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Monday, December 31, 2012

Demetra Sine Die - A Quiet Land of Fear

Bands like Tool, Radiohead and Porcupine Tree have taken the listener into our deepest, darkest fears into their music that have been around since the early ‘90s in the underground circuit, they have taken the listeners into uncharted territories that is thrilling, terrifying, and haunting at the same time that made them the new masters of the universe. It is almost the soundtrack of someone going insane and trying to escape to be free, but there’s nowhere to go and it feels like we’re inside the person and understand why he or she is suffering from this mental breakdown and having PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

And one of the bands that are following in the footsteps of those two bands is an Italian group named Demetra Sine Die, who have a touch of the dark side and have been around since 2003 and the band considers Marco Paddeu on lead vocals and guitar, Adriano Magliocco on bass, Marcello Fattore on drums, and Matteo Orlandi on keyboards. Their second album, A Quiet Land of Fear which is a follow up to their 2008 debut, Council From Kaos on the Bloodrock label, displays a lot of obscure psych-prog-alternative music that is waiting for the door to be burst open and waiting for something to hit like an eruptive explosion that suddenly comes out of nowhere.

Marco’s momentum surroundings resembles Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt with his vocal styles and fierce and dooming guitar lines that creates a universal yet futuristic boundary and having this wall-of-feedback for a thunderous energetic heaviness to make it sound like a chainsaw that is ready to attack with some wowing moments is unexpected and soaring. Marcello Fattore’s drumming who resembles Bill Bruford and at times Neil Peart, it sounds like a machine gun fire from the time he hits the patterns and seeing where his band mates would go into different directions.

Meanwhile, Matteo Orlandi’s synths make it a passage way with his ambient-like noise and at times paying tribute to the Krautrock scene as well of the early soundings of Tangerine Dream while bassist Adriano Magliocco creates some pummeling and metallic bass lines that is challenging and out of this world and he really goes up the top with his instrument and makes this wonderful lines that is sonically structured and mind-blowing at the same time.

This is a band that knows about the dark side and shows their views of what we go through our lives and they are not showing off, and they create some mythical and mysterious momentum in the album with a volcanic eruption that is waiting to come at you with a bang and with a fierce regulating control. I have listened to A Quiet Land of Fear about four times already and it is hypnotic, strange, and out of this world. If this was the soundtrack for one of Batman's villains, The Joker, who is still trying to make the caped crusader, the Killing Joke, it would be a perfect combination.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Orne - The Tree of Life

Formed out of the ashes of Doom Metal band, Reverend Bizarre, Finnish’s Orne was inspired by the early Progressive rock sounds of early Floyd, King Crimson, Black Widow, and a touch of Julian’s Treatment and their music has a mellowing and darker approach in their sound and atmospheric beauty when it comes to Prog-Rock. Their second album, The Tree of Life, released under the Italian label, Black Widow Records, is the band’s finest achievement and while the cover resembles Eve ready to bite the forbidden apple by the snake and be banished from the garden along with Adam, it’s worth exploring.

Among other Doom-Prog Metal bands who come from Europe at times including Canadian’s own Blood Ceremony, Orne take their inspiration of the occult into an element of their love of stories from childhood growing up as they were young including tales and illustrations from Tolkien, Brian Froud, Berni Wrightson, and Richard Corben. It has a mellowing and harder edge to it that makes it sound like it was recorded in 1970-71 with a psychedelic twist in there and it feels like they could have recorded the soundtrack to Jim Henson’s 1982 classic, The Dark Crystal.

Beginning with a spoken introduction as it goes into a middle-eastern rumbling calmness ambient atmosphere with drums, choir, and mellotron on Angel Eyes as it segues into the elevated yet ominous organ-driven roar along with a spooky guitar line in the midsection with an operatic feel on the vocals that has a theatrical background on The Temple of the Worm. And then a sample of the late Vincent Price comes for an introduction before going into a tribute and inspiration of King Crimson’s moody piece Epitaph on The Return of the Sorcerer while Don’t Look Now starts off with a moody Gothic-Acid folk surroundings for the first four minutes before it kicks into full gear of a catchy upbeat tempo of guitars chugging, vocals going up, and organ plus drums going into a thrilling beat to follow the rhythm and keeping in time.

Beloved Dead, sounds like a symphonic and grandiose folk turned orchestral beauty piece as if it was left off the sessions for Barclay James Harvest’s Once Again as it features nicely acoustic guitars, swirling yet angelic and heavenly organ work for the first four minutes before it becomes a raunchy heavy metallic ride with a bluesy feel for the ending of the hounds coming at you. I Was Made Upon Waters starts off as a sermon about being born on Good Friday starts off with a ride along the country with a psychedelic twist before it becomes a relaxing spiritual coolness to give Orne a chance to breathe and have the listener to calm down and have a mellotron swarm to make it a wonderful yet beautiful structured sound.

The closer, Sephira, which starts off at first a reprise from the first track before going into a Sabbath-Crimson like feel with the saxophone that has an Adante that makes it crisp, powerful, and haunting at the same time before the narrator closes off the album for the curtain to close down very slowly.  This is a very interesting band I’m planning to check out sometime in the future and they really know their obscure prog very well and The Tree of Life is a must listen to album.

Top 12 Prog Reissues of 2012

Well, now I’m done with the top 30 albums of 2012, it now comes to the top 12 reissues of 2012. Since been doing a lot of listening through my albums and it has been a very heavy completion what came out for re-released and it was a risky decision to make and here we go!

1. King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (40th Anniversary Edition) [Panygeric]
2. Cressida – The Vertigo Years Anthology 1969-1971 [Esoteric Recordings]
3. Sensations’ Fix – Music Is Painting in the Air (1974-1977) [RVNG]
4. Solution – Solution [Esoteric Recordings]
5. Kayak – Reissues [Esoteric Recordings]
6. Gnidrolog – In Spite of Harry’s Toenail [Esoteric Recordings]
7. Beggars Opera – Nimbus: The Vertigo Years Anthology [Esoteric Recordings]
8. Matching Mole – Reissues [Esoteric Recordings]
9. String Driven Thing – The Machine That Cried [Esoteric Recordings]
10. Pink Floyd – The Wall (Immersion Edition) [EMI] 
11. Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick (40th Anniversary Edition) [Chrysalis]
12. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - Reissues [Sony Music]

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Hounds of Hasselvander - The Ninth Hour

There has been some very good music coming out of the States and in Europe as well and fell into the deep darker territories of the Doom Metal genre that is completely out of this world. And one of the bands I’ve discovered is a group called The Hounds of Hasselvander. At first it sounds like a title from one of the British Hammer Horror films of the ‘60s, but it really packs a punch and this is their third album, simply titled, The Ninth Hour, and let me just say it’s one of the most heaviest and sinister albums I’ve listened to from start to finish.

Joe Hasselvander, who was a part of the band Pentagram and various bands, he really knows his Doom history very well. And with a dosage of the first five Black Sabbath albums and his voice resembling Lee Dorrian and Lemmy Kilmeister of Hawkwind and Motorhead, let’s just say this virtuoso performer has really come a long way since the ‘70s. The Hounds of Hasselvander started out as a solo album that Joe released back in 2007, and then it became a band as a trio and let’s just say they could have recorded the score for the 1973 British Cult Classic, The Wicker Man. And while it’s such a pumped up album, it’s really just to have a lot of powerful moments in five centerpieces on here.

There’s a lot of energy and thunder from start to finish. When beginning of the album starts off with the 12-minute title track, it is really a rumbling nightmarish introduction to get your spine tingling for a start. Featuring heavy percussion that is a calming turned thumping like rapid fire machine guns, swirling heavy guitar lines between rhythm and lead while Hasselvander himself takes it up a notch with his virtuosity to make him push the envelope and go for it.

Elsewhere, Heavier than Thou has this balls-out homage to the Overkill-era of Motorhead with a darker attitude featuring a thrashing metallic punk feel that is eruptive and in your face while the alarm sirens kicked into full gear of depths into hell on their take of Mountain’s Don’t Look Back with a dramatic touch and the Occult views on Suburban Witch.  However, one of the most powerful compositions that’s on The Ninth Hour is the last track, The King.

Featuring a soaring yet inspirational orchestral sound between Organ and the Mellotron in which it has this Horror film background beauty and then it goes into this NWOBHM on-the-road adventure in the styles of Angel Witch, plus a chaotic nightmarish surroundings of the guitars and Joe’s rumbling roaring voice that reflects as if the Beast has awaken to await his feast and see where he would go with this to tell a story that will terrify the villagers and would scar them for the rest of eternity.

Alongside other Doom Metal bands, The Hounds of Hasselvander's The Ninth Hour is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish, but after about the third time I heard it, I knew that this was a band I have to check out and with its Vintage Retro ‘70s and early ‘80s sound, they really got something up their sleeves at the moment and I can’t wait to see what they have next in the near future. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Seid - Magic Handshake

When a band goes into the voyages of Space and Time, heading towards the milky way and into different planets of the solar system to meet new creatures and resolve peace between the humans and alien life forms, then you probably might want to fasten your seatbelts as a band from Norway are now the new captains of the Battlestar Galactica. Seid is one of those bands that know about the Space Rock genre very well.

The band have been around for a couple of years and they have carried the sounds of Hawkwind’s music very well to make sure to stay true to the band’s music and hopefully to become the new Masters of the Universe and the Sonic Rituals of the Space Rock sound. And since this my introduction to the band’s music, their third album, Magic Handshake, is a raw, heavy, and in-your-face album that is completely out of this galaxy and make the jump for light speed, because there’s no turning back once you hear this from beginning, middle, and end.

From the ferocious introduction of Space Pirates Return, featuring throbbing sounds of the guitar going into full gear in the styles of; both Space Metal Punk and adding Swirling synths into the mix, you know that something special is going to happen.  The effects of the noise and punchy rhythm sounds have this beautiful strategy to make it feel as if they had written this for the score for the TV series Star Trek and the late Gerry Anderson’s cult sci-fi classic, UFO.

The soothing late ‘60s psych vibe comes into a dance-like movement with female vocals on the touching Decode the Glow and adding a heavy saxophone section to shine through the stars and make it very interesting and twisted. As the jazzy roaring rock touches on The Dark Star is Waiting and the chaotic punk edges come back in the controls on Fire It Up and The True Merry Poppers, it’s the eight minute Indian vibe of peace to calm the heavy sounds into a darker territory of Tron and the uplifting finale, Sister Sinsemilla featuring the keyboards setting the background for meditation and spiritual guidance.

They really provided almost the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey through their sound and vision which is haunting, spellbinding, hypnotic, and adventurous at the same time. Seid’s Magic Handshake is not an easy album to listen to, but after a few listens it’s quite understandable where the band’s music is going into and it has finally shown how the music can hint at where they might go into the nearest future and its brighter as ever.

Funeral Marmoori - Vol. 1

Since the 21st century has been good upon us and the world not ending this year, the Doom Metal scene has been making some excellent progress lately to come up with songs dealing with Horror and the Occult, mixed in with some obscure sounds of the Progressive Rock-era, there’s been a good feeling and well-structured forms to come along with the two genres. And one of the most up-and-coming bands from Italy is a four-piece called Funeral Marmoori and let me tell you, they are really something from the second listening and very powerful.

It has this volcanic eruption that comes out of nowhere, and when the sound with a vicious crunchy metallic guitar work and spooky organ work, it fits everything at the right time at the right place. And when the moment you hear them, your brain will say “Uh-Oh, when they perform, run like hell because there’s not a single stop sign in the neck of the woods.” The band has a dosage of early Metallica, Sabbath, and Van Der Graaf Generator mixed together as one.

They almost could have written a score for one of the British Hammer Horror films of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s as its evidential on the opening title track with elements of sci-fi boundaries with lines of the nightmares coming to life “I don’t want you and I don’t need you/Under the starlight I live/With my nightmares with you desire/Now I’ll take you to gloom.” With some heavy guitar solos, crazy organ and drum work, and a voice resembling a heavier version of Peter Hammill, this combination works like finding rare and hidden treasure that hadn’t been open for millions of years.

On the hypnotic rumbling roars of Black Rooster, the band go into this calming yet satanic psych power and show no sign of stopping with a lot of thunder and electricity in their sound. At times, they pay tribute to the Krautrock kings, Amon Duul II and the Sea Shanties-era of High Tide, and yet like a flaming fire bursting into the night, they go into town for a mighty and intense session for the last few minutes of the piece and their love of the genre.

As I’ve mentioned about up-and-coming bands who are going to make it and are going up the road while trying to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, Funeral Marmoori are going to reach that light as they take into spell-binding moments of the dark and sinister atmosphere. And while they have to doom honors in their sleeves on the dystopian merry-go-round carousel feel on Come With Us, the evil orchestral-thrash sounds of Lorenzo Lamas, and the whirlpool of terror of the organ coming at you into the heavenly sky to attack on Drunk Messiah, their debut album is both a dooming progressive metal and a challenging album to listen to from beginning to end. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

King Crimson - Larks' Tongues in Aspic [40th Anniversary Edition]

In 1973, King Crimson released one of the most eruptive and powerful albums to come out of their golden-era when they released, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic. It’s considered among fans the finest album to date and the best reissue to come out this year that is part of King Crimson 40th anniversary reissues since their announcement back in 2009. It’s the album that let the band to go into different territories and it was also a chance for Robert Fripp to let the band members to go exploring in other areas and do whatever they want and see where the road will take them into.

Different marks and new members would become the turning point from the history of King Crimson’s music. After the release of Islands back in 1971 and after a tour in the states promoting the album in ’72 while Burrell, Collins, and Wallace joined up with Alexis Korner forming Snape, and lyricist/co-founder of King Crimson, Pete Sinfield left the band to work as a producer on Roxy Music’s sole self-titled debut album. Fripp now had complete control and brought in new members including Bill Bruford of Yes on Drums, Jamie Muir on percussion, John Wetton of Family on Bass and Lead Vocals, and violinist/mellotronist, newcomer David Cross.

For Pete’s replacement, Robert brought Richard Palmer-James from his work with Supertramp to write the lyrics after he left the band due to tension between Hodgson and Davies.  The music moved away from the fantasy-storytelling that was in the first four albums into an evil, terrorizing, and vicious jazz rock sound that had an eruptive roaring quality from a Horror film that just came out of nowhere and would have the listener’s jaw dropping into unbelievable results.  And every time I hear this album, it would send shivers and goosebumps down my spine in the way they played it and how they mean it.

The improvisations were there, right from the beginning of the first note. From Jamie Muir’s thumb piano introduction on Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part One) that starts off as a moody lullaby, descends into chaos with Cross’ dramatic violin work and Fripp’s crunchy guitar work creates this monster-like sound between the two of them.  And then it becomes an attack with terror as the band lend out a huge thunderstorm before it becomes a Funk Rock driven session between John’s bass work while the drummers Muir and Bruford just duel it out on the drumming exercise coming up with some crazy and exciting moments as Fripp comes up with some crazy and difficult guitar lines which are fast and mind-blowing at the same time.

Then it becomes a calm after the storm as the soothing Book of Saturday which deals with fame and how being center of attention can no longer be fun and games anymore as the soaring and uplifting touches on Exiles, has this lukewarm darker avant-garde turned gentle touches of a beautiful sunrise up into the mountains. Then, everything becomes a time-changing workout with the explosive Easy Money which begins with Tubular Bells, Mud-clapping rhythm, and John Wetton’s scat solo. Robert lays down the rules with some beautiful guitar lines that goes into unbelievable results as Muir creates some sound effects including crumbling paper, and birds whistling to name a few as the band come in full circle into a dynamic resemblance of The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Then it’s The Talking Drum which has John Wetton and Bill Bruford in center stage. Beginning with a wind howling and almost like a Trumpet echoing out of nowhere as the two of them, going into car race to see who will win in the final battle. Muir is playing the Bongos like a mad scientist as Bruford and Wetton create this little haunting line between drums and bass as Cross creates this terrifying violin solo while the tension increasing into high volume as Fripp works out with some experiments on his guitar before it reaches one of the loudest noises of a high-pitch shriek of Cross’ violin screaming as if the monster has let loose and is ready for a full-scale attack to terrorize and kill the civilizations like no other as it segues into the climatic ending, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Part Two).

Inspired by Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending as a tribute and homage to the English composer, it has an evil riff between guitar and bass, stop-and-go responses, and an earthquake of a finale that will take you further into the outer limits. In the CD/DVD set, the liner notes are done by King Crimson expert Sid Smith who is now the Sherlock Holmes of Crimson’s history, and the album has been carefully re-mastered and re-mixed by Fripp himself and Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree.

The music itself is loud and powerful and seeing what was left buried in the multi-track and analog tapes including guitar lines and Muir crazy antics on the drums by using sheet metal, saw violin, whistle, etc. you name it and he was like a mad-man on the kit. On the DVD, there is an unseen performance of the band on Beat Club back in Bremen in 1972 and watching it, you could see creativity and magic behind the 5-piece. Now if you fancy the 13-CD/Blu-Ray/DVD set, I highly recommend it because there's more rare live performances and studio sessions during the making of the album including a downloadable code of the live Rainbow performance as well.

This is a must have for any Prog and Crimson fan to have underneath the Christmas tree and ask Santa if he’s a True Crimson fan.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 30 Prog Albums of 2012...Revamp

(Revamp Version) As we head into a new year in 2013 (no the world is not going to end this coming Friday), looking back this year, there have been some amazing prog albums coming out in 2012. Some old and some new in the community, here are the top 30 Progressive Rock and Metal albums of this year. And of course, criticism is welcomed.

1. Astra – The Black Chord [Rise Above]
2. Psycho Praxis – Echoes from the Deep [Black Widow]
3. Rush – Clockwork Angels [Roadrunner]
4. Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Pinata [Sensory]
5. Electric Swan – Swirl in Gravity [Black Widow]
6. Cailyn – Four Pieces [Land of Oz]
7. Panic Room – Skin [Esoteric Antenna]
8. The Reasoning – Adventures in Neverland [Esoteric Antenna]
9. Muse – The 2nd Law [Helium/Warner Bros.]
10. Leibowitz – The Beginning of the Endless Search for Oblivion [STE]
11. Trocaria – The Dark Nears [Self-Released]
12. Diagonal – The Second Mechanism [Rise Above]
13. Squackett – A Life Within a Day [Esoteric Antenna]
14. Two Wings – Love’s Spring [Tin Angel Records]
15. Syd Arthur – On and On [Self-Released]
16. North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric [KScope]
17. Katatonia – Dead End Kings [KScope]
18. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending to Infinity [Nuclear Blast]
19. Storm Corrosion – Storm Corrosion [Roadrunner Records]
20. Times Up – Snow Queen [Self-Released]
21. Flying Colors - Flying Colors [Mascot Records]
22. Heart of Cygnus - The Voyage of Jonas [Astral Knight]
23. The Flower Kings - Banks of Eden [Inside Out]
24. Anneke Van Giersbergen - Everything is Changing [PIAS]
25. Crowned in Earth - A Vortex of Earthly Chimes [Black Widow]
26. Corvus Stone - Corvus Stone [Melodic Revolution]
27. The Minstrel's Ghost - The Road to Avalon [Melodic Revolution]
28. Cross - Wake Up Call [Progress Records]
29. Beardfish - The Void [Inside Out]
30. il Ballo Delle Castagne - Surpassing All Other Kings [Black Widow]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Flower Flesh - Duck in the Box

With a dosage of Symphonic Music, ‘80s Neo-Prog, and Story-Telling boundaries, up-and-coming Italian Prog band, Flower Flesh give a huge amount of energy in their debut album, Duck in the Box that is a tribute to their heroes including; Yes, Marillion, PFM, and Dream Theater in their hearts and soul. The band was formed in 2005 by bassist Ivan Giribone and keyboardist Alberto Sigarlato, who decided to create Flower Flesh and not just to stay tribute to their influences in the Progressive Rock scene, but more of an homage and honor and keeping the spirit of the genre alive.

With an album cover of Ducks flying into the soaring city and having this Sci-Fi background feel, the music feels like they have written a rock opera for the 1976 sci-fi cult classic, Logan’s Run. The band really has something up their sleeves with their debut album and it’s by far, a spiritual journey from beginning to end. Beginning with the throttling, Falling in Another Dimension, with heavy guitar chords/riffs, swirling moog and keyboard tempos while vocalist Daniel Elvstrom just nails the vocals by going into an rocking and sometime operatic arrangements that he comes up with.

My Gladness After the Sadness begins with a piano concerto and classical guitar introduction done by Andrea and Marco Oliveri before they go into the beautiful touches of a heavy turned melodramatic version of Le Orme meets Kansas’s music featuring a militant beat in the midsection which resembles the French Revolution. Elsewhere, It Will Be the End has some heavy and adventurous turned uplifting beats with guitar and synth with a fantasy rock background as God Is Evil (Like the Devil) is a jumping yet haunting ‘70s organ-driven sound to make us feel like its 1972 all over again.

Now when it comes to Prog epics, you know you’re in for a big surprise. The Race of My Life has a spooky element that could have been inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven featuring sounds of nightmarish beauty, power metal, jazz rock, atmospheric haunting sounds of a person’s dying wish with inspirations of Camel, and folk-like touches that makes the piece so touching and emotional. Antarctica is back to the retro rock sound.

With the sound of the heavy drums, keyboard, and mellotron touches from the Pawn Hearts-era by Van Der Graaf Generator, Marco Olivieri creates some mythical and beautiful scenery’s with his guitar as Andrea pays tribute to Hugh Banton on his keyboards, they go into town and take it into different time-changes to know the score. The last track, Scream and Die, which closes the album, is calmness and folky turned operatic metallic atmosphere dealing with someone who is dying for a confrontation after the person stabs doesn’t care and watches scream in horrendous pain and die a horrible death.

It’s a disturbing piece, but strong and powerful to close the track as Daniel Elvstrom goes into his Peter Hammill and James LaBrie phrase on his vocals to give it all he’s got by adding power and electric energy to the mix. If you admire Progressive/Power Metal, Obscure along with Symphonic and Neo-Prog, Flower Flesh’s Duck in the Box, is a tremendous and wonderous adventure from start to finish. And while this is their first album, hopefully they might make it into the Prog Circuit in the future and years to come.

Monday, December 17, 2012

il Ballo Delle Castagne - Surpassing All Other Kings

Now when you have a concept album, you know that you imagine the story inside your head while listening to the piece from beginning to end in this dark and haunting scenery, you know that this would be the perfect choice to make it for a film score for one of Dario Argento’s films of the 1970s. One of the bands from Italy is il Ballo Delle Castagne. Formed in 2007 and taken their name from Pope Alexander VI, their music mixes this combination of Heavy Prog, Experimental, Psych, and Avant-Garde music from Germany in the 1970s.

Their third album, Surpassing All Other Kings, is a concept album based on the life of the hero Gilgamesh who was a Sumerian King by building the walls of Uruk to help his people defend themselves from threats and was described as a the two-thirds God and the Third Man. And while this is my introduction to the band’s music from the Bloodrock label that is a distributor to Black Widow Records, it is a dark and haunting album that would take you by surprise.

From the rumbling introduction of Tema di Gilgamesh which begins with a militant rock orientation for the conquering hero to return to his home for a celebration followed by a spooky organ and spacey synths and echoing vocals, resembles a wild combination of Hawkwind and Jacula. Hypnotized of the galloping drums, wah-wah guitar, and an homage to Antonius Rex, the gothic scenery of il Risveglio goes through a maddening atmosphere turned into a deadly nightmare of chaotic structures as they go into this psych-funk rock jam session vibe on il Viaggio.

It all changes into a droning beat on the guitar before seguing into a dooming grand classical piano with a nightmarish hell on the synthesizer with a ghost-like vocals as if it was set in the dystopian universe on Rorate Coeli and with the inspirational tribute of Amon Duul II’s Deutsch Nepal on Konigin der Nacht while the thumping hooks on il Segreto and Aquarius Age, has this zooming psychedelic-nugget late ‘60s vibe, that would have been used in Ralph Bakshi’s 1977 cult classic, Wizards.

They go back into the Starship enterprise for a dosage of the Space Rock genre for an amazing voyage on Fire in the Sky that has some crazy guitar work between the rhythm and lead that is a freak-out adventure into the Milky Way and inside the territorial black hole. And it becomes a calming relaxation as it turns into a lush-like sound of mellotron acoustic acid folk on Eoni as the closer, Apocriphon of Gilgamesh is very political and anti-war piece featuring Bush’s statement during the War on Iraq and statements from the Soldiers as it has some background of fighting for peace and justice with the militant snare drum, horn, and synth makes it show a war for peace can be a tough and risky situation, but the music itself is a dramatic and emotional beauty for hope.

While I’m sinking my toes into the waters of Black Widow and Bloodrock Records, they always release some very interesting prog and doom bands, and this is one of them. I have listened to this about four times and I have to say that I’m impressed on what I’m hearing. I’m going back to their albums sometime in the future, and Surpassing all Other Kings is one of the most heart-stopping and touching albums I’ve ever heard. It’s amazing and you need to listen to it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crystal Phoenix - Crystal Phoenix

It’s been 22 years since Black Widow Records was launched back in 1990 when they released obscure gems and new bands from the Italian Prog and the Doom Metal scene and they released their very first album with a band called Crystal Phoenix. The band was formed under the spell of a woman named Myriam Sagenwells Saglimbeni, who was a virtuoso, singer and did the design cover for the sole self-titled debut album back in 1989.

It has this combination of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Classical, Doom, Gothic Folk, and Prog at the same time from start to finish while there’s a dosage of fantasy story-telling from the comic-book era from the realms of Richard Corben as if they were influenced and inspired by his work for the music of Crystal Phoenix. The album itself is eruptive, haunting, and operatic at times to really get you going. Like the opening throttling track, Damned Warrior, resembles the sounds of Angel Witch and Iron Maiden’s music while 474 Anno Domini and Somewhere, Nowhere Battle features some moody acoustic guitar fingerpicking, dreamy moog, and Celtic Flute work that have this medieval structure value that puts you back into the Renaissance period of the 15th century.

Loth-er Siniell has this haunting and mourning ballad with a catholic choir, more of the acoustic crisp sounds including some of the horn and string-quartet structures on the keyboards that it almost sounds like something out of an ‘80s version of Trees’ The Garden of Jane Delanwey and I bet it inspired the Diablo String Orchestra’s sound on Justice For St. Mary to capture the essence of the Phoenix’s sound and vision. The two-part epics, Heaven to a Flower and Violet Crystal Phoenix, are one of the most beautiful and disturbing mini-opera’s that Myriam has written.

There are the touches of thumping drum beats, spooky organ sounds, heavy guitar lines between rhythm and lead while Myriam belts it out with her operetta style on her vocals as the instruments carry her to an uplifting and tension-like calmness to follow where her voice follows her within the beat as the closer 7-minute epic, Dark Shadow, in which it’s an homage to the gothic fantasy soap opera from the BBC, resembles a heavier version of the Fish-era of Marillion before ascending back into the NWOBHM sound with an homage to the Toccata and Fugue a-la allegro style on the guitar for a climatic ending.

The bonus tracks feature three of the demos that were released in 1989 at the time the band were making their debut album while the 2011 retro sounding version of 474 Anno Domini, stays true to the original composition. While this was the beginning of a new adventure for Black Widow Records, their first album from the label, is an astonishing adventure on where they would go next on the road that would take them.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crowned in Earth - A Vortex of Earthly Chimes

When Crowned in Earth was launched back in 2008 by virtuoso Kevin Lawry, he wanted to make something that was beyond into an uncharted territorial nightmare and set it off with an eruptive explosion and make something that was staying true to the golden-era of the early ‘70s from 1970 to 1974. The music is a combination of both Progressive and Doom Metal combined into one and carrying the sounds of Amon Duul II, Black Sabbath, Camel, Atomic Rooster, and early Deep Purple into the mix, and they are both perfect ingredients that are a wonderful special meal to go beyond the passages of time.

Now if they had recorded some film scores for some of the Italian or Hammer Horror films from that time period, it would be make perfect sense with this out of this world music that can take you into higher places with their second album, A Vortex of Earthly Chimes. And who could not forget such a wonderful album cover that resembles the homage to; Berni Wrightson, Frank Frazetta, and Richard Corben while it feels like something out of the stories from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy adult comic book series, Heavy Metal.  

As Kevin Lawlry, who is the bees knees behind the band along with drummer Darin McCloskey, you could tell it’s a combination and thrown in Brian Anthony to handle some fantastic mellotron samples to fill in the atmosphere of Crowned in Earth’s music, this is something worth experiencing.  The music itself is this wonderful mix of a film score set in the dystopian sci-fi universe with a dosage of surreal fantasy of where everything used to be green, goes disastrously wrong with corruption and war between the good and evil on who will control the city for truth or greed.

Four centerpieces like the opening 12-minute epic, Ride the Waves which begins with a haunting lullaby on the toy piano before going into chaotic structures on the heavy guitars that Kevin does as well as playing the spooky organ chords by setting the tension for the evil that comes with a heavy price before it becomes a lushing atmospheric yet moody space adventure and then going into this wild experimentation between the Phallus Dei and the Vol.4-era of Duul and Sabbath combined into one.

Then you have the rumbling doomy yet emotional touches of Watch the Waves that has some classic touches of the Iommi-like guitar styles, ‘80s moog, mellotron, thumping bass lines, and pummeling drum patterns that make it an exciting trip while Winter Slumber creates some psychedelic mass turned calm-like stoner views as Lawlry’s vocals who resembles an operatic version of Richard Vaughan from Astra. The 10-minute finale, Given Time, at first it sounds like a haunting psych stoner tribute on T. Rex’s King of the Rumbling Spires. But it becomes a mixture of a beast roaring with some out of this world guitar solo and organ work in the process for reign terror of mythical stories that can take you into different levels.

This is my introduction to the band’s music, and Crowned in Earth’s A Vortex of Earthly Chimes is a fun and sinister prog-doom album that will take you into different planets and make you one day the ruler and the master of the universe to have full control.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Spettri - Spettri

When you have an album that is considered a lost classic like Locomotive’s We Are Everything You See, Marsupilami’s Arena, or Metamorfosi’s concept album on Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, they go up for a huge price on eBay for that one lucky person to have it in their record collection, but if it’s a one band album that was released in 1972 and never saw the light of day, it could be a pain in the neck. When Black Widow records finally reissued this lost and rare gem last year, it’s a piece of hidden treasure that almost wished they could have been having a cult status in their native homeland in Italy.

Formed in 1964, the band considered the Ponticiello brothers, Ugo (vocals) and Raffaele (Guitar), and soon their younger brother, Vincenzo (Bass) joined in followed by Stefano Melani (Organ) and Giorgio Di Ruvo (Drums). The band were influenced by what was happening in both the States and in the UK and they owe debt to Deep Purple and early Black Sabbath in their music and while the recordings are not in the best condition, it’s still hard to believe why this band suddenly never saw the light at the end of tunnel.

But the music itself, is raw, energetic, and in your face at the same time when you listen to it from start to finish. From what I’ve read online, it’s a concept album about a man’s spiritual journey to find out who he really is. At times it sounds like they could have recorded the soundtrack to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1970 surreal western midnight classic, El Topo with a heavy attitude.  There’s a lot of power from the five piece group as they go into a darker, hidden, and haunting territory that you could tell the sessions were out of this world and sometimes the scary moments come at you out of nowhere to give you a jump out of the listener’s seats.

Stefano Melani’s organ has some very doomy and sinister movements as if he’s paying homage to Julian Jay Savarin and Peter Bardens to create some heavy atmosphere while Raffaele Ponticiello’s guitar work is very crunchy and have this garage-rock sound at the same time with a fuzztone attitude as Ugo’s vocals at times it has a very bluesy and soulful sound, but can carry the notes where his brothers would take him into whether its high or low on his arrangements, they let him know they have his back.

This is something that needs some attention and Spettri’s hidden sole self-titled album from ’72, is an astonishing lost classic and by far, it’s a twisted and daring piece of work. For fans who admire the obscure Hard Rock and Prog, Spettri’s music is worth the wait. 

Northwinds - Winter

The influences of Prog-Rock and Doom Metal from the ‘70s can be a perfect match and an excellent combination, and when you have a band coming from the land of France, you can expect something quite interesting with this. Northwinds have been around since their formation in 1990 and their fourth album, Winter, is a relaxing and haunting experience. And since this is my introduction to the band’s music, I have to say that this year, there have been some amazing bands that are carrying the spirit of the two genres and they’re making sure the music is still alive.

Turned to Stone opens the album with a terrifying instrumental with an orchestral background as it goes through a danger of something evil is about to happen in the woods by featuring swoops of the choir on the Mellotron and the Moog synthesizer as the bass and drums follow along with a simple pattern of the beats to add the tension of the scenery. The 7-minute Land of the Dead, which features some Sabbath-inspired riffs, has some very mellowing and loud-like tempos between guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and the Hammond organ.

At times the piece sounds like something that could have been used for Ralph Bakshi’s 1983 animated cult classic, Fire and Ice while the pounding and enormous turned atmospheric crunch on Last Chance, they view into a hallucinating environment of a city gone wrong. Their take of Angel Witch’s Gorgon, begins with an Gothic Folk session with flute and mellotron for the first three minutes before getting into a driven force of pummeling action by staying true to the piece and a fitting tribute to one of the most overlooked bands in the history of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and they know their love of the genre so much.

There are some moments of Julian’s Treatment and the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath-era in the composition, Black Tower. Showing more of the dark and cavernous touches where Northwinds have this doomy groove and then becoming a stirring power of a wicked layered edge. Then we come to the 22-minute epic title track, and its completely out of this world. It begins with a powerful organ session for the first three minutes and then into calm early Floyd-like session in the styles of Saucerful of Secrets and Atom Heart Mother.

The closing track, their take of Saint Vitus’ Thrasy Doom taste on Clear Windowpane, begins with a mellowing punk-doom-metal eruption with a funky wah-wah guitar sound, makes the piece a perfect way to finish the album off. For a band who have of both Prog and Doom, Northwinds’ Winter is not easy listen to, but after a few times, I’ve gotten quite a hang of it and this is a band, I’ll explore in the future and what they will have up their sleeves.

Electric Swan - Swirl in Gravity

Let’s set the scenery, its 1973, and there’s an up-and-coming band from Italy that know the score with a heavy rock touch by adding the sounds of Blues and Psychedelic music up a notch featuring a female vocalist whose resembles Janis Joplin and can sing very damn well. That band of course, is Electric Swan and they have a huge nod to Led Zeppelin, ELP, Grand Funk Railroad, and Leaf Hound. Their second album Swirl in Gravity, which sounds like an episode out of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, manage to keep the retro sound true and with a lot of pure energetic high voltage.

For example on End of Time, Paolo “Apollo” Negri does some keyboard and synth swirling terror that have a Keith Emerson and Jon Lord feel as Lucio “Swan” Calegari goes into a Jimmy Page feel on the guitar resembling Heartbreaker that is pummeling and strong before ending with a spacey atmospheric moog into different voyages of the solar system.  The soothing Lonely Skies still carries the same inspiration on the third track but with some powerful bass lines that Edo Giovanelli has got into his magical fingers by going into different frets as he and Apollo go into the city of bass and organ that is a very funky and metallic vibe.

The coolness vibe on Wicked Flower has an uplifting raunchy soulful bluesy rock feel that is a kick in the gut as Swan just nails his guitar technique by making wail and scream while Apollo helps him with some soaring organ sounds to match the solo and paying tribute to Tony Iommi a-la wah-wah style! Garden of Burning Trees which features saxophonist Clive Jones from Black Widow, is a haunting jazzy doomy psych ballad as Jones goes into a John Coltrane-like solo that is a relaxation and calm-like atmosphere while the thumping tribute to Joplin on Move Over that Monica Sardella does, she’s not trying to rip off the Princess of Blues Rock, but paying tribute and show how much she can belt out her work and as if Janis is watching her, and is in tears of Monica’s voice.

It’s a perfect tribute and explosive at the same time as the band stay true to the piece from the Pearl sessions while the opening title track goes through a bluesy heavy Deep Purple trace with a spacey moog sound to get you in your motorcycle for an adventure into the grand canyon as the closer, Drag My Mind, has a slow and a late ‘60s groove that features more guitar layered structures between rhythm and lead section that Swan does.

For an up-and-coming band which started out as a solo project that Lucio Calegari began at first from his days with Wicked Minds, it’s quite possible that Electric Swan are soon going to hit the Prog festivals sometime in the future and this album and the band needs a lot of recognition big time. A must have album for this year.

Psycho Praxis - Echoes from the Deep

The touches of British and Italian Prog Rock can have a quick inspiration in the sounds of Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull, Premiata Forneria Marconi and Metamorfosi and there are some great bands that are carrying the sounds of the golden-era of the 1970s and staying true to the roots of the Progressive genre. It’s quite amazing how a lot of the sounds are taking a lot of the bands and carrying the torch and help wave the flag of the revival.

There is this up-and-coming band from the outskirts of Italy called Psycho Praxis, and their debut album Echoes from the Deep is an adventure through the cosmic voyages of both time and space. Filled with a roaring yet driven organ sound and a dosage of heavy flute work and not to mention some electrifying guitar sounds that they have brought to the table for a lot of ingredients to cook up a wonderful homage to the bands that they have admired, Psycho Praxis have created something special and out of this world.

The album is a mixture of the obscure and the mythical surroundings. And with the opening track, Privileged Station and P.S.M, they come at you at with a hypnotic atmosphere. With a touch of the French Prog-band Ange thanks to Paolo Tognazzi’s keyboard work, Paolo Vacchelli’s heavy guitar rhythm, and Andrea Calzoni’s vocals and his flute styles, is a tribute to Ian Anderson as if the master himself is watching and is very pleased on what’s going on.

Hoodlums begins with a Hendrix-inspired introduction solo that Paolo does before it becomes an elevating and astounding yet a vivid supernatural composition for a 7-minute adventure while the haunting gothic 9-minute acid folk experience of Black Crow for the first few minutes of a dystopian lullaby and the tension is very high as it goes into the soaring clouds while Paolo’s sound of acoustic and electric can take you into a different area.

Then you have a fuzzy bass line work from Matteo Marini and some thunderous drum work done by Paolo’s brother, Matteo as they get into work and go into town for a forceful psychedelic jam session for the last few minutes.  Awareness is Paolo Tognazzi moment to be in center with his wonderful keyboard work by paying homage to Pink Floyd’s Meddle-era into the Van Der Graaf Generator meets King Crimson's Lizard period.

The band follow Paolo’s organ work by going into a Leslie Piano sound into a fuzztone surroundings while Andrea does a Jazzy solo on the flute and you can tell Paolo inspiration of the keyboard goes into the styles of Hugh Banton, Flavio Premoli, Richard Wright, and Tony Banks as the guitar goes into overdrive before setting a calm-like climatic punch. The closer, Noon, the band are now in full circle as it goes into various genres of Eclectic, Jazz, Folk, and Psych and it shows that they could have written a sci-fi piece as Andrea comes in at the last few minutes to give a sermon  .

I have listened to Echoes from the Deep about six times already and it’s a knockout debut of a band that can take the genre a bit further and they take it to an exhilarating, undertaking, and an enchanted piece of work they have brought.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Haiku Funeral - Nightmare Burning

When you have a dark and an electronic atmosphere, you know something is about to happen. One of the most interesting bands is a duo called Haiku Funeral. They have a combination of Industrial, Post, Experimental, Avant-Garde, and Death Metal surroundings in their work and their third album, Nightmare Painting, is one of the most terrifying and scariest albums I’ve ever heard this year. Most of it reminded me of something out of the score for the ‘80s sci-fi cult classics, Blade Runner and The Terminator and while this album is not easy to listen to, it makes you feel that you are trapped inside a dungeon and there’s no turning back.

There are touches of; haunting synthesizers, vicious metallic bass lines, choirs, Jekyll and Hyde vocalizations between the good and evil, it’s all right there and they really got something that is beyond the score of the Horror genre. The sounds of the clean vocalizations in the realms of Venom’s Count Cronos from William Kopecky and the grasping shrieking vocals of Dimitar Dimtrov, who resembles an earlier incarnation of Per Yngve “Dead” Ohlin from Mayhem. Now while I’m not a huge fan of the Black and Death Metal scene, this band is very interesting and they know their love of Horror and Satan very well.

Beginning with the Doomy Jazzy post-apocalyptic twist of String Bass, Moog, and electronic drum samples of The Nightmare Door and seguing into Blacklight Amniotic Erotica that resembles My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and the Downward Spiral-era of Nine Inch Nails. And then, everything becomes chaotic with the wildly bass and drums, work that becomes a thunderstorm on the Scorpion Ritual while Behemoth Rising becomes a calming yet screeching turned monotone views of Forbidden Love and Alchemy of Pentagrams.

Raining Nightbirds is an avant-garde atmospheric electronic scenery paying homage to the Krautrock scene of the ‘70s and becomes a futuristic terror of a dystopian city along with The Flags of a New Empire Burn that lets everyone know that this world that they are living in is not what you expected it to be. The Gothic structures of Death Poem, is synth and an eerie crisp of different styling’s on the acoustic guitar to give it an ambient rainfall while Heavy Breasted Innocence goes into the Industrial Metal dance mode featuring a punchy yet jazz bass lines, monotones, and synths go into space and time.

Your Heart a Black Tunnel, sounds like a mourning yet atmospheric background between electronic drums and a moody rhythm as it feels like the ending credits for the 1994 film, The Crow as Damnation, which closes the album is back into the Avant-Garde sounds as they pay homage to a darker version of the Future Days-era of CAN. This is not an easy album to listen to, but Nightmare Painting is almost the soundtrack for an Italian Horror film that could have been used in the 1980s that would have sends the audience into a mental institute.

Remember if you are really ready to listen to this album, you are 100% warned and get ready to embark on something beyond the doors for a dosage of the three genres between; Black Metal, Post-Rock, and the Avant-Garde sounds of Krautrock with a Spacey attitude in the ‘70s.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rush - Clockwork Angels

Like a eruptive flaming fire going at 100 miles per hour, Rush show no sign of stopping and they’ve been around since day one and their formation in 1974 and they are letting the fans know that “We’re here and we have brought something for you to make you understand how much you meant your support to us.” They had been very busy lately with the 2010 documentary that Sam Dunn had worked on along with being nominated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for next year, and it makes you wonder what they have up their sleeves.

The result is their 20th album, Clockwork Angels, released this year and this one hell of an album from start to finish. They have done several concept pieces since 1976 with compositions like; 2112, Cygnus X-1: Book I & II, The Nercomancer, The Fountain of Lamenth, and Jacob’s Ladder to name a few, this time they released in what I believe their very first concept album, set in the steampunk universe of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

The two tracks, Caravan and BU2B, which were released as singles about a year ago, in which they both start off a roller-coaster ride into another dimension which has some mind-blowing guitar and bass work and not to mention the pumping drum works of the master trio; Alex, Geddy, and Neil. The album is now a novelization done by sci-fi writer Kevin J. Anderson in which it was inspired by Neil’s songwriting, about Owen Hardy who is living a fresh life, and moves to Crown City, but is caught in the middle of the town gone wrong from strict rules and control from The Watchmaker and war from The Anarchist.

I imagine the story would one day be made into a movie, but let’s get straight into the review. There are some elements of the story including the hypnotic title track in where our hero is moving into the city to start a new beginning in which at the last 2-minutes has a spooky folk-rock touch as Geddy’s voice is spoke through a Leslie speaker before they go back into the stars while Carnies starts off with a Merry-Go-Round music gone wrong before it becomes this heavy whirlpool of terror with some sinister guitar echoing chords and intense movements that feels like straight out of the Japanese animated series, Fullmetal Alchemist.

There’s also the political symphonic powerhouse with the string ensemble on The Wreckers, which has some elements of Erik Larson’s novel, Devil in the White City as Headlong Flight, reminded me of Bastille Day from Caress of Steel, is pure retro ‘70s heavy bullet train rock as the boys go into town. The uplifting and rising Wish Them Well, is a combination of the three of a, thumping, emotional, and spiritual piece as if to look around at your past to say good-bye and moving forward as the closer, which features the string quartet on the 6-minute piece, The Garden, in which you need Kleenex for this, is a wonderful and magical closer for the curtain to drop.

I have listened to Clockwork Angels about four times already and I’m hooked. I don’t know if its going to be album of the year, but for Rush, they have reached the light at the end of tunnel, and have finally succeeded.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Diagonal - The Second Mechanism

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Diagonal’s music. Four years ago, they came into the Prog scene like a volcanic eruption with the release of the sole self-titled debut album released on the Rise Above Records label with its homage to ‘70s obscure prog and jazz rock that was out of this world. Now in 2012, they are back and are now the new commanders of the Millennium Falcon with the release of their second album, and let’s just say it keeps getting better for them.

The Second Mechanism, is the ultimate science-fiction trip into outer space and it’s the album that will take you beyond the voyages of time and space with different time signatures, heavier keyboard, bass, and guitar lines along with some crazy sax solos, knowing this isn’t your daddy’s prog album. The opener, Voyage / Paralysis, which starts off with sounding like a computer going haywire before the pumping drums and fuzztone bass lines while the band goes into full gear.

The sound of the composition, has the sounds of; early Crimson, Black Sabbath, Premiata Forneria Marconi, and Van Der Graaf Generator in the midsection with a swirling sound of the moog, spacey guitar lines, thunderous percussion beats, and a jazzy bass line filling up the walls. These Yellow Sands, has this beautiful saxophone solo and choir-like vocalizations along with a mellowing and bluesy guitar solo that its terrifying like a horror film from the ‘60s before it becomes a fast-driven finale to make it a combining forces of Jazz, Prog, and Stoner Rock into one.

Mitochondria, which is named after an organ in the cytoplasm that function energetic productions, starts off with this doomy bass line as the guitar and sax come in by doing a Danny Elfman-like introduction for the first two minutes of the piece before it goes into a middle-eastern ‘70s jazz rock up tempo dance that reminded me of King Crimson’s Lizard-era along with the 10-minute epic, Hulks. It features vocals, along with very mellowing and mourning scenery as the band go into a Doom-Prog-Metal format for a suspenseful thriller with some intense sax solo and how they take it up a notch and go beyond the beyond.

The last track, Capsizing, which begins with an atmospheric introduction with a touch of Space and Kraut-Rock. At first it’s a new age sound between keyboard and bass, before it becomes a fast-speeding adventure of reminiscing Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three meets CAN and you have to understand why they admire the obscure gems of the Prog scene and how they stay true to the roots and know how the revival still keeps on coming.

Diagonal are now my favorite band now and this is one of the most heart-stopping and jaw-dropping albums to come out of 2012. If they do a score for a Sci-Fi or a Horror film, I’ll be there for it and show my support. I have listened to this seven times and its mind-blowing, and you need to buy this, a highly recommended album from start to finish.