One band for whom the term "sophomore slump" certainly applies as the promise shown in their very proggy debut album, 2006's How to Accept, remains unrealized. The band seems to have lost a little of its sense of direction, sense of identity, as the songs on this album seem to go in many directions
(quite often toward Chrissie's torch song leanings) and not really ever establishing a 'comfort zone.' Chrissie's vocals and stories often feel quite misaligned with the music playing out beneath.
Five star songs: 2. "'Acquatica'" (5:57) (9/10); the emotional, RIKKIE LEE JONES-like torch song, 5. "Trivial Pursuit" (7:13) which does jump into a nice jazz-fusion section in the second half (9/10); the excellent, 10. "Perpetual Twilight" (9:47) sounds as if it came from either a Freddy HUBBARD album from the 70s or JANE SIBERRY's 1989 classic 'live,' in-the-studio record, Bound By The Beauty. The frenetic sections are the best. (9/10)
Four star songs: despite its cheesy start, the song 8. "Despierta" (7:55)--which is sung in Spanish--offers quite a fun and beautiful journey--especially with Chrissie's fluid, sensuous Spanish. A great language for her singing style (8.5/10); the absolutely gorgeous torch song vocal and music of 9. "Beauty Is Beast" (5:17) (8.5/10); 4. "Breathe Easy" (5:33) is an awesome piano-jazz lounge song in the DIANA KRALL or early BILLY JOEL tradition, but barely fits the prog bill (8.5/10); 6. "Into Pieces" (2:37) (8/10); despite some fiercely clever and well-performed music (what drumming!), the lyric/vocal of 7. "Spiritual Rats" (5:47) just doesn't fit, match, or work (8/10); 1. "Knock Knock (Disappear)" (5:57) seems to be trying to be a Turkish-Arabian Reggae song without ever really feeling like one. Too forced despite the fine displays of individual musicianship and the awesome instrumental section. (8/10), and; the incongruous, 3. "Make the Choice" (6:54) (7.5/10).
I call it a slump--mostly for its divergence from what one typically holds as "prog" roots--but this is still a collection of creative and often beautiful music that comes from a group of hihgly skilled, creative and committed musicians.
84.0 on the Fishscales = solid four stars; B; a highly recommended musical adventure.
83.33 on the Fish scales = a very solid four star album and excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. Get it NOW!
80.83 on the Fish scales = a ver solid four star album; a great addition to any prog lover's music collection.
A collection of excellent, intricately composed and as usual well-performed and recorded songs based upon themes from Gothic literature. Composer and mastermind Richard Wileman has again ping-ponged from the more positive, upbeat moods of his previous album, The Last of the Libertine, to the darker, eerier timbres of this album--a pattern of his that even he recognizes and admits to. (The next studio album in the Karda Estra discography, the excellent New Worlds, is quite light and upbeat--in an unprecedented almost quirky, BURT BACHARACH kind of way.) Still, this is one of the most solid, mature, deep, and alluring albums KE has ever put together. Next to Eve this is the KE album to which I most listen--and a source of many profound listening experiences it has been! (Also a great one to play back-to-back with THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND's excellent 2011 release, Who Is This Who Is Coming?)
Four stars, highly recommended.
Favorite selections: the melodic "Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn" (6:00) (9/10) and the spacious and delicate "Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)" (11:26) (9/10).
Four stars; a wonderful aural experience.
This was a surprising discovery, thanks to iTunes' "Listeners Also Bought" suggestion line. Kind of a mix of Porcupine Tree, Sylvan, tinyfish, and King Crimson, all on the heavy side. My favorites, of course, are the songs with more delicate, spacious and melodic parts like the CYNIC and FEN-like "Path of the Dying" (7:20) (9/10); the STEVEN WILSON-cum-KING CRIMSON-ish, "Quietus" (5:30) (8/10), and; the borderline smooth jazz instrumental, "2am" (6:26) (8/10). My favorite song on the album, though, is the polyrhythmic exercise, "Moodroom v.2" (4:36). I love the 'addition' of the trumpet, vocal samples, and cello to the otherwise KC "Discipline" clone. (10/10)
Four stars of, dare I say it, "excellent" heavy prog.(!)
THIS IS NOT "CROSSOVER" MUSIC!!
I look forward to more from this band.
75.45 on the Fish scales = 3.5 stars; a nice album to try out.
Canadians rule the world of quirk! (Quirk, Strangeness and Charm!) Miriodor's music is highly unpredictable--each and every turn is surprising and yet entertaining, and very engaging! Like YUGEN, PRESENT, UNIVERS ZERO and ART ZOYD these musicians are definitely virtuosi, unlike the artists on this list, Miriodor have much more of an open sense of humor on display in their music.
Favorite songs: "La Roche (Meeting Point)" (9:17) and "Avanti" (8:18).
Solid four star effort.
EPICA Design Your Universe
One of my step-daughter's favorite groups (she's a fem-fronted Goth and classical music/opera geek), this album was not as well received by her as their previous releases, 2007's The Divine Conspiracy and 2009's full orchestra- and choir-accompanied live album, The Classical Conspiracy. Though their music is a bit over the top drama metal for my tastes, I must admit that the compositions are quite clever and performed at quite a high level of musicianship. Plus, Simone Simons has quite an amazing voice. Were I young and needing to expell a lot of teen angst, Goth metal would be a great outlet, and there are none better in the sub-sub-genre than Epica.
Favorite songs: "Unleashed" (5:48) (9/10) and "Martyr of the Free World" (5:03) (8/10).
Four stars for highly accomplished, complex compositions and performances.
THE CHURCH Untitled #23
A great story (told in Italian) told in classic prog, classic Rock Progressivo Italiano style with some of the best sound, structures, and compositions throughout that I've heard from recent RPI artists. Some of this album's high points are even better than DELIRIUM's Il nomo del vento or IL BACIO DELLA MEDUSA's Discesa agl'inferi d'un giovane amante.
Solid four stars of great Italian (dramatic, operatic) prog.
3.5 stars rounded up for great production sound, creativity, and ambition.
Though "Ryker Skies"(9:45) (10/10) is a great song--one of the best of the Naughties--Frequency as a whole displays nothing new except perfected, refined, even re-hashed IQ Neo-prog (which is, in itself, rehashed imitation of the melodic symphonic and crossover bands of the late 1970s). The album's much-raved-about prog epic, "The Province of the King"(13:42) (7/10) (as well as the album's other long song, "Stronger Than Friction" [10:32] [7/10]) is so familiar--textbook GENESIS/IQ. Too bad that Peter Nicholls' rather pleasant voice is always the same. Too bad that most of Neo-prog's good ideas have already been used. Too many times. (GENESIS were great, weren't they?!)
Four stars for great sound and performances; three stars because it's all been heard/done before.
1. "L.D.I." (9:41) is one of my favorite songs on the album, rarely going 'over the top' as the band is often prone to do. (8/10)
2. "19:59" (6:47) is solid but lacking the hooks to suck you in and bring you back. Also, it seems to behave like a horse or dog race around the track: the whole thing in one single-minded speed--which, over almost seven minutes, seems more to drag on and on without coming to any shift or successful resolution. Some nice guitar work in the fourth minute. (7/10)
3. "Le film de ma vie" (7:40) while kind of pretty (initial guitar parts and fairly melodic vocal presentation) the song again seems to go nowhere. The instrumental "B" part starting around the three minute mark is much more interesting, bordering on some almost-STEELY DAN sounds and feeling before winding down into a rather bizarre and lackluster synthesizer solo. Then the song shifts into a kind of African choral chant which then morphs into a pretty decent two-chord section supporting vocal and guitar solos. (8/10)
4. "L'armée des ombres" (10:05) begins with a heavy guitar-led intro before collapsing into a stark bass, drums and electric piano groove over which the singer does his thing. Very much like a mix of THE MARS VOLTA and early VAN HALEN. Development and change during the first six minutes are, however, quite lacking--especially in the rhythm section (there are plenty of changes among the solo instruments on the top). The 'bottom falls out' section that ensues with piano and bass pulsing a syncopated beat behind a distant bumping piano and way-foreward tinny electric guitar--which is then met by another different guitar in a THIN LIZZY-like duet--turns into more of a TMV song. I actually quite like the last four minutes. (7/10)
5. "Faux semblants" (8:04) is a refreshing pop-jazzy tune that reminds me of STEELY DAN, THE CRUSADERS and even a little MEET DANNY WILSON. At 4:20 it begins to sound a lot like a DEVIN TOWNSEND weave as we enter another choral "la-la-la-laah" section. The following synth solo over the electric guitar power chords works (this time). I really like the bass work on this one, too. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)
The obligatoire prog epic, 6. "Barbares" (25:54), is just too long and seems, in the end, rather pointless. The first half is instrumental and then there is a very odd break at the 12:30 mark which then restarts with an almost-equally odd Celtic sound--which then turns very JETHRO TULL-ish (though I am again reminded more of the music of THIN LIZZY--if they had been prog- and epic-oriented). the delicate pianissimo section that begins at the 21-minute mark was what I thought was a completely different song (ELTON JOHN's "Funeral for a Friend" perhaps?), but then it revives some old theme (that I had quite forgotten) before going into a build-up to crescendo sound-fest that sounds mysteriously similar to a theme/section from HARMONIUM's "Depuis l'automne"). Maybe after five to ten listens this one would make coherent sense and win me over but the Nemo sound is just not enticing enough for me to want to try to achieve said intimacy.