somewhat unique although make no mistakes that the French zeuhl scene initiated by the great Magma is still the dominate source of inspiration here. The new lineup consists of founder Atte Kemppainen on lead vocals, bass, percussion, guitar, keyboards, drums and effects along with Oslo Saarinen on drums and percussion and Ville Sirvi?on lead guitar, extra vocals and effects. Newbie Roope Pelkonen joins the team on keyboards and although Tommi Ruotsalainen is also on board, he seems to have been demoted to session musician status.

The band's second album simply titled DAI KAHT II also employs the talents of a five-member choir which really takes things into the zeuhl-o-sphere. IMHO this sophomore album which is much more creative in crafting more diverse soundscapes seems to have borrowed from another French source, namely the whacky and crazed modern avant-prog scene from bands like PoiL as heard from the zany rap-attack vocal style of the opening "Han?hin" which features funky bass slaps, psychedelic keyboard wizardry and instead of the usual martial militancy that often seems to come from dark places in the world of zeuhl. DAI KAHT seems to have harnessed a more festive vibe more in the vein of Magma's "F閘icit?Th鰏z" rather than the cold Teutonic marches of "Mekan飇 Destrukt飛 Kommand鰄."

As the colorful 70s cover art implies, DAI KAHT still relies on healthy doses of psychedelic rock partially inspired by fellow countrymen Kingston Wall but on DAI KAHT II seems to have expanded its horizons manyfold and crafts a unique hybrid of zeuhl, avant-prog and psychedelia. Kemppaninen's vocal range has expanded greatly and the band seem to have found that chemistry they were striving for on the debut. Zeuhl is certainly an easy genre to fall into generic complacency but can also be fertile ground for some interesting explorative efforts. Perhaps the band finally landed on the imaginary world of its making and still makes use of its own created language for all those Magma-esque vocal scats. While the choir does evoke Magma, more often than not doesn't mine from the zeuhl universe at all but rather seems to have looked towards the spastic world of zolo art rock for inspiration. DAI KAHT II is a huge step up from the band's debut and i look forward to follow wherever this Finnish band decides to go next.

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 Dai Kaht by DAI KAHT album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.36 | 10 ratings

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Dai Kaht
Dai Kaht Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars When you think of zeuhl, two countries predominantly come to mind. France of course where Magma reinvented the context of progressive jazz-fueled rock and inspired a legion of followers over the ensuing decades. In second place is Japan which has produced some of the more extreme examples of bubbly zeuhl driven bands such as Ruins which took things into strange new turf. Finland however is not a nation that comes to mind but that's exactly where this band DAI KAHT came from. The central city of Kajaani to be exact. This band formed in 2013 by bassist Atte Kemppaninen and in the beginning was smitten by the usual prog suspects such as King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Camel, Gentle Giant and Pink Floyd but somewhere along the line caught the zeuhl bug.

When it comes to zeuhl, all roads of course lead to Magma and DAI KAHT is no exception going as far as to even follow in the footsteps of Christian Zander's eccentricities by crafting an entire language and mythology. While it does seem completely derivative, DAI KAHT crafts a concept that focuses on future space colonialism and even went as far in creating the invented language called Kol鰊iel which is clearly based on Magma's Koba颽n. The mythology revolves around a spaceship dubbed the Doover 躱uh that traverses the universe in order to find that utopian world that is far removed from the corrupt and infected cesspool of reality that plagues the human race on planet Earth. The band released its debut self-titled release in 2017 and in many ways sounds very much like a parallel universe version of Magma with those bubbling zeuhl bass-fueled rhythmic drives with lyrics in an unintelligible language narrating some fictions tale of who knows what.

While dangerously close to Magma territory, DAI KAHT does distinguish itself in a couple of significant ways. The band infuses a heavy dose of guitar fueled heavy psych into the mix which offers a more aggressive assault than anything Magma dished out. This quartet features Atte Kemppainen (voices, bass), Osmo Saarinen (drums, voices), Ville Sirvi?(lead guitar) and Tommi Ruotsalainen (rhythm guitar) and although the style is very much out of the Magma playbook, the bombast of the guitars takes a few cues from the psychedelic Finnish band Kingston Wall. The production is rich and the album is a nice modern mix of zeuhl driven psychedelia that is unfortunately too dependent on its inspirations rather than crafting anything remotely clever and original. The band also exists without keyboards and jazz instrumentation which gives this a more heavy rock sound than many zeuhl counterparts but due to the similarities in vocalizations and musical motifs, one can only wonder if this is a long lost Magma album that got rejected.

Overall this is not a bad album at all but i personally have a problem with over-reliances of influence and DAI KAHT on this debut album seems more like a Magma cover band than an original entity in its own right. Through the album's eight tracks and 41 minute playing time, we are treated to those familiar Jannick Top styled bass antics and the consistent flow of marital zeuhl rhythmic flows along with bouts of high tempo frenzies and those vocal led counterpoints. DAI KAHT was created after the sound of Ruins and in terms of tones, timbres and dynamics resonates more with the Japanese bands but as far as compositional flow is much more in the Magma camp. Way too derivative for my tastes but decently done and for those who just can't get enough zeuhl in their world this is not unworthy of exploring but in the end i'd rather just listen to classic Magma over and over than an album brought to us from a group of imitators. In other words, at this point the band needed to develop its own sound.

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 The Big Huge by INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.74 | 25 ratings

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The Big Huge
The Incredible String Band Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Incredible String Band followed up The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter with a double album (Wee Tam and the Big Huge) which was also released as two single albums - again following a trail blazed by Donovan, who'd taken a similar marketing route with A Gift From a Flower To a Garden.

Whilst Wee Tam showed a gentler side of the String Band than The 5000 Spirits or Hangman's Beautiful Daughter had showcased, things perk up on The Big Huge. The sound is livelier, more varied, and the diverse religious content more apparent, from the opening Maya providing a long sitar-laden exploration of the Buddhist concept to the concluding The Circle Is Unbroken, a sort of response to the classic spiritual Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, whilst along the way it visits quirky territory like Cousin Caterpillar. If Wee Tam was presenting a distinct sound of its own, separate from 5000 Layers and Hangman's Daughter, The Big Huge ends up blending the sound all three together to present a final, definitive statement of the band's most consistent years.

In general, both halves of the double album are more or less on a par with each other; shortly after recording the material the String Band would go on the fateful US tour during which they would be introduced to Scientology, prompting a shift in their worldview which coincided with a shift in their artistic approach and more mixed results.

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 Wee Tam by INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.41 | 28 ratings

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Wee Tam
The Incredible String Band Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Incredible String Band followed up The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter with a double album (Wee Tam and the Big Huge) which was also released as two single albums - again following a trail blazed by Donovan, who'd taken a similar marketing route with A Gift From a Flower To a Garden.

Whereas on The 5000 Spirits the String Band had gone absolutely wild for the sort of Indian influences that had been popularised in psychedelic circles at the time, whilst The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter had a sense of playful whimsy to it, on Wee Tam the duo of Heron and Williamson (plus extended family of guest musicians) seem to have mellowed out somewhat, playing a placid, gentle style of psychedelic folk; if 5000 Layers was an acid trip album, this Wee Tam business is more of a gentle toke of grass, or perhaps a soothing glass of smoky whiskey - soothing and relaxing, whilst also having a meditative tone to it, and the odd sitar and call to Krishna here and there suggesting that spiritual ideas were still strong on their mind.

In general, both halves of the double album are more or less on a par with each other; shortly after recording the material the String Band would go on the fateful US tour during which they would be introduced to Scientology, prompting a shift in their worldview which coincided with a shift in their artistic approach and more mixed results.

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 Traffic by TRAFFIC album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.41 | 137 ratings

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Traffic
Traffic Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Traffic's second album finds them appreciably tightening things up compared to the rather more rough and ready Mr. Fantasy. The production values are notably better, the songwriting is more disciplined, and the band don't seem to be falling over themselves to prove their psychedelic credentials. What emerges here is technically proficient folk-tinged, blues-tinged rock music which hasn't yet hit the extended jamming of later albums but which is a reasonably entertaining listen in its own right, as well as pointing the way to more ambitious works to come. The overall effect is like a soft rock counterpart to early Led Zeppelin circa Led Zeppelin III, since they are working on waving similar influences into rock music but coming from a smoother, gentler, more pop-based foundation.

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 Sonnar by NODO GORDIANO album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.95 | 16 ratings

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Sonnar
Nodo Gordiano Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by andrea
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Sonnar" is the fifth studio album by Roman band Nodo Gordiano and was released in 2020 on the independent label Lizard Records with a renewed line up featuring, along with founder member Andrea De Luca (strings, keyboards), the fresh energies of Filippo Brilli (winds), Davide Guidoni (percussion, keyboards) and Natalia Suvorina (vocals). According to the band, this album is dedicated to the inspiring works by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and was conceived "as a hypnagogic journey... divided into three parts revolving around the experience of the Other, separated from each other by demons who, as in the tomb of the Anina, guard the mystery of the Outside, and ends with the verses of the Vedic hymn to Surya, a memory of the solar symbolism that, even in darkness, pervades it". The overall sound is dark, challenging and every now and again it could recall King Crimson with a pinch of Oriental flavour, as you can guess looking at the evocative artwork by Davide Guidoni...

The opener "Only Fool! Only Poet!" features lyrics adapted from Friedrich Nietzsche's "The Song Of Melancholy" (In "Thus Spoke Zarathustra") and starts softly... The pace is slow, the almost mystical atmosphere takes you to a desert land where in a cave there's a sorcerer who is singing. To escape from the blinding light and the glowing glances of the sun you dive like an eagle into a dark inner abyss as the echoes of the music soar towards the sky trying to reach the dark side of the moon... The following "Limbic Rendez-Vous" is an instrumental track (vocals here are used just as in instrument to add a touch of colour) drawing you into an emotional labyrinth where memories get lost like a lizard in the middle of a battle of glass tears...

Next comes "Charun", a disquieting instrumental track where percussions take the lead conjuring up obscure tribal rites. The title refers to Etruscan mythology where Charun is one of the psychopomps of the underworld, a demon whose responsibility is to guide newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife...

The long, complex suite "After Dusk" (20:47) is divided into eight parts: a) Promenade; b) Debut; c) Hey, Mr. Professor!; d) Sgalambro's Ghost; e) Pometine; f) Pale Gallery; g) Transhipment; h) Nightdrive. This piece, featuring nightmarish atmospheres and hermetic lyrics, if I'm not wrong, is freely based upon "Toby Dammit", an episode from the horror anthology film "Spirits Of The Dead", directed in 1968 by Federico Fellini and staging a personal, modern version of a short story by Edgar Allan Poe entitled "Never Bet The Devil Your Head". The music and lyrics evoke an eerie 21st century schizoid girl, a man haunted by painful memories and ghosts, silent shadows moving around at night and a desperate race with the devil on the edge of madness...

The title of the following "Vanth" refers to a chthonic winged figure in Etruscan mythology, a female demon that is often accompanied by Charun. It's a nice instrumental piece full of tension and mystery leading to the final title track. "Sonnar" features lyrics freely taken from a Vedic hymn to the god of sun and begins softly. The mood is dreamy, then the rhythm rises while an invocation emerges from the darkness like a revenant fount from the past as flames of fire burn and blaze and places, faces and stories melt into the light...

On the whole, a very good work, even if it might need many spins to be fully appreciated.

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 Seven Widows by BELIEVE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 162 ratings

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Seven Widows
Believe Neo-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Trying to cleanup some of the Neo-Prog albums I missed the first time around as I want to post my favourite Neo albums of all time soon. BELIEVE are from Poland and the project of guitar Mirek Gil who was part of one of my favourite Neo records called "Moonshine". Honestly I think it's his presence here that has caused this to be under that sub-genre more than the music itself. Loved the debut "Hope To See Another Day" along with the followup "Yesterday Is A Friend" but the three in between the new one and those I missed mostly due to poor feedback on those. This is a return to form. A new singer who is a little more emotional which suits the subject matter here perfectly.

I mean we're talking about widows throughout and this is sad. It helps with the violin and atmosphere provided mostly by the keyboards which is mostly how they are used here. Gil's guitar soars high as usual. I really got into this from the first spin, I just like that sound. Melancholy, atmosphere, soaring guitar and those vocals create a special recording. There are no titles other than "I" to "VII". It would have been cool to have an idea with related titles to each widow but at least we have the lyrics as he sings in English. Favourite track is "IV" at just over 11 1/2 minutes it's a great ride with repeated themes. Congrats Mirek!

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 Merry Christmas From The Morse Family by MORSE, NEAL album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2000
2.10 | 24 ratings

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Merry Christmas From The Morse Family
Neal Morse Symphonic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

2 stars Christmas is a holiday that many love even if they have no religious affiliations. It's simply a time to kick back with friends and family and reflect on the year that has just about passed and possibly even exchange gifts. Christmas music is as old as the holiday itself but progressive rock hasn't exactly been a genre that has attracted the lion's share of artists flocking to make holiday music. Instead the stores and public establishments are flooded with not only the classics of yesteryear but a legion of truly awful modern acts trying to cash in on the Christmas music trend.

Known for his outspoken Christian beliefs, prolific progger NEAL MORSE seems like a songwriting machine not just as a solo artist with over 50 albums to his name but with the various projects ranging from Spock's Beard and Flying Colors to Transatlantic. MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE MORSE FAMILY shows a completely different side of MORSE who wrote a bunch of Christmas tunes to send to friends and family without the intent to ever release them but in the year 2000 just as MORSE was getting his solo career on track, he released this collection of all original material with his family helping out on vocals and MORSE handling most lead vocals and all the instruments.

This one shouldn't be considered a proper MORSE release and although he is known as a prog musician these are more simple traditional pop songs with the theme of Christmas. While i'm not a huge Christmas music fan there are some classics out there that will melt anybody's heart including Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" and closer to the prog world several releases from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and "The Jethro Tull Christmas Album." Unfortunately MORSE doesn't craft an interesting mix of art rock inspired Christmas tunes and rather sticks to the traditional styles that have been the staple of department store playlists since the beginning of time.

While i do love some MORSE releases for their proggy bravado that keeps pushing the symphonic prog envelop, his vocals are one aspect of his music i really do not like but can tolerate if the music is excellent. That is not the case here as these Christmas tunes seem to be inspired by the classics but fail to capture the spirit with those instantly infectious jingles. Add to that MORSE's vocal style is more irritating than ever. I can't judge this too harshly. This wasn't designed for public consumption and merely released to give his fans some other options in the vast world of Christmas music. Personally i'm not really liking this but it's not as bad as some other misconceived Christmas releases from bands like Twisted Sister for example.

The best tracks on here don't feature MORSE as the main focus. "The Laughing Christmas Song" is a children's song with his kids adding vocals and it provides refreshing comedy relief to an otherwise earnest and saccharin batch of tunes. While this one may be fun for hardcore fans who have to own everything MORSE has released, i'm not sure even those followers would feel this one is a mandatory purchase. All in all, it's a cute little album allowing the world to see MORSE's private world with family photos decorating the cover art but as an interesting Christmas album i think that listening to this one time is more than enough and will certainly never be revisiting it. But the main point of writing this is simply to wish everyone out there a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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 Fairport Convention by FAIRPORT CONVENTION album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.29 | 63 ratings

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Fairport Convention
Fairport Convention Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Fairport Convention's first album is a far cry from the electrified traditional folk that they made their name with, though there are some hints of it here and there on tracks like Decameron. Instead, it's a band very much beholden to the American folk rock tradition - especially the West Coast scene like the Byrds before they went country, Buffalo Springfield, and Jefferson Airplane - and who haven't yet worked out how to perform a similar transformation that those artists had performed on contemporary US folk in the context of traditional British folk.

As a result, it's a very interesting artifact, but like many debut albums from significant 1960s British folk pioneers - think Donovan, think The Incredible String Band - it doesn't really reflect the rest of their work and is interesting perhaps more for that contrast than it is in its own right.

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 The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion by INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, THE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.87 | 49 ratings

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The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion
The Incredible String Band Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After the departure of their co-founder Clive Palmer, the String Band reconfigured with the creative duo of Heron and Williamson as their core. This second album finds them plunging deeper into psychedelia than before, with extensive use of the sort of Indian instruments and pastiched borrowings from Indian music that the Beatles had popularised at the time. However, they had not "gone electric" the way Dylan had - nor were they veering down a sunshine pop path in the manner of Donovan (though closing song Way Back In the 1960s is a spot-on parody of Donovan's style).

A resolutely psychedelic folk album, with a strong emphasis on both halves of that equation, The 5000 Spirits contends with The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter - a lighter and more whimsical take on similar territory - for the title of the Incredible String Band's best album. I am slightly inclined to give the trophy to 5000 Spirits, but it's a close-run thing.

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 The Incredible String Band by INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, THE album cover Studio Album, 1966
3.22 | 25 ratings

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The Incredible String Band
The Incredible String Band Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Incredible String Band's debut album is their sole one with founder member Clive Palmer, and occupies much the same place in their discography as Donovan's debut album (What's Bin Did and What's Bin Hid) would in his: a comparatively "straight" album with only minor flashes of the psychedelic direction to come. Whereas Donovan's debut showed a strong Dylan influence, the String Band seem to be more inspired by traditional folk - if there's any social commentary here, they're being much shyer about it than Donovan would be. By and large fairly rootsy, the band do display a momentary glimpse of more whimsically psychedelic stylings on Everything's Fine Right Now, and already their vocals are a particular treat, but the album is more interesting as a glimpse of the String Band's origins, especially if their psychedelic side is the aspect you're really excited about.

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 Caballeros del Albedr韔 by AUSTIN TV album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.06 | 7 ratings

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Caballeros del Albedr韔
Austin Tv Post Rock/Math rock

Review by Uruk_hai

4 stars AUSTIN TV's third album "Caballeros del albedr韔" was released as a double album (honestly the sixteen tracks of the album would have fit without any problem in just one CD but probably the essence of the album would have been lost) and it was the last record of this mythical Mexican band that split up leaving a considerably big cult of followers with broken hearts and the hope of AUSTIN TV comes again any day with a brand new album.

The bass and drums are the instruments that give its flavor to the album. Along with the interesting synthesizers and the most random samplers of old movies, "Caballeros del albedr韔" is a very mystic journey through the most intense songs you can imagine and the radiant delicacy of the soft melodies in HAN.

This album was produced by Emmanuel DEL REAL, a former member of CAF?TACUBA: one of the most important Mexican Rock bands from the 90's who has been supporting several Mexican bands to achieve high popularity in the Mexican rock scene.

The first CD is called S蒃B with a length of no more than 25 minutes the eight tracks it contains are really powerful: I would recommend it if you like bands such as RUSSIAN CIRCLES, LITE, ABOUT TESS or DON CABALLERO.

The second CD is called H罭, it lasts around 35 minutes and it also features eight songs. The atmosphere in this one is more relaxed and jazzy with very elegant acoustic pieces: I would recommend this to fans of GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, SWANS or THE KILIMAJARO DARKJAZZ ENSEMBLE.

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 Marburg by PELL MELL album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.56 | 79 ratings

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Marburg
Pell Mell Symphonic Prog

Review by Uruk_hai

4 stars "Marburg" by PELL MELL was of the first Progressive Rock albums I've ever heard and back in those days (I was only sixteen years old) it completely blew my mind out; I've never listen to anything similar to this album before (now I could mention a dozen of similar bands) but not then, this was a great discover to me. The hard rock combined with symphonic almost classical music is a factor that several bands (especially in ENGLAND, GERMANY and FRANCE) did in the early seventies and this album has lots of that stuff.

Even when I liked this album a lot when I first heard it, now (ten years later) I can see this guys were not as unique as I thought: I don't like the word plagiarism because I believe that in music there are some songs that are similar to others and that shouldn't necessarily suggest it was an intentioned copy; I recognized the unmistakable BLACK SABBATH's riff in "Alone" since I first listen to the album and certainly it has also a lot of similarity with PINK FLOYD's "A saucerful of secrets" but I always thought it was just a coincidence or the influence of those bands and not a shameless plagiarism, but a year ago I discovered the German Progressive Rock band IKARUS and now I can hear a lot of their only album released in 1971 in "Marburg" too. Again: I'm not saying it's plagiarism but I keep finding more and more REALLY similar sounds to contemporary bands.

All of those suspicious similarities to other bands made me take a star off to the rate I was originally going to assign to this album.

Great stuff though!

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 Just a Poke by SWEET SMOKE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.87 | 125 ratings

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Just a Poke
Sweet Smoke Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Uruk_hai

4 stars Two days ago I was walking home and I ran into a store that sells Marihuana accessories (like pipes and that kind of stuff) and there was a really interesting song playing from there. I walked into the store to ask what song it was and the girl that was working in the store (who was all high) showed me what she was listening; we started to talk a little bit about music and she asked me what my tattoo was and I told her that it was the cover of a KING CRIMSON album (it's "Discipline") so she asked me to show her my favorite song of that band and I told her to listen to "21st century schizoid man", I said goodnight and got out of there. Last night I entered to say hello again and to ask if she had liked CRIMSON and she told me "oh, yeah, I liked it a lot and right when it ended an album called "Just a poke" by SWEET SMOKE started and I really liked it too".

I haven't heard "Just a poke" in like six or seven years, so thanks to that girl I'm re-discovering it and oh, man! It is so much better than I remembered. This album has a very hippie weed smoky atmosphere. The first song is the one I like the most: the flutes are hypnotic and the incessant guitar riff is quite enjoyable. The reference to THE DOORS' "Soft parade" is great (so great that it sounds way much better than THE DOORS).

"Silly Sally" is a very nice jamming song too: the percussion section and the saxophone lines give it a jazzy but yet very psychedelic sound (Psychedelic Jazz, I'd say). Actually I was surprised when I read this band is considered into the Psychedelic/Space Rock sub-genre, I thought it would be more related to Jazz Rock/Fusion since it reminds me a lot to some JRF bands such as COMA, MISSING LINK or even NUCLEUS.

I thought that my rate to this album would be only three stars, but now that I'm listening to it all over again I believe it deserves one more. Absolutely recommended to fans of jazzy, hippie, psychedelic and bluesy late sixties and early seventies bands.

About the girl I'll only say that I'll visit her more often because she's insanely cute and it is always nice to meet somebody to talk about cool music.

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 To Wake the King by SECRET GREEN album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.88 | 22 ratings

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To Wake the King
Secret Green Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars I somehow doubt that fans of groundbreaking cult group ENID, during a 13 year drought, got together in their drafty cellars and lamented into their draughts that what the ENID needed to do above all was incorporate Olde English folk derivations into their already twee arsenal. But, if I had bothered to follow the group at some point that's surely what I would have concluded. Curiously, the deliverance came in the form of former member FRANCIS LICKERISH and his SECRET GREEN project, coincidentally (or not) released in the same year as the mother ship's first sailing since 1996.

Luckily so much more than lip service is paid to intrinsic folk influenced numbers like "Echoing Green", "Tom O'Bedlam" (and its companion "Bransle") and "Nimue", but even in the surprisingly aggressive moments like the introduction to "Galliard", the ancient roots are nurtured. Sure, you still get the ceremoniousness of any Enid related production, so fans would be mostly at home here, and the heavenly voice of Hilary Palmer only adds to the enticements.

My main criticism is how slowly matters unfold on many of these tracks, and I'm not always so keen on the timbre of the lead guitars, but really these are ungrateful quibbles when considered in light of this uniquely English event that is equal parts symphony, courtly dance nickelodeon, and social mixer for lords, serfs and scallywags alike. At least that is what the sound evokes, which is surely the point, along with a lament for the long departed and idealized benevolent dictatorships of yore. Given modern vicissitudes, if the KIng has not awakened yet, he has rolled over and wished the nightmare away. That's where SECRET GREEN comes in.

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 Crisalida by ESP蚏ITU album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.62 | 86 ratings

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Crisalida
Esp韗itu Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars Like so many non Anglo releases from the mid and late 1970s, Espiritu's debut doggedly schleps around baggage from the early 1970s. While classified here as symphonic, it's really an eclectic blend of symph, heavy, folk and pop/psych, often within spitting distance of each other, and that's pretty much the effect as well.

All 8 tracks run together, but if they shifted the boundaries near or far I would be none the wiser. I'm not sure when post-it notes were invented but am a bit surprised they aren't in the credits. I wish they had channelled every ounce of energy into one engrossing number and the rest be damned, but instead beckon the listener to wade in the reeds for the occasional inspired moment strewn about willy nilly, the sort of thing one might search for again in vain. Really, there was this killer 5 seconds and I'm sure it was in track 4.5 somewhere! Oh well, back to that LA MAQUINA album I guess, or better yet TRIANA.

Gobs of spirited play notwithstanding, this effort lacks cohesion and focus, but perhaps they prioritized this and emerged from their chrysalis in subsequent releases. I am in the minority here in any case so by all means give this a whirl if the opportunity presents itself and my criticisms seem like trifles to you.

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 De-Loused in the Comatorium by MARS VOLTA, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.19 | 1237 ratings

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De-Loused in the Comatorium
The Mars Volta Heavy Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars In the world of progressive punk = pronk, perhaps nobody pulled it off better and more dramatically than THE MARS VOLTA. Sure the Cardiacs may have popularized the unthinkable fusional possibilities but at the heart of their sound was a zolo art pop approach that took catchy infectious melodies and nerded them out big time. THE MARS VOLTA on the other hand went for the prog jugular with highbrow concept albums and sprawling soundscapes that mixed post-hardcore, psychedelic rock, progressive electronica and even Latin jazz. The band seemed to have come from nowhere with its lauded debut DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM which despite almost no promotion still managed to make the top spot on favorite lists when it arrived in 2003 from its sheer boldness to take prog and punk to incredible new heights.

Riding the wave of the 90s prog revival that flourished, El Paso, TX based THE MARS VOLTA arose from the ashes of the up and coming post-hardcore band At The Drive-In, which was at the verge of crossing over into the mainstream but the bored duo of vocalist and lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala along with guitarist Omar Rodr韌uez-L髉ez grew tired of their bandmates unwillingness to experiment and instead opted to go it alone. THE MARS VOLTA spent the next 13 years releasing one mind-altering experimental album after another beginning with what many consider their best, the abstractly titled DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM. While this duo's former bandmates would form the post-hardcore Sparta and dwell in the world of generic uninventiveness, Bixler-Zavala and Rodr韌uez-L髉ez were hell bent for leather to craft some of the most bizarre constructs of psychedelic post-hardcore enveloped in the reverie of classic 70s prog extremities.

This is one of those albums that has just as bizarre of a story behind it as the music presented. While the song titles, lyrics and overall themes are just as abstract and surreal as the album cover art, the album's concept revolves around the tale of Cerpin Taxt, a man who enters a week-long coma after overdosing on a mixture of morphine and rat poison and is indirectly dedicated to the death of Bixler-Zavala's friend Julio Venegas who was an El Paso artist. Ironically the album coincided with the death of another close friend and collaborator Jeremy Michael Ward who was a founding member of THE MARS VOLTA as the sound manipulator that gave the band that extra edge over the competition much in the vein of other production rich artists like Porcupine Tree and Riverside. Ward was found dead after a heroin overdose which was the moment when the due of Bixler-Zavala and Rodr韌uez-L髉ez took a cold hard look at their own drug habits and went cold turkey. The duo henceforth put its energy into crafting material for THE MARS VOLTA which apparently paid off.

While Bixler-Zavala and Rodr韌uez-L髉ez would be the only two consistent members and main creative contributors to THE MARS VOLTA, this debut showcases what was truly a band effort with Jon Theodore on drums, Isaiah Owens on keyboards, a guest appearance of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass and is the only album to feature the now deceased Jeremy Michael Ward who produced the myriad effects and sound manipulations. The album also found extra help from Lenny Castro providing the Latin jazz percussion, John Frusicante also of the Red Hot Chili Peppers contributing additional guitar parts and synthesizers and acoustic bass parts from Justin Meldal-Johnson. The album also attracted a ridiculous amount of producers mixing and mastering personal as well as the legendary Rick Rubin joining Rodr韌uez-L髉ez in the producer's seat. In other words, there was a LOT of effort put into this densely packed hour's run of fine-crafted musical output and the efforts were quite triumphant in their delivery.

Although the simplified formula of THE MARS VOLTA is to juxtapose brash post-hardcore guitar riffs, bantering bass grooves and a tumultuous percussive drive that sat equidistantly between metal and punk, the band excelled at filling the connective tissue of transitions with extremely psychedelic and surreal electronic motifs that completely broke free from Earth's gravitational pull and took a trip into the spaced out world of artists such as Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. While sonically oft tied to the post-hardcore of At The Drive-In, the lay out of the composiitons was much more akin to the heavyweights of 1970s progressive rock thus earning THE MARS VOLTA as one of the best newer prog bands to usher in the 21st century for its innovative approach that actually suited the oft abused term 'progressive.' Add to that the emo bellowing wails of Bixler-Zavala's vocal style and you're in for one unique musical experience.

While the above mentioned formula straddles the album's hour long run, the 12 minute plus 'Cicatriz E.S.P.' takes things even further as the opening proggy post-hardcore beginning morphs into one of the most surreal electronic free floats into the astral plane outside of that famous deleted scene from Avatar. This truly is one of the most unique albums of the 21st century that runs the gamut from highly pyroclastic displays of post-hardcore orotundity to the saucerful of secrets escape from reality that takes a ride on the astral side and craft some of the trippiest electronic sequences since the early Krautrock and progressive electronic scenes of decades prior. THE MARS VOLTA was by no means an easy band for me to get into. Bixler-Zavala's vocal style is very much an acquired taste and although the music has always resonated especially in the complex compositional approach, the vocals took me a lot longer to jive with but after the proper acclimation i find they actually serve the music quite well and keep it in the world of totally unique and idiosyncratic. True that DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM may seem weird for the sake of weirdness but after considerable attention paid to the details, i can only glean a inexplicable admiration for the amount of detail to every single second of this album's run. In other words, this is a utterly brilliant!

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 Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco by PANDORA album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.13 | 78 ratings

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Dramma Di Un Poeta Ubriaco
Pandora Rock Progressivo Italiano

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars The debut album from these modern prog artists. My question is: Am I listening to RPI? or is this really Heavy Prog, Prog Metal, or even Neo Prog? Some of the sounds used here are quite dated (especially the keyboards).

1. "Il Giudizio Universale" (7:37) opens with 90 seconds of someone dialing through a radio that is playing, catching all kinds of international flavors in both talk and music formats. Then a heavier, 1980s hairband-like sound palette burst upon the scene, exposing several somewhat familiar styles--including one that is heavily dominated by a Hammond organ. In the fourth minute things smooth out until at 3:45 a new theme shoots forward over which guitar, synth and voice take turns leading. This is very solid, very polished heavy rock/heavy prog. In the sixth minute, things back off and a nice potential-energy passage holds the forward motion as Corrado Grappegia tones down his vocal a bit. But then things get inexplicably heavy/djenty again for the final wordless minute. Odd! (13/15) 2. "March to Hell" (5:59) more heavily paced music, this one, and instrumental, is a little slower, which, to my ears, feels more similar to the heavy palette of Neo Proggers PALLAS, TRANSATLANTIC, or PENDRAGON. In the middle it takes a strange turn into a faster gear over which Hammond and synth take turns soloing. Machine gun bullet kick drum play makes me feel as if this is really not RPI but Heavy Prog or even Prog Metal. Dated keyboard sounds take turns soloing over the final two minutes. (8/10)

3. "Cos?Come Sei" (8:21) sensitively picked steel-string guitar solos for the first minute before being joined by bass and wavering pitched synth and then vocals. Corrado sounds much older, more mature on this one--and way more classic RPI in his style. Nice instrumental section in the third and fourth minutes--very solid rhythm section and great melodies from the lead synth. Great transition to a in the end of the fifth minute followed by some cool drumming and organ play. As near to a perfect RPI song as there could be and a top three song for me. (20/20)

4. "Pandora (11:43) another instrumental in which a long spacey synth opening which is eventually joined by male voice reciting something in Italian as drums and bass establish quite a tight and polished musical bass over the next 90 seconds. Then guitars and keys join in with synth leading in the establishment of melodies while metal guitar and piano hold up the middle ground. Very solid. At the end of the fifth minute everybody drops out for an "old time saloon" piano solo. At the six minute mark we burst back into heavy prog, and then Hammond and synth strings led section very reminiscent of classic RPI ?la MUSEO ROSENBACH or LE ORME. The organ slowly performs a steady rising arpeggio sequence similar to the one Tony Banks does in "Apocalypse in 9/8." Very nice composition impeccably performed and fairly well recorded. (18.5/20)

5. "Breve Storia di San George" (6:39) delicately-picked and -strummed acoustic guitars with synth flute and (dated) synth strings providing the lead melodies. After two minutes of this pastoral beauty, guitar and harpsichord take more control of the fore as Corrado sings in another performance that would fit perfectly into a classic RPI album like MAXOPHONE's. The final minute turns tribal--gypsy, paisano, or Native American, I'm not sure. A beautiful song for which my only complaint is in the dated keyboard-generated sounds of flutes and strings. (9/10)

6. "Dramma di un Poeta Ubriaco" (9:05) sounds of agua con gazeta being poured into glasses on the wooden table top precedes an outburst into rock-ified classical music that sounds very much like the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. At 2:40 we stop that and move into a more BILLY JOEL "Just the Way You Are" keyboard base before Corrado enters singing in a raspy, strained "older" voice again. Some of the melodies here are either Russian or from very deeply traditional folk traditions. The bombastic "orchestrated" final section sounds nice, conveys the operatic power that it's meant to, and then backs the plaintive lead synth and buzz saw lead guitar in a nice Mellotron-like way. This is, however, the only part of the song that I enjoy. Not my favorite. (16.5/20)

7. "Salto nel Buio" (13:45) steel string acoustic guitar played delicately--almost harp-like--before banked strings chords enter and the guitar begins producing a progression of slowly arpeggiated chords. Slow build and transfer of instruments over the next two minutes. Very pleasant pace and instrumental palettes throughout, with opportune switches for vocal passages in the fourth and fifth minutes and, later, for some folk-sounding passages. In the ninth minute, unfortunately, the band chooses to go back to a heavy/prog metal palette and style. The band does, however, remain tight and focused, delivering an excellent (if TFF "Carole of Bells" like) motif--but then it goes cheesy exaggerated lounge jazz with less than two minutes left. (28/30)

Total Time 63:09

A-/4.5 stars; an album of much more diversified sounds and stylings that I expected. This makes it sometimes difficult to categorize as "RPI" as it is not always the case, but, overall, I'll give in to that assignation.

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 No Earthly Connection by WAKEMAN, RICK album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.75 | 248 ratings

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No Earthly Connection
Rick Wakeman Symphonic Prog

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review N?397

As we all know, among many music fans, Rick Wakeman is a polarizing and polemic figure. Some love his work and others despise it. For those in the former camp, his keyboard playing, composing and arranging show a deft, assured and endlessly creative master. Both, as a highly in demand sessioner, on David Bowie's "Changes", Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken" and Black Sabbath's "Sabbra Cadabra" (to name but three of countless contributions he's made) and as a member of Strawbs and Yes, his work is often exciting. But to his detractors, he's the visible symbol of everything that was wrong and excessive with rock in the 70's. In any case he is an inescapable figure of those times.

"No Earthly Connection" is the fourth studio album of Rick Wakeman and was released in 1976. "No Earthly Connection" was a return to a more "normal" format, although there is supposed to be some a sort of concept to the album. It isn't as popular as the first three Wakeman's releases. Still, "No Earthly Connection" rates right up there, if for no other reason than this was an exceptionally creative period in the keyboardist's career. So, somehow, "No Earthly Connection" is certainly a lost gem for the ages and represents for many people the last great album of Rick Wakeman.

His breakout solo album, 1973's "The Six Wives Of King Henry VIII" established him as a potent force, and his follow up album "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table" was also quite good, though it didn't quite scale the heights of his debut. By 1976, Wakeman had settled into recording with a steady band he called the English Rock Ensemble. Still interested in conceptual and thematic works, "No Earthly Connection" concerns itself with big ideas. The music remains keyboard heavy, as we could expect, but his band is prominently featured as well.

Somehow and despite the differences, "No Earthly Connection" represents more or less a kind of a return to the same formula of "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", where he employed members of Yes and other rock musicians, but choose not to use the orchestras of "Journey To The Center Of The Earth" and "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Roundtable". Curiously, "No Earthly Connection" was recorded in France, supposedly for tax reasons.

The line up on the album is Rick Wakeman (Mander pipe organ, Hammond organ, Steinway grand piano, RMI Electra piano, Hohner clavinet, Moog synthesizer, Baldwin electric harpsichord, honky-tonk piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Mellotron, Godwin organ and Systech pedals), Ashley Holt (vocals), Roger Newell (vocals, bass guitar and bass pedals), John Dunsterville (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars and mandolin), Tony Fernandes (drums and percussion), Martyn Shields (vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn and French horn) and Reg Brooks (vocals, trombone and bass trombone).

"No Earthly Connection" has three parts. The first part is the suite "Music Reincarnate" and is divided into five chapters: "The Warning", "The Maker", "The Spaceman", "The Realization" and "The Reaper". The second part is "The Prisoner" and the third part is "The Lost Cycle". The first part opens with the startling Moog ascending arpeggio of the "Music Reincarnate" suite. It has plenty of string sounds, lots of Clavinet and some nice bass playing of Newell. The music sounds like a cross between Alan Parsons and Gentle Giant. The former is recalled through the album's ambitious yet catchy arrangement, while the latter comes to my mind via the tricky time signature changes and complex vocal arrangements. It features some great vocal snippets while Wakeman provides an atmospheric musical bed. Sometimes it's a bit pompous and silly, to be sure, but fun nonetheless. And the analogue synthesizers' solos are predictably tasty. The second part "The Prisoner" is led by Newell's bass. Wakeman comes in on harpsichord and duel ensues. This is more or less a read on the trials of the spaceman. It's a tune that requires complete attention to the lyrics and a deep love for progressive stuff. The third part "The Lost Cycle" ends the album, pulling out all the stops as Wakeman plays a flurry of keys. The lyrics describe the spaceman's full journey. But the song is less about the story and is more about Wakeman's superlative arranging and playing. It indicates how Wakeman is taken with his technique.

Conclusion: If you like pianos, organs, Mellotrons, Moogs and all sort of other keyboard instruments, you'll find plenty to like on "No Earthly Connection". But, it's overall a more mainstream album than Wakeman's earlier works. "No Earthly Connection" is deeply layered stuff even without Wakeman's reliance of an orchestra. The lyrics may come off as a bit trite, the story is nothing more than weak sci-fi, but the musicianship of The English Rock Ensemble and vocals of Ashley Holt make this album certainly worthy of inclusion on a list of classic lost albums. Somehow, "No Earthly Connection" is, comparatively, a streamlined album by Wakeman. It's not as elaborate and ambitious as its immediate predecessors, "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII", "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" and "The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table". Anyway, it still remains for me, an impressive work, one of his best.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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