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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Top 30 Albums of 2017

Since this year has been pretty rough on me due to family emergencies and reviews were either delayed or postponed because of the situation I was under, I've decided to go ahead and post a little Thanksgiving/Christmas early surprise of my top 30 albums of 2017. So here it is and criticism is welcomed.

1. Schooltree – Heterotopia (Self-Released)
2. White Willow – Future Hopes (Laser’s Edge)
3. Bent Knee – Land Animal (InsideOut Music)
4. Kim Seviour – Recovery Is Learning (White Star Records)
5. Cheer-Accident – Putting Off Death (Cuneiform Records)
6. Gentle Knife – Clock Unwound (Bajkal Records)
7. Gary Peacock Trio – Tangents (ECM Records)
8. Wobbler – From Silence to Somewhere (Karisma Records)
9. Magenta – We Are Legend (Tigermoth Records)
10. Discipline – Captives of the Wine Dark Sea (Laser’s Edge)
11. Steven Wilson – To The Bone (Caroline)
12. Dusan Jevtovic – No Answer (MoonJune Records)
13. Acqua Fragile – A New Chant (Esoteric Antenna)
14. Tohpati Bertiga – Faces (deMajors)
15. Carptree – Emerger (Reingold Records)
16. Pixie Ninja – Ultrasound (Apollon Records)
17. Motorpsycho – The Tower (Stickman Records)
18. Reflections In Cosmo – Reflections In Cosmo (RareNoise)
19. Mumpbeak – Tooth (RareNoise)
20. Ides of Gemini – Women (Rise Above Records)
21. Arabs in Aspic – Syndenes Magi (Apollon Records)
22. Schnauser – Irritant (Bad Elephant Music)
23. Il Tempio Delle Clessidre – il-Ludere (Black Widow Records)
24. Led Bib – Umbrella Weather (RareNoise Records)
25. Big Hogg – Gargoyles (Bad Elephant Music)
26. Sky Architect – Nomad (FREIA/Bad Elephant Music)
27. Avishai Cohen – Cross My Palm with Silver (ECM Records)
28. Saturn – Beyond Spectra (Rise Above Records)
29. Hedersleben – Orbit (Purple Pyramid Records)
30. Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want? (Columbia)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Strawbs - The Ferryman's Curse

It’s been nearly 53 years since the Strawbs formed in their hometown in London. From their bluegrass/folk roots and into their golden-era of the Progressive Rock movement, they’ve released some of the best albums including Bursting at the Seams, From The Witchwood, Grave New World, Hero & Heroine, Ghosts, and Dragonfly. What they would do is creating magic in their music during that time period with storytelling songs that would make you close your eyes and imagine a movie inside your head.

This year, Strawbs have released a new album in eight long years after the release of their 2009 album, Dancing to the Devil’s Beat. The Ferryman’s Curse which is released on the Esoteric Antenna label, is new material that they’ve unleashed. And for me, it is a very interesting release. Since discovering their music while I was at Houston Community College 12 years ago on the Prog Archives website, their music always intrigued me.

Produced by Chris Tsangarides (Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and Yngwie Malmsteen) while the line-up contains Dave Cousins, lead guitarist Dave Lambert, bassist Chas Cronk and drummer Tony Fernandez who recorded and toured in the ‘70s. And in the line-up is keyboardist and guitar virtuoso Dave Bainbridge of Iona who blend Celtic Folk, Rock, and Ambient Music, brings in the perfect combination for Strawbs.

The name of the albums as I’ve mentioned is called, The Ferryman’s Curse, is also the title-track as a continuing sequel to the song, The Vision of the Lady of the Lake from Strawbs second album, Dragonfly which was originally released on the A&M label in 1970 and produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Gentle Giant, T. Rex, and Sparks). And the five highlights on here show that Strawbs bringing more ideas to the table.

The Nails from the Hands of Christ is one of the most haunting compositions dealing with young people’s relationship with the Church. Chas’ mysterious bass riff and the guitar improvisations sets up the subject matter of showing that this isn’t a place you do not want to go near of the scenario and what’s happening behind closed doors inside the church.

The song mentions albums, vinyl, Bruce Springsteen, mobile phones, their description on who the lord our savior is, google, drugs, and mobile phones to name a few. And of course a symphonic rising section done by the Organ from Bainbridge himself. You can hear the Mellotron choir/strings setting up the innocence walking towards a deadly trap for what is about to happen.

This is a risky subject, but it is a challenging composition for Cousins to describe both the skeletons and the white elephant in the closet underneath the church. But it is an eye-opener for what is going on. And you can imagine the victims are finally standing up and speaking out to get ready to blow the whistle and letting them know what has happened to them.

The Reckoning is a short instrumental. The Strawbs do this as if making the listener know that some creature is about to creep up behind them at any second. You have that situation to fill in the void with the Piano, Acoustic Guitar, and the Mellotron whilst the band take a small bit of a film score as if they were doing one of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western from the ‘60s.

The Familiarity of Old Lovers is their nod to both the Greg Lake and Post-Greg Lake-era of King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon and Lizard. Cousins describes about the loved ones who were with the one they cherished and married, have decided to move on to start a new chapter in their lives. It is a bitter-sweet composition that begins with this flamenco-sque sound on the acoustic guitar.

You can imagine yourself walking into a café as the Mellotron gives this wonderful scenery of what was, and what is now by letting go both of the past and the present. Understanding that time has passed, and things are changing, but remembering the good times they had spent together for many years. And keeping the good memories inside your pocket.

We Have the Power is medieval prog folk. You have this Moog fanfare and Mellotron choir introduction whilst coming up with a rising rhythmic sound of setting up the momentum of coming home from a long and difficult journey as success has been achieved from power, strength, and in the palm of your hands. It is also a time to celebrate of the accomplishments they’ve achieved.

The title-track again as I’ve mentioned, is the sequel to The Vision of the Lady of the Lake. It takes place several years after the events of the 1970 epic. The Boatman is now married, but the vision of her from the original track, he tries to forget that and move on with his life. It is mysterious and intense, but also knowing that death is coming for him with a heavy price.

The Organ and Mellotron set up the scenario between the characters while Cousins is telling you the story and he’s letting the listeners know that it’s not going to end well for the Boatman. You can imagine this as a movie inside your head of what is about to happen next.

The Ferryman’s Curse is perhaps a good album. Not great, but a good album. It is the same thing I felt with Procol Harum’s new album Novum. It didn’t grab me a few times, but on Strawbs’ new album, it is quite clear that Dave himself isn’t in full circle yet, but I can imagine he and the band have some more tricks up their sleeves for a few more years to come.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trallskogen - Trollskogen

What would happen if the music combined Swedish Folk, Pop, and Jazz music? Well, believe me those combinations could work and it does from the mind of Trallskogen. It’s one of Annika’s projects they they’ve released their debut album this year. And if you love those three genres, you're in for a real treat.

The origins of Trallskogen started back while Annika was visiting the “Scenska Visarkivet” in Stockholm. She discovered old recordings of the singers who moved back from village to village and sang festivities and told stories. Discovering this fascinating idea, Annika came up with an idea. She would not only combined the trail songs, but mix folklore along with pop and jazz.

Annika Jonsson lives and works in Saarbrucken, Germany. She grew up with German-Swedish parents in Boppard, Germany and she completed her studies in Mathematics in Kaiserslauten before studying Jazz in Saarbrucken from 2011 to 2016 at the Saar Academy of Music with Anne Czichowsky. Her final project during that time frame, she went to Sweden to search for her musical roots. And one of the projects would be Trallskogen. And their debut album, Trollskogen is released on Annika’s new label, Nikasound.

Listening to this album, will make you go back and pull out some of the Swedish bands/artists that were part of the Silence label in the golden era of the 1970s in its early years. But Trallskogen’s music is like looking through an old storybook and revisiting those tales that you were told as a child and revisiting its fantasy side. The band considers Steffen Lang on Guitar, Martin Jager on Piano, Felix Hubert on Double Bass, and Kevin Nasshan on Drums.

The eerie opening musique-concrete on Intro (Have tar, Havet ger), starts with Martin’s plucking piano strings, Felix’s foghorn sounds on double bass, Steffen’s guitar, and Kevin brushing the drums. You can hear the reverb effect on the double bass along with the delay/effect on the guitar and intensive pulse from the piano and drums that gives the listener to know that the story has just begun and the book is finally opened.

Annika comes into the forest as if she’s walking through the trees as she sings while her bandmates follow her into this new location that she brings us towards into. The music is part Ummagumma and part Thelonious Monk near the end section between Lang and Nasshan. The title-track is walking through the opened door that’s already opened for us to enjoy the party.

Its textures makes the track opening a flower that is ready to burst. Annika sings a melodic structure as if she’s singing through a scale by going upwards including a scat-singing section. Martin follows her on the piano and it’s a wonderful in the piece before Kevin’s drum solo takes front and center channeling Elvin Jones from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

Bergtrall is Trallskogen honoring the legacy of Vince Guaraldi. The first minute gives Martin a chance to honor the jazz musician as if they band were doing a score for another Peanuts special to see what the gang and Snoopy will come up with next. But then, it moves forward into some cliffhanger scenario as Felix does some walking tightrope lines on the double bass.

And then, out of the blue, Martin and Kevin create that moment to build up the climax more and more to raise the bars even higher. Then, it suddenly goes into a train that goes into a mid-fast tempo to create the speed for the piano, drums, and bass going into a full-scale atmosphere. Annika comes in the last minute for her vocalizations as if the forest has approaches by a ghost to give a chilling end.

With its bright, fast, and chilling momentum, it goes back into the Guaraldi section to close the composition for a few seconds. The piano on Alvdans goes into a swirl for the sun to rise. Annika’s vocals and Steffen’s stop-and-go intro on the guitar chords as the mid-fast sections are catchy while the percussion's come up with a clicking sound through the kit on the drumsticks. The composition itself feels like it was something straight out of Jacques Demy’s 1964 classic, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but with a jazz setting.

Now Bitar, is a track I got a kick out of. Featuring the psychedelic wah-wah guitar and a soulful piano and Annika’s scatting that is almost through a Leslie speaker done in an homage to Robert Wyatt, Trallskogen show their nod to the Canterbury scene for its swirling turn for Martin paying a nod to the late great Phil Miller (Delivery, Hatfield and the North, Matching Mole, and National Health).

Before I close this review, let me just say this. Trallskogen’s debut album was not easy album to review. It’s for me a great debut I’ve listened to over about three times now. Annika has come a long way not just both in mathematics and music, but with the projects including her Pop-Jazz project of Caleido Club last year. But for me, Trallskogen would be something that will peak my interest for the years to come to see what Annika would come up with next.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Opposite Day - I Calculate Great

Back in July of 2015, after I was coming home for my afternoon walk, there was an album that arrived in the mail. It was a trio from Austin, TX named Opposite Day and the name of their album was Space Taste Race Part 2 released on their label, Future Banana Replacement. This was a sequel to their 2013 EP Space Taste Race Part 1. For me, it was a crazy off-the-wall releases of their sixth full-length album that nearly blew me away.

Not just because it’s great, but the way they combined Art Rock, Math Rock, Pop, and odd-time signatures, with a twist to the master of the Grand Wazoo and Cardiacs maestro, Tim Smith. Since they launched 16 years ago in their hometown in Austin, Opposite Day described their music as “Educational Art-Rock for Animals” which describes their music very well. Not only that, but it is also, Jigsaw-puzzle complex music.

Bassist Greg Yancey, Lead Vocalist and Guitarist Sam Arnold, and drummer Pat Kennedy, released their new album this year entitled, I Calculate Great was recorded from 2015 to 2017 at Greg’s House. And it was Pat’s last album before departing last year as Eoghan McCloskey became the new drummer for Opposite Day. The artwork for the album is done by Tim Doyle which details of two pandas in spacesuits arriving back home from Earth after a long day in outer space.

With a cat watching in confusion on why they’ve come back for a long, long time and why they’ve waited for a long time to come back home. It is a very good detail and shown in their faces what will happen next for them. I Calculate Great is a very interesting mix. The trio bring more carte blanche and free rein while pushing the envelope further and further. But Sam Arnold brings in more of the ammunition to see what will happen next.

Radar Face opens to a full-scale assault between Sam and Greg’s bass. There’s these twists and turns from calm scenarios into punk-rock momentum with a helicopter approaching throughout the midsection as if Frank Zappa have come down and made a nice hot cooked meal that is very, very spicy for the Cardiacs to sink into.

Panda Formula begins with a psychedelic intro then turned into metal riffs. It’s part thrash, part math rock, and unexpected hoedowns in a different yet difficult time signature to swing your partner to the right with an Art Rock meets Texas Metallic rock style! Both Rules Are Rude and Ribbons & Lasers brings more of the wackiness to Opposite Day’s table.

Sam brings in more of the inspirations between Max Webster, Half Past Four, and Mr. Bungle into a giant blender to give Opposite Day a lot of insanity and crazy ideas to play around. But then, on Making Tornadoes it climbs upwards and downwards for the guitar to go left and right in stereophonic format. Sam does his Mike Patton-sque arrangement to nod his head and pay homage while the Tornadochestra go into an Uncle Meat arrangement.

The only track that never clicked with me is their take of David Bowie’s classic, Life On Mars? At first I wanted to hate this. Because I was thinking to myself listening to this, “Why are you doing this? It sounds too Circusy! You should it honor and stay true to the classic.” But then after a few listens, it’s not that bad, it’s not my cup of coffee. I know what Sam was trying to do, but again, it just didn’t click with me.

The closing track of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero is Opposite Day riding off into the sunset thanks to its militant bass and drums as the music rides off into the west. Sam does this incredible job on his guitar to make the sun go down playing the melody near the end to close the album off. Opposite Day have always peaked my interest since 2015. And they’ve always kept on my radar and it will be interesting to hear more and more of their music and see what will happen next. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Trojan Horse - Fukushima Surfer Boys

Now, it’s been a good while since I’ve done a review for the Bad Elephant Music label. I’ve been very busy listening to a lot of music. When I say a lot, I mean a LOT. Now it’s been three years since Trojan Horse have released some new music after the release of their 2014 album, World Turned Upside Down. I’ve always wanted to find out and discover what the band will think of next.

Not only that, but it was my introduction to the label of Bad Elephant Music when I bought the album on Wayside Music two years ago. This year, Trojan Horse are back in action with the release of their new album entitled, Fukushima Surfer Boys. Now, mind you, when I first heard the name of their new album. It almost sounded very funny. Very much like it was named after one of the Troma films from the 1980s in their heyday of grossed-out films and slasher films.

But with Trojan Horse, they have some humor in them, which works very well. On here, it shows a futuristic post-punk, post-rock, pop, and experimental flavor that gives a door opening to this whole other universe of what is behind that locked door that no one ever, ever goes near.

Not only that, but it’s the who’s who on here. You have Kavus Torabi (Gong, Knifeworld, Guapo) on Guitar, Marillion bassist Pete Trewevas, and Doves’ Jimi Goodwin. And it begins to dawn on me to open that door and see what the Duke brothers have up their sleeve.

The Modern Apothecary is Trojan Horse’s nod to both Knifeworld and the Cardiacs rolled up to a gigantic smoothie. It has a dystopian carousel and amusement park amazement with odd time signatures along with stop-and-go moments with help from Torabi’s guitar getting to set the controls by making the jump to light speed as the midsection goes towards the infinite universes as Goodwin sets the coordinates in the styles of mid-to-late ‘70s era of Hawkwind.

Now when I listened to How You Gonna Get By? It has the beginning of a killer anthem. You have this textures between double drum tracks, ascending melodies turned into a psychedelic approach thanks to a Beatlesque keyboard section as it turns back for the shop to go for another round towards the galaxy reminiscing late ‘70s/early ‘80s of Queen and the Power Pop genre of the 1970s.

For the band, it’s almost as if they wrote this track for the adult-animated 1981 cult classic, Heavy Metal. Then, there’s I Wanna See My Daddy. With a bass-picking introduction, the style has a cross between post-punk, ‘80s pop, and new wave atmosphere. It’s quite interesting for Trojan Horse to delve into that pool for going into an approach that will make you close your eyes and imagine this song being used as the end credits for Satoshi Kon’s 1997 anime masterpiece, Perfect Blue.

It’s part Joy Division, part Beach Boys, and Simple Minds. But the 10-minute composition of The Ebb C/W Solotron is a futuristic adventure of electronic music for them to show more than just their progressive side in their music. It also gives them a chance for them to give some “free rein” and it works quite well by heading towards into a vision of the future. It’s kind of like a video game score for the Nintendo Entertainment System honoring Wendy Carlos near the end section of the piece.

Junk #3 and Junk #1 remains a mysterious composition. With its psychotic guitars going through different hay wiring effects followed by screeching noises and reverb/delay effects with a Vangelis Blade Runner-sque score as the calming vocals go from one plane to another following alarming sections that will make your arm hair go up. But it’s The Shapes that it makes really surreal, strange, and hypnotic.

It sees Trojan Horse going deeper into the genre of Musique-Concrete/droning sound with an Avant-Garde twist between the styles of Pierre Henry, The Faust Tapes, Terry Riley and Steve Reich having BBQ with John Cage for the electronic madness of insanity with some spoken-word dialogue. Trojan Horse’s Fukushima Surfer Boys (what a title!) is a very interesting release.

I’ll admit, this was not an easy album to listen from beginning to end. But they’ve got something up their sleeves and it may not be for the faint of the heart and I’ll keep listening to it more and more. It’s one of those albums that will grow on you and who knows what the Duke brothers will come up with next. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

King Crimson - Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago

In July of 2005, the late great Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun Times said while he was given a star dedication in his honor that proclaimed in honor his work as a critic for Roger Ebert Day, said, “We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth, is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” We’re different, and we have a different certain taste of what we do and it’s quite understandable that the movies are like a machine.

Going to a concert, is like watching the show right in front of your eyes and being in awe of what you saw from start to finish. And it’s hard to understand why King Crimson are still going strong since coming back again in 2013. This time, they’ve released another live album which is a part of the King Crimson Collectors Club. This is an official bootleg release recorded during the summer of this year on June 28th at the Chicago Theatre for the Radical Action tour.

When you listen to this 2-CD set, it’s like going back for another round with the maestro to see what Robert Fripp will think of next. Listening to this recording, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at one of their performances as if they’re ready for another round to give the audience what they want.

From the moment Robert knew that after their stand-out performance last year in Vienna, Chicago is the place to raise the bars higher by releasing the big massive guns for the current eighth-headed beast. Not only that, but they’ve performed some of the pieces in which they’ve never performed before since 1971. Including Cirkus (Including Entry of the Chameleons) and the last 11-minute piece of The Lizard Suite from their third album, Lizard.

It’s not just going to be a prog-rock show, but a concert and movie inside your mind. And I love how on Cirkus, Mel Collins does this little fanfare for the Greatest Show on Earth to begin. The suite is perhaps a standing ovation. It’s like a tidal wave ready for the beast to embark one of the most challenging parts in the epic. And it is nailed down perfectly.

I can imagine the audience being in awe of hearing those two compositions being performed again. Along with the 2-part pieces that is like an eruptive powder keg ready to explode at any minute of Larks Tongues’ in Aspic. The bell effect on Pictures of a City is a little intro followed by a seas crashing and birds chirping in the distance before it goes into a volcanic explosion.

And with a sonic speed through, the drum sections, Tony’s bass, Jakko, and Robert go into the attack mode followed by the stop-and-go moment as Mel’s sax blare into the darkness. Listening on here with them going through the Adrian Belew-era of the ‘80s ‘era of King Crimson (Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair) with Indiscipline that begins on the second disc, the double quartet adds the mysteries and clues that are shattered all over the floor before getting the pieces back up to the crowds cheering.

And then all of a sudden, comes this blaring effect that gives you some ideas to follow the tracks, step-by-step. Jakko sings the lyrics as the guitar melody follow him as Levin’s Chapman Stick and Vocals help him through the case scenarios. The three-beast drums as if they are scoring a chase sequence on Neurotica before Tony and Mel follow pursuit and the blasting of the chords on the first 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Robert is walking through a dangerous tightrope and never knowing if the rope is going to be cut loose as he goes through some of the challenging moments on the frets before the band ends with an abrupt cliffhanger ending. Radical Action II which appears on the 3-CD set, Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind, is an interesting instrumental.

You can tell that the brutal beast has been unleashed and showing no sign of giving up for finding its feast and hunger for human flesh. The live version of here, is almost describing about the future is now in sudden hell and Crimson is giving the full details on what’s going on right now and what is about to come in the 22nd century. There’s also a new track that made its world premiere at the Chicago Theatre which is Jakko’s composition, The Errors.

It has an experimental yet futuristic tribal atmosphere and it deals with reflecting through the hallways of mirrors, realizing that while what you have done was wrong, there is a slight chance of hope of fixing them and making sure that will never happen again. The drums do this section between Harrison, Mastelotto, and Stacey do as if it’s (no-pun intended) a perfect pair of three to make it sound like a steel working machine as if they are walking through the mines.

They always want to make sure that the late great David Bowie gets some honor with their take of Heroes. It is always a big stamp of approval for Robert creating the guitar to alter the feedback and almost as if he’s nodding his head up whilst looking towards the heavens to show a nod for the Thin White Duke.

Now Jakko Jakszyk, whether you admire him or not, he is very good at both playing guitar and singing. There’s lines divided in the sand whether to accept him or not, but’s for him to sing these songs, he’s done a good job. For example when you listen to The Letters from their fourth studio album, Islands, he sings very smoothly and not trying to rip Boz’s vocals, but to stay true and honor the music.

Mel’s sax goes through a free-jazz improvisation as it moves from raunchy to an alarming roar that cries out into the night followed by the drumming crescendos and Fripp going from a crystal ball-sque sound to shattering brainstorms. But who couldn’t forget the closer that started everything off 48 years ago of 21st Century Schizoid Man. It closes the second disc by clocking in at 15-minutes, it’s the beast coming together as one by reigning terror.

The eight piece keeps the flames burning more and more by going through some improvisational jazz rock from Mel, Tony, and the three-headed drum Beast by creating ideas in the midsection that made my eyebrows go up. Mastelotto, Harrison, and Stacey go through an incredible drum duel between the three of them as they go through and race as if someone who will can make it to the finish line. You can imagine that you and the audience are in awe and shouting for them to keep going and supporting them more and more.

Live in Chicago as I’ve mentioned before, is you closing your eyes and being at one of their performances and seeing the eight-piece really giving love and support to show that they’re not going anywhere. Staying true honoring the legacies of Greg Lake, Boz Burrell, and John Wetton, it’s a return to know that their spirits and honor will be in their music forever and ever.

The doors are still continuing to punch down for more adventures of King Crimson and seeing where will they come up with next. And so, let’s drink and have a toast for the Court of the Crimson King.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Samurai of Prog - On We Sail

Since their formation back around in 2009, the multinational ensemble The Samurai of Prog considers Steve Unruh on vocals, flute, and violin; Kimmo Porsti on drums and percussion, and Marco Bernard on Bass. They have released four albums going back from 2011 to 2016. Their music is an odyssey. With renditions of Pink Floyd, Yes, Marillion, and Genesis to name a few. Appearing on a tribute album to the Floyd’s music, The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and the two part compilation albums of Decameron: Ten Days in 100 Novellas: Parts I and II.

This year, they’ve released their fifth album entitled On We Sail on the Seacrest Oy label. Now this is not a concept album, but the material on here, faces the challenges of the odds and scary seas that you as a listener, are about to embark on. The music and storytelling compositions that are on here, will take you through those rough seas to catch the wind and glide at the same time.

On The Samurai of Prog releases, they would bring some guest musicians including Roine Stolt (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Guy LeBlanc (Camel, Nathan Mahl), David Myers (The Musical Box), Linus Kase (Anglagard), and Robert Webb (England). Here with On We Sail, new guests include; Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, Alco Frisbass), Sean Timms (Unitopia, Southern Empire), Kerry Shacklett (Presto Ballet), Michelle Young, Brett Kull (Echolyn), Oliviero Lacagnina (Latte E Miele), and Roberto Vitelli (Ellesmere, Taproban).

This is both orchestral, symphonic, and folk influences that are on here. Not to mention the amazing artwork done by Ed Unitsky. You could tell it is a nod to the stories including Homer’s The Odyssey, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Jules Verne’s classics 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth that are all combined into one.

Now there are nine tracks including two clocking in at 9 minutes and one at 10 minutes. Listening to On We Sail, is like for me going back in the summer of 2001 as I was about to enter my Sophomore year in High School listening to the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis, Bill Bruford-era of Yes, and the golden Pink Floyd albums on a loop at times. But listening to On We Sail, isn’t just a prog album, but an adventure that is worth exploring.

Now I first became aware of The Samurai of Prog back in the summer of 2014 after I had graduated from Houston Community College when I bought The Imperial Hotel on the Kinesis website. When I was listening to this album, I wasn’t just in awe, but I knew that the genre cannot die. It’s a glowing flower that will die out. And it shows that you can imagine either a movie or an animated epic story set as a rock opera done in the styles of Don Bluth’s animation.

I love the nod between Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and Acqua Fragile’s sole self-titled debut that is on the track, Growing Up. It has this reflection of going back in time to remember how amazing your childhood was by reading both Mother Goose’s stories and Dr. Seuss. Followed by the golden age of Television that had a few channels in both black and white and color at times.

The midsection for a brief few minutes is quite Italian Prog Rock and then back to Unruh’s violin as Brett Kull’s incredible lines on his guitar as the time signature gets into the ballad of 3/4 time. But Kerry Shacklett and Steve Unruh share the vocals and I could tell they blended very well together before fading away into the sunset.

Oliviero Lacagnina’s The Perfect Black is his nod to the spirit of Latte E Miele. Not only that but both Le Orme and Banco Del Mutuo Sorcosso. There’s this epic and some of the action moments of the waves and heading towards danger that is right upon you through those thunderstorms. The moog itself has these spooky sequences while classical guitars brings those calming moments of the waves crashing upon the ship.

It’s alarming, but well-written of bringing the spirit of Italian Progressive Rock back on their feet and you can tell perhaps that Poseidon is almost ready for another attack on the ship and it isn’t going to be pleasant. Meanwhile, Thedora which is sung by Michelle Young, it’s very much of a short story that she sings in her calming arrangement.

I love how it starts off with a metallic introduction thanks to Ruben Alvarez as Steve goes wah-wah mode on his violin followed by the Mellotron’s thanks to Luca Scherani’s keyboards. The opening title-track is making you get ready to set sail on a brand new journey.

It has this overture-sque vibe between the organ, church organ, and violin. Steve describes in his narration as they set the courses for bringing families aboard the boat as giving the listener the voyage that is waiting beyond the horizon. Guitars and Moog share a melody and delving layers before being transformed into the styles of Triumvirat thanks to Shacklett’s nod to the Prog trio. It’s a wonderful introduction and opener to get things going.

Ghost Written begin this nod between the Mellotron and Guitar to open up the rusty gates and see what lies ahead beyond those bars. Sean Timms’ arranging on here, is gorgeous and setting the bars and melodies that he wants Unruh, Mark Trueack, and Jacob Holm-Lupo to go into. Timms nails it down.

He’s like a conductor giving directions where he wants to The Samurai of Prog to go. The lyrics near the end have a Yes-like atmosphere as if it’s reminiscing Close to the Edge’s And You and I. It’s very well-structured and well-organized as Alvarez’s lead guitar solo fly off into the skies before Timms’ Piano concerto channels Gershwin and Keith Emerson and Unruh’s Celtic folk on the violin.

The closing 10-minute piece, Tigers recalls the styles of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering-era. The song deals now coming back home and celebrating through the hardship that went on through the journey that you as a listener embarked on. And knowing the stories that they will tell their children of what they’ve embarked on.

Brett Kull knocks it out of the ballpark on his guitar as Daniel Faldt who sings in the vocals, is giving us a farewell by thanking us to being a part of this amazing adventure. No matter what went on, it was a ride they will never, ever forget.

The textures and story-line backgrounds as I’ve mentioned earlier in my review are the adventures to embark more and more to come towards. I’ll admit, I’m not that crazy about The Samurai of Prog, but On We Sail, is a journey that is on the edge of a lifetime that will be with you forever and ever.